Greetings and Salutations reader, I am Nate, also known as Nasarog. I will be conducting this Q&A in a slightly different fashion than I have in my previous sessions.
M.O.R.E. is a game I discovered by accident over a year ago. I am not an active member in the Kickstarter community, so when this game came up on my radar, it is safe to say that my curiosity was piqued. After several attempts, Marcin (of IdeaLcenter) and I started to correspond. Several months of intermittent back-and-forth led to a July ‘15 demonstration. This wasn’t a 5-minute demo, either. Marcin and I “met up” on Skype. He shared his screen and basically asked me what I wanted to see. He didn’t have any scripted gameplay footage, or canned apologies at hand. He gave me the usual Early Access type warning and then just fired up the game.
That’s right, he just booted up the game. I asked many questions about what I saw, and that’s how this Q&A came to be. Not as a back-and-forth affair, but more of a 2.5-hour-long play session with me asking questions, and Marcin answering them. But not just with words, no, he acted as my avatar and played the game as I would have. I recorded this interaction and transcribed my questions and his answers. We also did a follow-up through email where he answered questions that I didn’t know I wanted answered at the time of the initial interview. You’ll see those in part two of this Q & A.
First, let me introduce you to the main developers at IdeaLcenter:
Marcin #1: The founder of IdeaLCenter and the main M.O.R.E. programmer.
Andrzej: Main 3D graphic designer.
Emil: 2D graphics designer.
Marcin #2: Game music designer.
Tomasz: Additional programmer
Szymon: Additional 3D graphic designer.
Okay, that’s the “core” team. Marcin #1 answered all my questions. So, let’s begin.
Question: Can you please tell us a little about IdeaLcenter? How about the other developers and what they do there?
Answer: We are a pack of a few people teamed up under the “IdeaLCenter” flag. It’s hard to describe our team, as some people also have full-time jobs to earn money for their families or newborns, and also we’ve gained some new people. Besides that, we are or were working intensively with our programmers Stachu and Artur. Also from time to time we work with 2D graphic designer Marek, writer Tomasz and other people like Karolina, Łukasz, Michał and Sebastian. I’m sure that I’ve missed a few people here… Without them, M.O.R.E. wouldn’t be in the shape it is today.
Also, we are cooperating with some foreigners who are responsible for other tasks, like our SFX designer from Denmark Morten, US representative Greg, our “voice” Jamerson and our German representative Andreas. A few months ago we even started to cooperate with someone from the US: Michael. He is doing great spaceship models and he volunteered to help us out. There were many more people eager to help (most of them were programmers), but it is harder to work with programmers over long distance than with graphic designers. There are many people who offered their help in translating M.O.R.E. into other languages. For sure we will use their help, but the time for that hasn’t come yet. We are also open to help from other people – we are looking in particular for an After Effects specialist. All those people are (or were) working on M.O.R.E. either full-time, half-time or when they have free time.
Also I can’t forget about our large team of Text Developers. They have created over 408 pages of AMAZING text covering backgrounds, history, biology, society, religion etc. for our twenty in-game races. They also created hero descriptions, diplomatic dialogues, and in-game omnipedia entries. The last time I reviewed their work, it took me over a week and a half just to read it! And there is still more work to be done. Hopefully the team will finish their tasks, because we feel it should result in amazing richness and diversity of alien worlds not seen before in a game. Because of their great work, I hope you’ll let me present them to you: Alastair, Cassandra, Jeffbg, JPTS, Laoena, MetalKitd, Mork from Ork, knightdt, szpaqlec, Teleros and telyni. There were even more people engaged in the creation of the text, but they have moved on to other projects. Anyway, currently there will be around 50 people listed in the game credits who were involved with the creation of M.O.R.E. in some way as well as backers who supported us.
Question: Thank you, how about telling us something about M.O.R.E. that you haven’t told anyone before?
Answer: Ohhh… everybody wants to hear something new. The truth is we’ve already talked about everything we want to do with M.O.R.E. and now we are working to realize it. Twenty races, a huge 3D galaxy map, intuitive and functional interfaces and a variety of options that do not take away from the simplicity of the game. Maybe a new thing will be that when we realize all our plans for M.O.R.E. it will also be an amazing tactical space battle game. Imagine starships created for 20 races, from over 50 modules per race… (yes, over 1000 spaceship modules!), engaged in full 3D turn-based space combat. Even nowadays, AAA titles don’t promise such functionality. Of course we have another surprise, but for now we won’t reveal what it’ll be.
