Profile – Starside Games

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Who are Starside Games and how did you guys get together?

Starside is sort of the final leg of a journey that started over ten years ago. I (Andy) and Mathias met in the late 90’s and were active demosceners for a number of years. We started working in game development and took different routes, but somehow always ended up working together. We’ve always complemented each other really well, Matt has a background as a programmer, in low-level, as well as gameplay scripting and UI design; I started out in sound design and music, but moved on to game design and eventually programming. We’ve worked together on a number of games, chiefly at SLX Games (now SkyGoblin) and GRIN. After the GRIN collapse in 2009, we moved on to different places.

I went back to school and Mathias ended up in middleware development for a few years. We remained friends, kept in touch and talked about making games together again. We started sketching out some ideas, and last year (2012) we decided to take the leap. We had a solid design, the core of what would become our engine and toolset, so we spent the year saving up money, making part-time progress, and finally quit our jobs and founded Starside in July 2013.

Who makes up the core team?

The two of us make up the core team. We work together on game design. Matt does the entire engine and toolset work and some gameplay. I do much of the scripting, gameplay code and sound design. We collaborate on the music since that’s something we’ve done together for a long time.
We also work with a few talented artists who provide us with much of the graphics for our games.

What is the inspiration for your first game – Lightray and how would you describe the development process?

We’ve always been sci-fi fans, so we knew we wanted to make a game set in space. I played a lot of Master of Orion, Supremacy and similar games growing up, and I wanted to bring that sense of epic scale to a modern game, without compromising on playability over complexity. First and foremost, we try to make a game that we want to play ourselves, and we believe that it will be good enough for others to like as well.
The development process for Lightray goes like this: we come up with a mechanic or feature, prototype it – often using pen-and-paper or a board game design – then implement and test it. We don’t want to shoehorn features into the game. Every mechanic has to stand on its own as well as make sense within the broader context. We try to design the game around a core feature set which we’re focusing on for the public alpha, and which we can then polish and start to expand upon once the game is out.

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What are the challenges or advantages of working in a small team?

For us, it’s certainly advantageous when it comes to productivity. We don’t keep office hours. We try to put in as many hours as we can every week, but we don’t want to take the fun out of work by pushing ourselves too far. It’s worked very well so far, and we think our productivity is better for it in the long run. We probably put in way more hours every week than we ever did at a regular job, but we do it at odd times, whenever we’re feeling productive, instead of forcing ourselves to sit at our desks during office hours twiddling our thumbs or getting stressed because we’re not “in the zone”.
The biggest challenge is staying focused, to keep your eye on what needs to be done. Finishing any game with two people is a challenge, but Lightray is a fairly large scope for this team size, and on top of that we’re building our own tech. If you can’t prioritize, you’re going to get lost fairly quickly.

Finally who are the developers in Sweden that inspire and have inspired you and why?

Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, some of our earliest encounters with video games were the Pinball games by Digital Illusions (DICE, these days). Pinball Fantasies is a masterpiece, and its demoscene roots makes it even more relevant for us, being former ‘sceners.
Recently, we’ve been absolutely captivated by Minecraft, like so many others. Notch and Mojang have made an amazing piece of software which isn’t just a game, it’s a tool for exploring your creativity while simultaneously taking part in an adventure, and I love how it still feels just as fresh to start a new world and start building today as it did two years ago when I first played it.
Last but by no means least, there’s a vibrant community of indie developers right here in Gothenburg, where we operate. We love the work of people like Erik Svedäng (else {Heart.break() }, Clairvoyance), Jonatan ‘Cactus’ Söderström (Hotline Miami) and our old colleagues at SkyGoblin (The Journey Down). It’s a great time and place to be an indie developer!

The duo can be found on Twitter.
Mathias: @fohx
Anders: @drakfluga

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