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Q&A With The Creators Of Orbital Conflict

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Hi Filip and Kim, thank you for giving us some of your time to get to know a little about you and Steel Cave Studio. 

So, first things first, what and who are Steel Cave studios? How long have you been working together and what games have you got under your belt, or in development? 

Steel Cave Studio consists of Filip Stjernberg and Kim Astor. We started the company back in 2016 when we thought that it was time to bring the hobby to a new level and it was a way to fix otherwise potential financial problems with a shared economy. We have known each other since gymnasium. Orbital Conflict is our first game and was in development for almost seven years. I, Filip, began to make a quick concept and early prototypes that Kim tried and then wanted to join.

Kim wanted to try to make the art and began a long process of learning how to do it, he trained himself all the way to the final product. We have mane iteration of the game and the art as it has been thoroughly tested. We have several prototypes in different stages and some ideas for expansions for Orbital Conflict. But we haven't decided which will be the next product. We don't want to rush anything since we want the experiences we offer to be the best that they can so it is likely that there will be a few more years before the next thin hits the market. Though our aim is to allocate more of our time to Steel Cave Studio to be able to realise more of our ideas.

So, Orbital Conflict is your current game. We got the chance to preview it and loved it. Could you let those who haven't seen, or played it, what it is all about? 

In short, Orbital Conflict is a game about building a space station to meet the demands of investors and by any means stop your opponents do the same, hence the conflict and destructive combat element off the game. If built with some finesse, the station will provide you with special perks. Managing resources to claim investors has to be balanced with overall defensive capability. Combat is a tactical choice in the game and not mandatory - an imminent threat is often more than enough.

Orbital conflict is card based, and since each card can be played in so many different ways and the situation constantly changes, it almost becomes a puzzle to get what you want. Mechanic-wise, there is a little bit of everything, engine building, resource management and even some light “take that”. Gameplay should be dramatic and allow for catch up without being a game of chance. Indeed, there is a lot to delve into and you will probably be forced to choose different tactics between games. Adaptation is the key!

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We particularly liked how it felt realistic and the art matched this real life feel. How do you go about designing the game mechanics and theme for a game like this? 

If we look at the very first prototypes most of the mechanics will be there in some form. Our approach has been to iterate, test, evaluate and not to be afraid to remove or change any part of the game if it doesn't fit or work as we want it to. In the beginning the theme was more cartoonish but along with Kim producing new versions of the artwork the final look and feel grew. It wasn't until the end that the artwork had color in it and it was black and white for the most part of the development. Only the icons had colours to pop out. But in the end Kim showed some concepts of the cards with color and we both agreed that it looked better but still had the look and feel that we liked and still allow for the icons to pop. One thing that we have tried to focus on is to make the module type, artwork, and card specific rules to match.  It should “kind of” make sense what a card does and how it looks.

Lots of people on Facebook keep doing their top 9 games list. Which games would make your list? 

For me, Kim, I love Race for the galaxy (though i think the barrier of entrance is too high). I also really like Carcassonne, Ticket to ride, and Battlestar galactica and I have played Magic the gathering sporadically since the 90s so that is definitely also a favourite of mine. Maybe not the typical to 9 list candidates but these are games that i really enjoy playing!

And for me Filip I rarely think in the way of top list but I would always be down for a game of Dungeon Quest, Takenoko or Discworld: Ankh-Morpork. Compared to other game developers I have played very few games, I’m too busy making my own.

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Which one of the games, from your list, would you keep above all the others, if you had to, and why? 

A big box of magic cards! I love the flexibility of Magic, allowing you to create your own formats and playing it in a myriad of ways. That is the only of the games above that would satisfy my creative itch. Though I think this is a common feature of many card based games, the flexibility and richness, something that we also intended for orbital conflict to offer.

Do you have any games, or ideas for games, in the pipeline that you would like to tease us with? 

We have several prototypes that vary a lot in mechanics and theme. Some are card based, one is an arena typed miniatures game and several have more traditional boards and dice. We will see which will work best to take to the next level. But we will try to finish a set of expansions for Orbital Conflict, and there is also a short novel set in the Orbital Conflict universe coming out.

Other than that. I, Kim, am a PhD student in psychology at Uppsala university. As a side project, I am working together with my supervisor and a few others to set up a game lab. One of our goals is to understand the impact of gaming on cognitive development and to explore ways to assess cognitive processes during child development using games. It is not unlikely that some future products of ours will benefit from or be directly related to this project. This is vague, I know, but it is all I can say at the moment.

Thank you both for taking time out of your day to chat with us and good luck and happy gaming! 

Thank you for doing this, we really enjoyed the review of Orbital conflict as well as those of other games! Keep on with the great work and happy gaming!