Interview : “Lex Laser Saves The Galaxy, Again” with Andrew Grant of Defiant Mouse
Today I’m chatting with Andrew Grant, CEO/Founder of Defiant Mouse about their Kickstarter campaign for their new game, “Lex Laser Saves The Galaxy, Again“. In this action-packed game for people on the go, direct Lex Laser in a 2d game world where he will fight hordes of zarbats, mining explosive crystals, running away from angry robots, looting a scuttled dreadnaught, exploring an alien ruin, and more! Join us as we learn more about this upcoming game and find out how you can help in the Kickstarter campaign.
1. Welcome to Mother/Gamer/Writer, for those readers and gamers who are not familiar with your work can you briefly tell us a little bit about your company?
“Lex Laser Saves The Galaxy, Again” is being developed by a collection of MIT Game Lab alums and a few Looking Glass alums, hand picked by the lab’s technical director, Andrew Haydn Grant.
Our company, Defiant Mouse, has existed since 2006, but it’s been flying under the radar with internal prototypes and the occasional small development contract. With Lex Laser, all that prototyping is ready to pay off.
2. “Lex Laser Saves The Galaxy, Again” is a sci-fi tactical puzzle RPG game currently in production. What is the inspiration behind the game and tell us about the character(s) we can look forward to playing?
Fictionally, we’re heavily influenced by classic science fiction, especially Heinlein’s juveniles, and E. E. “Doc” Smith. Both of those authors told tales of brave individuals daring to explore the unknown, triumphing through a combination of stubborn grit and technical know-how. The universe will give up its secrets, but only if you are willing to work to make it happen. More recently, we’re looking at serial television like Babylon 5 and Firefly, with their more elaborate characters and episodic plot lines. All of them refer to the independence and resilience of the human spirit.
The title character, Lex Laser, is secretly a bit of a coward. The rest of the world sees a larger than life, tall tale action hero who fears nothing and defies the odds on a regular basis. That’s all due to the player, who takes on the role of Lex Laser’s combat implant. When the going gets tough, the combat implant takes over, saving Lex Laser’s skin and sometimes forcing Lex into crazy acts of heroism.
Lex Laser is an asteroid miner, spending weeks at a time alone in space. The combat implant is Lex’s only constant companion.
We’re giving the player a lot of choice in how they act and present themselves in this game. We don’t refer to Lex Laser by full name. Is “Lex” short for Alexa? Alexander? Lex does have opinions, though, and reacts to the choices the player makes in the heat of battle. If the implant decides to charge into a fight against overwhelming odds, Lex is likely to complain. If the implant has to choose between saving valuable cargo or a shuttle full of people, Lex will have opinions there, too. But you, the player, have the final say.
3. How is this game created for “busy people” and parents on the go?
I have played the first half of Planescape: Torment three times. It’s an awesome game. Each time, life caught up with me. I had to stop playing for a week. Then I found an hour to play a game, and thought, “Well, there’s no point in playing *that* game for just one hour!” So a week becomes a month, and then I finally have a nice chunk of time to dedicate to a game, fire up Planescape: Torment, and I have no idea what I’m doing.
A lot of games out there are designed to be played in large chunks of time. There may be anywhere from 20-80 hours of gameplay in an interesting RPG. It might take 20 hours to play through a good strategy game, and if you take a week off, you’ve forgotten which unit does what, and whether or not you can trust your neighbors.
It’s very hard for me to play a game with any plot or depth these days.
We can’t make you less busy. There are going to be gaps in your game playing. Sometimes, you’ll only have a few minutes to play. We’re focusing our efforts on building a game that helps you get started again, and quickly, so you spend less time wondering what’s going on and more time making moves.
To accomplish this, we frown on hidden information, and on any information that you have to keep in your head. You have only one character and just a few weapons. Each one has a very clear function. If you forget how a weapon works, you select it and sweep your mouse across the screen to see how that weapon works. Until you click, nothing happens and no time passes. It’s just a preview.
From the Kickstarter text:
“We’re also separating the story elements into short Episodes. An Episode is a self-contained subplot, much like a single episode of your favorite Sci Fi television show. These bite-sized chunks are easy to remember, but if you forget, we’ll provide a quick summary of the action so far in the Episode.
“Once you’ve completed an Episode, you don’t need to remember all of the details about it. Again, we’ll provide a short summary. ‘Lex Laser and the Gene-Cow Stampede: Lex Laser’s escape pod landed on Fornax II. Lex helped the local settlers, who provided a nice meal and a ride to the starport.’ “
Beyond all that, we’re making the busy person a priority and keeping them in the front of our minds. For every game design decision, every art decision, and every playtest session, we ask ourselves about the person who just fired up the game. Can they still play and enjoy playing? If they know that they only have five minutes, are they still interested?
There will be trade-offs to make this work, but we think that busy gamers are actually pretty common, so it’s a worthwhile set of trade-offs.
