SMTG: Tell us a bit about starwraith games, is it really just you?
Shawn: Indeed, it's just me frantically chattering away on the keyboard and giving dirty looks at my monitor when things don't work like they're supposed to. I've been developing PC games for about 25 years and decided about 10 years ago to focus on larger space-sim projects as an indie developer.
SMTG:Looking at your older games, you can see a very similar ambition going through them, almost in the way the iD software guys kept working on and perfecting a futuristic FPS, you keep working on and perfecting space sims. Are you never tempted to suddenly make a brightly colored kids platform game for a change of scene?
Shawn:Now that I have kids, yes, the idea has crossed my mind several times. But each time, it seems I keep wanting to add something absurd like "frickin' laser beams" to the cute colorful characters in the game and the whole idea eventually melts apart into some form of pseudo sci-fi space shooter and I'm back to where I started. So I eventually shelve the idea and get back to space-sims... probably to the disappointment of my kids. Perhaps one day, I'll be working on something different, if I can just focus :-)
SMTG:For someone my age, Evochron automatically brings back memories of the classic game 'Elite' I'm guessing that was an early influence?
Shawn:I actually didn't play Elite much, which does surprise some. I had heard of it and probably played a game or two on a friend's computer back in the 80's, but most of my gaming time was spent with titles like the original Echelon (1987), Mechwarrior (1989), Falcon (1987), and earlier an Atari 2600 game called Star Raiders. Yup, I'm -that- old.
SMTG:The Evochron games are a pretty massive project for an indie, how do you manage to get so much done, in terms of features when it's such a small studio?
Shawn:A combination of a carefully selected software development toolset, an unhealthy level of interest in science fiction, (too much) coffee, a drive to get things done, and a lot of time. I've probably improved quite a bit over the years in an ability to establish a feasible goal list for a target project, which helps me fine tune where to put my time and effort.
Above: From this tiny monitor, huge space sims are constructed...
SMTG:Evochron Mercenary supports TrackIR. be honest, you just wanted an excuse to put it in the game so you could play with it, didn't you?
Shawn: Oh yes! It's like catnip for sci-fi geeks.
SMTG:Lets say I'm new to your games, I've played some Homeworld, some Freespace at some point. Which Evochron game should I start with?
Shawn:Evochron Mercenary is probably the best choice. With this latest game, I've spent a lot more time working on guiding new players, many of whom are more familiar with following a required chain of events in a story. Although still very much a freeform game, Mercenary does offer some predefined objectives in the form of a quest to help introduce players to the concepts and options of gameplay. And in addition to expanded instructions and in-game training, the game's site also provides several training videos that go into much more detail.
SMTG:You are obviously a huge sci-fi buff. In terms of influences, both games and movies, where do you draw inspiration from when you work on Evochron?
Shawn:Growing up, I was into Star Trek, Tron, The Last Starfighter, the games I mentioned earlier, and pretty much anything else set in space or at least futuristic. Those experiences and memories still inspire me today. There are also some modern movies and video games that can be inspiring for me. But these days, I often just enjoy those to relax after long coding sessions.
SMTG:What's Are you working on now, and when can we expect to get our hands on it?
Shawn:I'm continually working on updates for Evochron Mercenary to add new features and options. I've also begun a new project that will be my first non-Evochron effort in almost five years. It will hopefully be available in a year or two and is something I have wanted to make for a long time.
You can begin your own space sim adventures with the evochron games here