Interview: Homeworld Dev Tells About New RTS, Hardware

By David Valjalo on January 17th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

Long-haired lover from Liverpool David Valjalo speaks to ex-Relic art honcho and founder, Rob Cunningham, about his new project: a planet-spanning free-to-play RTS called Hardware. Oh, and he also discusses how he’s building giant, working robots in his spare time.

I couldn’t resist getting Homeworld in that headline. As you’ll discover below, the classic space strategy game is something of a sensitive topic for Rob Cunningham. As much out of respect for the trials and tribulations of current rights-holder THQ as his intention to mark his own studio’s first big project as a fresh, original RTS on its own merit. But when he says that Blackbird Interactive’s bold step into the genre is being worked on not only by him, but a couple of other fellow ex-Relic folk and Homeworld composer Paul Ruskay, you can’t help the feeling that an old, faithful dream team is reassembling to boldly go once again and reinvigorate, maybe even reinvent, real-time strategy in the stars…

RPS: So, what’s your story been since Homeworld?

Rob Cunningham: We shipped Homeworld in 1999. Relic was still young in those days, so being one of the founders I carried on at the studio as we got more work. My personal story was as art director on Homeworld. We sold Relic in 2004 and continued under the THQ banner for a couple of years. I did Homeworld 2, Company Of Heroes, Dawn Of War. I left in 2007.

RPS: What was so special about 2007?

Rob Cunningham: Around then I started seeing what was happening in the industry and in the marketplace. The rise of online gaming, the rise of free to play. I saw there was an opportunity there. Also, I wanted to do some more innovation in RTS. At the time in 1997 I was sort of ahead of the curve. THQ’s appetite for expanding the RTS genre was pretty limited so I thought ‘this has got to be done, let’s start doing it.’ Pretty much then, though, I took a year off from the game industry, did a few other things. The main thing was the eatART foundation – energy awareness through art. It was a complete departure from gaming, an art research lab that’s still going strong now. The idea is to build crazy, kinetic, giant robots. We opened an industrial space here in Vancouver, packed it with welding equipment and got to work building crazy machines. There was the Mondo spider, Daisy the solar powered vehicle, a giant robot snake and there’ll be a four-legged walking mech coming next. I personally funded it for a few years, we bring them out for big shows and they pay us to deploy the creatures. Massive, multi-tonne robot creatures we’re building for fun. And it’s happening in the same building as Blackbird Interactive.

RPS: What was the aim and ambition of starting up Blackbird Interactive, having taken a break from games to… build robots?

Rob Cunningham: Blackbird itself – we started up around the end of 2010, we were brainstorming the idea behind the kind of game we wanted to make, watching the market, and we started work on the [current] game which has a working-title of Hardware. We grew the company in 2011 and then here we are, in the present day, with a prototype in development and going into closed beta [in March].

RPS: Who founded Blackbird with you?

Rob Cunningham: There was Aaron Kambeitz who was lead artist on Homeworld and an artist on Homeworld 2, there was head tech lead at EA, Yossarian King, and Cody Kenworthy who was also at Relic from around 2005. We’ve now got 32 full-time staff working on the game with another six part-time.

RPS: With so many ex-Relic staff involved, is there a lot of Homeworld’s DNA in Hardware?

Rob Cunningham: Well they’re both science fiction RTS games but the answer to how much of Homeworld is in Hardware is… not that much. In terms of DNA, in the same way parents’ DNA is in their children, you can say Homeworld shares DNA with Hardware in as much as it has similar parents. But that’s where the similarities end. There is an art style that connects them, but the gameplay is very different, the experience is very different, but what will be the same is that sense of epic, immersive story. That connection with what’s happening in the game world. We’ll have Paul Ruskay doing audio and music so we’ll have that DNA in there as well, so from a creative point of view, a vibe, there are quite a lot of similarities, but in terms of the game itself, it’s quite a departure from Homeworld.

RPS: What’s the aim and ambition of the game? What else can you reveal?

Rob Cunningham: The intent was to explore what sort of new evolution we could do with RTS. What can I tell you about the game? It’s all about massive trucks rolling around in a huge desert. A sort of Tonka truck experience. As with Homeworld, scale is a big deal for us with this game. The vehicles are huge and just get huge-er. It’s got that Russian Doll sort of quality, of vehicles going into bigger vehicles and bigger vehicles going inside of even bigger vehicles [laughs]. One of the things we’ll be exploring is epic scope with a vast game-board. We’ll be doing a planet-scale RTS but deploying it incrementally over time. The first betas will be reasonably small and feel like a traditional RTS: limited map, limited canvas. But as we go forwards into 2013 we’ll be deploying ever more, ever bigger maps until ultimately the full vision of the game is a planet-scale map that you spent hours travelling across, a fully concurrent experience.

RPS: It sounds like there may be a free to play element there?

Rob Cunningham: Yeah it’s going to be free to play and there’s going to be multiplayer in there.

RPS: So free to play is one of the things you think will drive the genre forward?

Rob Cunningham: Yeah, there are many things you can do with RTS – the marketplace is huge – but our personal vision is a big map… you could say in a nutshell the vision is Google Earth meets RTS. We want to develop an RTS game paradigm where there’s a very impactive, compelling combat and exploration game on a minute-to-minute basis but there’s also this other layer, a macro game, which takes place over days, weeks, months and it’s all about territorial ownership of a much bigger map.

