There’s plenty of talk about some of the classic games making comebacks—among them Wasteland and Shadowrun (which will hopefully be awesome)—but there are a few games in the works that are completely new, yet have developers behind them who have worked on some of the greater games of yesteryear.
One of these projects is Starlight Inception from Escape Hatch Entertainment, which will be a space combat game in the spirit of Wing Commander and X-wing. It’s currently on Kickstarter, and will have a deep storyline, space exploration, and epic space battles (being a space combat game and all).
We had the pleasure of speaking with one of its key developers, Garry Gaber, known for his work at LucasArts—on titles including Star Wars Jedi Knight, Star Wars Rebel Assault II, and Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire—about what we can expect from Starlight Inception and what made space combat games great.
You worked on some great games at LucasArts and you mention some of the classic space combat games on Kickstarter—I’m curious, what do you hope to add to the space combat genre with Starlight Inception?
When I used to play Wing Commander, I really loved the feeling of being in space, exploring, engaging the enemy. X-wing added the fun of managing systems on my fighters and, of course, the thrill of flying an X-wing, and later TIE Fighters. The real draw for me was wish fulfillment—being able to fly through space in a fighter, imagining I was part of an overarching story, the only real thing keeping me alive, my skill of piloting.
I wished for an experience with more depth and diversity—if you play enough of these games, you realize that diversity is critical—the missions, the actions, the gameplay mechanics have to be diverse enough to sustain your interest over the course of the game, and envelop you in the plot of the story. This is something we want to bring to Starlight Inception—a real feeling that you can do different things in the game and still succeed—it isn’t always destroying the same ten enemy crafts, but rather making smart decisions that affect your survival and the survival of the United Star Force.
Also, for modern audiences, we have two modes—the more hardcore mission-based experience being one, and the casual, “get in the cockpit and fight while achieving prestige” experience. Sometimes players want to dig into the deepest parts of the game, and the hardcore mode accommodates that urge, while other players just want to blow things up, from fighters to capital ships—we have that too.
You describe Starlight Inception as a “space combat experience with modern elements of strategy and tactics.” Could you talk about this a bit—it sounds like an interesting combination.
The space fighters are sort of our heroes in the game, and so you can do a lot of modifications to them through the in-game interface both before and during flight. Think of them kind of as the cars you put in your garage in Gran Turismo, or Forza Motorsport. You can do some rather deep modifications to tweak speed, acceleration, handling, braking and other attributes of the fighters.
The currency in the game is command points, or prestige, gained through reaching non-combat and combat objectives, completing side quests, and other secondary objectives in the game. The more command points, the more fighters you can accumulate, and the better weapons, equipment and modifications to those fighters that you can make. You kind of put your mark on certain fighters along the way, and are able to choose the appropriate fighter and equipment for the mission at hand. Once in the mission, you can maintain power allocation, and other ship’s systems, decide what weapons and equipment to deploy and figure out how to accomplish mission objectives.
On the more casual side, there is a game mode which revolves around defending the fleet and your capital ship from incoming marauders, in a sort of tower defense / ship-to-ship combat mode. You have turrets that you place to take out the enemy, but can also engage them ship to ship.
You mention the storyline several times on the Kickstarter page, and for anyone who played Wing Commander, that’s a nice thing to hear. Could you talk some about the story you hope to create?
Sure—the story takes place a hundred years from tomorrow. You’re an orphan of the Third World War, a destructive conflict that almost saw the end of human civilization. Your entire family was killed in one of the battles, while you were away at college. Your father wanted you to become a military officer, but you had other ideas, but on the day they were murdered, you changed your mind, and signed up with the United Star Force, a multinational peacekeeping force reporting to a unified Earth government.
Flash forward to the beginning of the game. You’ve been rated to be MR (Mission Ready), but you’re still a nugget, a rookie pilot as you’re assigned to serve on the USF Midway, a space carrier with more destructive power than any previous military vessel. But you signed up to fight a war, and now that World War III has ended, you fight to preserve the peace.
That is, until a group of outlaw countries starts World War IV, and you’re plunged into the midst of the conflict in the blink of an eye…
We’re working to integrate the story naturally into the action of the game to the greatest extent possible, through in game cinematics, pre-rendered cinematics, and in-game action. We also plan a fair amount of world building, giving players the feeling of affecting the storyline through their game decisions.
I think your approach to the game’s budget is pretty unique (not taking salary from the game and having developed great games with budget to spare). I’m curious what your philosophy behind game development is.
Don’t waste a cent if you can help it. Pay for talent, wherever it comes from, not name recognition. Stay on schedule, and work in a smart fashion to achieve the end result. Do things simply but effectively. Get every dollar into the game.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Just that we are very excited to be developing this game. We’ve got a lot of stuff planned that will turn player’s expectations upside down while still delivering that great feeling of playing a space combat game that they remember.