Interview: Starlink /w Laurent Malville, Creative Director

Before we started rubbing shoulders with consumers at Gamescom, we were invited to a press event to check out Ubisoft’s brand new IP, Starlink.

A full hands-on feature will appear on the site soon, but we also got to chat to the Creative Director of Starlink, Laurent Malville, to ask him about the game and what the future holds.

There’s a lot of weapon choices in the game and the ability to mix things up. How do you achieve balance with that as it must be really tricky to keep that flow going throughout?

It was actually a super interesting design challenge for us to make sure that all weapons can work together but also the different ship class categories. Fortunately, we have a super talented design team. Which helps. But it’s not just designers but also gameplay programmers and others.

We have a super cool and fun design team who are always interacting with one another, playing the game. Somebody is always like ‘Hey, I’ve been playing with those weapons and we should change this.” So we communicate a lot like that.

One of the big challenges is that the whole game is playable with the Starter Pack. So you have to account for that. Like you may not have all the different energies and weapons with you. And so we had to balance the game specifically for that. So that having more weapons and more starships and pilots provide you with more gameplay opportunities. But also if you’re playing with the Starter Pack you can achieve pretty much all of the content in the game.

Our understanding is you don’t need to own the item to unlock it. How does that work in the game?

Basically, you can buy the game in two ways. The physical version which comes with one starship and three weapons on PS4 and Xbox One. There are two weapons on Nintendo Switch, though it comes with an AR-Wing which is a weapon in itself. So I guess you could say the Switch version comes with four weapons with the two wings on the ship.

If you play physical then you have to collect those extra parts. Buy new ships, weapons, and pilots if you want more of those to enrich the gameplay opportunities. But if you have a friend who has different items than you, if he passes you some of his parts, you can unlock them for a temporary amount of time in your game.

That links me onto an interesting question. You have Starfox on Switch but is it possible to play it on Xbox technically because it’s the same kind of model and interface which you plug onto the holder?

Fox McCloud and AR Wing are really an exclusive experience for Nintendo Switch. All the starting parts are compatible on any platform, except the mounts which are specific to each platform’s controller. All the starships and pilots can be played anywhere.

But really, Fox and the AR Wing are dedicated exclusively on Nintendo Switch.

Thought that might be the case but wasn’t sure how the models and holders slotted together. With so many weapons, ships, and pilots, you’ve really opened up opportunities for post-launch content. Do you have any plans for this? Is that something you’re thinking about already?

So I can tell you that we’re planning to support the game post-launch. We’re not revealing anything on that right now but we’re thinking of some really cool stuff for that.

I don’t expect you can tell me this but if you were to release content, do you foresee additional models coming with content out of the box, sort of how LEGO Dimensions approached their DLC?

I can’t really tell you. Believe me, I want to say things.

Something I can tell you regarding that. It was really important for us from the beginning, as a team, to have a collection that would be achievable. So we’re releasing the game with the Starter Pack, four starship packs, four weapon packs, and four pilot packs. So it’s important for us to have something that’s achievable. That you feel you can collect as a player.

About post-launch, we’ll share more as we get closer to the release but right now we’re really focused on the launch date. That’s what’s big for us.

In regards, the base game and the optional objectives, is there end game content for Starlink? For instance, you’ve upgraded your ships and weapons to the max and you’re looking for things to do once the story ends. Could you fight a bigger boss or do a raid later in the game?

Yeah. It’s funny because the game is highly systemic and I don’t if you’ve seen the emergent moment happening when playing, particularly in Act Two as the game opens up more as you progress through the events of Starlink.

There’s a moment in the story where you reach the end of something. I don’t want to spoil it too much but you’ll know. What’s happening, as you play through the game, the systems open up more and more and there’s a moment in the game where it’s really about this big tug of war between the Alliance and how many of the faction outposts you’ve allied to your cause against the progression of the Forgotten Legion. So the game transforms at one point into this big mid-tab battle and this is something which is purely systemically driven.

So, at this point, in terms of hours you can spend, it’s pretty big. Depending on how you want to secure this planet vs the other planet. What type of outposts you’re going to be building there vs somewhere else. So, yeah, this is two different kinds of approach. There’s the storyline and the big systemic aspect of the game that opens up as you get closer to the end.

Is there any particular benefit to spending more time on one planet compared to another?

The world of Starlink is completely open. When you play the game, you can open the star map at any point and in the star map you can see all the different planets.

On each of these, you will be able to encounter different factions, which you will be able to assist in their fight against the Legion. The more you help them, the more they will provide you with different useful bonuses which will in turn help you.

In terms of exploring and scanning and spending time doing that, is it just modifications that you get as a reward for that or are there other kinds of perks you get for spending that time?

There are three big areas of progression in the game. The first is the XP which you extract from the weapons and the starship for your pilot. You’ve seen each Pilot has a different skill tree and the cool thing is that it’s not just making your pilot ability better. Some of the skills you get, depending on the pilot, can benefit your entire collection.

Mason, for example, can increase the speed rate of which you get XP for all the other pilots in your collection. So that’s a collective skill update.

The second is the mod system you’ve seen. All of your starships and weapons have modification slots, you can improve the core of the starship or the armor of the starship. And there’s also some booster modification slots that are about adjusting some stats.

Those mods can be common, rare and legendary and as you progress through the game you’ll be able to collect higher and higher level of mods which you can use in your starship and weapons.

And even later in the game, in the menu is the equinox upgrade menu. With the Equinox – your mothership – you can continue improvements throughout the game and some improvements can help you fuse some mods together. If you fuse two uncommon mods, you’ll get a level two mod out of that. So you’ll be able to play with this progression system.

And the third one is really what we were talking about before. At the point of the game where the battle with the Forgotten Legion reaches its peak, you’ll be able to build outposts and to really secure the Alliance on the planet vs another and have that full scale open star system battle happening.

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