GoD Factory: Wingmen is dead-set on bringing Space Sim combat back to the masses. It's an arcade multiplayer dogfight, eight players screaming through the wild black yonder in customised fighters, battling to destroy enormous carriers in an airless Danger Zone. With over a thousand customisation and upgrade options, not to mention eyecatching art direction, extensive lore and Oculus Rift support, it's an ambitious project, and Nine Dots Studio have been working their fingers to the bone in order to deliver on their promises.
In our hands-on preview, I described GoD: Factory Wingmen as an "exciting new take on the genre."
However, Nine Dots Studio's first Kickstarter campaign failed to reach its target over the summer, and they've now returned to the crowd-funding arena with a beefy free prototype and new features. Keen to know more about GoD Factory: Wingmen and its Kickstarter plans -- and why they feel that it deserves your money -- I sat down for a chat with Nine Dots CEO Guillaume Boucher-Vidal for the scoop. Be sure to download the entirely free playable prototype!
Dealspwn: Thanks for talking to us! First things first: could you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
Hey there! My name is Guillaume Boucher-Vidal. I'm the founder and CEO of Nine Dots. When I'm not taking care of administrative duties and public relations, I do game design.
Dealspwn: As I understand it, GoD Factory: Wingmen is part of an expanded GoD Factory universe. Could you introduce us to the setting?
Boucher-Vidal: GoD Factory is a universe in which there are 6 known sentient species. They are the humans, the guantris, the Chorions, the Ar, the Cantruscan and the Magniscients. II always found that the alien species in science fiction were extremely unimaginative. They're always humans with scales, humans with blue skin, humans with pointy ears, humans with fur, etc. In our universe, all species are radically different, none but the humans are humanoid. It's not only physical either, as these differences affect them culturally.
For instance, Guantris are quadrupeds with three heads. These heads are all having independent thoughts, so Guantris need to converse with itself and reach a decision as a group at all times. This means that they are extremely skilled in rhetoric, making them very good politicians and diplomats. The Chorions live by extracting energy from a radioactive rock they use as their "heart", so in other words they use radiosynthesis to survive. They are extremely tall, just like our dinosaurs were, so they have a strong feeling of invulnerability when comparing themselves to other races. They are also self-sufficient. However, they can't reproduce without having another radioactive stone, so their max population is extremely small. This has immense repercussions in how they see other species and the importance they give to their own lives.
The relations the species have toward each other vary a lot as well, which usually remains in good terms. They pooled together their resources to come up with a technology that can create matter out of thin air. The catch is that it can only be used to create carbon based matter. They are thus often used to create diamonds or graphene in large quantity. GoD is thus an acronym for Graphene or Diamond.
Our main goal is to build an audience in which the GoD Factory universe can thrive. We definitely want to make more games in that universe, but for that to happen we'll need to be successful with Wingmen.
Dealspwn: GoD Factory: Wingmen is a 4v4 arcade space sim. As fans of the genre, we couldn't be more excited. How have you managed to balance the depth of a space sim with the accessibility of a MOBA?
Boucher-Vidal: While I was surprised by this, MOBA seems to have become a dirty word, so we've been trying to avoid that term lately, even though it fits technically. Most people associate MOBA with F2P strategy games. We are neither, but that didn't stop people from getting the wrong impression initially.
More on point, pretty much any competitive game has a steep learning curve. When you start playing them, you will probably be horrible at it, since there are always many different factors to take into account. I think the one thing you really don't want however is to make your players feel powerless, unable to even try doing something before they die. It's what I've come to call the "Spawn and die syndrome" and we've been making sure to avoid it. So we constantly tweak the balance to make sure that a careful player has the ability to retreat rather than die, and even if you lose your ships you still can control the drones to help your allies. High resilience is also a major factor. You don't die in a second, you usually have enough time to think and find a way to get out of a hot spot before it's too late. Of course if you get attacked by the whole enemy team all at once, it's another story, but that's just normal!
Dealspwn: Customisation is a key part of the Wingmen experience. Roughly how many weapons and components are there, and what sort of tactical opportunities does this present pilots?
Boucher-Vidal: Last time I asked Rock to count how many different parts there would be, we were at 1184 different parts if you count the four variations in power for each of them. Not all of them are in the game right now, but we're quickly getting close. You can really create the ship that fits the experience you want to have. If you want a human that specializes in confusing the enemy by sending decoys and use stealth abilities, that will be a possibility. If you want to be an aggressive chorion that use a quantum hook to force enemy players close to him to explode his barrier in their face, you can as well. Maybe you prefer shooting huge missiles in free fire with an Ar Blossom to take down carrier parts quickly and that's also a possibility. We made sure there was a very vast array of viable builds, both in terms of stats and abilities. I like comparing this to deck-building card games: there are many components to take into account and making your build is as fun as playing with it.
