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How to not fail at Kickstarter in 12 easy steps

KS Successes
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I’ve been seeing a lot of failed indie RPG crowdfunding campaigns lately. It’s hardly a new phenomenon, though, and it’s not unique to RPGs: last September, Kickstarter reported that less than 1 in 4 video game campaigns were funded successfully over the preceding months.

Personally, I think that stinks–so I’m writing this article in an attempt to combat the problem.

For those of you who don’t know, I develop games under the name Sinister Design. My current project is a strategy RPG called Telepath Tactics. Over the past month, I ran a Telepath Tactics Kickstarter campaign–that campaign ended early on the morning of April 16, 2013, 275% funded.

That wasn’t my first attempt at Kickstarting Telepath Tactics, though. I ran an earlier, unsuccessful attempt at Kickstarting the same game back in December 2012. That first campaign ended with the game only 73% funded.

I mention this only to establish that I have a little bit of perspective on what makes a Kickstarter campaign work versus what doesn’t. What follows are twelve pieces of advice for indie developers looking to crowdfund their games.

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Sojourn announced

Sojourn
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A bit of digging around online has revealed the existence of Sojourn, a 3D roguelike-like in development by Horrific Games.

Sojourn opts for a decidedly Dark Souls-ish take on the genre, with an over-the shoulder perspective; difficult, weighty, real-time combat; and a bleak, sinister medieval setting.

Here is a video showing the latest build of the game:

Per the developer, character advancement in Sojourn will occur primarily through (1) a skill tree and (2) by building up stats that allow the use of more powerful items. He writes:

There are 6 stats, Vigor, Might, Agility, Perception, Intellect and Courage. They’re assigned at character creation and don’t do much by themselves. At character creation you also get a few skillpoints to assign, which go into a big skill tree. Each skill on the tree takes one point to unlock, and unlocks some ability – it might be a slowmo ability that uses energy, or the ability to sing spells, or lockpicking, or you remove penalties from heavy armour. That kind of stuff.

Skills all have a stat requirement, and may also need another skill to be unlocked.

There are no experience points or levels. Accomplishing certain feats awards more skillpoints. That might be defeating a boss, exploring a hidden location, or resting in a ancient library and reading the books there (assuming you have a high enough intellect and can read the appropriate language). You don’t need to fight to get more skill points, and it’ll be possible to sneak past every enemy.

Sojourn is currently being developed for Windows; the developer may investigate the feasibility of a Linux port as well. Once the game reaches alpha, Horrific Games plan to begin doing alpha and beta releases.

The Dungeoning announced

The Dungeoning
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In the tradition of Red Rogue (covered here), but somewhat closer to Spelunky in its approach, we have a new side-scrolling roguelike-like in the works by developer Physmo. It’s called The Dungeoning.

Like a roguelike, The Dungeoning features procedural level generation, permadeath, leveling, traps, loot, and combat. Unlike a “true” roguelike, The Dungeoning is real-time and side-scrolling. I don’t feel like making a separate roguelike-like tag, so I’m just going to file this under “roguelike” when it’s released.

Per the developer:

The game will feature lots of varied weapons, magic, XP, levelling up, permadeath and anything else that takes my fancy…

Other things that take the developer’s fancy include “player stats, wearable rings that give player ability buffs, destructible objects,” the ability to increase stats of your choice upon level-up, and “scroll items that when consumed level up a specific stat too, so you’ll be able to build a strong magic character for example.”

The Dungeoning is still quite early in development, but there’s already a pretty good variety of fiendish traps. (I can see myself dying to that false ceiling trap a lot.) Here’s a work-in-progress video showing off the latest build:

The Dungeoning is being written in Java, and is planned for release on Windows and Mac later this year.

New release: Aidinia, An Epic Adventure

Aidinia
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Káwa Project writes in to announce the release of Aidinia, An Epic Adventure, an Android jRPG.

The premise:

The once peaceful kingdom of Irisa has fallen into chaos, for the evil emperor Hiryuu has stolen the magical pendant that since ancient times protected the land! The king, desperate, has called upon his last hope… YOU!

The developer has not made any details about the game’s systems available, though he does make sure to mention that his RPG is full of dungeons, battles, monsters and treasure. (Which is a little like trumpeting that your book is full of words, paragraphs and sentences.)

I grabbed the free demo (i.e. the Lite version) of the game and played for a while; it seems to be a fairly straightforward Dragon Warrior clone, complete with 8-bit art, charming monster sprites and chiptunes. It’s definitely on the repetitive / grind-y side, though, so be warned.

You can nab Aidinia on Google Play for $0.99; as mentioned, there is also a free “Lite” version available serving as the demo; nab that here.

Heroes of a Broken Land announced

Heroes of a Broken Land
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One-man studio Winged Pixel (a.k.a. Andrew Ellem) writes in to announce the development of Heroes of a Broken Land. Do yourself a favor and look past the game’s rough graphical presentation for just a moment as we read:

Turn-based gameplay, with first-person dungeon crawling, a sprawling 2D overworld to explore, plus some town management too. You can control up to 6 separate parties at the same time, each with up to 6 individual hero recruits. The entire world is procedurally generated, so you get a new world each game.

Dude.

Let me just recap that last paragraph: Heroes of a Broken Land combines first-person dungeon crawling, a turn-based strategy overworld layer with town management, procedural world generation, and control over up to 36 characters spread across six separate parties.

