In May 2018, Andy Barry (the founder of Nooleus and creator of Space Agency) agreed to participate in a rare opportunity to answer questions from the community! The wiki administration team took on the role of gathering a unique set of questions from several social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and of course, the Space Agency Wiki.
Below are the player questions that Andy kindly answered. Some are serious, others less so; but in all, his answers are a delight to read.
Q: What inspired you to make Space Agency?
I’ve always been fascinated by rockets and engineering. One of my earliest childhood memories is of watching the very first Space Shuttle launch. I still love watching rockets launch now. Watching videos of the Saturn V launch always makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end - just sheer power - mind blowing! My other big passion is, of course, computer programming, and so a space game seemed like a natural choice. The original idea was to write a game where you could play-out the entire Apollo 11 mission - that is the idea that Space Agency grew out of.
Q: Do you have another job besides game development?
I was working as a full time computer systems admin when I wrote the first version of Space Agency. I was programming Space Agency during my lunch breaks and evenings - that’s why it took two years to finish it! I’m very fortunate to be able to do game development as a full time job now - so hopefully Space Agency 2 won’t take two years - although it’s a much more ambitious game - so it might ;-)
Q: How did you get into game development? Any advice for someone looking to get into game development?
It started as a hobby for me, and turned into a full time occupation on the back of Space Agency’s success. In terms of getting into game development, all of the software tools and all of the knowledge are available for free on the internet now, so there has never been a better time. You just need to make a commitment to learn it, and have the will power to see it through.
Q: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I was a night owl when I was younger…very much so...but I’ve slowly transitioned into a morning person as I’ve grown older. If I continue on my current path, in another decade I’ll have gone full circle and be a night owl again ;-)
Q: What’s your favourite feature in Space Agency?
The part that took the longest to write was the docking code, and I think that gave me the most satisfaction when I finally got it to work properly. I still have nightmares about it sometimes ;-) It seems like it wouldn’t be very complicated…but it is…and it’s been even worse in Space Agency 2. Going from 2D to 3D adds a lot of additional mathematical complexity.
Q: What are some of your favourite games?
I don’t play many games anymore, oddly. I prefer writing them now. The games that I spent the most time playing, back in the day, were the original PS1 Tomb Raider (which was written in Derby, UK, where I live BTW), and Gran Turismo - loved that game.
Q: Who is your childhood idol?
Mmm - tricky. I’m not sure I’d say that I've ever idolised anyone really. My hero’s are mainly from the computing field (I’m a computer geek first and foremost). So people like Tommy Flowers and Seymour Cray. In the space field, it’s got to be Buzz Aldrin. Not only was he a fantastic pilot and astronaut, he was and is an extremely gifted scientist and engineer…and he remains probably the greatest ambassador for space exploration that there is.
Q: What country or place in the world would you most/least visit?
That’s a good question. I’ve been to the US a couple of times, but I’ve never made it to Florida to see any of the NASA sites. I’d love to do that one day - I’d love to see 39A. There isn’t anywhere that I really do not want to visit - people tend to be nice wherever you go in the world - they just sometimes elect questionable leaders to represent them.
Q: What is Space Agency programmed in?
Space Agency is programmed in C. Space Agency 2 is in C++.
Q: What program did the composers use for the in-game music?
I’m afraid that I don’t know the answer to that.
Q: Who is Tom Lion?
Ha ha - ah yes, Tom Lion. When I originally wrote Space Agency, I used my own voice for the countdown, and other vocals - but it just didn’t sound right “(I’m a Brit with a midlands accent). It needed to be an American accent. So I tried to ‘do' an American accent - and that just sounded really strange. I tried getting a friend in the US to do the vocals, but it was inconvenient sending samples back and forth, and arranging time etc. In the end I decided to use the voice synthesiser on my Mac. There are various voices you can choose from. The one I chose was called ‘Tom’ and my Mac was running OS X Lion at the time, so 'Tom Lion'. It isn’t perfect. Some things sound slightly odd. But, it is pretty good, and very convenient.
Q: What is your perfect food or snack?
My favourite meal in the world is jacket potato with tuna mayo - simple, but nothing beats it - in my opinion. Favourite snack is dry roasted peanuts...washed down with a beer...In fact, forget the peanuts.
Q: What are your thoughts on players modding the game?
I like the idea of it. Tricky to implement though, and some platforms don’t allow ‘user generated content’ (I think you can probably guess which one). I’d like to make the parts in Space Agency more customisable from within the game. Colour schemes, graphics etc. It’s on the to do list...
Q: What do you have planned for the next update?
Some new rockets, Ariane 6, Ares, PSLV. I’m thinking about adding a vehicle that can be landed, and mine for stuff. Maybe add some asteroids that can be mined, and some new missions around that. Looking further ahead I wan’t to overhaul the graphics, perhaps make them 2.5D. That would enable me to add proper support for shuttle type spacecraft.
Q: Will you ever stop updating Space Agency?
Well, I’m not immortal - so the updates will stop at some point. But I plan on updating it for many years to come. I think there will always be a place for Space Agency 1, even after Space Agency 2 is released. SA2 is a very different type of game to SA1 - I don’t see the point in simply writing a 3D version of the same game. SA1 will always have a special place in my heart. I love playing it myself, and so yes, I will continue to update and add to it for as long as I can.
Q: Could you survive a month in the wilderness?
Yes...as long as there was an internet connection. How else would you order food?
Q: Any update on astronauts?
It’s mostly finished. The thing that is holding me back from making it available, is that I need to re-do all of the missions - which is a huge amount of work. I’m concentrating on SA2 development for now. I plan on releasing a couple of minor updates to SA1 as well. Once SA2 is released, I’ll finish adding astronauts to SA1.
Q: Looking at the size of the planets in the teasers, can we expect rovers or base building in Space Agency 2?
Bases yes - definitely. Rovers, maybe.
Q: Will you ever sell Space Agency memorabilia, like t-shirts again?
If there is sufficient demand. I’d be interested to hear if that is something that people are interested in.
Q: Ketchup or mustard on your hotdog?