How about introducing yourself and telling us a bit about who you are
Hi, I’m Markus. I’ve worked as an indie developer for a little over 3 years now. My life so far: I grew up in a small village in Austria, studied Information Design, then spent a few years working as a graphic artist for Funcom in Norway (building evil artifacts and mangled body-parts for Age of Conan – and I was the “GUI strike-team lead” and created most of the graphics for the interface). It was fun being part of such a big project, but I knew that I would enjoy working on my very own ideas even more… I saved as much as I could and when Age of Conan launched I had enough funds to pay the rent for about a year. I quit my job and traded financial security for creative freedom.
I would have never guessed that Age of Conan would be on your resume, that’s pretty cool though.
Do you ever have trouble paying your bills working as an indie developer now?
Not yet, but it’s not easy. Maybe I just have to rethink my marketing plan (Make a game, then wait for people to magically appear and buy it…)
When did you first get the idea for NEW ORBIT?
I think it first started on the bus to work, sometime in 2007. A year later I was back in Austria, about to start my one-man company and one night after watching a documentary about rocket engines I started writing the physics code – it was a lot of fun to play with gravitation, but I had run into some bug in the engine that I couldn’t fix, so I worked on something else again, one thing lead to another and 2 more years had passed. So sometime in 2010 I found myself looking for a new game to work on and I decided to do the space game! The project manager in me decided to turn the prototype into a nice and simple game in about a month. My first action as game director of this wonderful new project was… to completely ignore that plan. I had spent a lot of time thinking about adventure games, I had written the story for an adventure game in space that starred an old man and at some point it struck me: Why not make this game a kind of episodic prequel to that adventure game? So I did. And it took about a year.
Why space instead of, say, the ocean, or maybe even the sky?
I think the story would have worked just as well with Jonah alone on a sinking boat, but since I started out by simulating gravitational forces that called for a space setting.
NEW ORBIT had me anxious almost the whole way through, almost to the point of being scared at times. Was that a goal of yours when making it?
Yeah, I spent quite a lot of time trying to make you feel lost and lonely. Every once in a while I had to go back and cut out positive bits that had slipped in. It almost seems as if I was subconsciously trying to help Jonah. It was tough being so mean to a character I really liked, but it had to be done. I even rewrote large parts of the story again and again to get the feeling I was aiming for (You can check out the “Deleted Missions” for 3 chapters that had to go…). But you’ve only seen Episode 1 so far… Let me tell you: The darkest times are still ahead of us.
Things are going to get worse? Yikes. Being that Jonah is stuck inside his tiny ship that’s adrift in space you’ve managed to scare the pants off two completely different groups; those with claustrophobia and the polar opposite, sufferers of agoraphobia. How many episodes do you think you’ll make?
Haha. But those with claustrophobia can breath a sigh of relief – I’m not planning to cram any more people into the tiny shuttle…
At this point I have 3 episodes planned, but who knows? The more I work on the story the more interesting bits and pieces emerge!
I certainly look forward to whatever you’ve got planned next. In a recent email you sent out you mentioned something about a more open-world kind of game. Can you talk a bit about what kind of ideas you have that are different than NEW ORBIT given how that game is set in space already pretty open?
NEW ORBIT has a few more open areas, but all in all you have to follow the story to progress in the game. A truly open world game would focus less on story and more on emergent gameplay. Random quests, factions, build stuff, go wherever you want. Custom ship building is one thing I’m very excited about – and the tech for that is actually done. But since I really want to finish NEW ORBIT with a focus on the story, I’m not sure if I will use that tech to it’s full extend here. But whatever tech I build for NEW ORBIT, I always have the thought of reusing it for an open world game in the back of my head… Not trying to do everything at once is actually one of the toughest things when you have creative freedom.
You’ve given me and those reading this a lot to think about. Let’s wrap this up with one last thing. Have any advice for budding or aspiring indie developers?
Thanks for listening! I believe the best results come from doing what you love. Follow your own vision – create something unique!
Here’s a few links for those interested in NEW ORBIT.
NEW ORBIT Webplayer demo: http://blackish-games.com/neworbit/demo.html
NEW ORBIT for PC/Mac is out (Pay what you want, $5+ with bonuses): http://blackish-games.com/neworbit/pwyw.html
NEW ORBIT on the Mac App Store (currently in review): http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/new-orbit/id537714943?ls=1&mt=12
NEW ORBIT on the iOS App Store (update currently in review, brings iCloud syncing of game progress between iOS and Mac App Store)