Greenlight Spotlight: Edge of Space

Greenlight Spotlight is a recurring feature in which we preview, play, and interview the developers of games seeking publication through the Steam Greenlight process. Edge of Space is in development by Handyman Studios. An early build of the game was provided for the purpose of this feature.

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As two-dimensional sandbox adventures go, Edge of Space checks all the right boxes. Scavenging, harvesting, crafting, slaying, and surviving; it’s all there. The dynamic, oddly vibrant crevices and chasms daring to be discovered, explored and conquered; those are there too. It all exists amidst the vast chaotic reaches of space, spiraling into the distance. But what Edge of Space is truly about is what lies beneath.

Edge of Space is the maiden voyage of Handyman Studios, a long-time work-for-hire entertainment studio who last year launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund their focus on internal game development. Their goal was to create an immersive, multiplayer-centric, dynamically generated, sandbox-exploration-survival game, and from what we can tell, they’re well on their way. When Steam Game Fans got the opportunity to sit down with Edge of Space and Associate Producer Ben Willemssen of Reverb Publishing, the word we couldn’t seem to escape was: deep.

Depth plays several roles in Edge of Space. Literally, as you descend into the bowels of the unknown planetoid, and figuratively, in its ever expanding crafting and customization options. But like all good adventures, it’s got to start somewhere. “You are a space marine, you are employed by a company and sent to space to help fix a catastrophe,” says Willemssen. “Of course something goes wrong and you wake up fresh out of your cryotube, and you have no idea where you are, you can’t find your crew, no one’s there. So your first task is to find shelter.”

Carving out a simple shelter is easy in Edge of Space thanks to futuristic advancements in pickax technology, which replaces physical labor with focused beams of energy that can harvest materials from considerable distances. The materials themselves run the spectrum from plain old dirt, mud and clay, up through aluminum, titanium and other precious metals. Organic alien compounds and unknown cosmic elements are more difficult to collect, but they’re all equally important as you pour through the expansive catalog of crafting schematics.

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“So these are raw elements you need to refine, which is a quick, simple process, which then gives it some random stats,” Willemssen demonstrates, whipping hunks of rock and ice through the drag-and-drop refining tool. As the complexity of weapon and item schematics increase, harvested materials must be refined, providing each batch with a random attribute required for crafting. But this mechanic isn’t immediately necessary. “Right now, I just need metal and ore, very simple,” Willemssen says. “That’s very late game stuff.”

Every aspect of Edge of Space appears to ramp up as the journey goes forward, “It will get progressively harder the further you get down,” Willemssen explains. “There are going to be more mechanics the further you go along in the game. The crafting will become a little bit more difficult.” Environments mirror this change, corrupting as you plunge further and further. “There’s the ice biome and then there’s this normal nature biome, and then there’s an infested biome where everything’s real dark and red and really just kind of mean looking,” he continues. “Then there’s one other biome that I don’t think we’ve even talked about yet.”

Though simple elements are abundant near your landing site, eventually you must traverse the depths of the planetoid, which presents its own unique challenges. Cosmic radiation is dense and deadly the farther down you go, meaning you’ll need to craft a hardier suit for deeper dives or risk frying like an egg. With each new piece of protective gear you accumulate, new biomes become accessible, housing more materials to craft better armor to head farther down. It’s a step-by-step process, rewarding you with rippling veins of precious ore and the secrets of the planetoid.

Edge of Space doesn’t skimp on the possibilities for those collected resources. Initially, you’ll scrounge for materials to make one of the game’s millions of randomized weapons. As you conquer increasingly lucrative sections of rock, you’ll move up to producing mechanized monstrosities, spraying lead from double-armed cannons while launching a barrage of back-mounted warheads. You’ll construct automated turrets and assault weapons that spew destruction with a dizzying array of effects, powers and modifiers. When you graduate from your slapdash mud hovel, you’ll be able to rig elaborate electrical systems that power and control limitless combinations of amenities.

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“You’ve got sensors, triggers, relays and then gates,” Willemssen explains. “There’s a ton of different gates in the game. An “AND” gate would be: when you hit a switch it does this AND this. So it will do two different things at the same time,” he demonstrates, his character walking over a switch that prods a door open. “It might turn on a light and open a door, or it might open the door and then turn on the O2 generator so you’re not wasting any air.”

From the simplest light fixtures to fully-automated compounds that dynamically fill rooms with air and light as you pass through, “Everything needs power and that’s where the generator draws from,” Willemssen explains. “They’ll essentially consume fuel, the generators will, then they power everything depending on the way you hook it up.” It’s a remarkably deep system, something more at home in a textbook than a game, but in the right hands the potential for amazing contraptions is palpable.

The need for technological superiority stems from the many fantastic creatures lurking in the depths of the planetoid. “There are lots of different crazy, wacky creatures,” Willemssen reveals. “Like polar bears with plasma arms and dinosaurs and floating foxes as pets and electric jellies.” If that wasn’t enough, there are a range of creations that include rocket-propelled space sharks, extraterrestrial squid beasts, and collectible floating pets and their cosmonaut helmets. Edge of Space dances with the notion that it may be ridiculous at times, sure, but in the deepest pockets of space, anything’s possible.

“It’s a very fun, casual game. You can play it an hour here, an hour there if you want, and it’s also one of those games where you can just sit down and play the whole weekend and just dig and explore,” Willemssen believes, with good reason. Edge of Space already offers a staggering amount to discover, create and design, and it’s easy to get lost in the unfolding saga. He continues, “It’s funny how these types of sandbox games just sort of engulf your brain. You could just sit there mining for aluminum and all the sudden two hours go by.”

As Edge of Space continues its current run through beta, Willemssen drives home the importance of community and their intentions to foster creativity. “The first major DLC pack will be modding support. So people will be able to mod the game, which is important to us because it’s a very community driven game, and we draw a lot from community help.” For now, they focus on refining the gameplay and populating content, but the possibilities for support are diverse, and thoughtful.

We briefly utilized a separate application where you can construct your dream-home/death-fortress outside of the game. “This allows you to build houses and structures in this tool on a web app from anything HTML5 compatible,” Willemssen explains, as we begin to layout the ugliest fortress imaginable, “So your computer, your iPad, your Nexus 7, whatnot, and then import it into the game, essentially.” It’s a thoughtful tool that speaks to the forward-thinking development behind the title – fresh new ideas in an existing space.

Edge of Space is currently available for preorder at both Desura and RainDG, with beta access included in the purchase. If Edge of Space sounds like something you want to support, you can head over to Steam Greenlight to cast your vote.

About Brandin Tyrrel