By Eva Zhu —
Trey Smith didn’t think there would be so many people who enjoy chopping up pretty spaceships in their free time, but says he’s stoked that the response to Hardspace: Shipbreaker has been so overwhelmingly positive.
On Tuesday, the Vancouver based game development studio Blackbird Interactive (BBI) released Hardspace: Shipbreaker into Early Access on the gaming platform Steam.
In an email interview, Smith, Hardspace: Shipbreaker‘s Game Director, described the game as “a zero-[gravity] spaceship-salvaging game set in an industrial sci-fi universe we create here at Blackbird Interactive.”
In the game, players are strapped into a spacesuit and tasked with cutting open large spaceships, then salvaging their parts to pay off an impossible debt — exactly 999,999,999 credits — to LYNX Corp, the leading ship-salvaging corporation in the game.
Players fly around and into ships, using a laser cutter to remove parts out of them. To pay off the massive debt, players take any object they can find to the furnace, processor or barge. The amount of credits they earn is based on what and how many parts they salvage.
Although the studio released another PC game called Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak back in 2016, the intellectual property belonged to another gaming development company called Gearbox Software. Smith says the team at BBI is especially excited to share Hardspace: Shipbreaker with the world because it’s their first internally developed intellectual property.
The development process for the game started over four years ago as a game jam. In an article by Engadget, Smith said the team broke into small groups for a week, each creating their own game. At the end of the week, his group had created “Hello Collector,” a game where the player ”floated around and collected space wreckage.” Studio leads responded positively and assigned a bigger team to continue working on the concept.
While each person on the team drew from different inspirations, Smith says for him, the concept behind the game came from successful games like Minecraft and Subnautica, movies like Alien and anime like Cowboy BeBop.
“That’s the best part about game development. Everyone’s ideas and inspirations come together to make something entirely new,” he says.
Because Hardspace: Shipbreaker is based around hard work and precision — unlike other space simulation games that involve shooting aliens or flying ships — Smith says the team faced more challenges than expected. The toughest thing about making something so genre-defying, he says, is that there wasn’t anything to model the game against to see if the team was on the right track.
“When you set out to make something that has never been done before you will fail often,” Smith says regarding this hurdle. “But when you take the learnings from those failures and use them to guide you in your next attempt and the next…that is where you start to see the forest through the trees.”
The game also allows the players to approach it in multiple ways, says Liam Wilson, an Associate Developer at BBI. He says every object in the game can be split from any angle and no two ships are exactly the same. While this flexibility makes the game more unique, it presented challenges during the development process.
“[There was a] lot of technical snags when it comes to optimization and content creation, but it’s something we’re constantly working on and improving,” Wilson says.
To him, the best part of the release has been watching other people play the game online. Wilson says some people speed through the game, tossing ships parts around haphazardly, while others prefer to take it slow and easy.
Wilson says he’s happy people are finding their own meanings and aspects to like in the game. He loves seeing how excited and accepting people have been about what the team at BBI have been trying to accomplish.
Smith says the journey to making a full version of Hardspace: Shipbreaker has only just begun, but he’s excited to make more world-class games that will captivate players from around the world.