Interview with Alex Pischenko: Lead Developer of Exoplanet: First Contact
Some developers make video games for the public, and some make video games for the heart. Activision, Ubisoft and EA Sports make their franchised games yearly to meet public demand. Whether or not the developers behind the closed doors enjoy this work is a whole other matter, but these games are made with profit in mind.
Now, with the advent of crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Patreon, developers can make the games for passion, not just profit. And that's exactly what the team at Alersteam did with Exoplanet: First Contact.
Exoplanet is an action RPG space western. When you're not shooting guys, you're shooting aliens. Instead of riding horses, you can ride a creature twice that size.
Exoplanet: First Contact puts players in the shoes of Jack Sharp, a space cowboy who's unfortunately stranded on a deadly planet named K'Tharsis. This planet isn't known for its rich generosity, and everything Jack is surrounded by may want him dead. Players can shoot a vast array of guns, craft new loot, and struggle to survive in the harsh environment of K'Tharsis.
Alex Pischenko, the lead developer on Exoplanet was kind enough to answer a few questions about the game.
GameSkinny: How did Exoplanet come about? Was it sort of a light bulb moment or a brainstorm of ideas? If you had a completely different idea at first, I’d love to hear it.
Alex: Finding the right proportion of genres we are happy to work with as well as the rather uncommon setting for our début project was not an easy task. We knew from the beginning that it should be a 3rd person action/RPG game, but tended to give more attention to the action components. Also the first vision of the setting was a lot darker, gothic, filled with vampire and steampunk themes.
Then we watched Firefly and fell in love with the idea of transporting the western character and situations in the future where people will colonize distant worlds. We were so fascinated by this idea that we did a research of this genre and found out that there were probably no proper (in our understanding) RPGs in it, released at least in the last 5 years. The decision was made: Exoplanet (exoplanets are any planets in star systems other than our Solar) will be more RPG-oriented and will feature a mix of fictional technologies and races with realistic and understandable motives for the character. So it was a long process of thinking ignited by a spark brought by Firefly (and probably other classic Sci-Fi movies like Dune, Star Wars, Alien, etc).
GameSkinny: Did you have any doubts about it? You’ve surpassed your Kickstarter goal by a large number, so was that a surprise?
Alex: No doubts. No regrets. You must be obsessed by your idea to a significant degree to call yourself a true game developer. Obsessed people have no doubts at all. Everything that they think of is - how do I manage to make my dream come true? What exactly should I do to make it a reality?
And yes, reaching our goals was a surprise. We know that not everything in our campaign went as planned and we also did some mistakes. We were just trying to post the best updates we can produce, to tell the players more about Exoplanet’s world and its inhabitants. We did not hide behind the carefully crafted marketing materials, directed videos, and talking heads with 20 years of cult game developer reputation. Show real gameplay and share your vision of the game - that’s what we did, and the results were surprisingly good. Our backyard are just amazing people who give us not only the funds for the development - but what is more important - the appreciation for our efforts, their faith in us is a huge boost to morale and motivation for our team.
GameSkinny: Along the lines of pre-production, did any inspiration from any movies or TV shows come into play? Personally, Exoplanet reminds me of an awesome cross between Star Wars and Firefly.
Alex: We think that we already answered that one. We should also mention Sergio Leone’s westerns, featuring Clint Eastwood, the western comedy movie Maverick starring Mel Gibson as a charming anti-hero. Speaking of the heroes – Indiana Jones is one of the main inspirations for our Jack. Tremors franchise inspired the sand sharks.
GameSkinny: If this really takes off, do you see a franchise in mind?
Alex: It’s probably too early to talk about the whole franchise, but yes. We have a plan for the sequel and this one will be something new for Exoplanet fans, not a simple continuation of the story with the same features and technology (not an MMO though!). Right now we are focused on the first part of a game that should be a complete unity of story and gameplay, a game that does not end up with a bunch of cliffhangers opening passage for DLCs and traditional sequels. Exoplanet should offer every player logical consequences of his deeds and some quite satisfactory endings to struggle for. That is our plan for the next two years.
GameSkinny: Lastly, any words of inspiration for up-and-coming game developers?
Alex: Dear fellow developers, do not give up in any situation! Find your project's strengths and use them to the max while methodically eliminating weaknesses one by one. Also start to gather a community of loyal players around your game early and stay a passionate player yourself.
Since Exoplanet's Kickstarter campaign launched, they've surpassed their goal but a large amount. All rewards were met and some even sold out. Alex and the rest of the team at Alersteam are more the happy to share their product.
Interested? Check it out.