Ten Questions With… Raffi Parsekhian (L3O Interactive)

Ten Questions With… Raffi Parsekhian (L3O Interactive)

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Horizon, an ambitious turn-based strategy game was one of the first games to make use of the then new Steam Early Access platform. We checked out the game after the full release and found a lot to like despite some annoyances. Raffi Parsekhian from L3O Interactive, the small Indie studio behind the game was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the game.

Can you give our readers a quick introduction of yourself and the studio?

My name is Raffi Parsekhian. I am the lead designer and producer of Horizon, a recently released new space strategy game for the PC. Our small independent studio – L3O Interactive is based out of Toronto, Canada.

What made you choose to create a turn-based space strategy game?

Even though I enjoyed playing many genres of games growing up, I was always most fascinated with 4x turn-based space strategy games. Being put in control of an empire, exploring new star systems, discovering other Aliens and technological advancement holds something very appealing to me and I think for many people. After playing the early classic 4x games I thought I could build on them to make these types of games even better so I embarked on a journey to make one.

What are the games that influenced you and how?

Many games inspired the making of Horizon but most of all Master of Orion 1/2 along with Star Control 2 had the biggest influence. The former had the excellent game design and mechanics which had defined the 4x genre and the latter had a very lively and fascinating universe where you did a lot of exploration, and met different aliens each with their unique stories and missions.

The other influences on Horizon were TV shows like Babylon 5 with their grand story arc. The galactic lore was something that was very important to me and that I wanted to integrate with the strategy part to increase the immersion factor and give more meaning to your choices in game.

What features of Horizon are you the most proud of?

The integration of open-ended missions in a 4x space strategy game had never been attempted before so it was a bit risky. Being a sandbox game we had to be careful to add race-specific story missions that would enhance the gameplay but wouldn’t take away from the core of what defines this genre. That aspect ended up being well received by fans as well as reviewers which we are very proud of.

What was the biggest challenge while creating the game?

There were many challenges (financial and technical) throughout development as a small Indie making a 4x game with a very large scope and Horizon had a very long and protracted development. The biggest was persevering no matter what and always believing in the project, there were many sacrifices along the way but this is the price you pay for pursuing a dream.

What aspect of the game was the most fun to create?

If I were to pick one probably the tactical combat and all the systems that make it tic. Horizon is built on a fully custom engine built by two people and we created every bit and piece from the particle engine to all the visual effects and of course the AI and so on. As designers and programmers getting your hands dirty with low level stuff like that and seeing it all work is a lot of fun.

How was your experience with Steam Early Access?

When we launched on Steam Early Access it was still a new program by valve so we didn’t have too much information in terms of what to expect and although it looked like a good opportunity we were also a bit concerned on how we would manage expectations and our time with our very small team to communicate with the fans during an important stage of development. We went ahead as we wanted to get honest feedback from fans and this was very helpful to us, we got a lot of suggestions and although we were overwhelmed at times, we also learned a lot through the experience.  We had initially planned to spend 3-4 months in early access and ended up extending to almost 7 months.

Is there anything about Horizon you would have done differently in hindsight?

One of our guiding principles was to offer as complete a 4x experience as we could make and also to expand on previously standard (simpler but refined 4x game mechanics). This meant instead of focusing on a few things we had a very large scope of features that pushed us to our limits and extended development time beyond what I ever imagined. In hindsight it would have been better for our sanity to be a bit less ambitious with our first game.

Do you have any future plans for Horizon?

We just released a major update as part of a post-launch add-on that made numerous changes, A.I. and balancing improvements and new feature additions based on feedback from our players. We plan to continue on this path with future add-on/updates this year.

Anything else you would like to add?

I would like to thank our fans that have stuck with us and have provided such good feedback in the past year and who continue to do so. We started making Horizon for ourselves but it has since evolved to something that belongs as much to the community.

A big thank you to Raffi for taking a break from his hectic schedule to share his thoughts with us. Anyone that are fans of the turn-based space strategy game genre should definitely take note of Horizon. You can check out our review HERE or visit the Steam store to purchase a copy. 

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