Thursday, 7 November 2013

Behind the carnage at Karnak - Sentinel Games give a sitrep to Wee Gamers

It is the year 562, the Age of the Diaspora. Humanity, established in hundreds of worlds throughout the known universe, is fighting for survival against cruel alien races, and even against each other, confronted by disputes that appear increasingly absurd.One world after another is engulfed by the fury of the war while the contenders fight ruthlessly to prevent Total Extinction 
Another 28mm war game has reached the Kickstarter jump off point.  So what? you ask.  There have been that many lately it is hard to keep track of them.  What makes Total Extinction different? Well for one we like the idea, we like the look and we like the feel.  Especially the tanks. We love the tanks.  And so we evaced from the hot LZ to fire off a few hot questions to the guys behind Total Extinction - Sentinel Games.

1) You've already mentioned the high cost of games production and hence the crowd funding route, but could you outline the experience you've had and the effort/timescale spent in trying to get your game developed? What has been the most challenging aspect so far? And did you ever feel like throwing in the towel and giving up?
To tell you the truth it´s difficult to estimate the time that we have dedicated to the project. At first it was nothing more than just a few moments a day writing down some ideas on paper napkins and things like that but when the project started to get some shape, we began to take it much more seriously. Since April I have been dedicating several hours a day from Monday to Sunday to developing the background, the rules, etc, and at least twice at week we do playtesting in different ways (complete battles, testing just one particular rule, etc).

What seems to me the most difficult aspect is to make the game balanced. In a wargame there are so many factors that influence (unit characteristics, terrain, game style, luck) and you go mad ensuring that one thing compensates the other. For you to get a rough idea , in the first playtestings the Glorlon were absolutely invincible and we found it very difficult to compensate their power making them transmit this image of a mighty race that they were created with. Throwing in the towel? I think every day! J Sometimes we think ‘what if we are mistaken about everything and nobody likes it?’

Fortunately, from the very beginning the community of wargamers reacted very positively cheering us up, collaborating and giving feedback that helped us correct mistakes.

2) You mention the group, but how did the concept for your game come about and what where you all doing? Was it a result of dissatisfaction with existing games? A drunken bet in the bar? Or was it something else that inspired you? 
It’s difficult to say when exactly Total Extinction was born. To be frank we’ve always wanted to make our own game. For many years we have been creating our house rules for other games or designing new games for us.

One day we were talking about how cool it would be to have our own company with a conference room so that we could play games every Friday.

And then we said ‘Let’s do it!’ So, we recovered some old ideas about background, some scrappy rules and then Total Extinction started to take shape. 

3) Where do you draw your concepts from? Whose the ideas man/woman? And how hard do you find it to be fresh and present new ideas and concepts? 
The ideas are emerging from everywhere. For example, the idea of the Glorlon occurred to me after having watched a documentary several years ago. It was about how the species of our planet could have evolved in the following millions of years and it was shown how cephalopods could have become an intelligent species. I liked this idea very much and when we started to work on Total Extinction, I knew from the very beginning that the first aliens will be “very smart octopuses”.

The one who named them was Lesya. Sometimes things happen vice versa. First there appear a name and then a description. Thus, I’ve always liked the word Elohim, I love how it sounds and wanted to give this name to an alien race. Julian said that this name evokes a race composed of pure energy, a kind of ‘sci-fi angels’. 

4) many people might say 'oh another science fiction game' how would you best describe what is unique and fresh about your game over anything else out there in the market?
If you want a rapid sci-fi wargame with loads of tactical options but without thousands of special rules, with a workable/solid game system and which can be played with 30 or 40 miniatures per player, with a background with aliens created as such and credible humanity, Total Extinction is your game. 

5) what's been the most rewarding, exciting or enjoyable part of the whole process of development to date? And equally what has been the worst part of the job? 
The best of it all is when something was just an idea, a concept in your head and then it becomes something tangible, when unknown people say ‘Wow, I like the Glorlons!’ and you think that you’ve done something well. The worst is the destructive critics, especially at the beginning. When after a lot of effort and dedication to creating something, someone says after having a rapid look ‘That’s crap, it’s just a copy of X’. 

6) As you said in your email to Wee Gamers, English isn't your first language - yet your creating a game that targets a mostly English speaking market. Is this a particular challenge to ensure the coherence of language in rules and background as you translate everything over? Has there been anything that just didn't work right when you changed it for English? And is the game coming out in any other languages? 

Actually it’s a constant headache! Especially when giving a name to a unit or a race as we always think ‘Does it sound good in English?’ ‘And in Spanish?’ “And in Russian?’   So, the game is coming out in English, Spanish and Russian. And if we raise enough funds during this campaign we would like to translate it into German and French. 

7) Funding will take you so far, but what's the plans for the game post a successful kickstarter, where do you go with it after this?
Well, after it the boring part starts. We have to clinch the deal with the factory that is going to produce the miniatures, to negotiate with the distributors all over the world, etc.

Although there are a lot of things that I’m longing to do. For example, to continue developing the background, extending some rules and to playtest a lot and to make demonstrations with people that we’re getting to know thanks to Kickstarter.

8) How much time does and has the development of the game and now this phase take, have you or the team had to sacrifice anything to stay focused and on time with the project? 
Well, since the campaign has started, we haven’t touched a dice! I’m all the time that I can on the Internet sending updates and clearing up doubts and the rest of the time I’m talking to suppliers trying to agree on the prices and to make sure that everything is done the way we want. 

9) Obviously games are not your every waking thought, so what do you and the team do for fun, to relax and break the stress? 
At this moment with the campaign on Kickstarter it is, it is our first waking thought! Besides wargames we play role games, Lesya and I practice airsoft, Juan rides a bike..And besides we have families! Juan has two daughters, Lesya and I also have a baby girl, so we would like the day to have 25 hours! 

10) How important do you feel games are and what is it you guys feel they offer or do for society in general- not just your own game here obviously but games, and gaming overall?
I think that tabletop games are a great form of socialization. Playing them we learn a lot of useful things for the real life: negotiation, cooperation, competition. 

11) What one exciting and cool thing can you tell us about the game, or an army within it that isn't already known out there in internet land? It okay you can trust us we won't tell ;-) (we will you know) but come on give us an official 'leak' 
Ok. A pair of secrets: we have ready a new character who will appear later, a Glorlon Commander. And the time line of Total Extinction will continue after the battle of Karnak depending on the feedback that the players will give us: who won, the Glorlon or the Colonial? The community will decide.

12) What advice do you feel you would offer an aspiring games developer now if you met a keen chap on the bus who expressed a dream of making his own game? 
The first and I think the most important thing is – if you are dreaming of doing it, do it!! To design your own game – this is something that many of us are dreaming of for years but never dare to do it in reality. Perhaps the fear of failing impedes it, that this wonderful idea in your head will seem garbage to everyone else. So, don’t fear!

13) Okay so normally our 13th question is just for fun and loosely based on the interviewees game in development so----- Your home town has just been invaded by the destructive glorlons - for you and each of your team, who would be the hero who stands and fights, who would be the chicken who runs and hides, who would sacrifice themselves for the others to escape and who would be the traitor who tries to save himself by helping the aliens! 
I love the question! I think that Alberto would rush into a combat without thinking too much and would die immediately as a hero. Lesya would hide and shoot at every beast passing by, Juan will dedicate himself to planning the Great Final Combat (and perhaps would continue planning it a lot after the war itself finished), Manuel would definitely join the Glorlon as he is undoubtedly an undercover agent and I would probably present a speech like Henry V in Angicourt before being riddled by my own men from behind.

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