Exocorps is coming and you need to take notice. This first-person indie shooter has been flying under the radar for some time but when we saw a teaser filled with frenzied combat and amazing landscapes, we had to get on comms with Garin Mazaika, founder of Gingerbread games, and Sam Seltzer-Johnston, Engineer at Gingerbread Games, to get a full briefing on exactly what Exocorps is.
Founded way back in 2013 by Garin Mazaika and Rachel Fenn, Gingerbread has been working on Exocorps for almost an entire console generation. However, the result of this protected development is the sort of indie First Person Shooter that you really wouldn’t expect to see in today’s market. Take a moment to check out the teaser trailer above and you’ll notice that this sci-fi style shooter isn’t riding along the crest of recent battel royale successes. Instead, it looks set to seek some seriously bigger targets. As a member of an elite force, gamers can strap into an Exocrop suit. These advanced drone suits allow the owner to take on the harsh realities of the universe, bringing combat across the cosmos and into unknown environments. With a bunch of enhancements and a stonking jetpack, Exocorps seems set to meld together epic dogfights, tactical combat, and some definite memories of Tribes. Rather than keep making assumptions we asked the Gingerbread team about Exocorps.
Garin: Exocorps is, in my own words, the ability to fly around like Iron Man and shoot with weapons like an attack helicopter. Imagine a suit of armour, add a jet pack and you can fly around with. Add in dogfighting scenes from Top Gun and allow players to also run around and dodge behind landforms as they appear. It’s a mix of all these in one game.
Where does the inspiration for al these ideas come crashing together?
Garin: The main inspiration is literally books like Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Dan Simmon’s Hyperion, and Joe Edelman’s Forever War. I’m a real like hard sci-fi fan. There are a couple of books with power armour and I’ve always liked and liked the idea of that capability, yet never quite seen it in a game in the way that I kind of wanted to.
It’s quite clear, looking at the initial teasers and the gameplay mechanics that are on offer, that Exocorps is rooted heavily in the world that Gingerbread has built. The stunning graphics, the tactical gunplay on offer, and utter vast open spaces all look like they could be playing out in a galaxy far far away. Garin noted that, for example, there are only a certain number of weapons that anybody will reasonably be able to carry. Rather than a bag full of infinite ammunition, players in Exocorps will power many of their weapons, rather than drag ammunition around.
“Your health and your ammunition are the same mechanics. So as you’re shooting at somebody and missing them, you’re not draining their health, but you’re draining yours, adding a tactical decision on when to attack,” confirmed Garin.
While players are zooming around outer space or a lush green battlescape, this risk-reward power struggle supports almost all the game’s onboard weapons. This covers a total of two defensive abilities and then there are seven offensive abilities in your advanced multi rifle.
- Mini Gun
Akin to an Aircraft Gun, this rapid-fire destructive energy guzzler ejects a total of 4000 rounds a minute for spray and pray while your energy level plummets.
- Dart Rifle
The Dart Rifle delivers rockets upon your enemies
The autocannon is comparable to an M2 Bradley and fires powerful exploding rounds at enemy Exocorp suits. Working especially well in the air, it can obliterate ground-based targets.
The Laser is, well its an energy-based repeating laser weapon.
- Plasma Rifle
This is where things get serious. When Gingerbread described this, they confirmed it was the “highest damage per second rifle but it’s also the gun that requires the most precision because it’s, the projectiles are small. They’re very fast, but they do have travel time. So when you’re shooting at somebody at a distance, you have to be really good with you’re leading them or they have to be standing still. But that’s the weapon where if you find someone who’s standing still, you can kill them. With it very quickly with a couple, I think like four or five of those shots and it fires very fast.”
- The Railgun
If you’ve played Quake back when fps were young then you’ll know this is Exocorp’s own BFG. Designed to pose a serious shot, this sniper-style weapon will chew up around 60-65% of a player’s health if they are caught standing still. “The game is about movement. We wanted a couple. We wanted a couple of weapons to discourage standing still. The Railgun and the plasma rifle, definitely do that.”
- Missle Swarm
The final offensive weapon in game is the Missile Swarm. Shown very prominently on the trailer above, the Missile Swarm is not centrally powered and has its own recharge cycle, because it is such a seminal piece of your arsenal. It also feels like it comes straight out of an anime, firing six rifles that go swirling around and, according to Garin, “track the enemy very very aggressively.” Gingerbread also noted that “There is a defence against the Missle Swarm, you can launch flares against that. As long as you keep the flares in between you and the missiles, the missiles tend to detonate on the flares.”
