In Everspace 2, you get to fly around space, gaze around gorgeous scenery and planets, and shoot things. It’s like a mix of a space RPG and a shooter, and there’s lots of cool ships to choose from. You can upgrade your ship and weapons and take on missions to make some cash, or just explore the galaxy and find cool stuff. There are also some cool aliens and factions to interact with, and the graphics are awesome. It’s basically like being a space cowboy, and it’s so much fun.
I got to sit with Erik Schrader from ROCKFISH Games and chat about updates and what to expect on future builds.
Me: So, can you tell us about the game Everspace 2?
Erik Schrader: So Everspace 2 is a space-themed game where you explore a pseudo-open world while collecting loot and developing your own spaceship. Unlike its predecessor, it is more story-driven and has a mixture of RPG elements. The game features nine different ship classes with further customization options such as body types, engine types, wing types, cockpit color, engine trails, and more.
Me: What’s the scale of the game and the size of the ships?
Erik: The ships in the game are mostly fighter craft, and the heaviest ship is approximately the size of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. The game is intentionally fight-based, so players will mostly engage in dog fighting and fight capital ships.
Me: Can you tell us about the development of Everspace 2 and how long it’s been in early access?
Erik: We’ve been in development for about five years, with early access lasting around two to three years. I should remember the exact dates, but it’s been a while.
Me: As a game design consultant, what are some of the things you would do for Everspace?
Erik: My role as a consultant for Everspace has been focused on community management and bridging the gap between the community and the developers. However, I also dabble in all elements of the game, doing smoke tests and various play tests. I work with the developers to refine, update, improve, and add elements to the game. One issue we have been working on is pacing.
Me: Can you tell us more about your involvement with Everspace 1 and 2?
Erik: I was a backer for Everspace‘s Kickstarter, and I contributed to the game through the forums with suggestions and ideas. The developers liked what I was adding to the game and hired me around that time. For Everspace 2, I was brought on full-time to help manage the community and act as a community consultant. I dabble in all elements of the game and work with the developers to improve it. It could be the color of somebody’s shirt, it could be, and such. Like there’s, it’s all aspects. Even though I do put a lot of emphasis on like, gameplay, mechanics, that’s the big part. But, uh, yeah. I’ve written a lot of descriptions in the game, for example.
Me: Really? Okay. So you’ve done a lot of writing as well.
Erik: Yeah. Yeah. And I, it’s not like I’m stuck on that focal point. Right. Again, it’s a lot of hats and every single team member is involved with bringing that together. Right. So it’s imperative that what we’re bringing to the table, it’s communicated very clearly. Yeah. And we’re working like in tandem.
Me: Can you give me an idea of how many people are in your design team for Everspace 2 versus Everspace 1?
Me: Um, because of the size itself with Everspace, I think we were closer to 10 or 12. And, um, there’s a really long story to the history of, of, of this, but, um, to keep things short, it’s a dedicated team that Michael, our CEO, had worked with at a previous studio that he effectively left because he did not want to do microtransactions and they were forcing him to do that. He said no. So the team kind of came with him, his core set of, of team. And from that point we’ve been getting a couple other team members back, you know, as well as a lot of newcomers too.
Me: That’s incredibly awesome. And how many people are on the team now?
Erik: Now it is about 23, I think. I’d have to look.
Me: How have games in this genre, like Star Citizen or Star Wars, influenced the development of Everspace 2?
Erik: Our team really focuses on that sci-fi element. Like our boss, he’s a huge fan of, for example, Blade Runner. So if you know any aspect of our story here that you’re gonna pick that up immediately because it’s a story about a clone. It’s a story about how, like, discovering who he is and how he fits into this world.
From a gameplay side of things, Everspace 1 was inspired by games like Descent, FTL, like you’re getting with such a mixture of stuff. But overall, everything’s coming from an area of like Privateer Wing Commander, Star Wars Tie Fighter, for example. All of these games of old where it wasn’t so much about like all of this management, all of the simulation aspects, which are great by the way. It’s just not what we wanted to do. We’re missing this void of space games where you just pick up, fly in a ship and blow stuff up.
Me: You guys have a passionate team working on the game. How do you all collaborate to bring everything together?
Erik: Everyone is involved with bringing that together. We work really well in tandem with one another. And, and that’s what’s really gotten the team to this point. As remarkable minds coming together, bringing the top a game in all these different fields and then everyone coming together talking about what’s working and what’s not. I have been accused of several times, for example, of like bringing ideas
Me: How much of the world in the game is persistent, story-wise? And is combat more instinctive or procedural?
Erik: There are many ways to answer that question, but in short, every location in the game has meaningful level design. We handcrafted over 120 locations, which is not procedural like the 30-word procedurals we have. We also have random locations that you can explore, such as unknown signals, which use assets that we’ve designed through the handcrafted locations and mix them in a procedural way. However, the main territories you will visit are all handcrafted and designed for a reason. There is a lot of exploration in the game, but the core element is leadership.
Me: How does the exploration aspect of the game work? Is it how you unlock new things?
Erik: We do have a reputation system called “renowned.” You can build your renowned by completing jobs from almost any space station. The more renowned you have, the more people will love or hate you. However, we don’t want to go too heavy into factions as that can get too gritty for the game. There is a purpose to having secret stuff, and a lot of aesthetics can be unlocked through completing challenges or finding valuable pieces of loot in the world. You can use these to customize your ship’s appearance, but it doesn’t impact gameplay.
