Friday, May 31, 2013

Kickstart: Legos, Epic Tactics, and a Derelict

Kickstart Your Weekend: A series in which I occasionally spotlight Kickstarter projects that are ending soon and deserve a little nerd love. Also, I'll highlight some past projects as well, as you never know when these enterprises are going to turn up again.

Before I get started with today's post proper, I just want to say a few words about the past month.

Thank you. Today marks 31 consecutive days of blog posts, and accordingly it has been the single greatest month in terms of traffic in the history of the blog. In fact, it more than doubled my previous record-setting month in page-hits. I really appreciate the regular traffic, and I'd like to continue to build on this momentum. At the same time, all those hits are still really quite modest--modest enough that I'm not going to share exact numbers just yet. And it required a heck of a lot of work to get there. I mean, I've written a novella's worth of words in the past month--somewhere between fifty and seventy thousand words, I estimate. Now, I'm still working my tail off, but this is a little butt-kick to all you guys who haven't followed or strong-armed your friends to do so (which is pretty much all of you): we can do better. I'd love to see the next month increase the traffic on site even further, and little things you do help with that a lot. In particular, the best two days of traffic in May were when I shared a link to my blog on the Angry Joe Show's comments section, and when a reader shared my C2E2 post on their Facebook page. Both days pulled in more than double the average number of hits I got on most other days. This stuff works, so try it out.

With that out of the way, let's review the status of some past Kickstarter highlights. Browncoats: Independence War finished up solidly, bringing in over $21,000 with an original goal of $16,000. I believe that means all producer-level backers get added to the Companion Registry. Not sure how useful that will be, though, since the Companions Guild won't be created until the socio-environmental collapse of earth-that-is. I wouldn't hold my breath, producers. (No, not really.)

The screaming warrior schoolgirls and man-boys of OVA: the Anime RPG are doing quite well. With over $75,000 right now, it looks like this weekend they will be unlocking their stretch goal for custom dice. Nerds love dice. So you'll definitely be getting a new set of dice with your pledge of $30 or more. If not, there's always the $15 digital level for us cheap-skates. Or, more accurately, those of us who have already blown way too much dough on other projects. But they've still got more than two weeks left, so I bet the project will end up with two hundred grand at this rate. Guardians Chronicles is doing well, too, even if they aren't rising as quickly now as earlier in their campaign. But with their Facebook page getting closer to 1,000 likes, they'll be adding their bald claw-sporting-berserker-not-Wolverine named Rage to those pledging $50 or more. I think they still have a decent chance of unlocking their hundred grand stretch goal in two weeks, so people pledging for the full set have a good chance of getting a lot of exciting goodies, including the Night Squad team, added to their sets automatically.

Deadzone is ending this weekend, and they're a cinch to become Mantic's best Kickstarter campaign, in my opinion. They're over three-quarters of a million dollars in pledges, and I bet they'll end up well over the million dollar mark before the weekend is over. As it is, they've got a Buy One Get One Free deal on their booster bundles, and a similar deal for their individual boosters. And since war-gamers love getting into these sorts of games in a big way, I expect a lot of people will be buying into this game at the last minute. I know I'm thinking about getting some Enforcers as Cerberus troops in addition to Blasto. We'll see what other surprise stretch goals the campaign yields. I strongly suggest you check in on the campaign before it ends on June 2.

Melting Point

What it is: Melting Point is a thirty minute 'brick film' being developed by Jonathan Vaughan. A brick film is a stop-motion animated film made using Lego toys to tell your story. If you don't know what stop-motion animation is, you're probably my younger brother-in-law making me feel like Old Man Winter again. Stop-motion is when you use still photography to take pictures of models, toys, or puppets in minutely changing poses to animate them moving around. And Melting Point is going to be a riff on a cop action flick, in which the leading Lego man is trying to bring down a psychotic pyro melting their Lego world.

Why it's exciting: Way back in the 90s, my brother and I used to love messing around with my parents' VHS video camera. There was no better way to burn through tapes than scratching them up filming our lame gags and then watching them ten minutes later on our tv. One of my great aspirations as a stupid seven year-old was to take my Ewok Robin Hood Prince of Thieves forest village set and film my GI Joe action figures in really bad stop-motion battles with each other. And they were bad--like I would forget to pause the frame and accidentally film my repositioning the figures and then I'd stop the recording bad. Fortunately, those aspirations didn't last long. Even more fortunately, Jonathan Vaughan is going to the trouble of doing a Lego stop-motion video that looks well-written, funny, and really sharply composed. His previous short, Zombie: Genesis, shows a lot of wry humor and talent, and I can't wait to see what he does with Melting Point. His initial support has been good for the first few days, but film projects tend to slow down a lot more than other Kickstarter campaigns, so please visit his campaign and spread the word about it in support of a really ambitious little brick film. Here's his Zombie: Genesis short, followed by the sequel, Zombie: Exodus:

Massive Chalice

What it is: Massive Chalice is a computer game coming out of Double Fine Productions, an indie game studio that funded an adventure game last year that seemed to break open the floodgates for high profile video games going to Kickstarter for funding. The game's action itself revolves around the old-school tactics genre, with players commanding a squad of heroes in defense of the realm. But the meta-game itself that extends beyond the combat and links the action sequences together is a choice-based strategy game. The player takes on the role of an immortal king or queen, building support and employing heroes in their service while also marrying them off to create political families. It looks like a bit of Fire Emblem and Ogre Battle 64.

Why it's exciting: I love cross-genre games. I love tactical games. And I love games that force players to make difficult, subjective choices and deal with the consequences. And I love having the passage of large amounts of time be a factor in strategic game-play. Massive Chalice looks like it's lined up to do just that.

Now I'm going to highlight a project that I was super excited for but that didn't receive the support it needed. There have been several projects that I loved that failed, but I think this one deserves the most post-KS support.


What it is: Blackspace is a unique take on the tower defense strategy genre. For the uninitiated, tower defense is a type of game where the player controls a fixed set of assets that are then attacked by successive waves of enemies. Traditionally, the player builds a series of towers along an approach to a castle or headquarters while orcs or undead storm down the road. In Blackspace, however, this straightforward formula is something altogether different. In this game, the player controls a versatile mining craft tasked with harvesting asteroids for valuable resources. Flying freely around the asteroid in full 3D physics crunchiness, the player gathers resources and tears up the deformable rock surface with mining warheads, and then uses the resources to call in structures to establish a mining facility and defenses on the planetoid.

What happened: I love a good tower defense. Even in traditional strategy games, some of my favorite moments are when I arrange for 'Helm's Deep moments' by setting up heavy defensive positions and waiting for the enemy to charge into my fire. The ambitiously beautiful setting and awesome physics of Blackspace also enticed me. And Blackspace really breaks the mold of tower defense games by making the main landing vessel a veritable bomber in its own right. But unfortunately, the campaign never even raised half of its funding goal of $350,000. Granted, this was before games like Star Citizen and Project Eternity (both earning millions in pledges) showed how massively popular Kickstarter games could be, but I still will never get over the way this beautiful and slick-looking game got overlooked by most Kickstarter patrons. Maybe it was the fact that the game didn't have a super-polished trailer, or that there wasn't much interest in a genre-bending tower defense game, but this is one project I'd really like to see power back up and take off. Follow their website and see what happens when they finish their pre-alpha demo.

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