A Chat with David Prassel; Developer of Guardians of Orion and Orion Prelude

Feb 28, 18  | posted by Alex Quayle (2006)

Now that David Prassel is back and is officially working on two sequels, we decided to talk to him.
This interview will cover their new projects and some advice about game design. If you want to talk to Prassel or any of the fans of GOO you can check out the Discord here.
1. Since Guardians of Orion, what have you been up to game development wise?
Ultimately we grew tired of other peoples actions effecting our names, products or communities so me and Frankie, my main creative partner, split and took most of 2017 off to figure out what we wanted to do next and how we wanted to do it. We’ve evolved our skill sets to handle more things locally or directly and we’ve assembled around 10-15 really neat prototypes of various games, genres, IP’s throughout 2017 to figure out what project we wanted to do next. Ultimately it came down to us wanting to deliver the experiences we’ve always wanted and that is where sequels to both ORION: Prelude and Guardians of Orion derived.
Guardians of Orion 2 will be our first video game product as DANKIE (Davey+Frankie). We are going to deliver what we initially wanted before the drama, the BS and before the bloated industry-related ambitions. I had made some bad hiring choices and some bad design choices and this product will hopefully help rectify that for me and also for fans of the first game. Owners of the first game will have a significant launch discount and more details about this and any other potential rewards/programs will be announced as aspects are cemented down.
It is being built on brand new technology and will better support hardware and other platforms. It’ll be privately developed (no crowdfunding or early access) but we will have ways for players to get into possibly Alpha or Beta sessions with details to come later.
Mechanically, fundamentally and ethically GOO2 will be a night and day difference compared to GOO1. No loot crates, no micro transactions, no double currencies, no Early Access, no Crowdfunding and no online-focused infrastructure. It’ll be a premium game and extremely polished at release.
We want to deliver this for fans of Guardians as we want something that lasts through time as we cannot control player counts and this is something we learned, understand and have factored into future projects. We expect to have Guardians of Orion 2 available for sale as early as summer 2019.
2. What would you say has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt since the start of developing games?
The most important thing I learned is definitely who you surround yourself with. Because no matter what pulling off any creative or collaborative production is extremely hard, but pulling it off when you have anchors on your ankles with things anywhere between theft or delays makes it that much more impossible. Who you acquaint is who you are, sort of thing.
I don’t want to scare off any aspiring developers as I’ve met hundreds of amazing people, but it only takes a handful to poison the well. Ultimately it’s about finding the right balance with how we go about making future projects. It’s very much the same as designing a game. The culture behind the production dictates the game and it’s just as important if not more so.
The other aspect is you’ll definitely want to focus on a social outlet (Twitch, Amazon, Blog/Vlog/Website, Facebook, Twitter, etc) wherever you have the most or where you’re most comfortable. Do regular updates, start to build up some community around that. Do that for a bit of the early pre-production and production then with that audience go for a crowdfund or early access release that can snowball.
Other options are using a team as a service to generate skill based income. If you’re a 3D artist you can sell on market places. Same holds true for things like VFX, Programming, UI, SFX, 2D, etc. Find a way to generate supplemental income. It’s all about the snowballing effect, whatever small ounce of anything you can get you’ll have to snowball into bigger and better.
In addition to that if you’re able to get to any expos or conferences you can meet lots of partners and fans there and that’s a great crowd as they’re just hardcore enough to the point to even go to those things, so truly passionate and really fun to meet.
3. As a company you are very open with what you have planned. Do you think this is something more game devs should do?
To a degree, it’s a really hard thing to balance that we’ve even failed at this in the past. In ways we will be a bit more reserved than we were in the past and in ways we will be a bit more involved due to the private production of these upcoming video game projects and not using public domains like Crowdfunding or Early Access. We’ve worked hard over the last year re-developing how we will do go about this moving forward.
4. Will any of your upcoming games be coming to console?
We will always love and support the PC which is where our roots are and most of our fan base but I think you’ll definitely see some ORION on consoles in addition to Linux and Mac support. Accessibility is one of or top priorities and we are very excited to explore platforms in addition to Steam. Frankie and I are huge fans of consoles and the mentality behind them. I grew up with Xbox while she grew up with Playstation and so its a really nice mix.