Question: Excellent, so, I think we need to address the obvious. M.O.R.E. has had a very long development cycle, and it’s not complete just yet. Can you share with us why you had to push back some of the key dates, and when you plan to have a working game to share with your Kickstarter backers?
Answer: Ahhh… I knew this was coming – people are asking about it. What can I say? Due to our lack of experience in game development, we underestimated the production time required for this game – that’s obvious. M.O.R.E. is a huge game and should give players huge replayability. Our core team (and game budget) is very small for a game with such a grand scale. With limited resources we could choose the “fast way,” and surely be cursed by backers for releasing a buggy, ugly, underdeveloped game. But we’ve decided to be honest and realize our and our backers’ dreams for a great 4X game – even if it takes more time. And yes, it’s taking too much time. We started working on M.O.R.E. at a normal rate at the beginning of 2013, and we hope to release it in 2016. Take a look at large professional, experienced companies with millions of dollars. They also take three or more years to create big games. Now we understand why. There are also many people who understand this, appreciate the dedication of our team members and still support us. Thanks to them we are able to continue working on this game without searching for an outside investor.
We’ve moved M.O.R.E. release dates back again and again because it seems that we are almost at the finish, but there was always something new which needs to be done and that delayed our release even more. That’s why right now I don’t like to tell any exact date for release. The fact is, we are moving forward every month and our game is starting to look good, which you’ll be able to see. We hope to start our internal team game test soon (we still have to finish upgrading our in-game economy and create network layers). Results of these tests will determine when we release our Alpha version. It may occur at the end of this year, but also we may release the Alpha a little later. Anyway – we don’t want to release the Alpha prematurely. We want to give you an Alpha version which you will be able to play and that ignites your “one more turn” syndrome.
Question: That makes sense. So, even though I’m not a Kickstarter backer, what would you say to me to get me interested in your game and spend my money to further support its development?
Answer: We have been here for 3 years. We are constantly working on this game. Right now we are at the verge of a playable Pre-Alpha version. All of what you see in our videos is our current game version. You can support other games, but none of them – indie or AAA – have the functionality that M.O.R.E. does. Most people who were able to see this game in action admit that it already has the potential to be genre-changing or at least a decent game. We hope that with a little more support from our backers, we’ll be able to push this game to Alpha stage without outside investment. After this we will be only two big parts away from finishing M.O.R.E.: Battles and AI.
Question: Right, but what about the people that have given up on M.O.R.E.? What would you say to them to get them to return?
Answer: We are sorry for this delay. But as you see we are still working on this game, we didn’t give up, and we don’t plan to. Also, every new part we create looks decent (at least we hope so). Just try to imagine that you’ve never heard about M.O.R.E. before. Now you see a game like this… what do you think? And if you were lucky, you were able to get your game key for only $10.
Question: Thank you for that Marcin, I needed to clear the air before we could really focus on the game. So, what makes M.O.R.E. different than many of the games that are either out now, coming soon, or in the pipeline?
Answer: Let me tell you about the biggest differences. I’ll only mention the most important ones, because a full description would take too much time.
So the main thing is, we have a 3D galaxy. I mean full 3D, where you can send your fleet in any point in the galaxy if it’s in ship range. If you are afraid of being lost you can create a flat 2D galaxy but still without starlanes. We plan to have at least one thousand stars in the biggest galaxy. There are eighty planet types and up to three stars with as many as ten planets and thirty moons per star system. There are twenty different races with some of them living on gas planets, asteroid belts and even in star coronas. All those races have their own interface, music, inventions and history. We’ll have over three hundred standard inventions and over four hundred race-specific technologies. Every race will have over fifty spaceship modules from which you’ll be able to build your race’s spaceships. There are over one thousand 3D starship modules in total.
We also have different diplomacy – where the way you talk with an alien ambassador will be very important and impact diplomatic relations. And tactical space battles will be different than other space strategy games, as well. They should remind players of some kind of starship simulator rather than an RTS type of battle. It’s hard to describe all this as our game has the same elements as other 4X games, but all of those elements are different. We really want to change the 4X space strategy genre, not just create another similar TBS game.
Question: I really like the UI, especially how it’s somewhat different for each alien race, but similar enough so that I don’t feel lost. Can you tell us more about that?
Answer: For our team it’s very important for every race the player manages to have a unique atmosphere. Race story, different music, different inventions and interface – it all helps to feel like the player is representing another race. How it looks, you can see now for yourselves. I hope that every player will find at least one interface which is appealing to them. Also, as you mentioned, we didn’t want players to learn 20 interfaces, so all of them have the same functionality in the same place. Also it should be quite easy to mod this, so we think that players will create many interesting interfaces.
