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Space Punks Q&A – Flying Wild Hog Talk About Their Sci-Fi Diablo-Like Online ARPG

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Almost a year ago, we interviewed Flying Wild Hog and Jagex to discuss the broad strokes of their next project, a multiplayer action RPG. Back then we didn't even know its name, but now we do: it's called Space Punks, and it's a top-down online action game that's due to launch next week in early access mode via the Epic Games Store.

Set in an 'irreverent Sci-Fi world, it'll let players assume the roles of misfit mercenaries who are crazy enough to take on some of the most dangerous (but lucrative) contracts of the galaxy. The game will use the free-to-play model once it's fully released in 2022, though for now, you'll have to purchase one of the Founder's Packs to get in.

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We were able to speak once again with two key members of the development team at Flying Wild Hog Kraków, Michał Kuk (Head of Studio/Game Director) and Dawid Romanowski (Lead Programmer), who helped us discover what Space Punks is right now and what it aims to be eventually.

From what I've seen, Space Punks seems to be like a Sci-Fi version of Diablo. Is that how you would characterize the game?

Michał Kuk: Yes and no. I mean, Diablo is not our direct reference or inspiration, but for sure, lots of Diablo players will want to check out Space Punks and we have some similarities in some aspects.

What was your main inspiration or reference, then?

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Michał Kuk: Actually, we didn't have a specific one. We talked about the games we play daily, we took the best things we noticed from all over the games, not just from top-down games. There are a lot of references to our own games (Hard Reset and Shadow Warrior) when it comes to the second to second melee combat and ranged combat. So basically, there is no single specific game.

Dawid Romanowski: I mean, like going back a bit in the history of the game, I think our initial point of reference was Helldivers, we really loved the game as a high-paced action title. That's kind of how we see ourselves. We really wanted to make something that's way more dynamic, explosive, something that you can play with friends, but also have explosions going on everywhere. That was our initial point of reference. And as we kept developing the game, we knew where we were headed, we wanted to make this a living game where lots of players have fun together. Our references kind of shifted to other live games on the market. Things like Warframe and Destiny, of course we looked at them, right? These are huge games. But when it comes to living games, these are some points of reference that we tried to maybe emulate in some aspects, but we were doing our own thing all the way.

What would you say makes Space Punks special, if you had to choose a couple of features that are outstanding in your opinion?

Michał Kuk: Space Punks is a game that focuses around you and your friends. The game was built having in mind that we're creating something for many players. The missions, the characters, hero skills - before we created everything we had in mind that it all needed to support cooperation. At the same time, at the market, there's really a lack of games that combine melee and shooting combat at the same time, because most of the games are split into slashers like Diablo or Path of Exile and shooters or twin-stick shooters like Helldivers or Ruiner, for example. What we wanted to do is to combine those two, add awesome progression, awesome movement, and create something which will be unique for the whole genre.

Dawid Romanowski: From my perspective, I agree completely with everything Michał said. I would just like to add to that the some of the cool features that we have, for example, are procedural level generation, where all of our missions basically are randomized each and every time but in a way that still maintains the necessary flow and pacing of the mission. So you will never get the same mission twice when we're playing the game.

Is four the maximum number of players that can play Space Punks during missions?

Dawid Romanowski: Currently, our missions are set up in a way that supports four players. This is a design choice. Basically, our missions are balanced and designed around four-player co-op, also our skills are balanced around that. We have the hub area where up to 32 players can be together, but that's separate from the actual four-player co-op missions.

Do you have some specific systems that you are preparing for the endgame? Usually, these games have something for players to do when their characters reach the max level.

Michał Kuk: Yes, we are working on having, let's say many different end games. We can split players into a couple of groups. The first one can be the players who want to focus on being good partners during cooperation missions. That's one aspect, the cooperation. The second aspect might be going into power only, solo playing, or being the best out of the whole group. And the third one is basically like being the best among all friends, so like non-direct PvP. We want to support the needs of all players.

Is there going to be any direct people Player versus Player mode in Space Punks?

Michał Kuk: At this point, we're not working on any direct PvP mode. But that doesn't mean we're not gonna end up adding it at some point. Basically, we want to launch the Closed Beta, the early access on the Epic Games Store, and start listening to the players as they help us shape the game. Then we'll figure out if PvP is a good idea or not for the game.

Dawid Romanowski: Just to announce that we are currently working on indirect PvP. Players won't be shooting at each other exactly, but they will be together on a mission but separate in the sense that each of them has their own conflicting objectives to complete. Basically, the mission focuses on kind of a contest between players. This form of indirect PvP is something that we are currently working on.

Are you still planning to launch the full game later this year? Or will it be more likely to be next year?

Michał Kuk: We're launching early access exclusively on the Epic Games Store, then somewhere in the Winter season, we want to launch the Open Beta. And next year, full commercial launch.

Does that include consoles as well?

Michał Kuk: Yeah.

Last year, in our very early interview, we also discussed the possibility of mobile. Is that still an option on the table for later on?

Michał Kuk: It's still an option for later. We don't want to close ourselves. If we figure out a really cool way how we could place Space Punks on a refrigerator or a washing machine, why not if it's still fun for everyone? Yeah, sure. The platform isn't a problem.

Will there be cross-play between PC and consoles when those versions are released?

Michał Kuk: Yes.

Cool. That seems like a no-brainer these days, especially for a cooperative game. How many 'Misfits' are you planning to have for the launch of the beta?

Michał Kuk: We're starting the Early Access having four heroes. Over time we're gonna add more characters.

Do you see them as defining roles, like tanking or support? Basically, does Space Punks support the traditional Trinity (Tank/DPS/Support)?

