Edge Of Space Dev On Major Fixes, Terraria Clones

By Nathan Grayson on October 15th, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

Edge of Space is yet another one of those reminders that game development has gone completely bonkers in recent years. Like direct inspiration Terraria before it, Edge of Space offers massive, bit-and-bob-and-secret-and-jetpack-laser-shark-packed worlds, despite being developed by an itsy bitsy team of two. It’s also run the full gamut of crowd-powered developmental aids – from Kickstarter to Steam Greenlight to Steam Early Access. Lead developer Jake Crane has, in other words, been around the block. But in an ever-expanding genre with a single game’s influence looming heavy, how do you avoid being more than just a clone? And is the trend of Early Access actually a danger in disguise – both for gamers and developers? Also, what’s on the horizon for Edge of Space, a game that’s still very much unfinished? I spoke with Crane about all that and more.

RPS: You’re doing a crossover with Terraria, a game Edge of Space is often compared to, for better or worse. What’s in that?

Jake Crane: We’ve taken the Skeletron boss and updated him into Omegatron. We also will be cameoing the Eater of Souls as a pet, and then we’ll be doing a special thing where [Terraria creator] Andrew Spinks’ character icon will be making an appearance. There’s some other stuff that hasn’t been completely finalized yet, but there are a couple other things in the works as well.

RPS: How’d this come about?

Jake Crane: I was able to get in touch with Andrew, and what was great about it is Terraria’s definitely a big influence on Edge of Space. So we wanted to reach out to the person who made it. And with talking to him and getting to know him, we thought that it would be really cool if we could get some of their content and pay homage to Terraria while kind of putting an Edge of Space twist on it.

RPS: Initially (and even now, to an extent), some people accused Edge of Space of being a full-blown Terraria clone. Obviously, though, Redigit doesn’t seem to think so. 

Jake Crane: I actually asked Andrew outright about this when he was looking at the game initially. I’ve been in the industry for a while, and I want to be respectful to other developers. We definitely made strides to make sure that, while Edge of Space does take roots from Terraria, that we are trying to take our own unique direction.

RPS: But there is a kernel of truth to claims like that. I think it’s less an expression of creative bankruptcy and more a general feeling of genre fatigue. It seems like everything promises crafting and sandbox worlds and random terrain these days. Terraria, Edge of Space, Starbound, countless others – and that’s only on the 2D side of the equation. 

Jake Crane: I think what it comes down to is there are a lot of smart people, and a lot of smart people think very similarly. So you see a lot of things that are really close to the same thing you came up with, and that’s because people are having to solve the same problems as you. But you’ll see different directions that those things take. It’s like a feature is ice cream, but there are different flavors of the feature.

RPS: Still though, when a genre is defined by a bunch of eerily similar elements across many games, it’s much easier for a feeling of “Been there, done that” to creep in. Do you think that’s approaching here?

Jake Crane: I think what happens is, you have somebody who sets the standard. Starts it. And then you have a bunch of other people who go, “I want to make a game like this, and I want to come in at at least this standard.” So you’ll get games that come in and expand in one direction and others that go elsewhere. But as you near that ceiling, it’ll then force the genre to take the next step. Because eventually, you’ll reach a saturation point where you’ll have, say, ten games that are basically the same game with new skins on them. So if somebody wants to stand out, they’ll have to go, “OK, how can I take this a step further?”

RPS: Have you considered at all what that next step might be? At least, for you?

Jake Crane: I can say yes for us. There’s a big, long-term goal. If everything goes right, there’ll be an add-on to Edge of Space that’ll be a top-down shooter. A space shooter. And that’ll all then be one big game. You can go up, fly, and do things in space, then land and do things [on the ground level]. So if the game is successful, that’s the direction we want to take it. I really like the idea of combining genres.

Like, in the pre-production documentation, I wrote a scenario that was like something out of Star Wars where something like the Death Star is protected by a shield generator, and you sneak in, blow up the generator, and then fly in a fleet to defeat the Death Star. Trying to capture that kind of feeling. That’s really, really far down the line for us, though.

