Interstellar Marines Interview with Kim Haar Jørgensen the Game Director and Kenneth Ellegaard Andersen the Producer/Lead Sound Designer/PR-dude
“Interstellar Marines is an AAA, FPS, Sci-fi, action and adventure game with an original and unpredictable storyline featuring single and cooperative gameplay, with heavy focus on realism. Planned as a trilogy and targeted at a 17+ audience.”
GameOgre: Can you tell us the backstory for Interstellar Marines and how the concepts and story all came together?
Kim: The initial idea for Interstellar Marines was spawned back in 1993, when Nicolai (My creative partner) and I played a lot of Hired Guns from DMA Design & Psygnosis on the Amiga 500 in split-screen “FPS” coop. Interstellar Marines instantly became the center of all our creative talks and synergies as we played and got inspiration from more and more FPS games over the years.
At its core Interstellar Marines have always been about creating an immersive tactical first person shooter that allows you to play with your friends in coop, but If there is something we love just as much as FPS games; it has to be science fiction in general. Aliens from James Cameron and Discovery Sci-Fi has no doubt also influenced our inevitable decision to place Interstellar Marines in a rich realistic future where mankind has colonized the entire Solar System and are now secretly assembling a core unit of elite special forces to protect mankind’s further endeavours just about the time when you and your friends enter the game.
Last but not least we’ve always felt an huge urge to bring our vision of how realistic first contact with another sentient species would erupt and evolve, so a lot of the story is about immersing you right in the middle of it all as we do everything we can to bring you science fiction in a way we feel nobody have experienced before.
GameOgre: What made you decide to make a game like Interstellar Marines?
Kim: The fact is that Interstellar Marines has evolved a lot over the years as Nicolai and I played almost every FPS games released, but beside our initial inspiration from Hired Guns, Aliens and our general urge to give the world the game of our dreams with cool FPS coop in a rich deep sci-fi setting, Interstellar Marines basically evolves the FPS formula by mixing three core game genres; tactical, role-playing and arcade and are balancing these ingredients into a fresh new FPS experience that dares to experiment.
GameOgre: Zero Point Software is an Indie Developer. Can you tell us a little about your company and its history?
Kenneth: Zero Point Software started officially in 2006, where Kim, Nicolai and two others started working on a trailer for the game. It was a bit backwards actually – instead of making the game first and then make a trailer they decided to make trailer as if the game was already finished. They hoped that they would get some attention with this trailer, and they sure did.
Within very short time of the release of the trailer it got downloaded +2 mill times and publishers started to call them and asked “Who are you guys, why haven’t we heard of you before, what is this game about and how far are you?”
So Kim and Nicolai had to admit that they actually didn’t have a working game, but with the massive interest from publishers and gamers, they managed to raise some money to start the actual development.
The next couple of years were used on making publisher demos using Unreal Engine 3, and we were negotiating with three major publishers, but the negotiations stopped as soon as it became apparent to us that the publishers wanted to take control of the IPR, and offer us a really bad royality deal on top of that. If we signed with the publishers, we would no longer be in creative control of the project, which is very important to us. We’re not interested in making the next Call of Duty clone. We want to make the game we want to play, and don’t want to be dictated by sales-figures.
So we decided to stay independent and changed strategy towards Crowd Funding and Open Door Developing. There is so much power among the gamers and in the gaming community, so we would much rather have gamers as “publishers”, as they are the ones who are going to play our games in the end.
This strategy has so far brought The Vault, Bullseye and Running Man to life and we are currently working on our next slice – a competitive multiplayer called “Deadlock”
GameOgre: Tell us a little about the chapters you are working on that players can demo now? Also tell us a little about the chapters that are still locked and do you have an estimate on when they will be available?
Kenneth: Interstellar Marines is actually planned as a grand AAA Trilogy, but as our year-budget is smaller than Rockstar Games monthly lunch-budget, we can’t make the entire trilogy all at once. Our goal is to raise enough funding to release all three titles in the Trilogy as self-sustainable titles, but until then we use our effort to develop the core mechanics and assets of Interstellar Marines and make smaller self-sustainable games in a “Prologue” storyline out of it.
The first “slice” is The Vault. It started out as a test-run of our current game-engine Unity. We decided to switch to Unity in 2009, and wanted to see how well it performed. So we made an “interactive museum” where we introduce some of the key characters and vehicles in Interstellar Marines. We thought that this approach would be way cooler than simple screenshots and text.
The second slice is Bullseye. We wanted to make the simplest game possible, which at the same time was core Interstellar Marines, and the idea Kim came up with was a target training facility aboard one of ITO’s military space carriers. The goal was to nail and show our take on gun handling with a simple character progression system combined with a fun and addictive gameplay.
The third slice is Running Man. Basically we took the gun handling from Bullseye and added movement to the character. Running Man is about showing our take on immersion and basic combat training against combat drones. At the same time we added a small storyline, so this is actually the first three training days of the Interstellar Marines training program.
The next and upcoming slice is Deadlock. Deadlock is a competitive multiplayer and is also linked into the Prologue storyline, as it’s part of the training program. We aim to have it available soon in a very early alpha state to our premium members.