Michał Kuk: No, not really. The way we designed our characters was to have a specific playstyle. So it's not basically an archetype that this particular character is a tank, or damage dealer, or healer, we thought about it in a way like League of Legends, or Overwatch. When you create a character in a classic RPG, character, you start with choosing the archetype, but you're ending the whole progression of your character having a particular playstyle. And that's the point we start with when it comes to designing our heroes.

Dawid Romanowski: To give an example of that with our core characters currently in the game, we have Eris whose whole playstyle is based around going in and basically lashing out against all enemies and destroying them in close combat. But then you have Finn, who you could say is more of an archetypical tank; he also wants to go in, but for different reasons. He's kind of very beefy, and he wants to gather enemies around him and destroy them in a radius. We don't really focus on the fact that he's beefy in and of itself, which would happen if we were approaching this from an archetypical perspective. We are more focused on how do you want to play the game with this character? How do you want to kill enemies with this character? Do you want to go in, do you want to stay back? Do you want to be tricky about it like with Bob, where he has his turret and his mines? Or do you want to be more direct, like Eris, who just wants to go in and slash everybody? That's kind of our mental approach with these characters.

Is it possible to switch loadouts or skills easily in Space Punks? Some games lock players into more permanent choices for their characters.

Dawid Romanowski: One of the things we give is the ability to change characters while playing the game. So, you can change the loadout by the sheer fact that you change the character. You can have different loadouts of different characters. But then for a single character, gear changing is an obvious thing you can do at the hub, and you just go and change your gear and you adjust it any way you want. Select your perks, select specific upgrades to your gear. Then we have the talents tree which you can spec into a certain branch of the tree. That will give you higher mobility or higher defense, higher survivability. These are our branches, but you can respec points quite easily within the game. So if you're not having fun with a very mobile Finn, then it's fine to respect to improve your survivability or something else.

Overall, how many hours of gameplay would you say are available in Space Punks right now for the players, on average?

Michał Kuk: It's hard to answer this question because the way we focus while building the game is to support the daily needs of players. Every single day you log into the game, there's always something to do, there are NPCs who need your help. The world needs your help. There are jobs, missions you can take. The goal for us is to have an unlimited amount of hours of fun in the game and that's the way we want to approach it.

Is there a main storyline in Space Punks?

Michał Kuk: The campaign, the main storyline, it's a thing that we're working on, and we will release it in an upcoming update. We want to release it as one big update to make sure that that the campaign is one big chunk so everyone can know well the backstory of the character, the world, and the journey.

Are you planning to introduce it for the full launch, or could it be added even sooner than that?

Michał Kuk: Way sooner!

Okay. Can you share the business model of Space Punks? 

Michał Kuk: Yeah, sure. The game will be free to play. And exclusively available on the Epic Games Store.

Got it. Of course, when the game is free to play, players always want to know how it's going to be monetized. Can you talk about that?

Dawid Romanowski: Sure. Firstly, for our closed beta release, we're launching with Founder's Packs. Anybody who wants to take part in the closed beta has the ability to gain access without us sending them a key by virtue of purchasing a congressman. But that's temporary while we're in closed beta.

We also have a store in the game, featuring cosmetic items, bundles of cosmetic items, discounts. We have things like skins for characters, visual companions, which follow you around, and there are certain sequences in the game, which you can buy some cosmetics, for example, like a cool dash, or maybe like a cool launch sequence when you start a mission. There are lots of those things. We use a virtual currency that can be purchased to buy them in the game. Apart from that, we plan to have a Battle Pass system that you can subscribe to and get these rewards while progressing developers. All of the things you purchase in the game are, let's say, nonfunctional, visual only. There will be no like paying for power or anything like that.

What about convenience items, such as XP boosts and the like? Can those be purchased?

Dawid Romanowski: Currently, we don't have them in Space Punks. But that's actually a discussion we do have internally, whether we want to add those. You have to walk a fine line with these kinds of convenience items.

Especially with the impression. We have some ideas on how to make those work with our game. But we wanted to go with something that we know will have value for the players, so we wanted to focus first on things that make the game more beautiful.

Post-launch, do you have an idea of how often you want to update Space Punks? Is it going to be large updates, or perhaps as smaller but more frequent ones?

Michał Kuk: I'm pretty sure you can expect every kind of frequency. For sure, we want to be a living game. We want to update as often as possible until those updates are meaningful and give the players more fun, more awesomeness. It's a matter of our production pipeline, our roadmap ideas, and the players' feedback.

You're using the Unreal Engine for Space Punks, right?

Dawid Romanowski: Yes.

Are you going to use any ray tracing features?

Dawid Romanowski: Currently, there really was no point with the art direction that we have to enable ray tracing. We've made attempts, but it's not something that gives us any visual benefit, like any significant visual benefits to the game, and that's the main reason we're not going to use it just to use it.

What about things like NVIDIA DLSS or AMD FSR?

Dawid Romanowski: Both of them are something that we will consider in the region of optimization techniques. I mean, they're great technologies and techniques to enable you to scale up to bigger displays. In that context, for sure, we will consider them.

Are you already working on the console ports? Or is it still early on that count?

Dawid Romanowski: I mean, you can't not work on consoles while you're making a PC game, right? If you plan to launch on consoles, then you can't not work on them. So work is ongoing. But like we said before, the console launch is planned for 2022.

Okay, maybe I can reach out again later, to check how the console ports are doing. Is there anything you're particularly excited about when it comes to Space Punks and haven't shared yet?

Michał Kuk: We're excited the most about the Closed Beta because that's going to be the first time that many of the players can join Space Punks. What we would love to hear from players is their feedback and their opinion about everything. We are sure that we're going in the right direction with the game. If they can share all those ideas and feedback with us, that would be really awesome. We would really appreciate every single message out from the players.

Thank you for your time.

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