IGM Interviews: Space Dust Studios (Space Dust Racers) – Part Three


I guess you might think that the Earth of 3015 AD is a super-evolved, cyber version of the world you know today. It isn’t. There aren’t any real people, and a pack of daredevil aliens are using it as a giant racing track. That sounds far-fetched, I’m sure. But if you knew the truth, you’d be amazed. A secret space colony called Space Dust Studios has set up base here, hoping to observe these aliens with the intent to make a game about them.

This could be the key we need to save humanity, and perhaps to find out why we became extinct in the first place. Whoever is listening to these recordings, I have only one favor to ask. Please find a way to transmit this information back to the past Earth. If I’m lucky, a gaming website might pick it up. My oxygen tank will be dried up in minutes from now, but this is my last recording. You’ll make sure it survives, won’t you?

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IGM: Given your ideas on what makes a racing game successful, what advice would you give to somebody considering making their own?

Davies: Yeah and I’d say this for any game really-always start with white-box assets. Like use a box for the vehicle. And get that core feeling and handling good, you know? If you can just get the basic driving in first, don’t even worry about the weapons and then move on to that. The thing that we’ve found with a lot of the design for our game, is that you really can’t design the weapons without understanding the size of the track first. Because the range of them and the distance and the strength of the damage that they do is all tuned so that it feels good in the levels. Like I’ve found that when I was prototyping some of the early weapons, they felt great in just a plain, flat white-box environment, but as soon as we play-tested it was like, “Whoa! That’s not working at all.” So I would say iteration is definitely the key, and prototyping to get (the game) feeling right.

Pedrioli: I mean we basically start with a ribbon on a spline, and we just tune that, with literally just boxes running around. And once we get that, then we work on metrics, so how wide will the track be and even when you get that all nailed down, it looks terrible. Because there’s a grey ribbon in the air with boxes flying around. But if that’s fun? Everything else can be bolted on afterwards. I think people make the mistake of probably getting really enthusiastic about making the art, and making it look pretty and doing special effects, and building all these assets.

But if they haven’t actually got the fundamentals down, you’re going to be doing a lot of re-working for things. And I’ve experienced that first-hand while working at a bigger company. I think we know what do do now. I mean we’ve worked on huge games where we were building assets as the engine was being built, and this is for big companies. But you end up just re-working everything because stuff doesn’t actually work how you thought it would. So now as an artist, well we all end up spending the first month building really basic assets, literally just like grey cubes running around on a grey ribbon. You’ve gotta start at the bottom.

IGM: In essence, Space Dust Racers will be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and also feature smartphone controllers. Is there anything else that we need to know about that?

Davies: Yeah, one thing with the controllers is that if you don’t want to use the touch screen interface, because you want tactile feedback, if you’ve got a USB on-the-go cable or a gamepad peripheral for your phone, you can actually use those as well. The support for them will vary depending on your phone model, but we’ll be trying to support as many of them as we can. You can certainly plug in a USB on-the-go cable and use a physical controller directly through your phone.

IGM: Do you have a projected price-point at this stage, or is that still something that’s undecided?

Davies: We can give you a ballpark estimate. Like I think we’re looking at $20-$30, but we don’t have anything concrete yet. It would certainly be reasonable for the kind of game we’re going to make.

Pedrioli: Yeah, it’s not going to be a AAA studio $99 game-it’s an indie game, it’ll be accessible for as many people as possible.

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IGM: Say that somebody was to find one of the last remaining copies of Space Dust Racers in the future. And by this stage, all humankind would have advanced by huge leaps and bounds. Nobody would have even seen today’s game consoles in years. How do you think those people would react if they found the game and played it?

Pedrioli: That sounds like some weird scientific thing. This is like our game, an ancient artifact is actually a copy of our game. So we’ve got a feedback loop going on there, I’m not sure.

Davies: They’d probably be looking at the QR codes going, “What’s that?”

Pedrioli: Yeah, what is a smartphone? I can play games with my mind.

Davies: I guess they’d say people looked really strange back then (laughs).

Pedrioli: What was their obsession with cyborg hermit crabs? I’m not sure. Hopefully they’d say it looks pretty and plays fun. Silly, silly humans.

Davies: Yeah, I think if people were digging out Space Dust Racers to play a long time from now, that would be the ultimate compliment. We would have come full circle because we’re doing that now with all of our favorites.

IGM: Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers? Any final words of wisdom?

Davies: That’s a hard one.

Pedrioli: I like them? And I thank them.

Davies: Actually one thing that I’d like to say is that we want to develop Space Dust Racers with input from players. It’s not a game that we want to make, and then ship, and that’s it. We want people to get involved in our community. We’ve got a forum and obviously social media presence as well, so we want people giving us ideas, because that’s going to help the game become as big as it can possibly be. So definitely get involved, we want you to help us make it better.

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IGM extends a big thanks to both Grigor and Michael for lending their time, insights, and expertise on all things Space Dust Racers.

Space Dust Racers is expected for release in early 2016 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. You can follow Space Dust Studios on Twitter and like their Facebook page to stay in the loop with the latest game updates.

A keen retrogamer who grew up playing classics like Prince of Persia, Aladdin, and Diddy Kong Racing, Katrina believes that digital games are not just fun, but a great way to learn. These days she enjoys studying Japanese language acquisition, and designing her own games.