5. You’ve mentioned a table top video game set in the Orion universe. Do you think you will carry on experimenting with using the same IP in different genres?
We are super excited for the Orion table top game. While Guardians of Orion 2 will be a great local and singular experience the true offline and local gameplay is, was and always will be table top games.
This is our first rodeo with table top games and its very different than anything I’ve seen. We think fans of the ORION games will appreciate how fast-paced and over the top it is and we think it fills a really great spot for fans who already enjoy table top games and board games.
Beyond that VR and AR are fascinating as well as Cinematic Stories which would really be full circle as ORION was originally a screenplay before it became a game adaptation.
6. Do you think you will go back and make improvements to GOO and Prelude? Or perhaps let others create mods?
ORION: Prelude was officially wrapped in 2015. Guardians in late 2016. Each for their own unique reasons. Prelude ended up doing great via post-release and so we were able to add a lot to that game, more than ever imagined with things like DUEL, VITAL and 10 playable Dinosaurs. We do often wish we could update it but the truth is the technology is so old (nearly 10 years at this point), the engine is so old, it’s very messy and ‘freshman’ with many developers having tinkered with it and to be honest it’s very difficult to update even small things at this point.
One of the great learning lessons of Guardians of Orion is that we really cannot control player count at all. We have control over Product, not Player Count and its why you’ll see some big changes in our focuses and designs for Guardians2 and Prelude2.
Ultimately we are pleased with how many users each game reached and Guardians was only disappointing due to how much was invested up front for years and it never recouping that. It has a lot to grow but I’m personally hopeful that we can figure something out where it can hopefully evolve towards self-sustaining and then profitable where I could put a dev or two on it to do a few (smaller) things but the main crew is on other things now, some of which are public and others that are not.
7. Prelude 2 is now officially in development. Will you use vehicular combat just like in the first game?
Player drive-able vehicles WILL be in Prelude2. There are even strong designs of some enemy vehicle units. Guardians2 is also scheduled to have a few vehicle missions which we’re very excited to produce. We have a lot to share as things become more cemented and developed and are also reviewing tons of old user feedback and new user feedback. If you want to share or discuss anything make sure to join the new Orion Discord Channel we’ve set up to do so in addition to meeting other fans, winning prizes and learning game development.
8. What would be your number one tip for any game dev trying to release their game on Steam?
Don’t forget to take breaks. It is so important for mental health and just overall well-being. Once release hits so many things snowball and it can be really overwhelming and personally I often put priorities in the wrong place. As a result a better quality you is a better quality product.
9. GOO or Prelude?
I’m really appreciative of both. Even though I wasn’t able to deliver or integrate everything I wanted into both I accomplished so many things that I wanted to learn or experience. I learned a lot from both and there were parts that I very much enjoyed. I still have a blast playing both of them but if I had to pick one it would be Prelude just because I am a huge FPS fan.
10. Out of the three projects you’re working on, which one are you most excited to be working on?
Guardians2 and Prelude2 are going to be very special games and I believe they are going to hit my original expectations for each in wonderful ways.
But I have to go with the board game. It was something so different and new to us that it feels like it did 20 years ago when I first got into modding. Working on the video game projects is always exciting as its so creative and collaborative but it no longer really has a fear or anxiety associated to it as especially with what we are doing now where production is such a night and day difference than what we did in the past. We have a great idea of how smooth these are really going to go.
The board game is something so fresh and we think we have a really unique offering for fans of table top games that will also be really appealing to fans of the Orion video games that enjoy that over-the-top, fast paced action.
You’ll be hearing a lot about the upcoming board game as it’ll likely be released before either of the two announced projects and it’ll have some really neat behind the scenes showing how the characters are printed, coated and treated, painted and how we actually are going to go about bringing this physical product to life.

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