A Journey to the Stars: An Interview With Andreas Suika About The Long Journey Home

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The Long Journey Home is an RPG that is set in outer space. This RPG promises to deliver procedurally generated worlds and characters who have distinct personalities. To find out more about the game, I asked Daedalic Entertainment’s Creative Director, Andreas Suika, a few questions about what went into the game’s development, what inspired it, and what the team hopes to deliver to players.

From where did the team draw inspiration when creating The Long Journey Home? What other games and works of science fiction influenced the game?

We started by looking for the kind of intrinsic motivation that everyone, every culture, just “gets.” Like survival games. We don’t need to run around the woods and hunt for food anymore, but we still understand it on a deep-down level. So, we looked for something similar, and immediately liked the idea of finding a way home. It’s a classic story, from The Odyssey to The Martian. But it’s one we can all identify with. We’ve all been lost. We’ve all been homesick. We all have to find our path.

So that’s where we started. Then we started playing with possibilities. Colliding cultures. Messages being lost in translation. We started with a communications prototype based on simple words and concepts instead of full dialogues and multiple choice, where both you and the other participant are trying to understand each other and there’s scope for potentially disastrous misunderstandings.

What scenario fit all this? We’d always wanted to make a Sci-Fi game. All the pieces came together quickly. We took our love of games like Starflight and Star Control, particularly the second game, and got to work. There’s been a lot of piloting and 4x space games over the years, but we missed this kind of more personal adventure. One ship, a crew. Stories. A vivid journey through a cool original universe, but one definitely inspired by some our favourite SF. Farscape. The Fifth Element. Guardians of the Galaxy. Most recently, The Expanse.

What sort of emotions do you want people to feel while playing the game?

As many as possible! The main theme of the game is “finding your way home,” and obviously that’s rooted in homesickness and longing. You mostly see that in the responses of your crew as they talk, share experiences, get to know each other and are tested by the situations they encounter. We want you to care for them. To want to win for them and get them back because you empathise with them.

But the journey itself has to be an adventure, and we don’t want to waste the awesome chance to have your own spaceship and an entire galaxy to play in. Danger is around every corner, but so are great opportunities, new friends, funny moments, dramatic moments. This isn’t a sterile game, and we want the player to feel they’re always exploring the unknown game after game after game.

That’s why we generate a new galaxy, star systems, planets, surfaces and even quests, as well as pick a few different aliens each time. Who you meet, the abilities and personalities of your crew, all of that changes not just what you can do, but the flavor of the journey. Maybe in one game you’ll get the friendlier races and can trade your way back home. In another, it’ll be a hostile galaxy, and you might have to do some things you don’t want to do if you’re going to survive. We think this personality is one of the key pillars that makes the game feel special.

Where there any themes about how humanity deals with the unknown that you wanted to tackle with this game?

Really, it’s more about the player’s journey and how you choose to make your way through the universe. The stories you’ll encounter give you a lot of freedom, but with that comes some tough decisions. Sometimes, they’re moral ones. Do you sacrifice one crewmember so the others have a better chance? Depending on who you have aboard, you might find volunteers willing to give up their freedom for the greater good, or opt to send someone kicking and screaming into alien slavery. The universe will respond, but we won’t stop you. You’re in command. It’s your call.

What makes this even more interesting is when you add the very different… and often very strange… alien cultures. Like we said, communication is a big part of the game. What you say. What you do. What reputation you leave behind. Once you’ve mastered that though, we step back. We have nasty aliens in the game, and it could happen that you reach Earth with just one survivor and the worst aliens of the galaxy your best friends. If players are left asking themselves if it was worth making deals with the devil just for the sake of these four people, that would be very cool. Plunging into a sun at the end of the game to prevent the universe from finding Earth is… well, it’s not how you win! But we’d love to see someone decide that it’s what has to be done.

In what ways will the player feel connected to the game’s characters and world?

At the start you choose four out of ten crew members. They’re all specialists in different fields, but you won’t really know their personalities and the full range of things they can do just from that. By having them interact with items, aliens, characters and each other, you’ll get a better feel for who they are and what else they might be able to do. They’re people, not just collections of stats. You’ll see them argue, joke around, grieve the fallen, comment on quests, and you slowly learn the subtleties. We’ve got one for instance, Benoit, who is a scientific genius, but he’s arrogant, so if you give him a job he sees as beneath him, he’s likely to rush it and break something. A less skilled engineer however won’t volunteer to start poking at something unless she’s absolutely sure she has a good chance, which is great for safety, but not so good when you need confidence and risk-taking. You may have both, and a choice. Or one, and none. Or neither!

The conversations work really well. The more you play, the more you’ll learn about their past, see friendships and other connections, and pick up on details that might be useful. It’s not a simple script. You experience it your own way, differently each game. We hope players will enjoy just putting different groups together to see how they get on, as well as picking their favourites for character as well as function.

Why go with randomly generated worlds over fixed environments?

Think of our system more like LEGO – a lot of bricks in different shapes and sizes. That includes very small story parts, location types and snippets, alien races and so on, glued together with items and characters and diplomacy. It means that each game we can put together a new starting experience, but also allow for lots of branching that depends on your decisions and your crew. If you have an archeologist, that opens up different options than if you had a researcher. Some characters even have their own stories that you can only get if they’re on board.

We are a super small team and we used procedural generation to create what we call “the carpet” for the stories and aliens to bring to life. It wasn’t our goal to go for procedural generation for its own sake. We wanted to create a vivid universe full of interesting stuff to discover, but also one that would stay fresh, game after game. You can’t be lost if you know where you are. You can’t explore familiar space. Every game had to be different, and that means procedural generation. The player can enter a code and share their universes, but even then, a mix of crew and decisions and the aliens encountered will make every trip through it a unique experience. We couldn’t have done that with a fixed, controlled environment.

What sort of challenges did the team face when creating a game that is randomly generated?

First of all, the challenge of NOT just creating a huge amount of space with nothing much in it. We iterated a lot until we found the balance between “random” and “authored.” You can’t just roll a dice and get an interesting universe. When we talk about randomisation, it’s closer to drawing cards designed to be interesting and varied, and then controlling the flow. You don’t want to get one star system with five quests in it, and then nothing for the rest of the sector. You do want the scope for surprises, for pieces to work together and feel like it was planned all along.

Recently, I entered a system with a distress beacon and saw three alien ships fleeing the scene of the damaged ship. Behind the scenes, those are two separate “stories,” but it didn’t matter. Even knowing that, they felt connected, and part of this living universe. Your brain makes these connections for you, and as a designer, it means that much of what you see is out of my control. But I love that, just as I did in the older games we’re inspired by. It means it’s your story, from start to finish.

When can we expect the game to be released? On what platforms?

Later this year for PC. Next year for Xbox One and PS4.

About The Author
Tony Polanco Executive Editor
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