Predestination interview with the games lead developer Brendan Drain.

Hello folks! We have an interview for you today with the lead developer of Predestination Brendan Drain. We did an article on Predestination a few weeks ago which you can find here if you haven't read it already and wish to do so. We hope you will enjoy reading the interview!

Now as promised. Here is our interview with Brendan Drain!

John P Martin: Who founded Brain and Nerd? and what challenges did you face setting up a small game's development studio in northern Ireland?

Brendan Drain: I founded Brain and Nerd earlier this year. The cost of living here in Northern Ireland is very low and there are lots of qualified developers and artists looking for work, so it really is the ideal place to set up a growing game studio. There have certainly been challenges in getting started, mostly to do with securing funding for our game. There are several government schemes here that offer grants to new startup businesses, but the lack of an established game development industry in Northern Ireland has made it a hard sell. Eventually we took the plunge and launched Predestination on Kickstarter to ask the global gaming community for its support directly, and we've been absolutely overwhelmed by the response. A success on Kickstarter should open a few more doors locally.

John P Martin: So How long have Brain and Nerd been working on Predestination now ?

Brendan Drain: Development officially started around January when I finished developing a sci-fi game engine, and at that point it was just me working on it in my spare time. Since then the team has grown to include project manager Tina Lauro and six other volunteers producing everything from concept art and 3D models to sound effects and music. The core elements of the game are all in place now and we're ready to scale up production to get the game hopefully finished within the next year.

John P Martin: What originally inspired you guys to make an 4X game when there are so many other types of games you could have made?

Brendan Drain: In January I had just finished making a sci-fi game engine with interesting technologies like a procedural planet generator, a galaxy renderer and a nebula system. Until then I wasn't sure whether I wanted to make a 4X game to follow in the footsteps of MOO2 or a sci-fi sandbox as a nod to Elite and EVE Online. I really love both types of game, and ultimately decided that a 4X game was more realistic for a first project because it has a lot of replayability but can be built on a lower budget. We might return to the sandbox idea after Predestination, but there are already a lot of new ones on the way that look fantastic.

John P Martin: What is Brain and Nerds philosophy concerning game design ?

Brendan Drain: Our core design philosophies include iterative development and involving players in the development process. Every step of the way, we'll be releasing videos and details of development and asking players for feedback. This helps us find any gameplay problems that we hadn't spotted ourselves, which we go back and fix to produce a second gameplay iteration. We show that to players for a second round of feedback and the whole cycle continues until we consider the feature to be complete and problem-free. Ultimately the decision on what goes into the game lies with us, but having that feedback from players is invaluable.

John P Martin: Which 4X games have you drawn inspiration from for Predestination?

Brendan Drain: My biggest influence would be Master of Orion II, which as far as I am concerned is still the best and most feature-complete 4X game ever made. We're sticking with the classic turn-based galaxy management and tactical combat approach from MOO2, but have significantly improved on both areas of the game. I also draw some inspiration from old Amiga games like K240 and Colonial Conquest, which featured interesting building mechanics and tactical weapons. Tina is a massive Civilization fan, and we're drawing a lot of inspiration from that series for our unique planetary exploration gameplay.

John P Martin: Many fans of the 4X space strategy genre have been let down in the past by other 4X games, What will Predestination do differently to set itself apart from these games?

Brendan Drain: I've suffered the same letdowns over the years, and Master of Orion III was probably the worst of the lot. Every new game in the genre seems to have one or two great aspects but is severely let down by the others. We're aiming for the full package, with turn-based galactic management, full planetary exploration, and tactical fleet combat. Our unique planetary exploration, colonization and terraforming features really set Predestination apart from most space 4X games as they tend to have very little planet interaction. Players can also pick where to manually drop their bombs on an enemy planet, and send spies to individual enemy colonies, two things sorely missing in most 4X games.

John P Martin: What are the Challenges Brain and nerd have faced so far making the game?

Brendan Drain: The engine I built for Predestination has been a labour of love for years, so the hardest challenge for me was admitting that I couldn't do it all on my own. I've seen so many promising one-man projects fail because the developer thought he didn't need any help, so I'm really glad we now have a talented team of people working on the game. Our biggest challenge as a company has been securing finance for development costs, which is why we're so grateful to everyone who has pledged to our Kick starter campaign so far.

John P Martin: The planetary exploration sounds fascinating, what kind of surprises can we expect to find as we explore the planets?