This game is not screwing around.

Heroes of a Broken Land is up to Alpha version 0.1.0–said alpha build is currently playable for free in-browser right here.

HoaBL is in development for Windows, Mac and Linux, with an estimated release date of Summer 2013. You can pre-order the finished game for $5. I’m tempted to suggest we all do that so Andrew can hire himself an artist. This game deserves graphics to match its gameplay ambitions.

New release: Diehard Dungeon

Diehard Dungeon
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I just found about this one: Diehard Dungeon is an action roguelike in the Zelda style, a bit like Delver’s Drop, which evidently released on the XBox 360’s XBLIG service hack in September. This past Friday, on April 19th, it released for PC as well.

Contrary to my deepest hopes and wishes, you do not play as John McClane. The premise is nothing more than “Escape the dungeon by any means necessary!” Actual quote.

The game features 7 bosses, multiple routes, challenge rooms, multiple endings, and playthroughs that last between 30 and 45 minutes on a successful run. here’s a trailer showing the thing in action:

Diehard Dungeon is available for 80 Microsoft Points on the XBox 360 via XBox Live Indie Games; there’s a free demo available there as well. To get DD for Windows, you’ll need to either nab it as part of the Indie Royale Debut 2 Bundle (which includes the previously covered Battlepaths), or else wait for it to appear on Desura.

DD is also on Greenlight, so go ahead and upvote it if you want to help developer Tricktale get this game on Steam.

New release: Dark Quest

Dark Quest
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Oh dear. Pocket Tactics reports on the release of Dark Quest, a turn-based fantasy dungeon crawler for Android, iPhone and iPad by Brain Seal Ltd.

The premise:

An evil sorcerer has appeared in the lands, he has built a dungeon in the nearby village of faladir, where his minions use it as a base to raid the surrounding villages to bring terror and death to all its citizens. A hero by the name Zantor dares to defy the powers of the sorcerer and seeks to destroy the dungeon and put an end to this.

Dark Quest’s title art bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the board game Hero Quest, from the scene composition to the logo, right down to the nearly identical pose of each game’s wizard. Compare:

Comparison
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Now, it’s been a long, long time since I played Hero Quest, and I haven’t played Dark Quest at all, so I don’t want to speculate on what other things Dark Quest might have borrowed–but in my opinion, the developers are practically begging for a lawsuit on the basis of that title art alone. (Amusingly, despite the fact that they changed the dwarf into an archer for their title art, the three playable character classes in Dark Quest are in fact “The Warrior,” “The Wizard” and “The Dwarf”; there is no archer class!)

Here is the trailer–those more familiar with Hero Quest than I might be able to divine more:

Dark Quest is currently being sold for £1.99 on the Apple App store and $0.99 on Google Play. I do not support cloning, and as such, I will not be providing a link to this game until I’m convinced that it went no further than aping Hero Quest’s title art. On the strength of user comments below, I’ve added in the links.

Dragon Fantasy Book I released on PS Vita, PS3

Dragon Fantasy
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Remember that time I mentioned that Muteki Corp.‘s Dragon Fantasy: Book I would be getting an enhanced version released on Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita? It’s happened!

As of late Tuesday, you can nab Dragon Fantasy: Book I from wherever it is that one nabs digital downloads for Playstation products. PSN, I think? (I wouldn’t know–I don’t actually own any Sony products more recent than the Playstation 2.) Per the developers, the updated PC version of the game is “good to go” as well, but for testing. I’ll be posting again when they make it available.

In the meantime,why not look at this updated trailer?

If you own a PS3 / Vita, you can snag Dragon Fantasy Book I right now for $9.99 ($7.99 if you’re a PS+ member). Go here to get the PS3 version; here to grab it for the Vita.

Bonfire enters paid alpha

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Polish indie developers MoaCube have transitioned Bonfire, the fantasy strategy title with procedurally generated battles that I posted about last month, into paid alpha.

They write:

The game is available before it’s officially finished at a significant discount. The price starts at $7.95 and will move towards $15.95 as we get closer to the final build. Players can affect the shape of the final game by leaving feedback on our forums. While Bonfire is technically unfinished, we try to make each build feel like a polished and complete game, that’s just going to get expanded.

The Bonfire alpha has a free demo out for Mac and for Windows; as mentioned, it’s currently $7.95 to get into the alpha for Mac and for Windows.

Frayed Knights 2: Khan of Wrath announced

Yesterday, Rampant Games announced Frayed Knights 2: Khan of Wrath, the second episode in the Frayed Knights series (you can find my review of the first, Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon, right here).

FK2:KoW is being built from the ground up in Unity, so unlike the first episode, this one should run on Mac and Linux as well as Windows. It looks like Jay Barnson took some of the UI criticisms he received after the first episode to heart, as he has completely redesigned the user interface for episode 2. Given that the interface was 40% of everything that bothered me about the first episode, I find this to be a most welcome development.

The party roster will be expanded this time around, with support for six characters instead of just four (though you’ll still be able to import your characters from the first episode). There have been some changes to the game’s underlying rules, balancing changes to various feats, and the inclusion of a new “dynamic spells” system that will complement the original game’s stable of “fixed spells.” (More on rules changes and the new spell system here.)

FK2:KoW is currently planned for a simultaneous Windows, Mac and Linux release sometime in 2014.