Interviews

In space no one can hear you cooperate — Outlier Technical Director on This Means Warp

With a beta test coming this week, Outlier is currently busy tuning up its upcoming game This Means Warp to the gaming public. We got to talk with Technical Director at Outlier Paul Froggat to talk about the game, specifically the joys and challenges of combining a roguelite co-op game with a markedly sci-fi setting.

 

Whoa, a roguelite co-op sci-fi game! What was your inspiration for This Means Warp?

This Means Warp really came about combining two genres – the strategy roguelite and the frantic multiplayer action game. We wanted to capture the risk and planning of games like FTL and Bomber Crew with the intensity and camaraderie of games like Overcooked. We find the ebb and flow of frantic action then careful consideration really compelling.

How is developing a co-op game different than a single-player experience?

It’s a lot more complicated! ☺ Game development (in general) constantly requires the developer to be thinking “what if the player did X?”. When developing co-op, you also need to keep in mind things like “what if the player did X while another player was doing Y” or “what if multiple players try to do X at the same time”. This Means Warp is also online multiplayer which adds another dimension – networking lag. Keeping everything in sync and seamless for all players is a challenge, but we’re really pleased with how the beta has turned out!

What do you think makes the perfect co-op game?

Co-op is at its best when players are trying to hold together a perfectly laid plan while it all falls apart around them. That balance – coordinating your strategy with your friends and scraping through a tense encounter – is some of the most fun we’ve found in video games. Hopefully, This Means Warp can deliver plenty of it!

Were there any challenges developing procedurally generated levels for the game?

Balancing is always a challenge when missions are procedural. In our case, we don’t know what enemy layout, weapons or equipment will appear for any given mission. We’ve implemented a lot of behind-the-scenes controls to provide a gradual difficulty ramp as players progress through the game, but also look forward to learning from beta testers!

What is one feature of This Means Warp that you’re especially proud of?

It’s a small thing, but the user interface for upgrading your ship took a huge amount of work and overhauls to get to what we have today. Players can buy items for their ship, and all items have unique stats that can also be individually upgraded. Getting that feeling intuitive and accessible when up to 4 players could be doing it at the same time was not an easy task! We’re super happy with how it turned out.

With the beta starting soon, what are you hoping players get out of This Means Warp?

The beta is as much for us as it is for players! 😂 Hopefully players will have a great experience playing with their friends (or making new friends), but also have the opportunity to really shape how This Means Warp is developed. We ran an alpha in September 2020, and the feedback and ideas from players led to a lot of the new features that are now in the beta. We’d love to hear people thoughts and integrate our community into the game’s design even more.

Outlier is based in both Ireland and Canada. Were there any hurdles considering the distance/time differences?

The distance has actually provided a great advantage we hadn’t really planned for – testing online multiplayer. If we can play seamlessly anyone can! All of our testing has been long-distance which is great for identifying potential bugs before they get to players.

E3 just wrapped up recently; what was your favorite announcement from the (digital) expo this year?

The Xbox presentation really wowed me. As a gamer, the value on offer from Game Pass is incredible so I’m really excited for a number of the titles coming down the line. As a developer the value proposition of Game Pass is a little bit terrifying, but as a gamer it’s amazing!

While 2020 was wild for everyone, how have you grown as a developer in the past year?

With less going on it’s very easy to get sucked into development at the expense of everything else. 2020 was a great year to improve discipline around work/life balance, and that has a big impact on enjoying living the game dev dream!

How can fans contact you or follow up on future news and projects from Outlier?

We’re very active on Discord – our community is really welcoming and friendly, so I’d recommend joining here. If you’re not on Discord, you can sign up to the Outlier newsletter at http://www.ThisMeansWarp.com to stay up to date with news!

Finally, any last words for our readers?

There’s still time to apply to play the beta at http://www.ThisMeansWarp.com/beta, or if you’d prefer to wait for release you can wishlist the game on Steam! We look forward to playing with you!

This Means Warp will start its beta test on July 2 to July 11. Stay tuned for more news here on Gaming Trend.

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