RPS: So would you say the RTS has stagnated?

Rob Cunningham: There’s lots of innovation happening with it. Look at Kickstarter, things like Planetary Annihilation, I think that’s a lot of fun. Stagnation is a strong word but it hasn’t moved forward as quickly as I would have hoped. There’s a lot of room for growth in the genre, especially in terms of getting it out to a wider audience. It’s not stagnated as much as it’s focussed very much on a relatively small group of hardcore RTS players. There’s an opportunity to bring the RTS paradigm to a much wider audience.

RPS: Would you say “casual” is the next big audience, then?

Rob Cunningham: Yeah, so mid-core users, if we can capture some casual users that’s great too. What we want to avoid is that click-fest barrier to entry that a lot of RTS games are known for.

RPS: Do you still think the PC is the home of the RTS?

Rob Cunningham: Yeah I think the PC has got long legs. There’s plenty more we’ll see with PC. But one of the things we want to explore with our game is a platform agnostic approach where you can access the game across multiple devices and still have a coherent experience with one single player account. We want to break the walls down a bit and reach out to other devices beyond PC, too. It remains to be seen how, in detail, that’ll rollout. I’d categorise it as a web delivery platform.

RPS: You mentioned a “Tonka truck” element to Hardware – is it safe to say there’s been an influence from the eatART robot-building going on alongside development of the game?

Rob Cunningham: Only in a very cursory way. EatART and Blackbird are definitely different beasts. There are similarities in that both organisations are packed with guys that love… guy’s stuff. One of the cool things about the organisations sharing the same space is that one is digital and the other very much real. Some of the guys at Blackbird collaborate to build these mechanical beasts. There’s an oil and grease quality at eatART which, when you’re at a desk with nothing but digital content, it’s nice to get your hands on some real-world material. And the same vice-versa, the robot guys are very curious [about what we’re doing] and giving us creative ideas for the Hardware project.

RPS: So, have to ask, could we ever see a Homeworld 3? What’s the rights situation there?

Rob Cunningham: Well the Homeworld property is owned by THQ. Anything can happen with the future of THQ, as you know, they have their own troubles. There’s an auction taking place later this month for all of their assets, so who knows what could happen. It remains to be seen if they’re going to continue holding it. Any discussion about Homeworld 3 I have no position on, it’s completely THQ’s deal.

RPS: Will you have your eyes on the auction at the end of the month, for those rights?

Rob Cunningham: The correct answer there would be no comment. And basically no. I know there’s a huge Homeworld fanbase out there and people get very excited when we start talking about Homeworld. We definitely want to connect with those guys, but we’re very cautious about actually associating ourselves with the franchise as we don’t own it. We don’t want to complicate matters [for THQ] or upset those guys, they’ve got enough on their plate. We’re coming out with a completely different project. If you like Homeworld, you’ll probably like [Hardware], but this is not a Homeworld game and has nothing to do with Homeworld.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

Hardware goes into closed beta in March.

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116 Comments »

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  1. Teovald says:

    Does anybody know why it is impossible to buy homeworld 1 or 2 on platforms such as steam or even gog ?
    I understand that there must not be an overwhelming demand for these games, but still..

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      AmateurScience says:

      I was just looking for these on gog the other day. They were originally published by Sierra I think. Which means that ActiBlizz are probably sitting on them, oblivious.

      • Teovald says:

        Activision/Blizzard ? This explains it then.
        This wiki entry confirms the confusion between the 2 companies -> http://homeworld.wikia.com/wiki/Homeworld_3
        In 3 seconds I have found a torrent with Homeworld 1&2. If it is impossible to buy a game, it is just promotion for illegal downloads..

        • Premium User Badge

          Hanban says:

          I bought fresh copies from amazon, cheap. And I live in Sweden.

          If it were impossible to buy the game, I would agree. But dealing with amazon is only slightly more of a hassle than dealing with Steam.

          • mouton says:

            I haven’t had a working DVD drive for years now. It shouldn’t be necessary in this age at all.

          • PostieDoc says:

            Do they work ok on Win 7 (or 8 if you have that)?

          • Bhazor says:

            Buying second hand from Amazon is just the same as pirating it as far as the developers bottom line is concerned.

            If you check the Amazon link you’ll find that the order is filled out by a company called BLS mart. A company that flogs discontinued goods from warehouse clearances. I’d be amazed if a single penny you spent found it’s way to someone who actually worked on the game.

          • sneetch says:

            He didn’t say anything about second hand, he said “fresh” which implies to me that it’s a new copy, either way there are new, sealed copies available on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk and surely the dev got their cut when the publisher sold those copies to their distributors back in 1999 (or whenever)?

          • Premium User Badge

            Hanban says:

            If you don’t have a DVD-drive then naturally a disc won’t do you much good. I commented mostly on the absurdity of excusing piracy with it being ‘impossible’ to get a copy of the game. I am not so sure, however, that not having a DVD-drive is a valid excuse to pirate(which you may not have meant to say). It would most definitely be ideal if they were more readily available. But, they’re not. But they are also not impossible to get. If they were available on Steam I’d be the first to get them!

            The copies I bought were sealed. I can’t comment on if what Bhazor says is true or not. My hope is that some penny went to the developers.

            I do not know if it works on Windows 7 or 8. I have, however, got them both running on Vista!

