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Space Dust Studios: “We chose Unreal simply because it is the best choice for our project”

Former developers from EA and Visceral Games (Battlefield 4, Need For Speed: Rivals, Dead Space) are working hard on a

Former developers from EA and Visceral Games (Battlefield 4, Need For Speed: Rivals, Dead Space) are working hard on a cool game Space Dust Racers. We’ve met the guys at GDC 2015 and immediately wanted to talk about the project, Unreal Engine 4 and the advantages and disadvantages of making games in Australia. Nathan Thomas kindly provided the answers for the interview.

Could you tell us a little bit about your studio? What games have you already developed? Where are you based? How many people are there in your company?

Space Dust Studios Team

We’re a team of 5 based in beautiful Melbourne, Australia. While we’ve worked together for over a decade (most recently at EA / Visceral Games), Space Dust Racers is the first independent title released under our Space Dust Studios banner. Previously our team have worked on titles such as Battlefield 4, Need For Speed: Rivals and Dead Space 1-3.

You’ve got quite a lot of veterans in your company. Why did they decide to join and make smaller games, after having worked with EA? What are the benefits of staying indie these days?

The original motivation for us to go indie was part circumstance and part desire to have complete creative control over development (which is not always easy within a big studio environment). The Australian game industry went through some tough times several years ago, with many experienced local developers (including some of our team members) temporarily moving overseas for better opportunities.

However Melbourne is a wonderful place to live, and the local industry has bounced back becoming a hive of creativity with many small independent studios. The community is very strong and government support (through entities like Film Victoria and GDAA) has helped re-invigorate the industry. Access to low cost high quality engines, tools and delivery platforms like STEAM means it is a great time to be an indie developer!

We’ve seen Space Dust Racers at GDC 2015. It looks amazing. Could you tell us a little bit about the project? How did it originate and what were your main sources of inspiration for this game?

Thank-you! We’re really happy with how the game looks and plays after less than 12 months development, and the opportunity to show the game on the Unreal Engine booth at GDC this year meant we had lots of people playing our game, which was really positive.

The inspiration for Space Dust Racers came from some of our favorite party games like Mashed, Micro Machines and Crash Team Racing – games that are now 10-15 years old, but we still enjoy playing regularly with friends and family. We set out to capture the great party vibe of these classic games we love, but have added new game-play experiences and accessibility, all set within a unique and visually exciting fiction.

What about the tech behind the game? Why did you choose Unreal Engine 4 and what were the main advantages of this platform? Why Unreal and not something else?

We’re using the latest version of Unreal 4, with custom controller technology that has been developed in-house. We chose Unreal simply because it is the best choice for our project. The robust networking and access to source was the main reason for our engineers. The physically based materials, great lighting and easy to use editor makes our artists very happy as well.

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At GDC this year we had a lot of developers asking our opinions on Unreal 4 versus Unity and CryEngine. Great projects have been made with all of these engines, and we feel that matching the project needs and the teams previous experience with the tools is the best way to choose an engine. For teams new to game development, Unreal is a great place to start as there are plenty of example projects to pull apart and learn from.

Tell us a bit about your relations with Epic. How do you work with the company? Does the company provide you with info, maybe help you with the tech? How did you get in the Epic booth in the first place?

I think the overwhelming feeling within the indie development community is that Epic have really aligned themselves with the needs of small developers. The friendly community is growing at an amazing rate which offers a lot of resources to people new to the engine, and all of the interactions we’ve had with Epic directly have been incredibly positive.

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Space Dust Racers was one of 8 projects selected to appear on their booth through an open competition they ran earlier in the year. We submitted a demo of the game and were incredibly fortunate to be chosen along with some other amazing indie titles.

How do you like developing games in Australia?

Developing games in Australia has some challenges due to geographic location, and we don’t have the industry scale of the US, UK or Canada. However the overwhelming shift to digital distribution has removed many of the traditional barriers, and there is a strong movement where developers work remotely for a better work/life balance.

Within Australia there are some incentives, with Film Victoria leading the support of game developers in Australia. There are also tax breaks available for research and development, and small grants for attending trade shows or events, though nothing to the scale of the subsidies enjoyed by developers in Canada for example.

Space Dust Racers is going to be released both on PC and Xbox. How did you manage to push your game to the Microsoft platform? Was it difficult to achieve? Did you have to make a lot of changes to the project to get it through?

We were accepted onto the ID@Xbox program quite early and have had XboxOne development running alongside our core PC development for some time now. We’re are also very excited to be now on the Sony Playstation developer program, and work is already underway on our PS4 version too.

We haven’t made many changes specifically for each platform. It definitely helps that our team has previous experience working with XboxOne and Playstation 4. While every platform has strengths and weaknesses, we’ve built our game and assets with consoles in mind from the outset of development, so we’re expecting little difference between XboxOne, PS4 and PC on release.

Where did you get the funding for Space Dust Racers? Did you go through Kickstarter? Is it difficult to get money for your game?

Our Kickstarter will actually launch late April! We’ll be offering early access, special backer only content plus a choice of platform when the game is released – more information is available on our website: www.spacedustracers.com.

Until now we have personally funded Space Dust Racers with additional financial support from Film Victoria which has been massively appreciated.

When should be expect Space Dust Racers?

We currently expect to launch XboxOne, Playstation 4 and PC in January 2016 with STEAM PC early access in August/September 2015.


Nathan Thomas, Art / Creative Director, Space Dust Studios

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