Strike Suit Zero Interview – The Rebirth of Space Combat
I’m here at Eurogamer Expo with Ben ‘Jamin’ from Born Ready Games, talking a bit about their upcoming title: Strike Suit Zero. Let’s kick things off with a nice broad question; can you tell our readers about the game?
Ben: Sure, so what we’re looking to do with Strike Suit Zero is really bring back the space combat genre. Fans of the genre are probably feeling a bit miffed as it’s really under-represented in recent years.
There have been games in the space combat genre, but there’s been few that have made any kind of waves or any kind of noise. What we want to do is rejuvenate the genre and make it relevant again. We think we’ve got a mechanic at the heart of the game that makes it unique.
If you go back to games like Wing Commander, Freespace, Freelancer, when the genre was in its hayday; those were fantastic games. But if you go back to them then you find certain archaic qualities that are really obvious. Stuff like cat and mouse dogfights in which you’re flying past your target most of the time.
What we’ve done is introduced a craft called the Strike Suit which is a transforming craft, transforms into a robot, which eliminates that kind of thing. It’s not just a gimmick, it’s a mechanic that’s at the very heart of the game and it really does change-up dogfighting and make it relevant.
The Strike Suit itself is designed by a guy called Junji Okubo who’s quite famous for designs on things like Infinite Space and Appleseed.
We felt that by adding a mech into the mix of a traditional space combat game, we’ve found a sort of East meets West fusion of two different styles of game. That’s also reflected in the soundtrack, which has been comprised by Paul Ruske and Kokia who are amazing artists in their own right and the general feel is again quite reminiscent of that sort of fusion.
Paul is renowned for the Homeworld soundtrack, whilst Kokia is a famed Japanese singer/songwriter. The overall feel is this brilliant mix of different kinds of culture, and that’s something that we’re really proud of and it helps set the tone of the game.
So how does the Strike Suit specifically change-up dog-fighting?
Ben: It’s based on a “Flux” meter. As you kill enemies, your flux meter fills up and once there’s sufficient flux, you can hit the transform button and swap modes from being a fighter craft to the mech mode.
When you’re in mech mode, you’re a lot more powerful; all your missiles and guns do increased damage. On top of that, you’re far more agile so you can dash left and right, forwards and backwards. It’s not just about offense, you can use it defensively as well.
There’s a lot of options available to you upon transforming; it’ll make you feel a lot more bad-ass. It’s quite cool.
The Flux bar continues to fill as you’re in Strike Suit mode as well, so long as you’re killing enemies. I wouldn’t say you can stay in the mech form indefinitely, but you can keep it going for a very long time indeed.
It takes a bit of skill and practice, but if you can keep it up then you get access to this huge amount of power. Many of the guys at Born Ready Games can zoom through the tech demo almost completely in mech mode.
What about the actual missions that make up the single-player campaign?
Ben: Well, there’s 13 missions that are each around 20 minutes or so in length. However we’ve put a real emphasis on replayability: You’ll have secondary objectives that you can’t complete the first time around because you won’t have the relevant weapons or upgrades.
So you’ll go through the game, get decent scores on all the levels, go back and get those extra objectives and try to get a better score. You get to learn the intricacies of each level and try to improve upon it.
With the show-floor demos we’ve seen, it looks a bit like the game is geared towards using a flight-stick. Is there any reason that you’re choosing that control method above others?
Ben: It’s not a case of being above everything else, we’re looking to get this game to as many people’s hands as possible. We really want to bring the genre back, so with respect to that we want to make sure that as many new players who might not be familiar with the genre play it as well.
Obviously this is where the gamepad controls will come in as well as mouse/keyboard for the core PC audience. The flight-stick is there for the guys who’ve been playing the genre since they were young. And obviously it’s a space combat game so the whole mechanism of the joystick itself translates very well to what we’re doing.
The freedom of movement, trigger and all those kinds of things. It’s the perfect method of control for the Strike Suit. If you’re not used to it, then it might take a bit of getting used to, but ultimately it’s very intuitive.
