Eddy Boxerman on Osmos

By: Craig Lager

Published: October 5, 2009 Posted in: Interviews

We spoke about Osmos here not long ago. It’s a beautifully ambient, physics based Indie game made by Hemisphere Games. These guys started out in Eidos and EA and then went solo, so when the opportunity to interview them about their big first release came up, we jumped at the chance.

osmos shots: Osmos Title Screen

Who is Hemisphere games?
That’s a surprisingly complex question. It started as just me, but these days we’re two full time: myself and Dave Burke. A couple of other friends (Kun Chang and Andy Nealen) have also contributed significantly to Osmos; and quite a few other friends have helped along the way, with more to come.

Part of me wants to run Hemisphere as somewhat of a collective, where talented people gather on specific projects that inspire them. So in a sense we’d all be contractors who commit to work on a per-project basis. There would still be project leads of course — so it wouldn’t be a complete hippy love-in. ;-) Anyways, I’m not sure how well that would work, but it’s an interesting ideal.

What made you decide to go into indie games development?
I’ve always had a passion for game design and development, and have been doing it as a hobby for many years now. I think the same is true for the rest of the Osmos team. The IGF nominations probably clinched it — at that point we decided to really go for it as a studio.

What is it like going from big, well established game companies to doing it alone?
Part of me misses the luxury of focusing on a specific task for an extended period of time, which is much harder to do on a small team; there are many hats to wear. I also miss “real” weekends. When it’s your own business/baby – and especially when you work from home – the line between work and time off gets blurred. In that respect it’s more like being a student again: there’s always work you should be doing, along with that nagging guilt that goes with it. That said, the creative freedom and control is really rewarding. And when a game gets great feedback, it means a lot more personally — a large part of it is your own work.

How did Osmos come about?
Strangely enough, the initial idea struck me while doing the dishes. Though really it was the result of a lot of background thinking — and related to courses I took over the years on deformable modeling and spacecraft dynamics. I then put together a simple prototype over the course of a week. Since then, it’s been a series of incremental additions and improvements, and *lots* experimentation and tweaking.

Osmos is extremely ambient. Was this part of the initial design concept or did something influence it this way?
Even that first prototype had that ambient pacing and feel. Once the basics were in place I spent another week or so just playing around with ambient music and sound; the game mechanics just seemed to demand it. From the beginning those have been very important elements in Osmos. It probably didn’t hurt that I was already listenting to and loving a lot of ambient electronica at the time.

Were there other game mode ideas that were scrapped or you didn’t have enough time to develop?
We experimented with many ideas: adding “bombs” to break motes into smaller pieces; time-trials; replicating AI; limited lives; giving gravity abilities to the player; hard motes that bounce instead of absorb; flow fields; binary star systems; etc. In the end, we kept a minimalist philosophy in all aspects of the game, and most of these ideas didn’t seem essential enough to include. That said, there are some free updates to the game that we’ll release in the coming months.

At what point did you think “we have something awesome here”?
I knew that the concept had a lot of potential from the beginning. But there were definite “eureka!” moments: creating and playing the first solar-system levels; Kun’s first mock-ups of the new artistic direction of the game; being beaten for the first time by a truly interesting and difficult AI opponent; the addition of each song that fit really well with the game; the discovery and evolution of the dense impasse-style levels; etc. Oh yeah, and when we learned that Osmos had received three nominations at this year’s IGF! Lots of validation there… :)

Are we going to be seeing more Osmos or are you moving on to other ideas?
We have other ideas we’re eager to work on, but in the meantime there’s more Osmos to come. Ports of course, but also some updates. People are asking for gamepad support (I too would love to play Osmos while sitting on my couch, controller in hand), the ability to create their own levels, and more. We can’t commit to a timeframe yet, but we’re aiming to please our fans on these counts.

What’s in the future for both Hemisphere Games and indie gaming as a whole?
Big question! For Hemisphere, we’d like to continue developing games that are unique, interesting, and non-violent — and as coupled with great music as possible. For indie gaming… there are just so many talented and inspired small teams out there, it’s hard to say what they’ll come up with next. The only thing that’s sure is a high level of quality and innovation: the indie scene is hot, and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Thanks to Eddy for taking the time to answer our questions. You can grab Osmos from steam right now.

Craig Lager
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