Interview in SCORE
I did an interview for SCORE, a Czech gaming magazine. Here is the full interview, between the fantastic Michal Jakl, and yours truely. 😉 Enjoy!
How does one decide to create such a big project on his own? I presume you have to sacrifice a lot of time (and money for that matter). Isn’t it a bit risky to be developing an adventure game nowadays? Of course there’s Joshua Nuernberger with his marvelous Gemini Rue as an example, that adventure genre is not that dead as everybody says, but nevertheless what made you choose adventure? It’s certainly not the motive of „making some money“.
STASIS started out as a December project to try and learn some new skills. But the seeds of the project were planted a few years ago, with a project called ISC Sebastian: GHOST SHIP. It was going to be a short that focused purely on environment, with each other the environments having its own story. The idea was that, at the end of the short, you would have only an idea about what happened on this massive abandoned space vessel…the rest you had to fill in for yourself.
I never progessed past the first two environments, but the ideas in there, and the asthetic, followed through to STASIS.
When I thought about developing a game, I had no idea HOW I was going to do it, so I started to put together an art test. I figured that it would be better to use existing assets for what I had in mind, and perhaps using those graphics I could entice a programmer to work with me. So I took the Ghost Ship 3d files, and started to play around with a few ideas for the layout and graphics of an adventure game. At this point, I had no story in mind, but I knew I wanted to do something along the lines of the first act in ALIEN. An adventure game if the perfect vessel for a mystery story-and one involving discovery an abandoned spaceship…man that just gave me the chills!
Originally Stasis was just going to be a single room game, and then I started to wrap a story around it…before I knew it, I was developing an entire space station. It really was a project that was, and is, purely driven by the love of art, the world, and the story.
What drives you then? The passion of sharing the story? Pure fun of the developing process?
The game really organically grew from a love of the environemts, and since then the story has taken over. It is the single driving point in the development, telling the story.
At the beginning, there’s usually an idea, story synopsys, or perhaps just an artwork, in the end there will hopefuly be a great game. Somewhere inbetween a developer must necessarily sacrifice many design ideas, which he couldn’t for various reasons implement into the game. Till now have you had to make any painful compromises? Which one did hurt the most and why?
You know, when I first say down and really began to plan STASIS out, I kept in mind that I am one man, and I am using a very limited toolset. The game has been designed with that from the outset. The reason there is one main character in the game was because I was originally going to do all of the dialogue. The actual dialog in the game is rather minimal aswell, because I am not a screenwriter!
The one idea that I did have was the initial story. It started off as a classic SciFi horror, with your character discovering this massive derelic spaceship floating in space. The story was written, and quite a bit of the opening act artwork was completed…but it just wasnt working. It was a major lesson in game design-that structuring a game like a film does NOT work.
There are still major elements of that story in STASIS, so all was not lost.
Tell us something about more your developing techniques. What engine or app do you use tu develope and run the game, how do those brathtaking backgrounds come up? How much time does it take for instance to draw one particular backround (I presume they’re 2D?)?
The engine Im using is called VISIONAIRE. Its a 2D engine, specifially written for Adventure Games.
Graphically, I use 3DSMax, and After Effects for all the work. Surprisingly, the levels dont take a massive amount of time to put together. The most time comes in the planning stage, and then putting everything together in the engine. I would say a room takes around 2 days to complete, and about a week to put into the engine, with all of its elements and puzzles.
The visual and acoustic inspiration by such films as Alien or Event Horizon (perhaps even the Dead Space game?) are obvious, could you reveal more of your inspirational sources for the overall feeling of Stasis?
I really am inspired by everything. Alien, Aliens, and Event Horizon are the 3 big ones-but FALLOUT, Sunshine, Pandorum, The Black Hole, Star Trek, 2001, Blade Runner, pretty much any SciFi from the 1980’s.
Story wise (in terms of pacing), Bioshock and Deadspace have been my major models of study for just how to lay out the story in a game.
When I see the isometric view used in a sci-fi horror game, I automaticaly recall games such as Crusader: No Remorse or Gorky 17 (don’t know why that one, just a sentiment I guess), but those are action games. Isometric view isn’t realy typical for strict point n’click adventures (Sanitarium and few others being an exeption). So how is it? Point n’click only? If so, why?
It came down to the fact that I love Adventure Games, and I love the Isometric perspective. It has a way of making the player seem like a small character in a big world. It was more that the perspective supported the story rather than the genre.
Or shall we expect some action, survival elements? On your website, you’re hinting something about „danger lurking in every shadow“, „Emergency Medical Kit“. I understand, that the latter fills the role of an inventory, nevertheless do you plan to implement some action sequences perhaps? The lurking danger kind of implies them. Or am I completely off?
There arent going to be any action, quicktime style elements in the game. Nor are there things like Gemeni Rue’s shooting sequences. But there will be danger, and the survival aspect of there being things out to get you. You will be hurt, and killed in the game, and have to keep a look, and ear, out for the dangers. Ellusive eh?
Tell us something more about the story. We will play as the captain and the sole passenger of a space ship, who happens to discover an abandoned research vessel. What happend? Whats waiting for us there? And is the „danger“ more physical as in Alien or more psychological as Event Horizon was?
Im going to have to excersize my designers perogative and say you will have to play the game and see!
And finally, the distribution. Do you have any means of distribution yet? Any publisher on the horizon, or do you plan to use the digital channels such as Steam and Desura. Of course there’s always the possibility of selfpublishing. And what about the other platforms? PC is a go, Android, iOS, XBLA PSN?
Platforms will be PC and Mac currently. There may be ports to other platforms at a later date, but right now Im just focusing on getting the game done!
With portals like GOG, Steam, Desura, its becoming less important to have a publisher. As I sit now, there have only been marginal talks with the portals about STASIS, but nothing has been signed or agreed upon. Im more focused on getting out the best possible game.
I just want to extend a very special thanks to Michal, for putting up with my tardiness in getting him the answers! I think the end result is fantastic, and cant thank him enough for the opportunity!