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Indie Features Indie News Q&A

Inspiration As the Fuel to Ambition: ‘Welcome to the Future’ Interview With Moonmen Games Founder Marc Fabricius

Some game developers see a concept they love that inspires them, wondering if they could take on the challenge to take that basic concept into an experience where players themselves can go on to tell their own stories with. They envision a future ahead where they can carve their own space out to be part of the indie game landscape, adding something ambitious to a medium with ever evolving history. And to that, I say Welcome to the Future.

Moonmen Games, founded by Marc Fabricius, is a small indie game development company based in Denmark, with a few developers remotely in other countries. Marc founded it after beginning work on Welcome to the Future four years ago. Their goal is to create bright and colorful games that are ambitious and have something to say, without taking itself too seriously. Welcome to the Future is their first game.

So, as a quick briefer to those who don’t know, can you explain Welcome to the Future?

“Sure! It’s a futuristic open-world adventure game, set in the year 2500. Your task is to start and grow your new delivery company by completing deliveries and tasks for various companies, as well as competing with competitors all around the solar system. Each mission is a new adventure; in this colorful futuristic world you’ll encounter alien species, robot gangsters, cyborg mobsters, space pirates, evil sentient robots and everything alike.”

Marc Fabricius started working on Welcome to the Future on and off for four years before seriously getting into development a year ago, over time recruiting team members to assist him in completing the game he envisioned. He is now 21 and leads a small team that pushes him even further up to help him achieve the game he envisioned.

With such a small team, the game seems to be a huge undertaking with multiple planets and locations in space. What made you want to take on such an ambitious scope?

“I wanted to make something that made you feel like you’re a part of this very bright and colorful futuristic world, where anything is possible. But also a world where you have to make a name for yourself, you’re not the big hero, you’re just another person trying to make it in life. I knew that idea meant it had to be a very ambitious project, especially for one man team as I was at the time. But I was very inspired and eager to make this project happen, so I just started working and slowly started planning out the game and making sure it was at least doable. The scope is very ambitious, but I’ve always tried to be realistic about the project, but also without letting it get in the way of being creative and ambitious with it – that’s really a fine balance I had to find.”

It sounds challenging, especially that you started by yourself. How many members do you currently have on the team working on the game?

“We’re currently 4 on the team; 2 environment artists, a composer and me doing a bit of everything. We are planning to get more on board eventually when the time is right. Currently, we’re focusing on getting a playable demo and a trailer ready, then we’ll start looking into funding in some way or another.”

Do you feel you’ve stuck to the original vision of the game from when you set out to make it? And do you find having a team behind you helps inspire you to reach further than you originally envisioned?

“We have pretty much stuck to the overall vision for the game since day one, but of course with a project at this size, it keeps evolving and we keep getting new ideas. My team has definitely helped believe that we can achieve what I originally envisioned for the game and even in some areas take it even further. They have also come up with lots of ideas for the game, some things i probably would’ve never thought of myself. Shout out to our environment artist James Stanway who has invested a lot of his time and energy into the game, particularly the modular city we’re working on, and has also helped with lots of ideas. Davey Kanabus, our music composer and sound designer who has been a part of the project for a very long time, and has helped with a lot of administrative things too. Lastly, Joshua Pickering who joined the team recently and has helped with environment art and QA testing.”

The game looks great for so few people working on it. Speaking of which, the art design and look of the game is really striking and colorful. What made you go with that sort of art style?

“Thanks! the game is especially heavily inspired by the TV show Futurama, I wanted to get that same feeling of a bright and colorful futuristic world. I also wanted some of the cartoony elements but didn’t want to go overboard with that, as I’m a big fan of modern shaders such as volumetric lighting and fog. Blade Runner is also a big inspiration in terms of visuals, we use a lot of neon in the game, which is something I think helps a lot when you use a low poly/minimalistic art style, to compensate for not using a lot of textures, but still get that sci-fi vibe.”

