Do the milkshake the milkshake do the shake
It’s now a bit over a month since my first foray into the world of crowdfunding. Double Fine Adventure finished with over $3 million pledged, and already big names are coming out of the woodwork looking for similar success. Wasteland 2 is currently at over $1.5 million (plus an interesting "Kick it Forward" strategy), and Big Finish Games has started a pre-Kickstarter publicity campaign for a new Tex Murphy game.
With the new spotlight on crowdfunding, it's important to note that Kickstarter isn’t the only crowdfunding website out there, either, even though it does have the most active community (thanks in part to all that publicity).
There’s also Pozible, an Australian site built along the same lines as Kickstarter; IndieGoGo, that offers a style of funding where the project gets to keep what is pledged, even if it doesn’t reach its original target; RocketHub, who are trying to gamify the crowdfunding experience, and many more.
This month’s selections are a mix of projects I’ve already funded - I want to see them get made, after all, and another investigation of what’s going on in the world of crowdfunding.
Triangle Man - Pozible
This is a game I’ve actually had a chance to play! It puts a unique spin on the ‘punishment platformer’ genre which has recently become so popular, by including levels where you control multiple ‘Triangle guys’ simultaneously, presenting puzzles I’ve never experienced before. The game was originally released as a mini-game on Xbox Live Indie Games, and after much positive feedback, the team are seeking to further develop Triangle Man as a stand-alone title. (I'm not just showing my loyalties for the home team either, even though the developers, Convict Interactive, are also a much-loved indie from Sydney, Australia!)
The money raised is to go towards contracting a 2D animation artist, and to help pay the costs of running an indie startup - things like marketing costs and legal fees. They’ve already reached their initial goal, and it has been fantastic to see the Australian community come out to support them, but with around twenty days left, the sky’s the limit!
FTL - Kickstarter
A game that exploded onto the Kickstarter scene, and was 200% funded in 24 hours. Backed by Honourable Mentions at this year's IGF, plus endorsements from industry figures such as Ken Levine, Notch and Tycho from Penny Arcade, the game has already reached more than 1000% of its target, and doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
Conceived as a space travel roguelike, the core of the game is some very intense combat. Each Player’s experience is procedurally generated, but encounters see the Player attempting to repel boarders, repair systems, avoid damage from other ships, and bring their weapons to bear on their opponents, sometimes simultaneously. At this point, due to the campaign’s popularity, all the higher end rewards are sold out (including a chance to fly to Shanghai and spend time with the game’s creators), but pledges over $10 earn a DRM-free copy of the game when it’s released. In fact, since writing this, FTL has signed with Steam, so backers will now receive a DRM-free copy of the game plus a Steam copy, with beta testing also taking place through the digital platform.
Who's For Dinner - Kickstarter
Who’s For Dinner is a card game about cannibalism, with a twist. All the cannibals on this particular island see it as an honour to be eaten by their fellows at a great feast. And so, this is a game where the aim is to be eaten. The simple, light-hearted concept really appealed to me, especially after wading through some of the insanely complicated board game projects currently looking for funding.
Pledging can earn you everything from early access, to the opportunity to consult with the creator on Art/Design for one of the cards. Interestingly, though, the creator, Game Designer Matthew Rogers, is a proponent of "Print-N-Play games": The idea that the game should be freely available at any point online to be printed off and played. This means that Who’s For Dinner will actually be available free of charge should he reach his target and be able to finish making and testing the game.
Nevermind - IndieGoGo
What grabbed me about Nevermind was their pitch: “The Greatest Enemy is the One Inside Your Head”. On investigation, it turns out they’re making a horror game that builds on how scared it can make you. It does this with the inclusion of a heart-rate monitor that you connect to whilst playing.
As Nevermind detects you becoming more scared, the game gets harder. As you learn to recognise this, and to calm yourself, the game becomes easier again. This does raise some interesting design problems, but is a very cool step forward - a horror game that also has potential to be a serious game, helping people learn to deal with these emotions.
The campaign itself is also a bit different to the others I’ve previously mentioned. Hosted on IndieGoGo, it is one of the “Flexible Funding Campaigns” I mentioned earlier. When the timer is up, whatever fans have pledged, the developers get - regardless of whether the goal is reached. If you fund this, you fund it. (Just hope they make the most of the money.) Additionally, you have to kick in a fair amount of cash after the fact, to pick up the heart-rate monitor that makes this game so unique. I’m not bothered - I want to see this game made; but be sure to go into funding it knowing all the facts.
ARG Zombies - Kickstarter
There seem to be a few Alternative Reality Games going around on these crowdfunding websites, but this one is the best I’ve found so far. I mean, turning your daily life into a zombie survival horror game? How is that not the best thing ever! Your home becomes your safehouse, and as you travel through the real world, you have a chance to encounter zombies or monsters in the world of the game.
One feature I particularly like is their decision to include a combat system that rewards a Player’s skill. Turn based, Players complete specific gestures to attack. Completing these gestures faster and more accurately will improve the Player’s damage.
Players may also interact with anyone else nearby who is playing the game - trading with them, and building friendships and alliances, or fighting them. What pushed me over the edge, though, was the twist they’ve put on the concept of “checking in”. I’m already addicted to Foursquare, but when you compare “checking in”, to “clearing a building of zombies and earning loot”, well, that’s an easy choice.
In the first article of this series I found and funded five projects. Of these, four were successful: Rock Vibe, Jammer Up, Monster Guru and The Departure Game App. Only one failed to reach its target - Steampunk Bullet Train. So, while it was very disappointing to see one game fall by the wayside, four out of five ain’t bad!
For those keeping score, the most successful of the projects was The Departure Game App, which earned $8014, 267% of its goal. I haven’t received any rewards or important updates yet, but when I do, I’ll post them in one of these columns.
I design games and enjoy thinking about how they work. Shorter opinionated blatherings can be found on my twitter.
Jimmy the Geek