I recently sat down with Eforb’s Anton Paramonov to discuss the Ukrainian indie developer’s upcoming title, The SKIES. A post-apocalyptic-inspired MMORPG, the game boasts a number of impressive features, including a massive game world and a non-linear storyline that leaves the story entirely up to the player, with conversations that change depending on the choices made.
While these may sound like the offerings of a typical MMORPG, The SKIES’s implementation, art and presentation have the makings of a project that is sure to impress.
Amber Colyer: What was the inspiration for The SKIES?
Anton Paramonov: I have always been interested in post-apocalyptic science-fiction, art and everything. A few years ago I wrote the novel The Skies for one of the contests on deadland.ru, which won. At that time, I was already thinking about how great it would be to create a game world based on the storyline. The whole world, characters, atmosphere, locations, and relationships were well-thought and descriptive. Some time later, I met the founder and director of Eforb, who was also inspired by such interesting projects, and that is where our journey started.
AC: How much has changed from the initial design for the game to what it is currently?
AP: The initial game design hasn’t changed that much. When we were starting out, it took us several months to create the game’s design document. I think that it is crucial to see the overall picture and all of the details at the very beginning, especially for such a huge project.
There was just one major change during this time: moving from the third to first person view, with the ability to switch between them. Of course, it impacted our process quite a bit. The graphics now required a lot of changes and improvements and balancing had to be improved, too. But we believed this change was worth all of the work required. We also plan to hold a lot of open testing in order to gauge the reaction as early as possible and adapt some things.
Our first open alpha testing will be held from January 15 to 20. We didn’t plan much at the very beginning, but with the strong support on Steam and players’ belief in us, we feel like we need to show gameplay as much as possible, even in the earliest stages.
AC: Do you and your team have any heroes in the industry that inspired you?
AP: Yes, of course. We’re inspired by Valve: by both their great Steam platform for developers and players, and their products. And of course, the developers of the Fallout series also rock! It is a really great game. But they spent years producing it. What we’re trying to do is to launch a huge project as fast as we can, without the quality suffering. That is why we actually chose the Unity engine. If the game goes really well, we might want to switch to another client (but hopefully, with Unity 5, we won’t need to).
AC: The art style seems very unique. How was the design conceived?
AP: Yes, the art style is something very dear to our heart. This is not just a post-apocalyptic atmosphere, but it is the atmosphere of a desert romance in a post-apocalyptic world. Of course, there are still many things that we need to improve on in terms of graphics, and also we realize some limitations within the chosen technology. However, we know how to get even more than maximum from the Unity engine and we’re working hard to realize this and to achieve the right atmosphere.
AC: When you were thinking about gameplay, what sort of experience did you want players to have?
AP: We want players to be able to experience the open world with the ability to choose their role within it: the non-linear storyline, economics and production all completely depend on players’ decisions. The tasks are ambitious, but they’re doable.
AC: What about plans for after The SKIES is complete?
AP: I am sure SKIES is a long term project; we will need to add new locations and make the world bigger. In time for our beta release, which is in April, we plan to optimize the resources and improve graphics thanks to additional animations we’ve made with the help of motion capture. Unfortunately, we cannot announce the name of the [mo-cap] studio yet, but it’s one of the best and that was an unforgettable experience. The level design will also be balanced better, and there will be the ability to get into groups and take part in group quests and wars with bandits.
The game’s full release is planned for the end of summer or the beginning of the autumn 2015, and it will include five towns, four desert locations, arenas for fighting, and opportunities to hold business and clan wars.
After that, we will be constantly adding new functionality to keep the interest of the players; believe me, there is a lot of work. But, of course, there are going to be other projects we will want to realize. When realizing one dream, you find other goals. Me and our other masterminds are not those types of people who want to just make one project and then relax and enjoy life; I am sure we will be finding new challenges.
AC: What initially got you into game design?
AP: I’ve been in game development now for around ten years. I learned 3D modelling and animations when I studied at school. My godfather was in this industry when it just started to gain popularity, and thanks to him, I received practice and did some projects when I was very young.
I also studied programming at university later on but have always had more interest in 3D animating, and I worked as an animator for several years at Plarium. A few years after I started there, I got into game design. My study of programming and my understanding of graphics creation allowed me to grasp all aspects of the game development process.
AC: If you could give any advice to indie game developers out there, what would it be?
AP: Whenever we have the chance to publish some material from our team, like The SKIES, I like to remind them: “Never give up. Even in the face of the apocalypse.” This is what we wish to tell all the indie game developers out there. We know what it means to come through the thorny path and to fight with challenges every day. Believe in your dream, and follow it – even when there are people who do not believe in you.
AC: The SKIES shows a lot of potential, especially with the love put into it and its story-rich origins. Overall, the game has caused a good bit of excitement here at Power Up Gaming and we’re all looking forward to see more of it. The screenshots featured in this piece are from its upcoming alpha release, and were kindly provided by the developers.