Interstellar Marines Hands-On

We went hands on with this indie-developed first-person shooter and learned what it takes to build a first-person shooter on a shoestring budget.

Interstellar Marines has had an interesting development. A first-person shooter conceived by Zero Point Software in the early 2000s, it was prototyped using a well-known game engine and then shopped around to the big publishers at the Games Developers Conference. However, the developers were deterred by the amount of changes that publishers wanted to make to their game and decided to remain independent while continuing to work on the game. The result is a game that’s being driven by the community that surrounds it and who has a very real opportunity of shaping the way the final product turns out. Zero Point Software recently dropped by our London office to show us the latest technology behind Interstellar Marines, as well as its vision for the future of what they call ‘AAA Indie.’

According to game director Kim Jørgensen, the aim for Interstellar Marines is to present “first contact with an alien race in a believable and even philosophical way.” You play one of these marines, working for the galactic equivalent of NATO, and you start the game scouting out Mars before moving onto a space station. There will be three types of enemies--high-level humans, like soldiers; low-level humans, like scientists; and numerous alien life forms, all of which have their own independent AI routines. The whole game is designed to be a short co-op experience for up to four people, with dynamic AI and enemy placement encouraging multiple play-throughs.

That's what the team has planned for the game, anyway. At the moment, Zero Point has a number of demos that it uses to show proof of concept. The first is a demo built using high-end technology, but as it was created using the demo version of the tools, it can’t be shown publicly. It’s a shame because it shows a high level of skill in terms of lighting, water, and organic effects, and while it's showing its age now, the demo allows us to get a feel for the atmosphere Zero Point is trying to achieve. The inspiration from such films as Aliens is obvious, as is F.E.A.R. in terms of graphics and sound, and while Jørgensen acknowledges the influences, he promises a story that won’t just retread sci-fi shooter cliches.

However, high-end engines are too costly for an indie developer, which is why the team has recently moved development to Unity, a new high-level engine that’s a fraction of the cost of most industry-standard tools. The Unity demo is still in its early stages in terms of lighting, but it's already showing the potential to deliver a first-person shooter on an indie budget. The demo is reminiscent of the Killzone 2 "Behind the Bullet" trailer, as marines and enemies battle it out suspended in time. The only enemies we've seen so far are giant sharks, which are the result of human experimentation aboard one of the space ships. But the most impressive part of the demo is the ship that you’ll launch from at the start of the game. It shows off the role-playing-game-like upgrade system, and you’ll be able to use the computer on the ship to kit out your character as you plummet to earth.

Because of the aforementioned licensing issues, Zero Point is unable to show Interstellar Marines in video form or even release screenshots. However, with a new engine in place, Zero Point is hoping to show off more from the game soon. Zero Point also plans to release a beta later in the year, with regular updates following to gather feedback from the community. What Zero Point Software is effectively doing is using the community as beta testers, gathering feedback from its fans on where they want the series to go. There's still plenty of work to be done on Interstellar Marines, but there's no doubt that it presents an interesting new way of developing games. For lots more info, make sure you check out The GameSpot UK Podcast this week, where we talk to the developers about 'AAA Indie' development.

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Discussion

270 comments
athenian29
athenian29

It's still coming - they do weekly updates on their website. But the whole POINT of this is that it's community-driven. And that means that if you want this to come out RIGHT NOW, then you need to be actively supporting Zero Point RIGHT NOW.

Vrygar777
Vrygar777

lol "interstellar marines". Cheap way of saying "space marines."

crossdudu
crossdudu

This game might be good, I just hope that they'll sell it thru PSN so it won't be too expensive, because it doesn't look like a really really great game.

jasonzilla11
jasonzilla11

ok, it's been about 2 years since this interview, and GS doesn't have any new info about dis game. It's either been canned or comepletely forgotten

Freethinker101
Freethinker101

I wonder how many of the Marines will be homosexuals????

shaun_loal
shaun_loal

this one looks like it has potential. its still to soon to say wheter it will be good or bad, lets hope there comes a new revieuw soon with more content. :)

spydirwwweb
spydirwwweb

don't forget, the more we support them so they aren't doing everything on their own dollar...the stronger they will become as developers and who knows, could change the way we game indefinitely! Think about it....open source gaming that is equal to or surpasses the retail industries so they lose their stranglehold on "what is and isn't" so to speak. ;) Let's face it PC gamers, console ports are what we've been dealing with for far to long with their bullsh*t prices and patches, and ah well, you know what I mean. F them in the ear...matter of fact...F them in the other ear too. If we want these games done right, we've gotta do it ourselves with supporting more Indie-based developers who really understand what we, the community and fans, really want and shell out our hard earned clams for!!!! Way to go Zero Point, I for one WILL be purchasing this one because it looks great for a Unity based development!! :D :D

caityful
caityful

Hm, doesn't look too bad, actually. I'd buy it.

ic3cOLDKillah
ic3cOLDKillah

i'll buy it, simply beacause it looks intense, and fun, and sharp with decent graphics, and... the shorter it is, less bugs to fix, so the coop and dynamic enemyies will defo add replay. 8/10 so far, and worthy of a purchase.

jakcul
jakcul

Im willing to support this game just cause they want to stick to developers that dont listen to fans. I hope it gets finished and does well.

gafuudy
gafuudy

Well, dun know how good it will actually be, but the graphics look quite sharp. So it'l at least be good for watching zeh shiny.

sar07g
sar07g

I agree with thenephariouson How long do they intend to make the game, not too short I hope. It does look like it could have some pretty cool elements. They have a demo open on their site too, interstellarmarines.com

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

"The whole game is designed to be a short co-op experience for up to four people, with dynamic AI and enemy placement encouraging multiple play-throughs." How Much?

monny127
monny127

The name made me think UNstellar marines. But after reading this I feel like it might be a relatively good game. Not 10/10 but probably 8.5 or 9. Ill for sure buy it.

