Important Message to our Community, System 4 Micro Teaser, New Demo
Today, we have an unusual news update. We have a few things to share about what’s coming next, but I also wanted to provide more of a high-level, behind-the-scenes look at the overall game direction and some of our business decisions, and how we roll in general for our fans as well as our biggest critics to help everyone better understand where EVERSPACE 2 is heading, and, most importantly WHY we do the things we do. Large sections are primarily addressed to Early Access pilots on Steam and GOG who might be less familiar with our history and our motivation than our Kickstarter backers do, but it probably won’t hurt to share all of that with you guys, too. Note to self: if the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators measure the effectiveness of any given marketing/sales activity) of this piece are much lower than previous news updates, I might consider firing myself. I’m joking! 😉
I hope this piece gives everyone a better understanding of who we are as a 100% self-funded, veteran indie team from Germany with a rollercoaster ride history, going all-in with an eight-digit dev budget for EVERSPACE 2. For those not happy about a certain feature, the direction of the game, or who think something major is missing from the game, kindly keep in mind that as indie developers, we are taking huge risks here.
As always, we respect anyone’s opinion, but our stakes are incredibly high. Hence, no matter how passionate somebody is about a certain topic, we hear you, but we’ll do what we think is right for us as a company and always put the wellbeing and sanity of our team first. This is in our very own interest as founders running a professional business within an extremely competitive market, but it is also the right thing to do as decent human beings.
Frankly, it has never been easier to make and release video games worldwide, thanks to open access to top-quality game engines like Unreal Engine and Unity. This is also why being commercially successful in the video games industry has never been tougher. To put things into perspective, by “commercially successful” I mean being able to pay all our bills of our partners on time, provide a healthy working environment for our incredibly talented team, and paying them a competitive salary so that they don’t have to worry about their own bills.
Oh, and in case anyone doesn’t know what the job situation in IT and digital media in Germany is like, every single member of our team could work for at least twice as much dough at Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Siemens, SAP, or whatever publicly listed company who “would kill for top-talent”. In fact, I know that many of our team members get hammered with tempting offers by an armada of desperate recruiters trying to make business. Side note: if anyone is interested in joining our fine team, check out our job offerings and send us a casual but proper application!
Even with my technical background as a half-baked machine engineer and 10 years of experience as an admittedly mediocre 3D artist/animator at our very first studio, I have absolutely no clue how our amazing team manages to have a working build of EVERSPACE 2 every single week for our Friday live streams, while continuously creating so much top-quality new content for the next big update without breaking the game or burning out.
While we’re at it, we never ever crunch! When in doubt, we cut features and/or content, or push back even major milestones as long as we can financially support it. I usually set the dates of our major beats, while our team is in charge of what content and features will (most likely) be ready on time and give me a few options to prioritize certain aspects in case things take longer (they always do, like literally, always). Meaning, every milestone is a best guestimate, so don’t get too worked up if plans change.
While doing my daily routine of checking our social channels and the Steam forums, I was inspired to write this behind-the-scenes business news update after reading comments from vocal players not happy about the direction of EVERSPACE 2 and our overall messaging, as well as development being slow.
As part of EVERSPACE 2’s development, we strive to do the best by our community as possible. Watching our team works hard every day to create top-quality content, we have not signed any exclusivity deals, EVERSPACE 2 is DRM-free on both GOG and Steam, we’ve committed to not implement any microtransactions, and the latest dev build is streamed every Friday so that everyone can see for themselves what kind of game we’re making and where development is currently at. We try to carefully manage expectations and make sure that we’re not overpromising, but still, we get hammered by a few individuals complaining about EVERSPACE 2 not meeting their expectations.
I’m always up for an educated discussion, but when I come across a post accusing us of false advertising, or spins something to paint a negative picture about our game and studio on the Steam forums or our social channels that really stings! Yeah, I know, that’s part of the internet, but that doesn’t mean that we just have to sit and watch individuals dumping their Very Strong Opinions™ or misleading information about our hard work without me putting the facts right even if some individuals might not like the message or claim that we’re not listening to community feedback.