- Spray And Pray
Alongside the decision to drain your own energy reserves to get a shot off, Spraying slugs all over the place isn’t going to do you any good either. Exocorps adds a radar style system where players are more or less detectable based on the amount of heat and noise they output. Basically, burn your jets and spray the minigun if you want to be found. This means that, once again, all ut attacks aren’t always a great idea. Hiding behind a rock might leave you vulnerable to a Rail gun but you’ll have to be found first, and there are plenty of different ways to make that work across various maps.
How many maps will players get to try out in Exocorps?
Garin: Right now, there are two maps which are pretty open, the Desert Night map and the moon map. Although they are both are quite open they play quite differently because the moon is low gravity. The other maps, the terrestrial ones are Strata and Monument. Those ones have much larger features. Due to the difference in terrain, you wind up seeing certain tactics play out a little different in different maps. It’s easier to hide on some maps. On other maps, the features are larger so you can actually you can stay out of the line of sight completely for a longer period of time before you wind up engaging. It’s really easy to dodge behind a mountain and that’s a great way to defend in some situations. You can do that but then, because some rock formations have gaps, the other player can come ploughing through that if they are piloting well. I want to experiment as we continue on with changing up the frequency of objects in some of the maps as we continue development.
The moon, in particular, adds in a ton of difference. What’s fun about the moon is that the low gravity means that you can launch yourself with the jets but coast very far because of that low gravity. Now, normally when you’re on earth You’ve got to fly all the time to keep yourself in the air. On the moon, that’s not true. And what this does is it changes how detectable you need to be to get from A to B. It really changes how the game plays.
What Game modes are going to be available in Exocorps?
Garin: So you can play vs AI both online and offline. The maps we have can support up to 10 players and we have three modes of gameplay,. There’s straight-up Deathmatch, there’s Team Deathmatch, and then we’ve got capture the flag as well for those of Tribes pedigree.
With vast alien landscapes stretching out before gamers, particle effect, and a ton of frenzied action ongoing it was something of a shock to find out that the gorgeous-looking landscapes that makeup Exocorp are all built-in Unreal 3, an engine that is largely on the brink of becoming last-gen tech. Without bleeding-edge enhancements, we asked Gingerbread how exactly they got Exocorps to look so dam pretty.
Garin: Really, a lot of it is knowing what the limitations of any engine are. In terms of lighting and shaders, you could get you can get most of your sort of photorealistic look you can get like 90 to 95% there on technology that was available 15 years ago if you know what you’re doing with it. I trained up originally on the Doom 3 engine and then I worked at Crystal Dynamics, and the artists there are fantastic at doing stuff that would still run on a PlayStation 2 and 3. They were trying to make really nice looking games but cramming it into whatever the hundreds of Megabytes, of memory that’s on a console. That forces you to learn tricks. You learn how to optimise stuff. So, for unreal we do some things to keep it looking photorealistic. Even though we don’t have all the most modern technology. You’ll notice that there’s not a lot of metal in our game. There’s not a lot of lights in our game, we use the sunlight or the moonlight generally, and we have flashes from the weapons. But if you look at modern photorealistic games, they’re using lighting and throwing lights all over the place. They’re putting lots of metal in it so they can show off the cool reflective technology and all this sort of stuff. When you’re rendering a desert, you don’t need much because rocks are pretty matte. I’m designing the art around what the engine can do and then just like throwing everything I can at it.
For a big-budget AAA studio, using tricks like these rather than pushing for the next best tech might seem like too much of a compromise, but even as an indie title, Exocorps has been some time coming. Garin detailed how, he initially started on the road to this anime esque, mecha, dogfighting fps.
Garin: I picked it up Exocrops seriously after I left Crystal Dynamics on the Tomb Raider series. I was getting a little bummed with AAA, I’m sure you’ve heard stories about how rough the AAA experience can be and I was like, ‘screw this I’m gonna go indie, and I’m going to make my own game.’ However, the first partner I worked with, didn’t work out. The second partner I worked with didn’t work out. Then I had to put the project on ice for a little while until I met the woman who is my wife now and the mother of my children. And she’s a programmer, and I was an artist and we were both decided that we could crack at this for a little while. We did that for a year. And she sort of laid the foundation of it a couple of years ago. Eventually, one of us had to get a job and the game required more content. Between these things and the level of fidelity I wanted for the game, that just takes time or lots of money and we didn’t have lots of money to throw at it. So that was just me cranking on it for a while.
While that means that Exocorps has been long in the making, this unique jetpack deathmatch brings its own tactical approach to destruction very soon. Exocorps is due to hit Early Access on PC come 17 September, when you’ll be able to strap into an Exo suit and escape the mass of battle royale clones for something very different. Check out the Exocorps Steam Store page now before it launches into Early Acess.