          • Teovald says:

            Availability and convenience are 2 very important factors. Homeworld 1 & 2 are two very specific cases that don’t have a lot to do with the pc game market on a whole, I am not talking about illegal downloads in general.
            Here illegal torrenting is extremely convenient whereas I have only found the game after extensive search, and only second hand physical copies.

          • Emeraude says:

            Buying second hand from Amazon is just the same as pirating it as far as the developers bottom line is concerned.

            Buying it from DD services means exactly the same the vast majority of the time (few developers see money from actual sales). In a case like Homeworld, where the rights were bought off from yet another company, no one even remotely involved with the making of the game gets paid from your buying. In most extreme cases, non one in the gaming industry, save the DD service, gets paid from it.

            Also, one key difference, with second-hand sales the publisher was paid the first time the game was bought. There’s nothing wrong or shameful in the fact that re-selling of the copy won’t make them any money.

            I haven’t had a working DVD drive for years now. It shouldn’t be necessary in this age at all.

            Necessary ? Probably not. A valued option for (especially retro but not necessarily) game enthusiasts ? Certainly.

          • Premium User Badge

            FriendlyFire says:

            Any money you spend on the game is going to go to Amazon, the retailer going through Amazon, and unlikely but possibly Sierra (IE Activision).

            If what you want is to support the original guys behind the game, buy Company of Heroes, Dawn of War (whichever) or Space Marine and support Hardware when it comes out. That’s the best way to show your support.

            It does help that all of those are amazing games in their own right.

          • Whelp says:

            Still got a DVD-RAM crammed into my case; absolutely vital for retro gaming. And yes, HW 1&2 both seem to work alright on WIn7 64.

          • qitabebas says:

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        • -Spooky- says:

          Ye, right. Another wank excuse for thievery. Nice try.

          • mouton says:

            How is it stealing, when there is no way to pay the developers? Because, you know, buying second-hand copies does not do that either.

          • Emeraude says:

            How is it stealing, when there is no way to pay the developers? Because, you know, buying second-hand copies does not do that either.

            It’s not stealing. It’s still illegal in most countries. Which buying second hand isn’t – for good reasons too.

      • DocSeuss says:

        It literally says in the article that THQ owns those rights…

        THQ bought the rights from ATVI some time ago.

    • Heliocentric says:

      Also related to sierra interactive SWAT4 and its expansion are next to impossible to buy digitally.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      I have a copy of Homeworld if you want it I’ll put up on ebay. It’s a great game, and if someone else wants to play it, I’ll let it go.

      Sadly I cannot find my copy of HW2, which I must of lent to a friend who never gave it back. Cataclysm got “eaten” by my younger brothers years ago.

      But all 3 are a great play.

      • abandonhope says:

        You made me feel special for owning all three in good shape.

        Also, Hardware sounds quite good. I’m as interested in the legacy of Homeworld as I am in a sequel.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          It does look exactly as I imagined it would do (Chris Foss influenced? :D). But F2P will kill it. :(

  2. Dariune says:

    “Yeah it’s going to be free to play ….”
    “Yeah, so mid-core users, if we can capture some casual users that’s great too. What we want to avoid is that click-fest barrier to entry that a lot of RTS games are known for.”

    These two comments helped me contain excitement. Currently not interested.

    • Premium User Badge

      Tom De Roeck says:

      well, Homeworld wasn that “micro” anyway, to be honest. the units did their thing anyway, you just had to tell them where to go and when to attack. the actual targeting was mostly up to them anyway. (except for maybe capital ships)

      • Dariune says:

        I fail to see the connection between your post and mine. I didn’t mention Homeworld.

        • DerNebel says:

          He is saying: “You’re saying you wouldn’t want a game targeted for “mid-core” audiences! Well I say to you sir: Doth thee not remember Homeworld one and the sequel? Those games were splendid even without clicking alot!”

          • Dariune says:

            But that doesn’t contradict my opinion.

            I don’t want a game TARGETING mid to casual gamers because that is almost always made in a format that I don’t enjoy.

            Homeworld wasn’t made to appeal to casual audiences. It had a fair amount of depth hidden behind those simplistic mechanics.

            Having said that, I never really got into Homeworld. There were more games around that catered to me so I only breifly played it and moved on. Were Homeworld to come out now, I would lap it up however.

            Anyway, my first impressions of this game are negative.

            P.s. thankyou for the explanation, it made me chuckle.

          • qwlphowo says:

            So they made a more advanced hand-held version of metal storm?
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8hlj4EbdsE#t=0m20s

    • Teovald says:

      Free2Play is generally where I lose all interest.

      • Heliocentric says:

        Pay games are ramming is micro-transaction and grinding in too now… Free to play isn’t genuinely that much worse.

        • Emeraude says:

          Yes, but that doesn’t come from ff2P being an overall decent proposition – though I do believe it can work in some few specialized designs – so much as the classic pay to play model being devalued and crippled by what is being done to it.

      • mouton says:

        I try not to hate F2P and I believed that it is necessary for some more risky endeavors, like resurrecting a niche classic FPS like Tribes.

        Then I met Natural Selection 2.

        • Heliocentric says:

          Fair point, but when pay2play games like BF3 have grinding and “buy exp” packs? F2P is no longer the chief villain.

          • -Spooky- says:

            What XP Packs? BF 42 got AddOns too. BF3? Call it DLC / DLC premium wich features Double XP Weekends. I don´t get the point on your statement.

