In our latest interview we were able to speak with Tina Lauro, Project Manager, and Brendan Drain, Lead Programmer for Predestination. They along with one other are the team behind Brain and Nerd, a recently founded game developer in the emerging market of Northern Ireland. Their debut title is currently up for funding on Kickstarter with a very modest goal of $25,000. The campaign is well on its way with over $9,000 pledged with 33 days remaining. They talked about some of the great stretch goals such as multiplayer, additional singleplayer missions, and a mission editor.
In the year 2350, human deep space probes discovered a mysterious cloaked star system with planets filled with advanced technology. As the galaxy’s empires argued over ownership of the planets, their ancient inhabitants awoke from suspended animation and began exterminating all life in the galaxy. Star by star, the empires crumbled, every inhabited world reduced to irradiated rubble.
Refugees from dozens of races joined forces for one final attack on the enemy homeworld. They planned to use the alien’s own technology to freeze the entire solar system in time, but nature had plans of its own. Ruptures in space-time opened throughout the system, pitching ships back through time and scattering them throughout the galaxy.
Indie Game HQ: Can you tell us a little bit about Brain and Nerd?
Tina: Brain and Nerd is the brainchild of Brendan, our founder and lead developer. After finishing his Masters in Computer Science and gaining a journalistic perspective on the gaming industry through his editorial role at Massively (he is an EVE Online columnist there), Brendan felt that it was time to take his skills and forge his career and do something he was passionate about.
He already had developed the engine for Predestination before he had came up with the game concept, and when he showed it to me I knew we had to take his project somewhere. I am Brendan’s housemate (we also live with my fiancé and our art director Steven, which is very handy!) and so it made sense for me to jump aboard as the project manager.
The name originates from Brendan’s other passion, which is having fun with words: it’s an anagram of his full name, Brendan Drain. We’ve been officially working together since January, and couldn’t be happier!
Indie Game HQ: How long has your company been working on Predestination?
Tina: Well, that’s a hard question to easily answer! The game engine derives from Brendan’s Master’s thesis, which he completed quite some time ago. He originally envisioned a larger sandbox game to fit his engine, but for a first project, a 4X quickly became the perfect choice, since it’s a genre the whole team has experience with and deeply enjoys. Work on the game really gained speed when we decided to form Brain and Nerd, so core development has been going on since January.
Indie Game HQ: Being in a growing market such as Northern Ireland, has this posed any problems throughout development? Have there been any surprises along the way?
Tina: Northern Ireland doesn’t really have an established game industry, so there is little support here. We were really concerned about how little government funding is made available to support modern industry, especially since there’s a government body designated to help support new businesses like ours. Despite this, there are some undeniably great indie projects to come out of Ireland, but most come from Dublin. Northern Ireland is a distinct part of the island, being part of the United Kingdom. We have no established game publishers, so we knew that we’d need to make Predestination successful on our own.
There have been some great surprises along the way, though – we stumbled upon Farset Labs, which is a collaborative workspace that really supports projects like ours in any way it can. I also have some great connections in Ireland’s gaming community from time spent attending and organising our gaming societies and conventions, so we were asked to attend Q-Con (Ireland’s largest gaming convention) as guests in June to show off our trailer to the attendees as part of Digital Circle, a collaboration of local indie developers who come together to share advice and lend a critical eye.
Indie Game HQ: In Predestination you can create your own races and ships. Is this difficult to do?
Brendan: Designing custom races and ships will be simple and intuitive. Race creation will be similar to Master of Orion II, but we’re improving on it with some great new features. You’ll pick a race archetype like Robot, Aquatic, Humanoid, or Reptillian, and then use a point-based system to decide on attributes and special abilities. Each archetype has unique gameplay and a unique technology field that isn’t accessible to the other races, so a Robot race will play very differently to a Humanoid one.
For a fully customised race, you can add your own artwork and it will actually appear in-game on diplomacy screens and such. You’ll even be able to save your custom races out and share them on our Community website.
To design a ship, you start by choosing a base hull of a certain size, and then pick engines, weapons, shields, armour, and special modules like scanners. The hull has a maximum power output and each item you add drains a certain amount of it, so you have prioritise which area you want to invest power in. You can also pick modifications for your weapons and engines, like a beam capacitor that doubles damage but needs to charge up between attacks. If we get enough funding, we’ll be able to build a 3D ship designer to let you customise the look of your ships too.
Indie Game HQ: How long is a typical match in the game?
Brendan: That’s a hard one to estimate since the game isn’t finished yet, but you can pick from a wide range of galaxy sizes to get a longer or shorter game as desired. We’re aiming for games in tiny galaxies to play through in a few hours or less, and games in the largest galaxies could fill your gaming time for days. Once we add free online multiplayer, keeping the shortest games down to around an hour will be a high priority.
Indie Game HQ: How extensive do you intend on making the single player campaign?
