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The Maker of 2019’s Must-Have Interstellar RPG Within the Cosmos Talks Gameplay, Lore, and the Future

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Within the Cosmos

Some indie games look impressive enough to match anything coming out of the AAA studios. Within the Cosmos fits that bill to a tee. Every screenshot from the project shines with ethereal beauty, and the description makes it sound like a marvellous mash-up of Deus Ex, Mass Effect, and Halo

This RPG casts players as a would-be colonist intended to seed human life away from what seems to be an apocalyptic interstellar war.

To find out more about the promising project, OnlySP reached out to developer Francis Debois, who went into great depth about the gameplay, structure, and the processes involved in production across the last five years. 

OnlySP: I wanted to start by asking about the gameplay. In the marketing you’ve mentioned that objectives can be completed through stealth, combat, or diplomacy, which is always a plus for an RPG. Is that multi-path approach available for every mission, and how free-form are the player’s options?

Debois: The missions in the game generally give you multiple ways to affect how the mission unfolds, whether it’s through dialogue or how the player approaches the mission. Also, the options available to you are governed by the type of character you create. If you have a character that’s high in Intelligence, you might be able to hack a control panel that opens a door to a room that you’d otherwise have to fight through to get to, or if your Charisma isn’t high enough, and you try to convince them to leave the area, they might not listen to what you have to say, and they’ll become hostile, or you can simply avoid all of that and find a way to sneak inside!

OnlySP: From what I understand, the RPG levelling mechanics are tied to modules on the character’s suit. Can you tell us more about how this system works and maybe provide examples of some of those modules and upgrades?

Debois: Modules are essentially “perk points” that you can use to upgrade your character. Every time you level up your character, you will get a module you can use to enhance/alter your character. The perks available to you are tied to your attribute points. So, if your Agility is high enough, you can “spend” a module and get the “Light Steps” perk, which makes your footsteps much lighter, therefore harder for the enemies to hear.

OnlySP: The game also has a stat system, which sounds a little like S.P.E.C.I.A.L. from Fallout. Is that an apt comparison? Will players be able to improve and modify those stats through gameplay and, if so, how?

Debois: Yeah, it’s a similar idea to how S.P.E.C.I.A.L. works in Fallout or similar games. When the player starts the game, they will be given a fixed amount of points that they can assign to their attributes. So, if you decide to max out your Constitution and Agility, you’ll have a character who’s agile, sneaky, and strong, but that would come at the cost of not having much Intelligence, Charisma, or Perception. So, you’re really gonna have to think about what attributes you favour, or you could put a roughly equal amount into all of them and have a character that can do a little bit of everything but not a master of everything. It’s up to you. I feel like that system will really create the desire for players to have multiple playthroughs of the game, and still have each playthrough feel like a different experience.

As far as improving and modifying those stats… I’m still trying to get the balance right. There might be one or two instances where you can upgrade them, or get temporary boosts to them, but whether you can improve or modify them beyond that is still being determined.

OnlySP: While upgrading, will players be able to respec their character’s abilities at all or are they locked into the upgrades they use?

Debois: No, they won’t be able to respec. Once you select an upgrade/perk, that’s what you’re locked into.

OnlySP: If I recall correctly, I’ve read somewhere that Within the Cosmos has a linear structure. Does that mean players won’t be able to revisit previous locations? 

Debois: You WILL be able to revisit previous locations. It’s linear in the sense that you can’t visit a new region, or planet that you have no narrative reason to visit yet. For example, the first planet you go to in the game is Alios, the second planet you visit is Berith II. If you’re right in the beginning of the game and you just got to Alios, you won’t be able to just go straight to Berith II until you’ve reached the point in the story where it makes sense to go there, but once you go there, you can go back and forth between those planets as often as you’d like. Also, I used the term “linear” as a way to get the point across that it’s not a huge open sandbox or anything. The game is very story-driven.

OnlySP: Speaking of locations, the game has the character visiting a number of planets. How many planets are there, and how have you differentiated each of them?

Debois: There are three planets in the game. Each one is aesthetically different, with different fauna, different factions, and the architecture of each planet reflects the dominant faction or factions on that planet. Aside from those locations, there are other places you’ll visit for a mission or a series of missions.

OnlySP: Looking at the Steam Greenlight page, there’s mention of vehicles and survival mechanics, but those seem not to have made it to the final version. Can you maybe explain how the development process has resulted in changes from the game you initially set out to make?

Debois: The direction the game was headed when I created the Greenlight page was completely different to what it ended up being! Initially, I intended to make an FPS with survival mechanics, but as the game progressed, and I started writing more of the story, I realised that survival mechanics didn’t really make sense, and it negatively impacted the experience. There were many things that were added and cut out in the end, so vehicles, and the survival mechanics were just two of the many things that simply didn’t end up feeling right as the game really began to take shape. As I wrote more and more, I felt like an RPG would be the best way for players to experience the game and the story.