          • Goomich says:

            You don’t have to grind weapons in BF2, you can just pay for unlocks.

        • Teovald says:

          I try to do not hate it as well. I mostly see it on mobile (where it is omnipresent) and it kills the interest of many games, either by creating grinding walls that can only be defeated by in-app-payments or massive grinding or by trying to lure the player into IAP via dirty tricks.
          It works for a couple of titles though, too bad they are very rare.

    • P.Funk says:

      Well its yet to seen if this implies simplicity and lack of depth. One of the big things going on over at Uber with Planetary Annihilation is the idea of streamlining the UI so that management of the massive number of units is simple and straightforward and flows nicely so that you can get on with the actual conduct of planning and managing the game rather than being overwhelmed with micro.

      The thing about micro is that it takes an obscene APM to compete with good players. It creates a physical muscle memory requirement to even feel in command of a game on a scale that Planetary Annihilatin and I presume Hardware will laugh at.

      I think we get a bit gunshy on the idea of making something “accessible” because its usually just a buzzword for gutting the core of the game to make it easy for players with no creative ambition to get into it. That said, we don’t have anything on it. I think maybe we get too cynical about casual and “mid-core” players. I think MAYBE if someone who knows what they’re doing does it right it won’t be a nightmare… maybe.

      But… I’m being devil’s advocate. We have no proof except his words on what they want to do and so far we can infer through our own prejudices what this’ll mean. My own feeling on Free to Play is that it inherently guts the value of a game, and even turns them into crap when they were good inthe first place (see Team Fortress 2). Thats my feeling, but we’re still early in the Free to Play paradigm. Someone could still make it work well, just the same as someone could easily ruin Kickstarter forever by embezzling and killing all confidence in it.

      Opinions on the nature of the concepts behind projects are subjective when those concepts themselves are basically neutral.

      I’m basically parsing a lot here, but at the end of the day… I wanna see more concept art cause its gorgeous. I am however… well I’m putting this on a lower priority for my watch list. It isn’t trying to sell me on its revolutionary ideas as much as it sounds like someone trying to say they’re dong something new and cool without actually saying anything bad about anybody… which kinda smells corporate. But apparently he’s a founder and a manager so they tend to speak this way… except Mavor, he’s kind of my current hero.

      Speaking of which… time to go check Uber forums for PA updates. You’re right, this really isn’t grabbing my attention. I’m still PA obsessed.

      • DerNebel says:

        As much as I hate to reply to such a long post with two small thoughts, this is it:

        Why do you think making TF2 F2P hurt the game? It was still the same game but with a different business model. Literally nothing changed in the core game.

        League of Legends. LoL is accessible, fun and super challenging. It requires you to learn without hammering you over the head with a mountain of a learning curve. It allows the best players to show off their skill and make plays happen from nothing. And it’s free to play. And has been from the beginning. Disregard runes and paying for champions, only tell me if the core game could be made better if they didn’t have a free to play model.

        • Bobtree says:

          TF2’s core design has been terribly diluted by the addition of zillions of items. The game we bought in the orange box doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t want to play the TF2 they’re offering now. Sometimes more is not better.

          • Premium User Badge

            darkChozo says:

            That happened well before TF2 went F2P, though. Maybe the rate of new items went up after it went F2P (I honestly don’t know, haven’t been following TF2 in forever), but there were already a large number of items in the P2P era, probably 10 or so big patches’ worth.

        • Brun says:

          Compared to most other games, LoL’s learning curve is quite steep and it (and its community) is very unforgiving to someone trying to learn the game. That’s likely endemic to the entire MOBA/DotA-like genre, however.

          That said, F2P is fine if done correctly. LoL’s F2P implementation is a great example of F2P done right – I would also argue that PlanetSide 2 does a pretty good job with its F2P (without paying anything, the cert grind is pretty much in line with the gear grind in other MMOs).

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            I think LoL is hamstrung by its insistence on hiding champions behind a pay wall. I know LoL players contend that they “enjoy” working to unlock champions, but I wonder if they’d be saying the same thing if they were given a taste of unrestricted champion access.

            Thing is, limiting players to champs they’ve unlocked damages the potential strategic depth during team picking. It also means a player could find themselves without a champion they want to play in the role their team needs, which isn’t fun no matter how you spin it. E.g. my team would often need a solo bruiser or support, but since I never focused on those roles I just didn’t have a champion I enjoyed unlocked.

            This is exacerbated by the fact that newer (more expensive) champions are often more flashy, sophisticated, and exciting. The design philosophy has evolved a lot over time, and the older (cheaper) champions feel pretty dated. And when I played, it seemed like the free rotation was always about 80% older champions, meaning you wouldn’t find many exciting options there.

            The fact that runes and champions are unlocked with the same resource also creates some seriously conflicting motivations within the long-term persistent metagame. The best plan when I played was to unlock *nothing at all* until you hit level 30, which was the worst of all worlds.

          • Xerian says:

            League of Legends has, by far, one of the *worst*, most corrupted-by-greed ways of handling F2P in mainstream gaming. If you think anything else, you’re honestly not very bright. And the games ceiling is lower than low. Lower than any other ARTS game, or proper RTS for that matter. Dont kid yourself.

        • Xerian says:

          “LoL is accessible, fun and super challenging. It requires you to learn without hammering you over the head with a mountain of a learning curve. It allows the best players to show off their skill and make plays happen from nothing. And it’s free to play. And has been from the beginning. Disregard runes and paying for champions, only tell me if the core game could be made better if they didn’t have a free to play model.”

