As someone who is a fan of space-based TV shows like Star Wars, it’s nice to see companies like Yager Development create their own videogames based rendition of what it must be like to be part of an epic space battle. And whilst Electronic Arts disappointed recently with the Death Star DLC for their Battlefront game, here’s hoping that Yager take the time to make Dreadnought a superior space combat flight simulator, where the F2P game has the player assume the role of captaining a large spacecraft, where they are tasked with positioning their ship and choosing targets.
In order to find out more about Dreadnought, I spoke to Peter Holzapfel (Game Director, Yager), and got to ask him on to how he intends for the game to differentiate itself from the competition, as well as how it will benefit from the studio’s storytelling prowess. Enjoy!
Can you please tell me a little bit about Dreadnought? What kind of game is it? And what inspired you to make the title?
Dreadnought is a game about captaining spaceships. The thought process behind it was there are actually quite a few games about fighter jets, the more twitch-based games, X-Wing, Tie-Fighter and all those… There are a lot of franchises, TV shows, and movies about big spaceships… Battlestar Galactica being the first one that springs to mind. And then there’s Firefly, there’s Star Trek, there’s Star Wars. All of these franchises have big space ships in them, captaining space ships. But there are not a lot of games about captaining space ships. As soon as you go “big”, they suddenly becomes very strategic and require very strong time investments, which are games that we love as well. But we wanted to create something that is more intense, cinematic, and direct. So what’s cool for us about these TV shows is that they are, in the best sense, pop culture. They are easy to get into. They have a very strong and understandable premise. But then there’s a lot of depth to the universe. And we wanted to replicate this in terms of gameplay, so something that you can jump into, have fun. But then there’s an insane amount of depth and complexity that is actually inside Dreadnought. It’s an arena-based shooter. It’s a class-based action game. So it’s shooter-inspired. But you have five classes, and they range from small ships in the Dreadnought universe, like our Corvettes, which are roughly like 80 meters long, to really turnkey Battlestar Galactica-sized ships, the Dreadnoughts. In between, we have Artillery Cruiser, we have Destroyer, and we have Tactical Cruiser. And they roughly are the equivalents of scouts, assault, healer, tank, and sniper.
We really wanted to create something that people can understand instantly when they jump into it. It’s about big spaceships with all the elements that makes big spaceships cool. You have a crew. You have energy management. You have tons of different abilities that totally alter your play-style. We wanted you to actually recreate those epic moments that you have in those TV shows.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, there were franchises such as Wing Commander that had the same sort of premise… big battles in space. But then those kind of games went away, and it’s only recently in the last couple of years, that we’ve been seeing games like Elite… And No Man’s Sky recently came out, which is also based on space exploration and battles in a way. Why do you think space-based games are making such a big comeback, with Dreadnought being part of the genre?
Yeah, totally. We had really good timing for this. Yager as a studio actually started with a space game, the original game Yager, playing with a smaller-sized space vehicle. But why is there a comeback? I think space games, or space, or sci-fi in general, always hold a certain fascination for people. And these things tend to come in waves, I guess. There’s kind of a movement going on. And we have Star Wars continuing, the Star Trek rebooting, it seems to be a general tendency of all media influencing each other in a way. And for us, the need for Yager came from one of the owners of the company, Mathias, who is the biggest spaceship nerd on the planet. He’s one of the owners, but he’s actually constantly drawing space ships. Every meeting you find him in, he’s drawing spaceships. So he really loves spaceships. He also designed the spaceships in the original Yager game. And you see a lot of influences in Dreadnought. So for us, sci-fi and spaceships have always been there, always been on our minds. And then we actually found Dreadnought as a project, or created Dreadnought as a project… It just felt right. And luckily, it’s also something that is very present at the moment. So we are at a good point in time to actually launch a sci-fi space game.
When is the game coming out?
Currently, we are in closed beta. So we are aiming for open beta in fall this year. We don’t want to actually give any specific date because things might go wrong in closed beta. And we are working with feedback from the community. So we finally actually started to work with our community because we have been playing the game for you. We’ve always done play-tests and user research and community events and trade shows. But now having the game out there, even if it is so far in a closed beta, was really important to us. So fall this year.