OnlySP: You’ve mentioned that the game should take between eight and ten hours to complete. Does that factor in all the content available in the game or just the main missions?

Debois: 8-10 hours is a rough estimate of what I would say an “average” playthrough would be. Which is someone who has completed the main story, and did a few side missions. If you decide to do everything possible in the game, it will certainly take longer than that, but if you decide to strictly follow the main story, it will be shorter than that.

OnlySP: As I’ve been following Within the Cosmos, I’ve felt that it looks a bit like Halo and sounds a lot like Deus Ex. It’s got me wondering what you feel as though it’s most similar to and what sort of inspirations have shaped the look, feel, and overall tone?

Debois: Oh, there have been so many inspirations! I love the FPS RPG genre, so Deus Ex was a massive inspiration, as was Fallout: New Vegas. Those are two top tier FPS RPG games that I absolutely love. Space-based games have had an influence as well, such as Halo and Mass Effect. They helped shape the game in one way or another. I’d say the biggest inspiration behind it all has been Star Trek, I think the story and lore will reflect that to some degree.

OnlySP: Within the Cosmos is set against the backdrop of an interstellar war. How much of that background lore will players be privy to as the experience goes on?

Debois: The interstellar war is the reason that the player, and the factions are there in the first place. You will be exposed to the history of the war by reading some of the logs in the game, and through some characters you meet, etc. The war is what ties everything together. As you play through the game, you will see that even though you’ve escaped to this region of space, which is far away from the war itself, you still feel the effects of it. What you decide to do can really influence how the war plays out.

OnlySP: Meanwhile, the main story follows an individual sent to safety to preserve the human race. We’ve seen similar ideas of species protection and propagation in the likes of Fallout and Mass Effect: Andromeda. How is Within the Cosmos distinct from those earlier games?

Debois: Well, I really don’t like to compare Within the Cosmos to other games, but Fallout is more of a sandbox, and Mass Effect is more of a story-driven action RPG. Within the Cosmos falls somewhere in the middle of that.

OnlySP: As I understand it, Within the Cosmos, is entirely self-funded, self-developed, and self-published. Did you ever consider crowdfunding or partnering with a publisher to help get the game across the line sooner? Why or why not?

Debois: Not really, no. Some people suggested that I should try crowdfunding but that was something I was never interested in for Within the Cosmos. This was really a game that I wanted to make myself, so funding it and publishing it myself felt the most natural to me.

OnlySP: I know there’s still a little while before Within the Cosmos launches, but what’s next for debdev?

Debois: Once Within the Cosmos is out, I’m going to listen to the feedback from the community, and just work on updating the game with more content as time goes on. I really want to give this game all the support I can give it. Anything after that, we’ll have to see what happens! I would love to work on some of the other ideas I have, some more RPGs. There are other games that I really want to make, but after dedicating nearly five years of my life to this game, I’m not sure I will have the financial means to be able to do this again! 

OnlySP: Finally, do you have any final comments that you’d like to leave with our readers?

Debois: I’d really like to thank those who have been giving the game compliments, and those who have been providing feedback! It all really means a lot to me, and proves that all the years of hard work that I have inputted into the game, has been all worth it!

Thank you all for reading this, and for having an interest in Within the Cosmos! I really hope you check it out on Steam, wishlist it, and play it when it releases on 1 August!


For all the latest on the game and much more from the world of single-player gaming, be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

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E3 2019

The History of E3: Looking Back on Gaming’s Biggest Event

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Every year, developers from around the world gather in June to showcase their most secret and anticipated projects. In the months leading up to E3, gamers witness the spectacle of influencers and industry veterans discussing the rumors of what might be, further fueling their desired announcements come to life. In the spirit of fun and excitement, E3 allows for the passion of gaming to be broadcast on a world stage and recognized for its influence on the entertainment industry.

Now that the industry is approaching the eve of E3, OnlySP is counting down the days remaining in a segment we like to call ‘12 Days of E3’. Please join OnlySP in celebrating an event that can be described as Christmas for Gamers, as we come together in anticipation for E3 2019!


The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has a relatively short history but has quickly become the gaming industry’s biggest event with inextricable ties to video game culture. The show has become the main stage for platformers and AAA developers to show off their newest projects causing mass hype across the gaming community.

E3 first debuted in 1995, and helped put the video game industry onto the world stage.

Through all of the hyper-charged excitement and cringe-inducing stumbles, the expo remains gaming’s most anticipated annual event. Over the past 24 years, E3 has evolved and adapted to fit the video game industry and culture surrounding it.

E3 1995 PlayStation

1995–2002:

Video games have been around for decades, but even in 1991 many people still did not take the industry seriously. In fact, Tom Kalinske, CEO of Sega America from 1990 to 1996, details just how casual the attitude was towards gaming.

“Back in the early 1990s we always used to show at [Consumer Electronics Show] in Las Vegas. We were there alongside the guys that were showing their new automotive speakers, or their new computing systems, or TVs, or telephones… In 1991 they put us in a tent, and you had to walk past all the […] vendors to find us, to find Nintendo and ourselves and the third party licensees.

