An Interview With Alex Koshelkov – Founder of Crytivo and Creator of The Universim

The Universim

Who remembers the good old days of God games? You know the ones I am talking about. The ones where you can wield your good or evil onto your subjects from up high. Admit it though, you were more often evil than good. Don’t deny it! I know your soul…

I am talking about games such as Black & White and Populous. Ah the sweet sweet joy of throwing a poor unsuspecting member of your population into oblivion.. Anyway, I digress.. Onwards to the interview with Alex Koshelkov!

Alex thank you for taking the time to answer a few of my burning questions around the upcoming game, The Universim. I got to play an Alpha version and I have to admit I spent many hours on it and even ended up live streaming for the first time ever.

Can you tell I am excited? Let’s begin..

1) In one or two sentences, how would you describe The Universim?

In short, but still offering quite a mouthful, The Universim is a planet management god game. If you break it down, it means that the game acts as the bridge between city simulators and your favorite god games of yesteryear.

2) What makes this game different from other god games?

The depth of the game’s systems certainly sets it apart, whether you look at the planet simulation aspects (weather, climate/environmental changes as you perform actions, and so much more), the AI, the era progression, more involved city sim aspects, meaningful god interactions, and the dynamic nature of pretty much everything. There’s a lot to love, and you’ll definitely fall for the game’s charm.

3) What was the idea behind the game? What were you wanting to achieve?

As fans of the genre, we wanted to capture the magic and fun of old god games, while also adding our own twist to it. We have created this giant sandbox, filled to the brim with dynamic systems and meaningful interaction, but without sacrificing the narrative structure of evolving your small civilization from the stone age to the stars above. We wanted to ensure that players are always at the center of the experience. Your choices truly matter, resulting in significant changes to the civilization and the world around you. While everything is ultimately procedural, which allows you to be as wacky as you like, you can still enjoy a focused and strategic city sim at the heart of it. You are the god of this world, and you can play any way you want.

4) Would you say you have achieved what you set out to do or were there other features you would have liked to have included?

Hilariously, we have actually improved upon our initial vision for the game. From the dynamic nature of the world to the way you interact with your civilization, everything has been lovingly crafted to a level we did not originally anticipate. We have also factored in plenty of internal testing and external feedback from fans to refine or completely rework anything that didn’t fit well. This has resulted in a product that we are exceptionally proud of, especially considering the size of our team. This is still an indie game, but we wanted to achieve a level of quality that will surprise many.

However, quality takes time, which is why we still have a ways to go before all of the anticipated features like future eras, space travel, and a few surprises 😉 are implemented. We needed that excellent foundation before we could really start pumping out content, due to how everything is interconnected. Thankfully, we can say that we’re over the biggest hill, but there’s still some backbreaking work ahead.

The Universim Above

5) What does the future hold in terms of updates or add ons?

The future is bright in that regard! However, we aren’t ready to discuss post-launch content just yet. For the moment, fans can expect a whole host of new or missing features to be introduced leading up to launch.

6) When I played The Universim I got a Black & White vibe with a hint of Populous. Were any of these games inspiration?

Absolutely! As we mentioned earlier, we’re all fans of the genre. Working on something we love has been an amazing experience, and it has allowed us to experiment with and evolve the genre with our own ideas.

7) The inhabitants are affectionately known as Nuggets. Where did this name come from?

This has a lot to do with their peculiar form, which is made up of floating limbs and abstract shapes. The name was cute and quite befitting of their appearance.

8) Nuggets can be directly controlled but a nice feature is that they can also go about their own business without direct intervention. Why did you go this route?

This goes hand-in-hand with our obsession to make everything as dynamic and organic as possible. We wanted to avoid the RTS route of nothing being done unless you explicitly command it. You’re a god; you can just sit around sipping ice tea while the world evolves without you. They might not get very far without your thoughtful guidance, but that’s entirely up to you.

9) The research element is pretty straight forward. Choose what you want and wait a specified time to completion. No need to build research labs etc. What was your thinking behind this?

Innovation is something that comes naturally to sentient creatures like us humans or the in-game Nuggets. Early on, you’ll see research items that are discovered either by accident or by curious experimentation. If you research fire, an idea will pop into someone’s head to rub two sticks together and, tadah, you have fire. We like to imagine and create a sort of parody around how we think early humans, or rather a species similar to our own, would go about discovering the things we know today. In the future, you will require special institutions to research certain things. You’ll have to play the game to see this progression in action.

The Universim Rocks

10) There are random events from severe winters and natural disasters. Water freezes over in winter and collected water evaporates in the summer. There is a sense of realism to The Universim that rivals or exceeds AAA titles. Was this a conscious effort to reach AAA standard or was it simply a result of the end product?

As we mentioned, this was just something that occurred naturally as the game developed. A few months after the Kickstarter, as we were hitting our stride with development, we realised we had to make a difficult choice. A lot of thought went into how we were going to achieve our vision for the game. To make it really good, a ridiculous amount of work was required. With the size of our team and budget, we took one look at our initial release schedule and very quickly realized that we either had to decrease the dynamic nature of the game to meet deadlines or delay the game to make it as great as we possibly can. You can probably guess which path we took.

Quite some time has passed since then, and we are so very glad we chose to shoot for quality. We now have this incredible simulation system at the heart of the game that adds so much depth and so many possibilities to the gameplay. There are tons of tiny details and interactive elements that we could not have achieved without the time we have been given. The AI systems have been entirely revamped, we have a cool new physics system, we were able to expand on god powers, cities are built in a very clever way, Nuggets have been given so much love in the form of unique characteristics and individual traits, and the list just goes on. There’s honestly way too much to talk about here. We can list hundreds of pages of things that were built either for the current build or for future gameplay elements. The team has done a phenomenal job.

I think that quality and community engagement have become cornerstones of Crytivo’s identity. This fierce dedication extends to both our development and publishing sides. The Universim is our first major release, and we want to show the world what we are really capable of.

11) Are there any other features, facts or hidden gems you would like to share with our readers?

Everyone should be looking forward to the August update and the incredible stuff that comes thereafter. Fans can expect to see new eras and a host of new content and bug fixes in the coming months. Most of all, though, we can tell everyone to get excited about a few surprises we’re bringing to the game. You might see a few in August (or you might not). We’ve dropped some hints here and there. You’re going to love it.

So there you have it everyone! A God game that you have all secretly been waiting for. The August update lands on Steam on August 28th! To keep up to date with the progress, be sure to follow The Universim on twitter.

I’m off to play a God! Laters!

Founder and Editor in Chief of I created Orange Bison to help promote indie games and small game studios. I feel they don't get the coverage they deserve. When I am not playing games I enjoy trying new things. Anyone up for parachuting from a hot air balloon?

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