Hi folks!

We are Blackbird Interactive, the Vancouver-based developer of the recently released and critically acclaimed Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak published by Gearbox Software. Rob Zacny of PC Gamer gave us a 90/100 and Editor's Choice while Luke Plunkett of Kotaku said we are "...The best RTS game in years." We'd love to talk to you about our past, our future as a studio, everything Homeworld, and everything else you’d like to ask us about!

Today we will be joined by:

Rob Cunningham CEO of Blackbird Interactive and Creative Director of Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak. Rob was a co-founder of Relic Entertainment and the Art Director on the original Homeworld.

J. Aaron Kambeitz Aaron was a co-founder of Relic and the Lead Artist on the original Homeworld. Aaron is Chief Creative Officer at Blackbird.

Jonathan Dowdeswell Jonathan (Or JD) was the General Manager at Relic for a number of years and worked on Dawn of War 1&2, Company of Heroes 1&2, and was the Executive Producer on Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

Jeff Lydell Jeff was a producer at Relic Entertainment and worked on Company of Heroes and Dawn of War 2. Jeff is a Senior Producer at Blackbird.

Rory McGuire That's me! I'm an alumnus of High Moon Studios and Sony Online Entertainment. I've spent 12 years in this awesome industry! I'm the Lead Game Designer at Blackbird.

We're here to talk about Homeworld, games, game development, the RTS genre, our inspirations in film and music... or anything else you guys want to talk about. Ask us anything!

Proof here on Facebook.


Thank you guys tremendously! We are wrapped! Please continue to join us on /r/homeworld and our official forums or follow us at @insidebbi on twitter or our Facebook page

Also, we're happy to leave you guys with this trailer, being shown for the first time! This "Chatter Trailer" is assembled and scored by Mr. Paul Ruskay, which demonstrates some of our cool unit audio. I believe all of the dialogue he used for this can be heard in game!

Last but not least we'd like to thank Gearbox Software for their respect and reverence for the Homeworld universe and the tremendous opportunity they've given us to continue the franchise. Thank you guys much!

Comments: 366 • Responses: 17  • Date: 

StrawberryCharlotte12 karma


As a long-time Homeworld fan I was stoked to have another chapter and it didn't disappoint. Smashed my way through the campaign in ten hours and left hungering for more (in a positive way)! It's so great to have a proper RTS come out!

I wanted to ask what kind of plans you guys had for future Campaign DLC or expansions, introducing new factions maybe. As someone who dips in and out of MP, I wanted to hear what plans for single-player, since HW is known for its amazing stories!

Also, mods. Are you planning on Mod support?

On a more personal note, I used to be active in the RelicNews fanfic community and DoK has made me itch to write HW fic again. What are you guys' thoughts on derivative stuff such as fanfic and fanart?

BBI-Rory12 karma

We've confirmed we will do DLC at some point but we're not announcing anything yet. (We're less than a week from launch!) But we will have some news on this in the future.

We are supporting modders as best we can and have pledged to not pursue code or legal blocks as long as a mod isn't poisoning the user experience for other players. (IE, MP hacks!) We'll have some more engineering support and Q&A in our forums in the coming days, we're still tackling live support for launch.

As far as fanfic and fan art goes we positively love it! I've been retweeting fan art all week! We've also got a spot for Community Media in our forums - would love to see anything you produce there!


Hello BBI,

I'm an RTS fanatic, and I've long considered Homeworld to be an absolute pinnacle of the genre. HW and HW2 were so incredible, undeniably ahead of their time and are absolutely stunning, brilliant works of art. DOK maintains this standard of excellence.

What makes DOK stand above any RTS release I can recall in recent history is the extremely polished, tactically deep, exciting gameplay and combat. This game has such wonderfully nuanced multiplayer gameplay that it's not hard to imagine it developing a vibrant multiplayer scene or even becoming an e-sport, but whether that happens or not I suspect will depend heavily on the features and support provided for the title post-release.

  • What plans do BBI and Gearbox have for supporting the multiplayer experience and ensuring its health going into the future in light of concerns over features and functionality at release?

  • Are there any plans to improve the situation with regards to region fragmentation in matchmaking?

BBI-Rory5 karma

Thank you for the support!

