Interview – Chatting with Crytivo Games about The Universim

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Touted as a “next generation Planet Management God-Game” on its Kickstarter page, the developers at Crytivo Games are quite confident they’re developing an experience unlike any other with The Universim. Players first experience the game during the Stone Age, where they’ll have to help nourish a young species as it slowly grows, advancing from technologically deficient all the way to scientifically savvy enough to venture out across the cosmos. But reaching the stars is only the beginning of a much longer journey, one that could potentially become the biggest God-game of all time.

With the universe as their playground, players will then manage their civilizations as they inhabit new and vastly different worlds. It almost sounds too good to be true, developing a game on such a cosmic scale. To find out whether or not the team can make good on their promises, I spoke to Crytivo about their vision and the project’s scope, among other things.

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IGM: You recently offered some details about the Prometheus engine, which among many other things, affects weather and climate change across the various planets. Can you offer some more details about how crucial a role the environment plays in The Universim?

Crytivo Games: The environments are a major aspect of how the simulation and gameplay experience play out. It is also what makes alien planets in the space era so unique and challenging. Environments will be split into biomes, and each will have their own unique characteristics and qualities. They will also affect your civilization in many different ways, from food/resource gathering to development. Of course, we wouldn’t just stop at having numerous biomes that have special quirks for the entire time you are playing on a particular planet. We decided to have seasons as well. The changing of seasons affects certain regions of the planet, and their biomes, majorly based on the timeline. Deserts will get hotter in summer, normal areas can be utterly brutalized by the winter if preparation isn’t done, and so the list goes on.

IGM: What made you guys decide to give players the option to influence the environment and only subtly impact the day-to-day lives of each planet’s inhabitants, as opposed to micromanaging each civilization?

Crytivo: We felt that this complimented the simulation aspect of the game perfectly. Having the AI make most of their own decisions really adds to the overall dynamic feel we are going for. You will still have a fair amount of control over their progression through the management of research and other options. You can also attempt to save them from themselves when mistakes are made. It is also just genuinely fun to not have the people know of your existence as it allows us to throw in some pretty humorous and entertaining additional features. I think people will be surprised by the depth we will eventually achieve!

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IGM: How does the day/night cycle impact gameplay?

Crytivo: The AI/City/Village/etc will usually go to sleep during the night. There will probably be some activity, as you would expect, but most of the actual work for the day will usually be finished. This is majorly dependent on the era, though. Night could bring many dangers in the earlier stages, such as wild animals and extreme cold. You will see campfires going up (once you research this in the stone age) and city lights turning on. The nightlife in each era will definitely be interesting. Although, most activities usually occur during the day.

IGM: A lot of folks are a bit wary of backing the campaign due to the sheer scope of the project. As we’ve seen with some previously-successful Kickstarters, it can be hard to keep track of scale and feasibility when it comes to big productions. How is the team keeping The Universim in perspective?

Crytivo: We are approaching everything in a modular fashion. The dynamic nature of the game allows for a lot of versatility in the systems we aim to implement. We have pretty much everything planned out as far as a roadmap is concerned. Core features come first, which will actually form most of the Alpha phase (of course not all features will be present immediately, but that is why we will iterate throughout Alpha). There is a lot more details we plan to add which will most likely come a lot later on (or sooner depending on how things turn out!). We have a long way ahead of us, but we are ensuring that the foundation is already strong for all features in varying levels of development to be implemented successfully in the future. It is basically a process of building something and then fine-tuning/polishing it until you are ready to add the next level. Naturally you can always go back and improve it further, which will probably happen a lot.

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IGM: Another thing potential backers are curious about is the goal itself. $320k seems like a lot of money, but when you’ve got a team of 14 core staff members and a projected release date of late-2015 at the earliest – not to mention a number of other taxes and fees to pay – that money can disappear pretty quickly. What would you say to those who feel you may be underestimating the total cost of such a large-scale project?

Crytivo: We have been answering this a lot on the actual page. It just boils down to us being a collaborative Indie Game studio. We just don’t have to deal with all of the costs usually associated with projects such as this as we are not a AAA game studio. To elaborate, most AAA game studios (mostly on Kickstarter) are pretty much forced to push for far higher budgets than usual due to the sheer size of the studio and what they want to achieve. There are just so many costs involved with the usual game development business model currently employed in AAA projects. That is why most stick to publishers when making their game.

This way they can enjoy all of the benefits of working for a proper, professional studio such as health benefits, dental, job-security, and so on. They can also iterate really quickly and get the game out far sooner than would otherwise be possible due to having hundreds of people working on the game. This model works brilliantly for all major franchises and the like, but it is most certainly not ethical for an Indie studio to attempt if they actually want the budget to last.

This is how we have planned our budget. We are not benefiting personally from the budget at all besides some payment for work done. Every cent is going into the game, which may even include hiring more people down the road or the inclusion of more expensive features. We have already been developing the game for over a year. What you see in the trailer is a few months of actual work on a working prototype. We definitely need the money to include all of the awesome features we have planned and develop it far quicker than we usually could. Many Indie teams have followed the same outlook and succeeded majorly. The secret to success in today’s world is to create an amazing product and let it speak for itself. That is what we plan to do.

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