RPS: I think there’s a danger with these sorts of games, too, of getting caught up in the possibilities. Saying, “Oh, let’s add this and that and that” while failing to make individual systems and mechanics fun, deep, or interesting. Substituting quantity and scope for depth, basically. 

Jake Crane: Yeah, that’s very easy to do. These games are really large and not easy to make at all, and I know that I have trouble keeping track of everything [laughs]. But you have to make sure your core mechanics are strong. You have to identify what they are, as well. Are you focusing more on your exploration, and how are you making that interesting? Are you focusing more on your combat, and how are you making that interesting?

And if you’re trying to use a big feature list as your main selling point, that’s when you start playing toward initial bring-in versus long-term value. If all those features don’t hold up, then your longevity isn’t going to be so great.

RPS: At the same time, though, game development is becoming more and more about promising big before you’ve even released and immediately getting money for it. In some ways, it encourages big, not-as-well-thought-out feature lists. But, I mean, you’ve done both a Kickstarter and a buy-in beta. Do you think this a slippery slope into a potential vicious cycle?

Jake Crane: For us in particular, when we did our Kickstarter, we made sure our list of features was absolutely locked down – that we could meet those expectations no matter what. When we got into Early Access, we continued to be very conscious of those kinds of things. I mean, I just had a user come to me randomly who was like, “I really appreciate that you guys went onto Early Access when you did, because I’ve invested in, like, five or six different Kickstarter projects, and none of them are available to me. You guys are available to me.” That means a lot to us.

I mean, it’s hard to do. Edge of Space definitely did not look as good when it started out as it does now – and as it will when it releases. And that’s hard, because first impressions are important. But we really wanted to focus on getting the features in there and having people touching them, breaking them. We don’t have a large test team or anything, and it really helps on making those large decisions and figuring out where to buff things and where not to focus as much.

RPS: Your game has received more universally valid criticism elsewhere, though. Your fans have been taking it to task for a non-existent map/direction system and subpar progression. You’re aiming to fix those things in an upcoming patch, right?

Jake Crane: Yeah, we have a major milestone patch about to come out. That’ll be updating progression and adding some new elements like control centers that feed into how terraforming will work. We’ll also be bringing in our first vehicle. We’ll be bringing in sweeping changes to how lighting works. We’ve totally redone the crafting UI. We’re bringing in features players have been asking about for a long time, like the Matter Recombiner, which will allow players to re-merge materials that have been refined. Things like that.

As for mapping and location stuff, there’s a beacon system that will be in the game. It won’t work exactly like a minimap, but it will allow you to coordinate your self within the world.

RPS: And that’s coming in the next patch as well?

Jake Crane: Yes.

RPS: How many of these changes have arisen from player requests? I mean, you’re doing the buy-in beta thing, but how much is that guiding the direction of the game versus your own instincts? 

Jake Crane: As far as that goes, a lot of these features have always been in the bag, but it’s about prioritizing them. So then when we get feedback, it helps reaffirm that these are features we need to keep in and not let go to focus in on other things. What’s really awesome about early access is it helps guide and show you things you might have overlooked. I mean, there’s only two of us that are the core developers on the game. So while we have all these things we really want to add, sometimes it’s nice to be tapped into your community to help you catch those things you might not have thought of as important in the beginning. It helps you realize how crucial they are.

RPS: What’s the cutoff for that? I mean, some developers – for instance Phosphor with Nether – have recently offered their communities full control over games’ directions. Where do you draw the line? How much is too much in terms of fan feedback shaping Edge of Space?

Jake Crane: Well, I mean, we have rocket-powered laser sharks and plasma-fisted polar bears, so it’s a pretty far line [laughs]. But really, I have a document that contains what the core of Edge of Space is supposed to be. And when it comes down to it, when we look at things other people are asking for – even internally – it’s put to that temper. “Does this fit? Does it still provide the experience we want Edge of Space to have?”

RPS: What is that core, exactly?

