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A couple weeks ago, you all submitted some great questions for Justin Ma and the team at Subset Games, the creators of FTL. Here are his answers!


1. There is clearly a lot of strong reactions to the end boss of FTL. Can you talk a bit about his design and why you included a final boss at all?

Final boss1
Initially the game didn't have an ending, the sectors would continue endlessly. Every death felt anti-climactic so we knew we needed some form of goal for the player to be trying to achieve. We also intended for the game to be incredibly difficult (i.e. <10% win ratio for even people who knew the game very well) but we hoped that it wouldn't feel impossible. We wanted to make the player feel like they were almost going on a suicide mission but they had to try anyways.

The specifics about the boss were based on practical design issues. For example we wanted to encourage as many ship builds as possible so we needed the boss to be as versatile as possible without any specific weakness. This lead to the multi-stage approach to the battle. Not a perfect solution (since some player builds are not viable) but it works well in general.


2. What came first: the story, the genre, or some other element?

What came first was a feeling we wanted to instill in the player; we wanted to recreate the atmosphere of commanding a starship (rather than just piloting it like most computer games).


3. I really like the universe you set FTL in... Tell me about the story of the universe you created. How much went into the world, races, and factions in FTL. Did your gameplay affect where you wanted the story to be?

Storytelling is a weakness in Matt and I so it was very minimally emphasized in the early stages of development; we were much more focused on the gameplay. We were certain that we wanted the 'story' of the game to be unique for each player and created organically during each playthrough. However as the project's scope increased it became clear that we had to flesh out the universe a bit more.

This is where our contract writer, Tom Prunty, came in. He helped a lot with creating the universe and the temperament of the various alien races. In the end we we still kept many details intentionally vague - for example, we never explicitly say that the Federation are the good guys or what the player's goal is in detail. We want players to be able to fill in their own back stories for their ship and crew.


4. Do you guys enjoy that this game has a modding scene? Will there be official modding tools in the future?

Unfortunately we really underestimated how much response there would be towards modding the game. We did not structure the code to support modding so it would be nearly impossible to extensively support modding. As it stands, the community has already discovered almost everything that is possible to manipulate and created tools for ship creation that are considerably better than our own.


5. What are were your major influences for FTL? One user finds it similar to a board game called “Red November”, do you know it?

Red November Board Game
Board games have been a large influence, Red November being one of them.

Battlestar Galactica the Boardgame was another and we heard about Space Alert and Galaxy Trucker halfway through development, but they may have still had an impact. In terms of videogames Weird Worlds and Flotilla were influential; Spelunky had a large impact on the pacing and randomization; and King Arthur II reminded Matt how fun text choices can be.


6. Do you guys have plans for additional content? Like new races, news ships, larger universe, maybe multiplayer? I know the game is supposed to be roguelike, but I'd love an exploration, HQ-building mode. Can I have any hope on something like that?

We're a bit torn at the moment. There were a number of things we hoped to add but we both got a bit burnt out and want to pursue other game ideas as well. I think it's possible that we'll start to add weapons, events, ships and systems but things like multiplayer or a entirely different mode like base building are very unlikely.


7. Do you have any plans for an online cooperative mode? Were multiplayer elements like these ever considered during the design process?

Although I've often mused on potential multiplayer design, we've never seriously considered adding it. Neither one of us has any experience with multiplayer development and we wanted to focus on the core single-player experience.


8. What is the craziest story you've heard about fans playing the game thus far?

The speed at which the modders figured out our development methods to create additiona contentl truly surprised me. Although, I think the most surreal experience for me was watching someone stream the beta on Twitch for the first time. We are new to game development so it was pretty bizarre to see a stranger playing our game and discussing strategies with his viewers.


9. How much concept art did you create for FTL and what was the artistic process like? Any you can share with the wiki, perhaps full body shots of some of the alien races?

Frankly, there is very little concept art. I'm not an amazing artist and concept work is no one of my strong suits. I will be finishing up the art book that's given to kickstarter backers and we'll try to make it available to others somehow as well (not sure how yet). It will have pretty much every sketch I've made.


10. Were there any major concepts or mechanics you liked but had to abandon? Why?

There were oh-so-many gameplay structures that we had to abandon for various reasons. I think the development of FTL was more the story of what ideas had to be cut rather than what ideas were added. Since the gameplay supported simplistic structures that interacted with the various other elements (i.e. 'oxygen' is a simple mechanic but it interacts in complex ways with breaches, doors, crew, fires, etc) it is super easy to come up with other ideas that would work as well.

We wanted to have things like a corrosive algae that could spread throughout the ship, alien blobs that could self-replicate, cloaked saboteurs that would plant hidden bombs on your ship, gas based weaponry, assaulting stations on foot, a hacking system, and so forth. We could have worked on the game forever, adding feature after feature but in the end we prioritized completing the game instead of letting it get out of hand.


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