Local multiplayer games for iOS are rather uncommon -- especially ones where you end up screaming at everyone else in the room.
Spaceteam gives each iPhone or iPad-toting player a spaceship control panel, and asks you to work as a team to keep the vessel in one piece. However, instructions on how you need to act are sent to other players, who must then in turn shout the information out to everyone else before the time runs out.
It's a rather intriguing and unique concept, so much so that the game has received a nomination in the Nuovo category at this year's IGF awards.
As part of Gamasutra's Road to the IGF series, creator Henry Smith discusses the various influences he drew inspiration from, and what he plans to do next with the space genre.
What is your background in making games?
I started young! As a kid I made my own board games and card games. I started making computer game prototypes in HyperCard on a Mac Plus when I was about 12 years old. Then I learned C++ in high school and made my first "real" shareware game called Squish, which actually made a bit of money.
Since then I've been a programmer in the industry for 10+ years, first at Irrational Games in Boston, and then BioWare/EA in Edmonton and Montreal. I worked on Dragon Age: Origins, Dead Space 2, and Mass Effect 3.
A few months ago I quit my job to live off my savings and make my own indie games!
What development tools did you use?
I made an initial prototype in Unity, and then finished the game using the Cocos2D iPhone engine. I use Xcode, TextMate and Dash for coding. Tower/git and Dropbox for source control/backup. Photoshop, Inkscape, and TexturePacker for graphics, Bfxr and Audacity for sound. Evernote, Things, and Remember The Milk for organization. TestFlight has been great for testing.
How long did your team work on the game?
The first prototype took about two weeks of part-time work, and then I spent three months full-time finishing the game. I intended it to be shorter, but I had so much fun during development that I decided to give it a bit more love and add some extra features like Symbolic Mode. I think it was worth it. I also got some help from a couple of friends who did the music and the final graphics for the ship and control panels.
The final few weeks were mostly playtesting with friends. My partner and I hosted three or four "Spaceteam potlucks" where we'd lure people to our house with food in exchange for helping me test the game.
How did you come up with the concept?
I was actually excited to make a different game but I forced myself to try something small to get a feel for iOS development. I wanted to make a simple asymmetric multiplayer game where each person has a different role and they have to cooperate.
I was influenced by a lot of different sci-fi worlds - Star Trek, Red Dwarf, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Doctor Who, etc. - but my main inspirations were:
- The digital playground game Johann Sebastian Joust by Douglas Wilson
- The board game "Space Alert" by Vlaada Chvatil
- A dream I had after watching the short film "Caine's Arcade"
- ...and The Fry & Laurie "hardware shop" sketch
This was nominated in the "Nuovo" category -- which basically means it's weird. How do you feel about that? Is it that weird to make people blurt out pseudo sci-fi terminology?
It's an incredible honour to be nominated, but I think my game is one of the least weird of the bunch. A lot of people seem to have a fond place in their hearts for meaningless sci-fi jargon, and I think this familiarity is one of the game's strengths. I guess the weird idea is that you have to interact with your teammates outside the game. I'd love to see more games that do this, which is one of the reasons I made it.
I don't envy the judges assigned to this category though. These games are incomparable almost by definition!
How have you gone about promoting Spaceteam?
I just asked my friends and colleagues to spread the word, and the response was overwhelming! I never made a press release or paid for any advertising. I think it helps that you have to tell someone else about the game just in order to play it.
What's next for Spaceteam, and what other game ideas do you have stirring around?
I'm working on the next upgrade which has some new features and I'll be bringing Spaceteam to IndieCade East, PAX East and of course GDC. I also have plans for an Android version which is going to open up the game to some new spaceteams.
But I really want to get started on my next game, Shipshape. It's a more traditional space exploration game where you build a spaceship and go on missions but I'm focusing on a really accessible touch UI and trying to keep a sense of humour.
Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?
I'm slowly working my way through the list. FTL is the kind of game that I wish I had made myself, so that's awesome. I love the aesthetic of Kentucky Route Zero. Dys4ia really made an impression on me by sharing an experience in a way that wouldn't work in another medium. And I'm really glad that Frog Fractions got an honourable mention.
What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?
I think it's a fantastic time to be an indie. The barriers to entry for making games are getting lower and lower, indies are getting more recognition, and at the same time the AAA industry seems to be going through some changes. We're starting to see a lot more diversity and acceptance and creative games that push the boundaries. I'm really looking forward to being part of it!