Guys, FTL: Advanced Edition is out now for Windows, Mac and iPad. The new version, which is $9.99 on iPad and a free update for FTL owners on other platforms, adds a ton of new features: two new systems, a new subsystem, a new race (including a new ship and new sectors), lots of new quests (written by the great Chris Avellone of Icewind Dale and Fallout: New Vegas fame), and a bunch of UI improvements. It's a must-download.
I had the great pleasure of discussing FTL: Advanced Edition and FTL iPad with Justin Ma, the game's co-creator, about some of the new features and where the ideas came from. Enough talk, let's dive in.
1. Why did you decide to create the Advanced Edition, and why did you decide to release it for free?
FTL: Advanced Edition began as a small update of improvements meant to release alongside the iPad launch. This is the initial reason we planned to release it for free - it was originally going to be quite small. Eventually we had enough new content to consider it a proper expansion, however we stuck to our initial plan of releasing it for free. In the end we felt the Advanced Edition content made FTL a more complete product.
2. How did you decide what to add? Did you have concrete plans when you started?
We never had a solid plan of how much content to add. Our feature list just grew over time. Some of the content consisted of small improvements and visual polish. Some changes were a result of trying to adapt the game for touch interfaces (such as the "return to stations" buttons). Other larger changes (such as the Lanius race and the other ship layouts) were added once we decided to make AE a proper expansion.
3. What was the inspiration for the Clone Bay? It really changes game strategy - was it difficult to balance? Why did you decide to have it apply to some noncombat events, but not all?
The Clone Bay was conceived because we wanted an alternative to the Medbay. It took a number of iterations to get the balance to feel right but in the end we feel it encourages an alternative playstyle. Everyone may have different opinions on the matter but with the Clone Bay, I view my crew as expendable tools rather than compatriots. We only allowed the Clone Bay to affect events that thematically made sense. If your crew gets left behind somewhere rather than killed we didn't want you be able to clone them.
4. Was it difficult to teach the AI to use the new systems?
In general most mechanics are simple enough to allow the computer to use. However, like many other things, the AI doesn't use them particularly efficiently - they don't consistently target the most important systems (such as weapons/shields/engines); they don't use some weapons effectively (like timing volleys or using the charge weapons). However we're fine with this, since it often is the cause of some of the more interesting random situations.
5. How did you decide on the traits of the Lanius? What was the process for developing and integrating a new race?
Like most things we began with the gameplay. We knew we wanted a race that interacted with oxygen differently than the others. It took a lot of trial and error, but in the end we opted for the simple idea that they act as a breach and take no damage from lack of oxygen. Once we had a clear idea of the gameplay, we worked out an aesthetic style and background story that could fit in with the gameplay.
6. Why did you decide to add Type C layouts? Anything really crazy, like the Engi Type B?
Most ship layouts are meant to encourage a different initial playstyle or strategy. Since we added a number of different game mechanics, we needed new ship layouts to capitalize on new potential strategies. There are a few bizarre and challenging layouts especially the Federation Cruiser C and the Zoltan Cruiser C.
7. How did you integrate the new events and stories within the existing structure? How was working with Chris Avellone?
Working with Chris Avellone was great. He put a lot of effort to match the existing style of events written by us or Tom [Jubert] while still adding interesting new scenarios. Most of the new events are confined to the Lanius' "Abandoned Sectors," but there are some scattered throughout the rest of the maps. We tried not to upset the general balance of how many of each type of events were found in a sector (i.e. how many combat events, finding stuff events, events with choices, etc). Instead we just tried to add new content to each group. That way, there's more variety but we don't have to worry about breaking the overall balance.
8. Why did you add Hard Mode? Is it beatable? Any tips?
Believe it or not, there are a pretty sizable number of FTL fans who feel FTL is too easy [Editor's note: I'm one of them]. They can beat it on normal consistently - even beating the game with self-imposed constraints like no O2 or no pausing [Editor's Note: I'm not that good!]. For these players the primary challenge is just whether they'll have a setup able to beat the boss by the 8th sector. We added Hard mode to hopefully bring back the pressure throughout the game. It is entirely beatable, although I haven't been able to yet. The best tips apply to all difficulty modes, such as trying to collect scrap efficiently and how to mitigate damage as much as possible.
9. Does the iPad version include all the Advanced Edition features? How were you able to develop the Advanced Edition and the iPad version at the same time?
All of the gameplay and content is identical between the PC and iPad versions. The iPad version was ported by Andrew Church (who also brought Aquaria to iPads) and it's because of him that the game runs as well as it does on iPad. We assisted with most of the design changes on iPad but Andrew helped us by taking care of the technical brunt-work (which also allowed us to have the free time to add AE's content).
10. Do you have further plans for FTL in the future?
We view FTL: Advanced Edition as the complete version of the game and we are looking forward to moving on to other projects. However we will look into bringing FTL to other tablets and touch controls to PC.
Thanks to Justin for taking the time to chat with us - and if you haven't had time to try out FTL: Advanced Edition yet, get it here for iPad and here on Steam (and remember: Advanced Edition is free for current FTL owners).