Everspace 2 – Interview with Rockfish Games CEO Michael Schade

Everspace 2 is “a fast-paced single-player space shooter with deep exploration, tons of loot and classic RPG elements,” at least, according to developer Rockfish Games. A sequel to Everspace, Everspace 2 differs from the original game in many ways.

Where Everspace included roguelike elements and as the player moved through the increasingly difficult sectors, death became inevitable. Everspace saw players take part in numerous runs and eventually, level up enough to succeed.

Everspace 2 is a shlooter. In space. Set in a persistent open-world, your ship is the hero. As you level up, your ship becomes more powerful and you’ll be able to upgrade it in order to make it the ultimate weapon.

Everspace 2

Set shortly after Everspace, Everspace 2 continues the story but in vastly different ways. As mentioned, Everspace 2 is not a roguelike and so, your ship — your hero — drives the campaign forward. Rockfish says, “Imagine a Hack & Slash Action-RPG with all the bells and whistles: classes, random loot, skills, talents, and more… but in space.”

To gain a deeper understanding of Everspace 2 and get some insight into the development we spoke to Rockfish Games’ CEO Michael Schade. Here’s what he had to say.

PowerUp! – Where did the idea to develop a loot-shooter in space with ships come from?

Michael SchadeAfter the commercial success of the original Everspace, we stuck our heads together in late 2018 to brainstorm what our next game should be. It actually took us several weeks to come up with the right ideas and forge a strong vision for Everspace 2. In the end, we decided to drop one of the predecessor’s main pillars, which is a quite unusual approach for a sequel to a successful first installment of a new IP.

However, to really understand what aspects of the original Everspace fans liked and disliked the most, and what they wished for our next game, we also evaluated some 30,000 comments on social media and 5,000 user reviews on Steam. While almost everyone loved the fast-paced 3D space combat and tight Freelancer-inspired controls, the roguelike game loop was clearly not for everyone, especially for those who were hoping for a spiritual successor of Freelancer or Galaxy on Fire 2, which we were best known for back in the day when our previous studio was one of the best in 3D mobile gaming.


However, to really understand what aspects of the original Everspace fans liked and disliked the most, and what they wished for our next game, we also evaluated some 30,000 comments on social media and 5,000 user reviews on Steam. While almost everyone loved the fast-paced 3D space combat and tight Freelancer-inspired controls, the roguelike game loop was clearly not for everyone.

Especially for those who were hoping for a spiritual successor of Freelancer or Galaxy on Fire 2, which we were best known for back in the day when our previous studio was one of the best in 3D mobile gaming.

Thanks to the great commercial success of our debut title on PC and console, we now saw the chance of making the fast-paced open-world space shooter that we had always wanted to make. However, we also knew we would not be able to compete with space game juggernauts like Elite:Dangerous and Star Citizen, so we had to come up with a hook that would set Everspace 2 even further apart from its peers, without blowing our budget and, ideally, living up to the “one-more-run” character of the predecessor. 

Being huge fans of Diablo, the team came up with the idea to throw proc-gen loot mechanics plus even deeper RPG elements into the mix which not only ticked all boxes above but where we could also build on the experience of having randomized loot, ship classes, and player perks.

PowerUp! – There are a lot of loot shooters available today. What makes Everspace 2 different and worth gamers time?

SchadeFor starters, Everspace 2 is the only looter shooter in space, so if you are a spaceship aficionado and love to shoot & loot, it’s gonna be right up your alley. Everspace 2 also offers way more possibilities to progress through the game and change the playstyle to your liking, thanks to lots of different weapon types, devices, and consumables with a direct impact on the second-to-second gameplay being at your disposal.

Plus, there is also more varied and deeper meta gameplay like mining and trading in Everspace 2 than in any other looter shooter that we know of, which provides even more freedom for players.

PowerUp! – What can we expect the delays to do? Will we see more features? A more finished product?

SchadeWell, since working at home does slow down development, extra time won’t automatically lead to new features or additional content in the final product. However, it will help us in working together with our community during closed Alpha, Beta, and Steam Early Access to have an even more finished game at full release because we will be able to have a few more iterations to fix bugs and optimize performance.

Everspace 2 is the only looter shooter in space

PowerUp! – How big is the game world? How long would it take to fly from one edge of the map to the other?

SchadeThe persistent game world of Everspace 2 will span over at least eight star systems, each packed with countless points of interest, both hand-crafted and procedurally generated. As we want to keep things close to our fast-paced arcadey intent for the game, we included ways to get around the expansive cluster quickly without the chore of interstellar real-time travel.

A network of fixed jump gates connecting most of the star systems on the map allows interstellar travel at no cost. However, jump gates are operated and controlled by Grady & Brunt, a powerful mining corporation in the game world, for good reason: if you cause too much trouble in the zone, local authorities will happily open fire on you and call for reinforcements, culminating in Okkar forces – the dominating alien race also introduced in the original Everspace – jumping in to put an end to the aggression.

But then again, maybe YOU will be the one putting an end to it, luring a special Okkar unit into orbit just to make it drop that one weapon you are looking for. So, like in any great open-world game, the journey itself is the reward, not reaching the destination.

PowerUp! – As a single-player game, will there be any chance of co-op or PvP in the future?

Schade“What about multiplayer?” is one of the top five questions we often get anywhere online and especially on social media. However, immediate responses from our community show that it really is a vocal minority wanting multiplayer, so we are sticking to what we are best at: making fast-paced single-player space shooters with RPG elements and proper storytelling – which is the short answer. 

Generally speaking, fast-paced PvP combat is very tricky in any 3D game for several reasons: So, even in PvE, shooters with six degrees of freedom already requires much more skill than any other type of shooter because you can easily lose orientation about obstacles to avoid, where you and your enemies are and where they will be in order to hit them with leading shots – this alone makes 3D space shooters feel so much harder to play than even the most hardcore FPS.

as much as we would love to have co-op, definitely not this time. 

