Rodina interview: exploration, combat and modding in an indie space adventure

Phil Savage at

When Notch announced that he was no longer working on 0x10c, the burgeoning space genre lost a promising mix of exploration and user generated content. But his wasn't the only project to marry the vastness of space with the infinite potential of community creativity. Rodina, by Elliptic Games, is hoping to fill that gap. It's been largely created by one man, Brendan Anthony, a former programmer at Bethesda. I got in touch with Brendan, and he told me about the game's eye-catching tech, ambitious development roadmap, and how it has as much in common with Daggerfall as it does with Freespace.

One of the most striking things about Rodina's early videos is the way ships can seamlessly travel from the vast void of space, through a planet's atmosphere and down to the surface. There are no loading screens or canned animations. Even in combat, rival ships will tail you from ground to orbit and back again. Achieving this was essential for Brendan's vision of the game. "When I was a kid, I played NES games like Zelda and Final Fantasy," he says, "and didn't think of them as being 'games' so much as being fantasy worlds. I loved the freedom, and I never got as much into games - like Super Mario Bros - that didn't provide that experience."

Brendan's aim is to carry that sense of place into this vastly bigger setting. "The space genre is one that has just been aching for someone to remove the invisible walls. If I am in orbit around a planet, I want to be able to fly down to it, and explore the whole thing. No loading screens, no single restrictive landing location. Anything less than complete freedom isn't good enough."

It's not just Nintendo classics that are inspiring Brendan - although Star Fox also gets a namecheck on his website's intro. More complex, denser games also make up the foundations that Rodina is built on, including Freelancer and, puzzlingly, The Elder Scrolls series. "I really like immersive first-person RPGs in general," Brendan explains, "and I'd like Rodina to be the kind of game where players feel a lot of ownership over their experience, their ship, and their character. The Elder Scrolls series excels at this kind of game.

"It may seem to have a lot more in common with the Elder Scrolls than with Star Fox."

"Additionally, in the very long run I'd like to develop Rodina to the point where there are cities, NPCs, factions and quests; make it like an RPG that just happens to let you fly spaceships. At that point, it may seem to have a lot more in common with the Elder Scrolls than with Star Fox."

Brendan's love of The Elder Scrolls goes beyond his time at Bethesda, where he worked as a programmer on Oblivion and Fallout 3. Rodina is primarily being influenced by a much earlier game in the series. "Daggerfall, with its massive world and procedural content, was a big inspiration. Daggerfall was really a game before it's time and I think it was a really interesting bridge between a hand crafted story and a completely procedural experience."