Interview

Entropy: Words with lead game designer Andy Butcher

We have a chat with the lead designer of the new MMO to find out how it will stand out from the pack

We had a chance to catch up with Artplant's Andy Butcher who is lead game designer for their new space-based MMO Entropy. We asked him a few questions on how the game plans to stand out from the EVE Online and the upcoming crop of online space gamers like Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous and also asked abotu what they have planned for the future of the game. This is what he had to say.

Play.tm: As a space-based sandbox MMO you'll undoubtedly draw comparisons with EVE Online and possibly even Frontier's upcoming Elite: Dangerous. What efforts have you made to make Entropy stand out from the competition?

Andy Butcher: We have a great deal of respect for EVE, and are very interested in Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous, both as developers and as gamers. As big fans of 'space sims', we're pleased and excited that the genre is getting so much attention again. Entropy: Words with lead game designer Andy Butcher

Two of the key differences between Entropy and EVE are the style and nature of combat, and the pace and nature of the gameplay.

Whereas EVE's combat is based on a more traditional RPG model, where you're 'commanding' your ship and selecting targets for its weapons, Entropy offers direct manual flight and weapon controls, and so our combat is based more on dogfighting between smaller and more agile ships.

Similarly, while EVE's great depth and scope are some of its greatest strengths, they mean that it's hard to achieve much in a short play session. Obviously, we want Entropy to have a lot of depth and scope as well, but we're also trying to ensure that a solo player can log in, play for thirty minutes to an hour, and log out feeling that they've achieved something, even if it's only completing a few trade runs, defeating a few pirates or finishing a couple of missions.

Play.tm: You've emphasised that Entropy is a sandbox MMO. To what extent does narrative guide the player experience? Is it a narrative-led experience or is it more of a player-created narrative experience like EVE? Entropy: Words with lead game designer Andy Butcher

AB: Very much a player-created experience. Our goal is to give players a world and the tools they need to create their own stories.

Play.tm: One of the key features you've highlighted is the character customisation system. Is the plan to eventually be able to jump out of the ships and explore planets, space stations and derelicts?

AB: We wouldn't want to rule 'walking around' out completely, but it's not something we have any plans for at the moment. Entropy is a game about space travel and spaceships, and that's where we'll be focussing our attention for the foreseeable future.

Play.tm: By shifting the focus of character creation away from picking a race does that preclude you from bringing in your own races at some point, perhaps a dangerous alien race that could be a threat to the Confederation? Entropy: Words with lead game designer Andy Butcher

AB: No, not at all. We just felt that at at the technology level of the Confederation before the Shutdown, people would probably have been able to look any way they wanted, and felt it would be cool for players to be able to come up with their own 'species' if they wished.

Play.tm: Where does the balance in Entropy lie between PvE gameplay versus PvP gameplay? Can you engage with the game without necessarily needing to encounter other human players or must you engage with other human players in order to achieve the game's ends?

AB: You don't have to engage other players in direct combat unless you choose to, but neither can you entirely avoid the chance of another player deciding to engage you. Each of the different faction statuses that players can switch between has different PvP rules, but pirate players can attack other players anywhere other than in the developed star systems, where they can only attack other pirate players.

Entropy: Words with lead game designer Andy Butcher

Play.tm: How important is player feedback influencing the direction that you're taking with Entropy?

We feel that player feedback is enormously important, and being able to involve players in the development process from a very early stage is one of the main reasons we decided to go into Early Access on Steam. We really want the game to be a collaboration between us on the development team and our Early Access players.

Play.tm: Have you got some kind of roadmap for rolling out some of the key things you've mentioned like replacing the system map with 3D exploration?

AB: Our schedule tends to change frequently, according to how well each new feature or revision is received by our players and what they tell us they'd like us to focus on next. Entropy: Words with lead game designer Andy Butcher

Right now we're in the middle of implementing the crafting system and creating all the associated content, and are also working on a prototype for the new long distance travel system, so those will almost certainly be the next two 'big things' to be released.

Play.tm: When are you aiming to come out of beta and what monetization model are you planning to use when you do?

We haven't yet decided exactly when we'll aim to move from Early Access into release, but it'll probably happen this year.

When it comes to monetisation, we don't have any plans to introduce a subscription fee, and we also want to avoid 'pay to win' monetisation. As such, we're looking at options such as microtransactions for cosmetic items like ship textures or 'skins' and/or releasing DLC expansions after launch.

Entropy is currently available for PC, Mac and Linux on Steam Early Access.