After hearing great things about StarDrive from its recent Steam beta launch I decided to check it out. I pre-ordered the game and as such was able to try out the Beta. If you are looking for a deep space warfare game, StarDrive is the game to get. I was very impressed with StarDrive and when I reached out to Daniel DiCicco for an interview realized that we both hail from the always amazing Portland Oregon area.

jdodson: You just posted the StarDrive beta to Steam for people that pre-order the game. What is your reaction to how people have been playing the StarDrive beta?

Daniel DiCicco: I am absolutely thrilled with the response that we've gotten. People seem to be genuinely enjoying the game, we've held steady in the Top 10 on Steam during our first weekend, and our community is really cooking with great ideas and enthusiasm. Frankly it's a major relief! I've worked so hard on this game over the past couple of years and this warm reception is everything I could have hoped for.

jdodson: You started things off with a successful Kickstarter and now the game will release on Steam April 19th. I wonder what your plans are after the game launches?

Daniel DiCicco: Well, StarDrive is a living product. I intend to continue to work on the game for a full year after release, supporting it with free updates and perhaps some meatier expansions down the way.

jdodson: After watching a few tutorial videos I jumped head first into StarDrive and started colonizing planets as the Ralyeh. I think I spread myself a bit too thin and started getting hammered by the Vulfen. They had much better ships than I did and when I started hitting them back my colonies starting starving and then many revolted. I had a blast playing the game and was eager to take a crack at another one, with that I wonder what kind of basic strategy you would suggest for people new to the game?

Daniel DiCicco: I recommend building a few strong core worlds and supporting them well. Spreading yourself too thin can lead to slower development and also makes your empire difficult to defend. But not all of the maps, which are procedurally generated of course, will give you the option of having a great planet nearby. Invest in the technologies you need to improve crummy planets if that's all you have. Some biospheres, tax offices, and deep core mine can make a pretty swell planet even if it does have a low population.

jdodson: I wonder what you wish people could know about what you put into making the game?

Daniel DiCicco: Perseverance. It's the number one thing I put into StarDrive. Number 2 is money. You gotta pay for the art, and that's not cheap! But without perseverance money doesn't matter. I had to get up every day, believe in my vision, and put my nose to the grindstone. Even when there are doubts. Even when I am tired.

jdodson: What is one aspect of StarDrive that you are really proud of?

Daniel DiCicco: Collision detection! In StarDrive the ships are not just single entities with hitpoints -- they are instead these massive grid layouts of ship modules. In combat, these ships can can blown apart piece by piece, and it really matters where and how you arrange these modules. The thing I am most proud of is that I managed to get this code running at 60 frames per second, because the amount of math StarDrive has to do to keep the simulation running accurately is absurd. Just imagine that a single Titan ship can have 2300 modules, and for even one projectile moving towards that ship, I need to figure out which of those 2300 module it hits. And the game updates 60 times per second, with dozens or hundreds of ships, thousands of projectiles -- if you aren't smart about it, you get a slideshow for a game. So figuring all that out, that's what I'm most proud of.

jdodson: How many keypads would you say the Kulrathi go through in a given year?

Daniel DiCicco: Well, the bearzerkers probably go through one or two a day. But the more enlightened of their species are delicate typers!

jdodson: As I was playing StarDrive I was impressed that it had a deep experience, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed on my first game. I wonder what design choices you made to keep the rich experience yet not make things too complicated?

Daniel DiCicco: Well I should emphasize that StarDrive as it exists today is not written anywhere but in the code. The design documents paint a picture but the game today is very different. This is because of the iteration, the constant testing and feedback. The bottom line is that the game needs to be fun but it can't be so simple that you tire of it quickly. I guess in some ways I just got lucky by arriving at a sweet spot. I took some guesses about what was going to be fun and then people told me that it was indeed fun, and so I kept doing those things. And when I went to far and made it too complicated or unfun, I would dial back those features.

jdodson: When I look at the available races in StarDrive the Humans stick out to me as looking out of place compared to the others. I guess what I mean by that is that they don’t seem relatively domineering in StarDrive. I wonder what kinds of qualities you wanted to ensure were carried to each race in the final game? Which race do you typically play as?

Daniel DiCicco: I probably have the most time logged as Humans because it is the default option. I just load up the game and get to testing and don't mess with race design. I think what I want to get across for all the races is just a sense of personality. I put a lot of effort into writing dialog for the races and in trying to keep their tone consistent. I also wanted them to be a bit lighthearted.

jdodson: Were the Optris created by one of the playable races or did they wipe out the beings that created them ALA Terminator and or Matrix style?

Daniel DiCicco: They created themselves. They were once organic beings but they ditched their bodies.

jdodson: I wonder what's the longest game of StarDrive you’ve played?

Daniel DiCicco: Actually probably only an hour or two. But I have like 300 hours logged on Steam. It's just that I play, test, fix/code, play, test ,fix/code. Over and over.

jdodson: As I was playing StarDrive I quite enjoyed the music. I am wondering if there might be a possible release of the score at some point?

Daniel DiCicco: We hope so! Right now the focus is on the game. Afterwards I think we will release a soundtrack but we have no specific plans right now.

jdodson: The first time I saw the Cordrazine I was both amused and disturbed. My first thought was if the Owlwok’s could ever gain their independence from the Cordrazine. Do you anticipate this happening at some point or are the Owlwok’s incapable of the intellect needed for becoming a spacefaring race?

Daniel DiCicco: I think we'll see some cool Owlwok stuff in DLC some day. I really like those guys and a liberated Owlwok player race would be awesome.

jdodson: I wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk to me about StarDrive, its a fantastic game I look forward to playing more of. Is there anything else you want to say before we wrap things up?

Daniel DiCicco: Thanks a lot man. Life is very exciting right now and I'm just thrilled to be in the position to continue working on this game that people love.

StarDrive is available right now on Steam for pre-order with immediate access to the games beta.

They also dropped a few of songs off the score yesterday as well if you are interested.