          First off. You must be really bad at gaming to think LoL is super challenging and the game *would* be better if it wasnt free to play in this case, as you’d play whoever the fuck you wanted to, whenever the fuck you wanted to. And dont get me started on runes, they’re detrimental to the entire point of an ARTS, and forces you to buy riot points so you dont waste influence points on champions. Its a game corrupted by greed with a meta-game that is again, ruled by greed. Every single new champion is overpowered as shit for a few patches and then nerfed into the ground, its a great marketing strategy, but its also got to do with Guinsoo’s incompetence at balancing a game.
          And dont get me started on Riots shady business-practices either.

          I’d say if you were to point towards games that’re good despite being F2P (or in the case of one, better because of it) I’d point you towards Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2. And Tribes: Ascend does it well too. But thus far, Dota 2 is definitely the champion as far as free-to-play games go.

          • Premium User Badge

            darkChozo says:

            Out of curiosity, the last 15 champions and whether their first balance change was a nerf or a buff:

            Vi: No patch, AFAIK she’s considered pretty balanced
            Nami: Buff
            Zed: Nerf No patch
            Elise: Buff
            Kha’Zix: Nerf
            Syndra: Buff
            Rengar: Buff
            Diana: Nerf
            Zyra: Nerf
            Jayce: Nerf
            Draven: No patch (whoo, balance!)
            Darius: Nerf
            Varus: Buff
            Hecarim: Buff
            Lulu: Nerf

            Counts: 6 buffed, 6 nerfed, 3 unpatched

            This covers about 9 month’s worth of champions, with a close to even power ratio. The idea that Riot releases overpowered champions on purpose is completely unsupported by fact, it’s basically little more than a conspiracy theory. I disagree with some of your other points also (not to mention that several of them apply just as well to T:A, with the caveat that Tribes guns generally take less time to unlock than LoL champions do), but those are mostly opinion, and I’m guessing that it would take quite a bit to sway yours.

            EDIT: Whoops, Zed is unpatched, actually. Had him as nerf because of a pre-release patch. So that’s an actually-even count, not bad for a round number sample.

      • Teovald says:

        Very interesting. I have backed PA because I want a new Supreme Commandery game and for long I have hoped for an rts with the minimal amount of micro gestion.
        Who is the fastest clicker is not a game I am very interested in..

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Sad that even the best get poisoned by the smell of money. Honestly, most of the great games come from people just making it for the love of making it (Minecraft off the top of my head, plus the origional HW just screams “we did this because we love it” over “for the money”). That is what made them what they are.

      Yes, you can be economically successful with other means, and sadly the F2P will no doubt be “successful”. But just as with Hawken, I either won’t play it as F2P mechanics kills the enjoyment that was there, or I won’t play it because F2P mechanics means it never had anything to sell to me in the first place.

  3. Thirdstar says:

    For the love of god, someone purchase the license at that auction and make me Homeworld 3! Someone, anyone. Even EA (puked a little in my mouth)

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      You’d want just anyone o pick up the license and make a game? You wouldn’t even know what the end result would be. It might be an always online, pay to play fps with microtransactions set in the homeworld universe. Just to name an example. *cough*

      • Quatlo says:

        I think he doesn’t care. He just wants to play homeworld 3

        • Thirdstar says:

          To be honest I do care who makes it. That was just a bit of my desperation showing.

          • TechnicalBen says:

            So a Uplay enabled QTE focused casual WW2 style 3rd person shooter called “HomeWorld:Permissions” for you then?

            ;)

    • abandonhope says:

      It will simply be called Homeworld. And it will be a FPS.

    • Lev Astov says:

      We really need some way to crowd-fund the bidding on the property. Something where the pledgers are only charged if the bid is accepted.

      Can you refund pledges on Kickstarter? If so, it might make sense for Blackbird Interactive to post a Kickstarter asking for people to help them raise money to bid on the Homeworld IP, as long as they promise to refund everyone if the bidding falls short. I’d pledge to that.

  4. Zeewolf says:

    Not really interested in a game that lasts for weeks in real-time. I’d rather have a good singleplayer campaign.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      “Not really interested in a game that lasts for weeks in real-time. I’d rather have a good singleplayer campaign [that lasts for weeks in real-time].”

      Fixed that for you! I’m sure some of my old RTS games, HW included, lasted that long. :D

      • benkc says:

        A single-player campaign doesn’t keep playing while you’re not there, and taking a couple days off from a single-player campaign won’t result in your side being wiped out.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Surlywombat says:

    The art is fantastic, but some of the answers where a little underwhelming.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Yeah, the art is great, and the idea of giant trucks shooting each other in the desert appeals strongly to my inner 7-year-old. Something about the setting is just… fun!

      I really hope the f2p element doesn’t wreck the game play.

    • Chandos says:

      I met the guy in person once. Very hard to read. Either not good at communicating his vision/thoughts or doesn’t care for communicating them at all. I suppose being a honcho means you get used to people doing their best to read your mind. Not surprised that this interview has not revealed much.

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    Hanban says:

    I remain hopeful!

  7. Koozer says:

    “What we want to avoid is that click-fest barrier to entry that a lot of RTS games are known for.”

