It is a special occasion when you get to sit down with one of the guys behind the fun and equally bizarre shmup Humans Must Answer. This game has it all. It’s got space ships, chickens, golden eggs, and even laser beams! What else could you want? Chris Priestman, Narrative Designer at Sumom Games. GLG: Tell us about yourself! I’m Chris Priestman and I write things. Bit of an understatement that! I joined Sumom Games quite late compared to everyone else, and came on board as the narrative designer and PR guy. Generally I just poke people a lot and make threats about the inevitable end of the world caused by the space chicken armada that is approaching the Solar System. You know, standard stuff really. I also write about indie games over on Indie Statik, which essentially makes me one of those corrupt developer/PR/journalist hybrids that throws spanners at stuff to break them. An awful person – that’s me. GLG: Give us the low-down on Sumom Games! Chris: It was founded by Denis and Eugeny after they lost their jobs at GSC Game World back in 2011. They decided to fiddle with XNA and it soon became apparent that they might be able to make a game by themselves. They worked on S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and apparently that’s quite a well-loved game or something…that’s what I was told once while scoffing scrambled eggs down my gullet. Currently there are three Ukrainians that make up the core team at Sumom, as Olexa ended up joining them to provide his fantastic (seriously) art work. I don’t know where we’d be without that guy; he makes it easy to catch the attention of people as I just have to wave some of his work in their face to get them transfixed. There’s more to the chickens than simply blasting humans out of the skies. They are pretty technologically savvy too. GLG: What is Humans Must Answer? Chris: Some say it’s a game. Others say it’s full of explosions and is all rather silly. I think it was once referred to as a delicious pie once, too. Sticking with the “it’s a game” angle, Humans Must Answer is an explodey horizontal shmup inspired primarily by R-Type and Jets ‘N’ Guns, mostly for their level design and slightly wacky nature, respectively. You play as a pilot on board The Golden Eagle, which is a Scout ship that has been molded in the form of the most regal of birds to represent what these chickens think they are. To be fair, they’re much more intelligent than us lowly humans and could easily annihilate our entire species. And that just might be what you get up to in Humans Must Answer. The story starts off with you having to answer a distress signal coming from our Solar System – as a Scout ship you’re sent to go and check on what’s going on. Why is there a distress signal? How is it even connected with this distant race of birds known as Gallus? What must humans answer for? All to be revealed in the game. What I can tell you is that you’ll be travelling to the right hand side shooting lots of hostile entities, which explode in spectacular fashion and it feels rather nice, if I may say so myself. They’re coming. GLG: How dangerous are these intelligent space-faring chickens? Chris: Oh they’re pretty nasty. Despite this being set in the far off future and human technology and intelligence having advanced significantly, these chickens outdo us easily. Being only one ship, the odds are evened out a little. Should more ships arrive, and proper warships too, the human race could easily be wiped out in a matter of…seconds, probably. In the game you’ll have a number of weapons available to you in order to make you feel like the badass you are! First off there are deployable turrets that you can place to supply another line of fire. These are very good at wiping out a screen full of enemies. As you upgrade the ship, though, you’ll find that combining weapons to create more devastating effects becomes utterly vital, especially to take down the bigger and tougher enemies. Sending out forked lighting, using a shotgun, emitting a radial blast and launching missiles paves the way for maximum explosions! GLG: So, let me make sure I get this straight. The chickens came to our solar system in peace, and *we* were the ones who started the hostilities? Chris: So what happens is you enter into the vicinity of the Solar System (the Gallus refer to it as a Yolk System) and you notice that there’s a forcefield surrounding its entire circumference. So you have to enter through a border patrol that is manned by robots. As you go through you’re identified as a threat and the alarms ring out, but Bez – the onboard tech-wiz – manages to hack the system and cool the heat for you. Soon after, the AI behind the structure somehow evolves and everything turns against you. So the robots start firing first. When you eventually manage to find an organic being (i.e. humanity)…well, let’s just say you weren’t expecting them to be here. And that complicates your mission. GLG: Who comes up with this stuff?! Chris: The entire team work together but each have their focus on the game. When I joined last year, Humans Must Answer was about two nameless pilots travelling through the Solar System and blowing up as many ships as possible. From there, I started to communicate with the rest of the team to find a more interesting, fun and hopefully engaging narrative, while also adding character and a sense of history behind everything they had constructed up until that point. So, oddly enough, Humans Must Answer has only been about space chickens for a number of months. It’s been an odd and challenging experience to come up with a narrative based on something that others had already created – it meant there were a number of restrictions as the narrative had to make sense with the rest of the game, rather than the gameplay and levels being bent to fit the story. Another challenge has been working out how to best convey the narrative and characters to the player, because we don’t want to interrupt them during levels when they’re concentrating on staying alive, and we don’t really have the means to provide cutscenes or something more elaborate. In a sense, the narrative is optional now, and so if you just want to play through the game having fun blowing things up you can just ignore it. But if you want to get into it then the further you deep the more you’ll be rewarded. GLG: Obviously the game features blazing weaponry and explosions as a result of said weaponry interacting with enemy ships, but the game is more than just a traditional shmup, isn’t it? Chris: Truthfully, it’s actually quite a traditional shmup in many ways. We don’t really deviate from the formula of those set by the classics released two decades ago or more. But we do have some features that we feel make for a more modern feeling game, as well as it obviously having visuals that make it stand out a little from the crowd. The deployable turrets is our way of making up for the lack of co-op in the game; it’s a pretty lame replacement for a human player, but having it in there means you feel you have some extra support. Turrets and the ability to combine weapons to create new effects also feeds into our puzzle-influenced level design. There are buttons, switches that have to shot at simultaneously, and the boss fights often require observation and putting two and two together rather than straight up attacks. The shop also plays a role in the level design too, as it is here that you can purchase new weapons and upgrades, and swap them for others at any point. Some levels do require certain weapons to be beaten in accordance with this – but it’s pretty obvious when that’s the case and what weapon you’ll need. Saying that, we also encourage you to experiment and get the best run possible on each level, which requires destroying as much as you can and collecting all of the hidden eggs. There’s more to the chickens than simply blasting humans out of the skies. They are pretty technologically savvy too. GLG: How far along in development are you guys? We want to play it! Chris: We’re pretty close now, and have actually just launched a Kickstarter in order to gather funding to finish the game off as we planned, as well as cover some start-up costs. We’d say we’re about 85% done now. All of the levels are in place and are just being worked on so they’re even better and more fun to play. That being said, if we acquire enough funding then we’ll add more to the game. We had to cut some ideas in order to stick to the budget that we had, because if we don’t release the game and hopefully grab some profits from selling it by May then we won’t be able to cover our own living costs. So if we don’t reach the Kickstarter goal then we’ll have to release the game in the state that it is and then work on it after post-release once, we’ve got a little bit of return on it, to make it the game we envisioned.