Solar Flux designer talks gameplay, gravity

Image via Firebrand Games
Image via Firebrand Games

Up until now, Scotland’s Firebrand Games is mostly known for its work on racing titles like Need for Speed: The Run and NASCAR Unleashed. But when it came time for Firebrand to develop original IP, the crew decided to ditch their racing roots in favor of taking flight. The results? Solar Flux HD, a stunning space puzzler where pilots strategically maneuver across four galaxies and 82 missions in order to collect plasma and save dying suns.

Inside Mobile Apps caught up with Solar Flux HD’s lead designer, Clive Lawrence, to find out more about his game, scheduled to launch exclusively on the iPad this Thursday for $3.99.

Inside Mobile Apps: What’s the concept behind Solar Flux HD?

Clive Lawrence: The core concept of the game is, it’s set in the future and the universe is in a state of decay. Players are tasked with traveling across the cosmos and saving the dying suns from extinction. You do this by capturing and collecting plasma and then feeding them to the different suns to complete each puzzle. We feel like this is a unique and novel space game that really hasn’t been done before, and the more we really dug into the core gameplay, the more we realized we were on to something really fun.

IMA: How do the gameplay mechanics work?

CL: The game has been designed for iPad, so everything is touch controlled. Everything in the game requires that you touch and hold the screen. Every level starts at the space station, so you touch and hold the screen to rotate the space station, then you release your finger to blast off. When you’re away from the station, you touch and hold the screen to thrust in the opposite direction. So you’re flying around the level collecting plasma, and every level includes one or more suns, so you can collect five pieces of plasma and deliver all the plasma at once, or you can try and be a bit more skillful and deliver the plasma one at a time, trying to fire the plasma into other plasma to collect multiple pieces in a row to the sun.

IMA: The graphics are unbelievable in this game. How long did it take the art team to get the look just right?

CL: We wanted to make a space game, and we wanted it to base it around the sun, but we didn’t want it to look like just any other space game. We wanted the graphics to jump out at you with the screenshots. So we had this idea that since the sun is the core element, we wanted to bleed the color of that into every aspect of the level. Our opening galaxy, Helios, has this orangey-yellowy sun that gives off this heat haze, so you see this tint throughout the entire level, and we have the light from each sun cast on every object. We have another galaxy called Oceanics, and that features more of a blue tint. It’s amazing how changing the colors can really change the overall ambiance of the environment.

Image via Firebrand Games
Image via Firebrand Games

IMA: How much does the gravitational pull come into play while flying through the missions?

CL: Most space games, there’s a planet, and then there’s this constant force pulling at you, but for Solar Flux, we thought that might ruin the gameplay a bit, so for us, each planet has its own max radius where the gravity will affect you, and if you enter the radius, you enter orbit automatically. Also, as a player this adds an element of strategy to the gameplay because every time you deliver plasma to the sun, it spits out a flare, and that is going to help push you further and help you conserve your fuel.  Think of the game as more of an ambient strategy game set in space with puzzle elements, even if there are some elements that are strictly a time trial and you just need to get all of the plasma as quickly as possible and deliver them to the sun.

IMA: Is there a level in the game that people should keep an eye out for in particular? What’s been your favorite mission to play?

CL: The levels that really draw people in are the zero fuel missions or the low fuel missions where you’re tasked with trying to collect all of the plasma using no fuel or just one thrust. A lot of those levels are based around you entering orbit and then delivering plasma to suns, then using solar flares to push you out of orbit and into another planet’s orbit. I think that’s where a lot of the fun comes from in the game. We also have another really interesting mission type in the game, and those are heat missions. In these missions you’re tasked with trying to stabilize the sun while attempting to do as little damage to your ship as possible. The sun causes heat damage every time you’re in the light, so you’re hiding in the shadows until your shield recharges, and some of the missions have been redesigned so that you can actually make it through a level without doing any damage to your ship. There are a lot of different gameplay types and a lot of different challenges that help keep the game fresh.

IMA: The game is also going to have an affiliation with the Kennedy Space Center. What is going to be involved in that relationship?

CL: We have a growing affiliation with the Kennedy Space Center and the Florida Space Coast, and we hope to announce more on that in the coming weeks and months. I can’t say much more about that, but we’ve been talking to them and they really like the game. I can’t say more about it just yet, unfortunately.

IMA: The game is $3.99. Is there anything you can purchase in-game above that in order to upgrade your ship, or does $3.99 get you everything?

CL: When you spend the $3.99, you get the full game, including the 4 galaxies and 82 missions. Each mission is its own solar system that involves one or more suns, so you get the full game for the price. We have the game working on the iPad 2, 3, 4 and the mini and it’s looking really good. I can’t wait to see people’s reactions when they finally get to play it.