Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Ship: Full Steam Ahead!

Thursday saw Edinburgh based studio Blazing Griffin kick off their Kickstarter for the long-awaited sequel to PC classic The Ship: Murder Party. After picking up the IP from defunct developer Outerlight in 2010, BG were finally able to reveal their plans for the franchise. Dubbed "Full Steam Ahead", the project was given its official reveal at a press event attended by the development team, who were keen to chat about what we can expect to see from the title.

Perhaps most interesting of all was a radical change in setting. Gone are the 1920s period trimmings of the first, jettisoned in favour of a move into steampunk territory. Lead concept artist Paul Canavan explained the potential the change allows them, saying: "The steamnpunk aesthetic has been well explored in various media but it's an environment that isn't often seen in the games space. It's dabbled with, but generally on quite a small scale whereas what we're trying to present here is really the sort of grand vision, of the sort of futuristic V|ictorian setting. Rather than keeping it on the low end and keeping it simple we're really pushing the scale of this concept, which is exciting."

It was clear from some of the lovely concept art adorning the walls, some of which you can see here, that it certainly will be a grand venture.The striking designs hint at some interesting potential. But we can still expect to enjoy the backstabbing gameplay that made the original such a success, as Media Manager Phil Harris was quick to point out. "People are still playing The Ship because they like that gameplay. To mess with that would be a fool's errand, and we're no fools."

Of course it's all just potential at this point. They have the kickstarter fund to get through first. Launching on October 31st, the same day that Kickstarter's U.K site goes live, it will run right through to the end of December. Hitting the initial target of £128k will see the team release the game as a multiplayer title, but anything higher would give them the freedom to take other ideas on board. Phil explained "If we hit the target of 128k we get a minimum viable product. If we double that then we'll be able to look at doing lots of other things. If we hit $1m then we can make The Ship free to play, which would be great because we want lots of people to be able to play it while they wait for the sequel."

If the fund raising is successful, development should begin in the new year. And we can expect a lot of community involvement along the way, with Blazing Griffin keen to take on board what fans want to see. Lead designer Stephen Hewitt told me: "It's always interesting doing a sequel, because obviously you've got a lot of people that are already aware of the game. You're trying to make something different that hopefully the original audience will appreciate and like, but without breaking what they liked about it. The whole project will be done open development so everyone will be able to look at what we're doing and comment. We want to involve our audience."

 It paints a picture of a studio that really cares about its audience, a sentiment that Phil endorsed. "Blazing Griffin's guiding principle is to involve the community. We don't feel there's a point in creating any game that fans don't want to see." Given the popularity of the first game, as well as the passionate steampunk community out there, you can safely assume that a lot of people will look forward to seeing Full Steam Ahead released.

Also on display was some of the art from upcoming strategy title Distant Star. Ostensibly a re-imagining of the Blazing Griffin's first title, a self-coded iOS hit from studio co-founder Trevor Fountain, it promises a sprawling sci-fi universe for players to enjoy. The art is packed with detail and imagination, bringing to mind childhood memories of building Lego spaceships and playing out epic space battles.

With both Distant Star and The Ship the team also have high hopes of expanding the universes into other media. From films to fan fiction, there's apparently a lot of potential for new stories if the franchises prove popular. And as they're quietly confident at the success of their kickstarter fund, it seems that the future could be bright for Blazing Griffin.

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