Brendan: That really depends on how much we’re funded for. For launch we plan to have tutorial missions, a few challenge maps and all the maps designed by players who pledged for the level design reward. If we reach the singleplayer campaign stretch goal on Kickstarter, we’ll be able to add a full series of storyline missions. They’ll take the player through the Predestination story, starting with the cataclysmic events that threw the races’ ships back in time and following their struggles as they try to prevent it from happening in the past.
If we are extremely well funded, we’ll be able to make simple-to-use mission-designer tools and release them for free so that anyone can make their own singleplayer storyline campaigns and challenge maps. If we don’t get enough funding to do this, I’d like to include it in an expansion because I’d love to see what kind of maps players would design if given the chance.
Indie Game HQ: What were some deciding factors that led you to choose Kickstarter over other alternatives?
Tina: Kickstarter immediately appealed to us. We have backed some great projects on the site ourselves, so we knew for a fact that payments are reliable and secure. There is undoubtedly plenty of media buzz around Kickstarter, particularly in the games industry, and we’ve seen projects like ours succeed before. People here in the UK and Ireland are also aware of Kickstarter since they started accepting campaigns from the isles, so the site appeals to our home market as well as the wider market. We also found the advice and backend features invaluable for both creating and managing our project. Kicktraq and various Kickstarter roundups carried a certain appeal as well – we knew that our project would find its feet if we connected well with those who follow Kickstarter on a regular basis.
Indie Game HQ: You guys have a very modest goal of raising $25,000. What exactly will this go towards?
Tina: Our goal may seem low, but costs in Northern Ireland are quite different to those in the US, and there are government funding options here to multiply any funding we successfully secure for ourselves. We live in one of the cheapest cities to live in in the whole of the UK and Ireland, and we don’t want to ask for any more than our minimum costs since that wouldn’t be fair to our supporters.
The money will be spent on our basic living and running costs to allow us to work on the game full-time. This cost is very low since Brendan, Steven and I share a house together, and we work on the project from home. We also need to pay for vital things like software licences, new equipment, instrument sets for our composer, and 3D models for our modular ship system and planet colonization system.
$25,000 is the bare minimum we require to make Predestination, but we are really hoping for more. We have plenty of stretch goals we really want to realize, like multiplayer and LAN modes, single player campaigns and mission design tools, among other features.
Indie Game HQ: How much do you think you will need to make multiplayer a day one feature? If you do not make this how soon after launch do you think it would be available?
Brendan: Ideally, I’d love to get free online multiplayer and LAN play in the game for launch, but I know how time consuming and expensive it can be to develop and debug netcode. If we hit our funding target early, multiplayer will probably be the first stretch goal we’ll aim for. We’d likely have to hire someone to work exclusively on the netcode and client-server infrastructure while I develop the gameplay. I don’t want to put a price on that just yet as we’re still exploring some options that could bring the cost down.
If we don’t get multiplayer in for day one, it’ll be added as a free update. It could take several months to complete, but we’ll hopefully have some money from sales to speed that along. Multiplayer is very important to me, as it’s where I think tactical 4X games really shine and I’d love to see a competitive scene spring up.
Indie Game HQ: How many players do you intend to allow in a single multiplayer match?
Brendan: Multiplayer in a turn-based game is tricky because the game can slow down as you add more people, but I definitely want it to be more than just one-on-one matches. 4X games are best when there’s complex politics going on between the players, so I’d like to aim for a maximum of 4-8 players in a multiplayer game. That plan may change as we start to develop and test the system and get feedback from players. Ultimately, the most important thing is that multiplayer games should be fun.
Indie Game HQ: Upon release where will Predestination be made available and for how much?
Brendan: We’d love to have Predestination launched on Steam, so we’ll launch a Steam Greenlight page at some point during the campaign. If we get enough backers to hit our funding target, we should be able to get enough support for Valve to take notice. We’re aiming for around the $20-$25 price range at launch, but plans may change. We also plan to release DLC packs after launch and start work on the first game expansion. Anyone who pledges $25 on Kickstarter will get the game and all future DLC and expansions for free. It’s our way of saying thanks for supporting DRM-free gaming and new indie development.
Indie Game HQ: Thanks for your time. Is there anything you would like to add for our readers?
Tina: I just want to say a personal thanks to everyone who has pledged so far – it really does mean the world to me. If you have anything you want to ask about, please do, since someone is always available to answer questions and generally provide a face to the project.
Even if you can’t find the money to financially back us (we know it’s a tough time and it’s the holiday season!), just remember that you can do so much good for us by simply sharing our links, talking about us on your social networks and making your favourite game sites aware of us.
Finally, be sure to keep checking back to the Kickstarter page, especially if you’re currently undecided about the game. There are plenty of gameplay updates coming over the next few days, with more videos to come as the weeks roll on.