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The Invincible by Starward Industries: A stellar fusion of sci-fi literature and gaming greatness

The Invincible is the debut game of Starward Industries, a new studio based in Kraków, Poland. For the last couple of years the team has been working hard to transform the gripping story from the novel with the same name by Polish sci-fi author Stanislaw Lem, into a thrilling adventure game. “We want to spread awareness of Lem’s work and philosophy via the video game genre.” 

Starward Industries may be a new studio, it’s definitely not short on experience. It was founded by a group of seasoned developers who were instrumental in the success of several AAA franchises including The Witcher 3, Cyberpunk 2077 and, Dying Light. The team found the novel The Invincible to be the perfect hook for their studio’s philosophy: creating meaningful experiences in high quality PC and console games. 

Not everything everywhere is for us

The Invincible is very relatable for the modern audience”, says Game Director Marek Markuszewski, also CEO of Starward. “The topics discussed are entwined with the problems of today’s world. We emphasize it in our claim: Not everything everywhere is for us, which came directly from the book. We also felt that The Invincible is the perfect source material to create an original, complete, alien world where the player could experience an immersive adventure with philosophical elements.” 

Marek Markuszewski
“In our game, the player will face many difficult decisions, the consequences of moral choices, and will be encouraged to consider the nature of things.” 

And, as Markuszewski points out, world-famous Polish hard sci-fi writer and futurologist Stanisław Lem was an important reason to pick this particular story. “This guy was like a prophet in the technological world. The Invincible is a perfect example of it. That is the reason why we want to spread awareness of his work and philosophy via the video game genre.” 

Beyond the philosophical spectrum

Apparently in the late 1960s, the rights to a film adaptation of the novel were sold, but the project never came to fruition. The story goes that, in his usual grumpy manner, Lem commented that it would probably have been awful, “but I did make a lot of money”. What would Lem have thought about the game based on his work? Chief Marketing Officer Maciej Dobrowolski: “It’s hard to discuss Stanisław Lem’s reception of the game, a medium that was distant from him when he created it. However, we make every effort to ensure that The Invincible does not slip beyond the philosophical spectrum of the author of the literary original. That it’s ‘in the spirit of Lem’ and simultaneously meets the expectations of players’ needs. Feedback from our community confirms that we are on the right track.” 

“Meaningful impact on the player, reflections, and emotions that stay with the player for a long time are things we hope to achieve in a way that will distinguish every product we create, also in the future.”

The team received a lot of praise for the incredible retro-futuristic visual style of the game. Art Director Wojciech Ostrycharz found inspiration for the art style on the covers of sci-fi books from when The Invincible novel was published. “This convention of the world is combined in our game with ergonomics and technical parameters from real architectural designs of spaceships, also from the 1960s”, he says. “The art style of the game is, therefore, the quintessence of not only retrofuturism but also hard sci-fi.”

Wojciech Ostrycharz

Based on a deep analysis

Game Director Marek Markuszewski adds: The world presented in the game was created with great precision. The tools that the player uses are based on a deep analysis of things used in the 1960s and are based on Lem’s futuristic vision.” He quickly points out that great visuals are only a part of the complete package. “Games are not about textures, assets, features or levels. They’re about people. About members of our team, their sensitivity, creativity and emotions. About players, their expectations, values, desires, mutual respect, understanding and the joy of entering a new reality”. 

“One of the things we are proud of is the extensive dialogue system that allows the player to delve deeply into the story and experience the adventure firsthand, becoming a part of the world.”

When working on a game like this, you are bound to run into some tough moments during development. Markuszewski points out two such instances. “The first was to give the created vision a specific outline and shape. In other words, a collision of the idea with the possibilities of implementation. This is the moment when you have to revise your expectations many times. I have one important solution for any complications at this stage: listen to people and let them be experts in their fields. The second such moment is the end of the project when time goes by faster than usual. We’ve learned not to get carried away with emotions. The goal should still be in front of your eyes.”

The spirit of Stanislaw

CMO Maciej Dobrowolski has closely monitored player’s reactions to the demo and trailers. “People loved the uniqueness of our vision. We receive a lot of flattering comments about the game’s visuals from the community.” Now he hopes that the audience also connects with the story. “We teased fragments of the story in the demo. Now we want them to be filled with the ‘spirit of Stanislaw Lem’. The Invincible is our first project, and we hope that it will become a ticket for further productions that can be described as ‘meaningful entertainment’.

Maciej Dobrowolski
The Invincible - Players take on the role of Yasna, a highly qualified astrobiologist sent on a scientific mission to discover what lies on the dusty surface of the uncharted planet, Regis III. When your crew disappears, things quickly get out of hand. The mind-boggling scientific phenomena that you experience throughout the course of your journey will bend your understanding of the difference between life and death, and force you to rethink humankind's position as a pinnacle of evolution. - Coming to PC & Consoles in 2023
Eric Bartelson
Eric Bartelson
Editor-in-Chief of PreMortem.Games. Veteran game journalist for over 20 years. Started out in 1999 for game magazines (yes the ones made of paper) such as PC Zone Benelux, PlayNation and GameQuest, before co-founding Dutch industry paper Control Magazine.

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