AMA Dev Highlights: New Content for ICARUS at Release and Going Forward (November 2021)

Wondering how ICARUS will look like at launch? Considering buying the game, but would like to know what the development team plans for its future? Simply curious about what’s in store for the title you have been following all this time? Well, we have quite a pleasant treat for you today!

Just a few hours ago, lead developers of the game held an AMA discussion on ICARUS’s Discord server: it was led by Dean Hall (the Chief Executive at RocketWerkz and the Gamerunner behind ICARUS), along with Liam Bates/Lil Shammgod (the Marketing Manager), and Dylan West (the Executive Producer).

In this post we have transcribed our favorite questions and answers from the AMA event regarding gameplay features we can expect to see in ICARUS after its release on December 4th. Please note that the responses we chose to feature have been shortened for conciseness and edited for readability.

Also, please keep in mind that the New Zealand team has been working under a lockdown for a couple of months now due to the pandemic, which affected some plans and development efforts (including the original release date).

With that being said, let’s dive into it!

What New Missions Will We See After Launch?

Question: (@Baconparticles) How many more missions will be offered at launch compares to what was already seen in the beta weekends?

Dean Hall: I think that the general approach has been to try and figure out how we should approach handling the missions. [During] the Beta Weekend periods we kind of experimented with different ways of doing missions and then sort of honed in. I think we want to expand with that.

So, I think for us it’s less about quantity and much more about quality. What we really want to do is try and provide missions that give you a compelling reason to come back and try a different area or a different approach. So, we haven’t been focusing massively on, “hey, we need to achieve this particular quantity,” it’s really been more about “what are the types of missions we can do,” and then, I think, even beyond 1.0 it will be about continuing to expand upon that.

icarus ama dozens of new missions after launch

Dylan West: So, the way we have been getting a lot of them in is, you know, after this fighting on sort of the structure, the designers have got quite a long list — the list might be different on the last day, but we are looking at dozens that all start out by putting the “thin” version of the mission and then building the detail into it as we go. That’s that point you were talking about, about building quality into them. It’s just going to be something that we are doing right after release.

Dean Hall: A lot of it as well is about what works with the game. That’s been a big focus. Often we will be like, “hey, this will be a very cool mission to do,” or, “this will be a very cool thing to do,” we try it out and we just don’t like it. So, it won’t make it in or it will be changed.

Question: (@Vantoro) I can’t tell you how disappointed I am with the Extermination mission. […] Hopefully it gets adjusted by launch.

Dylan West: The Beta missions won’t be included in launch. This was a chance for people to revisit ones from weeks ago.

What Other Updates Await Us After Launch, Outside of Paid Content?

Question: (@Andurin) What kind of content updates can we expect between [the DLC] chapters?

Dylan West: One of the things we are going to be spending a lot of time looking at post-release is how to work in content updates that are happening outside the work towards one of those first chapter releases, the “Dangerous Horizons” and “New Frontiers.” It will take a while to get the right cadence on figuring out how much the team can do during one of those periods and the sort of things that players want, because I know that the designers for sure will have all sorts of things that they will continue to want to add after release.

icarus ama new fourth crafting tier unlocked after launch

Dean Hall: With the end of the Beta period we’ve kind of solidified the game down, and that’s when we can actually pump in new content in a much more, not necessarily “relaxed” fashion, but in a much more confirmed way because the game is not changing all over the place. You can sort of imagine how difficult it is for us, our art team, and our audio team we made at the moment to be trying to add content to the game when the game is changing all the time. We have pretty big and exciting plans for additional content.

Question: (@Dionaea) After Beta Weekend 7, will we have seen everything that will be in the game at release?

Dylan West: Not at all. Whole new set of missions, a new Planetary Tech Tree tier, a lot more items craftable at the station… I’ll leave the rest of the details to marketing because I’m not sure how much I can say.

Question: (@Kershek) Did I miss something in the AMA about vehicles and launch? I thought they were planned for inclusion later.

Lil Shammgod: Later — they will be in 1.0, but not at launch (current plan, subject to change.)

(Excerpt from another question.) Dean Hall: …what I most am looking forward to [aside] from that is vehicles, probably. I think that vehicles will change the game completely. You know, the component system that we’ve got for them, the way they interact with the building system and the stability system, I just am really excited for that.

icarus ama vehicles introduced soon after launch

New Alien Creatures, Animals, Biomes, Weather?

Question: (@Landford) How much more “alien” will the planet get?

Dean Hall: It’s something that has been brought up a lot. It’s, you know, something we always want to do and like to do, but I think good art in a game is about consistency and making sure that the art all stitches together well.

We wanted to take the player from a place of familiarity and then drag them into something else, because I think that does all the emotional hooks about getting you into the game. It’s something we do want to introduce, and you’ve already seen it with, you know, the sandworm. We are kind of introducing that on the edges, as it makes sense with the lore and stuff like that, too.

Question: (@Andurin) Icarus is a home to a variety of mammals, but is apparently devoid of other taxonomic kingdoms, like birds and reptiles. Will there be additional phyla added, aside from fish?

