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PixelNAUTS Get Lost in Orbit

When St. Catharines games developers PixelNAUTS released their first in-house video game, Lost Orbit, in May 2015, the gaming world was in a different space.

Both the Playstation 4 and Xbox One were not even two years old and Nintendo fans were already done with their Wii/U’s and were waiting for what would be, the release of the Switch in 2017. People were playing on consoles, but the majority of people playing video games were playing them on their phones or on their computers.

The team at PixelNAUTS worked on their initial game for nearly two years and released it to Steam and on the PlayStation 4, which was in itself a success. PixelNAUTS had moved on from the closure of AAA game developers Silicon Knights, stayed in Niagara and successfully just released their first game.

The game was a top-down, arcade style ‘dodge ‘em up”, which followed the protagonist, Harrison, a maintenance worker lost in deep space, as he attempts to find his way home with only jetpack as the means to propel himself. The campaign was fast and challenging, sold moderately well and earned favourable reviews. The game was financed through both private funding and a grant through Ontario Creates.

“Most ‘indie’ games had a hard time getting on consoles back then and we were really lucky to get in on the PS4 through a few contacts we had,” said PixelNAUTS co-founder Alex Golebiowski.

When the opportunity to port the game to the Xbox One came around, Golebiowski decided that if they’re going to port the game over to Xbox, they might as well release it for the Switch too, and, while they were at it, they might as well give the game a shiny reboot to bring it to a new generation of fans.

“We really just wanted to give the audience the best experience that we could. We really wanted to fix some of things, add some new things and really reward people who came back to the game,” Golebiowski said. “We addressed a lot of the issues people had with it and optimized the heck out of it and made it run really nice and just prettied it up a little bit.”

The original game only took about three or four hours to play through. For Lost Orbit: Terminal Velocity, they added an epilogue, more levels, and added to the narrative-driven storyline as Harrison whips and dodges through over 65 levels spanning five solar systems, offering cinematic breaks from the fast-paced gameplay.

In 2019, video games and gaming have become part of our moral fabric. They’re part of our every day life. They are more popular than they’ve ever been before. You can even watch tournaments in a stadium, or on sports networks. The industry has been growing nearly 10% a year, and has nearly doubled since 2019.

With this increase, the indie game market has really opened up, with more and more people playing games from smaller developers.

When you think about why PixelNAUTS had to reboot their first game, before they move onto their next, it’s easy to understand why they had to put their best foot forward into this reemerging indie game landscape. It’s been four years, of course there are ways to improve it, give it some new shine and storyline and market the game to the largest potential audience they’ve seen to date.

“These consoles have this opportunity for indies that Steam just doesn’t have anymore. There are a lot of people playing video games right now and buying games like ours,” said Golebiowski. “People liked Lost Orbit and we had a small fanbase around it. Although it’s a niche game, we really hope people like what we did with it. Lost Orbit: Terminal Velocity really is like the definitive edition of the original game.”

With the release of Lost Orbit: Terminal Velocity, the team at PixelNAUTS are ready to move on from Harrison’s space quest and towards their next game. Each release represents the different stages of the company, one that was just get beginning to get on their feet, and one that is evolving and running towards their next destination.

“I am personally done with this game now,” said Golebiowski. “I love the story and the world that we created, and if people want more, maybe we would start fresh and make a brand new game that would be similar to this one, but with Lost Orbit, we’re done and we’re excited to see what comes next.”

Lost Orbit: Terminal Velocity is available on Steam, The Playstation Store, the Xbox Games Store and the Nintendo eShop.

Written by Chris Illich

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