Jake Crane: One of our big things is domination. Owning the territory and really [doing your own thing]. Terraforming is one of the most direct references to that, but it’s really about being able to dominate an area and move to the next. Like man vs nature. So a lot of it’s going to be falling into that mentality. As far as features and where people want that to go, we want the game to feel like it has a lot of depth, there’s always something new that you could be learning, but at the same time it’s paced evenly.

RPS: Thank you for your time.

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32 Comments »

  1. zeekthegeek says:

    Anybody else think the sprite work on this just looks muddied and messed up? Some of it clearly doesn’t match stylistically..

    • n0m0n says:

      Not just the sprites – the static tiles look awful too. I mean, the terrain on especially the fourth picture almost makes me nauseous.

      Still, the sharks look really nice to me.

      • UmmonTL says:

        I think the problem is that they went for comparatively high-resolution sprites on the characters. The terrain textures are much simpler and design and with the endless repetition it just can’t look good. Terraria has a delierate pixelart look and the terrain follows suit, also the terrain has much less texture to it so the repetition isn’t that obvious.
        I think they just need to either get someone to make really good looking textures and sprites or they just need to put in more time to do it themselves. Then again I guess that making the game look pretty is not a priority right now?

      • mechabuddha says:

        I agree. I’ve been following this and Starbound closely – and based on the style, I’m way more excited about one than the other. Does that make me a bad person?

    • povu says:

      It doesn’t look as awfully inconsistent as A Valley Without Wind but that doesn’t say much.

      • nimbulan says:

        A Valley Without Wind is very consistent, it’s just not a pleasing art style for many people. I actually grew to like it once I got into the game.

    • nimbulan says:

      Just about every single person I’ve talked to, people who have just looked and the game and those who have played it, has said the same thing: This game has no coherent art style and is just downright ugly. It seems to be the biggest problem with the game (though I haven’t played it myself.)

  2. Zankmam says:

    This game looks “meh” in screenshots and, from the videos I’ve seen, it looks even worse in motion.

    The art style is a bit too random and chaotically colored, but, more importantly, the sprites (especially of player characters/humanoids) just look quite bad – in my opinion/according to my taste.

  3. SomeDuder says:

    Hyurrrrk derp lololol “Look at this laser shark! Its soooOOOOO RANDOM!!!11″

    -Me, whenever this terrible title appears.

  4. huldu says:

    Yeah, I’m having problems with this title, the graphics aren’t really grabbing me. I find the graphics in terraria perfect for this type of game. This just looks like… too much of something.

  5. Tei says:

    You guys know whats next? Turrican 3: The MMO.
    Nah.. few people remember Turrican.
    What about METROID MMO. Using Terraria gameplay, and metroid weapons?

    ontopic:

    These screens looks a bit busy. I hope at last moment they add a option to enable a shader that blur the background. Or something like that, because I have a hard time telling the foreground from background entities. Also something something cow tools.

    • UmmonTL says:

      Not sure where you get the MMO part from.
      Turrican or Metroid with multiplayer? Hells yeah! But then those games had designed levels not randomly generated ones. Also I think I remember playing a 2-player coop mode in one of the Turricans with my brother on our old Amiga?

      • Baines says:

        Well, make a Metroid MMO with player-designed areas. Kind of like Mighty Quest for Epic Loot crossed with general game ROM modding.

        That’s something I felt Terraria missed, at least a bit. I’d like to have seen players able to create areas and have them appear in other worlds, like the dungeons. Or ruins of houses and the like. (Back when Terraria launched, and long before Mighty Quest, I had an idea of using a Terraria-style engine in a Castlevania-style game where you’d create your own land, and other players could “attack” it for treasure. You’d either have to be able to beat your own “castle” before it would be made available online, or there would be a marking system so people would know if it had been beaten before they entered it. Just so you couldn’t abuse the system with an unbeatable arrangement.)

    • Harlander says:

      I remember Turrican! I played the demo of Turrican II off a ST Format cover disk.

