Friday, May 17, 2013

Kickstart Your Weekend: Aliens, Cuddles, and Dino-hunters

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.

It's another Kickstart Your Weekend! Yes yes. Note that this won't necessarily be a weekly installment on the blog, but there are a number of interesting projects I'll touch on this week and next week. After that, I plan on trying to get a weekly shout-out only to brand new and nerd-interesting projects so you'll have a good amount of time to follow and possibly pledge your support.

So it's been an interesting week for the projects I highlighted last weekend. Bifrost's campaign continues to stagnate as there's a complete lack of feedback and support from Bill Willingham, the project creator and author. Recently he is supposed to have said that Bifrost will happen regardless of the Kickstarter's success, which--while it was probably meant as a reassurance to fans of the project idea--couldn't have done the campaign any favors. The KS campaign is all but certain to fail, and I'm not that broken up about it. If there's one thing I hate as a KS backer it's feeling emasculated by the indifference of a professional creator who doesn't really need the campaign to be successful but wanted to try it anyways. It's like asking your wife to make dinner for when you get home, only to forget and pick up Chicago dogs on the way--only less endearingly eccentric, right? Sure, both funding options might be valid for you, but once you announced one intention the other should be off the table.

Robotech RPG Tactics has been doing solidly well over the past week, and it looks like with 3 days remaining they're going to get awfully close to (pinky to mouth) one million dollars. Guns of Icarus: Adventure Mode has pretty much plateaued, it would seem, and I doubt they will be able to get enough steam to reach two hundred grand, let alone the $500,000 stretch goal they would need to fund all of the MMO elements they have in mind. Still, they've definitely kicked the ball down-field, and I bet the next expansion they fund will put a broadside into their steampunk MMO aspirations. (Is that enough mixed metaphors for you? Because I could bolt another one or two on there.) Jagged Alliance: Flashback has rallied a little bit over the past week, thanks to a mention from the hugely successful Kickstarter for Project Eternity. The merc tactics game still has more than one hundred grand to raise in 3 days, though, so it's still far from a cinch. If you're on the fence about pledging, do it--do it nao.

So that's the followup to last week's stuff, now on to three new project highlights.


Deadzone Enforcers fighting off huge Plague forms.
What it is: Deadzone is the latest game on Kickstarter from Mantic Games. Set in their science fiction setting known as Warpath, Deadzone is a skirmish-level miniatures wargame with a specific setting and focus that edges it towards being a board game. Players assume a squad-sized team of soldiers and pit them against each other in claustrophobic urban environments, making it somewhat similar in appeal to the anime-style miniature wargame Infinity. Now Mantic Games is a fairly new UK company led by several ex-Games Workshop employees, so I identify them as the anti-GW. It's a distinction I really like, as I've become somewhat zealous in my criticism of GW over the years, and it also means that their miniatures tend to shoot for "like Games Workshop, but better." Whether they're successful or not is a matter of taste, but their miniatures are undeniably less expensive with more realistic proportions (slightly smaller) and tend not to have stupid skulls hanging off every accessory (seriously, I have an old GW model with 30 skulls decorating his clothes and equipment). There are now six factions available as part of the Deadzone campaign: the elite human Enforcers, the disenfranchised human-alien conglomerate Rebels, the necroform-like Plague,  the totally-not-Space-Ork faction known as the Marauders, the warrior-Vulcan faction the Asterians, and the space-dwarf Forge Fathers. For a sci-fi wargame that just began in earnest two years ago, Deadzone promises to bring Warpath into triple-a variety and large-scale support for players of lots of different persuasions.

This one will not attempt diplomacy... enkindle this!
Why it's exciting: First of all, Deadzone is well past its base funding goal, so all funds that they'll be making in the next two weeks of their campaign will go towards stretch goals, unlocks, and free add-ons. Secondly, since this is Mantic's fourth Kickstarter project, they've proven themselves reliable in delivering their supporters great models in a reasonable turn-around. I myself pledged for their sci-fi sports wargame Dreadball, and I gotta say the components are fun and the goodies keep coming--in fact I literally got some of their second-phase models in the mail today. The setting also supports a lot more diversity for play styles and aesthetics than their main competitor, in my opinion. Plus, a recent stretch goal unlocked an alien miniature that bears a striking resemblance to a famous Spectre known for having a lover in every port and a pistol in every tentacle. Pledge for this already!

Bear - A First Time Parent's Continuing Journey

What it is: Alright, so this one isn't so much nerdy as sappy, but the first Bear book was one of the first Kickstarter projects to draw me into the site and really get me excited about some of the unique projects getting funded this way. Created by Ryan Sohmer, Bear - A First Time Parent's Continuing Journey features full-page painted illustrations in a large-format book. Every page has a few proverbs or observations on the surprises and lessons of becoming a parent, and the illustrations themselves depict adorable animal parents and kids in various typical family moments--throwing a hissy on the floor, rocking a baby to sleep, trying to teach your boy to hop a tree branch. You know, the usual.

Why it's exciting: Like Deadzone's Mantic Games, Bear's creator Ryan Sohmer is a proven entity. I pledged for the first volume of Bear, and I have to say that every page just oozes genuine parental affection. Cute paintings, and with narrations that vary from humorously wry to tear-jerking sincere, there's a lot to love in this project. With over two weeks to go and already 75% of the way to their base funding goal, this campaign is certain to be successful. And for those of you who missed out on the first volume, the rewards for this campaign can be used to get a copy of that book as well as the sequel. I recommend the book very highly, it's one of those kids' books that is full of illustrations kids will love and insights parents cherish. That also means it's the kind of book you keep on the top shelf at home or otherwise out of reach so your son doesn't pull it down on the floor and trample it in his enthusiasm.

Smell that? Are we downwind of those brachiasauruses?
What it is: This ambitious little PC game is trying to tell a story that is totally different from anything else I know, and it is trying to do so in a completely novel gameplay style, too. Created by Alex Fundora, Stomping Land is a primitive hunting/survival/crafting game. You play a prehistoric bow-armed hunter in a land populated by diverse herds of dinosaurs. Hunting smaller dinosaurs for meat, the second your bow drops a prey animal you're racing against larger predators--like Tyrannosaurs--who will happily come in and enjoy your hard-earned kill. But you can also lay traps, snares, and lures to try to foil these mega-opportunists and get away with your dead, flaccid handiwork cleanly. If only it were so easy to protect one's childhood heroes from being ravaged by opportunistic reboots. Sigh. There's also going to be some sort of tribal coop element to Stomping Land as well, but the details on that haven't been spilled yet.

Why it's exciting: This game looks to incorporate two or three genres with a consistent, visceral gameplay experience. But, despite the ambitiousness of that statement, the tribal dynamics and prehistoric setting mean that the game itself should still be small enough for an indie developer to manage. The idea of stalking small prey dinosaurs, killing them, and then skulking away as scavengers swoop in just sounds like a lot of fun, and certainly not the sort of over-powered player experience the big game makers are interested in producing. And like Deadzone, this one has already met its modest base goal. As a PC game, however, the next two stretch goals are very important--Alex Fundora will hire dedicated full-time talent to help flesh out the world. Considering how nice the pre-alpha looks, it's amazing to think what a full-time developer could do with this unique setting. Let's throw some money at them and find out.

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