Designing a space shooter

I joined a small game design/dev team in the beginning of 2014. We were at a point where we really needed to coin a name for our game. The general idea was that our game is a space shooter that draws lots of nostalgia from the classic 80s and 90s video games like Parallax, R-Type, Xenon II Megablast and Star Control. Lots of mad space action, lasers and polished chrome. Earlier we had created tens of ideas for the name, but none was yet perfect. Finally we just sat down started talking about old games that we used to play a lot as kids, and during the nostalgia trip we played with new names. Finally we came up with Xenotron. I find it cool in many ways. It’s relevant to the gameplay and backstory: there will be three different factions that are in total war with each other. So Xeno- as in Xenos (greek for “stranger” or “alien”). The name also has nostalgic hints about Xenon II, Tron and the Transformers universe. And the word “Xenotron” makes me think of something mysterious and unimaginably powerful that sleeps in the deeps of interstellar space. An intelligent machine of unprecedented capabilities?

Polished chrome

Three different paths for the final logo

After we decided on the name, I went for the design of the logo. I browsed through dozens of different sci-fi themed fonts. I made a shortlist of ten fonts and finally cut it down to three (Edge, Goteki and Space Ranger). I opened Photoshop and typed in the name with all three. Then I broke the fonts and started to experiment with the logos. After couple of hours of trial and error, two version started to look quite good. I played around with different kind of effects, and in the photo you can see my 80s sci-fi themed “space chrome” versions.

As someone who’s played video games since I got my Commodere VIC-20 in the age of seven (the year was -84), taking part in the creation of a nostalgic space shooter is a dream come true. The “blank sheet feeling” of the whole design process is really inspiring. What is the story of the game universe? What kind of weapons are we talking about? What is the Xenotron?

Children are the best creative concept artists

My fellow visual designer Antero had designed two super cool ships, but we still needed more for the first release. During the week I started mixing different vector forms and patterns together. I think the resulting ships are not 100% ready yet, but we’re getting close to a nice balance between not-too-comicbook-like and not-too-realistic. The two bad boys on the right.

Analog-to-digital conversion

When I got home one evening, I told my kids (6y & 8y) that I’m designing space crafts for a game. They jumped up immediately, got some pens and paper and started drafting ships of their own (the two drawings in the top). After the drawings were ready, I began to build their designs in Photoshop, while constantly consulting with the kids about the colours, shapes and weaponry. I tried to tone down the colours in the “Rainbow Ship”, but Emma wouldn’t negotiate. Which was good. 

Could this be something that we could offer? I mean letting kids use their imagination to create the initial idea of a space ship. We could then finalize the designs and add the ships to a proper faction. It would certainly be a really concrete way to engage children with game design. Maybe they might even get interested in being future concept artists, game designers or kick-ass developers?

It's in the Play Store, woohoo!

My son kicking some ass

And finally we got the latest version uploaded to Play Store. Daniel’s input was that “It would be cool to have some power-ups and new weapons. And you need to implement waves and levels. Five waves and then the level changes.”. This is something we actually have in our backlog. Daniel also had an idea and sketch for the ‘mothership’ with nine active laser turrets. If you have an Android device, you can get the game for free from Play Store.

Ps, 30 points in this particular build is a respectable score. Way to go son.