At Perihelion Interactive LLC the team is learning from the mistakes of others – and building on the strengths of classic space combat games like X-Com and FTL – to create a ‘genre defining science fiction RPG experience’ called The Mandate. It’s an ambitious plan by the Sacramento, California based company and its international team. “Comparing The Mandate to FTL is like comparing GTA1 to GTA3”, they stated. In the end the team adores FTL. With The Mandate they’re just making something much more complex. Which called for a heads-up with Producer and Lead Designer of The Mandate, Ole Herbjørnse.
The Mandate is a classic sci-fi RPG you can play alone, or up to 6 players. A true team-builder it is. As captain of your self-made modular battleship you have to interact with your crew. You get to select your officers and together you charge enemy ships and fight epic battles. That means you have manage the team, get to know them, protect them, as well as decide whether to trust them: will you send the crew on a mission alone, join them or do it yourself?
What is so unique about The Mandate?
Something we’re being criticized for: multi-layered gameplay and huge ambition. We don’t want to feel like we’re a ship in space – we want to feel like we’re the captain of a ship, and crew, in space. You’ll see people sucked out of the hull, layered hull-breaches, and the innards of your vessel as you get pounded. We also have an in depth upgrade and research system, hugely in depth ‘character prologue creator’, and 1500 years of lore. We don’t claim to be completely unique, but we feel we’re ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, which is Perihelion’s mantra at the moment.
Why did you decide to start a campaign on a crowd funding platform? Why Kickstarter?
Although space based RPGs and strategy games are hugely popular with PC gamers, publishers favour console developments or developments which pertain to that demographic. That’s just a sad fact about the gaming industry at the moment. Publishers who have funded these types of games recently have seen varying results, often making huge compromises, or shut down the studio entirely afterwards. It’s an indie area, now, but that doesn’t mean it has to limit itself to AA quality.
Is this Perihelion’s first game developed?
We are a gang of industry veterans who previously worked at EA, Ubisoft, Funcom and 2K Games among others. We have experience developing for singleplayer, multiplayer and MMORPGs and we have experience both with the PC platform and with consoles. Our team members have worked on and shipped titles like Alan Wake, Far Cry 2, Assassin’s Creed 1&2, Mafia 2, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, Splinter Cell, Call of Duty 3, Planet of the Apes, Saga of Ryzom, FIFA Online, the Secret World and more. Our team contributed as developers on all these titles, not as quality assurance, marketing or customer support. So we have seen the production environment from the inside on projects with a team size varying from 20 to 200 people.
What would be your advice regarding creating a project on Kickstarter in general?
First and foremost we hired an orchestra and got most of the lore written, to prove our dedication. Our internal combat prototype (of which the ship designer is a small subset, see here) has been in development for over a year and we used it to prove and disprove different control schemes, combat pacing etc. We’re not burning money, but we’re prepared to spend it regardless of whether or not the game gets funded in order to get this point across: The Mandate is getting made, and your pledge is safe with us. Music is hugely important, and people have loved the orchestral score. As for advice? Pre-production. Lots of it. When you’re asking for $500,000, you need to allow room for iteration and new ideas. That said, we have a strong vision, our story and world is our own, and gameplay planned, but there are specifics and subtleties that people can layer on top, and that’s what we’re listening out for.
We’re also taking some risks. We’re taking pre-production very seriously, so we’ve placed ourselves at what many consider as a disadvantage. We’re keeping our strongest cards closely to our chest, trying to send backers’ imaginations absolutely wild. We want to see how much they want a game such as this, and what they want in it. By giving them the lore and theme before the in-depth gameplay stuff even though that’s all detailed, we’ve been able to keep check of their demands. That’s what we feel Kickstarter is about; not necessarily making your dream game, but creating a shared dream with thousands of other people. Not everyone has the technical skills to make The Mandate, but we certainly know that a whole lot of people had the dream before us.
Check out the tailor-made orchestral music score in the video below.
What did you do to promote your Kickstarter campaign?
We’ve got a library of tools produced already, and under production. The newest is our ‘Imperial Propaganda Machine’, where you can deface and share our posters. We’ve also got the ‘Character Prologue Creator’ on the way, which will be published as a Unity web plugin sometime in the very near future, so you’ll be able to get a feel for the lore as it pertains to character creation. There’s also the fantastic ship designer, which many people have been playing with – because it’s awesome.
As for our marketing strategy, well that’s under lock and key. It’s safe to say that we’re working closely with the community to ensure we’re offering them a tactile Kickstarter experience. We’re not aggressive marketers, and we don’t hire cumbersome PR. It’s about the developers and the community having an open dialogue.
What kind of rewards do you offer backers?
We had many long, long discussions about offering value for money pledging. There are multiple options to insert your own identity into the game, from naming marines at a relatively low cost, to creating entire mercenary groups with their background information. You can create a pirate or a captain and even work with us to create them in your image. Soon we’re also giving away something quite special, for free, although we’re not going to tell you what that is right now…
Anything newsworthy you’d like to share with us?
Based on feedback, we know that people are enjoying the mix of X Com and FTL rogue-like elements. This hasn’t been incorporated into a massive game before – or at least for a very long time. That said, the X Com similarities are misleading, since we’re inspired by its original upgrade and research system and not turn-based combat. Secondly, we’ve noticed the press are using the tag-line: “Tsars in space” which I guess is the hook they’re going with, which is not wrong, and so it’s cool.
Perihelion Interactive LCC is asking for $500,000 to create The Mandate. The Kickstarter campaign runs until December 2, 2013. At the time of writing they have 1,423 backers whom have raised $46,992.