Pirate Galaxy Interview: Avast Improvement?
Questions by Neil Kewn (Murxidon) - OnRPG Journalist
Answered by Gustaf Stechmann (Producer & CEO)
Pirate Galaxy is a free-to-play MMORPG from German developers Splitscreen Studios. Placing you into the space boots of an elite pilot, you're tasked with the retrieval of rare and precious metals scattered across a multitude of planets and star systems. Unfortunately for you, the human race is locked in an intense war with the Mantis, a terrifying alien breed hell bent on keeping the goods for themselves. The struggle for the prized resources promises to be an intense conflict, and with a whole host of impressive visual effects and high production values, a pretty one too.
OnRPG: Last year OnRPG probed you guys with our tracer beams just before Pirate Galaxy entered Open Beta, what changes have been made since the game's launch just over a year ago?
I think we have made more changes than there are stars in the galaxy. ;) But honestly - when we first launched, the game wasn't much more than an alpha version I would say. Since then we have added lots of starsystems, redone the user interface, tweaked the balancing, and massively improved server stability. The biggest improvement is probably the storyline and missions that we created. These offer a lot of variety and depth and go far beyond what you have seen in other browser-based games.
OnRPG: How satisfied are you with the reaction to the game, both from critics and players?
Actually, we were quite overwhelmed with the feedback. The response has been very positive, especially the comments people post on YouTube are very encouraging. Of course, PG is an indie game and doesn't offer the production values of EVE or WoW. This has led to some criticism as well. But most people seem to appreciate the simplicity and straightforwardness of the game.
OnRPG: Could you briefly outline the gameplay mechanics players can expect from Pirate Galaxy? What are the goals for a novice pilot?
You begin your career as a rookie space pirate smuggling ore in the outer rim of the galaxy. Your home planet, an arid mining world called Kalabesh, is threatened by evil extraterrestrials called the Mantis. This race of insectoid aliens has already been plundering other colony worlds, and now they are after you! Their technology is a lot more powerful than yours, so in order to fight them you must utilize Guerilla tactics. After all, who would be better qualified to loot a Mantis ore transporter than a troupe of hard-boiled, lawless space pirates?
The conflict on Kalabesh soon expands into a pan-galactic epic. Stealing more and more technology from the alien aggressors and looting their cargo of valuable Cryonite crystals, you proceed to enhance your starship with various upgrades and new gadgetry. One by one, you also learn about stargates and thus can progress to the more dangerous planets and on towards new adventures.
Your ultimate goal in the game is to build the most powerful starship and become the most fearsome space pirate in the universe.
The gameplay in PG centers around planetary combat. You play in teams against alien ships which behave quite intelligently, thanks to our advanced AI technology. You must use your ships on-board equipment with tactical finesse in order to defeat the aliens and solve a variety of missions, some of which are quite challenging. The game focuses on the usage of different items and combinations thereof, not so much on actually maneuvering the ships. There is not a lot of hand-eye coordination required in order to be successful. We believe this makes the game a lot easier to get into, especially for less experienced players.
OnRPG: A lot has been made of Pirate Galaxy's visual presentation and graphical quality. Personally, I am extremely impressed with the level of detail and visual effects that are present within the game. Nevertheless, It isn't uncommon for gamers to judge a book by its cover, and browser-based MMOs aren't particularly renowned for their graphical capabilities, so was the visual quality of Pirate Galaxy an integral part of the game's development?
Absolutely. I think that players by and large are beginning to expect more and more quality from browser based games. If you've seen a current PC or PS3 game in action, you will expect a similar visual quality from an on-line game as well. People don't really care if its browser-based, download-based or disc-based - if they invest their valuable time into a game, they expect to get the maximum entertainment value out of it. That's what we're aiming to deliver.
OnRPG: What did it take to create such a vivid 3D world in Java, whilst maintaining maximum compatibility and frame rates?
Two years of development time, a truckload of pizzas, and a really really awesome team. :-)
OnRPG: Whilst primarily being a browser based game, what brought you to the decision to release a stand-alone client that can be launched from the desktop? Not many browser MMOs offer this, are there any significant differences between the two?
The main reason to use the downloadable client is that you can play in full-screen mode and change the screen resolution at will. This is technically not possible when running inside a web browser. Another benefit of the client is that you always have it sitting in your Windows Start menu, making it swifter to fire up the game if you feel like blasting away a few Mantis during your lunch break.
OnRPG: Pirate Galaxy enforces a strong narrative throughout the game, more so with new players. Where did the tale about humanities desperate struggle against the MANTIS come about, and how big of a role does the story have within the game?