We've got the beginnings of our plans here and as I've said elsewhere, we want to continue to support the multiplayer community post launch!

ForceUser1288 karma

There's bound to be a lot fo serious questions so I'll lighten it up a bit!

  1. What was your favorite mission to make or play? There has to be one that stands out for each of you? Maybe not the same one?

  2. What unit is your favorite unit? Can one of of each Gaalsien/Coaltion or just one all round.

  3. What is the most outrageous concept or idea that you guys tossed out?

BBI-Rory9 karma

  1. I really like Mission 3 - it has a real rich Homeworld vibe to it, feels like the challenge of the desert, gives some of our first story reveals... Really dig this level /u/BBI-MichaelK was the principal mission designer on it. In many ways this was the first mission that felt really good during development.

  2. Personal favorite is the Armored Assault Vehicle. Visually it's powerful and visceral, gameplay wise it has a lot of richness and utility from it's smokescreen. Very versatile unit.

  3. Oh man, there's always a ton. The personal favorite that I threw out was not having fog of war and instead do point to point simulation of units actually seeing each other. Thus, you could hide units behind terrain or see an opposing unit 10KM away on a hilltop. But it was ludicrous as a system - It would have been a very long time to get it online and performant but the real nail in the coffin is it would have been really hard to communicate. For scope reference, we got the power shunting, height advantage and line of fire systems instead. I'd make the same decision again and take these three!

NewAgeOfPower8 karma

Hi, I am one of the admins of the Homeworld 3 Fangroup on Facebook - how has the reception to Deserts of Kharak been compared to your expectations?

Uncertain if this question is allowed, but what was the music budget? It sounds so incredible I go to sleep dreaming of Kharakian/Kushan music!

BBI-Rory11 karma

If we reviewed well and sold well but the fans hated the game - we, and Gearbox, would have considered this a failure. Beyond sales and reviews our key metric was the fans and the fan reception has been overwhelmingly positive. So, we are very stoked, reviews and sales have been extremely positive as well.

We're very happy!

tupper8 karma

Hey guys!! I’m really glad that you decided to do this AMA. I was so excited by the release of Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak that I made a YouTube channel just to take an in-depth look at the trailers! Now, I’ve got even more plans since the game’s release and I’m super excited to see what you’ve got in store for us in the future. I’ve got a few questions, but I’ll try to keep my enthusiasm in check so you can get to other people.

  • What is your attitude and approach towards eSports? The RTS genre lends itself by nature to the eSports scene, and DoK is no slouch. However, there are a few key features missing from DoK to allow the scene to flourish. Do you have plans to implement Observer mode and replays?
  • Just for emphasis, I really, really want Observer mode. With at least two slots. How much beer/whiskey/grain alcohol should I ship your way to make this happen?
  • I’m positive that this’ll be asked by many people, but-- hotkey reassignment? In the works?
  • Taking on the Homeworld name meant following up on one of the most heart-wrenching space opera storylines ever to appear in video game media. How did you approach this Everest of a challenge, with all the eyes of thousands upon thousands of Homeworld fans on you?
  • Without too many spoilers, what kind of future content do you have planned? Singleplayer DLC, multiplayer maps, new units?

Like I said I’d try to keep this short, so I’ll just end by saying thank you. You guys are incredible and have breathed new life into my favorite franchise of all time.

BBI-JD14 karma

Hi everyone! Great questions...glad to be part of this....

  • Esports, yes, big fans of it. With DoK we knew that the biggest thing we needed to nail was a compelling narrative and sense of immersion. The only way to do that well in an RTS is to have good core gameplay, but we intentionally didn't pursue eSports as well, as that is a lot to bit off. (Make sense? Core gameplay is needed for both eSports and Campaign, but since our main game focus with this one was Campaign, we did Core/Campaign, not Core/eSports.) Anyway, we did develop the Artifact Retrieval mode in mind with creating something new, fresh, and fun to play or watch. We have some of the features that can lay a foundation for eSports, like up to 6 players, leaderboards, matchmaking, chat, etc, but are missing some things like Observer, Replays, Broadcasting. Without getting into specifics, because you never know till it's done, what I can say is that we are actively developing still, and these features are in consideration. (Rory may have mentioned something about Replays in a Forum post yesterday?) We would love to see our Multiplayer community flourish and turn into something worthy of an eSports inclusion. (This all sort of answers/touches on your first 3 points, and 5th.)(I know without a lot of concrete answers, but hopefully with enough "trust us we're paying attention!" to satisfy.)

