EGX is currently taking place in Birmingham, England, and I was lucky enough to interview the CEO & Co-Founder of Rockfish Games, Michael Schade. For those unaware, the Hamburg-based company has released its first game, Everspace, on various platforms, and this December it is set to hit Switch. Although technically the team’s first project, their expertise in space combat games is vast given that much of the studio is formerly of Fishlabs (now Deep Silver Fishlabs), who were acclaimed for their Galaxy on Fire series. During the interview, Schade had plenty to share about his game and how it’s shaping up for the Switch.
Nintendo Enthusiast: What were the team’s inspirations for Everspace?
Michael Schade: Well, the best line we got from a fan was that it is like if FTL and Freelancer had a lovechild, and we couldn’t put it any better. We love Freelancer, the way the controls work. We have these weapons that are very precise, and it’s more like an arcadey space combat versus a classic space flight sim. On the other hand, for budget reasons, we decided to make it a roguelike, and we really like FTL, the way you progress towards one destination and you got haunted and chased by a big fleet; that’s something we have as well.
NE: Can you tell me a bit about the story of Everspace?
Schade: Storywise, when the team pitched to me that they wanted to do a roguelike, I didn’t like the idea at all. Actually, I hated it. Dying and starting from the beginning — that wasn’t my thing, and it took me a while to really understand what this is. But I played Shadow of Mordor, and I know its not a roguelike, but it was really bad fighting these orcs and losing to them [because] they taunt you when you come back. Then you get these experience points; you upgrade your skills and get better and you just chop off their head and their blood spills everywhere and you feel the satisfaction. So I was like, “Ah, this is how a roguelike works. Now I get you.”
But it was also [about] the way that the story progressed[.] I went back to the team and said, “Well, I’m happy that we do a roguelike and I get it — this could be rewarding — but I want to have storytelling as well.” So, back then we watched Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise, so he dies — lives, die, repeat — so we were like, “This is perfect. It’s exactly like it is in a roguelike.” Then we came up with the idea of being a clone pilot, so storywise Edge of Tomorrow is the main inspiration.
NE: Can you tell me a bit about the art direction in the game?
Schade: Art-wise, I think the Guardians of the Galaxy was a great inspiration for us — to have these vibrant colors, and also Galaxy on Fire, the spaceship shooting series we did with our previous studio that was very colorful as well, so we stuck to that. We wanted to have a fantasy side to the game instead of going for photorealism.
NE: So, you’ve brought Everspace to a few different platforms.
Schade: Yeah! We’re on Steam, GOG, PS4, Xbox, and the game’s coming to the Switch in December.
NE: Brilliant! Seeing as you’re publishing Everspace on the Switch soon, how has the experience been developing and publishing for the platform, and how has that compared to the others?
Schade: I think the most complex publishing experience was on Xbox because we launched on the Xbox and the Windows Store, and with the Play Anywhere it was a very complex thing. PS4 was pretty straightforward, but of course, there was the benefit that we had an Xbox build already. And now for the Switch version, it’s even more straightforward because it’s so polished now as a console game that, in quotes, we only have to optimize it for the Switch.
We just migrated to Unreal Engine 4.20 to have the full benefit of the optimizations for Switch; we saw a huge gain in performance so we could even boost up the quality a bit. Now we have consistent 30 frames per second on Switch. And we increased the UI slightly because obviously the UI wasn’t originally made for the small screen, but we were able to squeeze more pixels into it for better readability. We will add some auto-aim assist because it is harder on the Switch right now; we may change the overall balancing simply because of the smaller controllers it is a little bit harder. It’s a tough game already, so we don’t want to frustrate people too much. These are the things we’re working on. Engine-wise you can really tell that Epic put a lot of effort into Unreal 4.20 to make Fortnite run great on Switch, and now everybody who is on 4.20 benefits from that.
NE: How does the game differ between portable and docked mode on Switch?
Schade: Yeah, so we run 720p on the device and also on the big screen, but we take advantage of the higher clock speed when docked and we improve the shadow quality, better anti-aliasing, better visual effects and post effects.
NE: Okay, just one final question. As you’re releasing next on Switch, if you could develop a new title in any Nintendo series, which one would you pick and why?
Schade: Oh! That’s a tough one. I think it would be Star Fox. That’s the only title I can think of because everything else is so different from what we are good at.
Everspace: Stellar Edition launches on the Switch in December digitally and will also see a physical release on the system.