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A little over a month after the Global Game Jam (where we started Lovers) we, and the rest of the world awoke to FTL. In an email chain titled “RE: uhhhhhhh oh shit” we discussed mainly how cool FTL looked and “Holy shit they raised over $200,000!” Actually we we’re freaking out when they raised $40,000, but they quickly quintupled that figure. Unfortunately for us, from then on we knew that anytime we would show our game, people would make the connection to FTL and be in it’s shadow.

Rewinding back to a week or so before GGJ started Matt, Adam and I had a design meeting where we agreed to create some sort of multiplayer co-op game. From that starting point Adam told us about his experience playing Artemis; a co-op game where each person played a role on a Star Trek-like spaceship. Our high concept then became, each player could only control one crew member and through their character they had to be able to control the ship.

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Matt’s initial sketches for Pirate Ship and Space Smugglers

Originally we were thinking it could be a pirate ship, but we soon scratched that idea because there didn’t seem to be enough fun things for players to do. The view was top down to show the separate rooms – seemed like the obvious choice because it was the easiest way to navigate between them.

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My first sketches look eerily similar to FTL.

The first problem we could foresee was that the art had the potential to be boring. From Matt’s and I background as animator and illustrator, we knew that characters that were head and shoulders would be hard to make interesting, especially if we wanted players to identify with them separately.

Additionally From a gameplay perspective we strived to capture that scene from SW: A New Hope, where Han and Luke run to the Millennium Falcon’s turrets to fight off the TIE Fighters. There was an urgency and… verticality to their movement, we wanted our game to be a fast paced and arcady space shooter rather than something purely tactical. A side view platformer became the best solution to move around the ship, because we could have better character animation, and control for the player would be far more exciting.