Eurogamer Interview – Guns of Icarus Online

In the second of my Eurogamer interviews I talk with Musegames' Joseph Lieberman about gear, garb, gondolas and goggles in Guns of Icarus Online.

My second interview at this year’s Eurogamer Expo was with Musegames’ Joseph Lieberman, who patiently indulged my insane rambling questions about goggles in the forthcoming  Guns of Icarus Online: a steampunk/dieselpunk-styled first-person PVP airship combat game set in post-apocalyptic skies. As a dashing pilot, engineer or gunner you have to either steer the ship, keep it from falling apart around everyone, or man the guns to blow your enemies to kingdom come. All while looking as stylish and dapper as possible.

Bitscreed: What have been some of the main influences on Guns of Icarus Online (GoIO), thematically and game-wise?

Joseph Lieberman: Thematically you can go into things like Crimson Skies and other post-apocalyptic settings. Certainly those are our biggest thematic influences. Each of the ships has a theme based around the naval ships of a specific culture, be that Asian or English. But also gameplay-wise, basically the entire premise of the game came around the idea of “what if you built an entire game around the .50 cal turret of a tank?”

B: GoIO currently supports up to four players per ship. Is there any chance of bigger ships with larger crews?

JL: In our original plan we had ships ranging in size from two to eight crew. We do plan on having that in the game in the adventure mode, planned hopefully for 2013/2014, which is a persistent open world where you build up your character. Guns of Icarus Online is initially going to be focused on four man ships to keep it balanced for PVP

B: So we could see some really huge ships in adventure mode?

JL: That’s the goal.

B: With adventure mode being some way off you’re obviously focused on showcasing the PVP skirmish mode at the moment. Will skirmish mode have a progression system of sorts?

JL: There is a progression system based around achievements. The way it’ll work is you’ll start with a basic set of equipment and costumes, and as you unlock achievements through the various classes you’ll get new equipment and new items. Those equipment items are not better than the existing items, they just offer different benefits allowing for different strategies. For instance you might unlock the incendiary rounds, which obviously set things on fire.

B: That’d be great against balloons I take it?

JL: Actually the balloons aren’t flammable so no. They tend to be better used against ship weapons since if a gun is on fire you can’t shoot it. So you if you can hit somebody’s gun with an incendiary round you’ll disable it. But the incendiary rounds have a drawback which is they damage your ship’s gun a LOT every time you fire, and additionally make your shots move slower so its harder to hit. So it’s not that it’s better than another piece of equipment, it’s just that it’s different.

B: Judging from what I’ve read on the website and seen in the trailers GoIO seems like a mix of TF2 and Sid Meier’s Pirates with some RTS elements in there too. How hard has it been to balance such different gameplay styles in one game?

JL: It’s been an interesting process. We like to say it’s a mixture of FPS, flight simulator and time management games like Diner Dash. Some of the balance problems have come from things like when you run around the ship, since we have to take into account how long it takes you to get from point A to point B. That’s a big deal when you’re balancing a ship like the galleon which has 3 decks to it, so that’s a lot of running around! So while it appears more powerful on paper in practise it’s not necessarily the best ship.

B: How differently do these various ship types handle?

JL: The ships are all completely different. The Pyramidion for example is very good at going forwards and backwards and very bad at turning. Actually because it’s so very good at going forward and backwards it’s very good at playing “keep away.” That said though I think the speed difference between the fastest ship and the slowest ship is about 2x, so it’s quite a bit more maneuverable.

B: Plenty to suit different playstyles then?

JL: Absolutely.

B: Ship customisation’s a big thing for me, particularly as an admirer of the Steampunk aesthetic. I’d like to be able to pimp my ship out to look exactly how I want.

JL: You definitely can!

B: Does customisation affect how ships handle too? For example, can you make a bigger, bulkier ship slightly more nimble?