Me: Can you tell me more about the customization options in the game, such as the wings, trails, and color trails?
Erik: Many customization options can be unlocked through completing challenges or finding valuable loot in the world. For example, completing certain challenges can unlock engine trail colors, while valuable shipwrecks can provide ship colors or modules like engines, bodies, or wings that can be used at customization shops. All of these visuals are just for fun and don’t affect gameplay. We figured that if you’re going to blow stuff up, you might as well look good doing it.
Me: Hahahaha, I love that. So, I’m curious about the gameplay design. I noticed there’s FTL and varying degrees of speed. Is that how you travel around?
Erik: Yeah, that’s right. Super light is the fastest basic form of transport for your vessels, and it’s ridiculously fast. There are also warp gates that take you from one system to a completely different system. And there are probably more ways than that too.
Me: Are these technologies applicable to your ship, or are they more discoverable?
Erik: The technologies are more of the understood kind that you can apply to your vessels. You’re going to see a lot of human-style sensors, engines, energy cores, and weapons. However, there’s a little bit of lore reasoning why you can’t use some of the alien technologies. For example, the Oak Car technology uses an entirely different energy source, and all the tampering we’ve tried thus far from a lower standpoint just doesn’t really work. Some attempts have made progress, but you are exempt from their technologies, at least for now.
Me: And what about the story? How long is the gameplay roughly if you were to complete the main objective aside from doing all the side quests?
Erik: If you’re just going for the story alone, it’s going to be about 30 to 40 hours. If you want to complete everything, our internal testing estimates it to be anywhere between 90 to 100 hours. We also have core gameplay loops in the end game that give you reasons to replay, find different builds, and continue building loops so that you’re not just done when you finish the story or even when you 100% complete the game.
Me: So, there’s a replayability factor that comes with the different builds.
Erik: Yes, exactly. The elevator pitch we give is that it’s a spaceship looter shooter in an open-world RPG environment.
Me: I’m a big fan of games where choices matter, particularly in terms of character builds. How does the process of changing builds work in your game?
Erik: Well, in our game, we have nine different ships which act as classes. You can change your class at a shop, and there’s no need to create a new character or restart the game. So it’s very easy to switch things up.
Me: That sounds really convenient. What about itemization and weapon choices?
Erik: There are no restrictions in terms of what weapons you can use with each class, but certain classes will benefit more from specific items. We also have a variety of devices that are unique to each ship. For example, there’s an EMP generator that can disable nearby enemies, and a fusion hook that can be used to tether to asteroids and other ships. You can even upgrade these devices to unlock new modes and abilities.
Me: That’s really sweet. I noticed that there’s a lot of emphasis on mobility in the game. Can you tell me more about that?
Erik: Absolutely. We have a drifting control style which allows players to make more precise movements, and we also have a simplified control scheme for those who prefer it. Players can use devices like the fusion hook and tethering to navigate through space and complete objectives more efficiently. In fact, we even have side missions that involve racing and time trials, and players have used devices in creative ways to achieve incredibly fast times.
Me: That sounds really exciting. It’s great to see players being able to use different tools to their advantage. What are the plans for Everspace‘s future? Are there plans for expansions or DLC, or will there be a third game?
Erik: Yeah, sure. Looking at Everspace 1, we were successful in crowdfunding, and we were able to get additional support through the game space. We wanted to do DLC, and we were able to do it with the support. With Everspace 2, we had a similar mindset, and we crowdfunded again. We’re very happy with the results we’ve gotten, and we’re going to do DLC. In addition to that, we’ve been communicating very clearly through streams every Friday. We talk to the community and say, “Hey, this is what’s going on this week. And hey, I have this little teaser.” For the most part, most of the stuff that we said is going to be in the game will be in the game. Every single promise we’ve made is absolutely going to reach a solution. There are some pretty clever ideas that we got from the community that we just didn’t have time for. So we’re going to make time for it and just add it to the game after the game’s launch, kinda like a free package.
Me: Oh, neat! I love it. How much of the game’s content is community-driven, then?
Erik: We started with a very well-established vision that we wanted to build on top of. So when it comes to the community feedback through early access, which is insanely valuable, we use that to help refine, tweak, and add to our vision. We are not using that to help develop the game that we couldn’t figure out what we wanted. We have incorporated a couple of little ideas here and there. Proper UI tweaks, mismatched assets, and stuff like that. There have been a lot of people who have had these little elements that have made a big impact on the game overall. We’re very thankful for our community and the attention to detail they’ve had so that we can get the game to be not only where we want it to be, but where everyone truly wants it to be.
Me: As a gamer, thank you for listening to player feedback and communicating. It goes a long way. Well, before we get out of your hair, I have to ask – what’s your favorite mechanic in the game, or maybe mechanics that are unique to this game that would set it apart from anything that’s similar?
Erik: Normally when I want to talk about mechanics, I want to go into gameplay. However, this one’s aesthetic. For me, when I’m playing any game at all, I value the customization of my character. Not necessarily from a gameplay-related standpoint, but just from an aesthetic standpoint. It’s something I really enjoy. I like my avatar. I want to look awesome. Something that we have that a lot of other space games simply don’t is rich customization of the spaceships, so you can make it your own. There are nine different engines, nine different bodies, and four different wings for all of the different weight classes. Each class has three different weight classes, and there are three classes of ships on each weight class. That’s just the parts. Then you get to color it, you get to slap a decal on there. You have three key parts that get applied color too. You’re seeing how much you can mix and match and make it your own.
Everspace 2 is out now on Steam.