I hear a storm raging far in the distance. Should we expect the terror of the Norse gods? Floods? Famine? Plagues? Or perhaps that thunder is originating from elsewhere? As it turns out that thunderous noise is coming from the keystrokes over at Mjölnir Software. They may not be wielding a mythical hammer but they mean business. If you were unaware this international independent team of artists, programmers, musicians and writers have some big plans in the works. Currently preparing to release an update of their game Crucible, CEO and developer Zach Simmons took some time to talk with me about what to expect for the update and what the team’s plans are for the future.
To give a little background on the game, Crucible is an arcade style shooter that will have you immediately remising about Atari’s game Asteroids. Of course the graphics and audio are far more advanced and your starship is way cooler than a little triangle…I mean triangles get the job done but wouldn’t you rather have a badass starship?
Crucible is just a little step in Mjölnir Software’s endeavors. In hopes of slowly pulling in an audience with smaller games like Crucible, the team eventually want to develop their main project, the 4x RTS game they call Galaxy In Flames or GIF for short.
Oh and did I forget to mention the Mjölnir team is looking for more contributors. Interested? Now you have to read the interview Muahahaha…
Crucible was released back in January of 2013, and the majority of the reviews on the Google Play store are positive. Why revisit Crucible for a major update when you also have several other games in development?
Crucible was actually only released on PC in 2013 as a way for me to test the waters. It was released on IndieDB and on our website for direct sale. It only sold a handful of copies. We pulled it back for improvements after receiving a lot of internal and player feedback.
The Android version of Crucible was intended to be a final release, which we’d follow up on PC and iOS. Yet though it has a high rating we received a lot of user feedback requesting some more replayability features. We decided to embark on turning it into a bit more of a full-fledged game as opposed to a single level infinite “high score” game. We began adding a whole bunch of other little features to help bring out existing elements in addition to working on a new procedural background and level switching feature which involves a very cool warp-drive effect.
Crucible was re-released initially on Android back in December of 2015 and updated incrementally for some minor performance and bug fixes up to Jan 25th of 2016. That’s when we chose to sit back and see how it did for a couple months and gather user feedback and analytics data. We decided about 3 months ago that we’d give it one final major update before spending any money to promote it.
Simply put, we learned a lot and it helped us to get a feel for the market, improve and streamline our internal processes and communications, and validate a few initial concepts we had about verifying the game with a testing group and small audience before spending money promoting it really hard.
In the first release the backstory of the game is an alien cadet trying to pass the pilot initiation known as “Crucible”. With the update will there be any development of this story throughout the game?
There will be no further story progression. Crucible is really not a story driven game. We’re simply providing a very cursory introduction to one of the species in our universe. That being said, it’s merely a setting and exposition to give the game context and help to introduce the Ithillid species in concept.
Our next game will feature some limited story development.
Okay so more games of action than story driven. (E)
There’s a long list of games we plan to make. We’re starting with projects that require less animation and writing while we build the universe and softly introduce people to it. The thought is that a slower and less forceful introduction will help us get a fan base that’s wanting more when we release the biggest projects. We’ll also get direction and feedback on writing from fans as we go so we can learn how we can best structure the presentation of more complex stories.
Though we’re all life long gamers and creative, we’re approaching this as if we know nothing about our audience and as though it’s never been done before. This helps to keep us open to their insights and views while still allowing us to present the same vision of a game we’ve had all along. (Z)
I know Crucible is an arcade-style shooter, in the update should players expect to see any noticeable differences in the gameplay and overall handle of the starships?
Crucible players can expect some minor updates in how difficulty setting effects the drift of the craft. Otherwise we’re keeping most of Crucible the same outside of adding levels, AI drone enemies, upgrading weapons, and “objectives”. We did adjust the game-play significantly in one way though. It’ll be faster as the rocks are now easier to destroy and the score grows faster. The rocks also move significantly faster to balance this such that only the pace is affected and not the base-level difficulty.