Brendan Drain:. As you explore a planet's surface, you'll uncover hidden resources, new locations for cities, and a whole host of interesting surprises. Crashed ships, lost technology and caches of resources could be hiding behind every hex, and every now and then you'll find a challenge to deal with. For example, you might come across the perfect spot for a new city but it's already colonized by primitive natives. You have to choose whether to destroy the native colony, take it over, or leave them alone and try to open up trade.

John P Martin: How will the blue prints for colonies work exactly and is there any features in the game other than the colony blue prints which will make micro management easier ?

Brendan Drain: Each colony has a limited number of spaces for buildings and you'll be manually placing buildings in those spaces. The layout of a colony can be saved as a blueprint, along with a build order list and a set of rules on things like taxation. When you build a new colony later, you can pick the previously designed blueprint and the game will automatically start building an identical colony. If you design a very efficient industrial colony, for example, you can save that and re-use it on all of your industrial worlds. The blueprint is an adaptive document, so you can edit it later to add new buildings, remove buildings or move things around and all of the planets using that blueprint will implement the changes! We're also extending the blueprint system to cover ship design, fleet layouts, and anything else where micromanagement can get out of hand.

John P Martin: Will there be many different planet types in the game and what type of cool things can the player expect to find when exploring them?

Brendan Drain: Absolutely, there are currently Terran, Swamp, Ocean, Ice, Desert, Barren, Molten, and Toxic planets and each has different properties and things to find. Terran planets will have the most interesting things to discover through exploration as they may have native life, coal deposits and abundant food supplies.

John P Martin: How will terraforming affect building factories or colonies on certain planet types, if at all?

Brendan Drain: Each race is specialized to a particular type of planet and will be able to find more resources and city locations when exploring them, so a Reptilian species wouldn't find much on an Ocean planet but an Aquatic species would find everything. This plays into the game's strategic game play, as you could wreck an enemy planet's climate with a terraforming superweapon but still leave the planet perfectly usable by your own race. If an Aquatic race melted your planet's ice caps to flood it, for example, you might lose access to the cities that had gone underwater but the Aquatic race could still access them.

John P Martin: The ground combat sounds exciting! If you reach the ground combat stretch goal what type of features will ground combat have?

Brendan Drain: I think the ground combat that we already have planned is pretty exciting, because it's part of our unique planetary bombardment system. Players will be able to drop bombs on individual colonies, and once a colony's defenses have been destroyed you can launch drop ships to take it over through ground combat. We haven't set a value for the tactical ground combat stretch goal, but if we reach it then we hope to add a tactical minigame to this stage where you'll drop troops on the terrain outside a colony and have to make your way there as the enemy troops come out of the colony to defend. There are some higher priority stretch goals to hit first, though, like online multiplayer and LAN play.

John P Martin: What will make your custom ship design system for Predestination different to other 4X games which have done it before?

Brendan Drain: Ship design in Predestination is all about making tactical tradeoffs and designing specialised ships for particular combat strategies. Each ship hull size has a certain maximum power output, and every module you add consumes a certain amount of power. You'll add shields, armour, engines, weapons, and an array of special modules that can be activated in combat. Weapons can be modified with special mounts, like a point defence beam mount that reacts to players moving near them, or a capacitor mount that doubles damage but takes a turn to recharge between shots.

John P Martin: Will the other races and humans have voice acting when the player is interacting with them?

Brendan Drain: Yes, every race will have voice acting as we think it's important to immerse the player in things like diplomacy and combat. Key parts of the game will also be narrated, and if we manage to get to the single player story campaign stretch goal, the game lore will also be narrated.

John P Martin: Will we be seeing space monsters or bosses protecting planets and specific areas of space?

Brendan Drain: Definitely! The player has been flung back in time to an era when ancient space monsters roamed the stars. Some will wander into populated systems to wreck everything in sight, and others will be protecting valuable planets or resources. Players who can come up with ways to defeat the space monsters can look forward to some nice rewards!

John P Martin: When exploring space what can the player expect to find other than planets, will there be any ancient artifacts hidden out there which could turn the tide of a war between 2 races?

Brendan Drain: The premise of the game is that ships from dozens of races were thrown back in time, but they don't all emerge at the same time. Throughout the game, time rifts will open in space and spit ships and debris into the galaxy. The first player to find them can claim them as their own, getting resources and lost technologies that could make a huge difference in the game. Some of the ships sent back may survive intact and join your empire or side with another race, and some will be enemy ships that head for the nearest inhabited world to wipe it out.

John P Martin: Will there be any planet destroying weapons like the death star? that would be incredible!

Brendan Drain: We've planned a number of potentially game-changing strategic weapons, like warp-capable missiles that travel to enemy planets and wormhole generators that link two systems together. Late game technologies would include things like planet-destroying superweapons, or a weapon that could make an entire star go super nova. If you haven't won the game by the time your enemy researches and builds one of these massive superweapons, you'd better have a big enough fleet to take it out or it could be game over!