Not to be rude, but do you find the ambition of taking on such a robust open-world adventure game in an indie environment to feel daunting at times?

“I think it’s a very fair question. It definitely can be daunting at times, and I’m sure some think we’re being unrealistic and too ambitious. It’s something I do think about a lot, but we’re making good progress and each day I see the game evolve the more I believe it’s something we’re able to finish and make into something really good. Only time will tell though, we’re trying to stay realistic and we planned the game with that in mind of course, but again it’s not something I want to prevent us from being creative and ambitious with the game.”

Will the game be single player?

“Yes, it’s single player only. We did experiment with multiplayer but ultimately decided it was best we focus on making it as good a single player experience as we possibly can.”

A lot of AAA experiences nowadays chase after the multiplayer so as to give their games a more constant revenue stream, so when a developer decides against multiplayer because it would currently hamper [the] development of the game, it is refreshing. Though Marc did not rule multiplayer out in our interview, he said currently it’s not in the plans.

Speaking of single player, will there be an overall story or campaign, and if so will it be in depth or more hands off?

“It won’t be heavily story driven, but there will be a main story, as well as lots of smaller stories scattered all over the world. Stories will be very world driven, we focus a lot on world building, so you will discover a lot [of] lore as you meet and talk with strangers around the solar system. You’ll meet some really colorful characters with some crazy stories, and it’s up to you whether you want to help them or not. Everyone is linked to a faction in the game, so if you’re helping someone linked to the cyborg mobsters faction, for example, you’ll improve your reputation with them. The better your reputation is with a faction, the more they’ll reward you with stuff.”

Basically smaller, more personal stories.

“The side stories will be more personal stories, yes. The main story will be somewhat personal to you, but it also has to do with something going on in the world.”

Marc is taking a chance to not bring the player more down to the planet and get to know the world through the characters they interact with, rather than a typical explosive adventure, showing how inspiration can evolve to create something more unique than what birthed it.

It sounds great. What would you describe the general tone of the game as?

“I would say it’s light-hearted and humorous, it doesn’t take itself too [seriously], but it does have some serious aspects to it that have something to say.”

How did you start working on the game? I saw on your Youtube page before you were posting video updates for the game you used to do graphics mods on GTA IV and environment modeling in Cryengine before you were using Unreal Engine 4 to develop Welcome to the Future.

“Yeah, [shortly] after I made the GTA IV graphics mods, I started experimenting with game engines such as CryEngine, it wasn’t too long after that I got the idea for Welcome to the Future. I actually started prototyping the game in CryEngine before moving on to Unreal. I’ve since had ideas for smaller games too, but I never was able to finish any of those as I would always go back to working on Welcome to the Future.

When you grow passionate about a project, it can shuffle all other ideas out of the way, and Marc was clearly captivated with the game, and wanted people to see just how far he could bring the concept given time.

Starting your delivery service might seem daunting, but it certainly won’t be lacking in beauty

“I wanted to make something that made you feel like you’re a part of this very bright and colorful futuristic world, where anything is possible. But also a world where you have to make a name for yourself, you’re not the big hero, you’re just another person trying to make it in life.”

What made you choose Unreal Engine?

“I would say using CryEngine made me choose Unreal. The workflow in CryEngine, at least at the time, was nowhere near as efficient as I discovered it being in Unreal. Unreal has tons of useful tools to help make development less painful.”

Marc and his team are conscious of the way the industry is moving forward, keeping in mind various directions the game could go (and where it would be sold) in the future ahead.

Sounds like a perfect fit for what you’re doing. So this might be far in the future, but would you release it on Steam? Or if given the opportunity, the Epic Games Store?

“I would definitely like to release it on both platforms. We’re planning to do early access before the full release, which both those platforms support, so they’re both a great fit. But of course, nothing is certain at this point.”

How do you feel about some of the criticism towards Epic and its storefront on the consumer side? And current criticism of Steam?

