Interview with Source Studio on ProtoGalaxy

Could you tell us a little about your company, Source Studio? Who are you Guys, where did you come from?

Source Studio is an indie company creating games by gamers for gamers. The Source team grew up playing games and creating levels and mods for their favourites. Our experiences working on modding projects have driven us to deliver games that are fun and extendable.

You guys started in the Memorial University of Newfoundland. How did you come to the decision to start a company and work on it full time?

During university, we created a demo for ProtoGalaxy. We really liked the way the demo turned out so we decided to show it to a bunch of people at the university to see if there was a market for a game like ProtoGalaxy. Local gamers were really excited about the demo and the unique features the game offered, so we decided to continue development and turn the demo into a full-fledged game.

What were the challenges you ran into when running Source Studio and getting your first game published?

Our biggest challenge in getting our first game published has been getting people to try out the game. Indie companies have a hard time getting noticed since they’re competing with a lot of big companies with big budgets. ProtoGalaxy also has a simple old-school look which people have said deceptively hides the depth the game offers.

How did you come up with the concept of your first game, ProtoGalaxy? What was the inspiration for the game?

ProtoGalaxy ReviewClassic space shooters definitely helped inspire ProtoGalaxy. Older games focused more on gameplay than on graphics, and that was definitely a focus for us as well. With ProtoGalaxy we wanted to create an action game with RPG elements and a highly customizable editor so users could not only create single missions, but entirely new games to play and share. Games with level editors were also a big inspiration for ProtoGalaxy. Games like StarCraft and Little Big Planet are so engaging because of the user-created content that gets developed by gamers.

What are the three features of ProtoGalaxy that you are most proud of? Things which really set it apart from other games in the genre?

The three main features that set ProtoGalaxy apart are the editor, the multiplayer, and the physics simulation.

Most space shooter games are relatively short: they often span 5 or 6 levels that you must play in order and have no incentive to revisit to find hidden secrets or complete side missions. In ProtoGalaxy players can create entirely new games, or download other people’s creations for endless gameplay. ProtoGalaxy’s editor is extremely powerful, and we plan to show more of what the editor can do by releasing new maps in the coming months.

ProtoGalaxy’s multiplayer also sets it apart. The game is very focused on teams working together, and we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to play together. Up to 4 players can join on any combination of a single computer or networked computers. Very few games allow this degree of freedom in multiplayer.

The physics is another major feature that makes ProtoGalaxy unique. The physics simulation and the gravity beam provide a very natural way to interact with game world, and open up a lot of opportunities for adding gameplay elements the genre has never seen before.

ProtoGalaxy feels very much like a title that was made with consoles in mind, yet it was released on only the PC so far. Did you plan to release it on consoles originally?

ProtoGalaxy was designed to be portable. We’d love to port it to a console, and we want the game to look and feel the same on any system it is on.

One of the things we noticed when playing the game is that players cannot respawn when the other players are still alive. This means you sometimes have to wait a considerable length of time, watching the other players finish the mission. Was this design intentional?

ProtoGalaxy ReviewIt is intentional that player’s have 1 life per mission. We didn’t want players to have lives or get a “Game Over”, so players have infinite lives overall. But in order to keep the game challenging players only get a single life per mission. Unfortunately this has the consequence of dead players having to wait in a multiplayer match. We are looking at changing this in a future campaign, likely by dead players becoming a “ghost” that can move and interact with things, but not shoot or take damage.

Have you considered including different game modes? The survival style combat in the credits mission is quite enjoyable; having a different game mode with a few maps (larger maps!) for this type of survival mode could really enhance the lifespan of the game.

We’re working on some new stuff that is completely different from the Alpha Op campaign. We’re planning on putting out some new maps that are more open ended like the credits level, but with unique gameplay styles unlike any of the maps you’ve seen so far. Because of the arcade feel of levels like the credits level, we’re planning on including leaderboards for the new maps.

Have you considered further enhancing the game by giving the player’s character an identity, levels and skill trees? Players would be able to distinguish themselves even further, making multi player much more interesting.

We’re working on a new campaign that will take ProtoGalaxy beyond ships out in space. The new campaign will have a very different look and feel from Alpha Op, and will introduce a new style for upgrading your character.

Some very old arcade shooters enabled players to ‘lock’ their ships together into one bigger ship – with one person flying so the other only had to shoot. This could resolve some of the issues with crowded corridors. What are your thoughts on such ideas?

ProtoGalaxy ReviewI think this is part of what the gravity beam accomplishes. By gravitying other players you can rescue them from a dangerous situation (or throw them into one if they’re hogging all the money drops).

What does the future hold in stock for ProtoGalaxy? Will we see further updates to the current game or are you working on a potential sequel?

There will be lots of new stuff added to ProtoGalaxy in the coming months. ProtoGalaxy is very extendible, and we want to show gamers more of what this game can do.

What else can we expect from Source Studio? Will you focus on Arcade Shooters or are there plans for other types of games?

For now we’re committed to maintaining and extending ProtoGalaxy. We have plans for other games we’d like to work on, but no announcements on them yet.

Thank you very much for your time. We wish you the best of luck with ProtoGalaxy and look forward to seeing what else your team has to offer in 2011!


the author

Managing Editor of ManaPool, Peter lives in York, UK and is a great fan and master of turn-based strategy games. If he isn't playing one of those, you'll probably find him in a role-playing game instead. He's definitely not afraid to provide a straight up opinion on any game and has a strong like for indie developers. We all start small, after all.