Game developers can sometimes bring us something we’ve never seen before. Blackbird Interactive has done just this. You most likely have heard of them as the developer of the Homeworld Series mostly only available on PC. You may well have not heard, however, of their more ambitious project with NASA. In this review, we will take a look at what Blackbird Interactive does and the games they have worked on.
Making real-time simulation games is no easy task for a games developer. Having the gameplay run simultaneously with real-life takes considerable work and effort. This is something Blackbird Interactive has got down to a tee.
Being such an innovative games developer we wanted to highlight some of their biggest achievements. Their contributions to some amazing original games aren’t widely known so deserve some extra attention. We’ll take a look at their history, their current focus, the games they have developed, and some alternative companies.
Who Is Blackbird Interactive?
Blackbird Interactive is an independent games development company based in Vancouver. Like many other games developers, Blackbird Interactive was formed of ex-employees of other established companies.
Rob Cunningham and Jon Arron were staff and founders of Relic Entertainment. Here they had been part of a team of experienced developers working on the RTS Homeworld game in 1999 and then its sequel, Homeworld 2 in 2003.
These sci-fi games were real-time simulations meaning the computer model runs at the same time as real-life events. However, the parent company of Relic, THQ, was losing interest in making ambitious games causing Rob and Jon to leave and form Blackbird Interactive. In 2010 they wanted to develop the spiritual predecessor to Homeworld, Hardwear: Shipbreaker, but couldn’t acquire the rights from THQ.
THQ in 2013 went bankrupt. They sold off their assets but Gearbox Software secured the rights for the Homeworld IP. Gearbox went into talks with Blackbird Interactive and allowed them to develop the game as part of the Homeworld series being renamed Homeworld: Shipbreaker. Upon release, the name was changed again to Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak. These were the events that lead to the formation and establishment of Blackbird Interactive.
What Does Blackbird Interactive Do?
Now we’ve looked at a bit of Blackbird Interactives history, let’s discuss what their focus is now.
Being composed of former experienced developers gave Blackbird Interactive the start they needed. Their focus is on developing immersive and engaging gameplay that tells amazing stories. They have been growing their company with a 25% increase in employees last year now with a total of 170 individuals. Currently, they are advertising Blackbird Interactive jobs, only highlighting their recent growth.
They have become widely known for producing high-quality original RTS sci-fi titles. Usually developed for Microsoft Windows.
They are self-described as an “Art-fueled, future-driven independent studio” and we couldn’t agree more. Their graphics and storylines are nearly unmatched within the gaming industry.
What Games Have Blackbird Interactive Made?
The main Blackbird Interactive games are part of the Homeworld series. This has been the main focus of their company but not the sole focus. We will now take a look at some of their games and how well they were received.
This isn’t necessarily a game but rather a demo. However, its subject makes it one of the most interesting and immersive experiences a demo can provide. Project Eagle is an art simulation of a colony on Mars!
This was developed by Blackbird Interactive in collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Planetary robotic spacecraft are the focus of the Laboratory working to develop technology for the Mars 2022 mission. The demo was developed to celebrate the successful InSite landing. Which was launched to study the deep interior of Mars.
As Blackbird Interactive had already worked on RTS sci-fi games, they were the perfect pick for this ambitious project. They worked with Jeff Norris, the founder of the missions, to create the vision of what human settlements would look like on Mars. They announced the project at the Las Vegas DICE summit in 2017, an elite gaming event.
Using actual data of Mars, they combine Science and Art to demonstrate what living on Mars would be like. Available to play for free the purpose of the game was to also encourage support for Mars colonisation. This was the birth of space art.
With the help of NASA engineers they successfully created a demonstration of what the Project Eagle colony could look like in 100 years designed to house 6,000 people. What is a game today will maybe be a reality in the future.
This project Blackbird Interactive brought us is like no other gaming experience. You can live the life of a mars colonist 100 years before it becomes reality.
The Homeworld series has been Blackbird Interactive’s main project. As we mentioned, this is what led to them forming the company in the first place.
The original Homeworld and the second addition were created before the birth of Blackbird Interactive as a part of Relic Entertainment. Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak was the first title they released independently.
Deserts Of Kharak
Released in 2017 this was developed as a prequel to the original Homeworld. The game is set 106 years before the Homeworld events and is based on the desert planet Kharak. Home to the exiled Kushan people.
The main storyline follows an expedition to find the source of a mysterious signal found deep in one of the deserts. Known as the Jaraci Object. After the first expeditionary goes missing, you join chief science officer Rachel S’jet on the second expedition.
The game was received relatively well earning a 79/100 Metacritic score. Most of all it was recognised for its amazing production value. However, it has been criticised for not recreating the celebrated experience of the original games.
