DevelopmentExclusive InterviewsIndie

Lost in the Sky: The Power of Story

October 21, 2017 — by Rachel Rayner


DevelopmentExclusive InterviewsIndie

Lost in the Sky: The Power of Story

October 21, 2017 — by Rachel Rayner

At Ludum Dare 39, Game Factory named the game Lost in the Sky winner of its Discovery Contest. Winning this prize also earned them a chance to compete at Indie Prize Kyiv from October 24-26, 2018.

Game Factory is affiliated with nearly every international gaming event, such as Global Game Jam or Ludum Dare, a game jam in which developers spend the weekend creating a game based on a theme. At each of these events, Game Factory holds Discovery Contests.

George Maidansky, one of the leaders of the Lost in the Sky Team, thanked their friends at Game Factory for the opportunity and said, “We think we will find new friends, first players and truly useful feedback on Indie Prize.”

Story is King

When George and his brother Anatoly originally began building a game together, they set up a primitive side scrolling platformer-shooter using video lessons on YouTube. “Very quickly it became obvious that without a proper story this prototype was just another drop in the sea of wannabe games by beginner devs,” said George.

Concept Art

After speaking to other people in the gaming community, they were told that to have a good game they needed three things: original gameplay, original art/design, and original music. However, after analyzing what they considered to be the best games, they realized they needed something else: story.

“The main thing that we realized was that we are quite capable of developing a quality product,” George said. “The most difficult part for us at that point was the story. It had to be intriguing and unique, set in its own world.”

That was when they had the initial idea for Lost in the Sky, which combined the post apocalyptic genre with a classic space opera. It takes place on ARK, an enormous orbital city lost in space. Main characters Roy, a highly trained soldier, and Eileen, an archer, are sent on a mission to reclaim the Temple of the Winds after enemies have sieged it.

“Creating a game with a well written script is way easier, you can always get to know something new about a character or location which will help you to embody the vision into gameplay in precise detail,” said Andry Grechko, the team’s English community manager. “This is also backwards compatible – working on gameplay, one can always influence the script and its development.”

Soon, the plot became complex enough that they knew they could not fully explore it as a video game and began the first draft of a graphic novel. “We decided to visualize it in a form of a comic book that would incorporate all the in-game cut scenes,” said George. “The first drafts got our friends so hyped that we thought that we’d made the best story in the world.”

Since the story had turned out well, they decided to take their gameplay up a notch, but first they needed to decide what type of game to create. “After looking at other games we realized that we couldn’t deliver anything new, but that didn’t stop us,” George said. “We decided to seek inspiration in our childhood games that we all played so relentlessly (Aladdin, Another World, Flashback, Ninja Saboteur, Battletoads, and many others) and we came to a conclusion that we had to go back to the roots.”

They decided to create a 2D platformer with RPG elements. “This is our first game, and it seemed to us that making a 2D is easier than 3D, a quest, or a strategy. The idea of creating something like the Witcher‘s analog is tempting but so far we are not ready for it,” George said. “Maybe the next version of the game will be 3D or VR with a first-person view and online battles. We’ll see.”

They hired a full-time artist and soon after began assembling their game development team because it became clear to them that free video game assets were not going to be enough to bring the game to life.

The Graphic Novel

Through their dedication to story, the Lost in the Sky team ended up creating two products that support each other and yet are independent. This allows comic readers who are not gamers to enjoy the story and gamers who are not interested in the graphic novel to still enjoy the game without knowing the more complex storyline.

“Even the best script will lose all its meaning if not told properly, and within the framework of the game it’s almost impossible to cover the plot complexity, deep character relationships, and uncover all the small details and distinctiveness of the story,” said Grechko. “Therefore, we’ve decided to create a graphic novel alongside the game, which will broaden the game’s lore. This graphic novel will help you to dive deep in the universe of the game and uncover its story entirely, and it will also help you to see the game from a different perspective.”

The team hopes to release the comic first and draw fans to the game through that. They plan to release on online version and if there is enough interest from readers eventually publish it.

The artists who are creating the graphic novel are the same artists who created all of the art for the game. At this point they are done with the main artwork for the game and are focusing on the comic. “They are completely immersed in comic’s world and bring its spirit into the game, creating one whole. Artists and developers work side by side and discuss art, locations, inventory, heroes, etc.” George said.

The Team

The Lost in the Sky Team is a close-knit group of twelve developers based out of Moldova. George said the game development community in Moldova is small, so all the team members were found through friends. Fortunately, all the members had enough development experience to create a 2D platformer.

Most of the team works in an office together and every morning they play the game to find and fix any bugs. “In our meet ups we’re regularly deciding what we can improve in our game and development process,” said Grechko. “ None of our team members are limited within any boundaries or decisions. All of our team has a unique opportunity to influence the project with their ideas and suggestions.”

The team brainstorming together

The team uses their website and social media to share their development process with fans. They have blog posts in which they show the progression of character sketches, snippets of the graphic novel, game elements, and use artwork to showcase the beautiful world of ARK. They want to continue creating posts about development and support even after they release the game.

A screenshot from the game

“We live in a world in which fans watch every step of their idols via social networks, Instagram, etc.” said George. “When creators of modern TV series release new seasons, they take into account the expectations of the fans or, quite the opposite, ignore their opinions and shock with plot twists. We in turn want fans to participate in the life of the game and comics. And we will give fans an opportunity to impact the fate of the heroes and the world itself.”

Gretchko said that the game has changed drastically from the initial prototype and will continue to evolve. The most difficult part has been staying open to criticism. George likens the development process to a submarine. The feedback from friends acts like sonar, telling them where to go, and giving demonstrations is like surfacing before diving back into the waters of game development. They hope that once they map out the route it will set a smoother course for their next project.

It is uncharted territory but the team still ventures out into the waters because they know they have to be willing to make mistakes in order to learn from them. Projects such as Lost in the Sky are ambitious, but the team believes that if they set goals that initially seem unrealistic and then focus on achieving the intermediate goals on the path to fulfilling that vision, they will produce an excellent product.

For more information about Lost in the Sky, visit their website


Rachel Rayner

Rachel Rayner

Rachel Rayner is the co-founder of a video production company and enjoys filmmaking, music, dancing, and going on walks with her dog.