The story is dominant mostly in the early phase of the game. It provides guidance and allows you to familiarize yourself with the game features one by one. The game changes into a more open-world, free-roaming experience as you progress further.
Me and the guys have always been big fans of Science Fiction. The Mantis story was influenced by some of our favorite Science-Fiction classics - Battlestar Galactica, Starwars, Dune, and the writings of Isaac Asimov primarily. It's maybe not the most groundbreaking literary work, but it does offer a tasty cocktail of ideas that set it apart from most other stuff that's out there. There's no other game that has done a space pirates story of this magnitude, I think. We've put a lot of heartblood into it and are quite satisfied with the unique atmosphere that the story adds to the game.
OnRPG: Pirate Mode is the term given to Pirate Galaxy's PvP element. When turned on, players can freely attack other player ships which have Pirate Mode enabled. This isn't dissimilar to other MMORPGs, but how important was it to bring a competitive and dangerous PvP component to the game?
Well, pirates, in a typical sense, are known to be ruthless, unpredictable vigilantes who won't give a second thought to robbing your poor starship blind. So this was something we wanted to have in the game from the beginning. Note that participating in PVP is entirely optional.
We actually plan to emphasize this feature a lot more in future version of the game. We are working on a overhaul that we believe will be even more fun as it will allow player to actually put bounties on other people's heads. So you better look out who you steal your next load of Cryonite from, as he may put a swarm of bounty hunters on your trail to get his revenge!
OnRPG: Further adhering to all things pirate-like, Ladders can be viewed directly from within the game, listing each player's ranking. Competitive gameplay is clearly encouraged in the game. How can one lowly star vessel climb the rungs of pirate domination and get their name on the leader board?
The leader board is based on points, and there are many ways to accumulate these. Fighting Mantis and solving missions is one, participating in PVP is another, completing certain aspects of the game to get achievements is a third. We've tried to balance it out so that people with different tastes and play styles (PVE, PVP etc) all have an equal chance of advancing up the ladder.
OnRPG: Whilst living up to the pirate moniker is one thing, are there plans to bring more structured PvP-based scenarios into the game? Perhaps in the form of smaller, team based games?
Yes, we are playing around with some ideas but haven't decided on our exact roadmap yet. There is one cool new feature that is a little bit in that direction, but I can't talk about it yet because we want it to be a surprise for our players. We will be rolling out at the end of the year, so stay tuned.
OnRPG: Guilds in Pirate Galaxy are known as Fleets, and have the ability to partake in the planet invading game mode known as Conquest. Could you explain what Conquest is, and what benefits it can bring to a Fleet?
Conquest is about gaining dominance over a certain planet. Successful Clans will score points and advance up the Clan ladder. To participate in Conquest, your Clan must build and equip their own Clanship. Getting a really good Clanship together is a collective effort and requires clan leaders to coordinate their Clan's activities carefully.
OnRPG: Pirate Galaxy offers a number of different ways to group up with different players, whether it be through fleets, or smaller squadrons. Does cooperation between players play a big part in the game?
Team play is of massive importance. The Mantis are an insect race; they function as a collective - if you've ever seen a colony of ants going about their daily business then you know what I mean. You can only defeat the more dangerous Mantis attack formations if you, too, work closely with your friends and allies.
OnRPG: Roughly how many star systems and planets are there in Pirate Galaxy? Are more added on a regular basis to keep things fresh?
We have Vega, Antares, Gemini, Mizar, the Sol system including all its planets, and the Draconis system which is the stronghold of the Mantis. We are adding new content on a regular basis and will continue to do so until the twin suns of Gemini fade. And yes - we still count Pluto as a planet. :)
OnRPG: With the number of F2P MMORPGs available almost as large as space itself, what differentiates Pirate Galaxy from other browser-based MMOs?
Well, the 3D graphics are one thing that certainly sets it apart from other browser games. The space pirates scenario is pretty unique as well. And I haven't seen the Diablo-style Action RPG gameplay and controls in combination with spaceships and monumental 3D planet scapes anywhere else, either.
If you're looking for the next "EVE Online" with complex trade and corporation management, I doubt that PG is for you. But if you enjoy a pick-up-and-play swashbuckling experience in outer space, you should give it a try.
OnRPG: What's next for Pirate Galaxy? Are there any major updates in the pipeline that players can look forward to?
We are on the brink of opening up the new, long-anticipated Draconis star system. Along with Draconis, our new Achievements system will also go live. And we are making some important changes to the leaderboards and Conquest system that integrate those features more tightly with the rest of the game. On top of that, we're including half a million smaller changes that were suggested by the community over the last months.
OnRPG: Thank you for your time! Pirate Galaxy is free to play at PirateGalaxy.com.