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Interview: Chatting Edge of Space with lead designer Jacob Crane

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Posted by: David Sanchez

Developer Handyman Studios has been hard at work developing Edge of Space. The indie title offers 2D action-adventure gameplay with an emphasis on exploration, looting, and crafting. Oh, and there are also sharks with lasers strapped to 'em! We had the chance to chat with Handyman CEO and Lead Designer Jacob Crane and get a bit of insight in regards to Edge of Space. Looks like there's much, much more to look forward to in the game than just weapon-powered sharks, which is definitely great news. Not that laser sharks wouldn't have been enough.

Handyman Studios

GameZone: Can you briefly describe Edge of Space for any readers who may be unfamiliar with the game? What kind of game is it? What types of individuals will this title appeal to most?

Jacob Crane: Edge of Space is a 2D sandbox game that takes elements from its predecessors and builds upon them with things like a deeper crafting system, more events, a different kind of spatial awareness, a universal goal, and a reactive environment, all with cybernetic rocket powered laser sharks!

GZ: 2D sandbox games can provide an entirely different experience from 3D open world games. While working on Edge of Space, do you ever come across challenges due to certain ideas being more suitable for 3D sandbox games, or do you simply adapt those ideas to make them appropriate for the 2D landscape?

JC: You're right, 2D sandbox games come with some very different technology approaches as well as design choices from the 3D open world games. I think the largest challenges fall more to the technology than the design per se, as design adapts to what the technology can provide. We use the Unity3D engine as our core, but we have heavily modified it to be able to support our 2D world needs.  

As far as translation of ideas, our predecessors did a great job of capturing the translation of a 2D sandbox open world game from the 3D open world game when it comes to the core concepts and spatial manipulation. I think design-wise creating interesting creature behavior in 2D space is a bit more challenging, as well as figuring out ways for the player to be more conscious about the space they are in.

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GZ: Edge of Space has drawn comparisons to Terraria due to the open world, building mechanics, and crafting elements inherent in both games. What differentiates this title from 2011’s beloved indie hit? Could Terraria fans potentially find a new adventure that they’ll be enticed to jump right into?

JC: Players of Terraria will definitely notice some things that feel similar since we are expanding upon the “genre” so to speak. Similar to how in all shooters you shoot guns. We will admit that there are parts of Edge of Space that will require a bit more thinking. Our crafting system starts off similar as X requirement met gets you Y thing, but as you get into more advanced crafting you have to start paying attention to other stats and it becomes a bit more like a puzzle. This will lead into another part of crafting we have not gone into too much detail about yet. We wanted to offer a bit more progression to some systems and opt-in complexity. Another unique feature would be our power system. It is necessary in the game instead of just an add-on, but in general you can keep your use of it very simple, but it’s there for those who want to get really complex and innovative with it. It will offer these players the power to do some pretty impressive things.

We also have a concept of a “Co-Op” Weapon. These are weapon abilities that happen based on mixing of weapon types or two players using variable complementing weapons. An example in the beta is a weapon that tags an enemy, and a rocket launcher that if the rocket flies near a tagged enemy it will lock on and begin to track the target. The goal will be to make it so a skilled player could achieve these effects by himself, but working with others would make achieving the benefits much easier.

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GZ: How would you describe the scope of the world in Edge of Space?

JC: At the moment, we are trying to keep a healthy ambition. We have a lot of features in store but are focused on the core set. We want to make sure we deliver a strong core experience before adding loads of extra features. In the long run, we will be giving our users the ability to choose from a selection of patch options for what they want to see patched. We already have a great deal of patches in the pipeline for after release.

In the grand scope, as we hinted in the Kickstarter, we will be also starting to work on a major addition to game and gameplay ... spaceships!

GZ: What kinds of tasks can players undertake? Is there a linear sequence of events, a string of missions, or a series of bosses for players to seek out and tackle on top of the free open world?

JC: There will be events that the player can undertake and things that should pull you out of your safe little home to explore the unknown. There will not be a set of linear sequences of events but instead there is one super goal: terraform the entire world, which has a very meaningful effect. It reduces the exposure rank of an area. This will make it easier for you to use variable equipment that might give you more power but did not have the stats to support the exposure rank.

Everything else will be the adventure you create through the events you choose to do or avoid and your experience as you move toward the main goal. There is a story and a meaning to things in Edge of Space. Some very talented writers that I've had the pleasure of working with taught me how to create history to help drive things within a world. We might never come out and tell you directly, “This is how this happened and this is why this works,” but there will be clues. I think there are a lot of ways to make sandboxes, but we like the idea of the story being created by the players' actions and not something we dictate to them.

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GZ: One of the key features in Edge of Space is the use of reactive environments which are being quoted as working against the player. Can you give some examples as to the types of situations players can expect to encounter?

JC: A good example might be when you are exploring and wandering in on a nest of sorts while you’re hunting for materials or carving out your new home. This causes a chain reaction that can lead to a very unhappy queen creature causing you some problems. Also, there will be creatures that can push back on terraformed areas. So you want to keep mindful of those kinds of things. This is just a simple example of some of the things we have planned.

GZ: Aside from exploring and creating, players will also be able to engage in combat. How does this aspect of Edge of Space play out? What kinds of weapons and items will be scattered throughout the world?

All the weapons and items have not been finalized, but we do follow a philosophy of “loot to build.” We are very influenced by pre-NGE Star Wars Galaxies and we really liked the idea that the kind of loot you find are components that you use to create something instead of just kill and loot. Combat, in general, will be quick bursts of intensity. But that will vary based on what you’re fighting, and the conditions you’re fighting in. Not all armor/weapon schematics will be given freely to the player — some you will have to find or research to acquire.

Tags: Edge of Space, Handyman Studios, Indie games

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