Dealspwn: What were your inspirations behind both the gameplay and the art direction?
Boucher-Vidal: For gameplay, I'd say it's a mix of Ace Combat, Armored Core, Star Fox, good Star Wars games, Freelance, Star Control, Magic The Gathering, DotA and many others. I also had this idea that dogfighting was usually a little lackluster in most space sims and required to be faster and closer to be more satisfying.
For the art style, Étienne (our lead artist) used sources that are often overlooked in science fiction, such as classical, gothic and Arabic architecture. He also used animals such as stags and beetles as sources of inspiration. The main theme behind the art direction is grace and light, trying to make things as elegant and colorful as possible.
Dealspwn: Do you have any advanced tips and tricks for pilots currently playing the free build?
Boucher-Vidal: Use the backward jump maneuver while being chased and you'll end up behind your attacked. That can be incredibly satisfying and could save your life when you don't have enough energy left to boost to your carrier.
If you play humans, use decoys both as an offensive and defensive tools. Some decoys explode on impact, so you can use them as a last resort weapon to finish off a carrier part.
When you play against good players, they will try and chase you if you run away. Try to "fake" your boost by charging it up, but releasing just before you start going full speed. You'll see your attackers zip right passed you, leaving you some time to relocate and head back home without getting tailed.
The Purge is an ability all ships have that is used to cleanse all negative effects (and also remove the positive stuff too, so be careful). If you see that you got two out of three damage types on you that would trigger either a black hole or a nova, it might be a good idea to purge preemptively and remove these damage types "flag" rather than wait for the black hole or nova to happen.
I think I might start a thread for this on our forums actually!
Dealspwn: As a relatively small studio who started out on XBLIG, what sort of challenges have you met and overcome with a project of this scale?
Boucher-Vidal: I think the biggest challenge is to survive attrition. To keep on working for 2 years (one year on Brand, the other one on GoD Factory) full time with no salary or any form of significant income is pretty insane, especially since we don't know if it will pay off. Some of us have three jobs, while others had to go back to living with their parents, some of us dilapidated their savings. Meanwhile, we have to pay all the business expenditures, such as hardware, the rent, insurances, etc. I've been personally accumulating debts over this projects for a while now and soon we'll have run out of resources completely. Every month, I see the numbers and it can get pretty discouraging. By tackling on such an ambitious project, we really are passing through an excruciating endurance test.
Dealspwn: Post-launch, how will you support GoD Factory: Wingmen with new content?
Boucher-Vidal: We discussed a few times about adding space stations which could be captured to gain a distinct advantage over the enemy team, giving more incentives to the players to get away from the carriers and lead to more occasions for dogfighting. We also want to eventually add a 5th species, but that will take some time to do. Aside from that, we'll add packages of new parts and we'll be very attentive to what our audience wants.
Dealspwn: Why do you feel that the first Kickstarter failed? Why return to the platform, and how will you spend the money if successful?
Boucher-Vidal: I think we had bad timing, with E3 taking a lot of attention right in the middle of our campaign. We also don't have that many contacts in the press yet, so that didn't help.
Dealspwn I hate to ask, but in the event that this new Kickstarter campaign fails to reach its target, what's the plan going forward?
Boucher-Vidal: Right after the Kickstarter, successful or not, we will release the game in alpha funding. If we don't have a good soft launch by then, it's probably over for Nine Dots Studio, unless we find a publisher or maybe some very profitable contractual work.
Dealspwn: What do you have to say – directly – to potential backers who haven't yet decided whether or not to get involved?
Boucher-Vidal: I think it's pretty easy to make an informed decision by playing the game and talking with the devs. We are readily available every night at 20:00 EST, so you can join in, play a few matches, talk with us and make your decision based on that. We need help, and you need to spend your money wisely. I think that alone sets us apart from many kickstarter projects.
Dealspwn: Finally, here's a question we always love to ask developers. What, in your opinion, is the most awesome, memorable and badass thing that players can do in GoD Factory: Wingmen?
Boucher-Vidal: I'd say it's stealing the victory at the very end of a game by teleporting inside the carrier with a calculated jump and destroying the core when the enemy thought they had the advantage.
GoD Factory: Wingmen is currently seeking funds on Kickstarter and campaigning on Steam Greenlight. There's a fortnight left to go - and though it isn't my place to tell you what you should and shouldn't help to fund, I'd urge you to at least give the free build a try while you have the chance. So few Kickstarters let you try before you pledge... or arguably need your help more urgently.