Before Halos and Grand Theft there was Wing Commander and Freelancer…somewhat civilized games where you flew around in spaceships and blew stuff up. The graphics weren’t as good as modern day games and you had to suffer through some very bad Full Motion Video sequences (although Mark Hamill made the most of his chances) but the game play was top notch and the actual stories behind the games were solid and engrossing.
That was then and it’s been a pretty barren world for fans of space shooters. Sure Project Sylpheed was OK but the last really great space shooter was Freelancer and that was well over three years ago. The folks at CDV and Quazar-Studio are looking to change that with their upcoming game Tarr Chronicles. With fancy modern graphics and a deep storyline, the game is looking to be a flaskback to the golden age of shooters. We recently had the chance to talk with a member of the dev team about what makes Tarr Chronicles special.
Can you introduce yourself and describe your role on the project? How long have you been in the gaming industry and what drew you to your current position?
Hi, I’m Vyacheslav Bairamov, a designer at Quazar-Studio. I’ve been in the industry for over two years. Please let me tell you about the whole Quazar-Studio team...
Quazar-Studio was established in 2000 (I hadn't joined the team at that time) in Russia. At that time, the studio wanted to create a game that would allow players to fly around the galaxy, trade, fight, and equip a ship with various gadgets. At first, just like all the beginners, we worked (5-6 of us) for pure fun. Later on, we started to get more serious about our work and now the final project is something completely different from what we originally intended. Tarr Chronicles is a space action\RPG full of dynamic combat, and free of any trading/economic aspects.
What was the inspiration for the game? What other games and cultural things influenced the game?
Homeworld2 was our main inspiration; it's such a great game! As for some genre predecessors there's FreeSpace2 for sure.
Can you provide some information about the plot of the game and what you'll be trying to accomplish in the game?
In Tarr Chronicles, the days of the galaxy that humanity’s gotten used to are numbered. Each and every day dozens of stars blink out and die in the darkness of a global cataclysm. None of the developed races could survive against the evil forces of the Mirk, even when they re-joined efforts with their former allies.
Those who did survive have to fight hard to survive within the ruins of their once glorious worlds. Thousands of ships filled with refugees are heading to remote worlds - leaving planets and orbital stations that they once called home in hopes of saving their lives from the inevitable fate their native lands will soon face - complete extinction.
Along with that, there’s another hostile race coming to the front- the De'Khete. They are the old clan of the ancient Mea'Tarr that were changed by "the anomaly." They inherited the genetic ability to be true masters in combat - an ability accumulated over millions of years of battle. The De'Khete are a deadly combination of various anomalies, an eerie symbiosis of darkness and dead warrior spirits.
The Talestra, a flagship of the Alliance’s armed forces, was ordered to set course for a remote galaxy in order to safeguard a scientific expedition that found the city belonging to an ancient race, the Ozzah. The hope is that this discovery will be able to influence the war’s outcome. However, a sudden attack by the enemy and an unfortunate set of circumstances throw Talestra and its crew quite far from their native world – into a different sector of the galaxy inhabited by another ancient race.
The player will have to lead the Talestra on its long way home – through worlds full of alien races, through deserted, decimated star systems and sectors controlled by the main enemy – the warlike race of the De'Khete.
Space shooters aren't as popular as they once were, so why take the risk on new one? Why do you think the genre isn't more popular?
Well, there are many reasons why we did it…the first and key reason is our love for this genre and our fond memories of the games I listed before - Homeworld, FreeSpace, etc.
There is a wide variety of genres and, probably, many gamers prefer more character-oriented titles that enable you to control a person, not a ship. We aimed at developing a sense of personification of the ship and we believe that Tarr Chronicles will be a real joy even for fans of the genre and those who have never played space shooters before.
Is the plot of the game fairly linear or does it branch at some point? Is there more than one ending?
There’s only one ending and that’s the way it is supposed to be. Why? Well, as you start playing you’ll get the idea; but we won't spoil the story for you :-).
What kind of missions will gamers be flying in the game? Is there anything other than the standard kill everything in the sky/escort mission system we've seen in the past?
There will be a variety of missions – including the evacuation of people from dying stations, the destruction of orbital turrets that protect an ancient city, a joint battle with ancient allies; fighting to save survivors of massive battles; fights with giant Capital ships and much more.
Will you have wingman with you on the missions and if so how many can you have at one time? What kinds of things can you do with your wingmen?
The player will be assisted by very intelligent allies, each of them having a fighter at his disposal. The allies are a key element in the game, as you’ll need them to complete missions, cover your back, etc. You can’t command them, but they are smart enough to know when you’re in trouble and provide assistance.
How many ships will be available in the game? Will you be able to customize them at all or are they pre-defined? What kinds of customization options do you have in the game? Can you have more than one ship at a time or not? Do you have a particular favorite ship or weapon?
You can customize your ship starting from a basic shell by selecting from the list of hulls, engines, armor, reactors, shields, weapons, etc. You will be able to change the ship configuration in every mission. Thus, the player’s fighter is a kind of model kit you can assemble and dissemble, enjoying the process and feeling that you are making a design just for you. We also have the option of automatic configuration for lazy players.
My favorite weapon is a mini-laser “Tristan”, which is fast and powerful. When paired with the proper cooling system (it influences how long you can shoot before having a cool-down period) it is an excellent means of terminating your enemies. I also have a favorite hull, the “Hellchild”. Though it is weaker than other hulls, it actually increases the damage your ship’s cannons deliver. Also I like the way it looks. J
Some of the early previews mention a crafting system based on items that you pick up during the missions. How is this going to work? Is there a limit on how many resources you can hold onto at one time? If you craft something for one ship is it locked to that ship or can you share components between ships?
That’s not quite how it works. The player can disassemble the items he/she receives when in the hangar and create various ship-upgrading devices from the collected resources. Any device can be set to any crafted ship; however the number of these items is limited. Your engineer can do all that between missions.
You can’t pick up items during missions – that’s a little “too arcade” for our liking.
Can you give us an overview of the controls of the game? Do we need to break out some joysticks out of the closet or will be able to use a Freespace style mouse controls? What is your favorite way of piloting your ship?
Initially, we made the controls like they were in Freespace – just using the mouse and keyboard however later we added joystick control so it’s up to you to choose the best option
Is there anything else important about the game that we didn't cover?
I would love to note the great work our scriptwriters did to create and develop the Enosta universe the game takes place in. The dying-off of the universe that takes place in the game makes the characters’ personalities much “harder” and, at the same time, makes them a little more philosophical. We have been developing the characters, their histories for a long time to make them fit this mold. Every pilot of Talestra is a unique personality, and just about every one of them has suffered through some traumatic experiences in their past.. That influences their moral values and outlook.
Thanks to Vyacheslav for taking the time to talk to us and a big thanks to Ted for coordinating the interview and doing all of the translation work.