Since less than 10% of players have really good 3D spatial awareness, the vast majority of players would just be cannon fodder to them, resulting in a lot of frustration and player churn – the inevitable commercial death for any multiplayer title.

But that is not all. When trying to hit another player spaceship traveling at a ridiculous speed while you also fly even faster than the fastest jet pilots today, mean you have less than a second to actually land hits on your opponent – that might be fun for maybe 1% to 2% of the player base, but the rest would absolutely hate that. Also, since space is usually quite empty, there is not much cover around, so the player with the best weapon range would usually win, which is an even bigger issue for 3D PvP dogfight games set in planet atmospheres with even fewer possibilities for taking cover AND ground to crash into.

Speaking of which: In any flight game, collision damage is very important yet often overlooked. Imagine how much more difficult your favorite FPS would be if you took damage when running into another player or a wall. It would turn the most hardcore FPS into an even more punishing first-person shooter simulation game. Sure, there would be an audience for such a game, too, but any PvP shooter with less than a hundred thousand monthly active users is just dead in the river. 

Now, co-op would be a different thing, but still half the legwork of implementing full PvP multiplayer net code. Consequently, changing the direction of Everspace 2 from being a purely single-player experience by adding meaningful co-op gameplay, would require a tremendous amount of extra funding and add years to the development cycle. So, as much as we would love to have co-op, definitely not this time. 

PowerUp! – Could you see Everspace released on other platforms? Switch?

SchadeWe do not think it is possible to port Everspace 2 to the current Nintendo Switch, as we already had a hard time with the limited amount of memory at our disposal for the original Everspace.

Because we will have dense light maps prebaked into every location as well as huge hand-crafted planetary locations using super hires height maps in Everspace 2, we can only hope that Nintendo comes up with a much more powerful next-gen console that we, of course, would love to support.

PowerUp! – Can you give me a rundown of the loot system, how it works and how you upgrade your ship?

SchadeWe are taking a lot of inspiration from loot-heavy games like Diablo and Destiny 2, and we are hard at work to make a meaningful loot system that will feature a broad range of equipment to customize your particular playstyle, or for the situation at hand. The core of this system stems from the modifiers assigned to found gear, which will provide the player with advantages and opportunities throughout the dangerous territories of Everspace 2. Combos are also important to maximize your abilities; players will find synergies to mix and match tools to devastating effect.

Crafting and upgrading will help keep older materials and items relevant the further you progress. Your ship is the hero, so imagine a Hack & Slash Action-RPG with all the bells and whistles with your vessel at the forefront of this customization: classes, random loot, skills, talents, and more, all in space. you will be able to expand your private spacecraft collection from a virtually endless supply of fighters composed of three main classes with several sub-classes and optimize your build to perfection by cleverly choosing modules, weapons, devices, and perks.

PowerUp! – What lessons have you learned from the first game that have been applied to this?

SchadeWell, we have received a lot of praise for the fast-paced 3D space combat with tight, shooter-style controls set in an open-space setting of a demilitarized zone, filled with shipwrecks, explorable derelict space stations, expansive asteroids fields, and solitary hollow mega asteroids in front of beautiful space backdrops. So, we will definitely keep all of that.

However, we also learned that steep, roguelike-typical learning curves can be quite frustrating, especially when introduced to an established (sub)genre that requires a lot of skill already. So, Everspace 2 will be much easier to pick up, and players can take as much time as they want to level up before entering more difficult zones. Of course, we will still have brutal, procedurally generated endgame challenges for all those hardcore space pilots out there.

Our perk system from Everspace also showed us some useful advantages, as well as less desired effects given to the player. Through this, we are making sure to have a more important impact when the perks of Everspace 2 are maxed out for meaningful progression.

We have also learned that space games have similarities to racing games in that variety of vehicles is key, so we will have a lot of player vessels with varying aesthetics and styles. It goes quite well with our modular-based ship design, too: Every ship can have different wings, bodies, engines, and cockpits combined together to provide a truly unique starfighter.

In-game cutscenes deserve a bit more love, too. Implementing them in proc-gen environments gave us the results we needed at the time, but moving forward we know how to put these important story transitions together for the player’s immersion and wonder in many more ways.

While we have not made a decision to implement VR for Everspace 2 just yet, we have learned a lot about optimal performance through testing and after receiving a large amount of feedback from our fans. If we do go in this direction, it will be a separate app so we can optimize the experience for VR in every capacity possible.

PowerUp! – What other games did you look to for inspiration?

SchadeWe are both developers and gamers, and there have been many different sci-fi games for the last 20 years showing great potential, remarkable game design qualities, and exceptional creativity. It would be hard to find every source from our nostalgia, but there are some prominent ones our fans have picked up on.

  • Freelancer offers easy mouse and keyboard controls, and we knew our player base would be lost without perfect fluidity of every command.
  • Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen have realistically crafted spaceships and designs by combining fantasy with engineering.
  • The Halo franchise laid the groundwork for the modern-day shooters.
  • Destiny 2 shows how diverse items can become while still being fun, as well as strong UI bringing everything together, and visually popping environmental design over planetary landscapes.
  • Rage 2 provides players with a grand level of fun through its player perks, weapons, and mission types.

These games are taking our ideas and making us evaluate every decision we make, to ensure we are cultivating the very best experience we can, matching our vision. Beyond this, we have a growing community unafraid to speak their own thoughts and perspectives, and I’m sure we will see some light inclusions from what inspires them, too.

Thanks to Michael Schade for his time.

Everspace 2 will launch on PC and Xbox One.

Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevensonhttps://powerup-gaming.com/
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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