  • For the 4th question....yeah....what a doozy of a thing to follow-up! I was part of Relic during Homeworld 2, but didn't work on it. Here at Blackbird we not only chose to play in the same universe, but chose to do a prequel. It's WAAAY harder than I imagined! We had so many moments of regretting that decision, but pushed through. Trying to deliver something that is satisfying, true to canon, pushes the fiction further without upsetting, and correctly sets up the pre-existing games is hard. To approach it, basically at the start of the project we did a TON of review. We played the (un-Remastered yet) original games. We got Rob and Aaron to give the team big debriefs on how the original storyline went, plus how they were developed. We created a bible of information. Visuals of the timeline, events that were declared in Animatics, revealed in gameplay, written in the Technical Briefing, debated on the various forums. We cross referenced sources, trying to be sure we could always remember what was explicitly known, and what was implied, and what wasn't legit. We brought David Williams (who was involved in story on the original HW) into the mix. And then we iterated. We changed the events of the story a lot during development. Locations, characters, etc. Mostly in response to what was and wasn't working gameplay wise, or was/wasn't achievable art and time wise. The thread we always went back to was: how do we tell a good story about the reaching of the Khar-Toba? Every time we made an edit, we had to remember to go back to the source and make sure what we were doing was correct for the people of Kharak, pre-Khar-Toba discovery.

Hmm...my first Reddit post! Hope it's a good one.

BBI-Rory11 karma

A bit more to JD's point. We built the MP mode to be a compelling MP experience first, which is key, and we architected the game in a way that we can add eSports features if we find traction in the MP community - which we seem to be.

Simply put, a good MP game can be molded into an eSports community with proper feature support but a mediocre MP game with tons of eSports features pleases no one. We focused on building solid core gameplay and now we're into the second stage. News on map support and replays can be found here, btw.

BBI-Rory3 karma

What is your attitude and approach towards eSports? The RTS genre lends itself by nature to the eSports scene, and DoK is no slouch. However, there are a few key features missing from DoK to allow the scene to flourish. Do you have plans to implement Observer mode and replays?

We are eSports believers, some of us fanatics. For perspective I watch about 5-10 hours a week, have been to several Starcraft tournaments, went to the League of Legends world championship, etc. And I'd say in terms of being an eSports fan I'm probably 3rd or 4th in the office, we've got a lot of fans here. We believe in eSports as a future of competitive gaming.

We announced near term updates yesterday, which includes our plans for replays and we'll continue to keep you guys updated on MP (and eSports related features in the future.)

Just for emphasis, I really, really want Observer mode. With at least two slots. How much beer/whiskey/grain alcohol should I ship your way to make this happen?

We're listening and hear you guys!

I’m positive that this’ll be asked by many people, but-- hotkey reassignment? In the works?

Stay tuned - again we hear you.

Taking on the Homeworld name meant following up on one of the most heart-wrenching space opera storylines ever to appear in video game media. How did you approach this Everest of a challenge, with all the eyes of thousands upon thousands of Homeworld fans on you?

I think the key thing was high level direction and low level implementation coming together in the middle. We had really good internal direction from the original creators as to what is and isn't Homeworld and on the implementation side we literally weighed every single individual asset that went in. And by every, I mean... each effect, each sound, each voiceover performance, each decal on units, unit scale.... We asked "Is this Homeworld?" a LOT

StrifeLover7 karma

Has BBI discussed how to prolong the competitive side of DoK?

Will there be official BBI/Gearbox tournaments to cultivate the "eSports" side of DoK?

What does BBI think of Captains of Kharak hosting their own tournament, are these tournaments encouraged?

BBI-Rory6 karma

We love competitive gaming deeply and with DoK we wanted to make sure we built a compelling, rich multiplayer first and we're now building additional support modes for the deep competitive scene (And by extension, eSports.) We recently announced our replays, and we'll have more news on other competitive and eSports features as well in the future. Just know we are watching you guys and reading your feedback on this.

