Published on March 9th, 2017 | by Callib Carver
Xenosis Looks Like The “Alien” Game We’ve Never Had, And I Can’t Wait To Play It (UPDATED)
“This might be cliche, but I wanted to make a game that I wanted to play.” Said James Stone, indie developer and sole developer for Xenosis a 2D sci-fi pixel art game that is currently in development by Stone and NerdRage Studios, and talking with Stone about his game you get a sense of the fire and passion he has for this project, and to think he has no experience as a game developer.
Currently Xenosis is about to finish up its Kickstarter campaign, and currently, it has only received about £300 ($392 USD) of it’s £6,000 ($7,321) goal, and with a week left it doesn’t look like Stone and NerdRage, his personal development studio, will reach their goal. But that doesn’t mean the end of the game. Nor does that mean it won’t be an amazing game.
So the idea behind the game seems simple enough, find the ship’s data core, get out, and cash in. I mean if you figure out what happened to this legendary ship that’s a bonus, right?
Looking at images and what video fo the game exists, coupled with my interview with Stone, I can’t help but feel some of the “Alien” movie franchise creeping into the game. Stone told me about him and friends huddling around his Amiga, and playing Alien Breed, which he said was “like playing the Alien movie.” He also received feedback from colleagues and friends about the game’s original title, Xenomorph, and lead to the change in name to Xenosis.
“A lot of people say that Xenomorph is part of Alien.” Stone said, but according to him it isn’t actually attached to the movie franchise. “I didn’t want to get in trouble with fox, though, and didn’t want to confuse people by making them think it’s an Alien game.”
Stone provided me with a copy of the pre-alpha to play through, and right from the start I felt like, and I feel like I should quote Stone again, “playing the Alien movie.”
The game had atmosphere and drew me in. It felt like an old game, in that the graphics didn’t feel like a modern game built to look old. It felt like I had found an old cartridge game, plugged it into my Super Nintendo, maybe my Sega Genesis, and found something that modern games lacked because they focus on pretty graphics and cool effects.
The addition of a power cell for your flashlight and an oxygen tank that requires replenishment every few minutes makes for a sense of urgency. At one point I forgot about my O2 and when it got low my screen became very blurry. I thought it was a graphical or performance error, as my movements became very sluggish. Then I noticed it was because I was almost out of the air.
I tried to navigate the small room I was in and got really lucky. Once I replenished my O2 everything returned to normal. I actually really liked the O2 meter. It kicked me into gear and made me want to break open everything I could. It added to the feel that you have to actually play the game and search around for materials to continue crafting with.
When I asked Stone how much actual gameplay there would be, in terms of time or how many levels. Stone said there are some 64 potential areas on the ship and if you “tanked” through the game it might take around five to eight hours, but that’s a really rough estimate. This pre-alpha version made me feel like you couldn’t really tank through it, that you’d have to search, craft, and try to survive. Taking that into consideration I’d have to agree with Stones second rough estimate that true gameplay could run around eight to ten hours.
The game had a fairly straight forward tutorial, letting you know the basic commands. W, A, S, D for movement. The E key is for interaction, Q closes windows, and you use the right mouse button to aim and the left one to shoot or punch. Right off I wish instead the aim was tied to the mouse movement so that you don’t have to hold the right mouse button. Plus it just makes fast paced games easier to play. With a trackpad, it did make the game harder to play.
I also discovered that about a minute that a pair of headphones is the only way to play the game because the audio seems finely tuned for them. When they played out of my desktop speaker, or those that are built into my MacBook Pro just don’t play the audio back properly. That’s not to say that it’s poor quality or bad, but it’s not as lively and it didn’t make me feel like I was in the world.
Currently, there are no set technical specifications for the game. But Stone said that it probably won’t run on a $299 computer, because of elements like advanced lighting and the game is “really process intensive.” He suggests that you have some kind of an actual gaming computer to run the game, once it’s released. I ran it with minimal problems on my MacBook Pro, an early 2011 13-inch model.
I ran it with minimal problems on my MacBook Pro, an early 2011 13-inch model. Which has a 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 4 GB of DDR3 (1333 MHz) memory, with an Intel HD graphics 3000 with 384 MBs built in? Now I and a lot of people wouldn’t consider my Mac a gaming computer, but I can run this game, and most of the bigger name MMO’s out there like Guild wars 2, World of Warcraft, and EVE Online. So if you don’t have a “gaming computer” don’t fret as I think you’re in luck still.
If you noticed I said I played the game with minimal problems. While talking to stone I said I’d give him feedback, but I also made sure he knew that it would be unbiased and open. So I’ve included any problems or things of note that I feel should be addressed or could improve the quality of life for the game. Smaller glitches that I could chalk up to my system or simple issues with the game being a pre-alpha release I’ve sent over to Stone.
