Starting a Rebellion: Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer on Rebel Galaxy
By Dave Yeager
November 19, 2014 – Rebel Galaxy is an upcoming space-based RPG being built by Double Damage Games. You may not know the studio name, but you know the men behind it: Travis Baldree worked on both Fate and Mythos, while Erich Schaefer co-founded Blizzard North and had a hand in creating a little series called Diablo. These two would go on to create Runic Studios, and craft the highly popular Torchlight and its sequel. Seeking new adventures, both Baldree and Schaefer left Runic earlier this year to build something new: Rebel Galaxy. We got to talk to these industry veterans about what Rebel Galaxy is all about and what they're working to build. Rebel Galaxy
RPGFan: For our readers unfamiliar with the game so far, what's the basic elevator pitch for Rebel Galaxy?
Travis & Erich: The basic elevator pitch is "Be Han Solo!" Fight, trade, explore, smuggle, and befriend, insult, or backstab the people and creatures you encounter, while making a fast buck.

RPGFan: There's been something of a rebirth of "spaceship" type games — from the lovely but lesser-known Drox Operative to the bigger Kickstarter success stories like Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen. Where do you see Rebel Galaxy fitting into that renaissance (or not at all)?
Travis & Erich: I'm really glad there's a resurgence right now, because it is a genre I love. My hope is that we're occupying a corner that nobody else is really paying attention to, with a sort of "Star Control 2/Sid Meier's Pirates in SPAAAACE but with much more interesting combat" thing going on. Rebel Galaxy
RPGFan: Runic Games had huge hits with Torchlight 1 and 2. There had even been some talk at certain points about a Torchlight MMO. What led you to start an entirely new company instead of making a game like this within the infrastructure and culture you helped build at Runic?
Travis & Erich: Some things are just easier to do small. It was never really my dream to run a large company. I like making things — with my own two hands, if possible — and it's been personally very liberating and satisfying for me to work on the game in this way.

RPGFan: Obviously our readers are RPG, er, fans. Mr. Baldree in particular mentioned that Rebel Galaxy was more of a "role-playing" game than anything you've done previously. Can you expand on that a bit?
Travis & Erich: Here's a quick example. In the very first mission, you're asked to pay off a trader in exchange for a shipment of whiskey. He's in trouble with local authorities, so he can't dock. You find him, and he hails you. You've been given 500 credits to make the exchange. So, you can pay him, take the goods, and leave. You can intimidate him into giving them to you for free — he'll probably refuse, but if you rough him up enough in combat he'll give in. (Although with a penalty to merchant factions.) You can also just blow him up and take it. OR you can take the cash, never talk to him, find a cheaper place to buy whiskey, and keep the cream. Rebel Galaxy
RPGFan: What can you tell us about how this game plays (action/twitch vs. building/speccing your ship, etc)? What types of things does it have in common with games like Fate, Diablo, and Torchlight (if any)?
Travis & Erich: It's a mix — and to a certain extent, you have some choice in how much you do of one or the other. Certainly ship advancement (buying new ships, outfitting them, keeping them in repair) is a big part of the game, and scrimping together the cash to beef them up. We've put a lot of effort into the combat system, but you can also choose to set most of your defenses to AI, hire mercenaries, and try to avoid combat where possible. You can spend time trading, or mining, or hunting bounties. Ideally you'll do some of all of these things, but we've built in ways to avoid combat in many circumstances if that's your preference.

RPGFan: Talk about procedurally generated aspects of the game vs. scripted story events. Is there more emphasis on the former or the latter?
Travis & Erich: The universe layout is randomized, and the events and flightgroups that spawn are too. There are scripted story missions, but even those are restructured by the layout of the universe (planet names, economies, environments and locations change, the territory that events direct you to will be different). At its heart, I think it's a sandbox space game, with random missions and activities, and the story serves as a throughline that gives the game more character and exposes you to those systems.

RPGFan: The Torchlight games were very, very mod friendly — even to the extent of releasing the editing tools — and that has led to the amazing level of replayability they have. Will there similar support for this type of thing in Rebel Galaxy?
Travis & Erich: We don't have any initial plans to release mod tools, although it's not something we're expressly prohibiting, and we aren't attempting to lock down the files. I don't have the spare time at this point to devote to it! Rebel Galaxy
RPGFan: Other than your own games, what have been your favorite games to play in the last few years and why?
Travis & Erich: I've been playing Shadow of Mordor lately, and love it. The nemesis system is great! I enjoyed AC:Black Flag, I got a good way into Shovel Knight, and I'm playing Grimrock 2 right now as well. It's been a great few years for games!

RPGFan: When can we have Rebel Galaxy?
Travis & Erich: When it's done! But seriously, in 2015 sometime. We'll get more specific on the date the closer we get to ship.