    \o/
    Finally, an RTS I might actually be good at! I dearly love the genre since the days of Tiberian Dawn, through Seven Year War and Starcraft, to Homeworld, Supreme Commander and Company of Heroes, but by god am I bad at the micromanagement and arthritis-inducing clicking required to get anywhere.

    • Premium User Badge

      maninahat says:

      Me too. I’m a very slow, methodical player of strategies, which is why I find the Total War series far more playable than, say, Dawn of War.

    • f1x says:

      The problem is that you are kind of requesting real time strategy games to become turn-based strategy games

      • dE says:

        In a world where there is only two sides to every story (read: RPS), that might be true. But luckily the world doesn’t work in simple dichotomies, so there’s a lot of space between the “clickfests” of typical RTS and the more serene nature of typical TBS.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        I don’t quite see that. Would you like to explain your reasoning?

      • mouton says:

        This is a false dichotomy. There can be – and there were – RTS games that do not rely on fast clicking. Ground Control, Close Combat, for example.

        It is a lie that an RTS game has to rely on frantic micro to be any fun.

      • Snargelfargen says:

        Classic rts’ like StarCraft or C&C were only clickfests in multiplayer. You could get away with terrible micro in single-player so long as you were a decent multi-tasker.

        I think the emphasis on adding rpg-like development and special abilities to units encourages micro. That can be fun, but it’s a very different, almost DOTA-like style of gameplay.

      • f1x says:

        Sure there is a middle ground, but the guy said he can play Shogun but cant play Dawn of War,
        its obvious that he just prefers turn based, Shogun battles having the Pause + command cannot be really considered real time, plus the rest of the game is turn based

        What I mean is, if you think like that, maybe stick on playing turn based strategy games rather than trying to convert Starcraft/Dawn of War games into an slow moving amoeba

        On the other hand, regarding the click-fest, would Company of heroes be considered a click-fest or micromanaging based RTS?

        • Snargelfargen says:

          I’m not sure it’s not so clear cut. The campaigns can be played at a relatively leisurely pace, but the multiplayer can be downright hectic. It’s also a great example of a game that encourages micromanagement by making the use of special abilities and positioning essential.

          I suppose that sort of attention to detail actually makes CoH and Dawn of War quite similiar to turn-based strategy.

          • f1x says:

            Well yes, forgive my initial comment because its definitely not accurated, there is not only black and white

            The thing is it sounds weird wanting to slow down a game, like Starcraft, because you are just more comfortable with a game like TW:Shogun, it would seem that its just a matter of preference instead of thinking that being too fast or too micromanaging dependant is “wrong”

            Specially when the problem is sometimes the lack of variery when it comes to strategy games, I would actually love to have more fast games, more micromanaging games, more hybrids (perhaps like total war games) and more pure turn-based games, just more of everything (please? :))

            and then, if Dawn of War and Company of Heroes are not percibed as so much of a click-fest, guess the only real click-fest is Starcraft hardcore competitive multiplayer

          • Kamos says:

            RTS games did not originally require as much micro-management as they do today. In a sense, they were slower. That does not mean they were turn based games.

            Playing Starcraft 2 on a high tier requires you to move units individually (forming lines to maximize damage, leading enemies on chases, moving units out of blasts, etc.). Personally, I don’t understand how a game can even be considered a “strategy” game if you’re telling individual units how to tie their shoes. I think games like Supreme Commander are just a little bit better at actual strategy (before unavoidably crumbling beneath the weight of micro-management).

            I do enjoy click-fest games. They are fun, and they are doing their own thing, testing the player’s coordination as much as rapid, intelligent thinking. I just think sometimes these games are trying to move in two directions simultaneously: strategy and tactics (micro-management). Take Company of Heroes, for instance: you can do extra damage to tanks by hitting their back armor. You’d think this would lead to ambushes with anti-tank guns, and cool “a-ha, gotcha!” moments. But more often than not, the map becomes so big and you control so many units that you’re not even paying attention to nice little details like this one. Which is a shame.

            So, what would be the solution? Less units? A smaller map? If you do this, the game is not “RTS” anymore, as far as a Starcraft 2 player is concerned. Remove the tactical component / micro-management altogether? Same thing.

            Hey, any developer out there? How about doing a game where you can have a hierarchy of players on a team, going from guys controlling squads and doing the micro-management of a group of soldiers all the way up to a supreme commander? (see what I did there?)

          • f1x says:

            Thats it Kamos,
            Its sort of what I’ve had in my head all the time, when the dev from the article was talking about expanding the genere and doing new things and then he reduced that to simply slowing the game to get a more casual audience

            Micromanaging is not what is stopping people from playing RTS games, its true that top tiers of Stacraft 1 and 2 might have pushed the importance of micro to the limit but I would say thats just a small part of it, the game is still strategy in the sense of : you have to plan what you are going to build, which units and when and scout the enemy to adapt to what he is building/producing etc

            The idea you mentioned would be great, specially if done in a very big scale

        • Wololo says:

          I’m not sure how far Starcraft 2 APM goes (people I talk to say 250 but I’m not sure if they’re joking, never played it myself), but plenty of Company of Heroes experts/top players I’ve talked to run at around 60-80 APM, apart from a bunch of players who also play SC2.
          Extended fights are another thing, though, especially if you have lots of units/fragile units like snipers, and even more so if you have 2-3 fights over the map. You need to make sure every unit gets to cover/flanks enemy in cover, use abilities, retreat on time, so it can get pretty nasty at times.

