Gaming for Grown Ups
12th April 2012 16:28:00
Posted by Jake Tomlin

Guns of Icarus Online - Developer Q&A

As you can see from our recent our recent preview, we are quite excited about upcoming steampunk airship-a-thon Guns of Icarus Online. So you can imagine how pleased we were to get the chance to put some pressing questions to developers Muse Games. We covered a wide range of subjects, from how they got their funding to details of their ambitious plans for what they want the game to be and you can read their answers below:

What made you want to do a follow up to Guns of Icarus?

When we started on the original Guns of Icarus, it was always meant to be a small title with a limited scope. But we quickly saw that the premise, the setting, and the core interaction of running around fighting and repairing on an airship had so many possibilities that knew we had to create a second game to follow up on them all. “We’ll do it in Guns 2” was a running joke during the original game’s development, so in a way we’ve been working on this game since the very beginning. We also had a lot of feedback and support from players of the original game, almost demanding that we embark on the quest to follow up and make the game that we always envisioned.

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How did you find using Kickstarter to fund it?

Using Kickstarter has been tremendous for us. As we got closer to the end of alpha development, we had no great way to reach out to players for closed-beta testing. We didn’t do a good job fostering more of a community through social media for the original Guns of Icarus, and so for Guns of Icarus Online, we had to start over in a lot of ways. This was a hard lesson learned for us. In addition to funding, we turned to Kickstarter to help build the closed-beta community as a primary goal.

The support we received on Kickstarter has been overwhelming. We had aiming for 1,500 players, thinking that was about the number we can manage to have deeper, more meaningful test experiences with. Yet, with the demand we received from Kickstarter players, we ended up with 1,800 and had to cap just about every pledge item. Players on Kickstarter are really passionate and are constantly looking for new and innovative projects, and it has been an amazing experience interacting with players on Kickstarter. The staff has also been really supportive in featuring Guns of Icarus Online and other cool indie titles. Our experiences on Kickstarter have been great, and we definitely recommend other indie developers to use Kickstarter.

How does Guns of Icarus Online differ from the original game?

The original Guns of Icarus was a game with a very small scope, where the main focus was shooting, time management, and preserving enough cargo to earn weapon upgrades. You could play it as a solo experience or in multiplayer co-op mode, with up to 3 players joining you on the ship.

Those basics gave us the core of the Guns of Icarus Online experience, which we’ve expanded out to include team-based multiplayer PvP matches, the three classes of Captain, Gunner, and Engineer, piloting, realistic flight physics, a completely revamped repair game with a lot more depth and strategy, skill equipment, ship customization with a ton of new weapons and ship designs, character customization, skirmish maps with different terrain and game modes, and a whole lot more.

In some ways it’s easier to list the things that are the same: you’re on an airship in a post-apocalyptic world, trying to keep your ship together with your crew and shoot enemies out of the sky!

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Do you plan to have different types of airship that players can control?

There are a number of ships that are ready to be customized and controlled. Each ship has its own characteristics—number of engines, gun slots—so choosing one will become an important deciding factor in what kinds of strategies and tactics the player can use. And then the kinds of engines and especially the guns equipped will further influence how the ship is used in battle.

What kind of options will be available to players to adapt or upgrade their airships?

Right now, there are three ways players can customize their ships: weapons, engines, and aesthetics. With weapons, there’s a heap load of choices. We sometimes worry about whether all of them will work but it’s at a point where we think that if the player has a good understanding of the ship movement dynamics, weapon characteristics, and enemy capabilities, then any combination can be a good choice. We believe that players will have a lot of fun exploring the possibilities.

As far as ship movement, engines and their placement play a huge part. Our physics behaves as you would expect, ships with engines further apart (horizontally) turn faster. Right now, those positions are fixed due to the ship models, so only engine power comes into play. In the future, we’ll have total ship mass in the equation, and if we’re clever, the possibility for more flexibility in the engine positioning.

For aesthetics, we plan on having a variety of decals, flags (yes, those that move with the wind!), and banners that players will be able to choose from that will appear in set locations on the ship. We’ll have a fair collection when we release and we plan on to keep making cool ship ‘hats’ for a while.

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Tell us about the character classes, how do they differ from each other and how does that affect gameplay?

In the original Guns of Icarus, you were on a ship either alone or with a teammate, running around the ship and dividing your time between shooting enemies and keeping the ship from blowing up. A big part of the game was trying to decide which one you were going to do at any given moment.

Guns of Icarus Online shifts the focus to more coordinated team-based play by separating out the roles and giving each member of the crew a specific job to do: the Gunner to man the guns, the Engineer to perform repairs, and the Captain to fly the ship and orchestrate the battle. Now instead of trying to divide time between tasks, players have a well-defined job to do that presents its own unique challenges, with an expanded set of mechanics and choices for each class.

The classes all have a very different feel and are suited to different types of players and styles of play, from the meticulous, analytical Engineer to the twitchy, action-oriented Gunner. This lets players with different strengths and skill sets work together to make meaningful contributions to a team effort, instead of a game where you’re all just rushing side-by-side toward the enemy with the best players racking up all the points and dominating the team.

Your Kickstarter page mentions the possibility of controlling other vehicles, how is that coming along?

Well, not too long ago we were gathered around a screen watching a test of the new flight model for the AI airplanes, with a little gray-box airplane zooming around our mountain peaks and canyons, and for one brief moment we considered scrapping it all and making a dogfighting game instead! Just a for a moment, though. We’d love to have a fighter pilot mode in a future expansion, but it’s still a ways away. We’re definitely keeping it in mind, because it’s something we’d very much like to see happen!

You also mention a multiplayer campaign - how will that work?

The multiplayer campaign is what we’re now calling Adventure Mode, which we plan to make available in a future expansion to the game. The big difference in Adventure is that there will be a world map with a network of towns and trade routes that you’ll be able to travel to, with a whole economy of resources and the trading, crafting, and territorial games that go along with that. For those who are all about the combat and just want to get on a ship and fight, there’s a Skirmish Mode that will let you jump right into the action, but Adventure Mode is the bigger-picture world where you can play the markets as a merchant captain, craft items for sale, engage in faction politics, and try to take over the world.

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Do you have plans for any further additions to the game post-release?

Absolutely. Our initial release will contain the very tight, focused core of PvP combat in Skirmish Mode, which we will continually be adding to and improving as we refine features and respond to player feedback. Meanwhile, we will be working on developing additional feature and content expansions for sale, including the persistent world and economic system features that are part of Adventure Mode. We haven’t yet determined the precise schedule or distribution method for these additions, but there will definitely be some new features and improvements that will be rolled out to all players for free, and some that will be extras available for purchase.

Finally, when can we get our hands on it?!

We will be showing the game at Pax East! Guns of Icarus Online will be a featured project at the Kickstarter Arcade, and this is the first time we are publicly showing the game. We are also working on integration with Steamworks so we can start closed-beta. We are looking to be ready to start closed beta with Steam shortly after Pax East.


So, there you have it. Many thanks to Muse Games for allowing us to find out more, and we must say it all sounds rather splendid. If they can implement half the features they have planned then Guns of Icarus Online is looking like it could be one of the surprise hits of the year. We can’t wait to see how it turns out, so be sure to check back with Digital Fix for a full review once the game is released.

As always, you can follow Muse Games’ progress here or on Twitter.