Dean Hall: How much are we saying, Dylan?

Lil Shammgod: (Chuckles.)

Dylan West: I don’t know, you are the Gamerunner!

Dean Hall: Um… yeah, definitely! So, the only reason I am a little reluctant is because we have to try some things out and see how they work.

For example, let’s say hypothetically we were going to add a bird, particularly if it was hypothetically a bird I really like, a New Zealand mountain parrot called a kea (which is absolutely my favorite bird and people should go and google them — they’re just incredible, incredible animals).

The problem with it is, they are quite different from the animals we have at the moment. Which means, they need a new unique animation set, and how they transition between animations is very different. Then, they need a bunch of AI behaviors and a whole bunch of stuff like that.

What we think, for something like that, might be very straightforward, but we actually have to figure it out. So, the answer is a cautiously optimistic “yes,” there will be more different kinds of animals, not just variations on four-legged animals. But, it has to be tempered with, “does it work?” and can we, without investing ridiculous amounts of effort and breaking the game, make sure that they start working… because, there is no point in us, say, adding birds to the game if they just look terrible.

So, we’ve had experiments with a number of different things and, yeah, they have worked out really well (and then sometimes they haven’t). So, for us, I think, it’s a matter of we try something out, see how it goes, and if it doesn’t work out, maybe try it again or just ditch it. So, it’s definitely something we have ongoing plans to introduce more and more of, as time goes on.

Question: (@SaibaX) We’ve seen some of the amazing weather effects you guys have cooked up so far but I’m curious, will we be seeing any other world events? For example: various magnitudes of earthquakes, solar storms that [affect] electronics, volcanic events, flooding, acid rain, etc.

Dean Hall: Yeah, definitely! That’s one thing that, I think, worked pretty well. We originally had a lot more biomes and the worlds, but we cut them down just because they were providing us a real problem in terms of performance and optimization. The more different biomes that you could, maybe see in one go — the more textures that had to be loaded, the more problems we had from the weather front in terms of effects and transitions and stuff like that.

We will probably see a lot more of that as we introduce new terrains that people can play in, because they will have new biomes, and new biomes will have new storms, and… yeah.

icarus ama new terrains and biomes after launch

But, also, because of the way we’ve built the game we can add, essentially, modifiers and stuff like that on even per drop basis. So, you might be going into the same terrain, but you might be facing a different challenge. Definitely… we’ve build a robust system for us to be able to alter the mission that you are playing at the time and we plan to use that pretty extensively.

What Features Are Still Missing, But Might Get Introduced?

Question: (@Soundy) What is the feature/gameplay you dreamed of most for prospectors but didn’t end up developing, and why?

Dean Hall: I think-… well, for now, anyway, we had really grand plans with the Orbital ([which functions as] the middle loop): floating around it and doing a whole bunch of stuff that we had planned.

icarus ama cut features orbital station gameplay coming back

The reason that didn’t end up making the cut now is because we knew we can layer that in later and it was one of the more easier, in a way, parts to do, but not anywhere near as essential. We really did try and focus the project entirely on that core game loop of the Planetary survival and then looked at the middle layer stuff as something we could develop and build on as the game goes on. For example, behind the scenes your dropship is actually constructed of pieces, but we disabled the constructing of the dropship.

In some ways, we would get it all working and serviceable, but we realized we were throwing too much stuff at players all at once. So, we needed to deal with that new player experience at the same time. Because, if we didn’t, then people wouldn’t be able to play the game. And, if you look at one of our other projects, Stationeers, I think that a lot of people would really enjoy that game, but they struggled to figure it out because so much was required for you to understand it all in one go, and you just can’t. And, I think the game can suffer a lot from that.

So, there are a lot of reasons we cut a lot of stuff out, but that was one that made me sad. I suppose, the advantage of it is, it’s something that we can and do plan to bring in more and more of as we go along.

Dylan West: Um… I really wanted to place the picture of Jake’s original Dropship Editor, but I thought I would put a watermark on it, say that it’s clearly an old prototype, just in case. (Laughs.) Like, “what the hell is this?”

icarus ama original dropship editor design prototype
“Very ‘Stationeers.'” – @Kershek, Community Mod.

I really liked the layered stuff, that would be mine for sure. And, the cool thing is, it’s not something we had to, like, abandon completely-…

Dean Hall: Yeah, exactly.

Dylan West: …it’s just things that we have accepted that we have to park to get the Planetary loop to where it is now, you know… we had to sacrifice some of the dream goals temporarily.

Dean Hall: I think it’s still correct to say that, technically, you have a buildable dropship. It’s just that we’ve built it — there is only one configuration. (Laughs.)

We hope you saw something interesting in our highlights compilation! Did developers miss your burning question? Are you excited for the promised gameplay features or reserved about getting a copy until you see some reviews?

Let us know in the comments below!

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Mila Grish
Mila Grish

Dedicated contributor at EIP Gaming and a part-time collector of books she will never have time to actually read. Jumps on the newest releases just as quickly as on the uncovered dusty collections from the basement. For her, shiny graphics can never be an excuse to not have a polished player experience or an immersive story.

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