A few months ago we talked
with the folks at Amplitude Studios about their unique partnership with their players around their 4X game Endless Space. Now that the game has been released we decided to follow up and get some questions about the game itself. Answering our questions today is Romain de Wauber, the creative director for the game.
What is the backstory of Endless Space and could you talk about the inspirations behind the game?
When we were developing the Endless Space universe, we wanted to create something larger and deeper than the game itself. Our goal was to create a universe that has a past and a future larger than the game; too often space games are a bunch of factions or races tied together with two paragraphs of text.
So we started looking into some of the worlds and series that we liked for inspirations and ideas – either for the universe, or for the factions. Dune, Battlestar Galactica, the Culture novels, Star Wars pre-midi-chlorian, Known Space, and other works of the science fantasy / space opera type provided a lot of fuel for our imaginations.
Our particular universe is one that was first and explored ages ago by a civilization known as the Endless. Their remains and ruins are scattered across the stars, moons, and planets of the galaxy; discovering their artifacts and sciences drive some of the gameplay and the currency is based on Dust, a mysterious and powerful substance they created.
For you what are the key aspects of a 4X game? How are you implementing those in Endless Space?
Well first of all you need to be able to address each one of the Xs. You can’t make a 4x game, if discovery is not part of the gameplay for instance. It is also very important to feel like you are able to win by playing very differently: you should be able to win without firing a single shot or by executing a complex military strategy. Both ways should be as much fun and as challenging.
Last but not least, a 4x game must be of epic scope, you are an emperor, not a captain. Your people’s destiny relies on you and your defeat could result in endless pain and suffering.
Basically we give the players a lot of choices and countless strategies to emphasize on eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate!
From playing the alpha of the game it seems like you’ve waged war against micro-management (especially in the colonization and construction areas ), could you talk about why you decided to go in this direction? How did you draw the line on what things you wanted to streamline and what you wanted to give players control over?
We wanted to make the game deep, yet accessible. The first thing we knew was that we wanted to only offer choices that mattered and to never be more than one level away from information. From there, choices are easy: no sliders (we only have 1), few buttons, remove repetitive actions as much as possible… as a result players should focus more on the grand strategy rather than on the day to day management of his empire.
We’ve already talked with you about the Games2gether program, how has that worked out for you so far? Looking back, are there any changes you would have made?
The G2G program has been amazing for us! The community’s response was more than what we could have dreamt of. After the release of the Alpha, the community grew exponentially and we had to hire a brand new community developer and a lot of active members and VIPs proposed to become moderators to make sure that the dev team doesn’t miss one single great game design proposal. We really tried to be as transparent as possible with the members that proposed ideas. We highlighted those that were tracked by the dev team for future updates but we also felt we should tell why some of those proposals won’t fit in-game. It was mainly because of technical issues or because they don’t fit the general game flow. I guess we wouldn’t have done things differently for G2G but we have new ideas to develop the concept even more from now on, to make it even more fun and interactive!
What was the best feature that game from the community? Do you have one request that stood out more than the others?
There isn’t really “the best proposal”, but it sure gives us very interesting and clear goals for post release content. The community has been talking a lot about the battles, the invasions, the fighters, etc… So we’ll try to work on those elements in the upcoming months.
How will multi-player work in the game? Is it strictly going to be trading turns or not? Will players be able to team up against AI opponents?
Multiplayer is working with simultaneous turns. We also implemented different options such as the last player timer to boost up the rhythm. It actually works well and games are fast paced and intense. All the game design (with auto ship design upgrades or even fast battles) was created while thinking about playing the game in MP. You can “team-up” with friends thanks to diplomacy; you can set open borders and trade routes as quickly as possible and even share the tech tree via trading.
2012 is going to be a bit of a banner year for 4X games as we’ve got Endless Space, Legends of Pegasus, and to a degree, Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. Are you worried at all that you’re going to lose audience to those games? How does Endless Space differentiate itself from these (and other) competitors?
Actually it’s pretty exciting for us as there are a lot of heads looking at the 4X scene and we must live up to the expectations. SoaSeR is an amazing game but is more action oriented; I think there’s space for both games. Concerning LoP, we haven’t seen so much on the game yet, the campaign looks great. It something we’d like to work on, at least a scenario mode. Anyway, it’s great that 4X genre is rising from its ashes!
How did you come up with the different races in the game? Are they just different configurations of abilities and skins or are there fundamental differences in how you have to play a particular race?
Developing the factions was maybe the most fun that I have ever been paid for. Basically, for each gameplay style or victory type we needed to come up with a faction that reflected it, so Romain and I would bounce ideas off each other until we hit something that we thought was right – a combination of fun and understandable but with a unique Endless Space twist.
One of the things I was really stuck with in the game was the ship to ship combat, could you talk about why you decided to go with such a cinematic approach to this part of the game? How did you come up with the various commands for combat?
In Endless Space we want you to feel like an emperor, and we wanted the combat to be a suspenseful reward, the moment where you will finally know, while sipping a nice cocktail, if all the strategy you planned for the past hour was the right one!
We also wanted the player to feel the same as when watching the space battle scenes of his favorite movies and series… without having to focus on grabbing ships in space with your mouse.
What are you plans for the game post launch?
We will definitely continue supporting the game and make it as good as it can get. There are already new G2G votes for new game features that will soon be implemented. We continue discussing features with the community and will be happy to get even more feedback as a lot of players were waiting for the release to jump in.
The game is going to be shelves in July, what are the first things people should do when playing the game? What is your advice for the first five to ten turns of the game?
I think they should have a look at the different factions, their background and their traits. This will immerse the players into the universe and traits will give nice hints on what the player might discover once he launches his first game. If you’re not a 4X specialist, check out the tutorial, it should help you out ;0)
Is there anything we missed that you think is important?
Any opportunity to thank our community is important, so THANK YOU GUYS for the amazing help! We’ll continue working on the game and make you proud! :0)
We'd like to thank Romain for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Max for facillitating the interview.