60 Parsecs! Interview — Robot Gentleman Discusses New Features, Polish Game Development, and Nintendo Switch
DualShockers was able to talk with the Art Director and Game Designer of 60 Parsecs! about what the sequel brings to the table, the growing Polish game development scene, and 60 Seconds! coming to Nintendo Switch.
Last week, Robot Gentleman, developer behind 2015’s popular indie game 60 Seconds!, revealed 60 Parsecs!, a sequel/spiritual successor to the aforementioned 60 Seconds!. The game moves the action from a fallout shelter to a spaceship, and adds new systems such as crafting and travelling. While only the survival portion on the spaceship was shown off at the event, 60 Parsecs! will also feature a scavenging portion like the original.
I was flown out to Poland by Robot Gentleman for the reveal party, and had the chance to chat with Radek Smektała, a Game Designer, and Juliusz Zenkner, the Art Director of 60 Parsecs!, the next day at Poznan Game Arena about how the developers went about approaching a successor to 60 Seconds!, Polish game development, and what Robot Gentleman is working on for the Nintendo Switch.
T: Since 60 Parsecs! was just announced, could you give a rundown for those who don’t know about the game?
Radek Smektała: 60 Parsecs! is a sequel/spiritual successor to 60 Seconds!, and the idea is to expand on the atomic space age. This 50’s nostalgia of the first game expands into space, with movies like Forbidden Planet and books like that being inspirations. The idea is that this time, you are not in a bunker but you are in a space shuttle, and the little twist is that you don’t only have to survive, you also have a mission, so you have some goal that you have to reach.
We put a bigger focus this time on the relationships between characters. They are not family this time, and there is a lot going on between them. Not all characters like each other, so that changes up the game.
T: You just mentioned that the four main characters aren’t a family this time around. Do you feel like that changes the story’s dynamic at all?
RS: There is this different dimension of trying to keep everybody happy. They can have conflicts with each other because they don’t know each other, they can fall in love with each other. This time you are one specific character that you select at the beginning, and you become captain of the story, so you are basically managing their needs and that’s a bit different.
Each character has attributes like strength, agility, simple stuff like that, but it also influences how the game is played. Some people are better at certain things than others, and you can command people. Depending on their skills, the outcome might be different.
T: For both art design and gameplay, when developing a sequel to 60 Seconds!, what were some aspects of 60 Parsecs! you wanted to approach differently and improve upon?
Juliusz Zenkner: With the graphic design, we wanted to keep it still comic book inspired, cartoonish like old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but we didn’t want to stray away from the original. What we did was change our reference to the atomic space age. We tried to keep it this way. With design it is different, we wanted to introduce some new mechanics because we don’t want to make the same game, we want to make something more, explore new areas.
For example, we wanted to introduce crafting, and as Radek said, the new relations between characters. The family of 60 Seconds! is a typical family, but in 60 Parsecs! we wanted to introduce random characters like that are citizens of the world stuck in space, so this is kind of a different approach.
RS: They are very different characters. The idea is that in the fiction of the game, there is this thing called the Astro-Citizen Program, and because the space race is so intense in the universe of our game the US government decides to recruit everybody. Everybody can apply, they get training, and then they can go in space, so it results in some people being recruiting that are somewhat competent, but there are also people that should never be allowed near a spaceship, so that’s your problem as a captain.
T: So 60 Parsecs! still retains some of the dark humor and wit of the original?
RS: Yeah, of course. There are some new writers this time, I mean me *chuckles*. We worked very hard to keep the tone of the original and expand on how the original felt tonally and not change it too much.
T: How long has Robot Gentleman been working on 60 Parsecs!?
JZ: Since February, that’s when the actual work started, earlier was just like talks and thinking about how we could approach the title. What you can see here [at Poznan Game Arena] is what we’ve been working on since February.
T: What were some of the most notable sci-fi and propaganda pieces that you pulled from for the game’s art design?
JZ: 60 Seconds! was also inspired by propaganda, and here we have something similar. It’s a world designed with the thought that this is how people in the 50s saw space, so of course there is a lot of propaganda as far as the space race is involved. So those are our references, those heroic astronaut propaganda showing like “Yeah! The USA is in space doing stuff!”
