Space Probe - an upcoming title produced by Brambletyne - is a retro-inspired casual game about collecting monsters and exploring the universe. Since covering it last week, the project has achieved its core goal on Kickstarter of being funded for iOS and Android, but has yet to reach its next milestone - being funded to develop the game for the New Nintendo 3DS.
Talking to executive producer Adam-James Foulkes and the game's artist Duncan Gutteridge - who's produced official SEGA artwork for the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage - we got to learn more about the game and its production processes.
First, we spoke to the game's executive producer, Adam-James:
Can you provide an outline of Space Probe and its gameplay?
Sure! It's a simple game at heart – you launch a customised probe into space and avoid things on the way out (like monsters and rocks), then when you take too much damage or can't contact the mother ship any more, you return and collect as many rocks and monsters as possible. So, the better you are at the first part of the game, the more time you have to collect things on the way back. Inside the ship, you can then upgrade your Space Probe and send monsters to research to unlock new areas to explore. It's a super-casual game that's perfect for short busts of play, but keeps you coming back for more.
How did you think of the idea behind Space Probe?
I'm a BIG fan of the 8 and 16-bit era, but make modern casual games for a living. Some of the games from back in the day are so simple at heart, which is why they work so well. I figured I could combine my love for retro games with my knowledge for the casual game market, and create something really special. Take a look at the Kickstarter video, I think you'll see how much love has gone into the game's creation.
What motivated you to focus on the game's retro art style?
For me, awesome pixel art is only a part of making a game that has a truly legitimate retro feel to it. I was a huge fan of Duncan's artwork growing up – my bedroom wall was painted based on artwork of his that I saw in Sonic the Comic – so when it came to thinking about box/title screen artwork for Space Probe, there was only one person that I wanted to work with. He's created some amazing game and box art in his time, and it's an absolute honour to work with him on this game.
We love the retro idea of the physical special edition (a cassette case loaded with concept art and stickers, plus a cassette-shaped USB drive with the soundtrack for the game). What gave you this idea?
I loved getting games on the BBC Micro B back in the day. I made my first game prototype on that beast of a machine actually... which was really just a level pack/hack/mod for Repton Thru Time. There's a special place in my heart for that era of gaming, so it's nice to celebrate it with this limited edition release. The stickers and art cards that are packed inside are really cool too, and they'll be a redeemable code for the game inside for the platform of your choice.
"Top-tier" Kickstarter backers also get the chance to design a monster into the game. How will you manage this if the amount of these backers is higher than expected?
We're actually capping this at four pieces – so once they're gone, that's it! I'd have absolutely gone for this as a fan of his work, and I think that's what good Kickstarter rewards are all about… something you can't get anywhere else as a reward for helping bring our project to life. I can't wait to work with the people that go for this reward, and see their reaction when we send them the final artwork based on the monster they sketched out for us.
What made you choose the New Nintendo 3DS as a stretch goal, and is the use of Unity the reason it's not listed for original 3DS models?
That's right – we can't guarantee that the game will support the original 3DS, so it's not part of this campaign. That's a Unity 5 restriction, but using Unity has meant that we can port the game relatively easily to iPad, iPhone Android and now the New Nintendo 3DS, so we love working with Unity.
Do you have any ideas yet for New 3DS exclusive features or controls?
We've got a pretty cool idea for how the touch screen will be used – our main focus in on a straight port and the game running really well on the console, but we're also looking into a way to make this version of the game unique. We hope to announce plans for that after our Kickstarter campaign is over.
Is this a series you imagine continuing/porting elsewhere? Perhaps on the lately rumoured Nintendo "MH" handheld?
We're only just starting to hear about the NX, so anything beyond that is pure speculation… and you can't build a good business model around that! Making our game in Unity does however give us flexibility for future platforms, should they be supported by Unity in the future. Since launching the Kickstarter campaign, we've had some interesting PMs about different platforms that people want to see Space Probe turn up on after NN3DS.
Does BRAMBLETYNE have any other gaming projects in the works/to come?
We do! We're holding on to for funding on a few titles that we've prototyped, but we're absolutely focused on getting Space Probe out first, and sustaining it with additional content after launch.
We're really excited about a PC release we have in the works for next year, and will share more details with our Kickstarter backers for Space Probe first!
Next, we spoke to the game's artist, Duncan Gutteridge:
What motivated you to embark on the Space Probe project?
Adam-James approached me with regard to the project, I really liked the fact that he was taking such trouble to recreate a real retro style game… it took me back to the days of arcade machines and Space invaders down the pub!
Do you simply draw each design that's given to you, or do you suggest tweaks and recommendations on some of the designs and/or make some of them your own?
We discussed his vision for a retro style artwork, which appealed to me because of my links with Sonic. Adam-James was kind enough to give me the space to interpret the pixel art monsters in my own way, so there was room to be creative with them. They each started as a pencil drawing which I then developed into a full colour image. I was aware of the feel that was required from the artwork.
How did you get involved with SEGA in producing artwork for the Sonic the Hedgehog series, and how long were you doing this for?
The Sonic illustration work came about from a call from an agency who had seen my work in various publications. I worked through them at first, as they had the account with SEGA Europe. This started with the creation of a series of images for an exclusive calendar in 1992. This led to a number of commissions for point of sale material, packaging artwork, the cover for Sonic 3 and Sonic Triple Trouble. In the latter part of my association I was working with SEGA Europe directly. This was over a period of more than 2 years.
Do you like the way the blue-blur's art style has evolved over the years? He's seemed to be getting a lot taller as of late (especially in the 'Sonic Boom' series)!
It would be biased for me to say! But like any other creation they are often subject to development to suit changing audiences and I am sure that the latest incarnation suits the modern audience. I do sense a desire amongst a number of Sonic devotees for the return to the early days back to the first couple of years when Sonic was really beginning to take form and I was happy to play a small part in that.
5) What was the last piece of Sonic the Hedgehog artwork you worked on?
The last official piece of art would have been Triple Trouble although there may have been some other minor artwork created to support the promotion of the games.
Are there any other major franchises you've worked on that you'd like to talk about?
Sonic was really the only major character that I worked on as my career as an illustrator has been very broad.
Are you looking forward to illustrating a potential variety "top-tier" backers' monster designs?
I'm really looking forward to creating some real 'Monster' designs in conjunction with the sponsors. I hope I will do justice to their ideas!
And there you have it. What do you make of the upcoming Space Probe project? Is this a game you could see yourself being interested in?