Outerlight's The Ship was originally conceived as a Half-Life mod, but with the arrival of Valve Software's Source engine the developer was infected with upgrade-itis and decided to bring its project bang up to date with the latest technology. Its efforts eventually resulted in a commercial release for The Ship over Steam - which occurred this week - and the game will also make a full retail splashdown later in the year.
Although featuring a single-player mode, The Ship is really an online, multiplayer-focussed experience. In the game, players on-board ocean liners enter into a game of hunt and murder. You're given the name of another player, and you then have to hunt that person down with any weapon you can find and bump them off without being seen by security or fellow passengers.
With The Ship just launching - pun fully intended - we thought it an ideal time pin down Outerlight managing director Chris Peck and grill him both on the project and what the future holds for the development studio...
Firstly, can you give us a bit of background on Outerlight - how it came into being, number of staff members, previous projects worked on etc?
Chris Peck: The company was founded in March 2003 by the Managing Director, Chris Peck, along with the Director of Operations, Ailsa Bates, and the Technical Director, Ed Wilson. Using money from friends & family, we raised more private investment and co-investment, recruited the team, and developed The Ship. The highly talented team is 19 strong, and is a mix of experienced and junior staff. Some of the titles worked on for other companies include State of Emergency, Crash Bandicoot and Evil Dead - Fistful of Boomstick.
Where did the idea for The Ship come from?
Chris Peck: It was one of those late night conversations. We had a short list of about five titles we were considering when we founded the company. The Ship was chosen for its uniqueness, originality, and most of all its potential.
What types of material have you used for inspiration?
Chris Peck: The Art Deco art style was a strong influence on the art style for both the environments and the characters. When we chose the ship we knew it had to be set on a luxurious cruise liner, and the 1930's period, or thereabouts is the heyday of the great ocean liners. We wanted it to look a little like Titanic in it's opulence. We felt it would make a great change from the traditional grey corridors that a lot of FPSs seem to use. In terms of game play there are elements of The Sims, RPG and FPS. We also drew on Cluedo and Agatha Christie.
So, what is The Ship?
Chris Peck: The Ship is primarily an online hunting game. Players are given the name of another player, and they have to hunt that person down with any weapon they can find on board, and kill them without being seen by security or passengers, or they will be busted and spend time in the brig. Successful kills are awarded money by the enigmatic Mr. X, the more he likes them, the more money he gives. While having someone else to kill, they also have needs to take care of, they have to eat, drink, socialise and play, if they fail to do so they will suffer unfortunate side effects. While the player is hunting for their target, someone else has them as a target, so they must keep an eye over their shoulder at all times! Putting all the game play elements together creates a unique experience. The needs create kill opportunities, the security is hazard to killers, the quarry is an elusive human and there is the ever present danger of the other hunters.