Outerlight Interview for The Ship

By Matt Bailey

UK indie developers Outerlight recently released The Ship on Steam. It's a very different kind of first-person title, with the aim of killing a single target - and without anyone knowing too. We'll have a review of the game on the site soon, but in the meantime Outerlight have answered some of our questions about their debut offering.

The Ship is a unique offering - could you explain to our readers how the game works?

The Ship is primarily an online hunting game. Players are given the name of another player, and they have to hunt that person down with any weapon they can find on board, and kill them without being seen by security or passengers, or they will be busted and spend time in the brig. Successful kills are awarded money by the enigmatic Mr. X, the more he likes them, the more money he gives. While having someone else to kill, they also have needs to take care of, they have to eat, drink, socialise and play, if they fail to do so they will suffer unfortunate side effects. While the player is hunting for their target, someone else has them as a target, so they must keep looking over their shoulder at all times! Putting all the game play elements together creates a unique experience. The needs create kill opportunities, the security is a hazard to killers, the quarry is an elusive human and there is the ever present danger of the other hunters.

What inspired you to create such a game?

It was one of those late night conversations. We had a short list of about 5 titles we were considering when we founded the company. The Ship was chosen for its uniqueness, originality, and most of all its potential. We wanted to make a game which pushed the boundaries a little and moved away from the standard gameplay which so many games repeat. We have all been playing games for many years and sometimes we yearn for something new and different. The Ship gives a whole new experience and while its not to everyone's taste, its not like any other game you'll ever play!

As the gameplay is dependent on the players, how well do you think multiplayer will work in practice?

At the moment its working well. We had a few problems on release with players treating the game like a standard FPS and trying to kill anything that moved partly due to an exploit of a bug which is now fixed. This has calmed down and now players seem to be adapting well to the game. The game does depend on the players but that's a strength as well as a weakness because people do such interesting things and The Ship allows for multiple strategies. It's a very open game and for those prepared to explore thoroughly there are all sorts of sneaky ways to win. The multiplayer aspect is also what makes the game replayable, especially on a server with real Ship fans, because no game is ever the same and the murders are often so funny. I'm positive that the multiplayer is going to work very well.

The visual style draws from 1920s Art Deco - what made you choose this era for the title?

We felt that it would be nice to play a game where the environments were colourful and pleasant to be inside. So many games are war simulations ful of muddy greens and browns. We also did a lot of research on ships like the Titanic and felt that the ambience was great. There is a certain glamour and sophistication to the era and to the styling that we loved. It also allows us to dress our characters in a way that is very different to most games out there. Eelegance and style are in short suppy and we felt people might enjoy looking good while they murdered...

The game began as a free mod for the original Half-Life, so why did you make the switch to a full commercial game using the Source engine?

Because we established Outerlight as a commercial company from the beginning and the HL1 mod was originally a gameplay prototype which we built to test the whole Ship concept and sell the game to publishers. Once we'd made it we decided to release it to see if there would be an audience out there for the full game. The mod was very successful and gained some die hard fans so we decided it was worth funding the full version of the game ourselves.

The Ship was recently released on Steam, how did your title end up on the platform?

We use Valve's Source engine as the underlying technology for The Ship and Valve were aware of our project. They asked if we'd like the game to be distributed on Steam and we jumped at the chance.

Are there plans to bring The Ship to other formats?

We'd love to bring it to Xbox360 where we think it would work really well, especially with the console's multiplayer networking capabilities and voice chat.

Your website mentions The Ship 2; is it too early to be considering a sequel, and what else are Outerlight planning right now?

We will continue working on The Ship 1 for the rest of the year most likely adding content, costumes, weapons, maps and some new gameplay features. We would like to add the ability for players to play as guards and be rewarded for catching the murderers and this will add a whole new layer to the gameplay which we think will work really well. We're grateful to all the people who have bought The Ship and want to make the game as good as we possibly can before we move onto the sequel. However, as long as things go well we will be making a sequel because we have some great ideas which we didn't have the time or the money to add. We also have a number of other game ideas in the pipeline. One of these will be selected for prototyping over the next few months and we'll start to build sometime next year so watch this space!

We would like to thank Outerlight for taking the time to answer our questions. If you want to see the game in action, you can get a trailer in RealPlayer or QuickTime formats.

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