          • FeiFae says:

            Well both DoW and CoH had way lower APM barriers than starcraft moslty because
            a) you commanded squads rather than individual units
            b) positioning played a different role (while starcraft does have some positional elements, they are not exactly same as use of cover/flanking/suppressing fire in Relic’s RTSes)
            c)DoW and CoH had penalties to accuracy for firing on the move.

            SC2 APMs go to 350+ these days, tho there were pro players having some success (as in getting past group stage in major tourneys) with APM in range of ~150. But SC also has bigger focus on producing mass of units and establish economy through bases. CoH and DoW were more about controlling territory to obtain resources and keeping units alive for as long as possible (because reinforcement cost was much lower than buying a full new squad, plus all the upgrades/rank ups).

            Personally I prefer RTSes in vain of CoH and DoW, even DoW2 with it’s lack of base building and focus on tactical aspects over turtling in a base.

    • Bhazor says:

      There are plenty of non micro RTS games out there. Wargame: European Escalation and Ruse come to mind.

      • Heliocentric says:

        You show me an RTS without micro, I’ll show you a game you are playing wrong.

        • Bhazor says:

          Eufloria.

        • mouton says:

          Micro can be more or less severe. I prefer games where I don’t have to explicitly order my troops when to move their right foot and when to put the left. And no, they do not have to be turn based for that.

        • f1x says:

          I’m not very fast, but I enjoy Starcraft, Dawn of War, etc like they are now, wouldn’t want them less intense/micro/fast,
          Competitive gaming is different, but then I dont think this games would be more strategic and less speed-based if there was less micromanaging,
          They would need to be a different game all together, perhaps moving closer to another realm far from RTS, thats what I meant with my comment

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          It seems to me that most of the frantic clicking comes into play because we’re expected to manage individual units in combat – which is fun for some people, but is really less strategy and more tactical babysitting. My point is that micro is not something that’s key to the experience, but a gameplay element that started as a necessity due to bad AI, and has become an unconsidered addition in almost every RTS since C&C (or Dune, I guess). “If you’re not microing, you’re doing it wrong” has been accepted as a fundamental truth, when it was never more than a byproduct of a certain design pattern.

          Said another way, there is nothing to stop you making an RTS in which issuing commands to individual units was impossible. Or an RTS where units engaged in combat would no longer respond to any command except “retreat”.

          Not saying that’s the ideal or only way to do an RTS, but it’s certainly not wrong. Yet many designers seem to think the only way forward is adding more and more special abilities to units, and shrinking the battle size to put more emphasis on tactical unit control.

          And yes, Wargame: EE is a great counterpoint to the RTS status quo.

          • mouton says:

            Exactly, everyone seems to think that the Starcraft is the only “proper” RTS. I guess this is another one of those situations where people forget what the term “RTS” actually means and associate it with a very narrow subset of games.

          • f1x says:

            Not saying the contrary,

            Just saying nothing is wrong with fast RTS games like Starcraft (except the over abuse of unit skills in SC2 and Dawn of War2, etc, I totally agree with that), they are strategic aswell in terms of planifying and adapting to the enemy strategies, its just done faster, the thing is when it comes to multiplayer everything has polarized and things gone to the extreme

            My point is there should just be more of everything, more games like Starcraft/Dawn of War, more like Crusader Kings, and more like Total War series, so everybody is able to choose depending on their preferences

      • LJFHutch says:

        Yep, last I checked I had an APM of 12 in WEE.

        Strategy games should be about out thinking your opponent, not out clicking them.

    • luukdeman111 says:

      Wargame: European Escalation or the upcoming Wargame: AirLand Battles….

      That game is one of the most overlooked games of 2012 but it’s so great!…. very nice and slow, and the game truely rewards you for strategizing, not clicking really fast….

      Edit: Alright, I’m a slowpoke…. perhaps it wasn’t THAT overlooked….

      • Bhazor says:

        To be fair I only found out about it by reading comments on here about overlooked games from last year.

        • mouton says:

          I would like to thank the commenters, I am certainly interested myself now.

      • a1ml3ss says:

        I love W:EE aswell. I am slow and cant keep up with the young’uns on their fancy fast clicking games. You could be good at wargame by thinking a bit.

        That seems like the envelope to push in RTS these days.

  8. ItalianPodge says:

    I prefer games in wide open space

    • TechnicalBen says:

      I was hyped about this but now I feel it’s been brought back down to earth with F2P mechanics. They are after all grounded in enticing the player to pay for something. This meets the relative problem of either an item not needed for gameplay, and so the developer losses out economically, or something required for gameplay, so the player gets jumped.

      What we really need is to take hold of the system and bring it under control of the player. Then they can speed things up or slow down in the light of their own play style.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    That’s it! I was trying to remember the name of this game for ages, having seen the announcement a while back. Thanks.

  10. Bhazor says:

    So more f2p.

    Oh. Well.

  11. colw00t says:

    That second screenshot is so Homeworld it made my heart ache a little bit.

    I don’t think there is enough to go on to really get excited or curse this game. Free to play is a bit of a turnoff, but who knows? This one has good parents and is a long way out. Might grow up to be good.

    It is kind of nice to hear that they don’t want to have maximum micro in this. Homeworld had a good balance of micro vs macro, and I’d like some more of that. Starcraft makes my hands hurt after a while.