      That weird flamethrowery thing you could use was cool.

    • The True Turrican says:

      I hardly ever get vocal on here, but now that you mentioned Trenz’ masterpiece, I just wanted to tip my hat to you, good sir.

      The Amiga version was fine, the C64 one was much more impressive from a technical point of view, though. Also, its soundtrack is clearly Huelsbeck’s masterpiece. I’ve been checking for the soundtrack CD on a regular basis, but can’t square spending 100 bucks on that item with my conscience. I found out there was a Kickstarter (presumably before that started being in fashion) for an “Anthology Disc Box”, but missed the opportunity as it had ended months ago.

      Generally, the game seems to be well-remembered, seeing as the second installment of the series makes many top 10s in both Amiga and C64 game charts.

      All that said, the last two screenshots gave me a Turrican vibe, so I was amused to see it pop up. The comments are what makes this site so damn good.

      On a side note: There was an officially released Turrican 3 on Amiga and an unoffical one on the C64, so the MMO would probably be named Turrican 4 or Turric4n.

  6. JoshuaMadoc says:

    *Reads comments*

    Uuuuuuuuuuuuuurgh

    I’m already busy trying to mod Terraria, dammit, don’t make me juggle with reskinning the entirety of this game as well. @_@

    • UmmonTL says:

      I wouldn’t bother, I’m sure the devs hear enough about the visuals that there will be a graphical overhaul before the beta is over. I think the most important thing they have to do is break the repetitiveness of the textures by giving each material a few different textures that tile well and are used randomly.

      • JoshuaMadoc says:

        Based on what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be surprised if the post-launch graphics were to cop similar criticism that Terraria’s graphics had.

        Plus I have nothing better to do in my downtime from work, so I look for games I can mod to reduce the cringe.

  7. kwyjibo says:

    That was a really good interview, asked the right questions without being too much of a dick about it.

    How the fuck do all these open world zombie survival games escape genre fatigue? Six figure funding on Kickstarter, guaranteed!

    • Moraven says:

      We went from Zombie to Card Games to Voxel/Minecraft to 2D Minecraft to whatever is next.

      I think Space Sims are going to have a big genre fatigue. Seems like 10+ games are launching in the next 2-3 years. Although in the 90s we had a lot more and there was not a whole lot of fatigue of Space Sims.

      I got it… a Zombie Survival in Space where you use play cards as your action. Zombies are voxel based. The ultimate mash up of Flavor of the Year of game development.

  8. LordShaggy says:

    Hey guys, this is the “Crane.” I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to read the article and that one of our big things is we listen very intently to community feedback.

    If you really want to get an idea visually what our game looks like right now the first picture would be the best indicator, the last pictures are quite old but it shows how much we are willing to iterate on everything.

    It’s a tremendous amount of hard work and I look forward to hearing your feedback if you get the chance to pick it up.

    • Hallgrim says:

      Hey,

      I kickstarted your game and I’m glad to see it is coming along, although I haven’t tried it since the very first week it was available to kickstarters.

      I hope you don’t take too much of this criticism to heart, while still improving the game as you can. It has always amused me that Starbound doesn’t catch much, if any, of this Terraria-clone flak (even though the creator of Terraria isn’t involved, AFAIK). Which is made even more hilarious by the fact that Terraria was a ‘minecraft ripoff’ when it first came out, because, uh, I guess because it had blocks in it. Haters love to hate.

      • LordShaggy says:

        Thanks Hellgrim:

        It’s all a learning thing and as I said we really do listen to what our community tells us. We work crazy hours to try to do things that larger teams are able to do. But it’s worth it when people come and tell you how far it’s come.

        You should come check it out again, it has really come along and there is still a great deal of work to be done but it’s getting there.

        Also, criticism is good. Helps keeps us in check, and the better it is communicated and delivered the more informative and useful it is. We really encourage people to try the game and participate in the community.

  9. strangeloup says:

    Man, I really haven’t been paying attention. I’d conflated this and Starbound into one thing, and was under the impression that it was officially Terraria IN SPACE!

