Blackspace isn’t dead, it’s resting. Team break long silence

Blackspace PixelFoundry

I’d forgotten about Blackspace. You probably had to. There’s so little space in our brain RAM that we can’t hold onto data about every game project that crosses our path, not least the ones that fail their Kickstarters and go silent for more than a year. Even if they are space-based RTS games with voxel environments and artwork prettier than the current apple of your eye.

So when I got an email saying there’d been a project update I was surprised. Then I started getting excited.

A lot has changed since Blackspace failed its Kickstarter in 2012.

“Ever since the Kickstarter fell through we were frantically exploring other options in an effort to get this game made in a timely manner,” write PixelFoundry in their first update in quite some time. “Finally we decided we needed to get Jobs since no one was piling money at our front door…I checked every day. PixelFoundry communication has been down due to our contracts with our places of employment.

“So why the communication now? We have a bit more latitude now due to some recent job changes by our group. We love this game and have poured years of work into it, we are not going to abandon it. Now that were free of a few shackles we can start communicating a bit more. Hopefully you guys are interested enough to come along on this slow and bumpy ride.”

Not so dead, after all. The team always said they’d continue work on the game but their silence had given their fans cause for concern.

Something quite significant has changed in the past year, though. Something that ties into the last update on the project PixelFoundry pushed out. Steam Early Access.

Despite failing its Kickstarter campaign in October, 2012, Blackspace was one of the early games to be voted through Steam’s Greenlight group. At the time that meant when the game was ready for release PixelFoundry would be free to sell the game through Steam. Since then Steam Early Access has allowed developers, particularly Greenlight-approved developers, to start selling their game earlier, while still in alpha. Something Blackspace was approaching before the Kickstarter campaign began.

Which leads to PixelFoundry’s Mechanically Challenged build. “We are working on putting together the “Mechanically Challenged” pre-alpha demo which we had originally promised during our Kickstarter campaign,” wrote PixelFoundry back in November 2012. “This has meant that we had to hammer out some of the rough edges (in some cases literally) that did not get featured in our previous media showcases, as well as removing the reliance on dev-only debug functionality that we use on a day-to-day basis. So things like input control assignments along with gamepad support and graphics settings are now properly customizable via the front-end UI. There is still much to expose to the end-user UI however, not to mention that the UI system overall itself is still in need of a decent facelift. The good part about this effort will be that there will be little-to-no lost work that we would not have had to do for the final version anyway.”

That sounds like just the sort of thing that could be sold through Steam Early Access.

The details of the demo are slim but “As part of the demo, we will provide a series of gameplay mechanics challenges that will help the player get familiar with and ultimately master a particular mechanic of the game while keeping it fun and competitive. It will be through these challenges that the player gets a chance to experience these features before they are made available in the proper full-fledged scenarios.”

Hopefully Blackspace will become a story of success, where a great game concept overcomes huge development challenges to become a fantastic game. I’m going to be following this one closely.