October 12th, 2012 | By Robert Bury
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Andrea Phaneuf, who is a Producer on the new indie game Blackspace, which launched on Kickstarter. We discussed the game, and some of its future features.
- Describe your game, Blackspace to me.
Blackspace is a game about mining resources in space. You fly a mining craft that can be used for base tending, construction, and for battle. Much of the base building will be familiar to RTS fans. You can dig anywhere, and destroy pretty much anything. You can reclaim anything of worth and convert it to power, fuel, or money.
The game relies heavily on defense and is structured to conform to your style of play. If you like to get into the battle directly, you can upgrade your crafts armor shields and weapons. If you prefer to hang back and let your turrets and base defenses do the job, you might research better sensor tech or upgrade your reclamation drones. The ability to sculpt the game to your play style is one of the cooler parts of the game, I think.
- Describe the story and post behind the game its self.
The story of us is pretty simple. We’re a small group, 3 people. We want to make games that inspire imagination and challenge people. We love the act of creation and this team gives us the ability to get involved in every aspect of the creation of this game. It’s a very exciting time for us. We have been waiting for quite some time to be able to begin this journey, and we still have a long way to go, but were motivated to make this happen. In the end we want to grow and make even bigger and deeper games.
- What inspired you to create a game?
We really want to challenge ourselves and make something we could get excited about. I think the best games are made when those who are working on them are truly passionate about it. We have excess creativity that was not being harnessed by our day jobs, we want to bring that extra interest and inspiration to our games and see where it leads.
- What inspired you to create this game in particular?
Blackspace is a major undertaking but it has the potential to bring something a bit different to the table. We think that is exciting. We like seeing new takes on games and different approaches to things. It started as a little side project/experiment and it just grew from there. Much of the inspiration for this game undoubtedly comes from our own gaming preferences.
We have all been long time fans of the RTS like model as well as many other genres. We want to take the best parts of those games that we love and bring them together in a way that compliments the main gameplay. A mish mash is not what we are looking for, each game mechanic added is done with great care. Our goal is to make a game that is a joy to play and an innovative take on whatever genre we are perceived to be in.
- What sets your games apart? What are its biggest assets?
Blackspace will become more your game, the more you play it. The upgrades and research paths will become more tuned to the way you want to play as you go so it will only get better with use. Another thing that is cool and I think people will like is the freedom, and responsibility, of being able to destroy pretty much anything. This includes your own base. Anything can be destroyed and if it’s of any worth, can be harvested. Digging and uncovering resources, not simply plucking them like flowers is also an interesting feature. Planning and resource selection will be integral parts of a successful mission.
- What do you like best about creating this game, what do you dislike?
We love the challenge. Path finding, lighting, and physics all needed very unique solutions, which are very fun to solve. We have had overwhelmingly positive responses from the public so far.
We were a bit apprehensive about showing parts of the game due to the fact that much of it is placeholder. To our surprise the gaming community is more understanding of these things than we had initially thought. We even may have a new mascot from it, people seem to like the little cube guy.
The toughest part of this experience has simply been the outpouring of money required to make this thing go. None of us are rich, nor even in the vicinity of richness, so it’s a bit nerve-racking to risk very significant portions of your own money on something that may or may not pay off in the end.
- Thinking back, was there any mistakes you made while developing? If you had the opportunity, what would you change?
We’ve made a few course corrections through our time developing this game. We’ve swapped physics systems as well as increased and decreased the games scope a few times. Nailing down what we wanted out of the game earlier would have been better, though many times the best decisions are made through trial and error. So while our methods cost us time, it may have brought us to a better solution.
We would have definitely used different art pipeline and asset conditioning tools, but that’s a long story which is most likely boring to most readers.
We probably would also have worked harder to build a Blackspace community earlier and really getting the buzz out there before kicking off the Kickstarter campaign.
- What will you do with the money your studio received from Kickstarter?
First off we’ll be hiring artists and programmers, and since they’ll be a quite talented bunch, we will have to pay competitively for them. Since we need to eat sometimes, it will help with our living costs too.
Surprising to most people is the amount that goes to Kickstarter and Amazon right off the top, 10%. Another ~30% will go to taxes. There is also a significant portion that goes to cashing in some of those rewards. Beyond that it purely goes into the game and everything required to make the game happen.
- What future do you envision for your game?
We see Blackspace as more than just a single game, we see it as the catalyst from which many more games can spawn. Spanning multiple genres and experiences and connecting players in new and interesting ways. Games that compliment each other and actually interact.
I can imagine creating a mining empire in Blackspace, then ferrying those resources for trade in an extension game. Or a game more like Sins of a Solar Empire where space trading and resource gathering are simply small parts played by real people in the vast network of your control. We want to explore some new possibilities for games as a medium, but we of course need to keep our feet on the ground at this point and get this game over the finish line.
- What are your short-term, and long-term goals for Blackspace?
Short term, we just want to get it to the public. This will mean first stop is our alpha release, which if the Kickstarter is successful some of our backers will get first access to.
Long term, we want to add multiplayer (PVP and Co-op), persistent world, in-game r real time global economy, and we want to be able to support more languages and platforms.
- What would you say to convince someone to support Blackspace on Kickstarter?
I think the videos speak for the game better than words can. They convey much of the look and feel you can expect from our game. You can expect this game to be something that will grow with you. I don’t think you can find an experience like Blackspace anywhere else.
Blackspace is currently in development and will be released for PC, and possibly Mac and Linux in the future. This project has only a few days until its campaign is over, and it can only be funded if it reaches its goal of $350,000. At the time of writing this article, it has only reached $121,000. If you would like to take a look at the campaign, watch the trailer, or even donate, the page can be accessed here. In addition, the website for Blackspace can be accessed here. Thanks to Andrea Phaneuf for her interview on this project.