We're casting our ID@Xbox spotlight into outer space this week, joining Asteroid Base for a look at their co-op space extravaganza 'Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime', coming soon to Xbox One.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is all about guiding a huge ship through vibrant two-dimensional worlds infested with dangerous space monsters. If the swarms of neon nasties weren't enough for you, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime forces players to choose which ship controls to utilize one at a time. You and your co-op (or AI) partner will have to switch diligently between manning engines, guns, shields, and other upgradable gizmos in order to survive.
I caught up with indie video game outfit Asteroid Base to discuss Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, their inspirations, space battles, boss fights, working with ID@Xbox and much more!
JC: For the uninitiated, how would you guys summarise Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime?
AB: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a co-op game about frantically flying a giant spaceship and shooting your way through the galaxy with your partner as you attempt to free your cosmic animal friends from the horrible forces of anti-love. As a player you only have control of your own character so the only way you can interact with anything outside of the ship is by platforming and running between the stations. It's a game about being overwhelmed, overstimulated and overworked, but at least you're doing it together
JC: Can you tell us a bit about how you guys got started? and what led to the game's creation?
AB: It's quite a simple story really, of boy meets boy meets boy. We've known each other for well over a decade now. In high school Adam and Matt were in a band together, then Adam got kicked out of the band and moved away to go to university. Matt and I met in college where we studied illustration and made zines. I became a graphic designer and moved to western Canada and learned how to snowboard. Matt became an animator and then took off to Europe and lived in a little flat in London. Adam got his Masters Degree in particle physics but then realized he didn't want to work in academia. Somehow we all ended up back in Toronto around 2010 when the local indie game community really started to flourish. We participated in some game jams together, learned programming, and the first prototype for Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime came out of the Toronto Global Game Jam in January of 2012.
JC: What sorts of games (movies? tv shows?) helped inspire Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime? I'm presuming classics like Asteroids and Space Invaders may have had a hand in there somewhere.
AB: Surprisingly enough, we didn't really look to those games when we started Lovers, although we did add actual asteroids to the game later in development as an homage. We went into the Toronto Global Game Jam with the idea that we were going to do a co-op game that had some asymmetrical gameplay to it. Two of our main inspirations were games made by some local devs that we played at various events around Toronto: Cephalopods Co-op Cottage Defence created by Spooky Squid Games and A Friendship in Four Colours, by Damian Sommer. The main inspiration for the game's high concept came from Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator. We liked the idea that each player had a role to fill in the micro-game that would in turn contribute to the macro-game. Finally we thought of that scene in Star Wars where Luke and Han run to the turrets and shoot at the TIE Fighters and yell at each other. We really wanted to capture that moment as the core experience of the game.
JC: From the gameplay trailer we can see ships with different weapons, defences and other features, could you take us through Lovers' ships? Are there pre-defined types of ships or are they customisable to a degree?
AB: For the ships themselves, we will have a few main "chassis" layouts that play a bit differently, as each one beyond the default ship has an extra gameplay element that changes the power dynamic between the players. For example we have a ship that completely rotates around based on where the engine is. So in a co-op game it gives the person piloting the ship immense power over their partner as they can dictate where each station is positioned.
On top of that, we have an upgrade system that involves finding three gem types: Power, Beam and Metal. You use them to upgrade each of the four station types: Turrets, Engine, Shield, and Super Weapon. For example, if you put a Metal gem into one of the turret stations you get this wicked flail that you can use to whale on a bunch of enemies in one strike. Then later on in the game you can unlock the ability to combine gems to create some fun weapons/defences, like a Metal flail that shoots Beam lasers as you swing it around. Each of the four station types has ten unique configurations, and every one has their own set of strengths and weaknesses depending what the current situation calls for.
JC: In co-op gameplay you have to work together to pilot the ship, manning different stations etc. but how will it work for losers who have no friends? (Not asking for me... not at all).
AB: In Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime you're never forced to fly solo, so if you currently find yourself forever alone, you can play through Lovers with a loyal space-pet--they're kind of like your Chewbacca. You can initially choose between a cat and a dog, and you communicate with them by issuing orders with a radial menu for which station you want them to go to. Then when they sit down at that station their AI takes over and they shoot or shield anything they need to. They can do everything that a normal partner could do, besides pilot the ship, because why would anyone in their right mind ever let a dog pilot a ship?
JC: I noted that each level enjoys its own theme, how many levels are you guys targeting in total for the game's release?
AB: There will be a total of four campaigns for the game's release, each themed around a different environment, and within each campaign the sub-levels all have variations too. We were really inspired by Left 4 Dead's format where each campaign is self contained and can be played in one sitting, but every time you play through it's different. So in Lovers, each campaign is themed on a constellation and is comprised of a number of procedurally generated levels that you will play through before battling that constellation in a final boss fight.
JC: Will each level have a boss fight?
AB: Yes, each campaign has a boss fight at the end, and to be successful it requires absolute teamwork from the players. We also tried to mix up the strategies, so the way you and your partner would normally play through a level might not work so well against the boss. The first boss you will encounter is Ursa Major, she is very hard hitting and can also be tricky as you wear her down. You need to be defensive. There are times when Adam and I can work together with such aplomb that we can beat her without even taking any damage, and then there are other times when we get smacked around like a little pink ball of yarn.
JC: Could you comment on working with ID@Xbox? Any cool stories there?
AB: It has been really great working with Chris Charla and the entire ID@Xbox team. They've been super helpful to us throughout this entire process and it really can't be understated, the amount of work it must take on their part for a tiny inexperienced three-person company to be able to interface with a corporation the size of Microsoft. Because of them we've been able to show the game to thousands of people at various shows around the world like E3, Gamescom, and the San Diego Comicon. We even saw a picture a Lovers kiosk right next to MightyNumber 9 at the Tokyo Games Show, and we were like "... Yup", because it's like your whole life up to this point is coming full circle.
JC: When can gamers expect to get their hands on Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime?
AB: We are wrapping up development now and we hope to have it ready for release by the end of the summer.
JC: And finally, how did you guys come up with the name? It's pretty rad.
AB: In Canada, there was a song from the 80s by Bruce Cockburn about young love, called Lovers in a Dangerous Time. Late at night while working on the game Adam was riffing on it singing "Cosmic Lovers in a Dangerous Time" but then I changed it to "Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime" since it had a better flow. Matt initially hated it because it was too wordy and didn't say anything about the game, but his suggestions were, uh, less than apt: Nav Run, Void Bros, Rocketpod -- luckily we outvoted him two to one. After that, the title Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime started to inform the kind of art and design decisions we made within the game, and in the end it was able to speak more about the game than anything else we could have thought up.
A huge thanks to Asteroid Base for saying hi!
If you're like me and you're desperately trying to get your significant other into gaming, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime could be a godsend. Either that or you'll end up hating each other for failing to pilot the ship to vaguely acceptable level, but hey, at least you'll be gaming.
Keep your eyes tuned to Windows Central for all the latest innovations coming out of ID@Xbox, and be sure to connect with Asteroid Base on Twitter and YouTube to get all the latest Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime updates.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime launches for PC and Mac (Steam) and Xbox One later this year.