There’s clearly a lot in the game, judging by the demo I’ve seen here on the show floor. Just looking at the ships there’s all kinds of fighters as well as larger craft like frigates. How do you plan to bring those varieties of other craft to the player? Or will they be restricted to the Strike Suit?
So, the whole game is single-player for now. We want the player to feel like they’re part of something a lot bigger than just them or the battle they’re in. We really want to emphasize scale, and these fleet battles need to feel less like small dogfights and skirmishes and more like the large-scale engagements that they actually are.
So we’ve added all these ships from capital ships and frigates right down to the smaller attack craft, a whole menagerie of ships that come together to form a fleet. You need to feel like a small part of a large battle, so that’s something we really want to emphasize.
Past that, we’ve given the player chances to try out some of the other ships as they go through the campaign. Obviously you start out with the Strike Suit, but that’s just one of four playable ships:
We’ve got the Interceptor, which is a smaller, lightweight scout craft. It’s designed for searching out and recon style stuff. There’s also the Fighter, an all-rounder that’s best at dog-fighting. Finally there’s the Bomber, which does pretty much what it says on the tin.
The Strike Suit is where the peak of the gameplay is, though. It’s the only ship with customizable weapon loadouts, with four points for placing weapons. As you go through the game you’ll unlock new weapons and upgrades so that you can customize your suit accordingly.
So you can play through the game with other ships as well?
Ben: Yeah! When you play through the first time, you’ll be doing it with the Strike Suit, but you can go back and re-play a level with different loadouts or different ships to see what kind of score you can get the second time round.
You might get to the end of the game then decide to play through the whole thing again using just the Interceptor, for the challenge. It might be a bit of a suicide run, but it’s the kind of challenge that some people want to set themselves against and we’re happy to provide that.
Moving away from the actual gameplay; when are you looking at a window for release?
Ben: We’re looking to announce a date shortly, but we haven’t got a concrete date line-up just yet. Best I can say is keep your eyes open.
What about release format? Are you looking at all digital?
Ben: Yes, definitely. PC will be leading the charge, with Steam being the big focus. It’s got achievements, leaderboards all the kinds of things we want tied into the game itself. We should be releasing on all major digital platforms, so we won’t be restricted to Steam.
It’s digital only for the time being, but we’re not ruling out the idea of special edition boxed products down the line.
Whilst there’s no multiplayer, I definitely just heard the word ‘leaderboards’ which has piqued my interest. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a score-chasing element in place and it’s something that’s only come into its own quite recently. We learned that it actually works really well for this kind of product, so we integrated it fully into our levels.
There’s leaderboards and ranking systems in there that we think we’ve got balanced perfectly already as well. Back at the studio there’s some rivalries going on to try and top the leaderboards as well.
We think that there’s going to be quite a bit of competition behind the leaderboards as well, which should be interesting. We’re eager to see how our own scores stand up compared to the public’s.
Any chance of community driven events or tournaments then?
Ben: I don’t know if it’d work, but there’s definitely going to be highscore challenges and that kind of thing. I think it’s going to be really interesting to see how it develops.
Like I said, everyone at the studio is quite proud of their scores and I’m a big fan of score-chasing games as well. We should be having events of some description, I’d imagine; it’s just a case of keeping your ears to the ground about it.
So, what about post-release plans?
Ben: We’ve got a vision for the universe as a whole and a lot of ideas for what’s beyond the game, but nothing we can talk about right now. You’ll see more content in the future, definitely.
So you want to expand on this IP?
Ben: Yeah, we’ve put a lot of work into the Strike Suit universe and the lore, and we’d love to do more of it, really.
I’m a bit curious about the lore. With it being all space-combat, I imagine there being difficulties in getting the story to the player. How are you going about putting that information in the player’s hands?
Ben: Well, the actual story content is delivered via cut-scenes and in-game radio chatter a la games like Star Fox. The meat of the story will be there so you won’t miss out on anything. But for players who want a bit more, we’ve also included a codex with lots of background information on the various things in the Strike Suit universe.
Players who want more story will definitely have access to all those bits in this codex. We didn’t want to force tons of story content on players though, so it is only really there for players who do want to know more and are willing to research just a little bit.