Sasha Adamovic, the creator of a very impressive indie strategy Galaxy Union, discussed the difficulties of promoting and making indie games for a niche audience.
There are countless games on Steam now. People from all over the world try to get their projects on this huge platform and strive to achieve success. The best thing about Steam is that platform allows developers to find the special niche for their product. We’ve talked with Sasha Adamovic, the creator of a very impressive indie strategy Galaxy Union, and discussed the difficulties of promoting and making indie games for a niche audience.
Who is Sasha Adamovic?
I’m somewhat of a rebel-geek, have always been fascinated with space and technology. So the majority of my games are sci-fi based. I usually try to add concepts in my games that have not been done before or at least include features that I think will advance my knowledge in the game development field. For instance, I’m working on a game called Space Duty, for that game I wanted to incorporate Quest and AI systems, so the NPCs in the game would essentially act and follow their own needs. In Hacker World the experiment was to have a fully functional client-server model with a SQL database while still making a game about something that I’m interested in.
I have been a gamer since I was a kid, got a Commodore 64 in the late 80s and as luck would have it, they didn’t have a tape drive in stock, so I had no input devices for about a month. Interesting thing is that the C64 came with a manual and an additional BASIC book, at the back of the book was code for a top-scroller racing game, so that is when I started fiddling with code, and of course the game needed to be re-coded every time the C64 was switched off. I just fell in love with the concept of creating something out of nothing, using logic to create experiences and it seemed that everything was possible.
Making a 4x game has been something that I wanted to do for a long time, in a 4x there really is no limit to the scale of the world, you could include everything from individual people going on with their lives to star formation and galactic politics. With Galaxy Union I tried to include some features that have not been done in 4x games, a Dynamic Galactic Market, a Patent System and Periodic Table of Elements, also every single “asset” in the world has a production chain, in essence a Battleship can be traced down to its Elemental components. Some other things that I’m proud of is that the galaxy is pretty large by today’s 4x standards, anywhere from ~100 to ~1000 star systems and your AI opponents can number in hundreds.
There is a designed and intended gameplay progression. Start of the game has you micromanaging a single colony, looking for the most profitable buildings and items to manufacture. Soon afterwards a colonization phase begins, this is where you start to peek into the galaxy and further develop your colonies, at this stage patents become important, patents provide you with much higher income for the patented commodities. Then research stations become the focus, you need them in order to have competitive fleets, also market manipulation starts to be viable at this stage. And the final stage is the conquest stage.
4X space games seem to offer the widest possible worlds and immersion, they put you in a world with many complexities and enable everything from micro management of planetary building construction to galactic conquest. I think the most influential 4x game for me has been the Space Empires series, that game has basically an unlimited amount of detail all the way to the galactic level, it’s amazing. Also, Spore had an impact on me, a beautiful simulation from microbe to a galactic adventure with a huge galaxy to play in.
There are a few generic galaxy images that are used as a base for a galaxy, shape of the spiral arms and density are derived from the images. Placing of new systems looks up the density value of the spot that is being evaluated and then places a star in that position if the star passes a randomly generated density value of its own. There is also some checking done on the proximity of stars, so they don’t exist too close to each other. Actual system/planet generation is derived from the star system seed, it’s also based on passing certain checks given a probability and so are the minerals and gases present on the planets. It’s very quick.
Developing the Game
I suppose that complexity of a game comes from the features that you want to implement, rather than the actual gamedesign being complex. With Galaxy Union, I had a few concepts that I wanted included, dynamic market, patents, periodic elements, full commodity chain. Thing is that those features don’t live in isolation, not only are they themselves linked, they require supporting features to exist. For instance to get the patent feature implemented, the game needed to have at minimum, items to be patented, composition of those items, bonus to using the patent, AI to compete for patents and production of those items. Now that is basically half of the game. I suppose the most important thing when it comes to implementation of such systems is to keep the features separate even though they are so very linked. There is also the question of complexity vs depth, in essence deep gameplay is better that complex gameplay and I can only hope that my game is not too complex to be played.
Promoting the Game
I don’t really have an advertising budget at this moment so traditional advertising campaigns are off the table. Also Galaxy Union is a very niche game as such I doubt that mainstream advertising will have great benefits. All I can hope for is that indie-press and communities will embrace the game.
I don’t have any press contacts, this is actually my first interview. I think the biggest challenge to the indie game makers is visibility. There are only a very few places where you can actually sell you game at the moment and user numbers on those sites are very low. So you need to get on Steam or Humble and that is not very easy, I think Galaxy Union was on Greenlight for over a year before it got Greenlit, getting on Steam is a huge milestone.