Growing up one of the first serious computers I had was an old IBM AT machine. This machine had EGA graphics and the games were not amazing however, they had their own certain magic. There was one game by InterStel called StarFleet Command that allowed you to take the helm of your ship and explore the universe and combat an alien race. Now, the folks over at Alt Shift are coming out with a new game on Kickstarter called Crying Suns. Recently I had a chance to catch up with the folks over Alt Shift Studios about their initial offering on Kickstarter.
TR: Please introduce yourself.
CI: I am Caroline Imbert. I handle QA for Crying Suns, and Communication with Frederic Lopez, who is also the Art Director of the game. Our producer/developer/Narrative designer, Julien Cotret, has also helped me answer your questions.
But there aren’t just the 3 of us at Alt Shift. You’ll find the whole team as well as their job descriptions in the “team” section of our Kickstarter campaign.
TR: Tell us a little about Alt Shift Studios.
CI: Alt Shift is an indie game studio created in 2010 and located in the South of France, in the city of Montpellier. We design and develop video games for PC, Mac and mobile platforms. We also help other companies create cool web and mobile apps using gamification methods.
TR: Is this the first project you have worked on?
CI: Crying Suns is the third video game we’ve worked on! We created the company in 2010 to work on the prototype of a geo-located MMO game project named Besyde – Mask of Harmony, somewhat like the Pokemon Go concept. Over the next 4 years, we worked on more “serious” projects, like consulting, designing and developing web/mobile games and applications for various types of clients, from start-ups to large companies and institutions.
In 2015, we decided to return to our first impulse: creating video games and started pre-production on Crying Suns. In 2016, we designed and developed the mobile game Not Not – A Brain-Buster, which was released in May 2017 and has been downloaded more than 8 million times since. In 2018/2019, Crying Suns will be released!
TR: Tell us more about Crying Suns and what it’s about.
CI: Crying Suns is a rogue-lite and tactical game where you explore a dying galaxy as the admiral of a space fleet. Our baseline is “When FTL meets Foundation“, because we really wanted to create a story-driven spatial rogue-lite.
FTL (Faster Than Light) is a strong inspiration, but we wanted to add to that initial gameplay formula a sense of scale and a feeling of incredible dramatic stakes in a rich, post-apocalyptic environment (inspired by Foundation, Dune and others classic sci-fi references we love). The keyword is macro-management.
In Crying Suns, the player will explore a spatial and hostile environment, control tactical fights, manage their resources and discover a deep and dramatic storyline.
TR: Now this is a rogue-lite game tell us what that means?
CI: Crying Suns uses strong rogue-like elements, like procedurally-generated levels and a sort of permadeath (After you die, you can start a new run with possibly a different battleship or heroes you have unlocked in previous runs to help you on your journey). In addition, as in most rogue-like games, the player, during each run must manage their resources tightly and play in a kind of turn-based system (except during fights, which are in real-time with an active-pause feature.)
TR: There is also a story to this campaign is that correct?
CI: Yes, Crying Suns is a story-driven rogue-lite. As big Sci-Fi fans, we were inspired by masterpieces like Foundation and Dune. Our desire is to immerse the player in a deep and dramatic story, which is structured in 6 chapters.
We’ve tried to do this by creating roughly 300 possible story events (with various possible actions and outcomes in each) that they can experience on their journey as they travel through star clusters. We also wanted to give the player the opportunity to learn as much about our world as they wanted. So, like in RPG’s, we’ve given the player a chance to ask questions and learn about the history of the fallen empire and its noble houses.
TR: Tell us some of the backer rewards that you have for people that support you on Kickstarter.
CI: People can pre-order Crying Suns at a reduced price, receive the digital OST, the digital and physical Artbook, and their names can appear in the game credits.
We also offer people who can’t wait for the official release the chance to play and test the Beta which will be launched just after the end of the Kickstarter campaign.
Our last reward tiers allow people the chance to name a star in the game (sooo romantic), a ship or a NPC. Their name will also appear ingame.
With the very last tier, we offer people a chance to become a playable Hero in the game: they just have to send us a picture and we will create a Hero/Heroine in their likeness in Pixel art. A unique way to become part of the Crying Suns’ story!
TR: This Kickstarter was just launched and it looks like there’s a strong following. Will there be any stretch goals?
CI: We have a few stretch goals planned in case the campaign goes very well. There are so many improvements / features / ports / localizations we would like to include!
For instance, we could add more content ingame, improve visuals and FX, translate the game into several languages (English and French are planned for the release, but as we have written a lot of text, translations are pricey), and even port the game in more platforms… Sky, and funds collected, are the limit! During the campaign, if we have the opportunity, we also might simply ask our community of backers what they want us to add to the game and make those suggestions our stretch goal priorities.
TR: What happens if this does not get funded? Will you go another route to get Crying Suns into the market place?
CI: If the Kickstarter campaign is not funded, the game will still be released but not exactly the way we had hoped: for example, we won’t be able to create all the events that we wrote, we’ll have to drop certain character factions that we designed, and certain visual and FX elements won’t be as polished as we wanted, and there will be fewer cutscenes…
If this happens, we believe the game will still be good, but not as polished and complete as we had hoped.
CI: We are a small team (11 hard workers) and for now, all of our effort is focused on the development and promotion of Crying Suns. Of course we have several ideas (as diverse as our team members’ tastes ^^), but we haven’t started any pre-production regarding our next video game.
TR: What is a dream project you would love to work on?
CI: Our dream project is Crying Suns. So we’re already working on it! As we explain in the Kickstarter campaign, we’ve been working on Crying Suns for 3 years. The game is very wide and creative: more than 300 pages of background story, events and dialogues, numerous character factions and sub-factions… Limited by our independent studio means, we had to make some drastic choices, like dropping a few character factions or not implementing additional cutscenes. To bring Crying Suns close to our original crazy ideas, we decided to launch this Kickstarter campaign… and we are so thrilled and relieved to see that so many players are enjoying the project and the demo. With their support, we truly think we can create an awesome game!
TR: Any final thoughts?
CI: Thanks so much for the interview! And if you like the game Faster Than Light, Sci-fi, Isaac Asimov or Frank Herbert… Play our demo (It’s free!). And if you like Crying Suns, please support us by sharing the campaign, the demo, inviting your friends, following us on Twitter or Facebook and sending us your feedback! As an independent video games studio, we need all the help we can get 🙂
And there you have it! If this sounds like something that might be your cup of tea I strongly urge to check out the Kickstarter here . So check out the demo and get ready to explore the cold depths of space.