Posted on February 3, 2013 AT 08:00am
One of the biggest surprises last year was the runaway success of the Kickstarter campaign for the upcoming android-based console, the Ouya. Chatting with one of my old classmates from my alma mater, UNC Asheville, I discovered he was developing a game for the new system. After expressing an interest in checking out his game, Designer Greg Bliss, offered me a chance to try the game out.
Shooter From Space! puts you in control of the most awesome turret ever. With lasers and a slew of powerful weapons, you’re tasked with protecting the moon from invading aliens.
The game itself is pretty simple, aim the turret at the bad guys and make sure you don’t get hit by anything. The real fun comes with pairing the weapons together to make deadly combinations for racking up a huge high score. There were nine upgrades available in the build of the game I played: the missile jammer, flame thrower, scanning missile, speed reload, olympic torch, crater creator, atomic force field, L.A.S.E.R. and black hole gun. Each weapon offers their own strengths and drawbacks, some of them being defensive, like the atomic force field, and others being awesomely offensive. During my play-through, my favorite combination ended up being the scanning missile, crater creator and black hole gun. While it was a riskier combination, I blasted away more aliens and felt like I was racking up a high score while using it.
While it wasn’t quite complete, I can really feel the potential this game has to become a really fun pick up and play title. It’s easy to get lost in making sure the enemy missiles aren’t reaching you and the weapons are a ton of fun.
If you want to try your hand at the game, you’ll have your chance from February 4th through the 11th, as they are launching a web-based version of the game that you can find on their main website:
I also got the chance to chat with Greg for a bit about the game. You can check out our conversation below and a trailer for From Space! at the bottom of this post. Make sure to play the game while it’s up on their website next week!
What games, or other media, inspired From Space!?
Greg: I’ll start with games – there are a few pretty clear inspirations for From Space! – Space Invaders, Missile Command, and the tower defense genre in general. Most of our team grew up playing the first two, and I’ve personally sunk a pretty crazy amount of time into a couple of tower defense games on my iPhone. We love the unforgiving difficulty that some of those older games had, and we especially like the feeling of power you get from the upgrade mechanics you find in most tower defense games. We had some less obvious inspirations, too – and for me these were actually the really big ones – Bejeweled Blitz, Jetpack Joyride, and Punch Quest. I love those games because they really pack a lot into a short amount of time. Even though a single round of any of them may not last long, I usually find myself playing many rounds in each sitting. Another aspect of those games we like is iterative nature of the experience – the games reset you to roughly the same baseline each time you play, but you still get a sense of meta-game progression as you see your mastery build. Those games also do a really great job with the balance between the meta- and micro-game, taking advantage of persistent unlocks or consumable boosts. We don’t have that in From Space! yet, but we’d like to play around with it. The idea for From Space! was to capture some of the coolest things about these games and make the experience a little longer and a little more intense, as is fitting for a console game. One thing those games all do that I’m not quite as excited about is MTX (micro-transactions), but I think they manage to strike a good balance. I’ve spent money on all of them, but I certainly never felt that I had to.
As far as the theming, we went for a 50′s and 60′s sci-fi vibe. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to pull it off at first, but it ended up being one of our favorite things about the game. I honestly think we could even push a little harder in that direction, too. Our 3D artist had the idea early on, and when we started building he started playing all these ridiculous old movies on Netflix in the background. It was actually really helpful, it sort of set a cool tone for us as we worked.
What made you want to develop a game for the Ouya?
Greg: We think one of the most exciting things about the Ouya is that it represents a chance for small and independent developers to get more traditional, console style games in front of players with very little friction. We’re all huge fans of the triple-a games we get on Xbox and PS3, but the independent development scene can add a lot of value to couch-gaming culture. Smaller developers can afford to be far more experimental and take crazier risks than the big guys, which we believe is essential to the overall health of the industry. We also saw the Ouya as a great opportunity to get in early before the marketplace is over-saturated. For example, one of the big problems you have if you make an iOS game is getting visibility – so many good games come out on the platform each week, it’s hard to get noticed. I think being an early adopter for any platform is really exciting for that reason.
How far are you from a final version?
Greg: Well, we’re working on getting an updated version built for web so we can hold an open, online high-score tournament over the week leading up to the announcement of the CREATE game jam finalists, but that version won’t be ‘final’. We’re hoping the tournament will create a lot of awesome telemetric data we can use to balance the game a bit more. Leading up to release we’d love to add a few more aesthetic elements, a few more enemies, and a few more weapons as well. We believe that the current game has a fun core, and I don’t imagine we’ll re-invent the game before release – we just want to make sure it’s the best game we can put in front of gamers when the time comes.
What’s been the hardest thing about developing this game?
Greg: Actually, developing From Space! was one of the smoothest projects I’ve ever worked on. I think really the hardest part was getting the whole thing built in time for submission to the CREATE game jam. We built game in about 6 days, half of which a few of us had to split with our ‘real’ jobs. It might seem like such a short deadline would make everything harder, but I think in some key ways it was helpful. We were very careful setting the scope of the game, we all worked very hard because we knew how little time we had, and we never really had a chance to lose momentum or get bogged down.
I love the weapons in the game! Which is your favorite? Any new ones you’d like to announce?
Greg: Thanks! The weapons were one of the most exciting parts of the game to design. Right now I have a few favorite weapons – I love watching our chain-lightning weapon jump between enemies, but I think in terms of raw power it’s hard to beat the grenades. I love the feeling of getting within inches of being overwhelmed before unloading a few volleys of grenades and watching them push back the enemy line. The ‘Black Hole Gun’ also has a lot of raw power and visual appeal as well. I think the most exciting thing about the weapons has been seeing effective combinations we didn’t plan for emerge as we played – for example, you can wait until you are about to be hit by a huge wave of incoming missiles before clearing them with the flame thrower right before firing off all your grenades. With the missiles out of the way your grenades will cut right through to the enemy ships and do quite a bit of damage. We didn’t get all the weapons we talked about into the game, so I think there is a good chance players will see some really cool new stuff when we release.
Aside from the sounds of exploding baddies, the game felt a bit quiet at times. Can we expect music for the final build?
Greg: Yes! We wanted to get music in earlier, but we weren’t able to find the right track. None of us are dedicated sound designers, so we were at a bit of a disadvantage there. Ultimately we decided that having no music during play was better than having the wrong music during play, but it’s definitely something I’d like to add soon.
What’s the most positive thing you’ve gotten out of this experience?
Greg: This question is easy – working with our team – these guys are all absolutely amazing, outrageously talented, and most importantly they’re all really good team-players. I think that’s what really ends up mattering when you have to get something done. Working with people who know how to have fun and leave their egos at the door is incredibly valuable, and my team-members have that in spades. No matter what happens with this game, I’ll be ready to work with these guys again any day on any project.
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