Hello! Thank you for allowing me an interview. I am with Bruno Gruber, CEO of SOLIDMESH, the development team of recently greenlit “NIGHTSTAR: Rogue Wings”, with other titles, “NIGHTSTAR: Starfighter”, and “Nebula: Sole Survivor”. Here’s the greenlight preview of the game.
Would you be alright telling us about yourself – outside of building games, what do you do?
Hi! Yes, I’m a solo dev. I do work with some freelancers here and there when needed, but I try to do most things by myself. Other than building games, I’m also a CG Artist working for the Intergalactic Agency, here in Vancouver, BC. At the company, we create interactive installations, Virtual Reality apps, and other cool things.
What are your future plans? Do you plan on continuing to produce games? Are you currently working on another game?
I intend to continue working on making my own games, yes! I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years, but only recently I decided to create games that are intended for sale. As you mentioned, I’ve already released Nightstar: Starfighter, a Virtual Reality game for the HTC Vive, and I’m also working on a top-down exploration-focused shooter called Nebula: Sole Survivor. I’m also always trying to come up with my next project idea. Recently I’ve been working on a prototype for a god-game, somewhat similar to Black & White, on which you play as a god to a small village. This, of course, is still a very early prototype and I’m not sure if it’ll ever be released.
Your earlier kickstarter for another project you’re working on, “Nebula: Sole Survivor” was unsuccessful. How did this change your plans in game development?
Nebula’s kickstarter made me learn a lot of things. One of them is how important it is to market your game early and often. It’s not just about having a good idea, or even a good – playable and fun – game. It’s more about “how do I make sure people know this exists?”. There’s an endless sea of indie games coming out every day, and getting attention to your own project is not an easy task. That being said, we almost reached the goal for the Nebula’s kickstarter – and that showed me that, yes, people want to play this. That was also confirmed when Epic Games contacted me about a Development Grant. That grant allowed my project to continue existing, and that’s what’s funding the project to this day.
Where did you learn to build games? Did you go to a technical school? Have you worked for any other companies or on other projects before going solo?
I literally learn to build games by building games. When I was a kid, I used to create my own adventures to play with my friends from school with pen and paper. Growing up, I found out about simple tools like the old RPG Maker 95, and some time after that I started to make little games on Multimedia Fusion. I never released anything “big” at that time, of course. My games were mostly for me and my friends to play. Now, I’m experienced on Unity and the Unreal Engine, the later being my favorite nowadays.
What is your philosophy on game design?
“Gameplay first”. I believe that having a fun gameplay that works well is the soul of making games. That’s always the priority when I’m making a game. Of course I like to make the game look good and polished, but a game without a good and satisfying gameplay is not a game.
It seems you have three games being developed at once! How does this system work? Is it easier to be able to swap back and forth when you come to a difficult issue?
I like to keep my mind fresh when working on games. I found out that sometimes when I’m dealing with an issue on a project and can’t find a solution, I just open the other project and work on it for a bit – I continue thinking about the first issue on the “background” and most of the times the solution comes to me when doing that.
How would you describe “NIGHTSTAR: Rogue Wings”?
Nightstar: Rogue Wings is a game I always wanted to make. It’s roots come from Star Fox and Star Wars Rogue Squadron. It’s hard to find a game like those nowadays. It started as one of my prototypes, and I thought “hey, this is fun. I can turn this into an actual game”. Apparently, people also really wanted it, because it went to the top 10 games on Steam Greenlight on the first two days after I posted.
The game seems heavily influenced by Star Fox. Is it? What are some of your other influences for NIGHTSTAR?
Yes, there’s a lot of Star Fox on this game. Also, a lot of new stuff. I always loved how satisfying the gameplay is on this kind of game. It’s funny: I just bought Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire on Steam the other day, and the very first level is the Battle of Hoth, on which you fly an airspeeder killing enemies in the snow, and that’s super fun. Graphics are old, sound is bad for today’s standards, but there I was still having a lot of fun. I feel like this kind of thing is way too hard to find nowadays. People want to play games that are fun, not everyone wants to play a competitive multiplayer – some of us just want to sit down, be immersed by the gameplay, and spend a few hours in a different universe.
Can we have a rundown of the story?
The story in Nightstar: Rogue Wings starts at the end of a massive war between the artificial intelligence that took over the galaxy – The Absolute Unity – and the Independents – a coalition of planets that are fighting for freedom. The Independents lose the war. A small group of Independents manages to escape to the outer rim, where they will use their skill as pilots to work as mercenaries. A decade goes by, and during a contract to protect a city from a mysterious attack, they will unveil a secret about the Absolute Unity – a chance for revenge, and maybe a chance to finally destroy the Artificial Intelligence and bring freedom to the Independents.
As a developer, what was the biggest challenge in building this game?
The biggest challenge is on finding the right balance. I like to make games that are hard to beat, but not too hard to the point where it becomes frustrating. That’s why I ask people with different gaming backgrounds to try the game and give me feedback on how easy or hard a certain enemy is to beat. It’s all about the balance!
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Thanks for the interview. I’m really excited about this game and everything that I’m learning while doing it. It’s been an awesome journey so far, and I’m sure there’s a lot more fun to come. Stay tuned for the Early Access release coming very soon, featuring 3 complete missions!
Thank you again for your time.