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Developer Interview with Ciprian Bacioiu

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Developer Interview with Ciprian Bacioiu

by Andre Ford

Each day, thousands of people are faced with the challenges unemployment presents them. What some may view as the end others view being laid off as a new beginning.  Ciprian Bacioiu, a independent game developer, is trying to create a new beginning with his latest project. He states "I'm a Linux 1st game developer trying to establish myself in the gaming market as a developer of coffee-break games: Games you can play in your coffee break, intense and able to scratch a quick itch!" He is a lone developer working on his game in a workshop with his two cats RTFM and Wilson. This interview will share the tale of how unemployment provided a rare commodity to help him complete his project. The commodity is time and there isn't a lot of it left for the Bearded Giant to complete his new game called Space Mercs. The game will focus on a player's piloting skills as they get a chance to fly in large scale space battles. These battles will be filled with hundreds of ships, including capital ships as they engage each other. While a free demo of the game is available, in about 7 weeks the full game will be released for players to enjoy thoroughly either at home or while on their coffee break.

Thank you so much Ciprian for taking the time to do this interview. Please tell us, how long you have been in the game development industry and what are some titles you have worked on in the past?
I've been making games since 2006 and first entered the industry as a professional game designer in 2010 for Gameloft. There I worked on titles such as Nova 3, The Dark Knight Rises and quite a few more. Over the next 9 years I worked for companies like Mobility-Games/Disney (Frozen: Free Fall), as a freelance developer (game porting), Indie developer and even spent some time in the publishing side of the industry up till May this year!


What motivated you to create Space Merchs and focus more on the player's skills as a pilot than other factors?
Time is the biggest motivation. If I had as much time as I needed I would have developed Space Mercs as a 4X game - economy et all, however my savings only covered up to three months of development. As such I decided to lower my scope and do what I do best - offer the best experience I can deliver while focusing on a single core aspect. And in this case, what I wanted to achieve with the game is giving the player the feeling that he's a badass space pilot who can fly through intense areas while dodging bullets!

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On your Imgur post you mentioned that you were laid off while you're developing Space Mercs. Obviously being unemployed presents it's own challenges. So how do you cope with and or conquer the combined challenges of being laid off and game development?
Being unemployed offers me access to a scarce resources in today's age - time to work on my own things. While holding a full time job, development can be sporadic. Nowadays I lock myself in my workshop with my two cats and tinker on my humble toys. I have the experienced required to get another job if I wanted too (9 years as a professional game developer) so I didn't feel the need to rush and jump on a new 9-to-5 job. Instead I calculated my savings and decided that if I have to go down, might as well go down guns blazing. Make a new game, release it and cross my fingers that revenue will be enough to support me for 3 more months so I can deliver another one.


Space Mercs is looking awesome so far. It looks like a fun and casual game that can be very challenging as well. What are some features that players can look forward to seeing?
My favourite thing to do in Space Mercs right now is to jump in on a huge 150+ space ship battle. The enemies don't all focus on you - you're really just another enemy ship for them, a speck on their radar. They pick their targets and engage other fighters from your team so you have the ability to do something you can't in most games - enjoy watching a huge space battle unfold. Ships blowing up, ships jumping in, huge battleships launching missiles - that is a sight to see. But things take a turn for the worst when you see the red light at the top of your cockpit turn on because someone is targeting you. And it's still a nice sensation, even while working on the game for 12-16 hours a day.