“I think it’s great Steam finally gets some competition, that being said I don’t think Epic making games exclusive was the right move, especially not at this stage where their platform is still early in development and lacking important features. I think instead they should focus on making the platform better for both consumers and developers and get customers that way. I hope the best for the Epic Games store going forward though, they’re still new to the game so I guess they’re still learning, but I’m sure it can be a great platform. I’m a big fan of them giving 88% revenue share to developers obviously, and I hope that can affect Steam to increase theirs too eventually.”

Game development can be scary, but it can also be incredibly exciting. One facet is thinking of new features or expanding on ones you thought you would barely touch on. Marc’s team helps bring these concepts to life while also suggesting new ideas he can sculpt into the game.

To go back to the game, are there any features you’re currently working on for it that you’re excited about?

“We have a few things in the works I’m very excited about, one of them being a modular city we’re currently implementing in the Mars level. It’s a very big city so there’s a lot of challenges that comes with that, optimization being a big one. But I hope to be able to show parts of it off soon. Another thing we’re currently working on is a more complex AI with procedural settings such as hostility towards the player and other AI’s based on its linked faction and the players/AI’s reputation and current location, speed and health based on the ships components like engines and defenses, weapons depending on the linked faction and its own reputation, etc. Reputation will be sort of a way to tell what level the AI is at, because the better the reputation, the better ships, gear and weapons they’ll be able to access. A scan of the ship will show its ship components and you’ll be able to target which ones you want to focus on destroying. Pirates are more tricky however as they can block ship scans and they’re known for stealing advanced gear. So it’s something we’ll keep expanding upon as we go, we’re still in quite early stages of developing the AI’s, but we’re making good progress.”

What have been some bigger challenges make the game so far? Any problems or nightmares you’ve had to figure your way out of?

“So far the biggest challenge has probably been making the solar system level. As you can imagine, it’s a quite a big level, and we wanted it to be seamless so you can fly from planet to planet without any loading. The challenge of that is that Unreal and most game engines is not build to have such big levels, and once you attempt to make as big levels as we are, you’ll start running into various issues. One of them being when the player is too far away from the world origin, things start to break, such as physics, camera, lighting etc. So to fix that we’re setting the world origin location to the location of the player every time the player gets too far away from the world origin. We also ran into a fair amount of rendering issues, at very large distances stuff like fog, rendering depth priority (for example planet rings would render in front of the planet, even when behind it), clipping planes, etc. would start to break in one way or another. We’ve fixed most of the issues, there’s still some things we’re yet to fix, but to be fair, Unreal has been surprisingly accepting of these very large levels. It’s a very flexible engine and you can pretty much always do some kind of workaround to bypass any of its limits.”

So I wouldn’t want to pressure you by asking about a release date, but how far along percentage-wise do you think you all are with the game?

“If we’re talking the full game, it’s probably around 15% finished. If we’re talking something like early access, it’s probably around 65%. I’ve been working on the game on and off for a little over 4 years, but we’ve only worked on the game more seriously and as a team over the last year or so. We actually aim to release a playable pre-alpha demo of sorts sometime this year, but no specific date set as of yet.”

“It’s something I do think about a lot, but we’re making good progress and each day I see the game evolve the more I believe it’s something we’re able to finish and make into something really good.”

Lastly, it’s nice to end on a light note. Remembering that not only do developers work hard to create something they love and wanted to play themselves, but that most are gamers themselves.

 

Simple questions left here. First, what game do you think inspired you to become a game developer?

“It was definitely GTA IV as it got me into the modding scene, which gave me an insight and taste of what game development is like.”

And finally, what is your favorite game?

“I would have to say Beyond Good and Evil. It had so many really unique ideas, a lot of gameplay variation, great level design and a really good story. To me, it’s like the perfect game, but I guess it might also be nostalgia talking a bit.

Welcome to the Future is currently in development, with a demo planned to for release this year. You can follow the game and it’s development at their website and on the Welcome to the Future Discord server. You can also follow Welcome to the Future and Moonmen Games on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.