Gamercast interview Steven Peeler on Drox Operative

Announced last year was Soldak Entertainment's fourth game, boasting a more dynamic world than the fabulous Din's Curse, as their first game to turn away from fantasy, Drox Operative is set to take on the science fiction genre by storm with it's luxurious space battles and evolving galaxy. With a rich singleplayer experience in store, Drox Operative will also offer a co-operative multiplayer for the more social of gamers so that they can take part in a truly living and breathing world.

We caught up with Soldak Entertainment's Steven Peeler to get a bit more information on the game, and to get the word out, because it's going to knock your socks off!

Gamercast: So for those that don’t know, what is Drox Operative?

Steven Peeler: Well the quick version is that Drox Operative is a starship action RPG with warring alien races, fierce space battles, a dynamic, evolving galaxy, and co-op multiplayer for Windows and Mac.

The longer version can be read here.

GC: Who are Soldak Entertainment?

SP: Soldak is a small independent developer located in Texas. By small I mean there are only two of us full-time. We do have five awesome contractors working on this project also though. We’ve been developing games as a company since late 2004. Drox Operative is our fourth full game with Depths of Peril, Kivi’s Underworld, and Din’s Curse being the first three.

GC: Your last very successful games have been fantasy, why a sudden switch to science fiction?

SP: Well I think one of the main reasons is that I like both fantasy and sci-fi settings and I wanted to do something different. This switch allows us to do something different, work in a setting that we love, but still, hopefully, give our fans what they want and what we are good at (dynamic games).

GC: How long has Drox Operative been in development?

SP: We’ve been working on Drox for a little less than a year.

GC: Will there be a class system in the game for the Operatives? Or will everyone be the same, and it is their ships that define them?

SP: This is actually the first game that we have done where there will not be any classes. All of your abilities come from the components that you have installed on your ship.

Since we group many different types of components into only a few slot types, it ultimately leads to the same type of decisions for the player though. Do you want to put an extra weapon or an extra engine in that free slot? Do you want to focus on defenses like heavier armor and stronger shields or do you want to focus on offense with better beams and missiles? Do you want to do fancier stuff like pull ships into a more deadly range with tractor beams and then strike with your beam weapons?

The only real difference is that you have much more freedom to change your tactics at any time simply by swapping some components.

GC: Can we ask how the space battles work?

SP: Battles are fairly quick conflicts fought in real-time, but are focused more on tactics rather than good reflexes. You decide where to pilot the ship and which weapons or other ship components to use and when. Targeting of enemies is fairly automatic, although you can control this when you want. The usable components are usually direct weapons like Fusion Beams and Neutronium Cannons, but can also be more indirect weapons like Fighters and Anti-Matter Mines, active defenses like Flares and Decoys, consumables like Nanite Repair and Energy Spikes, and special abilities like Stasis Fields and Tractor Beams. There are even doomsday devices like Grey Goo. Most of these use up your energy reserves though, so you have to be careful how fast you burn through it.

You also have to concern yourself with the health of your ship. First you have quick, recharging shields that protect you, then a layer of armor, and then the actual structure of your ship. You really don’t want an enemy to get through the shields and armor, because along with damaging the ship’s structure, it will also start doing damage to your components. Losing one of your main weapons or an engine is a quick way to be destroyed.

GC: How will Soldak’s brilliant dynamism come into play in Drox Operative?

SP: The dynamic galaxy works similar to how it does in Din’s Curse where all of the interactions between the environment, monsters, races, and the players actually matter. Actions and inactions from all of these sources have real consequences, sometimes good and sometimes bad. These consequences can in turn cause more problems and so forth. That’s not very specific, so let’s walk through an example.

A ship named Nighthawk has been causing problems in the Regor star system. Since no one has been able to destroy it, Nighthawk has enough time to launch a strange Giant Pod at the planet Corvi, inhabited by the Hive. The Hive, their allies, and the players all fail to destroy the Giant Pod before it impacts the planet. After the impact, everyone finds out that the pod contained Mutant Ants that are huge, eat just about anything, and are immune to all known pesticides. The Mutant Ants seem to be unstoppable and destroy huge portions of Corvi’s crops. They even manage to stow aboard a freighter and spread to another local planet, Pallas, inhabited by the Lithosoid. Over time all of the population of Corvi starves to death because there are no crops to feed anyone with any more. Will the Lithosoid on Pallas fall to the same fate or will someone finally do something about the Mutant Ants?

The cool part about this example is that none of this is set in stone; all of it is completely dynamic. The players, the afflicted race, allies, and even enemies have many opportunities to stop the chain of events. More importantly, each time the events will be different. Next time, Nighthawk might launch an Invasion or build a Cosmic EMP Device instead of launching a Giant Pod. Or maybe the Giant Pod contained Stalkers instead of Mutant Ants. Or maybe next time they will be really nasty Mutant Ants that spread to every Hive planet and destroy their entire race. Or maybe next time a Lithosoid fleet happens to fly through the area and destroys the Giant Pod before it impacts Corvi. Or maybe the player will listen to planets when they beg for help the next time.

GC: What is the most exciting feature of Drox Operative that will make our readers buy it?

SP: Well I would normally say the dynamic quest stuff, but we’ve already covered that. I think the next most exciting feature is that in Drox you’re really not the center of the galaxy. The game takes place in a huge galactic colonization conflict. There are only so many habitable planets available and multiple alien races are vying for control of this sector of space. These races are scouting solar systems, colonizing the best planets they can find, building fleets of starships, and eventually when empty planets are less plentiful, waging war to expand their empires. Your goal as a Drox Operative is essentially to ally yourself with one of these races and help them conquer the sector and make tons of credits while you’re at it.

GC: When it was announced it was stated that Drox Operative would be done when it’s done, is there a prospective month of release that we can anticipate?

SP: I don’t know about a specific month. We are still shooting for 1st quarter, but we will take our time and polish as much as we can, so I would guess that it will slip into the 2nd quarter.

GC: We love fantasy as much as the next person, but at Gamercast, we really enjoy a good spot of science fiction, we can’t wait to see more of Drox Operative in the coming months.

SP: Great, we really hope there are a lot of sci-fi fans out there that are waiting for a cool sci-fi game, especially since it seems that there really aren’t enough good sci-fi games that come out.

I'm not sure about you, but the dynamism in Drox Operative is shaping up to be pretty exciting, if you've yet to experience Soldak Entertainment's last game Din's Curse I recommend you look it up, there are not many games out there that can attest to the dynamic qualities that Steven brings to his games.

Drox Operative should be seeing a release sometime during Quarters 1 and 2 of 2012, bring on the Mutant Ants!