Developer interview: The Protagonist: EX-1

The Protagonist: EX-1 is an upcoming sci-fi RPG with turn-based combat where first contact with an alien race goes a little less well than hoped. It’s currently in Early Access on Steam, and we got in touch with the developers at 3Mind Games to learn more.

The Protagonist: EX-1 is 3Mind Games’ debut title. What are some of the other games that the team has worked on before?

The team has worked on many AAA titles in the past, having worked at studios such as Ubisoft, EA, Warner Brothers, etc. Examples of games that we’ve worked on are Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, MechWarrior Online, Far Cry, Far Cry Instinct, Rainbow Six, Batman, Mass Effect and Dragon Age.

How did the core concepts for the The Protagonist: EX-1 come about?

The base concept of the game comes from a mix of concepts of two different projects, and evolved over time. At first, it was 100% turn-based, the free roaming was added later after suggestions from members of the team. The MACS concept was part of another project idea, and was integrated to the original concept on day-1. The current project follows about 60% of the original design and concept, and we had to cut a few features to make the rest more appealing. Those features could be part of a future expansion of the game, like a sequel. In terms of narration, we knew from the beginning what we wanted, and we created 10x more lore than what you can find in EX-1. The goal is for the lore to feel deeper and to have answers to the questions you will ask yourself while playing the game.

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What are some games that inspired the mechanics of The Protagonist: EX-1?

We were inspired by Xcom 2 for the turn-based tactical combat, Divinity: Original Sin 2 for the free roaming exploration, and many different puzzle games for the environmental puzzles.

The game was released in Early Access earlier this year – what’s that experience been like?

Early access has been very demanding for the small team at 3Mind Games, and a huge financial challenge. Big studios usually have a huge budget in marketing, something a small indie like us doesn’t have, so reaching our audience was really a challenge, but so far so good. We are all experienced with a AAA background, but this project teaches us a lot. Our next project (currently in pre-alpha) will gain from what we have learned during the production of The Protagonist: EX-1.

How different is the experience of developing as a smaller team?

Everyone needs to play multiple roles in the team and must rely on a smaller team for help. The challenges are much higher, and the speed of implementation is slower, but a smaller team is more flexible, something that was impossible in AAA. We can easily change something almost overnight, whereas in a AAA development team, with all the approvals, it usually takes a week or so. Being a smaller team, we are more like a family, and everyone can suggest things to make the game better.

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The Protagonist: EX-1 is an ambitious first project – what have been some of the standout moments during the development of that game?

The project was a real challenge for the studio, and we almost had to cut the development. But fortunately, and with a lot of efforts from the founders, the project only slowed down, but was back a few months later with a new Art Direction (the one of today). Changes in characters also were part of the step back, the quality of graphics rapidly improved over the course of time, so we had to adapt and push the quality a bit higher; something WarCraft’s fans know too well. 🙂

As you near the home stretch, what’s left on the development front, and what will the post-launch period look like for you?

The Early Access was only showing a few types of enemies, a few characters, and a few technologies. The Full Access offers many more enemies, characters, technologies, and twists. The project has been created to be part of a larger story, EX-1 being the first Chapter of this story, which could be developed in the future if the fans support it enough. The Post-Launch will be a good moment to find those last pesky bugs that we cannot find, and a few patches are already scheduled. For the sequels and other stories, it will really depend on the sales, if the studio manages to make some profits out of it, we will then be able to make a sequel. We will need the fans’ help for that! 🙂

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