Some of the reviews of Crucible, players said that on their smaller devices they couldn’t enjoy the game as much as when using tablets. Will this update target any of those problems facing gameplay on smaller devices?
Unfortunately there’s not much we can do within the context of the game to mitigate those particular issues without causing other issues. We have started the scene slightly more zoomed in to help with this in the upcoming update but it still zooms out over time.
On your social media pages you have been posting a lot of amazing starship concept art, what sorts of new ships and weaponry are in store for the update?
There will not. Crucible is a simple starter game we put out to get a feel for everything, to get our name out, and to maybe make a bit of money to help fund things. We don’t plan on doing too much with it. After this final update we’re moving on.
It’s likely we could make a 2nd version if there’s any demand for it. Right now we’re hamstrung by a smallish team that’s all working full time at regular jobs to make ends meet and help build up funding.
From what I have seen in the Crucible trailer the game does remind me of the 1979 Atari game Asteroids. Was Asteroids an inspiration for Crucible? Do you think Crucible takes its gaming experience beyond that of Asteroids?
Asteroids is the inspiration for Crucible. Crucible actually began as my first game. No joke. It’s actually my very first game. I’ve programmed 99.99% of it. I didn’t do the art or models but everything was built in the engine and coded by me except for a couple scripts, which I also still worked on.
Crucible didn’t really go much beyond Asteroids at first. The only differences were no micro asteroids, the addition of missiles, heat that keeps you from spamming, and not much else. Now it’s going to expand beyond that as much as we have the time and capacity for now. It’s not the only thing we’re working on at this time.
If I’m not mistaken Mjölnir’s major project is Galaxy in Flames. How is this game going to differ from the premise of Crucible?
It’s night and day different. Galaxy in Flames is a game like no other. It’s a combination of all the greatest strategy and tactics games of all time. We’re making the single largest scale real time strategy game ever. We’re also combining that with a complete change in how RTS games present a story and how players are presented the game world in an RTS as well as how players experience it. We’ve all been playing various types of games for decades and have perceived a niche in the industry which has not yet been filled and isn’t in direct competition with really any other game on the market. When our tech demo and teaser are done, it’s going to be as significant of an announcement as the reveal of No Man’s Sky.
Imagine being able to control battles both on the surface of a planet, and in orbit around that planet and have all the related interaction between those. Then imagine being able to smoothly zoom all the way out from planet surface to entire galaxy without any stops to be presented with a real scale galaxy. Planet sized planets, star sized stars, ship sized ships and tank sized tanks. Scale is one of the biggest things we’re trying to get right.
The interaction between surface and orbit battles sounds really interesting, I’m looking forward to that. (E)
Does your team have a time frame for when the Crucible update as well as Galaxy on Fire will most likely be ready for release?
Galaxy in Flames is our primary project. Crucible final update should be done within the month. Galaxy in Flames will not have a solid release timeline until we are fully staffed and funded. We can make estimates based on our current team and what we expect but we’d really prefer to make the most accurate estimate possible based on the level of progress we make with a full, full-time production team.
I did see on your website that you are currently accepting applications for new team contributors. Would you like to say anything to potential applicants reading this article such as what kinds of individuals you are looking for and who would be a good fit for the Mjölnir Software Team?
We’re looking for all sorts of hardworking individuals at this time that want to build up the company with us for equal starting share in the ownership of the whole company. We’re looking for fast, experienced, proven multi-medium artists. We’re looking for networking programmers and software architects. We’re looking for a social media and PR manager as well as an in-house marketing wiz. We’re generally a team of science focused “realists” but there’s quite a bit of variety on the team given our international and interstate nature. We have someone from every race on the team and the team consists of both men and women. Many of us have strong political opinions but everyone is civil and level-headed when discussing that sort of stuff. Mostly we’re a team that does the absolute best to be totally transparent so everyone is on the same page, good or bad.
It seems that the Crucible update will provide players with a game of few words and plenty of action. Zach offered some great insight about Crucible and Galaxy in Flames. I’m looking forward to both titles as well as what is to come from the Mjölnir Team.