During our time out in Germany we were lucky enough to meet up with Thomas Hentschel Lund, CEO of Full Control. His indie team have put together the recently released Space Hulk and are behind a forthcoming reboot of Jagged Alliance. In the first half of our interview we speak about battling Genestealers in the depths of space.
7outof10: Congratulations on the launch of Space Hulk, is everyone taking a well-earned rest at the studio? What are the team focusing on now?
Thomas: The push for the next several months is to get more content into the Windows and Mac version in the form of more Space Marine Chapters and new campaigns.
We’re also working on the co-op mode with an additional campaign for that because the original Sin of Damnation campaign from the board game that we based ourselves off of is not setup in a way that is good for co-op. There are one or two missions where you have multiple squads that you think if one controlled one and one controlled the other it could work but there’s nothing designed with co-op in mind. We realised that when we went through development.
So we have created a larger four mission co-op only campaign that can have up to three guys on the Terminator side – everybody gets a Terminator squad – and there’s a common goal but each of the squads have different tasks. So one might have to fight his way through the Genestealers to turn on the emergency power grid to open blast doors for the two other teams to go into the next section on the Space Hulk and then go back again and try to keep the back clear. That interaction is what we wanted to design into the co-op missions, to give another dimension of co-op and not just “oh we’re killing Genestealers together.” Though that’s ok too.
How is that affecting the iPad version’s development?
So that’s in development. On the side [of the co-op campaign] we have the dual development of the level editor and the iPad version. IPad is coming this year. We definitely want to do it but with the opportunity and support we got for the PC and Mac versions we want to get more content to people, especially the co-op.
So you’re more focused on expanding the current community?
Personally I really love that and that’s one of the reasons we’re giving that away for free, just to say “I as a fan I would love to play co-op”, and instead of having just a few people play it, the ones who want to pay money for it, we’re saying here you go.
The level editor’s, the same thing. We can see that nobody is likely to make another turn-based Space Hulk for many, many years and at some point it doesn’t make sense for us commercially to add any more content to it. We really wanted to keep the game alive though so we’re giving away the level editor with the mechanism of sharing maps, voting, rating, downloading whatever anybody has created and creating a community around the game that should last many years.
Are you using Steam Workshop for this?
It’s our own system and we want to see how we can try and hook it into the Steam as it has some cool features as well. So it’s going to be some kind of hybrid, using our own editor systems that we had for development but enabling usage of whatever makes sense that Steam has to offer.
That’s the main part of the Space Hulk development moving forward. As many Chapters as we can, customisation of Terminators units, progression of what you can unlock, purity seals, gems or loin cloths or whatever you want to add to your Terminator crew as you advance.
Did you get complaints that certain Chapters weren’t in the game?
Yeah, everybody has their favourite Chapter. And the board game campaign has the Blood Angels so that’s the one we ran with but we know there’s a huge following especially of the big four so we’re looking into adding one or more of the Ultramarines, Space Wolves and Dark Angels. Those are the ones we’re concentrating on first and then we’ll see what’s going on.
Again, for as long as the income is higher than the cost then it makes sense to makes more and give the fans more.
If you ever want to consider the White Scars, I won’t be offended.
The thing is we’ve been asked “can’t you just make a painter to swap colours and what-have-you but if you’ve seen the Terminators that we’ve made they’re very, very detailed. Just painting a Blood Angel blue doesn’t make him an Ultramarine.
They all have their different traits, right, so the Blood Angels are really the bling vampires, once you go over to the Space Wolves you have the pelts the fangs and so on, and Ultramarines are far more strict military, so every Chapter has their different set to add into it. So what we want to do is give you the ability to customise the Space Wolf or Ultramarine but not by just taking him and painting him in a different colour and saying that’s a Salamander. As fans ourselves we want to make it right.
Going back to the level editor, are they the same tools as you used to make the game?
Mostly, yes. We’ve an internal tool that when we make a level we set it up like the board game. In the board game each room and corridor is a section and so you take these sections and slam them together to make the general layout – bam bam bam – then we export that out of the level editor and then it’s a semi manual process of adding the spawn points. Then objects have to be coded in so that you have the win conditions. That’s all in an xml file so it’s pretty accessible but it’s still nerdy.
We want to take this up to another level where it’s end-user friendly. Where there is the ability to take all these logic pieces and link them together visually instead of you having to code xml. So you can take a board game section and say I would like to use this tile instead of this tile and it swaps it out, use this lighting scheme so you can pop two lights here two lights here or floor lights, that way you can configure the map. You can write the briefing screen you can select the voice over to be used in some of the parts and then you can share it.