And yes, we absolutely, positively love folks running tournaments or competitive sites. We thank you guys deeply, in particular Captains of Kharak, for the support!

ben_neb4 karma

Hello to the Devs! AWESOME work on DoK, thank you SO much!

I have three main questions:

1) Are there any plans to have a larger unit cap for Skirmish/MP?

2) Are there any plans to make larger Skirmish/MP maps?

3) Are there any plans to make maps with "resource pockets" near the center, to give people something to fight over?

BBI-Rory9 karma

Would love to hear any ideas you, or other folks, have for MP maps. We want to make sure we're not just providing more content, but also unique multiplayer experiences on each map.

As far as size goes, our recently announced map, inspired by the Boneyard is medium size but we'll certainly be exploring larger maps as well.

waywardstrategy3 karma

  1. Any plans to add replays? If so, when?

  2. Same as above, only for observer mode.

  3. Not to complain or cast aspersions, but one of the weakest things about the multiplayer to me right now is the map design. Are there any plans to release a map editor/mod tools, and/or release new maps?

Thanks for your time, I overall am very pleased with DoK and am hopeful for the future of the game.

P.S. I doubt your team had any direct control over the name but I definitely found "shipbreakers" to be a better name than "deserts of Kharak." Shipbreakers tells the player about how the game works, what they'll be doing. The word Kharak only really matters to people who are familiar with Homeworld.

Anyways, thanks for doing the AMA and as I said I think you've done an overall great job on the game. :)

BBI-Rory10 karma

We announced replays and additional maps yesterday. Check out the post here or take a sneak peek at the map here

Ankh__2 karma

The DoK campaign is a paragon of how it should be done (more please!). The wider games industry really has lost its focus in recent years on creating games that have style, an interesting (and original) plot, and which are simply fun to play. Too often we see glorified tech demos: pretty graphics, but no substance.

To the question... Are there any plans to add weather effects or a day/night cycle to skirmish/multiplayer?

One of the highlights of DoK for me is the sandstorm, and also the dust devils later on. It really builds a sense of immersion in the world. Games like Tiberian Sun employed weather to great effect. We could have sandstorms that blow across a multiplayer map on occasion, reducing visibility or grounding air units (which would significantly change the battlespace for a short period of time).

BBI-Rory4 karma

Great question. We'll definitely have some more night maps coming online - though I doubt we'll have an in-mission cycle. We've also talked about looking at weather systems as well, there's several weather systems in the campaign that could make for interesting MP maps but this isn't far enough along to make any promises, keep your eye on our forums for more information.

Bruc3Campb3ll2 karma

What is your opinion on the current state of the RTS genre?

BBI-Rory6 karma

Really glad you've asked this.

I think the RTS is in fantastic shape. 2015 was a great year with Grey Goo, Act of Aggression and Starcraft and 2016 looks to be the absolute best year in probably ten years of RTS gaming.

  • Total War Arena is a ton of fun and very different. Really enjoying this take on the competitive RTS.
  • Halo Wars 2 should be this year and the pedigree of the talent (And how solid the first game was) should make for a fantastic game! Get stoked for this one.
  • Warhammer: Total War Every time I see footage of this I get butterflies.

And that's not including any announcements from Relic, Eugen or Petroglyph that they may have in the works! Whatever these guys are working on is going to be awesome!

So, I think it's going to be a remarkable year, and I'm glad we got to be the first out of the gate.

Additionally... This will also be the year of VR which really lends itself to the RTS genre. My experience playing AirMech VR is they have completely recaptured the fun of Herzog Zwei (Which many consider the original RTS) and made it really frigging awesome for VR. I'd expect some really cool RTS or RTS-Like experiences in VR in the next year!

EagleDelta12 karma

What is your stance on Linux/SteamOS development and Valve's Goals with Steam Machines?

Is it something that Blackbird Interactive is interested in taking part in or are you waiting to see how it all plays out?

Also, will you be utilizing the Vulkan tools once they are released or are you going to stick exclusively to DirectX and/or OpenGL?

Finally, are there any plans to revive the space side of the Homeworld Franchise or, perhaps, a game the spans both Space and Planetside?