As you move through the world, or rather the ship you’ll find materials that you’ll use for
crafting. When the items are found a cool little animation, with a nice mix of digital and mechanical typewriter-esque sound effect, that is garbled text until it spells out whatever the material is. While it’s cool some of the materials have a really long name and that is a bit cumbersome. At one point the text generated twice, over one another, which made reading them impossible. But this only happened once. Why I bring this up is because even without this
Why I bring this up is because even without this one little glitch some of the materials have a long name, when it pops up on the screen when you pick them up off the ground. It might be a nice change to find a way to shorten the name up. Instead of “common crafting component collected,” maybe it could read simple “Common Material” or simply “Material Collected.”
The only other thing of note was the mouse detection on the in-game keypads, which you have to manually enter codes into. It had clear detection issues, only with the keypads, where the mouse would be over a number, say the number 5, but the number 4 would be the number highlighted and entered.
Stone plans to release the game on Steam first, and though the game is in the greenlight process he doesn’t plan to release it in early access. “I’ve been burned by early access games.” Stone said explaining how he feels that the time for indie devs, without a following, on crowdfunding platforms may have passed because of other indie games not delivering.
“The first year after the release will be fixing bugs.” Stone said, “then I’ll work on porting to other consoles.” Which includes the computer systems that Steam host; PC, Mac, & Linux. As well as
Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. Which I assumed would be quite a challenge, but Stone said otherwise.
“It is, but it isn’t,” Stone said, “I built the entire code modularly.” He explained that through Unity the code could essentially be exported to various consoles from the engine itself. The rest would be changing various parts of the code out for certain aspects of the game, based on the console or system. For example, the bit of code for Steam achievements would have to be changed out for a different bit of code that would work with the Xbox achievement system.
“I wanted to pour in attention to detail,” stone said “I loved the atmosphere and how they sucked you in” referencing games like Alien Breed for the Amiga. “It was like playing through the Alien film.” Stone said, and I feel like this is what he created with Xenosis. The atmosphere, something that sucked you in and made it feel real.
Stone admitted that part of the reason why he created a 2D pixel art game in part due to his limitations as a developer, and that learning how to develop a 3D graphical game could add another year to the project. Plus he said he can always do that later on. It’s still been a challenge for him, going on to explain that perspective has been one of the big challenges. “How do you make a table look like a table? It’s a big rectangle, but how do you make it look like a cool table?” Stone said.
Time and resources is why Stone is trying to raise funds through crowdfunding, with the money raised through his Kickstarter campaign would go toward finding and hiring other developers to help with the creation and improvement of the game’s pixel art, as well as well as help with audio within the game, which could speed up the development of the game on top of the ten hours a day he spent on developing the game full time.
On top of that, the funding from a crowdfunding campaign would help pay for the licensing fee for the Unity engine, which would offer other resources like technical support from unity. Plus pay for the cost of publishing the game on various platforms and processing the games various ESRB ratings, which both Microsoft & Sony require to publish a game on their system.
Without this funding the game will still be developed, it’ll just take longer stone said. I’ve had the chance to talk to plenty of crowd funders and people who work in the technology, gaming, and startup industries and Stone defiantly shows a lot of heart and love for what he is doing, and I can’t deny that I haven’t been burned by indie developers that never delivered on their game’s promise. Stone’s passion, heart, and love for what he is doing just might be what turns this game into something more than small studios first release.
Currently, the game also doesn’t have a set price, but Stone said it will probably be between £9.99 and £12.99, that’s around $12.14 to $15.79. Again this isn’t set in stone, pun not intended.
He didn’t say if he planned to release a demo of the game, unfortunately, as Stone said several times that he wanted to release a finished game and product. But he said he did have something that could almost pass as a demo, but it required some more polishing and some changes. But that’s not a promise of anything. Until then you can always check out the developer overview Stone has posted to the studios YouTube channel, which includes actual gameplay.
All in all the game is really polished, from what I’ve played. Are there some problems or small glitches sure, but nothing that can’t be fixed, and seeing how the game isn’t out int he wild yet it’s not a huge issue. But as I stated multiple times, it has atmosphere that makes the world feel real, and from the start it build anticipation and even maybe a little anxiety as you just don’t know what to expect. If you play it with some headphones on, then the game world becomes a reality, and it’s been awhile since I felt like I was in a game, versus playing one.
- UPDATE 3.9.17, 5:19 PM: This article has been updated to exclude the Xbox 360 platform as one of the future release platforms, as it won’t be released on this system.
What do you think of Xenosis? Let us know in the comments.