One of the more esoteric projects on the horizon is an MMO by Muse games called Guns Of Icarus Online. It's an MMO about Steampunk airship combat in a ruined world. Yes, that's a popular theme around these parts so I thought I'd have a chat with Muse about what they were up to. Howard Tsao answered my questions.
RPS: Can you tell us a bit about Muse Games? Who are you guys and what are you up to?
Tsao: Muse Games is an indie game development studio in New York City. We started making a couple of small web and iOS games (Extreme Sledding and Elementia) in 2009. Towards the end of 2009, we made Guns of Icarus that did well on Steam and later on the Mac App Store. Our next project was a whimsical puzzle platformer called CreaVures, set in a bio-luminiscent forest that features tiny and plucky “creavures” who team up to save the forest from being engulfed by darkness. The game was also released on Steam, the Mac App Store, and other platforms, and we are wrapping up the iOS version of the game for release next month.
While we were working on the original Guns of Icarus, we had a lot of ideas for features that we wanted to include, but we just didn’t have the resources to make them happen. We also received a lot of feedback and suggestions from fans. With the game doing well on Steam and Mac App Store, we were able to muster the resources and harness all the ideas we had to finally start Guns of Icarus Online.
Guns of Icarus Online is currently in alpha, and we started a campaign on Kickstarter for people to pre-order copies of the game, get early beta access, and get some extra goodies. We’re aiming to have more game footage to show once we’re closer to closed-beta!
Tsao: At the time, we were trying to do a series of small game projects so we were looking for a game that could be made out of one or two strong mechanics. The original Guns started as a combination of two things: the satisfying feeling of destroying things with a big powerful weapon like a turret, and time-management elements to add an element of frantic energy. We developed the idea over a few lunches. We also really love the steam/dieselpunk aesthetic and were excited by the idea of a game featuring fantastic airships set in post-apocalyptic landscape.
RPS: And how does that related to what you are doing with your online game project?
Tsao: We came up with a lot of ideas that we really wanted to play with during the development of Guns of Icarus but didn’t have time or resources to address. The running joke at the time was that if anyone threw out something cool-sounding but absurdly complicated, we’d reply with “we’ll do it in Guns 2!” More customization, more story, a dynamic world, better online play, fancier graphics, and so forth. The response from players was similar—everyone was really excited about the concepts presented, and wanted more than we could have possibly done in the original four-month development cycle. Now that we have the resources, we’ve decided to try to give everyone (ourselves included) the Guns of Icarus they envisioned in the first place with this game—Guns of Icarus Online.
Tsao: First and foremost, Guns of Icarus Online is about being on an airship together with your friends, and working as a team to fight off incoming pirates, fighter planes, and other airships—keeping your ship in the sky and blowing your enemies to smithereens! Because you and your crew will have that experience of flying missions in a single craft together, the meaning of “teamwork” is redefined. Each player will have one of the three main roles aboard the ship: Captain, Gunner, or Engineer. The captain acts as both commander and pilot, choosing the means of engagement and steering the ship into tactically advantageous positions. The gunner is focused on providing the best defense by means of a good offense, using the ship’s numerous weapons effectively to keep enemies at bay. A player’s ship will inevitably come under frequent fire, so the engineer is responsible for keeping the ship in working order, running around to damaged components and making vital repairs. With a variety of skills, levels of immediacy, and focus in the different roles, we can see people finding both new and familiar aspects in the role they choose. Combat and coordinating efforts with fellow crew members on the ship make up the core of the gameplay in the initial PvP release, and our team feels that we’ve touched on something unique—we believe our re-imagined combination of action and teamwork has something for everyone.
On the other side of PvP, we’ll also have the more expansive Campaign mode where players will be able to interact on an entirely different level. While shooting planes and defending your airship will always be the focus, protecting the cargo the ship is carrying becomes a primary motivation in the campaign. We’re planning an economy of cities and towns that players will be deeply involved in, sustaining trade and ensuring these settlements survive by transporting goods to where they’re most needed (and will fetch the highest prices). Factions add a layer of political intrigue that will further spur players to action. Maybe that town over there belongs to an enemy faction so I won’t deliver trade goods to them, instead I’ll go raid their trade ships. Players will battle over territories and attempt to push their faction to victory.
Tsao: We’re working really hard to squash bugs and integrate assets, so we should have some more gameplay footage up in a month or so. As to beta launch, we’d of course love to be able to give a snarky big-studio answer like “when it’s done,” but the realities of an indie studio make that impossible. We’re planning to get our beta started within a few months, which we are genuinely excited about. Our fans and beta players’ feedback and ideas will have a very important impact on the final game, which means the game will be continually and drastically evolving from the start of the beta period through to our eventual release.
RPS: Thanks for your time.