We recently had the chance to interview Charles Cox, Founder of 4gency. 4gency is the team behind Habitat, an indie orbital strategy/simulation game that was successfully funded thanks to Kickstarter back in May 2014 and is now debuting on Steam in an Early Access stage of development. The game is constantly being updated and improved upon, and the development team has been extremely transparent about their plans for Habitat thus far.
During the interview, Charles shared his enthusiasm for Habitat, the fans of Habitat, for the massive amount of updates the team has planned for the game, and for the joys of building Lego creations as a kid that were constructed with “one part real stuff, 30 parts random stuff”. Okay, so that last bit might have been part of my question. I ask serious questions involving stuff and things.
The funny part? That really is Habitat in a nutshell. Stuff and things. Dinosaur heads, ferris wheels, igloos, and lunch trucks in space– with jet propulsion! It’s random, it’s zany, but it all forms a very practical and defensive-rigged space station of sorts that houses the remnants of Earth’s citizens.
Intrigued yet? Take a peek at the interview:
1. Habitat’s getting some pretty great buzz thanks to being available on early access while the game’s still in development– especially with the recent announcement about it being released for Xbox One and PS4 in the future. How has the post-Kickstarter experience been?
CHARLES: We’ve been thrilled with the community’s response to Habitat. Even before the Kickstarter campaign we knew this was going to be a game that thrived on people building and sharing their craziest stuff. One thing I’m personally thrilled about is being back into the development experience, building more features in Early Access. As anyone who has run a Kickstarter will tell you, it’s 100% about getting the word out; all development on the game had to stop during that 30-day period because there was no time for anything but spreading the word and answering backer questions: our survival hinged on hitting that target! Now that we’re through that hurdle and into Early Access it’s a great feeling to be building out the game and giving our players more cool stuff to play with.
2. My first thought when seeing the trailer for Habitat was, “Wow, cool, it’s like the Lego creations I built when I was a kid– one part real stuff, 30 parts random stuff!” I’m sure you’ve been asked this a bazillion times, but what prompted the idea for a builder in space… but with wacky space junk?
CHARLES: Exactly – the creations we built when we were kids! Getting back in touch with that feeling was such a key part of the formation of the game concept and ideas. I like to think that even back when I was a kid I dreamed of a way to make my lego spaceship battles come alive even more, and with Habitat we’re giving players that power, by building with the toy set of the far future; an orbit packed with crazy stuff.
3. Speaking of wacky space junk, any other fun ideas we might see for building parts?
CHARLES: We’ve got a whole list of junk we’re creating and it’s getting bigger every day. We’ve worked to flex our imaginations early on in development to showcase some of the craziest stuff (that T-Rex head really gets people smiling!) but we’re not through yet! We’ve got historical space junk, futuristic and even alien-level technology, and I believe someone’s been asking for trebuchets and catapults. We’ll have to see how we can make that one work! Also, for the serious builders we’re also working on the “glue” pieces that can be used to extend and expand: girders, beams, and so on. There’s going to be plenty up there to choose from.
4. What’s the wackiest player creation you’ve seen so far?
CHARLES: I’m always personally thrilled when people make a deadly weapon out of the ferris wheel. One of our amazing players crafted a spinning death laser bloom with three lasers and rotating prisms clipped onto a rotating ferris wheel. What a creation!
5. The game’s layout is pretty interesting: 3D models on a 2D layout. This makes the game a lot more approachable, I feel. Was that the main reason for the decision not to use a full 3D environment?
CHARLES: Habitat’s 3D-on-2D gameplay was actually born of an experiment into full six-degrees-of-freedom 3D for Habitat. It was an early prototype done even before the game was ever announced. We wanted to see where the game felt most natural. When we tried it in six degrees of freedom, there were huge amounts of empty space, no sense of purpose. We felt genuinely lost and alone. That wasn’t Habitat. We wanted purpose, a feeling of command even among the chaos. So, we squished it down to a 2D layout – and the game came alive! Actions made sense, physics felt natural, we got the sense that what we did mattered. It was _fun_. We trusted that feeling and went with it.
6. Are there plans to add an interactive tutorial that better guides players on how to get started in Habitat?
CHARLES: Habitat really is unlike any other game out there. Some of our players have told us that they felt there were some challenges in cresting that conceptual hill that makes Habitat so different, but once they did, once they “got it”, they felt so free and able to explore and have fun. We want everyone who plays to have that great experience, so we’ll be doing whatever we can to help guide people through it and reducing the friction. A tutorial is likely the correct way to go – we just need to take the time and get it right.
7. As you add more controls to the game, will you add in the ability to let players customize the controls to their liking?
CHARLES: Customization is always a huge part of PC gaming. We want people to be able to play the way that’s comfortable for them. We’ll be introducing more customization options as we go, absolutely, and we’re looking to the community to help us understand where they’re feeling the most pressure so we can build the right stuff.
8. You recently announced you were working on adding a save feature to Habitat. Any idea when we might see this?
CHARLES: Save is tied into the very bedrock of the game’s architecture and we’re having to rebuild quite a lot to make this work. We know people have been asking for this feature, our priority is that we do it right and give our players a save system they can trust. Once we have more to announce on this we’ll shout it out loud.
9. Thanks so much for answering our questions. One final one: Any chance of a teaser or two regarding what else you’re working on adding in for the next update?
CHARLES: You bet! Our next update’s going to introduce more depth into the game. Think about getting truly geeky about your creation – about seeing and interacting with the behavior of your habitat’s pieces while in flight or in combat – and you’ll get the idea about where we’ll be going next! It’s going to be a blast.
For more information on the game, check out all things Habitat on the official site, the official forums, the game’s Steam page, Facebook, and Twitter.
Habitat is currently available on Steam for $ 14.99 which includes access to the game during Early Access. Stay tuned for more Habitat goodies in the near feature including a preview/early review and a few more surprises!
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