On the family front, we can’t replace good parenting, but we can make it a little easier for you to enjoy a game for grown-ups while the little ones play nearby.
All of the same features that make the game work for busy people apply to parents as well. You can put down the game instantly when the milk gets spilled or when you want to administer a hug. And you can pick the game up again when your duties have been fulfilled.
We are providing a game experience for adults, with morally complex situations and challenging gameplay. However, we’re doing this with a presentation style that won’t scar your children if they happen to look at the screen at the wrong time.
Yes, people die in this game, but we aren’t making a spectacle of it. It’s more iconic than real. Think Pac-Mac or early Mario games. Science fiction can be better at that than modern or fantasy settings, which are usually portrayed with a lot of blood.
We have no gore, no screams of pain, no startling movements, no “scary parts.” A beam weapon can make things vanish instead of butchering them. It’s subtle, but it can make all the difference to a sensitive child.
Of course, that only covers the surprises. If you actually play the game *with* your kids for any length of time, they will figure out that the vanishing people are suffering. If your kids read the text, they’ll have even more to think about. You know your kids best, and you’ll have to decide if they (and you!) are ready for tough questions.
As we say in the Kickstarter, this is not a game for kids. It’s a game that can be played near them, so you can give yourself that much-needed escape without leaving the room.
4. Can you describe the gameplay and type of puzzles we can expect to see?
You direct Lex Laser in a 2d game world. Lex Laser will be fighting hordes of zarbats, mining explosive crystals, running away from angry robots, looting a scuttled dreadnaught, exploring an alien ruin, and more!
Lex Laser is turn based. There are no twitch elements to this game.
You have a variety of weapons in your arsenal. Each weapon has a different area of effect: the pistol hits only one target, the cutting laser hits lots of targets in a line, the shotgun hits everything in a small cone next to Lex Laser, and the grenade hits a big circle. As the game progresses, you find more exotic weapons, and parts you can use to modify your existing weapons.
Before you fire a weapon, you see a preview of the attack. Which enemies will you hit? Are you sure you want to shoot that computer console, too? If you take a few steps, will they clump up a bit more and move away from the computer?
This plays a little like a tactical combat game, and a little like a shape matching game. Which weapon will make the biggest dent in your enemies?
Puzzles come about naturally as you explore the galaxy and encounter different situations, different types of creatures, and different kinds of terrain.
Almost all scenarios involve combat, but there’s usually a secondary objective as well. For example, you might be on a badly damaged starliner, fighting off alien boarding parties. If you stray too far from an escape pod, the passengers will launch it before it is full. If that happens too many times, there won’t be enough escape pods for everyone!
We are also supporting a separate Puzzle Mode. In Puzzle Mode, we provide miniature stand-alone situations that will test your mastery of the game. You might have limited ammo, or you might have to take advantage of a chain reaction of explosive crystals. The puzzles will help train you for the emergent situations that come up in Adventure Mode.
5. The game is currently on 25-day Kickstarter campaign, ending May 10th. What is Kickstarter and how is it important to the development of the game?[/note]
In today’s game industry, it’s extremely difficult to get new stories and worlds off the ground. The AAA industry is either focused on adult games filled with blood, or games for kids. Either way, the games don’t lend themselves to short play sessions. We think that there’s an audience for a game that provides you with substance on your schedule.
Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform, which means that we’re asking individual people to help fund our project, each pledging a small amount of money. This allows us to explore game designs that would have a hard time finding funding from corporate sources.
We also offer rewards for backers as a “Thank you!” The simplest reward is a copy of the completed game. We also offer behind-the-scenes access to the development process, a chance to contribute to the lore of the game universe, and a few ways to contribute ideas to the game itself.
For us, this Kickstarter campaign is essential. We desperately want to make this game, but simply cannot afford to finish it on our own. If you agree with us, and think that a game for busy people is a good idea, please make a pledge.
6. How can we donate and/or spread the word about the campaign?[/note]
To donate, go to our Kickstarter page at:
We are offering access to the game at various reward levels. We still have plenty of ‘early bird’ pledges, $6 for a DRM-free version of the game when we ship, but for those donors who want to have more access to the game as it is being developed, we are offering access to our beta at $25 (at which point much of the game will be complete and in need of testing) or our alpha at $35 (which will be a bare-bones puzzle mode, available by the end of June 2013, players of which will help us test our game design). Generous donors will be able to help us name characters, companies, and equipment in the game, and our most generous donors will even get the chance to help design a variation of our titular hero, Lex Laser.
To spread word we ask people to please share the Kickstarter page with their friends and family. Questions from potential Kickstarter backers can be sent to us via the Kickstarter page (the ‘Ask a question’ button at the bottom of the page).
Some of our design thoughts and more concept art can be found at our blog:
Concept art, visual experiments, and screenshots of the prototype can be found here:
Videos are posted to our YouTube page here:
And here are our current social media pages:
Thank you so much for being on Mother/Gamer/Writer. Good luck with your campaign!