JL: No, actually, because we’re focused on this balanced PVP idea in this mode. In the adventure mode the answer’s yes, but in skirmish mode any changes you make to your ship will be purely cosmetic. As you unlock achievements you’ll be able to unlock some ship items too, to make your ship look prettier.

B: Speaking of customisation in general I’m a big fan of games that let you customise your characters…

JL: We’ll have hats!

B: Goggles and hats?

JL: Oh yeah. Gadgets too.

B: A top hat covered in goggles?

JL: Costumes are divided into three pieces: hat, body and pants. There might be pants with goggles on them, a shirt with goggles on them and a hat with goggles on them.

B: You can’t have a steampunk game without goggles.

JL: You basically want a whole costume made out of goggles?

B: Pretty much, yeah.

JL: We might be able to make that happen for you.

B: Excellent! One last question about ship customisation: will there be any way for players to design their own custom flags for their ships?

JL: Yes. We are hoping to have that though not at launch, but pretty soon afterwards through Steamworks.

B: Expanding on that towards player-generated content, are there any plans to support community map making?

JL: Unfortunately not at this time as our map making tools are pretty rough to use. Maybe if the game does very well and we have the budget to do so. We’re not against it by any means but it’s a case of resources and time.

B: Your primary focus is on skirmish mode at the moment but I’d like to talk a bit about Guns of Icarus Online’s planned adventure mode, if I may. Specifically how deep the trading system will be. Are we talking something basic like Elite’s or something crazy and insane like EVE Online’s?

JL: We’re aiming towards EVE Online actually. A full-on crafting economy.

B: Nuts, bolts, gears, the works?

JL: Yeah, where you’re pretty much crafting every component of your ship. Every equipment item you want to bring on with various benefit and different ammos for ships. We might even do limited ammo for each ship where you have a shot count and you have to replenish your ammo supplies.

B: So if you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere with no gas or ammo…

JL: It’ll probably be instance-based so you won’t ever find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, but you might find yourself in a battle and run out of whatever special ammo you were using that gave you a big advantage. You might have go back to using stones instead of bullets. They did it in the revolutionary war.

B: How open is the eventual adventure mode going to be?

JL: The openness is designed around factions in the world all vying for various objectives, and this brings them into natural conflict with each other. The idea is it’s going to dynamically generate missions around those conflicts.

B: And I presume the different factions’ needs will also create points of tension?

JL: Right, and you’re influencing that. You’re changing those needs and requirements, fulfilling them, making one faction stronger which in turn makes other factions hate you.

B: On the GoIO site it mentions being able to play a trader character. Will I be able to go for a really pure trader, sacrificing guns for cargo space to carry more loot, and rely on others to protect me? ?

JL: The specifics aren’t really hammered out yet but ideally yes. Ideally you’d have a certain capacity so if you want to fill up your ship with guns instead of cargo that’s fine, but you won’t make any money. So you’ll have to have somebody pay you to escort them.

B: And vice-versa.

JL: Yes, and that will work into that whole clan dynamic. But being a freighter captain would be a very boring thing to do and this is why it might not end up like that. That said a lot of the maps will have different missions such as a payload-style mission where you are the payload, so you may well see something like that happening.

B: One last question about character customisation. You mentioned different shirts How many options are we looking at here?

 JL: I think we have close to 40 outfits.

At this point Musegame’s Howard Tsao stepped forward with some more information.

HT: Over thirty. Different hairstyles, hats. Goggles…

Joseph and I shared a chuckle at this last unwitting reference to my mad goggle enthusiasm. He then very kindly showed me the Guns of Icarus Online art book, packed with some really rather gorgeous pictures by Musegames artists Emily Compton and Tim Doolan. As well as the sizeable world map there were enough costumes to satisfy even the most demanding steampunk aficionado  with a bevy of monocles, gas masks, hats and – of course – plenty of goggles. You can check out a lot of this concept art for yourself on the official Guns of Icarus Online site and the game’s Facebook page.

Gun of Icarus Online is currently in beta and scheduled for release on October 29th through Steam.


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Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.