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Guns of Icarus Online - Interview with Eric Chung (Lead Designer) and Howard Tseo (CEO)

Kickstarter has been a foothold for many great projects in the past year and one of these was Guns of Icarus Online (Skirmish Mode). This game allowed players to grab some friends and take to the skies in an airship, all with different responsibilities on said ship. Well, the guys and girls over at Muse Games are back on Kickstarter with their next project, Guns of Icarus Online (Adventure Mode). I managed to get an interview with Eric Chung (Lead Designer) and Howard Tseo (CEO).

- What was it that first got your team interested in Kickstarter?
Howard first heard of Kickstarter from a friend who was running a campaign for fitness actually, and this was the very early days of Kickstarter. Then as the development for our earlier game CreaVures came near a close, we decided to give it a shot. So we were early adopters of Kickstarter. What we realized is that, not only did Kickstarter provide us with extra funding to finish the game, it was much much more. It was a great way for us to build community, reach out to passionate people we would not otherwise come across, and to recruit players to help us test (which is actually a big deal for us being a small developer). Kickstarter also had all social features and was very easy to use, so we've been loyal fans ever since.

- Was the Guns of Icarus Online project alive before Kickstarter?
Yes, we were already doing prototype work before we launched the KS campaign for Guns of Icarus Online (Skirmish Mode). From when we launched the campaign to when we were funded, the game already changed considerably though. I'd have to say that the majority of the core interactions changed quite a bit. However, the major guts of the game were in place.

- Do you think that Kickstarter helped with expanding the game and community at all or has it remained as your teams initial vision?
The main goal aside from funding for doing a Kickstarter was to help us build a community of players who could also help us with testing and giving feedback. People are giving you money based on a promise, it's a symbol of dedication. We were hoping to use this trust and dedication to do in-depth testing and it was fruitful. Even just this PAX East 2013, we had some of our original backers show up that we met in PAX East 2012. Some even became long-term players that are in the game every day. It really says something and we're grateful and fortunate to foster this kind of community.

I don't think Kickstarter was responsible for changing our vision or direction, it's the fans that we were able to get through it though that became the main driving force. For example, a lot of balance concerns are always from the player base and we listen to that very closely.

- Some of our readers may not be familiar with the game, can you sum up Guns of Icarus Online and the Adventure Mode in 50 words or less?
Guns of Icarus Online is an airship-to-airship combat game where you and three friends crew a ship to battle in the skies. Skirmish Mode is competitive PvP. Adventure Mode, Kickstarting now, is the persistent world—PvE—where you still crew an airship but now you'll be affecting the world.

- How does your team plan on bringing Biplanes into the fray?
The first step for biplanes is teaching the AI Director to fly them from point A to B. We have a very comprehensive flight model, all based on real physics, to create the most realistic flight possible. The feel is going to be really important because the AI Director will be sending squadrons of biplanes to attack you in our initial co-op modes. If you think about Left 4 Dead, the biplanes will be like the hordes of normal zombies attacking you. They'll swarm you when you're doing well to keep the difficulty up and get your heart racing but calm down when you're about to die to give you an opportunity to catch your breath.

If we reach our stretch goals, we'll be able to create a new class on top of the pilot, engineer, and gunner that we already have. It'll be a wingman of sorts, a fighter pilot. You'll fly a biplane, perhaps the leader of an AI squadron, to support your airships in the various missions that will be available in Adventure Mode.

- Towns and player factions have been announced for Adventure Mode, will this mean that you can dock your ship and explore the lands?
We hope that we can at least get explorable towns in. Dock your ship and walk over to the nearest pub to socialize in character with the many NPC's and players in the same town. That would be incredible. With 6 player-run factions, there are so many unique cultural characteristics of these factions that it wouldn't do them justice without having at least these explorable towns.

It's tough though being a small studio. Fully explorable lands by foot will probably be out of scope. However, exploring routes freely outside of missions in your airship may be a possibility. We actually have that one in our stretch goals too.

- Will Adventure Mode be an offline or online experience and how will this work?
Adventure Mode will be an online persistent world. It's gameplay revolves around airship combat like before in Skirmish Mode but now you'll be able to affect the economy and politics. Gain allegiances or make enemies with the 6 player-run factions, turn towns into cities or bring them to ruin.

- Will Adventure Mode bring about any new playable character classes?
If we reach our stretch goal, we might be able to bring in fighter pilots!

- How about new weaponry?
Oh heck yes. People keep worrying that with Adventure Mode coming, Skirmish Mode won't get any love. Totally untrue. We're always adding weapons into Skirmish Mode and these will also make it to Adventure. We are right at 100 features big and small added since launch now for Skirmish, and we will continue to improve the game. A new class of weapons though? That's up for discussion, we certainly hope so. Maybe something for a new class of ship...!

- Will your team be releasing any sort of world-building tools that they can use at home?
This is a tough question. All of our tools are homemade and integrate very tightly with our asset pipeline and Unity3D. Bringing that out for general consumption will require significant effort. For now, no. In the future, if we stretch more than we could ever dream of... anything is possible :)

If you want to donate to the Guns of Icarus Online (Adventure Mode) Kickstarter campaign, you can do so by clicking here.

Kaostic | 4th April, 2013

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