Interstellar Marines – An Interview With Zero Point Software.
Time for another Indie Interviews session. Started a while ago by GameAspect.Com to try and help people find these awesome games. Recently I sent an email over to Zero Point Software with some questions regarding their game Interstellar Marines which is currently seeking crowdfunding via Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zeropointsoftware/interstellar-marines-prologue?ref=live).
Zero Point Software is a small independent games developer located in Copenhagen, Denmark. They list their mission as “for the love of the game”, and their strategy as “AAA Indie” which sets the bar high for their upcoming title Interstellar Marines. But from what’s to be seen so far, Interstellar Marines doesn’t look like it will disappoint!
My questions were answered by none other than Mikael Garde Nielsen and Kim Haar Jørgensen of Zero Point Software.
GA: So tell us about Interstellar Marines:Prologue? What’s it about?
IG: With Interstellar Marines: Prologue we’re creating a believable science fiction game, that we hope a lot of people can relate to, allowing players to experience our unique take on an immersive first person experience designed from the ground up to combine rich role-playing mechanics and hardcore tactical cooperative gameplay – like no other game has done before.
Prologue tells the back story and sets the contextual backdrop of how the elite Interstellar Marines battalion are established in the future as a first line of defense against the potential dangers lurking in interstellar space, imminent now that the colonization of the first habitable planet outside our solar system is already well underway.
The player takes on the role of an Interstellar Marines candidate two kilometers below the salty expands of groom lake Nevada at a secret high-tech military facility. During an intense “hell week”-like training structure, players will progress their character, weapon and equipment training along fellow candidates in a multitude of detailed training programs designed to dynamically stage all conceivable mission scenarios utilizing an AI training program, advanced combat training robots and large artificial arenas able to simulate all weather know to man.
In a series of ranked and unranked single player, multiplayer and cooperative missions that is set in the theme of futuristic military training of the soldiers of tomorrow, the players compete and cooperate with other players to earn ribbons, achievements, ranks, stats etc. You decide how to play, not us.
GA: The game is a prologue. So that means there will be more games in the series?
IG: Yes, that is true. Prologue is the prelude to an epic sci-fi trilogy that was envisioned by our Game Director (Kim Haar Jørgensen) and co-written with science fiction author Jacob Smith.
GA: Who Is The Team working on Interstellar Marines?
IG: We’re currently two partners working full-time on the project; Kim Haar Jørgensen (Game Director) the visionary man behind Interstellar Marines, and Mikael Garde Nielsen (CTO) the guy in the engine room making sure all the wheels are turning.
On top of that we have assembled a core roster of extremely talented people who have all worked on the project at some point, and are ready to go full-time when the resources allow for it. Their experiences range from small unknown indie titles to big blockbuster games like Crysis and Deus Ex, and they all share the same intense desire to realize this ambitious project with us.
GA: What got you started creating this game?
IG: It all started on the Amiga 500 back in 1993, when creative partner Nicolai and Kim played a game called Hired Guns in split-screen co-op, which was really awesome. Back then an idea was born, and the rest is history. That and an obsession for the potential of the First Person genre and a complete infatuation with science fiction.
GA: How long has it been in development so far?
IG: We’ve officially been developing Interstellar Marines: Prologue since 2009, but in actuality it’s been a roller coaster ride with varying degrees of speed, sometimes down to almost no progress for months. The reason behind this have been lack of finances and it is explained in greater detail in our Kickstarter video. [http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zeropointsoftware/interstellar-marines-prologue?ref=live].
GA: What do you feel this game is doing that others aren’t? What aspects of your game would you say are unique?
IG: We’re delivering tactical co-op in a science fiction setting that is not purple and glowing! We really love the Halo series and we can’t wait to play Halo 4, but it’s not going to be very tactical nor the kind of believable science fiction that we’re aiming for.
Similarly we are also expecting a lot of cool cooperative sci-fi moments in Aliens: Colonial Marines, but it will not feature role-playing mechanics from what we’ve seen so far.
There is no experience like Interstellar Marines available on the planet today – if there was we would be playing it right now!
GA: What games, if any, do you draw inspiration from? Do you tend to draw more from game play or from basic design concepts?
IG: The core DNA of Interstellar Marines is inspired by three very specific first person experiences, which have all significantly helped evolve Interstellar Marines into the game concept it is today; namely Half-life, System Shock 2 and Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield.
We’re constantly inspired when playing FPS games from design to mechanics, features and storytelling. One of our fundamental design rules that we have is that the player always looks out the eyes of their character and never leaves the body during gameplay, as to not break the first-person immersion.
GA: What are some of the challenges of developing an indie game?
IG: The main challenge (and sometimes strength) of developing an indie game is that you are on your own. As an independent game studio you don’t have access to the same kind of finances and knowledge as a game studio that is backed by a publisher, and getting the attention in the gaming media, which is still by and large funded by the big publisher marketing dollars, can be hard at times. This is especially tough when you’re relying on people noticing, and supporting, your game idea.
On the other hand, being independent means that you make all the decisions yourself, and there are no one to tell you otherwise. If you fail, you can’t point fingers at anyone but yourself, but if you win, you reap the rewards of your seed.
GA: In order to fund this game, you’ve taken the Kickstarter route. What brought you to this decision?
IG: As you can see in our Kickstarter video (http://youtu.be/r7egZZ7nW24) we’ve gone through a whole spectrum of funding models over the years, which recently led one of our community members to say that “Zero Point Software started crowdfunding before it was cool!”.
The real truth is that, since 2009, we’ve been running on a partly crowdfunded model where 30% finances have been from crowdfunding and the remaining have been raised in smaller chunks of venture capital.
As was noted above, it’s been a roller coaster ride throughout the years and we quite simply have run out of finances now so with our limited crowdfunding success, we cannot sustain the team that is required to finish the game right now. This has forced us to look at alternative ways of funding and when the recent multi-million dollar successes of Planetary Annihilation, Project Eternity and other game projects happened on Kickstarter, we decided to give it a shot!
GA: Was it a hard process deciding the required funding goal?
IG: Extremely. There are so many factors going into deciding on the goal; How much does Prologue cost? What have others achieved before? What is realistic for us as an unknown indie? How much will our existing community help us? How much reward overhead is there? Are there competing products on the market at the same time? etc.
Our discussions ranged from $100,000 all the way to millions of dollars and, based on a lot of studies of similar projects, we finally decided that our project had to stay within a $200-600K range.
The hardest part was the fact that Prologue, as we have envisioned it, has a much higher price tag than $600,000. So how do you sell something that we know will cost more to make? Our decision was to “keep it real” and cut Prologue to the true essence; to make it as simple as possible, but no simpler. The price for this is the goal we set.
Our plan, then, is to continue the development after the finished game, and release free updates so we eventually will end up with the experience that we had originally envisioned.
GA: What systems would you like to see Interstellar Marines on?
With the goal we’ve set, we intend to release Prologue on PC, Mac and Linux. If we get beyond the funding goal, and if there are a demand for it we will definitely consider porting the game to other platforms, but at the time being we’re really focused on delivering the finished game on the above mentioned platforms.
GA: Where can people go to learn more about Interstellar Marines?
IG: We highly encourage you to check out our Kickstarter project (http://kck.st/VKkH3K) and besides that we have a big and active community website that contain all the information about Interstellar Marines (http://www.InterstellarMarines.com). Also, we highly encourage you to try out the playable prototypes of Prologue to get a taste of where we’re heading.