Last month Erich Schaefer and Travis Baldree, two of the minds behind the great Torchlight games announced their new company and their first game. The company is Double Damage and the game is Rebel Galaxy, a new twist on the space combat genre. As a huge fan of the Torchlight games I reached out to get more information about the game and the company. Here are the results directly from the mouth (well hands) of Erich and Travis.
Where did the idea from Rebel Galaxy come from? How long has the idea for the game been trundling around in your heads?
The idea started while we were both working at Runic Games. In fact we had actually started development on it for a short period, though it petered out without a lot of team enthusiasm and Runic moved on to their next great title. But Rebel Galaxy remained in both of our heads and I think benefitted by us taking a break from it for a while. We simplified the design to make it doable for a smaller team, which made it a stronger, more focused game.
The space sim category is filling out with high-profile titles. Where does Rebel Galaxy fit in (or carve its own space) with titles like Star Citizen, Elite Dangerous, No Man's Sky, or Dreadnought?
Rebel Galaxy is a whole different animal from these games. We are making a capital ship combat RPG, where you command gigantic star destroyers and battleships, bristling with banks of proton cannons, and multiple independent rocket and laser turrets, battling dozens of other ships in epic, fantasy, naval-style battles. Most of these other games are more realistic cockpit, dogfight-y simulations. Dreadnought is closer in combat style, but we’re a single-player, sandbox RPG.
Why do you think we are seeing such a resurgence in space combat/space sim games?
I’m not sure there really is a resurgence yet. Some big titles are in development, but most that I know about have different play styles, scopes and development time frames. We’d be happy to be included in some great wave of space game blockbusters, but we have modest goals and are okay with a more niche audience.
Who or what is the main character in Rebel Galaxy? Is it the player? The ships? The randomized galaxy itself?
When I play, in my mind I’m the captain of a ship, so I’d say that’s the main character. But my personality is expressed mainly through ship configuration and upgrades and my relationships with various characters and factions.
What is the players role in the universe - are they just a small cog or potential emperor?
The answer is somewhat in between. You will never be more than a ship captain, but your influence can be great. You can start and end wars, shift power from one faction to another, embargo trading posts and end famines, but all of those things boil down to building the most powerful ship in the galaxy. A BIG cog, I’d say.
Rebel Galaxy has some obvious influences like Firefly, Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica - what are some less obvious influences on the game?
Naval Combat in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. The open-ended freedom of play from Wing Commander: Privateer and Sid Meier’s Pirates. Travis points to Dark Crystal as inspiration for the character design. Being a kid and playing space combat with mismatched plastic models. Crazy anime stuff. It’s all a giant stew of the fun space stuff we love, but haven’t gotten to put into games yet.
Space combat games usually focus on smaller, nimble fighters - why did you decide to go with larger capital ships?
It’s the epic scope and the massive firepower and destruction that we are aiming for. There’s no game that satisfies that itch right now. Our action is fast-paced and skill oriented, but I’ve never been that big a fan of fighter-oriented dogfights.
How do the combat tactics work with the bigger ships?
You spend a fair amount of time with quadrant management; seeing your shields are down on your starboard side, so maneuvering to face your port guns at the enemy. It’s usually best to isolate smaller groups of enemies from bigger fleets, so you can pick them off without taking 20 or 30 missiles up your aft. Again, naval combat is probably the best analogue.
Is ship customization in the works, or are the ships ready-made? What kinds of things can you customize on your ship?
Ship customization is at the core of the game. We will have many base ships you can buy and unlock. And those ships have varying amounts of broadside cannon mounts, turret banks, and “secondary” hard-points to outfit with dozens of different weapon combinations. Similarly you can upgrade defensive systems, engines, scanners, cargo holds, etc. We also have software banks that provide more passive benefits, like increases to scanner ranges and shield penetration across all energy weapons, for instance.
Do you own just one ship at a time or will players amass a fleet that they can swap in and out?
You have just one ship at a time, but it’s pretty easy to buy and sell them and move from hull to hull at your will. We automatically transfer your upgrades to the new ship, and store any excess items in your cargo hold.
Are the missions purely episodic, or is there an overarching narrative?
There is an overarching narrative, most strongly felt in the start of the game, and reaching toward an end-game “win”, but when you choose to tackle these quests is up to you. I don’t want to spoil the story, but you can make a bee-line to the finish (after which you can continue to play) or just do what you want and have fun with the missions you like.
Is the game all about combat or are there some non-violent parts like trading?
There are non-violent aspects, like trading and mining asteroids, but these are mostly in service of making money, or gaining faction standings which in-turn are mostly only useful to upgrade your ship, and most upgrades are about becoming better in combat. In other words, we offer lots of stuff to do, but if you don’t want to blast spaceships, then this game is probably not for you.
Thanks to Erich Schaefer Travis for taking the time to talk to us as well as Tricia for coordinating the interview
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom. I was a Microsoft Xbox MVP from 2009 to 2014. I currently own stock in Microsoft, AMD, and nVidia.