PAX West IMPRESSIONS: Lightspeed Frontier

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

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Lightspeed Frontier | Space boat

At PAX West this year I met up with the folks from Riveted Games to take a look at their project Lightspeed Frontier. I played the game and spoke with creators Philip Devine and Vid about the game, which they describe as a comedic space adventure.

Lightspeed Frontier allows players to build their own ship out of a wide variety of cubic modules, each of which serves a different purpose, such as armor, propulsion, and a wide variety of different weapons. Control of the ship is straightforward, following the mouse with the throttle controlled by the shift and ctrl keys. Different weapons fire differently, with lasers and some others following the mouse directly while miniguns and missiles fire straight out from whatever surface they’re attached to. Guns can also be placed on any flat surface, meaning you can create broadside or rear-facing cannons. A ship is only considered “destroyed” when an enemy takes out the command module, and until then attacks just damage and destroy any modules that get hit. This means that it’s very possible for a ship to be flying along perfectly fine even if the engines aren’t technically attached anymore, just because of how enemy shots happened to land on your craft.

Lightspeed Frontier | In combat

Pausing the game brings up a list of saved ships that can be loaded, but Philip told me that in the future they plan on changing the system to a set of blueprints, where instead of choosing pre-constructed ships the player chooses a blueprint, and the game builds the ship for them. Alternatively, of course, the player has the option to build a ship themselves, guided only by their resources and their own creativity. The team is also working on a companion app for building ships, which the player can then load into their game for use. Ship destruction is apparently permanent, meaning that if your masterpiece gets destroyed all you can do is build another one. The player is given completely free rein in the game’s universe; Philip explained that the player will be able to view news bulletins and save interesting ones to their adventure log, free to explore them on their own time. It will also be possible to take on jobs for NPCs around the world. Everything will be presented in a lighthearted manner; Philip said this is because there are so many “serious” space sims out there, while the sci-fi genre contains comedy series like Futurama. He sees this area in gaming as being mostly unexplored, and wanted to be one of the first to take a stab at it.

Lightspeed Frontier | Nebula HUD

Playing Lightspeed Frontier, it’s very obvious that it is still a work in progress. Every block has its own physics, so there’s a lot of stuttering whenever a ship gets destroyed, and the game slows down when two large ships engage in close-quarters combat, showing that there’s still quite a bit of optimization to be done before their intended release window of the end of the year. There’s no planetary exploration, and ships will just explode upon contact with an atmosphere. We also encountered a bug with missiles bouncing harmlessly off a projected shield that’s meant to only deflect beam weapons. It’s a very ambitious project, but it’s in a remakably good state considering it’s only been in production for about a year and a half. Lightspeed Frontier is on both Greenlight and Kickstarter; it was Greenlit in two weeks, but as of the time of writing the Kickstarter has under 48 hours remaining and is still just shy of its $2500 USD goal. The Kickstarter page also has a demo available for download. Give it a look if it sounds like something that interests you; I know I’ll be keeping a close eye on it.

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. He's a fighting game player, with a focus on BlazBlue and Under Night In-Birth games. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Persona 5, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.