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Saving suns with Solar Flux

Firebrand's first original IP coming to iOS

Firebrand Games is best known for its work on other people's games. For years the studio, which is headquartered in Glasgow, Scotland, has specialized in creating the Nintendo ports of racing games, being responsible for everything from TrackMania on Nintendo DS to Need for Speed: Undercover to Dirt 2 and Need for Speed: The Run on Wii and Nintendo 3DS. In the coming weeks, the independent studio will finally release its first original game — conceived and developed on its own initiative — Solar Flux.

"Obviously most developers have the desire to create their own IP at some point, and we'd been so busy for years we just didn't have the opportunity," said Mark Greenshields, CEO and founder of Firebrand Games. "In 2011, we decided enough's enough. Now's the time we have to start thinking about producing our own IP."

"We believe it is good enough, touch wood, and we want to give it the best we can."

With smartphones and tablets now widely available and easy to develop for, the studio saw an opportunity to make its own game on the side of its existing contract work. Greenshields gave his team of developers a clean slate to work with — anyone in the studio could come up with any idea they thought would make a good game. It didn't have to be a racing game, it didn't have to have anything to do with anything they'd worked on previously. All they had to do was have an idea, create a prototype, and the team would work on whichever game idea it liked the most.

Many ideas and prototypes were developed and some were better than others, but the clear winner of Firebrand's prototype challenge was a little space puzzle game that came to be Solar Flux.

Playing as a little spaceship, players are tasked with travelling across the universe to save dying suns from extinction. It's a game were players must pick up orbs and fire them into dying suns to revive them, all while preserving heat shields and dodging stray meteors. According to Greenshields, Solar Flux is the kind of game that is difficult to communicate through images because there is only so much a screenshot can say. A screenshot, for example, cannot communicate how a player leverages the gravitation pull of various planets and meteors to slingshot their spaceship from one sun to another. A screenshot does not communicate the desperation of a player who is low on fuel and hoping they will drift into a planet's shade before the sun's unforgiving rays burns their ship to smithereens.

With four galaxies and 80 solar systems to explore, each with their own obstacles, Solar Flux is a strategy game as much as it's a puzzle game. Players have to manage their resources to know when to use fuel to drive them in a certain direction or when to just let gravity do its work. Players also have to time their movements to avoid collisions and excessive sun exposure.

Greenshields told Polygon that the studio has been taking its time with the game because it has no one to answer to but itself. The studio has no backers, and if the game flops, it doesn't have investors to cushion its fall. "The game has to stand on its own two feet," he said. "If it's not good enough, it's just going to fall.

"We believe it is good enough, touch wood, and we want to give it the best we can."

Solar Flux is currently planned to be released in August, first on iPad and later on iPhone and Android devices.