So if the level editor and co-op are free, what’s going to be paid-for content?
It’s a business but we’re also fans. The fan part of me has been wanting to do the co-op so let’s give that to everybody and the level editor is going to keep the game alive for many, many years and gives the fans a voice.
When we do new big campaigns or new Chapters there’s a lot of work involved in making this and those are going to be the paid for expansions. We want to give something out that’s as substantial as possible so when we do a new Chapter we’ll also do a small mission that specific to that Chapter that ties into the lore. So if you buy the Ultramarines you’ll get an Ultramarine themed mini Space Hulk with that. Reasonably priced though so everyone can have some fun but, yes, we still have to be able to pay salaries.
Well everyone appreciates new content.
I would, some of the ideas we have take it from where we are now – the board game campaign, which is pretty cool if you like the board game and people can identify with it pretty fast – but there are so many options that you have in a computer game that you don’t have in a board game. A living environment for example, why not have some rooms that have mechanisms that are deadly. If you’re inside this room on a certain turn, maybe down to moving parts, you can die, all these things are things that we could explore in a computer game. That’s the kind of campaigns we want to make. Also to differentiate ourselves from what the community can make with the level editor.
Since moving onto your own campaigns have you found it more fulfilling when compared to recreating someone else’s game?
In some ways it’s a super cool thing just to take a rule book, take the campaign, and say that’s cool someone else thought this up and I “just” have to recreate it.
Just slap it on the programmers desks and tell them to get on with it.
While it’s not that simple it’s still a great thing because everything is balanced, everything is setup already; you know that this works. There’s are lot of creative parts that can still work inside that frame though. For example, in the board game there are no walls, no ceiling, there are no real adornments. What does it look like? The animations as well, the audio side, those are the areas we were given pretty free reign on by games workshop to say “how do you want a Space Hulk to look like on the inside?”
We had the old EA games on the Amiga but those pixelated graphics don’t really say so much these days. So that’s where we sat down and looked at the interior of gothic churches, a lot of skull graves, imagery from different places and tried to put that into the game to give a visual reference, mixing it up with other Warhammer 40,000 fluff, purity seals, and the whole tech priest look. Telling little stories with level design: blood pools here and skeletons in corners with small candles, a small alter somewhere underneath a cog symbol. Really, really small things like that but it gives you ambience.
Now that that has been done we are free to explore also beyond the board game limitation and rules and settings. We’re looking into creating new rules new additions, new weaponry. For example, the Genestealers; taking up their codex for Tyranids there are Genestealer variations like feeder tendrils and fleshhooks, why not take some of those parts and put them into Space Hulk. It’s ok to say that one thing is 40k and the other is Space Hulk but just taking some of these things and saying if you have feeder tendrils what would it be cool to do there? If you have scything talons does that mean you’re a little slower but when you hit you get an additional dice? That could be some of those thing that would be really cool to sit and explore. Also give variations to the Genestealer player during the campaign so that kind of creativeness can come into it. We’re very looking forward to doing that.
You touched upon previous Space Hulk video games, have you taken any inspiration from them or did you want own vision?
One of things that we took in, if you’ve seen the game you’ll see this shoulder camera up in the corner which in many ways is inspired by the old EA games where you had the five screens. Where you had to quickly shoot and click. We were thinking you could take the interface as Raphael sitting back in the strike cruiser outside the Space Hulk, directing the troops and what he sees is this video feed from the sensor array on the Terminator suit.
Also in the briefing scene we definitely wanted to pay homage back to how EA did it with the map and having the same kind of voice over going on barking out instructions. That kind of stuff was heavily kind of inspired by the old Chaos Gate and the old EA games because we thought it was cool and it would pay back to the old games. As a small indie studio we cannot make a huge game but we can make these small things that pay tribute.
Has Space Hulk changed your studio at all? How many board gamers did you have before and after?
There are a lot of the crew that are board game players, also 40k players. We have display cabinet where everybody brings their models to show off, some of their own personal armies, in the studio. We do play some games too but lately we haven’t had time to play.
There’s always been in the lunch breaks people playing Dawn of War or similar stuff but it’s been fun to see how through the project that was replaced by Space Hulk. Not only for testing but for enjoyment.
We continue talking to Thomas later this week about Jagged Alliance. Space Hulk is available now for Windows and Mac through Steam.