Homeworld 3 art director discusses redesigning spacecraft for a PC RTS

Homeworld 3 Hiigaran Carrier deploying new ship
(Image credit: Gearbox Software)

What you need to know

  • Homeworld 3 is an upcoming real-time strategy game (RTS) being developed by Blackbird Interactive and published by Gearbox Software. 
  • The developers have redesigned one major spaceship, the Hiigaran Carrier, in line with community feedback from when it was initially seen. 
  • Blackbird Interactive art director Karl Gryc shared some insights into what goes into designing (and redesigning) spacecraft for a modern PC RTS. 
  • Homeworld 3 is currently slated to launch on PC at some point in the first half of 2023.

Homeworld 3 is on the way, and the team at Blackbird Interactive and Gearbox Software is taking note of community feedback, including where changes need to be made.

When the Hiigaran Carrier was first spotted in a trailer for Homeworld 3, many fans of the older games spoke out on its look, complaining that it wasn't quite right and had a "cereal box" aesthetic, per Blackbird Interactive art director Karl Gryc. The developers have taken this feedback to work on a redesign for the Carrier, while the original design is now being adopted for a pirate ship.

Speaking on the changes, Gryc tells me that this rework process meant finding a balance between rivaling past designs and still achieving a "modern look" for the Hiigaran fleet.

"Things have been modernized. If you think of Homeworld 1 as World War 1 and Homeworld 2 as World War 2, what would be the next evolution of spaceships? That's the kind of idea behind Homeworld 3," Gryc explains, adding that the team looked for inspiration across how real-world military vessel designs have evolved. "We didn't want to have a complete departure, but we wanted to modernize these ships."

"What would the next generation of ships be in this universe? If the game takes place a hundred years after the events of Homeworld 2, then what the Hiigaran Navy do to their ships?"

(Image credit: Gearbox Software)

Redesigning the Hiigaran Carrier meant undergoing a process called "shape-tuning," something Blackbird developers user to refer to finding a rough shape for a spacecraft and then rapidly iterating on it, adjusting engine locations, tweaking different points, and going back and forth to find what works. 

"At the end of the day, we came up with something that really feels like it is in harmony with the Mothership," Gryc says. "When you see the two units side-by-side, you're like 'I get it, they're part of the same fleet, they belong, this definitely looks like a carrier I could take into the combat field' and it's a design we're proud of."

While things that need to be reworked will get priority, the realities of game development means there's only so much time, meaning assets can and should be reused when possible. This led to using the original Hiigaran Carrier design for a pirate ship, which Gryc notes works far better than what the team was originally toying with.

(Image credit: Gearbox Software)

All of this has to come without jeopardizing readability in the heat of battle, which is a challenge given the scale at hand. The Mothership is 3 kilometers in length, while a mere fighter is 20 meters long.

"The overall kind of shape is one thing we look at, but then we have a few other elements. Obviously there's the pageantry, by pageantry I mean the striping pattern on ships," Gryc explains. "You'll have different classes, so a Torpedo class would have two stripes in the back, or an Assault Frigate will have a single stripe, just to define its role on the battlefield."

Another big thing that helps make the game readable is the visual effects, with the developers working to make different weapon types (and the resulting impacts) unique in order to quickly make it obvious what kind of ship is attacking at a glance.

Accessibility is also at the forefront of this design philosophy, with Blackbird Interactive working to make sure things feel appealing to longtime fans while reducing some unnecessarily tedious elements for newcomers. 

"Resourcing is one of them. We ended up grouping the Resource Collector into the Resource Controller as a single unit, so you don't have to do little tedious micromanaging," Gryc says. "But at the same time, it just ended up working a lot better. It's a little more streamlined for the players."

There's no release date right now, but Homeworld 3 is currently slated to launch at some point in the first half of 2023, where it may end up being one of the best PC games of the year for strategy fans.

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.