Part 2 - Funding, DRM, Unity engine
FS: What are your thoughts on DRM? Will you use any for Interstellar Marines?
FS: So have you made the choice to rely solely on pre-purchases and donations from the community or are you seeking financing from outside sources as well?
Kenneth: In a perfect world we would love to make a game entirely funded by the community. Unfortunately this is not a perfect world, so besides our current sources, we’re always looking for new investors.
FS: How much money have you spent making the game so far, and how much more do you think you’ll need?
Kim: At this point in time, an estimated $4.5 million has been invested into developing the publisher demos, Unity previews, franchise, and community website so far. And in regard to future development of Interstellar Marines, we’ll keep re-investing all support [donations] and pre-purchases right back into the game.
FS: Would you accept an offer from a big publishing company to provide funding or distribution?
Kim: As long as we wouldn’t have to give up on our community or our intellectual property rights and we could remain in creative control, we would welcome a publisher. It’s not a matter of who we are being funded by, it’s a matter of not allowing anyone to get in the way of the dialogue between us developers and our customers, the gamers who support, buy, and play our games.
To be honest, we haven’t decided yet. As of now, our games are only available through a browser on our website, and you can only play them if you are logged in. So far this approach hasn’t raised any issues regarding DRM, but if we put our games on other portals and distribution channels, or on consoles, we will have to look further into this. It might be that we won’t have any choice and have to use a certain type of DRM requested or applied by the distributor. Besides, there are many types of DRM; you could even consider our request that you need to log in with a personal profile to play to be DRM. But as I said, we haven’t decided yet.
FS: What made you decide to use the Unity engine? How is it working out for what you’ve envisioned doing in IM?
We started out working on a publisher demo using the Unreal Engine and actually got very far with that development. We also got in touch with some of the major publishers and started the long and winding road toward a “green-lighting” of Interstellar Marines, which would mean full funding from a publisher of the first title in the trilogy. But for various reasons we didn’t get a contract with a publisher at that time, so we decided to continue independently instead of pursuing publishers.
In May of 2009, we wanted to launch the community website with a multiplayer beta using the Unreal Engine, but due to Epic’s licensing structure at the time, the only way for us to go public with any game content was to pay the full license, which we couldn’t afford. This was before the UDK package and Epic’s new licensing structure, so we didn’t have any other option than to find a new engine. Our former Lead Programmer had some experience with the Unity engine, so we tried it out. It was only a matter of hours before we had our first scene up and running, and we haven’t looked back since.
Unity is really great for rapid prototyping, but it’s also capable of scaling toward a full-featured AAA title such as Interstellar Marines. Now with the launch of Unity 3, the engine is up there with the best and most expensive engines, with more and more cool features being added all the time. So with PS3, 360, Wii, browser, iOS, Android, PC and Mac support, as well as deferred rendering, Beast light mapping, PhysX, Umbra occlusion culling, and the FMOD audio engine, the future is very promising for us and all other Unity developers. We made a small Christmas release for our community using Unity 3.1 (The Vault, Bullseye and Running Man were all made in Unity 2.6), and that test run really put a big smile on our lips.