Homeworld 3 developer update introduces the “flavor layer”

Homeworld and its sequel were real-time strategy games that stuck in the memory mainly due to the atmosphere they managed to create via dialogue, music choices and striking ship designs. I had mentally labelled coming sequel Homeworld 3 as “more of the same, but better looking”, without thinking much more about it.

A new development update from developers Blackbird Interactive doesn’t so much prove me wrong as go into great detail about what “better looking” really means – while also making me excited about the new “flavor layer” of ship-to-ship communication.

First up, the post gives this extremely brief glimpse of Homeworld 3’s cinematics, which are pre-rendered for the first time and feature “fully 3D modelled characters complete with English language lipsyncing.”

It later gives a look at biomes, mothership lighting, nebulae, and all the work that’s going into “bringing ‘terrain’ to space combat” in Homeworld 3.

“In Homeworld 3, you’ll fight your fair share of battles in cold, dark space,” says the post. “But [Physical Based Rendering] allows us to create levels each with their own unique visual identity and near-photo realism. You’ll command fleets in low orbit above planets, or explore ancient relics floating just above a churning sea of clouds. And in each of these environments, the materials of your ships will react with the light with a level of realism that, frankly, feels a bit awe-inspiring (yes, I’m a tad biased here).”

All of which seems appealing, yet somehow it’s the radio chatter that most excites me. When giving units commands in Homeworld 3, they’ll vocally respond in two ways. The first is via the ship’s commander, who will be “concise, clearly audible from all distance ranges,” and will give the player feedback about the situation. This is the “information layer”. Then a second voice will follow, the ship’s tactical officer, who will offer “contextual conversational chatter” that will only be heard by players if you’ve positioned the camera within a certain range. This “flavor layer” is designed to humanise your units.

Notably, units will talk to each other, not to you as their omniscient leader, and will chatter back and forth about what’s happening. You can come into the middle of a conversation as you zoom around a battlefield.

Watching these videos and reading the full developer update makes me realise: maybe Homeworld 3 will be more Homeworld but better looking, and better sounding, but holy heck, what a treat that could be if it’s true. Blackbird are aiming to release it in February 2024.