How Space Rangers, the best Russian game, was created

How Space Rangers, the best Russian game, was created

The legend is 20 years old.

On December 23, 2002, Space Rangers went on sale. — a real milestone in the Russian gaming industry and the rare case when our critics and players agreed. We tell the key points in creating a dilogy of games about adventures in space and the fight against hostile invaders.

In three years, you can do everything, even the iconic «Space Rangers»

The Rangers didn’t start out of nowhere. Dmitry Gusarov started out teaching programming in Vladivostok, but he was even more interested in creating games. He single-handedly made the turn-based strategy game The General, which he released in 1999.

The project was immediately loved and wanted to be improved. “My email inbox was full of letters from users and enthusiasts who also wanted to make games. I had to urgently come up with a name for this virtual team, it became NewGame Software. We started to promote the game together. Together with Alexander Kozlov from Belgorod, we made the “General” a full-fledged online game, and Natasha Beletskaya from Kyiv translated it into English,” said the head of the studio, Gusarov.

The young studio thought about the next project. The choice of the space theme was simple and ingenious, because drawing space is much easier than making a team shooter or even a big role-playing game with dragons. The preferences of the creators also influenced: Star Wars, Babylon 5 and the books of Isaac Asimov and Robert Sheckley. Fans, of course, of Master of Orion, Elite and Star Control 2.

One really unknown project was also important: “More than 10 years ago (in the early 90s) there was a game “Space Wars” on the Agat computer, it was made by some brilliant Russian programmer. Cool turn-based gameplay fascinated. It was necessary to fly through the sectors and destroy the Klings, having lasers and phasers at their disposal. Everything was constantly breaking down in the ship … We really wanted to do something similar, but at the modern level, ”said Dmitry Gusarov.

The team included an excellent programmer Alexey Dubovoy, who took up the creation of the engine. As time has shown, his own development, created without third-party products, turned out to be extremely successful: after all, the game was running even on the weakest PCs. It was also a necessary measure: no product on the market could implement the ideas of innovation-hungry developers like 2D stars and planets spinning in space.

There are two early versions of the project on the Internet in the public domain, from which you can understand how the multi-layer Rangers were created. In the version of March 2000, the generation of the galaxy, systems and planets has already been implemented. Merchants were engaged in their craft, and all the ships went at the same time as the player. However, the build did not really have animations, as well as quests. The second available build from August 2000 allowed to fight in space, where special effects were already full, and the ships had several animations.

The interface during creation was the Achilles’ heel of the project: the founder of the studio did not like all the proposed options, according to rumors, he rejected about 100 sketches. Here are just a few of them.

The game fell in love with text quests. They appeared by chance: “One guy, Denis Fedorov, who was engaged in the acceptance of planets and other nonsense, told me that he would like to program something, since he studied at a university to be a programmer. I thought we could make a mini-game where we landed on a planet and played like the old text-based multiple choice games. I gave him a task, and then I made the first quest in the game and called it «Gladiator» — Gusarov said.

Together with Fedorov, they created a quest editor and, together with the documentation, made it freely available. There were enough people who wanted to create their own quest, but almost everywhere additional polishing was required. The quest-maker Artem Pyatkin, a mathematician from Novosibirsk, took on the most difficult task. He perfected the logic of the quests of ordinary enthusiasts to perfection, thanks to which their works were included not only in the first game, but also in the sequel.

And the music brought «Space Rangers» to the super level: she is unobtrusive and very beautiful, at the right time she set the tone and quickened her pulse. It is worth thanking the trinity of guys-composers headed by Grigory Semenov. He described the unusual experience in an interview:

“The first tune I wrote for Space Rangers was Fay Music. She immediately fit the game. But not everyone worked out the first time, for example, for «Music of the People» I wrote about 15 options before it turned out what I needed. Another circumstance of that time was the weak and expensive Internet. This prevented me from accessing the game. Therefore, I composed music for screenshots. Only after some time they began to send me CDs with a demo version by regular mail.

It’s strange to realize this, but the plot in the game was invented last. Gusarov does not hide his attitude towards him: “For me, the main thing was to create a living world, and the plot did not matter. And when it came to the realization that the plot is still needed, all the people with whom I worked could not come up with a decent story. Finally, Yuri Nesterenko wrote to me — cool pepper quickly dispersed all advisers, listened to my requirements for the plot and wrote only one logical and stunningly beautiful version about the klisan: as if they consider biological races to be an infection (which at that time killed and captured us, but without any philosophy). And already on the plot of KP2, I worked only with Yura. He is a very difficult person, but extremely talented. Just a couple of weeks of heavy correspondence — and the plot is ready!

They worked on the project for three years, but only one publisher saw its potential and took up the release. True, 1C did not really promote the game and entered into an agreement with the newly formed law firm Elemental Games for a very modest amount.

The game hit store shelves on December 23, 2002, and was mostly heard about by word of mouth. Those lucky ones who bought the game and tried it first were happy to share information with friends and acquaintances, and the sellers in hot pursuit made a significant contribution to the promotion. The press did not lag behind: LKI gave the Elemental Games project «Game of the Year», «Igromania» put «nine», and the AG website — 90/100.

The sequel has grown in breadth and did not touch the basis of the original

A few months later, the publisher offered to make a sequel, to which the studio happily agreed. She came up with the concept quite easily, since she already had an idea for a future RTS with robots. Elemental Games wanted to make a game in the spirit of Nether Earth, that is, the concept of collecting robots, personally controlling them and issuing orders.

The key new mechanics, however, were not mandatory. The creators seemed to understand that not all fans would like the gameplay of the RTS genre, and made it optional. And not everyone’s computer could pull the new graphics. And in the meantime, she looked really cool.

“We made the first Rangers for about three years, and the second for exactly 14 months. Quite a lot of money was invested in KR2, by the way, the development was 100% funded by 1C. The size of the investments was so large that we had to hide information so that competing developers would not request the same amount for their projects, ”Gusarov recalled.

In general, the approach was simple. With the publisher’s money, the studio made their project larger and more beautiful. The galaxy has grown, and the choice of equipment has now become a daunting task: there was so much of it. Little things were also solved: the character sometimes fell ill, and it was necessary to monitor his health, use the services of a medical center.

It is believed that in space games, most planets are absolutely useless. A bug was fixed in WP2: a research probe was scouring such planets and finding loot of varying degrees of usefulness while we were busy destroying the dominators.

The sequel was released on November 26, 2004 and this time even received attention not only from the local audience, but also from the Western press and players. Space Rangers 2: Rise Of The Dominators on Metacritic 84 points according to 30 publications. The game received decent criticism, not least due to adequate localization, which certainly cannot be said about the original game.

The impact of the sequel is hard to overestimate. The series has gained a huge fan base — and many of them did not just admire the game world, text quests and music. They drew art, came up with quests, wrote music, made programs for the game. The fan community created a ton of content, which became the basis for future addons, both official and amateur.

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