  12. Screamer says:

    Didn’t Homeworld 1 or 2 have massive trucks in the desert in the intro?

    • Zanchito says:

      Indeed: Homeworld 1 depicted the discovery of the buried mothership in the planet desert, by Taiidan nomads travelling on large vehicles. Oh, man, what a game!

      • Thirdstar says:

        Heresy! Higaaran nomads, Taiidani were the bad guys. More or less.

        • Zanchito says:

          Curse my old man memory! And here I was feeling so proud! Thank you for your knowledgeable correction, sir.

  13. philbot says:

    I’m so sick of f2p. I’ve been playing planetside 2 for a while now, spent a bunch of cash in it to speed it up, and I still haven’t got much cool stuff. Great.

    What happened to awesome RTS where the best times to be had was in the campaign, and even better, the single-player skirmishes with a fun AI, where you’d perfectly craft your army and absolutely steamroll an enemy AI. I love multiplayer, but it’s also irritating and stressful at times. I don’t want games that hold me back from using the awesome units. I don’t want to pay ridiculous amounts for the privilege. Let me pay for your game, and enjoy it with what time I do have.

    f2p games are great… but developers and publishers should be hesitant to use this model. Please devs, take my single payment as I throw it at my monitor. I might throw another one for some cool DLC (Or even an expansion).

    • TechnicalBen says:

      It will be Eve online with big tanks/trucks. Where you only see someone drive those giant things, and never actually get to “play” that part of the game. :/

  14. DK says:

    And a day after Chris Taylor of all people finally getting it and looking at the collected player statistics of RTSes over the last more-than-a-decade and putting 2+2 together that SINGLEPLAYER is what people want, and play.

    Rob Cunningham ignores decades of hard data and things F2P multiplayer is going to have an audience. Sorry Rob. People loved Homeworld because of it’s SINGLEPLAYER, not because of it’s multiplayer.

    • Radiant says:

      Why devs put an emphasis on the multiplayer aspect of an RTS is, I suspect, partly due to spending a ridiculous amount of hours in the office playing the multiplayer part of their games.

      Read anything from the guys who made C&C red alert or even stuff from some of the old bulldog guys who made the og Syndicate.
      All they talk about is the multiplayer aspect whereas we, as players, just remember sending four guys to a floating platform in the middle of the atlantic with gauss guns.

      Multiplayer is the most exposure they have of their own game.

      • Emeraude says:

        Interesting way of putting it. Probably valid too, if even only tangentially in the decision process.

      • DocSeuss says:

        I think the massive popularity of Starcraft’s MP probably had an impact as well.

  15. Radiant says:

    If there is a corvette class tonka truck in Hardware PLEASE tell me what it does /before/ giving me the option to make one.

    I only built that class of ship in Homeworld because of Sam Malone from Cheers.

    • Radiant says:

      Still have no idea what it does.

      • Strangerator says:

        Corvettes were good for taking out fighters and other fast-movers. Corvettes have fast-tracking turrets instead of fixed mount weapons (like fighters do). So basically, frigates beat corvettes beat fighters beat frigates. You can get away with not having corvettes unless the enemy swarms you with fighters. I’d usually employ a few multi-gun corvettes for defensive duties if the enemy was making bombing runs.

        Also, corvettes in real life pre-date the car.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvette

  16. Fox89 says:

    There was a game back in the 90’s that was called Hardwar[e].

    It was nothing like this. More of a space sim with trading set on the moon Titan. I have a lot of fond memories of that game, shame I can’t get it working on Windows 7!

    On topic, going to be interesting seeing how a free to play RTS evolves with an experienced developer at the helm, but I certainly have my doubts. I imagine pay to win would be particularly disastrous in this genre.

    • elFarto says:

      Actually, it was called Hardw[a]r.

      As for it not working on Windows 7, have you tried the UIM patches for it?

      Regards
      elFarto

  17. joshg says:

    This totally solved a minor mystery for me – how in the world the artists who built the eatART robots paid for those crazy robot beasts.

    I saw eatART’s robots out at the first Vancouver MiniMakerFaire a year and a half ago, they’re pretty fantastic. (Although I gotta admit the pedal-powered walking robot kind of edged out their diesel-powered robot on the environmentally-friendly aspect.)

    I haven’t been hooked on any F2P’s lately other than my previous TF2 addiction, but if they’re building something story-focused with a good un-grindy single-player experience, that sounds good to me. (Online multiplayer strategy gameplay is just waaaaaaay too time-consuming to fit into actual life.)

  18. Beybars says:

    So much Homeworldy art, I can’t take it.

  19. SuperNashwanPower says:

    I never played Homeworld
    I played a demo I think, but I was depressed at the time and gave up
    True story

  20. Iskariot says:

    I drool over the art style, but I do not get the game at all. Driving big trucks into bigger trucks driving into even bigger trucks? What the hell is that about?

    You know for a moment I thought they were making a new Hardwar game. My heart skipped at least ten beats…. I love Hardwar sooooo much.

  21. DocSeuss says:

    I am not, nor is it likely that I will ever be, interested in a F2P game.

    I want to have a game–the WHOLE game–and I want to play it whenever I want, especially at times when I do not have internet access.

    Furthermore, it seems like he almost straight-up disdains Homeworld. That makes me very sad, because his artwork on it was beyond phenomenal.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    That’s Henry Rollins isn’t it?