The other day I posted about the new game by Dark Space Corp – Beyond the Gates of Antares – that’s currently on Kickstarter written by none other than wargaming legend Rick Priestly.
Well in an effort to find out more I got in touch with said legend and asked him a few questions. And this is what he had to say…
TSC: Rick, thank you so much for agreeing to have a chat. It’s a real privilege. You’re responsible for some of the most well-known games in the wargaming world including Warhammer, Warhammer 40k, Lord of the Ring SBG and Bolt Action (amongst others). What prompted you to set up DSC and launch Beyond Gates of Antares?
RP: Well I’ve been thinking about doing a new game for a while and I’d already got some ideas about the game system. I also had a fair idea about the overall style and feel – so getting away from the Gothic 40k universe – something different. Me and John – big chief of Warlord – knew we’d need more money than the Warlord business could afford to get the game going, let alone make the models, so we’d put it on the shelf whilst I got on with various historical projects – which is Warlord’s main business. We did look at kickstarter at one point – but as far as we could tell it was only used as a promotional tool by companies with existing ranges and games already for launch – and not as a way of generating cash for new ventures. So we dismissed the idea as out of our comfort zone. Then Rik – who I worked with way back when on a video games project – came up with the proposal to create DSC and pool our respective expertise – and it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss!
TSC: Well you must be doing something right as the campaign has been very well received thus far. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in getting the game and Dark Games Corp off the ground?
RP: Well raising the finance is the only issue we’re concerned with at the moment – and a good chunk of that will come from the kickstarter – so the biggest challenge right now is doing everything on a small budget. Fortunately lots of people have volunteered their efforts for free – come to think of it one of them is me! – so we’ve been able to do a huge amount all things considering.
TSC: From small acorns I guess… For those that haven’t come across the game what can you tell us about the background?
RP: Well it’s a far future setting – and humanity has spread throughout the stars by means of a series of wormholes that all thread through a nexus called the The Gates of Antares – in fact the star Antares which turns out to be a construct. Humans have evolved and changed as a result of transgenic implants to become a varied number of species, some created to fulfil specialist roles such as heat or radiation resistant asteroid miners.
The main force in this future civilisation is the Concord – which is a civilisation whose living inhabitants do nothing they do not wish to do – all work, decision-making, policy and innovation being developed through a process of gestalt intelligence that melds all living humans and all sentient machines by means of a nano-level cloud that permeates the air, food, water, living bodies and so on. This overwhelming utopia absorbs all independent worlds it comes into contact with, its nano-cloud technology simply integrates with other technology, so this happens without any intent – like a virus spreading wealth, happiness and utter passivity throughout space. Needless to say some independent and free-thinking worlds and planets don’t fancy being absorbed into this utopia, and form a loose association of free worlds called the Determinate – but these are in no way united and will happily fight amongst themselves when they get the chance. But they all fear absorption by the Concord.
TSC: The Concord sound like a right bunch of insidious bastards. One of the unique features of BtGaA is the Real Time Dynamic Gaming Universe. Or to put it another way, a living background that changes as gamers submit their results. How free will gamers be to influence the timeline? As they too free would they not have the potential to derail the background or take it in a direction you didn’t foresee?
RP: In principle, we’ll be running a number of campaigns which players can add their results to, and these will determine which of the rival factions captures zones within the campaign, and ultimately which achieves the overall objective. Depending upon the results, we will make available online upgrades – which may be temporary or context specific – some of which will represent tech captures, but others could be intelligence, resources, and so on. When we come to organising our model making schedules we will sculpt the various new technologies with the faction that captured or discovered it in the campaign, and then other factions will have to achieve success in subsequent campaigns to acquire the new tech. The campaigns will also drive the back story itself – so players have the chance to influence events and their forces will become part of the history of Antarean space. In some instances we will actually make models of player’s characters, and write them into the background, so there really is the chance to take part in the universe.
TSC: That sounds brilliant. And I love the idea of unique upgrade packs coming out as factions progress in what, I suppose, will be a community driven narrative. So, what can you tells us about how the game will play and the kind of features gamers can expect?
RP: The game play is based on an activation system where players take turns to activate one unit at a time according to an activation pool – the Combat Intensity Level (CIL). A unit can be activated any number of times, but it’s effectiveness drops if its Combat Status is affected, in which case actions then have to be expended just to keep the unit from becoming exhausted. When units take actions enemy units can make reactions, and in some cases reactions happen automatically – such as firefights and close quarter fighting. This means both players are active all the time, and play proceeds between the two sides quite rapidly. This was one of the things I wanted to get across in the game from the start – constant involvement by both sides.
TSC: So rapid combat and maximum carnage. Works for me. There’s some pretty diverse factions in the game including some sentient robots and the rather gribbly Vorl. How do the factions differ in terms of background and playing style?
RP: Well – even within the factions there are different ways of honing the force depending on whether you want a high-tech base or a lower one, so exactly what kind of force you have can be adjusted depending upon the scenario. There are out-and-out battle scenarios, but there are also more role-play style skirmishers, raids, and exploratory missions where a heavily equipped military force wouldn’t always be the best option.
TSC: So gamers will essentially have the options of tailoring their faction to the style of game they want to play rather than just the type of scenario. Beyond the Gates of Antares is currently on Kickstarter and has had a very positive response. What would a fully funded campaign mean for the project?
RP: It means everything to the project. And it also means that the hard work will have only just begun.
TSC: So what do you have planned for the future the game? Can we expect more factions?
RP: Oh yes – the Determnate is set up to be infinitely expandable in that way – and you can always add more aliens too.
TSC: Being the game developer of legend that you are, was developing BtGoA any easier to create than Necromunda or the truly awesome Space Marine?
RP: I’ll let you know when it’s done!
TSC: Fair enough. One last thing; there are more than a few gamers out there wanting to put their own game out there. What advice could an oracle such as yourself give?
RP: Games are not about what you put in but what you leave out! Well I always say that – and it’s true – you have to decide what the game is about and focus on that. Otherwise – be open and appreciative of suggestions – listen – and when you’re playtesting just watch the players and don’t correct them – often they will arrive at the right response instinctively and when they do write it down!
TSC: Rick it’s been an absolute delight. Thanks so much for taking the time and good luck with the project.
If you want to support the Beyond of the Gates of Antares project then you can check out the Kickstarter page here.