Es scheint gerade eine sehr gute Zeit für Ein-Mann-Entwickler zu sein. Banished oder das noch erscheinende Stasis zeigen, dass heutzutage mit technischem Know-How, Durchhaltevermögen sowie einer künstlerischen und unternehmerischen Vision faszinierende Werke auf beachtlich hohem Niveau erschaffen werden können. Lifeless Planet, bei Steam als Early Access-Spiel mittlerweile erhältlich und von David Board entwickelt, reiht sich hier perfekt ein. Die Alpha-Version von Lifeless Planet gefiel mir schon in jeder Beziehung, wie hier nachzulesen ist. Das karge, aber wunderschön designte Setting erzeugt ein intensives Gefühl der Einsamkeit, das mag ich, das lässt mich dann als Spieler nicht kalt. Als Exploration-Game mit einem ordentlichen Anteil an Plattformer- und Rätselelementen verlangt es, dass die eine oder andere Gehirnzelle eingeschaltet wird, was heutzutage eher ein Plus und die Ausnahme ist. Wie ein einzelner Entwickler solch ein Mammutprojekt auf diesem hohen Niveau alleine wuppen kann und was an Wissenswertem hinter seinem Baby steckt, verrät David Board bei Lifeless Planet Dialog im Interview.

Lifeless Planet is a huge project for an One-Man-Team. What drives you to develop it on your own and for how long are you working on it?

I’ve been working on the game for more than two years now. I thought the game would be done over a year ago, so this has been challenging. Part of the problem is being a one-man team, as you say, but also I’ve had to split time with client work to keep paying the bills. I’ve also tried to take a little more time to make the game better than I originally planed. I’m very glad to be close to the end of the project. Being able to play through the alpha from beginning to end was a wonderful feeling.

In which genre would you place Lifeless Planet? Is it more an Exploration Game or something like a Puzzle-Plattformer in disguise?

It’s a mix of both. Some levels are more linear with platforming and light puzzles. Other levels are open and emphasize exploration. All of the levels have side areas to explore. The idea is to encourage exploration in the framework of a story-driven narrative. There is always the goal of reaching the next chapter of the story.

Und so geht´s los. Der einsame Held auf einem einsamen Planeten.
The Mars-lookalike-Setting gave me as a Gamer an interesting feeling of lonelyness. It shouldn´t be pure coincidence to build such a barren world. Is it a synonym for something, part of a vision or just a pragmatic decision for the developing process?
I knew creating a game by myself would be a huge challenge, so I tried to think of an environment that would be interesting but not require hundreds of art assets. So then I had to think about the story and why this world that should be lush with life would instead be dead and barren. What was originally maybe a limitation because a really interesting component of the story.
Lifeless Planet has a very unique style. Were the graphics important for you? Are you completely satisfied with your work or would you like to use an engine like Frostbite 3 if it would be affordable?
I’m never completely satisfied with my work, but I also have tried to respect the limitations of building a game of this size by myself. I’ve tried to craft environments that convey a sense of epic loneliness and wonder, independent of the details. There are numerous details, but sometimes it’s the larger images that stick with me as a gamer: a house on the rim of a huge meteor crater, or a huge grain structure in the middle of an alien landscape. I’m always trying to frame scenes that are visually striking.
David Board ist Partner von den Stage 2 Studios, einer kleinen Kreativagentur, die sich auf Media Solutions für NGOs spezialisierte. Er lebt in Alaska zusammen mit seiner Ehefrau und zwei Hunden.
And there is a woman in Lifeless Planet which we try to find. Is it something like a random goal or has it a higher significance for the game and your vision behind it? Is there a significant overlapping from the story of Lifeless Planet and your personal History?
There are many layers of mystery in Lifeless Planet. On one level, the player is confronted with the strange discovery of a woman who is able to survive in the planet’s atmosphere without oxygen. But beyond that we learn about his backstory a little bit and how that influences the way he relates to the woman. I think there’s a certain irony to the idea of travelling across the galaxy, leaving Earth behind and everyone you’ve ever known or loved only to explore an Earth-like planet. So I’m exploring the psychology of that a little bit. It’s not so much my personal history as what I think is a collective human thirst for something new.
Do you provoke special emotions with Lifeless Planet? In my view it is much more than a superficial Game. What would you like a Gamer to think and feel after finishing it? Should we learn something by playing Lifeless Planet?
I hope players come away with a sense of the excitement I feel when I think about the universe and humankind’s place in the vastness of space. I think it’s important to dream and explore, but there’s also so much we haven’t learned about ourselves and our own planet. The game asks a lot of questions but it also is a story with a definite ending — hopefully one that provides a little surprise.
Eines der Rätsel aus Lifeless Planet
Eines der Rätsel aus Lifeless Planet

The last question is a tricky one: Activision asks you tomorrow to join the Developing Team for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 in a leading Position. You could feel free to change the direction of the franchise with an enormous Budget. Would you agree to work for them or would you like to develop Lifeless Planet 2?

I’ve been working for myself for many years now, so going back to a day job would be tough. I love the freedom to do things my way and explore ideas and projects that interest me. I want to do more of that, not less, in the future. I don’t think there will be a Lifeless Planet 2 because it wouldn’t fit the story. However, I have several projects I’m really anxious to get started on once this game is done. If I’m feeling that way now (the desire to create new games) in the middle of this very long and overdue project, I think that says a lot about my future desire to create more games in the future.

Wie oben erwähnt, ist die durchweg ordentlich spielbare Beta-Version von Lifeless Planet bei Steam als Early Access für 12,99 € erhältlich.