Maia creator ponders two "game two" concepts, but which will he make?
One is a flight combat game, the other an evolutionary life sim.
As colony building game Maia nears beta, its creator, Simon Roth, is trying to work out which game to make next.
Roth has two concepts, he told Eurogamer in a recent interview. One is a "frenetic" flight combat game. The other is an evolutionary life sim.
He had worked out budgets for both, and hoped money raised through Steam would meet at least one. In the end, it met both.
Maia, which launched on Steam as an Early Access title in December 2013 following a Kickstarter campaign that raised just over £140,000, has around 50,000 players and is nearing grossing $1m, all told. Now, Roth is staffing up for an office in Oxford, which will be home to his company, Machine Studios.
Let's start with the space combat game, which actually started life "quite a long time ago".
"When I was frustrated because no-one was making a space game I wanted to make a Newtonian space game, because that was when I'd just left Frontier [Elite: Dangerous], and Frontier looked like they definitely weren't going to be making one in 2011," Roth explained.
"I was going to make a combat flight sim game, but I thought it would be boring to set it in space, because Newtonian physics in space are actually very hard to do and make fun. So I thought I'd set it in the atmosphere of a ring world.
"This game has literally become super frenetic; a low polygon game that, using my engine I wrote for Maia, we could have thousands of fighter craft on screen and missiles flying around. So huge pitched wars and sci-fi fictional but light-hearted so I can just focus on making it fun.
"That's the thing with Maia. I pushed a lot to make things really accurate. But that made a lot of things difficult. This one, I just want to make it loose and fun and not worry too much about the depth."
That's one concept. Here's the other, for the evolutionary life sim.
"Concept two is an evolutionary life sim set inside a 2D fluid simulation," Roth revealed. "Somewhat like the Tidal Phase of Spore but with an ecosystem that is evolving alongside you.
"Using genetic algorithms the creatures will evolve from primitive multicellular life, to small creatures. I researched a lot of this sort of stuff for Maia, and I have a brief background with it from my summer at Natural Motion [maker of the Euphoria middleware used for Grand Theft Auto].
"It used to take supercomputers to do, but nowadays we can just have a spare core, constantly testing, mutating and selecting creatures.
"And the player will be a force for natural selection themselves, creating their own evolutionary arms races by picking prey. It will also be genuinely educational in that regard. I think a lot of people struggle with the concept of evolution because of the incomprehensibility of the millions of generations involved.
"In the way that Maia was my physics and chemistry education, this one will be my biology one."
The video, below, shows some of the research Roth has been exploring for this concept. "In the 1990s they needed months to compute it. Now you can do it in seconds," he said.
Roth added that whichever game he decides to make next, he won't abandon Maia.
A "mid-way release", as Roth described it, is due out at the end of the summer. This "nails off the entire sandbox experience".
"Looking at my stats people are playing the game for a couple of hours per session. This will be the update where people go from playing the game for a couple of hours to having 20 hour games.
"So much is going in it's crazy, from new life forms to hundreds of new animations. We're probably going to end up with more animation than The Sims, there are that many interactions between creatures and people and emotions being shown. It's really crazy."
The success of the game means Roth is taking his time with improvements. "We've done so well on Steam we can just throw money at making exactly what I wanted now rather than having to chop stuff up and do it half-arsed because we can't spend an extra couple of weeks polishing something."
Indeed work on game two - whatever it is - won't begin "until Maia is either done or to the point where people are sitting with tools down waiting for stuff to do".
"Once the art is complete and we're feature complete that's when we'll start on the new game. So it's not really specified as to when development is going to start on it. We'll have to see."
Maia will leave Early Access once it reaches version 1.0, Roth said. After that, free expansions could be made and released in an effort to have the game grow and evolve over time.