As I mentioned in our previous news update, we’re always working on having the latest development news spread not only to promote our game but also to keep EVERSPACE fans in the loop about production. Maximum transparency and authenticity in our messaging are of utmost importance to us even if a topic might be controversial (I’ve earned negative comments and reviews by being just straight honest, which doesn’t always go down well with everyone, but that’s ok). I read absolutely every post about our game on our social channels or on Steam. If you get an unsigned response on any of our social channels (I only don’t sign on Facebook and Twitter), it is me behind the keyboard.
To add some more perspective, we’re talking about 50K+ posts on our socials, some 1000 threads on Steam, as well as moderating 90+ live streams on our YouTube and Twitch channel over the course of the past two years. For a small indie dev from Germany making a rather niche space game, the amount of community feedback we’re getting is absolutely mind-boggling, so keep it coming!
Obviously, any positive comment just makes my day, and I constantly share glowing fan feedback coming through our socials or via email with our team (the entire dev and marketing team is monitoring our Community Hubs on Steam, so rest assured anyone’s voice is heard there, too).
Since our Kickstarter in October 2019, this is our 32nd in-depth news update. Each piece had to pass approval by our dev team and Evolve PR, our lead PR agency—I have a very short leash when talking about our game: Every official update has also been proofread by a bunch of very picky PR professionals (sometimes, our dear friends at Swordfish PR, our EU PR agency, also kicks my butt if the wording of a press release still reads too commercially—they’re also German, so you can bet that things have to be precise and not fluffy).
To conclude this long section, here’s a most recent example of how much our team is listening to community feedback even though we have a bold vision for our game:
Now, without further ado, let’s talk about…
Khaït Nebula Teaser
Another behind-the-scenes piece from our communication activities: About four weeks ago, I was pushing really hard to get a System 04 teaser for you guys, but ZeTeam has shot me down saying that they’re not ready yet, the content doesn’t look great, it’s way too early, etc.
So, thinking to myself that is probably really too early to talk about the Khaït Nebula, I told our PR collaborators, already readying for the next beat: “Sorry, no major beat for Gamescom; like, literally nothing! I know it’s one of the biggest beats in our industry, but we just don’t feel comfortable to commit to having new quality content in time, period.” They were like: “Ooookaaaay, it is was it is; we’ll tell all the biggest outlets eager to cover EVERSPACE 2 that we’ll have nothing for Gamescom; fingers crossed that they’ll cover us in fall when things are going to be messy…”
Imagine the sudden radio silence on our internal communications channels, which is why I put in “us” in italics above because it’s a joint effort of RFG and our PR partners to get the word out about EVERSPACE 2.
So, deadline after deadline for Gamescom passed, while our PR folks tried to make a happy face about our next big beat in fall, but I could sense top outlets feeling bummed out because they had allocated a slot for us. It’s not like that there aren’t a ton of other great titles that also deserve a spotlight, and we’re genuinely happy for any other quality game getting highlighted instead. However, in such a highly competitive market, you think more than twice about passing on a major beat, but you also don’t want to disappoint even though clickbaity internet drama pays the bills.
So, until last Friday, I wasn’t even considering having an official Gamescom beat that would also be relevant for our Early Access pilots, but ZeTeam surprised me with a bunch of red hot screenshots of System 04 that made me do a 180 to share these with you — it’s been a running gag of our team always sandbagging for over 15 years, while I’ve learned to anticipate positive surprises to plan our beats accordingly and secure major marketing opportunities, nonetheless. However, this time, they really got me on my back foot which made me chuckle. As much as I could moan about having missed out on big opportunities, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Because, in the end, lasting relationships are based on how much each side delivers on their promises.
Ok, enough of me rambling, here are some straight-out-of-production and undoctored screenshots of the Khaït Nebula.
Kudos if you made it this far and thanks very much, indeed. You must be a core member of our community even if you’re one of the few pilots not being happy with all our game design or business decisions thus far. I intentionally went on this massive detour, knowing that Early Access is definitely not for everyone, but I want to make sure that everybody who’s passionate about our work and provides genuinely constructive feedback (spoiler: that’s the one thing that gets every Felsenfisch out of bed every morning) fully understands why, what, and how we’re doing things.
This leads me to our brand-new demo based on the latest Early Access version that we just launched, YAY!
