Hammering squids in space - Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy a Wargamer.com interview01 Jun 2015 0
Assuming there are no last minute problems, Slitherine will be releasing Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy this coming Thursday. We brought you our first impressions a couple of weeks ago, and now we go behind the scenes a bit with an interview with the developers – Australian company Black Lab Games.
We’ve also put in a few videos that look at some of the units in the game – check them out after the interview – and, of course, a few screenshots so you know what it all looks like.
Many thanks for taking the time to answer our questions; I’m sure our readers will appreciate it.
- OK, let’s start with a really obvious question - what was the inspiration for Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy? Why make a space combat game?
There are two main influences. First, I’m a big sci-fi fan, and have been for a very long time. I’ve always enjoyed a good space battle scene! Second, I used to enjoy tabletop wargames (I don’t have the spare time these days), and have always been interested in the idea of miniatures games in digital format, using the benefits of the digital formats – high quality 3D graphics and audio - to add more excitement and realism to the gameplay. Bringing those two influences together produced the game we’ve made.
- How long have you been working on the game? Has this been a longer or shorter time than was initially expected?
It’s taken about 20 months to go from idea to finished game. It’s definitely taken longer to make than I originally planned, but was well worth the extra effort. We’ve iterated on the underlying game systems a number of times to get it to where it is now.
- What inspirations, if any, did you draw on when designing the Nautilids?
The idea of a space-based lifeform is something that’s been kicking around for a while. The designs in the game largely came about after Anthony Carriero - the Art Director on the project - went diving during a holiday in Bali. Somewhere along the line it was decided that they needed to visit planets to get water. We basically use marine creatures as a starting point, and then we imagined what they’d be like if they evolved into some kind of space monsters.
- What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of the gameplay; the thing that will really stretch the players ability?
Each unit type in the game, both human and alien, has its own strengths and weaknesses. I think figuring out how to use the strength of your units, whilst exploiting the enemy’s weakness will be an interesting challenge. Also, toward the end of the campaign, players will be heavily outnumbered. Whilst they’ll have awesome firepower to play with, overcoming the Nautilid swarms will need players to be on their game for sure!
- What have been the biggest challenges faced so far in developing the game? And conversely, which have been the easiest parts?
For challenges, two things come to mind. The first is the movement of the ships. The final version the movement system is pretty easy to pick up, and allows for a lot of flexibility in moves. It took a number of attempts to build a system that allowed for each ship class to feel different, whilst still being initiative and easy to learn.
Second is the crew relationship system. As the game progresses, the player collects crew members, and can choose which characters to use on their flagship. Each character has unique skills and a unique personality, which can lead to conflicts or cohesion, depending on who is used and which skills are activated. Just as some people get along, and others don’t, we modelled a system to reflect that, and the output can potentially provide a handy bonus on the battlefield. We didn’t have much reference material to go on for that system, because it’s fairly unique, so it took a while to get it working.
- Which were the most time consuming?
There was no one thing that was individually time-consuming, but I think that amount of iteration we did took a lot of time. Almost every system, from reinforcements to countermeasures, ship movement to missile guidance was written a couple of times, each version improving on the last.
- Development inevitably involves compromise, are there any features that you wanted to include in the game, but that didn’t make it to the release version?
Voiceovers! There is a lot of story and dialogue in this game, and we would have liked to voice the characters, but our budget didn’t go allow that. Hopefully in the future we can change that.
- There have been a few space games released recently, or that are in the pipeline, what do you think will set Star Hammer apart and attract players to it?
I think the WeGo turn system in Star Hammer sets it apart, because it’s a good balance between “realistic”, high quality visuals, whilst still giving the player time to think about what they are doing and plan there moves. I also think our character relationship system is pretty cool and novel.
- OK, so Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy is only just about to be released but gamers always want to know what’s next. Have you had any thoughts about this? Anything you can divulge at this point?
We have some vague ideas about expansions and new directions for the story to go, but we haven’t put much thought into it yet, because we’ve been focussed on getting this game done first. That said, I always have a few game ideas in my head, the problem is choosing which one to make.
- Lastly, now is a chance for a name check for all those involved in producing the game. So who are they and who has done what?
Yeah, it was definitely a team effort, and I was fortunate to work with some awesome people on this game. Lead Designer was Anthony Sweet, who did a lot of the game system design, and also wrote the story, dialogue and characters. Art Direction was by Anthony Carriero, who defined the overall look of the game, and designed and concepted the ships and the Nautilids, and oversaw the art production. The 3D modelling was done by Mark Smith, and the UI Design was by Richard Kong, who also designed the logo. Jess Watson did the mission layout and construction. Cedric Baravaglio wrote the amazing soundtrack and the sound effects where by Dan Bewick of Atomic Audio.