A pair of Manchester brothers are reaching for the stars with their first voyage into video games development.
Urban Logic Games’ Brad and Matt Jeffrey are aiming to launch Flagship – a real-time strategy (RTS) game which will allow would-be Admiral Ackbars of this world (and others) to command their fleet in galaxy-wide space battles seen through their own eyes.
Currently still in pre-alpha state, the pair are aiming to raise £95,000 via Kickstarter to boost development with a stratospheric £48,360 already in the bank.
Instead of having an all-encompassing view of the battlefield though, players will see the eponymous flagship’s command centre for their own eyes – an effect that will be sent into hyperspace by the inclusion of Oculus Rift support.
The game is being built from the ground up to work with the virtual reality technology that has taken the world, but not yet the universe, by storm – and the pair are hoping they can do the same.
“There are still some technological issues to overcome, but the Oculus Rift is very close to delivering on the promise of virtual reality,” Brad told MM.
“It’s hard to convince someone who hasn’t tried it, but you feel far more ‘present’ in the game.
“When you look at an object in the Rift the scale and perspective are the same as if you were looking at that object in real life.
“It’s hard to believe that a screen inches from your face can have that effect, but it really does.”
With the addition of the technology – whose parent company was bought by Facebook in a $2billion (£1.23billion) deal – Brad believes that the game, which could contain up to 10,000 planets, will be able to take players to infinity and beyond.
“Imagine kilometre-long spaceships all shooting at each other above a gas giant – on a normal computer monitor that probably looks pretty cool, but in VR you’re seeing all that happen at actual size!” said Brad.
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However, while the game is playable, it is still t-minus two years until lift-off and it has a long way to go before it can take on fellow Kickstarter-backed space projects Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous for supremacy in the galaxy.
But those players who have already donned space suits have been impressed.
“For the most part, the reaction has been really positive. There have been a few skeptics, but that mainly seems to be from people taking the pre-alpha footage at face value,” Brad admitted.
“Overall though, people seem to really like the concept and we’ve had a lot of emails from people who are genuinely grateful we’re making the game, which has been really nice.”
Flagship was inspired by 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when the brothers watched the space battles in awe.
And they are trying to replicate that feeling of wonder in the game, which has already been in development for a year.
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While this is not the first game to let players see armies clash from a first-person perspective, Brad still reckons they are going into uncharted territory with Flagship.
“I don’t think any other game has combined the ship simulation and RTS mechanics in quite the same way as we have,” he said.
“The biggest challenge is the user interface, the game’s success really hinges on getting that right.
“We’re taking lessons learned from web and mobile app development, the aim is for all commands to be easily accessible within a few clicks.
“We want the game to feel epic, but we don’t want the player to feel overwhelmed.”
With Star Wars Episode VII pulling into view, the Mass Effect trilogy flying high in recent years and Star Trek also making hyperspace jumps to the silver screen with two reboots, space themes are packed in popular culture.
And with so many different universes, it could be argued that you have to be a space oddity to stand out from the crowd.
But Brad insists the political picture in their game sets it apart – with the force very much against humans.
“The biggest difference between our universe and that of other science fiction settings is that there are no alliances, and no peaceful coexistence between alien races,” he said.
“Each race is essentially out for itself, trying to claim as much of the galaxy as it can.
“Humans are a relative newcomer to all of this and are very much on the back foot. In many ways it’s the worst-case scenario should life exist elsewhere in the galaxy.”
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Although Brad and brother Matt have looked to launch a game for a while it is only now they feel they can get off the ground.
He said: “We’ve both been tinkering with making games for about 20 years, though we’ve never worked in the industry.
“It wasn’t until quite recently that we felt we’d acquired the knowledge and skills necessary to build Flagship.
“The game puts you in command of the Flagship, we needed something short and snappy and the name seemed to fit. We also wanted to avoid being another game with ‘space’ or ‘star’ in the title!”
With £40,000 still to find, the duo face a space race to get the funds – and they don’t have lightyears left of their crowdfunding journey.
“If you had asked us a week ago we’d have said we were very confident, the campaign started off strong but has admittedly slowed quite a bit over the last few days,” he said.
“This is pretty normal for Kickstarter campaigns though, and we’ve still got a week to go. So we’re cautiously optimistic.”
Flagship is poised for re-entry on PC in Christmas 2016 and their Kickstarter campaign ends on October 16.
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