10 years of FTL: making a permanent spaceship simulator

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today, FTL: faster than light It is considered one of the most influential games in the indie gaming sector. side by side Isaac’s binding And the SpelunkyIt was part of a holy trinity of games that popularized the roguelite genre in the early 1920s.

But before he was successful, FTL It was just a humble idea shared by Matthew Davis and Justin Ma, two developers working in 2K’s office in Shanghai. The studio wasn’t a bad place to work, by their accounts, but they didn’t make the kinds of games they were interested in. So Davis and Ma left the big budget company and started a hobby project to keep them occupied while they were looking for new jobs.

“The original intention, at least from my point of view, was that [FTL] It was only intended as a hobby or prototype project,” Davis told Ars. “There was something in between jobs to build a resume that we could use to get a job at a studio working on projects we were most excited about. But we stumbled upon something that became much bigger than what we set out to do.”

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Zoom / Davis says what board games are like red november Help inspire FTLdesign.

Get inspired

In an effort to make a new kind of indie game, Ma and Davis say they were inspired by the strategy board games that filled their spare time when they lived in Shanghai. Games like Battlestar Galactica board game, and there was this submarine game called red november Which did a lot of crew management and co-op play that we really enjoyed,” Davis recalls.

Before starting development in earnest, Davis and Ma jotted down some of the mechanics they wanted to take advantage of those types of games to include in their prototype. They also jotted down the kinds of feelings they hoped to convey to the player, landing a corner that was reasonably unique to video games at the time.

“We wanted the player to wear the captain’s shoes instead of the pilot’s shoes in the spaceship,” explains Davis. “Most of the games at that point focused on fighter pilots and dogfighting in space. We wanted to give you more of a sense of Picard with power transmission, protecting your shields, repairing damage and that kind of thing.”

“We wanted them to struggle managing the ship’s systems and to feel the pain of losing a crew member because of their poor decisions,” Ma adds.

In an effort to generate these kinds of player feelings, he remembers what he was inspired by the random situations and permanent death of roguelike games. At the time, these types of design elements were expanding from traditional turn-based adventures to other types of gameplay.

“I’ve played a lot of traditional roguelikes in the past few years, but it has been Classic Spelunky It got me thinking about how the principles of roguelikes apply to other genres,” he recalls.

However, many of the decisions to incorporate similar mechanisms were practical. “For example, we wanted you to be forced to live with the consequences of your decisions, so a game based on running with permadeath made perfect sense,” Ma said. “We wanted you to feel like you’re exploring an unknown world, so random script events with different outcomes seemed like the easiest way to create that. We were also a bit masochistic and enjoyed failing in the game, so naturally it became very difficult.”

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