Some time this year?
Yeah, fall. As an open beta.
Okay. What about the final release? Some time next year?
It’s a fluid process. With a free-to-play game, it’s a process that is going… it moves from open beta into full release. Some games never move out of open beta. From there on, the game is fully playable and everything is working. But we obviously continue to work on them.
Sure. With the game being free to play, I assume you are looking to monetize it via in-game transactions?
Yeah, for sure. The basic system… we like free-to-play and games as a service approach because it’s something that gives us the opportunity to lower the entry barrier. Obviously, as developers we want the game to be played by as many people as we possibly can. That’s why we make them. We want people to play our game. And then to be able to continuously develop it over a really long period of time and grow it, is something that is super attractive to us.
And in terms of monetisation, it’s pretty classic actually. Faster progression but also vanity items, customisation, obvious tactics that you can buy in the game.
Buying new ships for like £6 million or whatever. I think Elite does something like that…
We don’t intend to do something like that.
Based on Yager’s previous history, the development studio was in charge of Spec Ops: The Line. Regardless of its inherent flaws, the game was praised for its storyline. And before Dead Island 2 got cancelled, and because of Yager’s lineage, was also something that people were talking about, where people though it was going to have a strong story. Based on what the studio has achieved, what sort of classic Yager-centric storyline strength is Dreadnought going to have?
With Dreadnought, it’s less about linear storytelling and more about creating a universe. So we have Dan Abnett, who wrote the original Marvel comics for Guardians of the Galaxy and who is also doing a lot of Warhammer 40K writing. He actually supported us in creating the universe, without giving away too much detail of the universe yet, sorry… But the idea is to create something that is very flexible where we can actually create stories in. So a broad setup with a bit of a touch of Firefly maybe, a touch of Battlestar Galactica in terms of having a serious universe, but with a slightly different touch to it.
You’ve mentioned as to how some of the inspiration comes from Battlestar Galactica with the big ships. But with games like Elite and No Man’s Sky already out on the market, who do you think Dreadnought is going to appeal to? What do you think Dreadnought offers that the competition doesn’t necessarily have?
We love those games. We know the guys that actually work on them. So we totally respect what they are doing. But Dreadnought is a very different game in that it’s not in the same way about limitless exploration or anything like that. Dreadnought focuses on the cinematic battles that these franchise inspirations actually have. Again, if you pick a Corvette – which is like our Millennium Falcon-sized ship – and then you put a cloaking device on it, it then becomes more of a Bird of Prey style ship where you go behind the enemy, find the artillery cruisers, uncloak behind them, and then launch a torpedo. Or you put a Blink Warp on it and then it becomes a ship that actually dances around those capital ships, where it tries to evade in the gameplay style of a leaf in the wind. With the Dreadnought, you can put bow-sides on it and then it becomes almost like a naval-like battle, very intense, very close combat in terms of spaceships. Or you put a nuclear rocket on it and armour amplifier and damage amplifier and intercept the second launch. So it then becomes more of a fortress that stays a bit behind. So it’s all about recreating moments, fitting play-styles, play-style diversity, and all the emerging gameplay that actually comes from that. It’s battle-focused and intense. The other games are different, I guess.
You’ve mentioned as to how Mathias, the owner of Yager, does a lot of drawings about spaceships. And I assume there is a lot of artwork hanging around in the production offices. Are there any plans for a Dreadnought art book to be released in future, or even a soundtrack?
“Plans” would be too much, but we are definitely looking into it because we would like to do it. There’s so much work that goes into a game that you don’t see directly when you play the game. Our composer is a great guy. Our sound designer, who is working with our composer… awesome guy. And we love the soundtrack. So actually, we would love to bring it out. Same goes for all the art that has been created. It’s more a question of time at the moment. At the moment, everybody is focusing on adjusting the meta-game of Dreadnought. But as soon as we find the time, yeah, definitely, we’ll look into it.
Last question. Do you have any plans of bringing Dreadnought out on PS4 and XBox One?
We are currently focusing on PC and want to get that out. So that’s our main focus. We’re not ruling anything out in the future, but currently we are focusing on PC.