Endless Space 2 – Interview With Romain de Waubert de Genlis
Fans of strategy games are probably familiar with Amplitude Studios. This Paris-based developer was formed in 2011 by former Ubisoft employees, and in a few years they have released many acclaimed games in the 4X genre such as Endless Space and Endless Legend. During Paris Games Week, I had the pleasure to meet up with Romain de Waubert de Genlis, Creative Director and COO, to talk about Endless Space 2.
The game has been announced only a few months ago, but it will come out on PC in 2016, with Early Access scheduled in Q1 or Q2. Enjoy the full interview, either in text or video form!
- What were your main goals when creating Endless Space 2 as a sequel of the first game?
- When we created Amplitude, we were big fans of 4X. The first game we wanted to do was a real, 4X strategy game in the path of Master of Orion a long time ago. We wanted to make a new one with amazing battles, cinematic battles, We embarked the route of 4X and then we went on Legend where we introduced things like asymmetric gameplay, to be able to play a faction in a very different way; there's been a lot of maturation in the way we did 4X. Once we finished Legends, we dreamed of releasing Endless Space with everything we learned; there was one thing we always wanted to do, as a game creator and as a player: to see the population at the center of gameplay in a 4X. In many of these games, when you play populations tend to be numbers; the way we want to do it with Endless Space 2 is for the population to have feelings, and you will have to choose sometimes to either give them what they want or make them do what you want, and this balance of gameplay is what we want to do with Endless Space 2.
- If you try to force your decisions on them all the time, what happens? Will there be an uprising?
- As you would expect, they will be unhappy, they will uprise, but maybe sometimes it's better to force them to do what you want because you know it is the right thing to do. Sometimes it's better to follow them, because what they want could fit your plans. It's a matter of deciding when to do what, basically; sometimes you could also make them believe that what you want is actually what they want, you have a whole psychological gameplay between your people and yourself.
- Compared to the previous game, what would you say are the main improvements?
- Compared to Endless Space 1, factions will be a lot more different. You will never play the same game twice when you change a faction; another thing that we really wanted to push forward in this game is the exploration. If you imagine ourselves conquering space, what's really fascinating is these worlds we would discover, all these new wonders, and we want the player to be feeling that.
We also want the player to be brought into that universe through quests, through events, it's a very rich universe that we want you to be part of, and that's also one of the major improvements we bring to the game. Players will also have more control in battles, battles are something that we want players to believe in, we want you to be the witness of all your decisions; it's going to be beautiful, a lot of improvements on the visual side.
- Are you using your own engine to make the game?
- The game will be on Unity 5. We are improving a lot on the graphics engine of Unity, so a lot of stuff will be our own because we're pushing a lot the visuals of the game, especially in battles where we have a lot of particles, a beautiful rendering, it's stuff that's in-house.
- Are you going to use DirectX 12 in some way?
- So far we don't have any specific plans for that, but I have to admit that we didn't push forward in that direction yet. We are open to the topic if it can benefit the game.
- Some questions from the community. Will faction based quests & storylines be returning in Endless Space 2?
- Yes! It's something we did a lot in Legend that we loved, it's also a great way to discover your faction and the identity of the faction. Through the quests you can also unlock some powerful things by doing different gameplay; it's not just building stuff, we have politics and you'll have to discover your people's beliefs. There will be a lot of that, and it will allow you, if you want, to enjoy more of the game, it's like eight campaigns if you want to see it that way.
- As for the late/end game, are you going to make specific improvements to make that part more engaging?
- Last week we were actually working a lot on that. It's one of the elements that we focused early on, it's not just the endgame. Many 4X games are a lot of fun in the beginning and then what you see after is just a repetition of the beginning; we're making sure that we have new gameplay elements all throughout the game. It's a big challenge, but as long as you can come up with this kind of things, it should be a lot of fun.
- Did you streamline the building of large fleets?
- We'll be closer to what you see in Legend, where we want the players to feel close to their fleets. Every ship counts, and when every ship counts you can't have too many. It will be a few fleets representing the player and the whole gameplay revolves around that.
- Are there opportunities for espionage in Endless Space 2?
- When we shipped Endless Space we didn't do espionage, we said the day we would do it, we would do it right and take our time. Then we released an add-on of Legend specifically for that and it was very unique, it was a lot of fun; I don't know if we'll have it in Endless Space 2 at release, but we know that we like the direction of Endless Legend's espionage and if we were to do it on Endless Space 2, we would do it in the same direction.
- What about diplomacy?
- We're not revealing anything today, but diplomacy is something we are refining game to game. It's key in the 4X genre, so yes, it will be there.
- As for multiplayer, how many players can be in the same session?
- Eight players, as in the other games.
- Are you doing anything different for multiplayer in Endless Space 2?
- It's stuff I can't talk about. I'd love to, but I can't. What I can say is, you know from our previous games that multiplayer is important to us, because we love it and we make it so it's fast to play, it's fun, you don't have to wait, so you can expect a lot from that.
- Have there been improvements to AI logic?
- We are definitely revisiting the AI process. For us, AI is key in strategy games, you want to have a smart AI. We have a big team working on it, strangely enough we had a pretty smart AI in the previous games but it was so complex that it was really hard to tune it. We definitely spent a lot of time with the AI to refine what we did before, to make it easier for the designers and players to tune; we are also working a lot on the long term AI, so the AI has more visibility on the long term strategy.
- So the AI has long term goals of their own.
- Yes, that's it, so they can try to adapt to that.
- Will there be new factions in Endless Space 2?
- Yes, I can't talk about that, but yes.
- Will players still have the ability to create custom factions?
- Yes, I can't tell you all the details but for us it's key, it's part of your imagination to create your own faction. We want to make sure that everyone can create the faction they want to play. With Endless Legend we have a lot of modding tools that allow you to create any kind of faction in the game, even on the visual stuff.
- Will the modding tools be available at the game's launch?
- I cannot confirm that yet, but we have a lot of experience with Endless Legend, Endless Space, so they will be part of the whole process.
- As for the release, will it be next year?
- Yes. It will be on Early Access in early to mid 2016.
- Do you already have expansion/DLC plans or is it too early?
- It's a bit too early, but normally we are very ambitious with our games and we can't fit everything in our games at release. The great thing about an expansion is that it allows you to do some crazy stuff, so probably there will be some things that we can't ship at release but we can add later. What's important with an expansion is to see what players miss, so it's better to see what they want rather than to plan today. From the release we'll see how the players react, with Endless Legend we did two expansions already and people love them, we have great reviews on them, so we now have a lot of experience designing expansions and making it sure they please players and increase the whole value of the game.
- Have you considered releasing games on console? More strategy games have been released recently.
- So, we are releasing Dungeon of the Endless on Xbox One and it's been released on the iPad. 4X is difficult, we would have to design it from the ground up for consoles. We could not port this game to fit a gamepad, so today no, there are no plans for 4X. But I love the idea of playing a 4X on my couch in my living room, so we just needed to change a bit the interaction between the player and the game, it needs to be designed for that purpose.
- So there won't be controller support on PC, either?
- No. We have been fiddling a bit with the Steam controller, which is very interesting. Maybe in that sense, there will be some cool stuff. Personally, I have the Steam link at home, the Steam controller and it's surprisingly good actually, you need to tweak the controls a bit; I would love to do a little patch to add a few things in the game to fit it exactly to the Steam controller, but it's surprisingly good out of the box.
- Thank you for your time.
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