You'll love this tale of retro videogames, heartbreak, and throat-punching

Like a bit of retro gaming action with some everyday romantic drama mixed in? Check out Kristian Andrews' fantastic short film.

'Let's play Nomad X' is a brilliant little short in which a man tells us a story of heartbreak and throat-punching, fabulously interwoven with high space drama in the form of '90s videogame, Nomad X. As Patrick, the film's narrator (played by Rasmus Hardiker), divulges the secrets of Nomad X's gameplay, he drifts on to secrets about another unforgotten love, Carina.

Nomad X, you may not realise, is a completely fictional videogame, created entirely by Kristian Andrews for this short film. We spoke to Kristian to find out more.

What was your process for Nomad X?

The process was a strange one. Before I came up with the script I had this idea for a game in my head but making games is hard and I'm a filmmaker so I decided I'd weave a story around the game in order for it to become a film instead. Space simulators are such lonely games, everything about them is so inhuman, the scale, the environments and the fact you interact solely with vehicles and rarely ever with characters. I liked the idea that a gamer might use the safety of simulated empty space to escape from the universe of real relationships. So I started using the language of the space sim to represent a story that was very human.

What were your inspirations for Nomad X, the game?

The look of Nomad X owes a huge debt to David Braben's seminal game of the '90s, Frontier Elite II. Although the game was limited graphically, when I used to play it aged 10 it felt limitless. It might have something to do with its lack of visual information with its low resolution and reduced poly-count. Other influences are present as well, games like Flashback, Syndicate, Starfox, Minecraft, and The Mass effect series are all in there.

How long did the film take to make?

It took the best part of a year to make the film. I know three minutes a year is shameful, but I was making it whenever my day job directing commercials let up... I'm sorry, OK?!

What software did you use to create the video?

Aptly for a film about obsolete software I used Softimage XSI, which Autodesk recently discontinued. Like Nomad X though I'm sure it won't be forgotten.

Was it difficult to create such a deliberately dated look?

The look was mainly achieved as a result of my terrible 3D skills which definitely helped to keep the aesthetic simple. I toyed with more advanced techniques like low res texturing but I soon felt things shifting out of my control. Once I decided to take the stripped back low polygon approach to the problems I encountered the process became quite straightforward. However sometimes you really do have to force programs to put out something that isn't shiny and anti-aliased, geometry approximated or smoothed in some way.

Are there any plans to turn Nomad X into a real game?

There's been quite a buzz in the gaming community since the film launched and as a result I'm working with an awesome unity programmer called Chris Dawson to make Nomad X a reality.

Any other great feedback?

This from Trollhorn on Kotaku made me laugh: "The notion that this game doesn't exist hurt me more that knowing that Santa is not real."

There have been a lot of calls to head over to Kickstarter and turn Nomad X into a real game. It's an awesome prospect and I'd really love to, however there is a bit more of Patrick's story to tell first...


Jim McCauley is a writer, editor and occasional podcaster, and is available for space parties.