Hey all the pretty readers out there! Remember FLT: Faster Than Light? Of course you do, because it’s an excellent game AND I wrote a review about it! Stuff like that just burns into your mind, much like a loved one’s embrace, only way more awesome! At any rate, we, being the awesome guys (although with love to include some cool gals in our ranks), made an interview with the makers of FTL! They’re a bunch (read: two) swell guys, so read it like you mean it!
Pixel Judge: Why, hello there, guys. A bit of an introduction is in order. So, who are you, guys and how did your company come to be?
Subset Games: I am Justin Ma and my partner is Matthew Davis. We were both working in a traditional game studio and saved up enough money to spend a few months working on our own small project together. After a few months of development we submitted our little passion project to a few competitions and got enough positive feedback to convince us to try and make a commercial product.
PJ: Could you tell us what‘s it like to build a video game in China? How do people there react when you say that you‘re game designers?
SG: It's pretty similar to saying we make games in the west; gamers find it super cool and non–gamers generally lose interest. Living in Shanghai as a foreigner isn't a big deal (except for the pollution). It's not too hard even if you don't speak much Chinese, plus the food is amazing.
PJ: So, how did you come up with the idea to make FTL? What games sparked your creativity, made it boil and spill out into the real world?
SG: The game started with Matt's desire to make a captain simulation; a space exploration game that recreated the atmosphere of commanding a space ship like in classic scifi shows. We enjoyed playing space games but disliked how they always seemed to use a pilot's perspective or have a galaxy-wide strategic view. We wanted to play a game where you actually saw what happens when the captain shouts, "There's a fire in the shield batteries!"
PJ: Did you get inspiration from such games as Weird Worlds? And, to show the readers that gamers do other things without gaming, what non-game inspirations did you have?
SG: Weird Worlds was definitely an inspiration. Other video games that impacted development were Spelunky, and Flotilla. Board games like Red November and Battlestar Galactica were very influential too. Classic sci-fi shows obviously shaped a lot of the experiences we were aiming to create.
PJ: So, what gave the final push to actually make FTL? What made you think that your dreams of vacuum exploded space men could come true?
SG: More than trying to make our perfect dream game, the early development process was just us wanting to spend a few months on a project for fun. It was the critical reception from China IGF and the feedback from industry professionals mid-way through development that convinced us that the game could be commercially viable.
In the end that pressure helped FTL to become the game it was, but it certainly was a lot of stress.
PJ: While the esteemed audience can probably guess why you chose Kickstarter (money!), what would you have done if this option had not been available? Would we still have FTL if there was no such thing as Kickstarter?
SG: Running the Kickstarter was a pretty last minute decision near the end of our initially planned development period. I am sure we would have attempted to finish the game without those funds but the final game would have been much smaller in scope.
PJ: You‘re 2005% funded – how much has this surpassed your expectations? How does it feel working for Kickstarter funds? Is there a greater sense of obligation when working with Kickstarter funding?
SG: It was a great shock. We never dreamed that so many people would respond so strongly to our simple game. At once it was amazingly rewarding as well as terrifying. We were previously working from a cave with no one to answer to, so suddenly getting 10k backers with expectations for a finished product certainly changed the development process. Development switched from being about having fun, to trying to create something that will live up to the seemingly high expectations held by our backers. In the end that pressure helped FTL to become the game it was, but it certainly was a lot of stress.
PJ: No matter how much money were thrown at you to make the game, some things probably didn’t make the cut, right? What features did you have to cut from the game? Do you plan on returning them later on?
SG: The development story of FTL was very much the story of what was cut. Our original idea was so ambitious, most ideas had to be streamlined away if we were to finish the game within a decade. Abandoned ideas include things like crew morale, space station boarding, player built ships, plus many different environments aliens and weapons. Some of these will never be possible to add but we still hope to be able to add some of the very simple features.
Oh how we wish that those abandoned ideas were implemented...
PJ: Actually, what is your favourite thing in game? What is your preferred choice of a ship?
SG: I think my favorite thing to play with is the hidden race (which is why I now feel bad for making them so hard to unlock) but my favorite ship is the alternate Rock ship. Playing with Rockmen boarders and fire weapons is great.
PJ: Is there any future content - DLCs - planned for FTL? Can we expect, say, crew inventory? Please tell us that we’ll have power-armored space marines, even if it’s just a sweet lie!
SG: I doubt we'd add crew inventory (I like trying to keep everything as minimal and streamlined as possible) but there are things I would like to add like other systems, weapons and events.
PJ: The internet is notorious for not keeping its collective mouth shut. What feedback did you get after the launch of the game? What was the most impressive?
SG: I think the shear volume of positive feedback we got was impressive. We figured that FTL would appeal to a certain group of gamers but we were overwhelmed by the size of that niche. Also, hearing that beta users had put in 20, 40 or even 60+ hours into the game was mind boggling.
We figured that FTL would appeal to a certain group of gamers but we were overwhelmed by the size of that niche.
PJ: Does this encourage you to make future projects? Future SPACE projects?
SG: I hope to continue to make games, but to be frank, we were a bit unprepared for the stresses of releasing a commercial product. We are not going to rush into the next game but instead try and take things slow and find the fun of development again.
PJ: One last question: Will you play Star Command?
SG: Sure. I don't have an iPhone, but I try to play everything that I can get my hands on. Inspiration can come from anywhere.
PJ: I think our time and attention spans of the readers are just about over. Thank you for your cooperation! Ladies and gentlemen, this has been Subset Games, the makers of FTL: Faster Than Light. Buy it now and buy one for your grandma!