IO IN_DEPTH: System Era Softworks
System Era Softworks is a rockstar group of developers in the indie world. Its members have worked at AAA development houses like 343 and Ubisoft, and their collective knowledge has resulted in their first title
For The Kid In All Of Us
I first met System Era’s Adam Bromell when he was an artist working at Ubisoft.
“It feels really good that it’s the last
Another team member, Jacob Liechty, had a different perspective. “So, shows take up a lot of time that you could be using doing game development, but I think what we have all found is that after you go to a show and you come back and do work on the game, the work is much more efficient. You regain a perspective on what the game is and what it should become based on people’s reactions to it.”
When speaking about how people react to the game, Brendan told me, “The best experiences that I get out of these shows are when kids come and play the game. This is a game that I want my son to be able to play. He’s three and a half now, but once the game comes out he will be a little bit older and I want to play it with him.”
At one point while filming and chatting up the crew in their booth, a young boy (possibly 10), walked by seemingly mesmerized by what was happening on the screens. He and his older brother lingered for a bit, and eventually jumped in line to take a crack at the build. I had to leave for an appointment, but I heard from the team that he didn’t walk away for over an hour.
"Watching them [kids] play the game for the first time is excellent because they’re noticing everything in the game... in a way that adults don’t."
Jacob also loved watching young people interacting with
Bigger Is Not Always Better
System Era was founded by a team of developers who all got their start in AAA game development. We have all seen the “CREATED BY EX [insert name of developer] MEMBER” style marketing within the indie game scene. System Era seems to be at odds with the notion, as they are learning that having worked on a big title does not automatically equal a great indie product.
“We’ve got some heavy hitters on the team,” Jacob told me. “It’s fundamentally
The process of leaving their comfortable jobs at some of the biggest developers in the industry can’t be easy. Typically, members of big development teams work in a small contained area. Once they're finished with their portion of the work, it gets added to the other team member's contributions. With a team like System Era, everyone is tasked with wearing multiple hats which
“When everyone has
While talking to Brendan, the same topic came up, and he laughed and stated, “I feel like I have never been more of an adult... in some way you know?” He referred to the warnings that teachers gave him before he went off to college about growing up and being responsible. He compared this to his current situation, “When you work at a big company, there’s still so much that is, sort of taken care of for you,” he reflected, most likely looking back at his time at 343 industries. “Leaving the walled garden of the corporate culture, in America… that’s when you’re really on your own, and you feel how difficult that is.” He went on to explain some of those difficulties, like things as simple as having health insurance.
What I found interesting was the placement of
“It is interesting. People will come up to you that you worked on those big games with," Jacob said. “People tend to be really excited for you. A lot of times it’s
Expectations Vs. Reality
I spoke with Adam about the possible worry of releasing
They also both feature resource gathering and take place in space, but beyond these ideas, the games’ core principles are extremely different. You know the rest of the story. No Man’s Sky released to middling reviews and a general feeling of disappointment. At its worst, consumers felt cheated. At its best, people may feel like they got all the space exploration they needed this year.
That hasn’t stopped the team from pushing forward, and the feeling I got was that they came out better after seeing what happened to the much hyped Sony title. “Expectations are really tricky,” Jacob began. “I’ve been pretty optimistic the past few months, and actually it’s been the shows that made me really optimistic. It’s not like we have the most massive following online that is watching our every single move, or it’s not like the press is constantly writing about us or anything. Knowing that when people play the game, it excites them enough to want to tell somebody about that, you just have to expect that is going to have to happen over and over.”
Most players and fans of the game have taken to saying that
System Era's list of seasoned veterans appear to be on a great track to produce one of the best indie titles of the year, not just using their AAA experience, but also because they won't allow that experience to hold them back from adapting, learning and taking feedback. If you want to get in on the action, you can check them out at their website as well as on Twitter.