The eyes of the world turn to Poland, where a new independent game company is already making a name for itself. Raise your glasses: The Astronauts have blasted into orbit, and while we're still not sure what they're up to (debut, unannounced game due out in 2013), we're more than a little bit excited.
When three key developers packed up and left Gears of War: Judgment developer People Can Fly, we weren't quite sure where they were going to end up. The announcement of The Astronauts has answered that question, and Epic Games has provided a little more detail, revealing that the new studio has signed up to a long-term, multiple-game licensing agreement to use the Unreal Engine to create great things.
The team consists of those three key developers, former Creative Lead Adrian Chmielarz, former Lead Artist Andrzej Poznanski and former Principal Artist Michal Kosieradzki, with Chmielarz explaining they once considered making their own gaming engine... and once they stopped lauching, they signed up with former parent company Epic:
We’ve worked with UE3 for the last six years, and we know its power. Choosing Unreal Engine technology for our future was the textbook definition of a no-brainer. We are on a quest to map uncharted waters, and Epic’s tech provides the stability required for success.
Happily, Epic is also pretty pleased with the arrangement, as European territory manager Mike Gamble explains:
We’re truly impressed with what high-quality games small, independent teams are creating using the Unreal Engine. The best is yet to come, and there’s a good chance that The Astronauts will be one of those teams that makes us say ‘Wow.’
The Astronauts are already making people take notice. So many developers these days just seem to pick a name from thin air and use it as a label, but these guys have a story they want to share.
5) Literally, “astronaut” means “star sailor”. The word is derived from the Greek words for star (astro) and sailor (naut). All right, fine, we only learned that after we named the studio, but it was a very pleasant surprise to discover such romantic roots of the word.
4) Some little boys want to be astronauts when they grow up. Of course they don’t really mean learning math and physics or taking heavy doses of Extravehicular Activity training, they just want to travel to faraway planets and discover unknown worlds. We never stopped wanting that.
3) We’re located in Warsaw, Poland. Stanislaw Lem is the most famous Polish science-fiction writer, and guess what, his first book in the genre was called The Astronauts. To be honest, the book is not that great (read the incredible The Cyberiad instead), but it had a really cool message that reason eventually would overcome political madness.
2) Above we have one of the most famous photographs in the world. In 1969, the astronaut Neil Armstrong put his left foot on the Moon. It was the first human footprint on the extraterrestrial world (and no, we don’t want to admit that it’s not an image of that particular footprint). If that was not awesome enough, realize that this footprint will be there for a million years. There is no wind to blow it away.
1) Real and imaginary astronauts boldly go where no man has gone before. With our games, we want to invite gamers on a journey they will not soon forget, into worlds they have not seen before. We don’t aspire to be the edgiest, craziest gamedev team out there. But we hope – hope! – that we can put our own footprint on the crust of this beautiful, amazing world of games.
...and seriously, how can you argue with something like that? While The Astronauts are remaining very tight-lipped on just what the team's up to, early hints suggest that it might be something a bit new and a bit different than we're used to seeing from People Can Fly. That team gave us Painkiller, PC ports of Gears of War, and Bulletstorm, and are now working hard on Gears of War: Judgment. Who knows what the future holds for this new, Unreal developer, but we'll be keeping a close eye on them.
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Jimmy the Geek