After meeting with Christopher Nolan and watching Interstellar six months prior to release, Jeroen De Cloe, founder of Sticky Studios, started working on the game based on the movie. He explains how his team worked with famed scientist Kip Thorne to implement his calculations, while making sure the game would actually be a game.
“Nolan and Kip had this approach to science in which they try to adhere to it, but when the audience would not understand, or it would destroy the narrative, they allowed themselves some freedom. We had a similar approach to science with the game. However we didn’t consciously opt for that, but concluded that a balance was a necessity. We didn’t want to ship something a mass audience wouldn’t understand.
The biggest challenge was to identify the relevant mathematics and avoid creating a simulation instead of a game. After all, it had to be fun and promote the film. Most of our early demos incorporated more scientific formulas than the final product. For example, the visualization of a black hole actually changes based on the angle, current speed and other factors. Reality actually distorts. When we visualized the black hole at first, we were presented with beautiful, real-time generated graphics, but they didn’t make any sense from a gameplay perspective.
Another example of simplification is our choice to leave out gravitational forces between interstellar bodies. Since the user is able to create their own solar system, running the simulation would actually result in planets colliding. We had to incorporate artificial rules, such as enforcing a distance between bodies and so forth, to avoid people creating unplayable solar systems.
Kip Thorne was the scientific consultant and executive producer for the film. I believe the original premise for Interstellar was also partially conceived by him. Paramount Pictures, who we partnered with for the development of the Interstellar game, as well as the film-makers felt it was important to be consistent in blending entertainment with scientific backed up theories.
We were in direct contact with Kip Thorne –through phone calls and e-mails. During multiple tech calls we discussed the mathematics around concepts such as time dilation, gravitational forces, slingshotting, black hole mathematics, et cetera. Kip provided us with custom written scientific papers summing up mathematics. These documents are basically excerpts from his ground-breaking work as a theoretical physicist. Mind you –these excerpts were still very complex and I personally stared at it realizing I should have paid more attention at school. Our engineers however DID understand it.
Kip actively played iOS builds in the prototyping stage and provided information throughout the development of the game. Once we finished the prototype stages, Kip – not being a gamer himself – obviously wasn’t as involved as in the beginning anymore.”