Take the floaty space shooting perspective of Asteroids, splice it with the resource mining and crafting of Minecraft and sprinkle in a liberal dose of Elder Scrolls-style open world questing and what do you get? Well, aside from being tail of newt and blood of crow away from the ingredients of a wicked witches brew, you get OreSome, the solo project of UK based aspiring game developer Jamie Smith. Having just played the recently released demo, I caught up with Jamie to learn more about this intriguing indie title.
Can you explain the concept of OreSome, what are the main mechanics and how does it play?
OreSome is a single player action strategy with RPG elements (I don’t think there’s an acronym for that one yet). The game is about ore – exploring space for it, fighting aliens for it, blowing up planets with it. Build a network of frames and bots to defeat your enemies – or just throw a sun at them. In a dying, decrepit universe full of foes, you can build up your forces and mine your way to the top of the food chain to explore further and further out into the void. By the time you’re ready, you’ll be powering light speed jump drives with stars, building Death Star style super weapons with black holes and in charge of the largest scale mining operation ever known to man – all working for one of humanity’s least scrupulous corporations – and there’s a lot of competition.
The player can approach the game in a number of ways, from holing up in a secure base and sending scouts to do their dirty work to building a giant mobile fortress to slowly steamroll everything in their path. I’ve even seen players that build no ships or structures and just try to explore as far as they can out into the void before death. Most are likely to do some combination of these, gathering ore, researching upgrades and pushing further out doing story quests to find out why the state of the (dynamically generated) universe stands as it does.
Throwing a sun at an enemy sounds fun! How does one go about doing such a thing?
You’ve actually got a couple of options - you could carefully attach engines using Binder Bots and pilot the star like a ship. Option B would be a ‘Capture Claw’ - move the claw, release the star at the last moment. The most fun option though is the Catapult Frame - a specialised launcher that fires anything put in front of it for an ore cost. It’s not as powerful as I want in the current build, but it most definitely will be soon. I think there’s actually more options that that - and certainly more if you want to launch planets, since they don’t kill instantly what touches them.
That sounds like a lot of gameplay styles and mechanics to juggle, especially considering the dynamically generated nature of the game, how do you ensure that difficulty is balanced?
It is a lot - and throwing that all at the player at once would be overwhelming, which is why the player is started in a (mostly) safe zone, with a single Builder unit. From there, they slowly gain new abilities as they gain experience. The universe is divided into a handful of ‘regions’, each in a ring around a central point. The further the player travels from the centre, the more difficult the regions get - and the greater the rewards are. Balance is going to be a long slog, but it’s well worth it - the variety is, I hope, one of the things that will keep people coming back.
On your website you mention the presence of unscrupulous rival mining corporations. Does OreSome have a structured narrative or is it more open?
A touch of both. There is a main quest line, and a handful of other major lines. These have a fair amount of structure, though they are semi-randomly placed. In addition, there are a variety of points of interest, puzzles, small quests and Easter eggs that randomly scatter into appropriate locations. Basically, I want people to have the major storyline in common, but beyond that, they ought to have their own experience. Maybe some will go off on a tangent and never reach the end. If they’re enjoying themselves, it’s all good.
Asteroids is an obvious inspiration, what else has influenced the design of OreSome?
The most obvious inspirations are open world RPGs like the Elder Scrolls series and Minecraft - though I’m not above borrowing from any worthwhile source! The creativity is what I’m hoping to capture from Minecraft more than actual mining - that sense of building something your own with real function. The RPG side comes from the wide tree of technologies the player can choose from - heading down the path that suits them best. Is it weapons they want? Have at it. Giant engines, sure. Anchors, recyclers, solar panels - take your pick.
Do you have any desires or intentions for multiplayer in OreSome, and if so how would it work?
I do, though they’re not firm plans yet. The hope is that after release, I’ll be able to do 4 player co-op (possibly more, though I honestly have no idea yet). The players will start close by but not on top of one another - so they can choose to fight it out if they prefer, or join up to work together. This is a way off yet though, plans may change.
How do you intend to release OreSome, would you eventually like to bring it over to consoles?
Steam is my preferred avenue - but I’ll take what I can get! Steam can be quite selective. Desura is also an option I’m looking into, among others. I chose XNA to write OreSome in precisely because it’s easy to port to Xbox - and to a lesser degree, Windows Phone. I’d like to get on both at some point, but I’m focused on PC first.
What do you think of the Indie Game development scene today?
The best word to describe it for me is ‘renaissance’. It’s never been easier for the lone developer or small team to build great games, that’s where I see the most innovation happening these days. When you aren’t risking millions on a bet, you can take more chances. Look at Portal, both 1 and 2 were based on concepts from Indie games. I wouldn’t be awfully surprised if it gets even easier from this point - a few years ago you wouldn’t have seen half the current crop of Indies appear, but the internet, particularly social media, is the great equaliser - and technology is advancing all the time. Maybe OreSome won’t be the next Minecraft, but the fact that I can comfortably build it in my spare time without a team behind me says good things about the future, at least to me.
Finally, if you could only communicate one thing about OreSome to the public what would it be?
I’m really looking forward to seeing what people do with Shipyard Mode, which is out this week for free. It lets players drop in pretty much any of the items in the game, from suns to enemies and save the designs. If people make anything interesting, all they have to do is send me the save file, and I can poke it into the game in mere minutes. I’m hoping that’ll give OreSome a community that really feels involved with the game. Good communities are what lift Indie games from obscurity and I intend to do everything I can to build one - and as quickly as possible. I want to hear what people have to say, good or bad, so OreSome can be built up to be the game its players deserve.