"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. "
It's Newton's third law of motion that's a key influence for David Scamehorn and Alexander Baard's cooperative game Super Space ____, which is up for the Excellence in Design award at this year's Independent Games Festival.
In Super Space ____, four players each take control of one of four turrets that are mounted a "spacecraft." Asteroids fly in and players have to shoot to destroy. But when players shoot, the recoil from their guns move the ship in the opposite direction. So one can imagine how four guns going at the same time might affect the direction of the ship. Players compete for high scores, but at the same time, must cooperate with one another to maneuver the ship in order to avoid obstacles.
Scamehorn and Baard filled us in a bit more on the game and its development.
What is your background in making games?
Alex Baard: We're game design students at DigiPen.
What development tools did you use?
AB: The Zero Engine. It's a proprietary general-purpose game engine a little like Unity, developed by the school's R&D department.
David Scamehorn: The music was created by Doug Zwick in JSR's FamiTracker. For sounds, we used Increpare's version of Tomas Pettersson's Sfxr, Bfxr.
How long has your team been working on the game?
DS: Because of school, among other things, it's been an off and on development process over the past year or so.
How did you come up with the concept?
AB: I stole it from David.
DS: That's only half true. Originally, I really wanted to make this local multiplayer game about total cooperation where players were forced to cooperate using the idea of a four-player controlled ship using thrusters to avoid obstacles. Alex then prototyped a version introducing the competitive element with guns as the thrusters and from there we began to work on it together.
People playing together in the same room: Why is this important for video games?
AB: It's a community experience. The television sort of became the hearth since the '50s, a thing which everybody gathered around after the day was done. Video games have gradually become a more solitary activity over time, and local multiplayer is an excuse to do something in your friends' presence once again.
Tell me more about this "democracy of physics" that you mention on your website.
AB: That was a joke. We were looking for a super pretentious tagline for our game's description at IndieCade. Still, there's a bit of truth to the statement. When we first made the game, we wanted to get people vocal and communicating. That didn't happen, but instead we got a game about a very subtle, synaptic communication. Whenever a player fires, he's effectively "voting" on the velocity of the ship. When you get enough votes in one direction, you start moving.
What's next for Super Space ____, and what other game ideas do you have stirring around?
AB: David's the Idea Guy.
DS: As far as Super Space ____, we will be continuing development until we feel it's finished. Currently we're guessing spring, but who knows. It could be sooner, it could be later. Since there's now a real possibility of getting the game on Steam, we're taking our time so we can ultimately produce a better game with some additional features. As far as what's beyond that, we're not sure. There's a good chance it too will be a multiplayer game and that it may or may not be about ____.
Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?
AB: Shoutout to Cart Life. We met Richard [Hofmeier] at IndieCade. Play his game, it's a surefire way to get depressed. Also Perspective, another amazing game from DigiPen.
DS: After playing it a bunch at IndieCade, Samurai Gunn is probably my favorite local multiplayer game at the moment. Hotline Miami is brilliant. Also shoutout to our fellow IGF nominated "space games," Spaceteam and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. Both are games that I have yet to play but really really want to. I also admire all of the Nuovo-nominated games.
What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?
DS: Being a student, I'd say from my point of view at least it seems to be better than ever. Recently, there have been more and more students going indie (or at least thinking about it) straight out of college and totally bypassing all of the nonsense that they know they'd normally have to put up with. Some great examples of this are the guys at Refract Studios developing Distance after the success of their student game Nitronic Rush, as well as the guys at Young Horses developing the sequel to their amazing student game Octodad. It's smart on their part, especially since jobs in the triple-A space seem to be relatively unstable as of recently. I think this is indicative of a thriving and ever-changing independent games movement, and it'll be interesting to see just how much it changes this year alone.
AB: I'm just excited to see The Witness as part of the PlayStation 4 presentation. Indie games are being used to promote console launches, and are being mentioned in the same breath as staple genres like the FPS. I'd say the landscape is quite favorable, at least if you're Jonathan Blow.