Dreadnought at PAX Prime 2014

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The Dreadnought-class ship was once amongst the largest and most feared vessels to patrol the seas. It was a milestone in ship design, technology, and engineering. It was so vastly superior to everything else on the water at the time that its predecessors simply became ‘Pre-Dreadnought’-class ships. Dreadnought, by Berlin-based Yager Development, seeks to bring space age Dreadnoughts to life in a 5v5 aerial armada game, focusing on some of the biggest and most advanced ships ever to travel through space.

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“Dreadnought is a game about big, big spaceships.”

Mark Liebold, Dreadnought’s Producer, succinctly sums it up with, “Dreadnought is a game about big, big spaceships.” Just how big? Fans of Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, and Star Wars will undoubtedly recognize some of the influences their respective capital ships have had on Dreadnought’s offering. Liebold also pointed out that while there are many games featuring small fighters like the X-wings, TIE Fighters, etc. there is not much in the way of games for the big ships. Part of the reason is that the bigger the ship you are flying, the more elements you will need to manage, making it difficult to create an enjoyable experience for the player.

Yager Development takes that challenge head-on, declaring, “We tried to do a game that is appealing to everyone and easy to get into.” To accomplish that goal, Dreadnought features simple WASD controls, immediately recognizable to a large swath of gamers, two-button elevation controls, and an intuitive mouse look system. As they are appealing to everyone, there is an additional level of micromanagement involved. The ship’s energy management will be a key focus of the game. Says Liebold, “Every space ship captain does that. Everybody says, ‘Full Energy on Shields!’ and ‘Full Energy on Weapons!’ and that is also what you can do in the game.” In addition to diverting power to your shields or weapons, you will also be able to increase your speed by directing energy to your engines. Dreadnought also features a customizable ability system, allowing you to equip a number of offensive and defensive abilities to your ships. While there are no planned ‘auto-pilot’ systems, Liebold did indicate that new players will be introduced to a variety of mechanics as they progress through the Singleplayer campaign.

Speaking of Singleplayer, Liebold also mentioned that the Lead Writer for Dreadnought will be acclaimed author Dan Abnett, who will undoubtedly be familiar to some readers as the writer of multiple Warhammer 40,000 novels, and numerous comics including Guardians of the Galaxy. The Singleplayer will be based around exploration and released in episodic fashion. There was, however, an emphasis that Dreadnought will be primarily focused around its multiplayer combat.

Dreadnought will feature a variety of 5v5 game modes, among those announced thus far are Team Deathmatch, Elimination, and a game mode involving Area Control. Elimination is planned to be a very unique mode, instead of respawning upon death, you get transferred to another player controlled ship and provide them with an undisclosed ‘benefit’. The hope is that the focus will shift from controlling your own ship to actively supporting the rest of your team after death, preventing people from disconnecting before the round ends. Current balancing plans for the game mode have a single ship with fallen teammates being able to survive against five individual ships. We hope to hear more about this game mode as Dreadnought goes through testing, likewise with the planned Area Control.

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As with most multiplayer games these days, Dreadnought does feature a progression system in the form of Reputation Points.   You earn Reputation by performing a variety of performance related actions in multiplayer, and you will see a tally at the end of the round. Reputation is planned to unlock a variety of additional customization options for the player, including captain and ship customizations, an entirely new ship, and access to additional weapons. The premise is that as you get more famous, you get greater opportunities. As your reputation increases, you will also attract and progress your crew. Every ship has officers, and officers have specializations, which increase a specific function. A plasma weapon specialist will offer more damage with plasma weapons, etc. Producer Mark Liebold expressed the vision of the team when we spoke by suggesting, “It’s about the captain’s fantasy, it’s about having a ship and having a crew. A band of brothers brought together, fighting other captains.”

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Turrets rotate, thrusters stabilize, and weapons charge in minute detail as you maneuver and attack the enemy.

The game itself is built on the Unreal 4 engine, allowing for a visually robust game with sizable minute details. When your ship turns, you can see the individual thrusters powering up and rotating to the appropriate degree. Simply firing the main gun on one of the ships involves orchestrated movements across its outer surface, not just at the barrel of the weapon. However, all of this detail does create some limitations. The Yager Development team has purposefully focused on 5v5 combat not only to promote team play, but also to control the level of explosions and activity on the screen, which in turn can push the limitations of some computers.

Creating all of those explosions and activity on your screen are five different types of ships, broken in to typical multiplayer archetypes. There are ships that focus on damaging from long range, with high damage output but limited maneuverability. There is a massive ship which can absorb large amounts of damage, pushing the fight to the opposing team’s doorstep. Supporting those massive ships becomes the task of yet another type of vessel, which can use a repair ray to keep the battle going for longer durations. There are jack-of-all-trades assault ships that seek to moderate the strengths of its counterparts. Finally, there is the corvette-class ship, a lightly armored and nimble ship designed for hit-and-run style attacks and scouting. Balancing is at the core of Dreadnought’s development. Throughout our interview, Producer Mark Liebold made a point of emphasizing balancing in multiple aspects of the game’s design. Each ship has clearly defined strengths and weaknesses, designed so players work together with clearly defined roles. There are three different ship manufacturers, which you will gain access to over the course of the game through the aforementioned progression system, each with its own ship offerings.

Yager Development describes their current gameplay as, “…slow paced, but very frantic when it comes to combat because there is a lot of stuff going on. You have all of the ships with primary and secondary weapons, you get abilities for each ship type.” They repeatedly indicated that it is a game which has intuitive controls, but containing a high skillcap. With their array of customization options, including the ability to swap out the offensive and defensive capabilities of various ships and energy management, the framework is set for additional complexity that enables higher-level gameplay, but future testing will reveal if that is the case.

Dreadnought, an upcoming F2P title from Yager Development, is slated to begin Closed Beta in Early 2015, with an Open Beta/Launch expect to come 2nd Quarter 2015.

  • ndroot

    I like the sound of this. Looking forward to giving it a shot next year!