RS: We tried to keep the technology somewhat plausible for the time, well close to what was possible. The design of the spaceship reflects that. The adventures you can have in space though are really out there, like mind controlling aliens and meeting new races. Everything you can imagine from pulp sci-fi is not off the table in our game.
T: What would you say the biggest changes to the spaceship survival portions of 60 Parsecs! you are showing off at Poznan Game Arena are?
RS: What we are showing at the event is a mode with most of the systems implemented. You have a little mini-adventure that you can complete, but it is not necessarily the same adventure that you will have in the full game. As far as survival goes, resource management and keeping people alive is similar to the original, but expanded. Of course, we intend to expand it more than you can see here with more features like relationships between the characters.
We also introduced some new things like crafting which is present for the first time in the 60 franchise. We have added travel, which is all new because you can travel to different locations and each location can have different adventures. You have high-risk, low-risk, and middle-risk locations, and each location has different adventures, different items you can collect, so things aren’t as random as they were in the original. You have much more control over your experience.
But to go back to your question, the main part of the game, which is resource management in order to keep people alive is pretty similar to the original.
T: While I was only able to play the spaceship simulation part of the game, the beginning of each playthrough has a scavenging, resource gathering portion like 60 Seconds!. Could you explain what this portion of the game entails?
JZ: This time we are going to make scavenging in 2D, not 3D, for many reasons, but we wanted to show more of an adventurous type of game. So 2D scavenging will be a different kind of challenge, not challenging the space around you, as the controls are tighter, but giving you more decisions. We have to think about setting a story, even on the scavenge mode. There will be more characters than in 60 Seconds!, but you can only take three of them and yourself, so the decisions will be much tougher than in 60 Seconds!. In that game, you decided whether you wanted to take your family or not, but now you have to decide who you are taking.
RS: We wanted to put some focus on strategic decisions. We are still working on it, but right now the idea is that you can see the outline of the orbital station that you escape first and then plan your route. It still requires twitch skills to survive, but there is much more planning involved.
“People are coming to Poland, people are going from Poland to other countries showcasing their games. It’s really good to actually have this kind of healthier and much more dynamic industry in our country.”
T: What are your guys’ thoughts on the ever-growing Polish Video Game development market?
RS: That is a tough subject because there is so much going on, it’s hard to keep track anymore. Right now, at PGA, we have 120 games made by Polish developers. I don’t know if I will be able to play them all and see all of the new ones I haven’t heard about. But it is growing, and it is growing strong, which is really good, because Poland has this really strong industry right now in Eastern Europe. We have a few AAA titles, but we also have a really strong indie scene.
A lot of people are trying to reach the indie success story, and thanks to that we have a wide variety of experienced people. People are coming to Poland, people are going from Poland to other countries showcasing their games. It’s really good to actually have this kind of healthier and much more dynamic industry in our country.
JZ: And you’re here, so you can see that things are going pretty well for the industry in Poland.
T: Has Robot Gentleman been working on anything for Nintendo Switch?
RS: We are working really hard on introducing 60 Seconds! to Switch right now. I think in the next few months it can happen, but I won’t say for sure. But we already have the dev kit and are working on it.
T: What are your personal thoughts on the system itself?
RS: I really love the Switch. It’s really great. It’s my first portable console, I haven’t used any of the earlier ones. Since I got it, it has been something to play really good, quality games on the go with. I really like it, and I belive that 60 Seconds! will be really good on it as the game is good for travelling. If you are sitting on the train, for one playthrough, that’s perfect.
JZ: I think it is awesome too.
T: Is there anything else you each would like players to know before they get their hands on 60 Parsecs!?
RS: We want to give them the same experience that they had with the first game, but bigger, better, and more epic with more choices, more endings, and more little things. We are running a lot of systems, so you can play more strategically. There is enough info to plan your playthrough better, but at the same time the game is constructed in a way that even if you just want to read the story and click through, you can still win the game and have fun. We are pretty excited about it.
60! Parsecs is slated to launch on PC and “major consoles” sometime in 2018, while 60 Seconds! will hopefully be coming to the Nintendo Switch sometime in the next few months.