Outworlder is a game that you probably haven't heard of before, but you're sure to be aware of some of the previous games the developers worked on. Starbound. Rimworld. Some devs even have a dash of Minecraft modding under their belts. Now, this mixed team of industry veterans, web developers, and hobbyist modders are coming together to create a brand-new sci-fi sandbox adventure.
We had a chat with Rho "Rhopunzel" Watson — founder of Outworlder developer Igloosoft and a pixel artist who put a fair amount of time into making Starbound's art look great in its early days. From what we've learned about their inaugural game, it's looking to be a pretty interesting experience.
Guns, Guns, Guns
Central to the gameplay of Outworlder is an emphasis on ranged combat over melee combat.
"If we’re doing the comparison to Terraria and Starbound; both of those titles had a focus on melee combat and in Starbound’s case I felt that it was antithetical to what the sci-fi genre represents," said Rho Watson. "The sci-fi that I enjoy tends to be gun-heavy. Ballistics, lasers, missiles. Not whacking something with a giant, colorful hammer."
"I’ve heard complaints about this genre (pixel-art, 2d adventure) in regards to ranged weapons generally feeling useless and unsatisfying," she continued. "I’ve addressed this directly in Outworlder."
That's not to say there won't be any melee in the game. According to the developer we spoke with, they'll still have a place in Outworlder, although they'll mostly serve as a backup weapon.
The Ins and Outs of Outworlder
"It's gritty sci-fi. It takes place during the space equivalent of the industrial revolution, so it's a time of discovery, strife and excitement. I won't go as far to say it's grimdark, but it's definitely not the sort of utopian picture of society you'd see in Star Trek. Bad things exist and morality isn't as simple as good uys vs bad guys." — Rho "Rhopunzel" Watson
Outworlder began coming together in February 2019, but Igloosoft was assembling its team even earlier than that. The company officially kicked things off in January 2018. Their first few months were rife with challenges. Production stopped and started as they went through different codebases and brought more people onto the team.
"[Igloosoft's early days were] a valuable lesson and we were able to use the time to really refine the art style and design of the game, so I don't consider it time lost," Ms. Watson said. "Though for a while all we had was the player flopping around on its belly on a platform of clay blocks, which I consider the low point to say the least."
Those early builds of the game were pretty barebones, only featuring a very basic tileset for a background and using Mega Man as a stand-in for the player character. Now, the game is shaping up to go head-to-head with a title that Igloosoft's founder worked on: Starbound. Starbound serves as a fine comparison to Outworlder, simply because they're doing many of the same things. However, their approaches are going to be very different.
Aside from the aforementioned divergence on melee versus ranged combat, Outworlder is going to be about more than simply going to planet to planet in search of the next tier of goods. Players are going to be building a colony that will serve as a safe base to rest up at and a place to automate many aspects of the game.
You won't be a homebody, either — colonies are largely optional, although it'd be pretty silly to pass up the opportunity of automating what you can. Exploration will serve as a big part of the game, whether you're playing by yourself or with a friend.
All of these various bits of gameplay are going to be assembled in a "modular approach to development", with Creative Multiplayer set to be the first module launched before the end of the year.
Outworlder Colonies Enhance Your Experience
Outworlder will have a diverse character creator, powerful crafting and building. As well as a robust colony engine allowing you to interact with your colonists in a way we've never seen in a 2D game of this nature. — Alannah Gallagher, Marketing at Igloosoft
One of the points of pride at Igloosoft is just how robust they're going to be making the colony builder aspect of the game. This is not going to just be a handful of NPCs hanging around running shops — it'll be a little more complex than that.
"Your colony is your safety net," Rho Watson began. "It’s a place that you can exist in relative safety (less or more safe depending on your defense + environmental challenges + faction relations.) Players will venture out into the unknown to obtain materials you need to expand to improve, expand and make the base more robust. This translates to more automation for the base and self-sufficiency. Your NPCs won’t need to be micromanaged and if their basic needs are met for their assigned roles, they’ll take care of themselves."
Of course, just how much you build and how big you build it will be entirely up to you, the player.
"There is nothing forcing you to have a 'main' base and multiple satellites or outposts. But there’s nothing stopping you from making a ton of enormous bases if you put the effort in. You also could just planet skip and have a lot of light outposts. It’s up to the player in terms of scope."
NPCs Chip in (And Won't Have to Be Micromanaged)
"[NPCS] aren’t window dressing. They all have a mechanical relationship to the game. You tolerate their needs because they will automate aspects of the game to free up the player." — Rho "Rhopunzel" Watson
A colony isn't much without colonists and that will be one of the key points of your home base running smoothly (should you decide to build one). That's not to say, however, that you're going to be spending a ton of time babysitting your pixel pals.
"[If NPCs'] basic needs are met for their assigned roles, they’ll take care of themselves," Ms. Watson said. "The hard part will be building the facilities and features that will attract them to begin with. It also depends on the colonist – One with adventurous traits who prefers the guard role will be excited by the thought of being on the edge of civilization, on a forward base with light defenses – the bulwark against whatever they come up against. But the erudite scientist whose interest is your high-tech research lab on a dangerous planet with a rare resource to study --- they won’t tolerate an enemy faction blowing a hole in said lab. Or aliens coming through the duct works."
This all sounds positively tantalizing to someone like me who's put countless hours in games like Dwarf Fortress and Craft The World. Heck, I've even put a good few hours simply building villages in Minecraft, and that's not all that mechanically complex compared to what Outworlder is aiming for.
Get Ready to Blast Off
As it stands, Outworlder is still building up toward their initial launch. The first public release of the game is going to be a demo of creative mode which will allow you to explore a single planet and check out what the building and movement is like.
This will also be a multiplayer demo right from the beginning. Quite a few games of this type don't have multiplayer in its early days, but Igloosoft has built up Outworlder in such a way that it's already functional. According to Ms. Watson's Twitter, an early stress test had 28 people in one game without much in the way of problems.
Outworlder hasn't yet launched anywhere publicly, but they're targeting the opening of pre-orders before the close of 2019. You can keep up with the game's progress at playoutworlder.com or at their official Twitter account. You can also follow Igloosoft's work at igloosoft.org and on Twitter. Hopefully, we'll be able to get our hands on the game sooner rather than later, but Rhopunzel says that you'll be able to try a free demo before you make any sort of purchasing decision.
"At Igloosoft we’re taking a strong stance to allow the consumer to see and feel our game before we dare ask for any money," Rho Watson concluded. "We are passionate, ethical[,] and an inclusive team. I am impressed and proud of the professionalism displayed by everyone on it."