In the latest edition of Warp Zoned’s Kickstart This! column, one of the games we featured was Space Pioneer from Space Enigma Studios, an exciting fusion of space exploration, colonization, RTS, and mystery adventure. We recently spoke to Space Enigma’s director, Maximillian Kovtun, to find out more about the project, the science behind the game, and why the Wii U was chosen as one of the release platforms.
Andrew Rainnie, Warp Zoned UK Correspondent: You are seeking $150,000 in your Kickstarter campaign for Space Pioneer, an exploration of the final frontier. Explain the concept of the game in the length of a tweet (140 characters)?
Maximillian Kovtun: In the length of a tweet!?! That’s a hard thing to do – especially since I’ve already used up most of my words. It’s an RTS Space Sim!
In all seriousness – you can best describe our game as a space sim, with real time strategy and city building mechanics.
WZ – Andrew: The game sounds like a cross between Mass Effect, SimCity, and the StarCraft saga. What other games, books, or media inspired the direction and structure of Space Pioneer?
Kovtun: We are definitely inspired by the games that you mention. Besides the ones that you list – Star Trek (not the game), Spore and XCOM are all media that we are inspired by.
WZ – Andrew: At the moment, the game exists visually as some beautiful pre-rendered images that evoke a very classic sci-fi feel of exploration and mystery. How close to the artwork will the game’s graphics be?
Kovtun: Yes, it was definitely our intention to invoke those types of feelings and I am happy to say that we are going to adhere closely to this type of art direction.
WZ – Andrew: As well as the exploration and colonisation, the single-player campaign will have a mystery to solve. Can you elaborate on the plot of the story?
Kovtun: The single player mode will have a lengthy campaign with a fully fleshed out story. We don’t really want to reveal much about it as it’s something that we want to surprise our players with.
WZ – Andrew: At the 2013 VGX Awards, Hello Games showed off an impressive trailer for their own space exploration title, No Man’s Sky. Although it is an FPS, it managed to capture people’s imagination through a mix of space exploration, unique planets, and an unusual art style. What were your thoughts when it was announced? Did you think, “Oh no, another game like ours?”
Kovtun: My first thoughts about it? What an awesome game! I don’t think that our games are very similar; we’re not procedurally-generated and our gameplay differs to a great extent. With that said, I wish them the best of luck with their game. I read about what happened to their studio, and I hope that they’ve bounced back from it!
WZ – Andrew: As well as the single player campaign and a multiplayer mode featuring 128 players in the same universe, there will be a dedicated RTS mode. Is this going to be Command & Conquer in space, or will the RTS gameplay allow players to choose different races and weapon types?
Kovtun: Well – I wouldn’t call it a dedicated RTS mode, as you can switch between RTS and third-person spacecraft viewpoints at will. There will, however, be a “sub-mode” where you can compete against another player on moons, asteroids, and small planets. You can also cooperate with other players to take down an AI opponent. This sub-mode is the closest that Space Pioneer gets to being the classical build-a-base-and-destroy-the-other-person’s-base RTS that people are familiar with.
WZ – Andrew: The game is also pitched as an educational experience. Space Enigma Studios has managed to assemble a team of real life scientists and astronauts in order to achieve the most realistic detail possible. Tell us a little bit about how you approached these giants of their respective fields?
Kovtun: The team that we have assembled allows us to make something that’ll be incredibly different from other games that are of a similar genre. The architects that are on our team allow for incredibly interesting structures, our scientists and engineers can build wondrously detailed space ships and our astronauts advise and create unique ideas for Space Pioneer. All the while; our technical side translates all of these things directly into the game.
WZ – Andrew: Who are the members of Space Enigma Studios? How did you come together?
Kovtun: I’d say that we all share a common vision for what we would like to see in a game and sort of just found each other. To be honest though, Anton Pervushin helped organize a good chunk of our team – he’s a very well-known science fiction writer in Europe and Russia. I would even say that he is the modern day equivalent to Arthur C. Clarke.
WZ – Andrew: Education and entertainment do not often mix so well. Are you concerned that the drive for a scientifically well-researched game may impact the scintillating experience of colonizing planets and conquering enemies?
Kovtun: We think that our game does not suffer at all from including scientific and educational value. It’s not something that’s forced onto the player! We’re not going to tell players to study their homework and do math in Space Pioneer. Think of it this way; the game’s physics engine is more realistic, the universe you’re thrust into corresponds to our own and there’s a huge database that you can access if you want to learn more about space. So, I don’t think for a second that our game is less entertaining for including some educational value.
WZ – Andrew: The project is now being developed for Nintendo’s Wii U. Could you enlighten us on why that console was chosen, and what (if any) GamePad functionality will be incorporated into that version?
Kovtun: The Wii U was chosen, in part, because of its unique GamePad controller. It makes it easier to translate a game like ours onto consoles. We have also noticed that the Wii U’s community is actually incredibly non-casual. We are aware that Wii U’s sales haven’t been astounding, but those who do choose to buy it are the ones who truly like to play games and are the ones who are the most passionate within our gaming community.
WZ – Andrew: Do you think man will ever breach the boundaries of the solar system?
Kovtun: We already have! Voyager left our solar system relatively recently and is now in interstellar space. Humanity breached the boundary that is our solar system using technology that is more than thirty years old – imagine what we can do now if we really set our sights on it. Keep in mind that Voyager One’s computing power is infinitesimal compared to say, a Galaxy S4.
WZ – Andrew: A couple of years ago, an engineer started a fund to Build The Enterprise with the hope of using his craft, resembling the Star Trek vessel but with very different science parts inside, to travel to Mars in just 90 days. Is this a feasible goal?
Kovtun: I hope that he goes beyond Mars if he actually builds the Enterprise! I think that it can be feasible; albeit the amount that he’s asking would require multiple governmental agencies to invest in him. Building the Enterprise would be equivalent to building roughly seven International Space Stations, budgetwise.
WZ – Andrew: At the time of this interview, Space Pioneer has reached just over $22,000 of its $150,000 goal with 32 days to go, roughly 15% [Editor’s Note: Backers have currently pledged $24,000 towards Space Pioneer with 28 days remaining]. Can you elaborate on your marketing strategy to build the project’s reputation, pushing it out to more potential donors? Do you think you can achieve it in that time frame?
Kovtun: We think that our goal is more than achievable with the time that we have left – most Kickstarter projects only last for about 30 days, so we have plenty of time to reach our funding goal. In any case; I hope that people who are reading this interview will go to our Kickstarter and help by contributing!
WZ – Andrew: Assuming that Space Pioneer is successfully funded, what would be next for Space Enigma? Do you have any other future game ideas you wish to share?
Kovtun: Well, we would continue development until Space Pioneer is finished. However; we do have some micro game ideas that we could release before Space Pioneer launches. We’re always brainstorming about new ideas and hope to keep making awesome games in the future!
WZ – Andrew: Once again Maximillian, thank you for your time, and good luck with the Kickstarter campaign.