He continued:

“I was just furious with the way that CES treated the video games industry, and I felt we were a more important industry than they were giving us credit for. So I started planning to get the hell out of CES.”

In the 1990s, video games were largely considered to be just toys, mainly in part to Nintendo’s marketing strategy at the time. Nintendo targeted the younger demographic which forced competitors to seek out alternative audiences.

Games such as Myst and Mortal Kombat appealed to an older audience, with the latter also benefiting from a movie of the same name in 1995. These titles were perhaps too successful in capturing the attention of adults because many people expressed issues with the blood and violence.

Therefore, fearing government oversight, game publishers created the Interactive Digital Software Association (ISDA). The ISDA then became the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), a united bloc representing the games industry. The ISDA proposed the ESRB, which standardised age ratings for games based on the existing ratings for movies. The United States Congress approved the ESRB and allowed the gaming industry to continue.

New advances in technology helped the home-PC market to grow as well as widespread use of 3D graphics which in-turn provided gaming new opportunities to branch out. In 1993, Sony began developing the PlayStation: a giant leap forward for gaming, as Sony was highly regarded as a reliable electronics company.

The first E3 in 1995 was an immense success registering over 40,000 attendees (see video below of E3’s first expo). At this time, the console wars were in full swing and everyone was scrambling for a piece of the pie.

Games from 1995 onwards drove the industry to focus on game presentation. Titles like Tomb Raider and Resident Evil pushed technology to new boundaries, exploring new genres, cinematic storytelling and visual masterpieces.

The industry had moved into the beginning of modern gaming.

2002–2009:

By the time the sixth generation of consoles had rolled out, gaming was huge, but the platformers had narrowed to the big three—Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. By 2002, these three companies dominated at E3 for the next eight years.

2005 marked the first time E3 gained media coverage by G4 television networks, and E3’s attendance also soared reaching 70,000. The hype surrounding the expo would only grow, as 2005 saw the announcement of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

However, the E3 expo quickly became a victim of its own success. The ESA scaled down the conference because exhibitors felt it had become too difficult to reach their target audience due to the overwhelming growth of gaming media.

As a result, from 2007 to 2008, E3 was rebranded to ‘E3 Media & Business Summit’. Attendance was limited to 10,000 people. In a bit of irony, this move damaged E3 as media coverage became severely limited.

E3 had become a largely corporate event and whilst the Media & Business Summit was far more manageable, it nearly became the engine of its own downfall. The ESA realised that bloggers, journalists, and personalities drove the expo’s momentum and hype.

E3 2009 Sony

2009–2018:

In 2009, ESA rebranded again, but back to the more familiar and catchy E3 and opened its doors once again to a wider audience, drawing 41,000 attendees. The following year saw big game developers presenting alongside the big three platformers for the first time. Ubisoft, Konami, and EA contributed their gaming products helping to further expand E3’s reach.

In 2017, E3 opened up its doors to the public for the first time allowing fans to attend talks, meet representatives of companies, and play samples of upcoming new games. Furthermore, with streaming services and online platforms growing in popularity, E3’s popularity continued to grow. E3 was also able to stream live content out to millions of people around the globe who could not attend.

Once again, E3’s success also meant that some companies struggled to reach desired audiences, especially with so much competition. Nintendo was the first big name to depart from E3 to begin showcasing its games through Nintendo Direct. Electronic Arts (EA) then followed by launching their own presentations with EA Play.

E3 has also been pivotal in supporting indie games by increasing coverage; last year saw big-name publishers such as Microsoft and Bethesda feature indies as part of their mainstage lineup.

E3 2018

To 2019 and Beyond:

E3 has firmly forged its position as gaming’s most prestigious event and this year’s event will start on 11 June. The show is sure to bring in huge crowds once again with exciting AAA and indie games announced for 2019–2020 releases, with fans and media desperate for more information on these anticipated new titles.

However, E3 can sometimes have an unfortunate effect on game developers by ramping-up hype about the games it showcases. At E3 2018, Anthem was one of the most highly anticipated games, but ultimately failed to follow through on the high expectations when it was released in February this year.

Perhaps games such as Anthem would have gone down like a lead balloon anyway, but maybe E3 raised expectations far beyond what Anthem was capable of.

Furthermore, Sony shocked the games industry by announcing that it was not going to attend E3 2019, and then unconventionally announced details of the Playstation 5 in an interview with Wired.

These recent moves ultimately beg the question: is E3 even necessary anymore?

In its current form, E3 seems to be paying homage to the past—a time before self-made developers and 24/7 gaming coverage on streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube. Whether E3 will adapt to the ever-changing gaming landscape, however, remains to be seen.

To see more from our 12 Days of E3, be sure to follow OnlySP on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Also, be sure to join the discussion in the community Discord server.

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