John P Martin: Will the different races have their own unique strategies for defending their planets and territory?

Brendan Drain: The AI will pick from a selection of strategies depending on what type of race they are, and will modify their strategies if they start to fail. Combat also isn't the only defense out there, as the more pacifistic races could forge alliances with militaristic neighbours. Each race will have its own statistics and unique technologies, but we don't want to tell the player that he has to use a combat specific strategy just because he's picked a particular race. Combat strategies will be entirely up to the player to decide on!

John P Martin: How will spying and espionage work in Predestination and can the A.I perform counter spying and espionage on the player?

Brendan Drain: To start spying on enemy races, you have to develop stealth technology. You can send spy probes to keep tabs on ship movements in an enemy system or put a spy satellite in orbit of an enemy planet to watch its colonies. To insert a spy into a colony, you'll have to build a stealth ship and send it manually to the planet you want to infiltrate. You'll pick a particular colony for him to infiltrate and give him jobs to do like stealing technology, stealing resources, or sabotaging a particular building. The enemy can pour more money into counter-espionage at that colony, add social policies like curfews to try to catch your spy (while harming the colony's morale), or build more police structures. If your spy is caught, the enemy will learn that it's you who infiltrated his colony and won't be too happy about it!

John P Martin: Can we expect to see any capital or titan class war ships in the game?

Brendan Drain: I definitely want to make some kind of massive capital ships in the game. They'd have huge weapons that consume resources to fire, secondary weapons for point defence, and massive hit points. Due to their size on the map, they'd take extra damage from area-effect weapons as more hexes would be hit. I'd also like to make them a real challenge to put together by having the player manufacture the parts on different worlds and then build them in a shipyard that has to be defended. I can't promise this will be in for launch, but it's something I really want to do.

John P Martin: Some games in the past have had what some would call a cheating A.I, which are able to build an infinite number of ships much quicker than the player, How will you deal with that as you are developing Predestination?

Brendan Drain: AI is something we can't really go into yet as it's still very early in development. The gameplay still has a long way to go before it's finished, so we won't know what kind of challenges we'll face in completing the AI until later in development. I'd like to avoid AI having to cheat to be a challenge, though.

John P Martin: Will the player be able to attack enemy trade routes and will there be  special abilities in the game which can be used to attack and weaken the enemies economies?

Brendan Drain: Trading will be a big component of Predestination's diplomatic system, so I'd love to give players the ability to disrupt trade routes. That might turn out to be too complicated to develop with our existing galaxy system, but we'll definitely try to get that into the game. You'll be able to research strategic weapons throughout the game, and some of these could be used to attack an enemy planet's morale or economy. You might build a structure that transmits propaganda to a selected enemy planet, for example. Some races might have these as innate abilities or as special technology that only that race can research.

John P Martin: How flexible will the modding tools be for the game ? Can a player who mods the game change and add anything they wish to the game?

Brendan Drain: I want modding to be a big part of Predestination because it adds so much replayability and lets the players try their hands at game development. We'll definitely have support for texture and UI mods, and I'd love to let players design new 3D models for the game. My biggest wish is that we could develop and release a full singleplayer map editor to let players make their own levels. We'll have to hit some big funding goals before we can add that feature, but if we don't get it in for release then I'll definitely aim to add it in a future expansion.

John P Martin: Will the games research tree be set in stone or will it be randomized?

Brendan Drain: For balance reasons, it's much easier for us if the research tree is set in stone. This is one of those questions we'll have to return to during development when we have more of the research system complete.

John P Martin: Which is your favorite 4X game?

Brendan Drain: Without a doubt, my favourite 4X game is Master of Orion II. There have been many 4X games released since 1996, but none has really delivered the full turn-based package in the same way that MOO2 did. Tina and some of the other team members are also massive Civilization fans, so we're aiming to make Predestination a kind of cross between the two games.

John P Martin: What will be the release date for predestination?

Brendan Drain: Tentatively December 2013. If it comes to December 2013 and the game isn't perfect, though, we'd rather delay it to make sure it's the best game it possibly can be.


We would like to thank Predestinations project manager Tina Lauro for arranging this interview with the games lead developer Brendan Drain for us and we would like to thank Brendan for taking the time out of his day for doing  this interview with us. We hope that you have enjoyed reading this interview!

If you like the sound of this game,  you can  find the games Kick Starter page here and if you would like to visit the games official website you can find it here.

If you guys have any suggestions on who we should interview next, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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