Cosmoscouts' Mikołaj Szymanowski has told us about the development process behind Moon Mystery, an upcoming space adventure with FPS elements, explained how the team creates environments for the game, and shared the studio's future plans.
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My name is Mikolaj, I’m from Poland, and my journey with game development began in 2022. I was working in the IT industry as a UX Designer, I have never worked in any game development company, but games were always my hobby. I was interested not only in playing them but also in how they are made. Over ten years ago, I started creating my first simple games in Blender (there was a game engine in Blender back then).
Getting Started With Moon Mystery
I have been experimenting and learning game development after work for a long time, but I have never finished any of my games. At the beginning of 2022, I decided that I needed to start and finish a game. I invested in it a bit. My investment was some assets and help from freelancers. My only goal back then was to finish the game and show it to my friends.
The idea was to make an action-adventure game set in space with great storytelling. Surprisingly, when I shared the first footage of the game, it went viral on a few social media. That was the time when I realized that it could be something serious, and I started investing more in the project.
Choosing Unreal Engine
I chose Unreal Engine because of a few reasons. First of all – Blueprints. I can't code, and blueprints are a lifesaver for somebody who has an idea for the game but doesn't do programming. It's much easier to learn than actual coding. Second of all – there are a lot of materials/tutorials/assets for it. If you want something and do enough research, you can achieve it. Also, I knew I wanted to do a project that would look really good, and Unreal is an engine that enables producing great visuals.
The Cosmoscouts Team
As I mentioned before, I started the project alone, and after only a few months, I found a publisher, and we became a small indie team of 13 people. Four of us work full-time (including me), and the rest work part-time.
As for finding the publisher, the story is not that complicated. I had a few viral posts on social media with early footage of the game, and several publishers contacted me. I chose Freedom Games, and I’m very happy about it, as we have great cooperation.
If I were to give some tips for other indie devs, it would be to focus not only on the game development itself. Nowadays, you have to market the game on popular social media as well. It can help you with finding the publisher, building your community, and validating your idea. If you see that people are into your project from the first footage, you know you are going in the right direction.
Defining the Scope
It was really hard to define the right scope for the project because we grew up really fast from one person to a small team. Initially, the game was supposed to be much lower quality than we are planning right now, so the scope has definitely changed over time.
For example, before, when there was a button to push, there was a simple button animation pushed by an invisible force. Now all interactions like that are animated with our hero's hands. If you interact with the fusebox, the hero actually uses the switch with his hands and pushes the button with his finger. There are more things like that, which we decided to improve. The game is a story-driven action adventure single-player experience. Our plan right now is to make a few hours-long, high-quality indie game.
Creating the Environments
We have two great Level Designers working full-time on the project, but for a long time, there was only one. The game is inspired by games like Half-life 2, Firewatch, and movies like Interstellar. It's nothing like Star Citizen or No Man's Sky. It's a single-player experience, there are some open levels, but you won't be able to explore entire planets. It is, however, a good thing because we can focus on quality, not quantity.
In the game, you will use wormholes to travel throughout different planets, which gives us unlimited possibilities for designing the levels. We mostly rely on pre-made assets, but whenever we use them, we either do a lot of research to find the right one or edit them to make them fit our project. We are doing our custom assets too, but instead of spending time making all of the assets custom in the game, we are spending that time working on gameplay and story.
Next on the roadmap is to work on the story, dialogues, and cutscenes. Experienced Game Designer and Narrative Designer joined our project recently. They are talented professionals with experience in AAA games. We will be working on telling a story that will get people involved and that will be loved by not only space enthusiasts but everyone.
I can confirm that we will have a few different vehicles in the game, such as the moon rover, buggy, regular sedan car, remote-controlled vehicle, submarine, and spaceship. There will also be a few weapons and a gun printing machine, in which you will be able to unlock them. These are the features that we will be working on in the near future.