The Outer Worlds: Spacer's Choice Edition brings moving foliage and 4K 60fps to space next week
The devs from Obsidian tell us "we took something really cool, and found a way to make it a bit better."
Late last year game voted Most Likely To Make Me Accidentally Say The Name Of A Different Game and neo-old-school space RPG The Outer Worlds was rated for a mysterious Spacer's Choice Edition. Obsidian are now ready to officially reveal said wash and brush up, which is coming next week on March 7th, and bundles both DLCs for the game with remaster-y improvements to AI, VFX and technical art. To mark the occasion I got to chat with co-directors Leonard Boyarsky and Tim Cain, and producer Eric DeMilt, all of whom who made games that are stastistically likely to number among your favourites - especially if you like RPGs.
The conversation was both delightful and insightful, and featured a cameo from DeMilt's puppy Luna, but as soon as it was over I discovered it hadn't recorded properly, and had to creep back, cringing and whining, to ask for them to please answer some email questions. Luckily for all of us, they very kindly did.
The Outer Worlds, one of those good ol' fashioned single-player RPGs, came out in 2019, so you'd be forgiven if you expected an Ultimate Edition bundle instead of a remaster just four comparatively short years later. It's not a huge top to bottom redoing, but, as DeMilt points out, October 2019 was late in the PS4 and Xbox One lifecycle: "With the Spacer’s Choice Edition, we had the opportunity to take advantage of newer, more powerful PC and console hardware, to update the game, and bring it to the newer systems."
There are a bunch of new features. As well as bundling in the DLCs, Spacer's Choice raises the level cap; there are small adjustments to AI, including improved routing for your companions; the team did art passes on most assets and characters, improved facial animations, re-lit environments, and added new animations for creatures and ambient NPCs. There's dynamic weather, and you'll see foliage move according to wind speed and direction, which is the bit that excited me the most. But I'm told it was important that they stay true to what made the game successful in the first place. DeMilt says they "always focused on preserving what we had, not just making changes for the sake of making change. The best single example I can think of to summarize our approach was creating custom anims for the Astrolabe in Byzantium town center. We took something really cool, and found a way to make it a bit better."
The Outer Worlds got a next-gen patch on PS5 and Series X in 2021 to bring it up to 60fps, and the Spacer's Choice Edition should make that possible on PC too - in 4K, no less, which means I'm going to need a bigger screen. "As someone who used to play games mostly on a PC and now plays mostly on a console hooked to a big TV," says Cain, "I am looking forward to the 4K resolution and increased texture sizes." All these changes do mean that the minimum and recommended specs for PC are going to go up a bit, with recommended specs now asking for an Intel Core i7-8700 or AMD Ryzen 5 3600, 16 GB memory and a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, GeForce RTX 2070 or Radeon RX 6700 XT graphics card (and hardware ed. James has some thoughts).
Given the changes, I wondered if the team had been tempted to dig up some old darlings they'd had to kill for the first release of The Outer Worlds, and put them back in while nobody was looking. They didn't, but both Cain and Boyarsky said they'd have loved to have bigger maps with more exploration and replayability. "Monarch originally had a bigger map, and Terra had an overlands map that we had to cut. We also had to cut back on our number of locations," says Boyarsky. "Our plan was always to make a smaller game – we weren’t shooting for a hundred plus hours, but it ended up being even smaller than we had originally envisioned." Cain agrees, saying that he "missed those bigger maps because they helped support a feeling of exploration and vastness of the two planets Monarch and Terra, and when those maps got cut, we lost that feeling." The trade off though, was that they shipped a polished game, with very few bugs and a complete storyline.
You don't often see co-directors on game projects, but Cain and Boyarsky are no strangers to teaming up. "It’s always been easy for us to work together, even back when we first started working together on Fallout," explains Boyarsky. "We have complementary skill sets – I focus on story and art, and Tim focuses on the skill system and gameplay, and we trust each other’s instincts in those areas. We both work together on the world building, combining Tim’s love of silliness and my dark cynicism."
It doesn't even feel like work with Leon," adds Cain. "We bounce ideas back and forth, and we edit those ideas from both of our unique perspectives. But best of all, we always seem to be making the same game. While we both make course corrections during game development, we've never had to convince the other person that the final destination was correct."
Not that DeMilt is any kind of third wheel, because he'd worked with both Cain and Boyarsky on projects early in his career, and again with Cain at Carbine Studios. "I had a great front row seat for the creation of Fallout and to see how they collaborated to create a great game and an amazing IP (I also got to break Fallout 1 from time-to-time and added “What would Eric do?” to Tim’s design lexicon...)," he explained. "So the chance to be a part a team with the two of them creating a new game and new IP that already had a strong vision was amazing."
That vision will, we assume, be present in The Outer Wolds 2, which we know exists, but nothing else. All three men scrupulously avoided talking about it at all, even when I pressed in as irrepressibly cheeky a way as I could manage. If I'm any judge they're near the point that they want to talk about it - there's a little twinkle in the eye there - so hopefully more will be revealed soon. For now, you can prepare with The Outer Worlds Spacer's Choice Edition on March the 7th, for $60 or €60 if you didn't have the game already - and, if you did, I'm told you can get the upgrades at a reduced price. The in-game Spacer's Choice would tell you they know a good deal, I suppose.