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HomeRunning a studioThe joy of intergalactic journalism in Times & Galaxy by Copychaser Games

The joy of intergalactic journalism in Times & Galaxy by Copychaser Games

In Times & Galaxy by Copychaser Games, players have the opportunity to experience the thrilling life of a space reporter for the solar system’s most trusted holopaper. However, don’t expect to break any major stories right away, as you begin at the bottom as the first-ever robo-reporter intern. But don’t despair, because the only way from there is up. And in pursuit of the next big scoop, you’ll encounter plenty of eccentric space weirdos.

“Before I got into game development, I was a crime reporter at a daily newspaper”, says Ben Gelinas, creative director on Times & Galaxy and Copychaser Games’ founder. “Times & Galaxy essentially mashes up my previous life in journalism with my current work in game dev. It’s set in a quirky sci-fi setting because there’s more to explore in space than if the game was set at a broadsheet in Des Moines. I wanted to see if we could make a game where interviewing aliens is the primary reason you are exploring environments, rather than shooting at those same aliens.” 

After his tenure in journalism, Gelinas worked as a writer at Bioware, where he contributed to games such as Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. When family priorities prompted him to relocate to Toronto, Gelinas seized the opportunity to pursue game development independently. “In many ways Copychaser Games is just me”, he says. “But it would be nothing without the talented friends and weirdos I surround myself with when I spin up a project. The primary goal of Copychaser Games as a development ‘studio’ is to make games that do not yet exist but probably should, together with my weird friends.”

Profoundly weird

“This may sound cheesy, but assembling the development team is what I am most proud of. We came together to make something profoundly weird, and within a few months working from our respective homes and coworking spaces, we were not only on the same page, we were on the same line. We all put our wildest ideas into this game and I don’t think there is anything quite like it out there.”

The colorful universe of the Dorp system truly is a sight to behold, with its exotic locations and a cast of out-of-this-galaxy characters. Coming across a jar of eyes is just scratching the surface of the peculiar persons you’ll meet. “One of the first people I brought on was a talented character artist named Bridget Gibson”, says Gelinas when asked about the game’s unique visual style. “Bridget had never worked on a game before, but has a hell of an eye for bold and visually unique character design.” 

Overall vibe

“I like to work with a different artist on each game I make, and I seek out folks who work in styles not often seen in games. Bridget’s character art formed the basis for our game’s overall look, with our art director Kate Craig (Gone Home, Tacoma) adapting the line work, colors, and overall vibe into our environments. The result is a mashup of cartoons, papercraft, and retrofuturism.”

At the heart of the gameplay experience lies the collection of information in order to construct a holopaper story. Scan the surroundings with your keen robotic eye and ask the right aliens the right questions. From all the snippets of info, players have to construct a story that makes your editor proud and your readers excited. Galinas: “I wrote the game with super talented narrative designer Sunny Evans, along with a couple additional writers who have never worked on a game before but are two of the funniest people on the planet.”

More risks

“Time management was the hardest part of the game’s development, at least for me. This game was made between everyone’s day jobs. For much of the game’s dev cycle, I was also writing full time on AAA projects, like Control and Gotham Knights. T&G has taken a lot longer to finish than it would have if we all devoted ourselves to it exclusively. But honestly, I think it made for a better game in the end. We had more time to workshop and kick around ideas. We took more risks.” 

I learned that I am bad at a lot of things and that’s okay. It’s much better to work with people who know what they are doing. We mostly divided up the tasks by our disciplines. Our audio director worked on the audio. Our tech director worked on the tech and occasionally calmed me down when I was panicking about something I didn’t need to be panicking about. We also had a UI artist. A technical designer. Level artist. Character artist. Project manager. Friends and even family contributed songs to the soundtrack. 

Audience of weirdos

Now that the game is finished, Gelinas has modest expectations for its success. “You can base a game on literally anything and make a game for literally anyone, but too often developers make some version of the same games over and over for the same players. Copychaser is an opportunity to let loose and really experiment with the medium, especially its underexplored storytelling capacity. I hope that Times & Galaxy finds the audience of weirdos it deserves and sells enough for Copychaser to break even.”

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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