By Josh Speer / March 31st, 2020
After watching the announcement for a new Kickstarter by Sabotage Studio, called Sea of Stars, I had a lot of questions. Mostly cause I’m a fan of retro and indie, and especially enjoyed the premise and style of The Messenger, also by Sabotage. While that game was a retro platformer with a twist, set stylistically in a world full of ninjas, demons and magic, Sea of Stars is a very different game. I reached out to Sabotage through their PR, and asked a few questions.
Over the course of the interview, I inquired about a few different topics, including why this game is crowdfunded, asked about the visual style and much more. Keep reading to see how my questions are answered by Thierry Boulanger, the Co-founder and Creative Director at Sabotage. And if you find the project fascinating, you’re still able to help fund it on their Kickstarter page.
Operation Rainfall: Could you please introduce yourself?
Thierry Boulanger: Hello! I’m Thierry Boulanger, Co-founder and Creative Director at Sabotage.
OR: What is Sea of Stars, for those who aren’t already familiar with this upcoming game?
TB: A turn-based RPG inspired by the classics of the 16-bit and early 32-bit era! It is a prequel story taking place in the same universe as our first game, an retro action platformer called The Messenger.
“Our mission as a studio is to present games with retro aesthetics and modernized design.“
OR: Why did you go the crowdfunding route with this game, and what has your Kickstarter experience been like so far?
TB: We are reinvesting all of our gains from The Messenger into this production, so to mitigate risk we wanted to validate with our fanbase and other potential players that people would be there to play Sea of Stars if we commit to it for the next two years.
We were absolutely mind-blown by the reaction, and reaching our campaign goal in under 7 hours. Let’s just stay it went a long way into motivating a team that was already pumped from the start!
OR: Sea of Stars is a prequel to Sabotage Studios’ The Messenger, which was released in 2018. Why did you decide to make this game a prequel instead of a sequel?
TB: It was the plan all along! In the overarching story, the character that is pulling the strings first wanted to show players the post-apocalyptic future that must be prevented. For the next chapter, we are exploring the origins of this ordeal. Taking place before the flood, there are many islands to explore while sailing around, an adventure much better suited to the RPG genre.
OR: Stylistically, Sea of Stars also looks incredibly different from The Messenger. What else do these two games have in common besides taking place in the same world?
TB: The world is definitely the main thing in common here. Other than that, even though there are many genres we want to explore, the retro inspiration is what will always connect those dots for us.
OR: Sea of Stars seems to take cues from retro JRPGs like Chrono Trigger. Why did you choose to model this game after older JRPG titles instead of developing an action-RPG or a modern-day JRPG?
TB: Our mission as a studio is to present games with retro aesthetics and modernized design. We aim to capture what was great about the classics of our childhood, while removing tedium where we see it, and fine tune or rethink core systems to offer experiences that hold up today while still offering a hearty slice of nostalgia.
OR: A lot of retro JRPGs feature multiple branching paths and endings for the player to discover. Will Sea of Stars follow in those footsteps as well?
TB: The story is told in a more linear fashion, but the experience in general will offer a lot of optional areas and dialogue so that those interested in lore and world building will have a lot to sift through, without hindering those who would rather progress the main story. As far as endings go, it is too early to tell.
“[Sea of Stars is] officially out of pre-production, which was the milestone we wanted to hit before announcing and launching the campaign.“
OR: ‘Timed Hits’ have been announced as a battle mechanic. How integral to the gameplay will these ‘Timed Hits’ be, and will players still be able to enjoy the game even if they’re not good with that mechanic?
TB: The goal of ‘Timed Hits’ is to make combat more engaging and provide skill-based options instead of relying on grinding if the player finds a certain boss especially challenging. We will be paying extensive care to balancing, however. It is still too early to tell whether or not there will be difficulty settings, but it is not off the table.
OR: Another gameplay mechanic in Sea of Stars is called ‘Spell Breaking’. Could you please explain what ‘Spell Breaking’ is, and how it works within the game?
TB: Enemies who mount a spell will display a bar with locks, each representing a specific damage type, which you can remove by making good use of your characters and special abilities. Say an enemy was to cast a fireball and you removed two locks out of four, the ensuing damage will be cut in half. If you manage to remove all the locks, the would-be spell is cancelled, forcing the enemy’s next move to be a regular attack.
OR: The Messenger’s absolutely amazing soundtrack was composed by Eric ‘Rainbowdragoneyes’ Brown. Can we expect another great soundtrack by him for Sea of Stars or are you bringing someone else on board to score the game? Will the music in Sea of Stars share any similarities in style with The Messenger?
TB: Eric is very much on board with this project! Like all of Sabotage, he has been looking forward to it since the company was founded in 2016. To better fit the genre he will be modernizing sound a little bit by using instruments from all over the world, but his retro catchiness is still very there. A few tracks were released already on our website!
OR: While I know from experience that Kickstarter games cake take a long time to get made, 2022 will be here sooner than we think. How far along is Sea of Stars in development, and what steps has Sabotage Studios taken to ensure that projected date will be met?
TB: It’s officially out of pre-production, which was the milestone we wanted to hit before announcing and launching the campaign. Being out of pre-production means the technical unknowns have all been tackled, and we create a “Vertical Slice”, that is, a good slice of playable content representative of the quality we are shooting for, fully tested and optimized. This puts us in a position where we can evaluate how long it will take to make the whole thing based on the script of the story we are telling with Sea of Stars. Of course we don’t have a crystal ball, and game dev is definitely its own beast in terms of curve balls, but the 2022 is right based on everything we can account for at this point.
OR: Since The Messenger has so many ninjas in it, I am curious – will there be any ninjas in Sea of Stars? Or how about character cameos from The Messenger?
TB: As this story takes place “hundred of thousands of years” before The Messenger, that seems unlikely. As it takes place in the same universe however, one of these islands is bound to be “Messenger Island”, so who knows what you may find there?
OR: With Sea of Stars announced as a prequel game, will there be more games by Sabotage Studios set in this universe in the future?
TB: That’s the plan! All of our games are meant to further expand this overarching universe. We will need to see how Sea of Stars does before deciding on which idea to tackle next, however. We are working on a pre-established universe and the possibilities, while not endless, are more than enough to keep our studio busy for a lifetime!
I wanted to thank Thierry and Sabotage once more for talking with us and illuminating us with their answers. I also want to thank oprainfall’s own Brandon Rose for coming up with the great Featured Image in this interview!
The Sea of Stars Kickstarter ends on April 18, 2020, so please go and check them out!
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