Interview: Horizon Fellowship’s BlueFox Game Studios

Way back when, in the long long ago, one of Invert On’s writers interviewed two of the guys at BlueFox Game Studios (a company that, after a little research, it seems never ended up publishing anything). Unfortunately the interview that was turned in read like a Skype transcript between three very uncertain fans of the ellipsis alt-code. After a little back-and-forth I decided to turn the piece into a little preview: all quotes were taken verbatim from the interview and the rest was… coloured in by myself? Hey, that ellipsis alt-code is good!

Between Faster Than Light’s hit debut on Steam, and Notch’s upcoming 0x10c, space sims are suddenly back on top again. Never one to miss out on a trend, we caught up with Alex Proctor and Sean Crooks of BlueFox Game Studios to talk about Horizon Fellowship, their upcoming entry into this booming genre.

What first strikes you about Horizon Fellowship is how disarmingly simple it sounds. It’s a “a space-based tycoon game… you start with a small company trading commodities in a randomly generated galaxy [and] the goal is to build your company by trading between stars. Buy low. Sell high.” The familiar nature of the evergreen classic Elite, itself trying to regain its crown by recently turning to KickStarter, holds true here.

Such simplicity belies what’s under the skin though. According to Alex and Sean “there will hopefully be up to 1,000 commodities to trade with,” each one lovingly graced with Crooks’s 2D pixel art. And, with no natural end to the game, you can keep building your company as long as you can stave off bankruptcy—or attack. It is a space game after all–“your ship has holoshields. If you don’t repair them and get attacked, you can die.”

So, how do you determine success? “As you get further into the game you can start dealing in factories” and “by delivering raw materials in different combinations you get new, higher valued, products,” to the extent that you can buy whole stars (rather than those moon acres I picked up on the cheap a few years back). Still, getting to that point is easier said than done, especially with the ever-present threat of Space Pirates; “if you lose they can steal your cargo. If you win though, you can salvage their ship” and put it to use in your own fleet.

In space, no one can hear you scream "buy! buy! buy!"
In space, no one can hear you scream “buy! buy! buy!”

What makes Horizon Fellowship so inviting though is its vulnerability at the hand of the player. Though Horizon Fellowship will be single player, comparisons to EVE Online aren’t without merit and, as Alex admits, like the long-running MMORPG “market will fluctuate as demand changes” to the extent that intergalactic economies can even melt down;

“If one wanted to starve an economy [it’s possible to] buy up all of one resource, and release it slowly to get better prices.”

But why?

“There are a lot of shady business practices you can indulge in. If you buy all the grain in a star system it will starve the citizens. Alternatively you can dump your toxic waste on them. It’s all about being nasty in the correct way.” Obviously, it’s something Alex and Sean have given a fair bit of thought to, so we’re not sure what that makes them. Or us, for that matter, given that we find the proposition similarly appealing.

This picture has been stretched: so that baguette is probably just simple tiger bread
This picture has been stretched: so that baguette is probably just simple tiger bread

Crucially though, there will be a lot to get up to besides the main quest of building your business, and BlueFox promise a slew of mini games, side missions and other activities within the game, as well as the potential ability to mow down or farm the promisingly titled Space cows. Watch those fenders, space traveller!

As for Horizon Fellowship‘s origins: it all started with a top-down shooter which, like so many other first time projects out there, just never saw the light of day, prompting BlueFox to realise that what was holding them back was genericism. After a significant retooling, they settled on Horizon Fellowship, set for release in 2013, though it’s still undecided whether there will be a KickStarter and/or Steam Greenlight along the way.

Crucially though, along with its primary catch–a space-bound semi-realistic economy–what else makes HF so special, aside from intergalactic bovine?

“The art style shows you’re in control of the company, as if you were sat in a dispatch office” says Sean, “a lot of games are using a pixel art style and this is something we wanted to try on a bigger scale.” This doesn’t mean it’s going to look like Microsoft Excel: Videogame Edition though – with Alex shooting down the possibility – “there shouldn’t be too much math involved in the game.” 

With regards to its competition, both Alex and Sean seem fairly confident in Horizon Fellowship’s uniqueness considering a potential rival like 0x10c is a much more technical offering compared to their business-centric approach. It doesn’t mean they won’t be playing Notch’s next release though, they’re looking forward to it, as are we.

We just… kinda want to play Horizon Fellowship more.

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