Featured Project: Under Stranger Stars

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In Under Stranger Stars, the player captains a spaceship in a comedic sci-fi universe that features arcade combat, quests, and open-world exploration. The game has been under development for two years. It now has a Kickstarter campaign to support further development of music, art, and content, and also to support release on multiple platforms. You can download the game here. Filling Space spoke with Alex Borsboom, a member of the development team, to learn more about the game.

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Where did the inspiration for Under Stranger Stars come from?

Under Stranger Stars is inspired by Sunless Sea, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and my own experiences with bureaucracy. The sentiments of HHGTTG seemed to perfectly match the anti-bureaucracy feeling of my humor and the punky aspects of the visual style, which seem to me to be a natural pairing. The initial versions of the game had a much more realistic and complex physics model, with ships having simulated structures – they’d simulate the movement of power, the thrust and torque of engines, oxygen and fire, etc. Eventually we paired this down to focus on more interesting and predictable movement patterns for enemy ships, but several elements still remain.

What are some of the game features you’re most proud of?

I’m most proud of the world-building. Creating a whole universe, full of life and surprises, is great. I think we’ve built something that’s very different from our current world, but still has a core relatable element. There’s stuff which you can look at and think, “Oh, there are people living there”. Some of the places we’ve created have a lot of potential for creating humor, conflict, or interesting gameplay situations.

How does Under Stranger Stars build off other work you’ve already done?

My previous games have either had small hand-built levels or have been entirely procedurally generated, but Under Stranger Stars has a hand-built open-world environment. It gives the player more freedom than linear levels do, but you still have the ability to step in and tweak particular areas, to create one-off content. Creating content through procedural generation generally removes an artist’s ability to apply their skill at composition and pacing, which can make everything feel flat and repetitive.