Shortly before the Early Access launch, we decided to pull the early prototype as a demo because it just didn’t do the current production state any justice. Recently splitting the base game into several PAK files allowed us to have a proper demo that wouldn’t be too massive in file size, can easily be updated when making changes to the base game, but also cannot be exploited by unlocking the full game — basically, as a developer, you don’t want to have a demo that just blows up in your face.
The demo is NOT time-gated but content-capped to the first sector in Ceto. You can play the first five main missions, two side missions as well as many random encounters as you please.
Before anyone asks, yes, your save game will carry over from the demo to the Early Access version, so you won’t lose any progress. However, to make sure that the difficulty is not entirely off when upgrading to the full game, we decided to cap the demo’s player level at 5, but you can make as many credits as you want to shop until you drop. You’re welcome! 😉
Veteran EVERSPACE 2 pilots wondering what today’s minor patch is all about. We had to make a few adjustments to the base game in order for demo save games to properly carry over. Of course, I asked the team if we could slip in the latest fixes, too, so everyone would have something to look forward to. However, that idea was immediately shot down because it would have required a full QA pass. Well, it was worth asking even though it was quite naive. ^^
Alright, that’s it for today! Not too much mind-boggling news about upcoming content, but we wanted to keep everyone in the loop and share a bit more behind-the-scenes material about us as a 100% self-funded, veteran studio. LMK in the comments below if you would like to read more about this kind of stuff in the future or just keep it short & snappy (definitely easier for me, but I genuinely believe we’re in this together because it’s about communicating our vision, managing expectations, listening to your esteemed feedback, but most importantly it is about mutual trust and respect.
Per usual, don’t miss our weekly gamedev & community streams where Erik, our Community Ambassador and ACE pilot, will show the latest build of the week on Twitch and YouTube, every Friday from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm CEST / 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm EDT / 11:00 am to 1:00 pm PDT. Speaking from moderating chat of 90+ live streams myself, I can testify it’ll be a ton of fun and very informative, too. In fact, chances are that Erik will reveal more than I allowed him to, but what’s new, right? 😉
Keep it civil on the forums, and see you in space!
Michael and your dedicated ROCKFISH Games Team
Ah, you’re still here, and you might find this news update a bit awkward, especially since we’re obviously doing great; like, way better than we’ve been hoping for, so what’s this all about? Well, I don’t want to over-dramatize things, but my business partner and best friend have been through a lot over the past 28 years. Well, I might include an epilogue worth a read (top-tier readbait, I know, but you won’t find this kind of content in your regular Steam news update, promise!)
Here’s the thing, though: No matter how competent Christian and I might be as serial entrepreneurs over the course of 28 years, we wouldn’t be here without our fabulous team—many have been working with us since 2004, always trusting in our leadership even when things were rough.
When we rebooted as ROCKFISH Games in early 2014, everyone following us from our previous studio took a huge bet because our AAA publisher back then could have pulled the plug for convenience (as in without any cause) any time.
Fun fact, after nine months, they had a change of heart the very same day they had just signed an amendment to ramp up the team to 30 ppl for two years of production. Did our team panic or look for other opportunities? No! Instead, they worked their butts off to create a compelling prototype for our first Kickstarter campaign, and have continuously delivered beat after beat after beat since then.
This is why, no matter how anyone with a super strong opinion about the game we’re currently making might have (fair enough!), if our team or Christian and I do not agree, it’s not gonna happen. Spoiler: 9 out of 10 of my “great” ideas get shot down, but that’s ok because Christian and I made sure to only hire people who are way more creative and smarter at gamedev than us, and we trust their expertise and gut feelings with everything we’ve got.
Long story short, I just wanted to make abundantly clear that our Early Access is not about discussing the direction of EVERSPACE 2, but helping us make the best version of the game we envision. So, keep it coming but also respect the talent and expertise of our team as well as the enormous entrepreneurial risk Christian and I take.
We know that we won’t be able to please every space pilot out there, but we also know what we’re doing as a team of seasoned artists, designers, story writers, and programmers, while Christian and I are 100% personably accountable for every single decision we make. Our motivation is to make a sizeable group of like-minded gamers as happy as possible and make sure that every Felsenfisch makes a decent living from our hard work. That’s really all that’s to it; our creative freedom and individual happiness are absolutely paramount to us.