So we’re kind of making the game from the inside and out. First basic gun handling, then added movement, and now multiplayer.
GameOgre: Tell us a little about the Interstellar Marines world. What can players do in the game and what things will they experience?
Kim: We’re doing everything we can to make you believe that you’re looking out through the eyes of your character, because if you do not believe in your character, you’ll not believe the world and story around you. Our goal is to immerse you completely into a future that ‘could be’ and we’re spending a lot of time and efforts making sure that everything feels and behaves as realistic as possible, because if we can make you forget the real world around you; we got you by the balls. 🙂
In Interstellar Marines the level design and gameplay are designed to be less linear than most shooters today, this means that we’ll give you a lot of tactical options to overcome situations by utilizing the environment, your equipment and your skills. Hack a computer to access floor plans, turn off the light in a section to gain element of surprise, use stealth to pace a situation and so much more.
It’s your story and it’s your choices and over the course of the story you’ll be infiltrating a legit weapons factory on Mars fronting a modern terrorist organization, swimming in dark murky water inside flooded laboratories onboard a secret research space station, take you to the first human settlement in another Solar System and much, much more.
GameOgre: Will you have traditional leveling in Interstellar Marines or how will players advance through the world?
Kenneth: Once a week we answer a question from our community – we call this initiative “Ask the Developers” and a few weeks ago we had a question quite similar to this, and instead of having Kim or me give you a short and incomplete summary, I’d suggest that you head over to our forum to read a thorough introduction to the RPG-elements of Interstellar Marines:
GameOgre: Tell us how the freely customizable weapon simulation works?
Kim: We’re developing an whole tactical arsenal of 27 different weapons ranging from pistols to rocket launchers. 9 weapon categories with 3 different weapon models in each category as well as a whole range of extensions and futuristic equipment; Scopes, grenade launchers, shotgun-extension, light, laser, explosives, sentry units, traps, vision modes and much, much more.
GameOgre: What are some of the other main features in Interstellar Marines and can you give us some details about those?
Kim: We have a few areas that are given extra attention to detail and execution, e.g. enemy AI, which we believe is one of the core factors when pursuing diverse, exciting, intense combat filled with tons of replay-value. We believe that AI in games have become the final frontier and feel that this important element is overlooked in most games nowadays. We know its a huge challenge but we’ll rather have a few fun, fresh and “thinking” enemies than many dull and stupid ones.
On a different note, we’ve prototyped and patented a cool technology that completely integrates Voice-over-IP into our game world, basically porting you and your friends voices into the game while simulating reverb and other effects – giving you a unique and immersive in-game 3d positioned Voice-over-IP experience.
GameOgre: Interstellar Marines doesn’t have the typical publisher. You classify it as being published by the community. Can you explain this system to us and what it means to the player?
Kenneth: Well, we give our community the chance to support the development, by upgrading their user account, and at the same time they pre-order part of or the entire Trilogy.
We have two premium accounts: Frontliner ($25) and Spearhead ($39).
Frontliners will get a digital copy of the first title in the Trilogy as well as access to all premium content and alpha/beta-program of all slices leading up to and including the first title.
Spearhead is kind of like an all-inclusive deal. You get all the same benefits as Frontliners, but including ALL titles in the Trilogy. Basically, if you buy a Spearhead upgrade you are all in, but this type of membership is limited to 75.000 members only!
We also have something called Support Medals ($5). This is basically a “donation”, where you can donate money to help finance the development. Support Medals will also pimp your badge for you user profile which is shown in our forum and on blog-comments.
All in all this means that you first of all get the titles in the Trilogy at a very low price, and the financial support helps us make the game sooner rather than later, but just as important – it gives you a unique opportunity to influence the development of Interstellar Marines.
We have a dedicated and active community, where we engage ourselves in the forum, listen to feedback on gameplay and prototypes, and try to be as much aligned to the guys and girls playing our games as possible.
GameOgre: What kind of audience are you targeting with this game and what type of player does this game tend to cater to?
Kenneth: We see ourselves as core gamers, and as I mentioned earlier, we wish to make a game we want to play ourselves, but that being said our goal is to have an easy learning curve.
GameOgre: What kind of learning curve is needed for Interstellar Marines? Is it the type of game anyone can pick up and play or does it take a while to get into the swing of things?
Kenneth: ”Easy to learn, but hard to master“ is what we’re aiming at. We are inspired by games such as Deus Ex and System Shock 2 for the roleplaying elements, Ghost Recon and Raven Shield for the tactical parts, and F.E.A.R. and Crysis for immersion and the more “arcade” side.
GameOgre: Is there anything else you would like for our readers to know about Interstellar Marines?
Kenneth: Join our community at interstellarmarines.com and follow the development of Deadlock. Soon we’ll give premium members exclusive access to play Deadlock “behind the scenes” as it’s being developed, but you can already follow the development by trying free public prototypes, read developer blogs and talk with us on our forum… Oh, and did I forget to mention – we have the most dedicated kick-ass community in the Solar System!!!