Grackery1980
Grackery1980

I have a feeling that this game will be an....EPIC FAIL.

Razgard4612
Razgard4612

i'll be rooting for this game, im not sure if they will be able to pull it off but i do admire them working through all the money problems. I have good hopes for this game

Bert07
Bert07

After reading this preview, Interstellar Marines will most likely be a hyped about game when it gets closer to completion. I'm keeping an eye on this one

Suicide-Panda
Suicide-Panda

to be honest, if the devlopers take their time with this, this could be the halo killer we want....

P-Ball3179
P-Ball3179

...for all you that are supporting the idea that this could turn out to be a great game, I salute you. As for this kebith fellow, well, it seems to me that he is merely a hater to some type of games and genres. So he has permeated himself into this particular preview site and keeps making a jack $%# of himself by parading his idiotic thoughts of I know this and I know that. My case and point to him is simple.... I know this has nothing to do with games, but I know of two Bruce Lee's and I am a avid martial arts fan/student. But at first I only knew of the Bruce Lee, but there is another and another and another.... Point being, that the Unity engine you refer to, which is valid of what you say, may not be the engine they are using. Haters come on to sites and spew comments like you do, give it up!

jean_borrero
jean_borrero

Sorry to say this but the company site says it went bankrupt.

buft
buft

i applaud zero point for doing this , indy developers do some great work but most of the time they have to change the game to suit the publisher meaning we dont see what the developer wanted. the only problem i have is that most of the time the games just dont look or feel right when you play them . hopefully they get it right

stinkymonkey58
stinkymonkey58

if it gets finished (which i really hope it does) can anyone say halo killer?

AMT6400
AMT6400

I would like to support this kind of game since it's being made by an indie company...but all the footage taken is cg cut scenes....I have yet to see actual game play footage!! What's worse than that though is the title of the game (marines in space...really?? I've seen this cloned a thousand times) or maybe just the way the story is being told is just so uninspired. My only kudos is the freaking shark dogs...that I like!! Make the game more centered towards these outrageous creatures and they might actually have it made....

yodathewise
yodathewise

Although they've run into some financial issues, the company is still continuing development on the game. First, though, they need to sort everything out on the money side of things :P

jjwrigh28
jjwrigh28

I hope that this game is good and isn't a halo knock off. I hate halo and i hope this has the power to be better then it.

ad369
ad369

Human/Shark hybrids as enemies is different. I have been waiting ages for this game I just hope it isnt a dissapointment when it arrives

EGM_BlizzardKil
EGM_BlizzardKil

@kibeth, dude calm down.... This game looks awsome though!

Korrupt_Soul
Korrupt_Soul

No actual in game footage. Why are people commenting on animation. This shows nothing.

spartanvictor
spartanvictor

Man, are you right! This so reminds me of republic commando. The way they speak. The graphics, the way the soldiers move like a trained squad (RC was incredibly lifelike). Man it looks like what rc2 should be like.

kibeth
kibeth

@184him I've done my research. I don't what the hell you're talking about. In case you didn't catch my posts, this is the same old news. "Insufficient funding to allow our donators to look at what we've been working on, blah blah blah. If you leave us, we understand, but if you stay, can we pwease have more money?" Yawn. I'm over this game. I'll go play some Condemned 2 (a legit game, by the way) and realistically beat the living sh*t out of some thugs.

jaster333
jaster333

it sorta looks like republic commando but thats a good thing in my opinan

kibeth
kibeth

@wenisman How am I moron? I've brought more proof than anyone against me. Yet you say I haven't? I've said more factual things than this very article, look at all of my posts. Read the article. Use your brain for what it was meant for by connecting different pieces of information and understanding the big picture. Of course it looks like gameplay. That's what this whole thing is about -- convincing us that it will be a kick-ass game and that we should donate to make it happen. It's not gameplay. It's animated to look like it. It's how they envision the gameplay to be if they had loads and loads of cash. But they don't. Just listen in on the other videos and you'll understand.

S3XYT1M3
S3XYT1M3

oooh more space marines and such an original name for a game

wenisman
wenisman

@kibeth... you are a such a moron. all you do is chastise people but you still bring no proof, well bring some proof ass wipe. watch 'official trailer 5' at around the 2 minute mark. that looks like in game play, reticle, ammo count etc. granted it could be 'faked', so unless you have some insider knowledge that it is faked then disprove that fact.

Psycold
Psycold

Sharky the Shark Dog anyone? Eek the Cat??? ANYONE??!@#

kibeth
kibeth

@wenisman Look it up. It's one of the first links on Google. It was used to make Off-Road Velociraptor Safari. You sound like a complete fool criticizing me when you really have nothing to back yourself up.

kibeth
kibeth

@residude Are you retarded? These movies are animations. Not in-game content. PURELY animated material. There is no coding, no controls, nothing. Educate yourself before you criticize me.