Recently I was lucky enough to chat with Ivailo, the developer behind Deep Space Noir. We discussed many things, including his game, the YouTube series he made before the game, and much more.
CN: Thank you for joining me today, and for our readers, could you introduce yourself?
IB: Hi, and thank you for having me. My name is Ivailo Borisov, and I am the solo dev behind Deep Space Noir.
CN: What made you want to be a game developer?
IB: Long story short, it all started in the ’80s. I was probably 7 or 8 years old. Home computers were an utter rarity in Socialist bloc homes, and ours was no exception. But utilizing my father’s “connections” – something still regarded as cheating around here – opened certain doors for me. Every Sunday, I could use computers in a couple of universities, learn the basics and some programming, but most of all, play games. The last one got me hyped big time, and once back home, I used to draw game concepts in a notebook, imagining how these would one day be real games.
A couple of years later, my elder brother bought our first home computer that had just hit the shelves and, unlike its predecessors, was freely available and affordable [cost about 2 typical monthly salaries, if I remember correctly]. A Pravetz 8D (https://www.old-computers.com/Museum/computer.asp?c=988). From time to time, he would bring huge dot matrix prints of BASIC code that was supposed to be some kind of a game, and we would type for hours. Only to realize the computer would not run it in the end, as it was sporting its own version of BASIC, incompatible with programs written in standard BASIC. At some point later, when we got the hang of it, we programmed our first game where you would travel “planets”, land and launch. I believe at this time, I was already certain that someday, I’ll do games one way or another.
CN: What is Deep Space Noir, and what can players expect?
IB: Deep Space Noir is an old-school cynical, vulgar, and to a certain extent, brutal in its true-to-life depiction of events game, with a dash of melancholy and despair. Just like the space and noir genre itself.
With that said, it’s apparent my most memorable gaming years were the 90s, and early 00’s, when there were no holds barred in what an artist or creative could depict or convey, and I’m trying to get back to this state of mind with my game. Games that were done in this period are amazing because of their unburdened writing.
Now, I admit, I don’t know if you remember those times and what’s your mindset it is entirely possible that you look at the current state of affairs as the norm, but to me, we live in ridiculous times. Times that got people auto censoring even words like God. I mean, bloody hell, what is this, if not the pure embodiment of fear. And this forceful synapse rewiring has affected everything – from daily talks to games. Everything is now based on fear. And you need to comply with this state, so sales and approval won’t hypothetically plunge. It’s no longer a matter of creativity or talent but a matter of steering around someone’s emotions. What a fucking joke.
In that regard, Deep Space Noir is the exact opposite of what’s going on in the game industry in the last years and will stick its dirty fat finger in many gaping wounds, so to say.
Wait, I just realized this might not sound like the best sales pitch, so let me just rephrase and say players will be immersed in a mind-boggling conspiracy plot with multiple twists and turns, portrayed in a pixel-perfect manner, that will violently shake their house of cards. Much better now, yes.
CN: When can we expect to see your game?
IB: Ah, that’s a tough one. Considering I’m already 2 ¼ years in and there are major components I have no clue how to even approach, as ready solutions do not meet my needs. I’m writing almost everything from scratch with my zero-when-I-started-working-on-the-game C# skills; realistically, I’d say no early than late 2024 for episodes 1 and 2. Maybe at least 2 more years for episodes 3 and 4. The thing is, I consider this my Magnum Opus, so it won’t get published until I feel it’s properly done.
CN: Deep Space Noir started life as a black and white YouTube series; what made you decide to take that concept and turn it into a game?
IB: There’s a little backstory to that. It starts with my previous attempt at game dev that failed miserably. 9 years ago, a mate and I started working on an Outer Space Exiles game. Alas, it was not meant to be for various reasons, and less than a year later, we disbanded. But yearning remained. And it went like this for 7 years, when the COVID situation left me with some additional free time on my hands and a lot of frustration to vent out. And one day, there was this aha moment – why not turn the Deep Space Noir series into a bloody game; it’s going to be awesome. Yes, why not indeed. Off we go, mate.
As for the black and white part, I have to say, this bugs me a lot. It should have been a black and white game with minor colour highlights – a noir cliché if you will. But as I progressed and things got more and more visually pleasing, I realized just how much fidelity is being lost in monochrome. So I’m sitting at a crossroad I’m yet to cross someday.
CN: With transitioning to a game, were there aspects you needed to get rid of to accommodate the change?
IB: There wasn’t really a major change involved per se. But that’s a result of my previous experiences. See, I’ve been messing with indiedev since the late 90s – worked with various teams on various projects, had a couple failures of my own. And that made me understand one thing. Failure is certain for many, many reasons. You are to fight against it, and in 9 of 10 cases, odds are you will fail. For example, quitting your job to work on a game is a disastrous change. All the people I have known who went, “Fuck it, I’ll drop my job and work on my dream project”, have failed. Myself included.
In all honesty, one of the most brainless decisions I have ever made was to borrow money to sustain my living, so I could work on my previous dream game, which I believed would be a major success. From my current standpoint, this was a dumb thing to do. But I was delusional at the time. As many others are.
The result is that it took me two years to barely get back on my feet after that last flop. And I keep repeating ever since – enthusiasm is what gets you killed.
So one thing I knew this time was I was not going to risk absolutely anything for this little venture of mine, except my own time and money. And time, I had plenty. Just stopped playing my usual sink games. That alone freed a few good hours a day I could dedicate to making my own. And here I am – an indie dev again without having to change my lifestyle or worry about a thing.
But in fact, there is a change every indie dev needs to accommodate to. An important mindset change. There is no such thing as a zero-budget game dev. As with any other business – because this is a business and if someone sees it otherwise, they are naïve, to say the least – if you are not prepared to invest in your own product, it’s as good as dead.
CN: From reading your profile, you are mostly a writer turned game creator; has it been a difficult transition?
IB: In reality, I’m primarily a designer. At least that’s what I do for a living. Writing is something that comes along, as I’ve been writing for as long as I’ve been “doing” games – since I was a kid. But I was also designing logos for every single game in that old notebook. So these three have always been interconnected, and in my case, it’s more like making the most of the things I know well and love. Technically speaking, working on my game now, I’m entirely within my comfort zone. And that’s a good thing, as contrary to the popular misbelief, my experience shows nothing good had ever come to my life when I was out of it.
CN: Is there anything else you would like to add about your game?
IB: As you see, I get easily carried away, so enough blabbing. Would rather like to thank you for joining me in this upcoming noir venture; I hope you enjoy playing the first episodes once published.
If you want to learn more about Ivailo or Deep Space Noir, you find him at the following links: