by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor
style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">
by Brandon Reinhart, Lead Designer for Spacetime Studios
For an up and coming MMOG development studio, the loss of a publisher
can lead to disaster. This was nearly the case when NCsoft North
America ended their publishing deal with Spacetime Studios, an MMOG
development company that was quietly working away on an action oriented
space combat game titled Blackstar.
However, Spacetime Studios has
bounced back from the fall and recently purchased the rights to the
IP, allowing them to continue work on their upcoming MMOG
project. At the ION Games Conference, Cody
“Micajah” Bye had a discussion with one of
lead designers, Brandon Reinhart, who filled him
in on all the details of the upcoming MMOG. Check it out!
A piece of concept
art depicting a Scorn female.
Ten Ton Hammer: What's
happening with Spacetime Studios lately? Are you still doing regular
It's been a little rough lately with everyone going on vacation, but we
try to throw up a new blog every two weeks or so that rotates through
the different divisions - the concept art team, the production team,
that sort of thing. The most exciting thing for us was getting our IP,
so we were able to keep moving forward on production of style="font-style: italic;">Blackstar.
So when our relationship with NCsoft ended that put us in a position
where we couldn't work on our game anymore because they owned our IP.
We owned the tech, but they owned the IP. We actually had to strip all
of the IP out because there was a point where we had to do that because
we play everything right legally. They owned the IP, so we had to strip
We got to keep some of it for demoing purposes, but we couldn't
actually actively develop on the game. We spent three months figuring
out new plans, but at the same time we knew we were planning on buying
back our IP. Once the negotiations were finished we could go back and
keep moving forward on the project. It was great for the team, because
we really love the visual style and what we'd done for the game.
Ten Ton Hammer: Obviously
the game is a Sci-Fi action-oriented game, but with that you run into
some perils. Can players get out of their ships and engage in avatar
versus avatar combat?
One of the things we wanted to make sure happened in the game was that
players were more than just ships. We didn't want players to feel like
they were a ship, or that they were locked inside their ship. What we
did was create the "hybrid experience". We call it that because it
means that you can run around on the ground, attack enemies, loot their
corpses, and that sort of things; and then you can transform into your
Characters in the game basically pull their ships out of hyperspace
pockets, go through these elaborate animations, and just take off and
fly away. The ships are fighter sized, so the action you get is more
akin to X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter or Wing Commander. In EVE Online, you
fly these gigantic frigates and capital ships and things like that, but
that's not our game. The combat is much more intimate than that.
But with the hybrids, it allowed us to do some really cool things with
our PvP zones. Essentially you can fly around, land on a base, turn
into your character, shoot at someone who's after you, then transform
into your ship and take off. All of the abilities you have on the
ground, you also have in space. The only difference is that each skill
has different area effect ranges and that sort of thing.
More Scorn concept
Ten Ton Hammer: Is the
tech more magical based?
game isn't hard science fiction. It's very much what we call future
fantasy, especially the Scorn Empire. Their technology is very much
fueled by demonology. Humans may use a cold fusion reactor, but the
Scorn use enslaved demon souls and that's how they power their
The humans have a magical sort of technology as well, since they've
kind of expanded out into this galaxy and have unlocked latent magical
energy within themselves. As you adventure through the game, you unlock
those abilities and on the Scorn side it's more like finding rituals
that they can use.
Ten Ton Hammer: From a
design standpoint, do you find difficulty with doing both ground and
space based combat at the same time?
really early on. It's always been our goal to have the game playable as
soon as possible, and our first three month milestone was for that to
be possible. So, as we worked on these prototypes, we got to a point
where we could actually engage in some PvP combat. There was a point
during balance where players on the ground - using shotguns - were the
most deadly force in the game. You could fly by in your ship and
players on the ground could one shot you out of the sky.
That was essentially data problems, because there were a number of
things that should've been changed. But it was a hilarious problem,
because you could have a guy flying around with a mini-gun and a guy
with a little shotgun would take him out.
Other problems involved when we were initially inputting ability data,
because we had to input two different sets for each ability. For
players, it seemed like it was one ability, but behind the scenes it
was two different types of data. That was a pain in the ass, because
players found that they could cast two different abilities while they
were on the ground or in the air. Eventually, we found out that that
was going to be a problem so we changed the abilities so that you had
one ability that basically just changed its mode depending on where you
You do run into problems, but everything is completely solvable and
Make sure you stay tuned
in the coming days for Part Two of the style="font-style: italic;">Blackstar interview!
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