    I couldn’t get into Terraria at all.

  10. Enikuo says:

    “It seems like everything promises crafting and sandbox worlds and random terrain these days. Terraria, Edge of Space, Starbound, countless others – and that’s only on the 2D side of the equation.”

    Really? Can I get a list? I love these type of games and can’t think of many more. Minecraft and Terraria are the big ones. There’s a handful in development: Starbound, Stardew Valley, StarForge, Planet Explorers, Edge of Space, & Cube World (which I don’t personally count since it lacks building features). There’s also the one MMO, Wurm Online. What else am I missing? Maybe that’s plenty and I’m just greedy, but that doesn’t seem countless, especially compared to some other genres, like “shooters” or “action adventure.”

    • MattM says:

      I’m with you. I don’t really feel a like there is a glut of these games. Only Terraria and Minecraft have been released, and the games in development will probably end up being spread out over the next few years.

  11. nimbulan says:

    I was really surprised when I heard about the crossover since I have been one of those people who felt like this was just a Terraria clone in space. It doesn’t seem to offer anything unique other than space laser sharks. Maybe that will change in the future but the impression’s been given. That’s always a danger of going the early access route.

  12. glider521al says:

    It seems like everything promises crafting and sandbox worlds and random terrain these days…countless others

    The statement by the writer is Grossly inaccurate. There are very few decent 2d sandbox games:
    Signs Of life, Darkout, Crea, epic inventor, deep world, KAG (more of a hybrid), Wind forge and Under the Ocean are the only other notable ones I could find since late 2012- early 2013.

    Having said that, it’s going to be extremely difficult to create a successful indie game in the genre, without being overshadowed by the giants that came before (Starbound taking at least 90% of the market share). That’s life I guess.

  13. JasonD says:

    The difficulty isn’t in creating a unique 2D Sandbox game that will appeal. Sure there will be the Giants, but they don’t necessarily have to be out yet. Starbound has held a LOT of interest for a long time now and not very many people have gotten to play it.

    The obstacle, and this is true of any game or genre, is getting people to just LOOK at the games and decide if it’s features appeal to them, instead of just reading a 2 line blurb and decide ‘Oh it’s a ripoff’. We’ve had our own struggles with this on our own game Asteria. We’ve taken the game a direction we want it to go, and have taken extra care to make sure that it’s NOT like the others. It’s only those that have looked into the game that have seen that it’s in fact different. To me it’s like saying I won’t play Halo 4 because it’s an obvious ripoff of Wolfenstein 3D.

  14. BlockAtATime says:

    Great job on the interview, Mr. Grayson. It will be interesting to come back to this at some point in the future and review the promises versus the deliveries.

    Already, the developers have gone back on their promise to provide backers with DRM-free copies of the game. It is now being delivered exclusively by way of Steam, and anyone who complains on the forums about it is banned.

    The developers also have created a new EULA which both egregiously claims copyright on all software that ships with the game (which coincidentally includes Adobe AIR, Unity, Mono, EAZfuscator, and other third-party software) and expressly forbid a whole bunch of activities that would be necessary to support a modding community (which, to me, seems again in conflict with the Kickstarter campaign).


    All components accompanying the software are copyrighted by HANDYMAN STUDIOS, LLC and may not be taken apart, modified, used or published with other software or means except with the SOFTWARE PRODUCT software and may not be distributed or copied in any manner.

    You may not disclose to other persons the data or techniques relating to this SOFTWARE PRODUCT that you know or should know that it is a trade secret

    Some guy on the Steam forums pointed out that this would forbid a modder from, for example, compiling a list of all available items in the game and posting it to a modding site and they perma-banned him from the forums and deleted the thread. They banned another guy for describing the use of the hidden cheat console. It doesn’t seem, to me, that this attitude jibes with the terms “moddable” or “sandbox”.

    I hope that they eventually get their act together and either deliver what’s promised or get taken to task by responsible members of the media, like yourself. Either way is fine with me, really.

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