At the time of writing, Into The Stars is bathing in the warm, green glow of Steam’s Greenlight programme, and the team behind it – Fugitive Games (composed of four industry veterans with backgrounds ranging from Battlefield to Lost Planet and Medal of Honor) – have met their $85,0000 Kickstarter target and are now venturing through stretch goal territory. All of this is excellent news for homebrew Captain Kirks and General Adamas everywhere, because while others in the current crop of space games are offering promises of citizenship or dangerous reputations, Into The Stars wants to drape the mantle of responsibility on your shoulders, putting you in charge of Ark 13, a giant star-faring vessel carrying the last remnants of humanity across the solar system to a new home.
Fortunately, it’s a customisable ship, whose strengths and weaknesses can be influenced by what you choose to bring with you, including your choice of selectable modules, put together at the beginning of each game. Unfortunately, yours is the last ship to leave earth, and all the Scottys and Spocks have already gone, so you’ll have to hone your space-noobs into a respectable crew youself, improving their skills in six areas, from engineering and piloting to medical and command skills.
Crew permadeath is very much a thing too, so it’s no good just chucking Red Shirts at a problem until it blows up or goes away. You’ll also need to think carefully about your constantly-dwindling resources – the 90 sectors of space between you and your goal are brimming with trading and scavenging opportunities, but can you trust the aliens in that merchant caravan? Can you spare the men needed to investigate that derelict?
To get a better idea of where the team is coming from, we opened a channel to Ben Jones, Development Director on Into The Stars and one fourth of the Fugitive Games team.
XP4T: First things first – congratulations on a superb-looking game so far! So, to begin with, I was wondering how you guys came together to form Fugitive Games in the first place? I noticed that Roy [Orr, Creative Director] and Alden [Filion, Art Director] were on the Lost Planet 3 team together at Spark Unlimited, so I guess there’s an element of chemistry involved. And it’s always fascinating to hear a good origin story!
Ben Jones: Actually, all of us have worked together at different points in our careers. Roy and I began discussing something along these lines nearly a decade ago while in grad school, and breaking out is something both Marc and Alden have wanted for some time as well. So when the opportunity to do our own thing presented itself, we jumped at it, and now we couldn’t be happier with the results. Working with small teams on passionate projects is what propelled us into this industry, so it’s nice to come full circle!
XP4T: It seems like a good move to have announced yourselves in January, when everyone’s resetting their radars for the year ahead, and it looks like you’re going to hit a few stretch goals too. But with the already high-quality appearance of the game as presented now, I was wondering how long you guys have been working on it – what’s the journey been like, up to this point?
B.J. We rolled on at different times, so development has been staggered, but we’ve been working on the game for less than a year. The journey has been amazing and, though it’s not without challenges, the creative freedom and excitement that define our everyday experience have helped aid our furious pace.
XP4T: It’s exciting to hear that you got Jack Wall to score the game – his Bioware scores are amazing, and his work on the Myst sequels is probably the best thing about those games. So given you guys’ professional backgrounds and experience with AAA titles, was it easy to rope him in for musical duties? Has your collective ‘weight’ in the industry been a help or a hindrance to the project?
B.J. Well, I wouldn’t say it was “easy”, but Alden had worked with him previously, which opened the door, and thankfully the strength of the project was enough to convince him to step through it. Though we’ve all done some things we’re proud of in our careers, it’s not like we can rely on fame or notoriety to help us out. That said, the experience we’ve gained working in the industry for so many years certainly has its benefits, contacts being foremost among them.
XP4T: I get a strong Star Trek vibe from the game, especially with the focus on taking command from the captain’s chair, and some sites have mentioned the Battlestar Galactica-like aspects of the story, so I guess some of you are Trekkers or Galactica fans (Yay!). But were there any other big design influences for you? Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space and even the old Yoda Stories kind of spring to mind when I think about Into The Stars. And you mentioned FTL and Oregon Trail in the Kickstarter video, but I wondered what else was cooking in the Fugitive pot there.
B.J. We at Fugitive are huge fans of both Trek and Galactica, but as you suspected there are quite a few influences that we’ve drawn from. The Fifth Element, Galaxy Quest and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy are some of our favorites that have come up in the development process, including influencing Alden to make the vibrant space of Into the Stars – though he’ll be the first to admit that Guardians of the Galaxy was a focal point. From a gameplay perspective, the tablet game Out There was also a large influence, as was the Mass Effect series. But the core of the experience is really a marriage of Oregon Trail and FTL.