Homeworld 3 is the sequel to the second edition and set to be released in 2022. After the success of the previous games, Gearbox publishing and Blackbird Interactive decided to start developing this new game in the series.
The team used Fig to hold a crowdfunding/investment campaign in 2019. It ended up generating the most support the site has ever seen. They also provided questionnaires to see which aspects of the original games were most valued by fans. However, due to a change in gearboxes ownership, the funding campaign was cancelled. Nonetheless, the game is still under production and set to be released on time.
Minecraft has become an infamous game with a total of over 140 million players. This has inspired several spin-offs to be made of the game due to its success. Minecraft Earth, developed by Blackbird Interactive, is one such game.
Blackbird Interactive aided Mojang Studios in developing this game which was published by Xbox Game Studios. It is an augmented reality sandbox game developed for Android and IOS. The game was free to play and fully released earlier this year. Unfortunately, due to complications over the pandemic, the game was officially shut down in June this year.
Like the original Minecraft, the game centred around gathering resources, exploring, crafting, and of course, building. This was their first mobile game project. And we’re so sad to see this promising spin-off be lost before we had the chance to fully enjoy it.
This is the most recent release from Blackbird Interactive inc, landing in June last year.
This is a first-person simulation game where you find yourself on an abandoned spacecraft looking for fuel. The character works for the Lynx Corporation and is working to pay off their debt to them. This was actually the original game proposed after the second Homeworld release. But, was denied development. Finally, Rob Cunningham’s dreams for developing this game came true in the form of Hardspace: Shipbreaker.
Originally all the spacecraft in the game were supposed to be hand-designed. After deciding on an early release, however, they used pseudo-procedurally generations to help extend the game playable content.
The game was well-received, especially among the streaming community. Steam awarded the game a 90%, a very positive rating. The experience includes regular fresh content with constant updates bringing new ships, tools, and much more. Equinox also held an event to celebrate the game holding salvaging competitions.
Blackbird Interactive was asked by South Korean games developer Smilegate to work on their next Crossfire game. Set to be released in 2022 we don’t know too much about his game yet, but we expect great things.
Crossfire was originally released in 2007 and is a tactical first-person shooter game. This game which was especially popular in Asia ended up becoming the most played game by player count in history! With a total of 1 billion users, it became one of the highest-grossing games in history too. Smilegate asking Blackbird Interactive to develop the new edition of this is huge news for the company.
Smilegate decided to approach Blackbird Interactive after playing Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak. They want them to produce an RTS take on the original game. The game is jam-packed with tanks, jetpacks, planes, mechs, and much more.
Alternatives To Blackbird Interactive
Now, we’re going to discuss some alternative developers to Blackbird Interactive and discuss their similarities and differences.
This is another games developer also based in Vancouver BC. They are similar in the sense that they make games designed mostly for Microsoft Windows. They are most known for the MechWarrior franchise. But have worked on other huge titles such as Medal Of Honor and Need For Speed. Also similar to Blackbird Interactive, the founders formed the company after their ideas for a new game were denied.
Despite some slight similarities in gameplay, Piranha Games don’t make RTS games like Blackbird Interactive do.
Fireglow is a games developer based in Russia who also focuses on RTS games. Instead of a space setting, however, the game is set during World War 2.
There is a big difference between how Blackbird Interactive and Fireglow design their RTS games. Blackbird has a focus on collecting resources like most RTS games. Fireglow decided to go with an alternative approach for their Sudden Strike game series. Instead, the main focus of the gameplay is tactics rather than resources.
The series is made up of 5 separate games. Reviews for all the games were mixed but generally positive.
Kixeye is a games developer who works on massively multiplayer online real-time strategy games also known as MMORTS. Even though their games are also RTS, Kixeye’s focus is on the multiplayer aspect. They became a pioneer of mid-core action games. Which feature real-time combat on the Facebook platform! Upon its release, the game saw 20 times more revenue per daily active user compared to any other social game.
Like Blackbird Interactive, they make games for Microsoft Windows as well as mobile releases. War Commander is their most popular game with the Rogue Assault edition being released in 2016.
Now You Know Everything About Blackbird Interactive
That was our review of Blackbird Interactive! We hope after reading this you are more aware of what they do as a games developer. Despite being known for their Homeworld RTS games, they have worked on some other huge titles.
As an independent company, it is impressive that Blackbird Interactive has worked on such revolutionary games. Being asked to help develop the next Crossfire game is an outstanding achievement.
Furthermore, working on a NASA demo for a Mars colony doesn’t get much cooler than this! Their skills are clearly recognised by many and deserve recognition for their originality and dedication to a quality gaming experience.
We hope you enjoyed reading this Blackbird Interactive review! Whilst you’re here, why not check out some more of our articles? We recommend our Monolith Soft Review, How To Make Music For Video Games, and the Best Video Game Franchises to get you started!
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