BBI-Rory5 karma

No plans to announce yet in terms of Steam Machines but I will say I really support Valve's push on the living room. The Steam Link is like a bolt from heaven, I frigging love this thing. I'm considering buying a second one, actually because I keep loaning the first one out to people. Note: I am running a wired network, your wifi mileage may vary!

In terms of reviving Homeworld - we'd love to return to space!

VanderdeckenNOR2 karma

Hello BBI and congrats on the release of HW: DoK.

I would also like to throw a huge thanks for the way you treated us old Kickstarter backers!

I finished the game today, and I must say I was very impressed about how you managed to capture the feeling of the old games in a ground-based setting.

I only have one question: Will you please consider combining the groundbased rts gamplay with the 3D space setting of your first games for your next game? It would be the ultimate Homeworld of my boyhood heart.

BBI-Rory2 karma

We would love to take a shot at this! Thank you for the early support!

boki6662 karma

-Will you be adding key biding options to the game?

-Will you be adding more options to customize skirmish and multiplayer games (things like starting resources, map resources, custom team of 2v2v2 or 1v5 and similar)?

-The units in game have a lot of problems with collision and clipping through each other . Will there be improvements to this aspect?

BBI-Rory2 karma

Stay tuned, we just had a bunch of announcements last night. We'll have more soon!

faultysocks2 karma

Great AMA, awesome to see some great questions and answers, just a couple that have come to mind:

  1. What sort of influenses did you draw from? although ground control has been said time and time again, im feeling so elements of halo wars or rts games that are much tighter. As opposed to the gigantic supcom messes.

  2. Somewere I did hear somthing about a map editor, is this a complex bit of kit? will it be released to the public?

  3. do you guys contribute anything to the HWRM in terms of content? or is it mostly gbx fiddling with your old engine?

BBI-Rory8 karma

  1. We drew from a ton of RTS games. Obviously, Homeworld, but we also looked at Company of Heroes, Dawn of War, Wargame, Ground Control, Starcraft and many more. We wanted to be a little more tactical focused than Homeworld, but way more strategic than most of the other RTS titles on this list. Here is a first ever look at where we wanted to position ourselves taken from our Product Design Pillars document.

  2. That seemed to be a bit of a miscommunication, we're not announcing a map editor yet. As you can see our game isn't tile based so building maps is actually fairly complicated!

  3. Rob and Brennan contributed to the background art in most of the levels (The cool nebulas) as well as offered some additional art direction. We also built the animatic remasters that you see in-game completely in house!

BBI-Rory3 karma

Also I wanted to mention a few direct influences you can see in game. Air sortie drew substantial influence from Command And Conquer: Generals, the shunting system was inspired by FTL and artifact retrieval mode was directly inspired by Company of Heroes MP mode, but with a mobile spin on it!

Edit: I wanted to add one more shout out. Though it is not mechanically present at all in the game I personally drew a tremendous inspiration from Firaxis' XCOM. XCOM is a remarkable example of taking an old, highly admired game, distilling down what's compelling about it and then rebuilding it for a modern audience. The work that Firaxis did on this game is positively exemplar and their sensibility of how they modernized the game while preserving it's feel was extremely inspiring.

gunshhy1 karma

Love your Work!

Question about the writing,

  1. Who wrote the story for DOK/Lore/Script?
  2. Were you working from an existing Lore bible you had from your HW1&2 days?

BBI-Rory5 karma

Daniel Dick and Rob Cunningham were the main narrative/script guys at Blackbird but we also brought in Dave Williams to help out with story concept and Martin Cirulis to help out on backstory and lore. And that was was all under lots of creative feedback from just about everyone at the studio.

For the "Core dialogue"/"All Ships Dialogue" AKA the unit and Ops chatter our original script was written by Adrian Vershinin and Kirk E. Paul with edits from myself, David Renn and Rob Cunningham.

It also goes without saying that our campaign designers working on individual levels contributed a lot to the moment to moment narrative and storytelling feel as well and our guys doing animatics and cinematics helped sculpt it deeply as well.

Regarding materials: I'll let the other guys speak more to this - but we literally had all of the things. Manuals, original design documents, original unit designs, timelines and more...