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Interstellaria: Indie Developer Aims to Bring Back Space Exploration

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A sci-fi space setting is not unfamiliar to gaming. There’s a certain something that’s hard to describe about a compelling sci-fi video game. While other media only allow for viewers gaming allows for participants, giving players a chance to change and explore these sometimes vast game worlds.

While many will point to successful series such as the Mass Effect franchise to state that sci-fi spae exploration is alive and well, many purists would disagree. Titles like Starflight gave the player not only a compelling narrative, but also an entire universe to explore. Diplomacy was up to the player as was how they decided to outfit their starship. Decisions to mine dangerous worlds for resources balanced were weighed against the potential loss of life and equipment. There were many failures to encounter besides a ‘Game Over’ screen.

Even with its controversial time limit Star Control II managed to take and hold it’s status as an icon of space exploration. It continued the Starflight model and gave gamers an incredible journey from lone starship captain to leader of a multi-species alliance to save mankind.

There’s a reason, however, why these two titles from 1986 and 1992 are still talked about today when it comes to “pure” space exploration rather than an RPG or action game set in space. These games represent a nuanced genre that gamers and developers want to see move forward.

One indie developer is in active development to bring the space exploration genre back to life. His name is Jonathan King and his game is Interstellaria. The title is only about $4,000 away from being funded on Kickstarter with its goal of $15,000 before Dec. 6. Keep reading to see what King has to say about his title and if he plans to continue development regardless of his Kickstarter campaign.

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What is your name, age and state/country of residence?

My name is Jonathan King, 27, and I live in Washington State, USA

What is Coldrice Games? How many people are involved and what do they do? What are some of the company’s goals and inspirations?

Coldrice games is actually just me, with help from outside contracts for art or music. The goal is to develop games that not only would I love to play myself, but I know other people would really appreciate too. I’m not interested in making a “quick buck” off silly marketing gimmicks. I also believe in doing the things you love, and so this my opportunity to do just that.

Tell me about Interstellaria. What is the basic premise and genre of the game? What about it makes it worth a donation on Kickstarter?

Interstellaria is an old school space exploration game in modern clothing. The goal of Interstellaria is to explore space, upgrade your ship/crew, and make lots of money for your captain! You are free to explore space as you wish. Nothing stops the player from bee-lining to the most dangerous areas of space, or just hopping from planet to planet. You play how you want. There are also several alien cultures to talk with so you can be diplomatic to get all your information, you you can be a galactic terror.The game play features advanced crew management to control your ship. What separates it from a game like FTL, which also uses an advanced crew management style, is that you’re also leveling up, customizing, and generally taking care of your crewman as well. They need to eat, sleep, and be entertained. So you control your starship with an in depth crew system, talk with aliens, trade, and the icing on the cake actually explore the planets in a Metroidvania style setup.

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You state that games like Star Control and Starflight as your inspiration. How do you specifically aim to create that open feel of exploration along with an intuitive story that allows players to easily find their way along the game’s objectives?

The game makes the objective pretty clear from the start, but finding the clues to go from point A to point B is up to the player. There are no quest markers or “TRAVEL TO VEGA IV” sections. The only mission prompts are on a planet if there is one. Otherwise, you have to find your way through diplomacy, or force.

Older games didn’t just hold your hand on these things. I think some games went too far with this, making it nearly impossible to progress without help, but with modern game design methodology there are definitely ways to get the player where they need to go without a “press b to jump!” banner.Finally, the game is open. Fighting is fun. Exploring planets is fun. Even when you’re lost you’re not without things to do.

Do you feel like this is a genre that is lacking in quality titles? What do you hope to bring to this genre?

I think this is a genre that is lacking in titles, period. That’s it. I don’t know what happened, but all our favorite games of yesteryear went away. Does anyone really know why? Why hasn’t there been a quality Starflight like game? Like seriously I almost wanted to make an exact clone of the game just so I could play it. For other developers: SOMEONE MAKE THE NEXT STAR CONTROL! I’m waiting for it! I think people have been really positive about this project because everyone’s kinda yearning for it.

What is an example of a quest line you have in mind for the title?

A great example of a question we have planned is on a gas planet. It’s a world that when you initially travel to it, you can’t land. If you encounter a local species in space, and you’re friendly, they are willing to give you information about where you can land.Once you land, you’re plopped into a cloud like environment. It’s pretty neat because gravity is very heavy certain actions are now a lot harder. This level isn’t about killing enemies (though there are some) but instead you have the ability to vacuum valuable gases. It can be sold to trading posts for a decent amount of money. If you actually EXPLORE the gas planet though (it’s non-linear), you might be able to find a certain local inhabitant that will give you valuable coordinates. He knows of a group of aliens who pay 3x the amount for the gas. They’re a bit far out, but suddenly you’ve uncovered a valuable trade route!

Not every mission is about combat, though many are of course.

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What are some interesting and specific notes about how building and piloting ships works?

You don’t really build the ships per-say, but you can install stations. Each station has 3 levels. A great example is tactical. A level 1 station gives you improved accuracy. Level two allows you to target weak points. A level 3 station, used in conjunction with a level 3 scanner, allows you to target specific rooms of the enemy ship! These upgrades can make your ship incredibly powerful. They are permanent though! During play testing this might change – but if it does it’ll be that you lose the station by ripping it out. You have to be careful what you install. Sometimes upgrading to a higher class means losing on valuable bonuses.

Piloting is simple. Add energy to the engines, hit the starmap, click and area of space, and engage. That’s it. The more power to the engine, the faster you go. Certain stations can also increase speed.

You had a previous funded Kickstarter for a game entitled Bitcrobes. Do you consider that project successful? What have you learned from that project that you want to apply moving forward with Interstellaria?

Yeah Bitcrobes was great, in that it launched this all. If there were no Bitcrobes, there would be no Interstellaria. I built 75 percent of the game on a Hackintosh build. It’s how I learned to program, and my humble beginnings in pixel art. I don’t often have money, and not in any high amount. When I completely crashed and lost my Hackintosh build I was dead in the water. I’d never finish the game, and almost considered quitting. I was really close to being done, and very disappointed in myself. I decided to turn to Kickstarter for a small sum to get back on track (600). Surprisingly many people were eager to help and I was able to finish the project. The game released, like many peoples first game, with bugs and issues. I’m slowly porting it to Unity as well, but it’s a side project to Interstellaria. I still use the Mac for Interstellaria!

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Do you have a release date range in mind for the title?

I’d like to work for another year on the project before releasing. Of course, I’ll only release a version which I feel will be fun, intuitive, and visually pleasing.

If funding fails will the project continue?

Yes, I think I would persevere through if I don’t get funding. I can’t guarantee a time frame though. All the work I would outsource would now fall back into my lap easily increasing the amount of time to complete the game to indefinite. It’d be hard, and I know I also run the risk of making something I wouldn’t necessarily be happy with in the end.

How do you feel about the progress so far in regards to funding?

It’s been awesome! In the first 48 hours we hit 30 percent which is a big first step, and it’s getting closed to 36 percent as of writing this. Hopefully with upcoming articles, YouTube videos, and events, I can keep that momentum going!

Anything else you’d like to add or discuss?

Nothing that comes to mind. Thank you  so much for taking the time and interest in Interstellaria!

Author’s note – Answers were edited for style and grammar.