Question: I see how much effort you’ve put into the different aliens (20) species, why so many? Isn’t that hard to balance?
Answer: We love the idea of a game which gives you huge replayability and a universe full of vivid life – inhabited by a large number of very different races. To achieve that we needed more than 8 or 10 races. Also we had many ideas for those races and we didn’t like cutting this or that race out of the game. We’ve come up with over 30 races but we cut them to 20. The rest will be added in DLC. Besides that, everyone has his beloved race from some kind of movie, TV series or book. We wanted most players to find a similar alien race in M.O.R.E. which will fit their favorite gameplay style. Balancing all those races would be difficult – that’s certain. But from the beginning we decided that “balancing” wouldn’t be our top goal. We only want those races to be somewhat similar in power. One race will be stronger, others weaker. But real life isn’t balanced, either. Also, some players will prefer to play the easy way and other players like challenges. This can be achieved by choosing different M.O.R.E. races.
Question: How unique are the various tech trees? And how did you balance them?
Answer: Balancing tech inventions is the same as balancing alien races. We will do some things to balance the techs, but we won’t be spending too much time on it. Some races will be stronger than others? Ok. Great. If you want, choose this race – but if you prefer a challenge, choose a different race. Our tech tree will have over three hundred standard inventions and over four hundred race-specific inventions! By doing this, we wanted to achieve two things.
The first is that everyone should know almost all the basic inventions after a few games – so the game shouldn’t be too hard to learn. The second is that you’ll be able to choose a different race tech tree which will influence your gameplay style. You’ll get a little over twenty new inventions per race, so it’ll be also easy to learn, but when you look at this through the context of replayability, you’ll get a huge amount of games where you’ll be able to discover and learn about all of those new race inventions. And they are different for every race. For example, the Arrano race will focus on beam weapons and their ancient origin, which will help them learn some inventions faster. The Terrans have inventions which help them in diplomacy and also increase the combat capabilities of their fighters. So if you want to make a little faster progress in inventions and you like to use beam weapons you can choose the Arranos (or their tech tree). But if you like diplomacy and extensive use of fighters in space combat, it will be better for you to choose the Terrans (or their tech tree). And no, it won’t be possible to steal or trade race-specific inventions during the game.
Question: What makes your diplomatic interactions unique?
Answer: Talking. Dialogues. Diplomacy is about talking, not about changing values in tables or spreadsheets. We didn’t like diplomacy in other 4X games, so we tried to rebuild it in a different way. Opponents will react in different ways when you’re kind, servile or hostile towards them. Also the strong and honorable Brutas will react differently to the same diplomatic attitude than the weak and humble Felidians.
Question: How about what makes your custom races unique?
Answer: There are plenty of things which distinguish our races. First there are the characteristics of your race, which you can choose or adjust before starting the game. Then the next big difference is where the race can settle. Our races can live on stars, asteroid belts, gas, liquid and solid planets/moons. For instance, settlement on tectonic type planets and moons is limited to those races that can survive on solid and liquid planets.
Also, your chosen race will have certain unique inventions. Those inventions can make your race’s strong points even stronger. For example, the Brutas will have great combat skills and the Arranos will get amazing beam weapons. Ships for every race are also different, not only in how they look, but also in the types of modules available to them. For example, the Brutas have more thruster modules so their ships will move faster and the Arranos have more space cannons.
All races have their own diplomacy text. Using the above example, the Arranos’ style of proudly saying goodbye is: “I have been contained by these discussions as much as I can tolerate; I do not mean to offend but I must stretch my wings and attend to more important matters.” From the friendly Brutas you’ll hear: “A most acceptable end, ambassador. Feel free to pick out any slave of mine you like, as a mark of my respect.” So that plus different race screens, music, and interfaces should result in amazing alien diversity and strong replayability.
Question: Anything new with espionage?
Answer: We’ve decided to split espionage into two parts. First is standard espionage. Spies assigned to an enemy empire will be able to steal the enemy’s technology. You will also be able to choose which tech branch you want to steal from. It’s riskier, but if you succeed you’ll get exactly what you want. The second part is sabotage. Spies will be able to destroy buildings, kill enemy leaders or start riots. So as you can see, we have many new ideas.
This is a great place to end the first part of the Q&A. We have had many questions answered and in the process many new questions came up. I don’t know about you, but I am very excited by what IdeaLcenter is doing. Be sure to look forward to PART TWO, coming soon!