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Interview with the Lead Developer of InSomnia
Described as ‘an RPG set in a brutal dieselpunk universe,’ InSomnia is currently in the middle of its Kickstarter campaign and nearing its goal of $70,000. The isometric RPG is inspired from the golden age of tactical computer role playing games such as Baldur’s Gate, Fallout and Planescape: Torment, but with a unique sci-fi setting aboard a giant space station.
I played around with the very limited demo (which you can download here) and glimpsed the seeds of a deep RPG system and an intriguing world. If you’re as interested to learn more about InSomnia as I was, check out our interview below.
Hello! Can you introduce yourself and give a brief overview of InSomnia?
Hi there! I’m Anatoliy Guyduk and I’m the lead developer here at Studio MONO. We’re a team from Russia, USA, Malaysia, Poland, Lithuania, Netherlands and Japan, all united by the singular vision of wanting to create the RPG of our dreams! You play as humanity’s last bastion of hope, a character awakening from cryogenic sleep on a colossal spaceship.
This the project’s second attempt at raising funding through Kickstarter and is already vastly more successful as you’ve already surpassed 50% funding. What lessons did you learn and what changes did you make to the campaign?
We had multiple reasons for cancelling the first Kickstarter campaign. The main problem was a mistake in the translation; we didn’t have a description that could provide a clear overview of the project to the backers. Also the starting date was not very well timed with the release of the Xbox One and Playstation 4 and the holiday season.
But we consider this a very necessary experience. We received great feedback, connected with different people who started to help the project and get a clear vision of what should be done with the next campaign.
So, if I remember correctly, after 6-8 days we had a Skype conference with all the developers and discussed the situation and received feedback. We decided to cancel the campaign, correct the mistakes and reboot when we were ready. As I already mentioned, now the project description and the game features are much clearer than the last time, and people can now easily decide if the campaign is for them or not.
$70k is a relatively low amount for an ambitious isometric RPG, even with an established engine and functioning demo. Recognizable studios like Obsidian and InXile have raked in millions for their “old school RPGs.” How do you plan on finishing such a big game with so little funding?
We have already invested $80,000 of our own money for two full years of development. We’re planning to invest an additional $100,000, maybe more, providing that the Kickstarter campaign is successful. That would bring the total budget to $250,000 before any stretch goals.
We’re prepared to work for the basics (rent, bills, food and water) for several years to make a project to be proud of – we are a company of fanatics and we’re a little bit crazy about RPG games. We are young enough to waste all our time and energy on this project for next 3-4 years. I think many big companies don’t have such an option, [smiles] but they have a lot of money to compensate.
How do you feel about the current state of Kickstarter in regards to gaming, and the games that have been successful with crowd-funding so far (Shadowrun Returns, Broken Age, Wasteland 2, etc)?
To tell the truth I expected much more from some of projects that are released after their Kickstarter campaign. But there were some that I’ve been really happy with.
The problem is that Kickstarter is very dependent on famous names, franchise, etc. It would be ideal if people would back projects without all this marketing, colorful stuff but of course I understand that it is impossible, but I also think that with time it will be harder and harder to gather money for video games on Kickstarter. Every indie studio tries to give more for less money, so projects became cheaper and cheaper; as we said earlier, we’ve already put quite a lot of money into our project ( a lot for simple people) and we are ready to put much more in the future. But we’re also here to get positive (or negative) feedback and understand if our project is interesting to the public or not, which is a helpful outcome of a Kickstarter project.
InSomnia’s setting is incredibly unique, and the first thing that drew me to the project. A dystopian spaceship filled with secrets, a grimy art style and a chance to go back to a ruined planet through time travel missions sounds like few things I’ve experienced before in a game. What were your inspirations for the setting and your hopes for the final project?
This is quite a complicated question, it is the work of many people, and each gave their own inspirations. We draw a lot of inspiration from literature (Stanislav Lem, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and many others), cinematography (Tarkovsky, Terry Gilliam, Jim Jarmusch and many others) and we are fans of Planescape: Torment and the classic Fallout series. But even those are just a small part of our inspirational resources.
What exactly does ‘Dieselpunk’ mean, other than sounding completely badass?
So dieselpunk is just the most understandable explanation of our stylistics. Of course it is not pure diesel punk, it is a mix of many different styles: noir, dieselpunk, atompunk, Teslapunk (many prototypes were found in documentaries of first and second World Wars) and retro-futurism of America and Soviet Union. At the same way we need to make it a little more modern than classical retro-futurism. We need to work a lot on styling to put all elements in the places they should be.
When I see “old school computer RPG” I think either Real Time with Pause combat (Baldur’s Gate) or Turn-based tactical (Fallout), but the videos and demo make it out to be more of an action-RPG like Diablo, only with guns. Can you explain the combat system?
Diablo with guns is absolutely incorrect! Please don’t think the game’s like this [smiles].
No, we have a tactical pause, like in Planescape: Torment and Baldur’s Gate, but it will work slightly differently. For example the camera will switch on free movement and you will be able to give tactical orders to your companions to build a strategy. The combat will be very tactical. For example the front side of an enemy’s armor poses a problem, but they may have low armor in the back to exploit. Another very important factor are shelters and equipment management. However, even if you are a really high level character walking in front of a turret without armor is death. Three or four bullets and you’re dead. So, you will be not able to charge into a mass of enemies, even if they are low level. Of course it will be not like Baldur’s Gate or Planescape: Torment as there’s another setting, but it will be much closer to those style of RPGs than to the Diablo series.
Will there be party members we can recruit for single-player or is this a strictly solo or cooperative affair? How many players are you aiming for in cooperative multiplayer?
Yes, InSomnia will have “joinable” NPCs, very similar to the ones found in Fallout. The combat system will be RTWP (real-time with pause) to make things more manageable. There will be a number of available companions; the actual number will depend on your charisma and leadership stats. While you won’t control them directly, you will be able to issue general orders such as Attack, Support, and Take Cover.
When and if your relationship with companions deepens/improves, the companions will begin to trust you – which will open up more advanced and complex options and give you more flexibility when issuing orders. Eventually, you’ll be able to choose how to equip each companion and use your relationship level and charisma to override their particular equipment preferences. And if we talk about co-op right now we have a restriction of 58 players, but we don’t plan to make co-op content on more than 4-5 parties.
Computer RPG fans tend to be a very passionate and vocal fanbase, and typically don’t like seeing aspects like multiplayer and downloadable content (even if it’s free). How do you plan on handling these features?
You’ll only need an internet connection to play online co-op. In single-player mode, you’ll be able to play the entire campaign and supplemental chapters by yourself – without an Internet connection! The co-op content is absolutely optional, we think it will be an interesting experience, and we will work on that; we have several great ideas about it (we think they are great) so time will show if we are right or not. Soon we will test several co-op scenarios and see what feedback we will receive from the community, and if they are interested in such content or if we were completely wrong.
Thanks to Anatoliy for the Q&A. For more information on InSomnia watch their Kickstarter page for updates on the project.