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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Ensign 1


Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We at Joystiq believe no one deserves to starve, and many indie developers are entitled to a fridge full of tasty, fulfilling media coverage, right here. This week, we take the Indie Pitch to the magical world of Kickstarter, to Brandon Smith and Only Human Studios' in-progress space-combat masterpiece, Ensign 1.

What's your game called and what's it about?

The game is called Ensign 1, and it's a multiplayer space-combat game where players won't be limited to piloting just one fighter during the course of a battle. They will have the freedom to dock and pick up another ship, or to join another player and man some turrets while the other pilots. Players will even have the option of commandeering large space frigates and capitol ships.

What's the coolest aspect of Ensign 1?

With Ensign, I really wanted to capture scenarios like being in the midst of a huge battle, and finding a derelict ship hidden behind an asteroid, and then being able to bring it back into the fight. Or perhaps being able to land on a pirate base and take control of some ground turrets while your buddies fight in the sky.

What inspired you to make Ensign 1?

I've had the idea for a long time, ever since some friends asked me to help them design a space-themed game they had in mind. Their game never got made, but I decided to make my idea with my own team. This is the kind of space combat game that I've always wanted to play, and it seemed like the next logical step.

Ensign 1 looks a bit like a modern Asteroids in a Star Wars setting -- what were the major influences behind your game?

Well Colony Wars for the PS1 was the game I played that made me fall in love with space combat. The controls felt so smooth, and the freedom the player had in a dogfight felt like a breath of fresh air. Aircombat was another great game that had great dogfighting, and great music :) I'm definitely keeping those in mind while I design the space combat portions of Ensign 1. And although I've never played Descent itself, I have played games inspired by it, like Forsaken. The six-degree freedom of movement in those games, as well as the corridor level design are also things I'd like to bring into Ensign.

As to the game looking like Asteroids, our current videos are actually still very early as far as game play footage goes. We're hoping that as we show off more of the game, especially the FPS combat, that people will get a better idea of where the game is going. So hang in there! There's a lot we haven't show yet.

Anything you'd do differently?

There are some things I would do differently if I had the technical know-how. One thing I had thought about was making the world in Ensign 1 completely seamless. So for example, when you open the airlock door of your ship, you'd see the space station you're docked on as you walked out onto it. I thought that would be cool.

Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?

I like to think of video game design as being my creative outlet. To me, there is no greater reward than getting to bring my own game designs to life. Going the independent route just seemed like the best way to do that. My ultimate goal in all this is to bring a unique gaming experience to players, rather than just to make money.

Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?

Honestly, not really. I'm really happy to see things like Minecraft and the Humble Indie Bundle doing things to popularize indie games to the mainstream audience. However, I only have a few friends in the indie gaming industry, and we honestly haven't received that much help yet from many indie news sites, so I think my team and I still feel rather self-contained.

Sell Ensign in one sentence:

Space combat where you can pilot individual turrets and huge capitol ships.

What's next?

Ensign is a very ambitious project, and it's still far from finished. However, there are a few other game ideas I had that I'd like to try out at some point. One of them involves a necromancer trying to build his army in real time, all while a city gathered a defense against you. I'd like to make it mission based, and you'd start the game trying to take down small hamlets and such before you were able to assault a castle or well-defended keep.

Ensign 1 has 11 days left in to reach its Kickstarter goal of $1,000! If you're interested in supporting Brandon and Only Human Studios, donate right here.

If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.

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