There is a comment your Imgur post by Jimicus about Space Mercs which reads "Hey, it’s a cross between Asteroids and Elite!" What are your thoughts about that?
It's so close to reality that I might steal the comment and use it in an official fashion! The funny thing is I don't have a powerful computer at home - I'm stuck on a mini form factor PC with an integrated GPU so I cannot play games like Elite Dangerous or X4 foundations. I can almost play X2 - the Threat with plenty of ships on screen. So when I began developing the game I wanted to make sure it works on an integrated GPU (Intel HD 4000) while looking good and supporting at least 100 ships on-screen even at those low specs! So saying that the game is a cross between Asteroids and Elite is extremely spot on! Just like Asteroids it works on pretty much every pc that supports Windows or Linux. And it resembles Elite dangerous in the game's cockpit form. I love Elite Dangerous, I so wish I could play it right now. But if the game sells decently enough (700-800 copies) I might just afford the graphics card upgrade to get a better GPU and play E:D.

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Speaking of the game's features, which was your most difficult feature to develop and what lessons did you learn from the process?
The hardest thing right now is making it fair to the player; when you're in a battle bullets are everywhere. I'm only half-joking when I say that the only things that outnumber the projectiles on-screen are the number of stars in the background. When bullets come at you from behind well, it's hard to avoid them. I've spent the last two days working on the cockpit radar to find a way to track bullets from behind the player, so he can get an idea if something is coming towards him and roll/side boost out of the way.

 

Kind of a silly question here. Were you able to include all of the features you'd like to have in the game?
The game has been in development for 1.5 months. Everything you see on the steam page or in the imgur post, or on my twitter, was done in that period. The entire game is built around the mechanics I'm working on now. Duel mode? That takes little to no effort outside of balancing the enemies in the game. Survival mode (everspace-esque) is the main gameplay loop with jump gates and the loadout screen. I believe I budgeted my time well enough to be able to add everything. Worst case there's going to be 1-2 weeks delay to account for proper QA testing of the game because I really do not want to release it unpolished.


Sometimes, when we create things they may not turn out the way we wanted them to. However there are times when something unexpected happens. During development of Space Mercs, has there been something in the game that didn't work out the way you hoped it would but, in the end, turned out to be a pleasant surprise that you decided to keep in the game?
Yes, initially, I wanted the game to play more like the first Rogue Squadron, on a planet. There's an early prototype of that here (https://imgur.com/gallery/MvBhJtD) and it was extremely fun. However ship pathfinding in-between the buildings coupled with performance issues when more than 20 ships were in-game ended up being a no-no. So I decided to just set the game in space and that opened up the ability to have battles with hundreds of ships. Which makes things more interesting.


Depending on the success of Space Mercs, what are some other games that you would like to make? Would you ever bring elements back from classic games such as StarLancer, FreeLancer, or Wing Commander?

At this points, things are simple for me. I need to sell about 700 copies of the game on Steam during the first month in order to have another 3 month runaway to make another game. Anything past that is a bonus that can be used/spent to extend and improve Space Mercs into something a bit more sandbox-y. Instead of receiving credits at the end of a mission and using them to upgrade your ship's hardpoints and internals I'd want to add the ability to do ware trading, and add more purchasable ships. I couldn't do this with my limited budget and time frame but if the game sells well enough, it's totally going in!

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Fun Question: If you had the resources and funding, what would be a game you'd really like to make?

If you'd have asked me that question 4-5 years ago I would have a sure answer. Nowadays, I'm boggled down by experience and scope so I tend to think small and more granular. Back then I would have said that if money wasn't a problem and I could afford to pay a few artists I'd make a game in the vein of Dragon Age: Origns. An RPG that focuses on storyline and Character Development in which my players could fall in love with their party members and their personality. Now I'd just want to make something that's really fun and can pick you up after a hard day at work. Something you can play and come back to again and again on your own time and pace.


Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share with your supporters?

Please wishlist Space Mercs on Steam! With the way steam's algorithm works - the more wishlists I have, the more chances I get a better placement and better launch week sales. If you like the concept behind Space Mercs and you want to see the game expanded - or other games from me in the future, it's imperative you wishlist the game! It's the best way to support me at this point!


Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us your story and I'm sure the members here who are interested in Space Mercs would certainly love to show you their support.

 

We invite you to check out the links below and share your thoughts about Space Mercs

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