Date: November 20, 2013
Log Entry by: Adam
The Kickstarter campaign is live!
Remember, Kickstarter works like this: you don’t get charged unless the campaign is successful (the funding goal is met), AND you can change the amount you’re backing at any time during the campaign.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been months since we launched our little website.
We started working on this game with the core goal of building a community around the shared experience of enjoying sci-fi throughout our lives.
We’re building a sci-fi playground where we have the freedom to create in meaningful ways, where characters matter in an ever-changing universe. We want to craft experiences that you recognize from the things you love but can also surprise you by being unique and personal, by showing you that your decisions matter.
We’ve had many sleepless nights since we’ve started working on this game and still have a few more as the Kickstarter campaign launches.
We believe that we’ve got a strong game concept backed by desires as players we want to see met. The challenge going forward is to make enough Internet-noise to find other like-minded people who want the same things we want. And that’s where you come in.
The Butterfly Effect (No, not Ashton Kutcher)
The beauty of crowdfunding to me is how empowering it is. Instead of waiting for the industry to tell me what’s going to be available and trying to choose the thing that’s most likely to be worth my money, I can conjure what I actually want into existence with my wallet. And it’s cheaper and gives me more perks.
But, crowdfunding campaigns rely on a snowball effect. Some people who are incredibly passionate about a game will back it immediately. But most people who are hearing about it for the first time need a vote of confidence from existing backers before they’ll back. And how many backers they need to see varies from person to person. So, the first wave brings the second wave, the second brings the third and so on.
This is why if you plan on backing us yourselves, please do so as early as possible. I cannot overstate the importance of this, as a lot of media interest and getting featured on Kickstarter.com revolves around the first wave of backers in the first 2-3 days of a project.
Word of Mouth… And Keyboard
Generating interest and getting cool things by backing is great, but a campaign can’t fund without people finding out about it.
Unless you’ve got a big marketing budget and a bunch of media contacts, indie campaigns run on word-of-mouth. Here are some of the ways you can help us spread the word:
- Share and Like our Fan Page and our individual posts on Facebook!
- Tweet and retweet us (@jellyfish_games) on Twitter! Some campaigns owe their success mostly to Twitter
- Upvote our posts on Reddit! We post regularly on reddit.com/r/IndieGaming and reddit.com/r/BaseBuildingGames.
- If you’re part of any forums or comment on sites that might have interested members, post something there!
- Tell your friends, family, neighbours, grocery store employees, strangers on the street!
If we’re lucky, we’ll get the word out quickly and it’ll be easy street from there. But the more likely scenario is that we’re going to have a 30-day fight in front of us. So let’s fight for Astrobase Command together!
Date: November 12, 2013
Log Entry by: Ilaliya
We’re as excited about getting this show on the road as you are, but we needed to delay the launch another week or so. In the interest of being completely transparent about what’s going on, here’s the deal:
Is it here yet?
Short answer: no
Long answer: As soon as the video and page are finished
A couple of factors:
- We’re synching up with media coverage. The game resonates with everyone we talk to, and we have gameplay footage (exciting!). The success of this kickstarter will depend on our ability to make a compelling pitch (page/video) and then it’s about getting the word out. So we’ve had to devote time to pursuing traditional-ish marketing. Some dates were outside our control.
- Kickstarter has an approval process, and we needed the weekend to work. So even if we submitted on Thursday (which is possible) it would be live on Monday
- I experienced some Windows issues on my primary machine, which set us back more than a few days. This has been solved, but I needed to do a clean install. Twice. :/
- A few things left to wrap up
Is the wait worth it?
Yep! We only get one shot to do this. We’ve been building up to this moment for 6 months! We can wait for a few more days of polish.
Where are we at?
- Doing the final cut for the intro to the video. The intro has some concept pieces set to music (and animated in Unity), to set the overall mood/tone — I think this is important because Astrobase Command’s tone sets it apart. But conventional wisdom says you lead with gameplay. So we’ll have to see how this looks when we’re done.
- Coordinating with some friends that are doing the music / mastering the audio for the “talking heads” portion of the video.
- Dropping in the gameplay footage on top of parts of the talking heads section
- Determining the best compression for the video so it actually looks good and loads fast (the master is over 1GB)
- Doing the rewards infographic
Makes me wish I joined the AV club in school! But part of being indie isn’t just doing everything, it’s doing everything to some minimum level of quality. Which, fortunately we’re going to hit… but unfortunately, will take a few more days
We’ll be making a lot of noise when it goes live, so join the mailing list
Date: November 1, 2013
Log Entry by: Adam
When you’ve worked as a game developer in a really big company, it helps you to appreciate the unique challenges of indie game development. When you have to take on all the responsibilities of running a studio and making a game at once, that can take you really far out of your comfort zone. While that can be scary at times, it’s also incredibly exhilarating. It allows you to discover new things about yourself and forces you to evolve in directions you wouldn’t expect.
Working for the big guys
The bigger the company, the more management is required to keep everything running. The more management you have, the more people tend to get treated like resources (calling them numbers would be overly dramatic). And good resources are specialized, easily quantifiable, well-defined things that don’t overlap with each other in any way. Designers design, coders code and artists… art.
This can be a very comfortable proposition for some people because they get to fill their time with a very specific thing they love. The problem is that most things in the game require some contribution from all departments and things can get lost in translation.
As the primary coder for Astrobase Command, one of the first things I needed to do was get base-building into the game. In order to build a base we needed 3D assets for “base parts” that the code could make into modules for testing purposes. I opened up 3DS Max once like 2 years ago, so it was on me because that’s how you roll in the indie scene. Like Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds, I spoke the “best Italian.” Banjerrrno!
I’ve had no prior experience doing actual 3D modelling, so I’ve taught myself over the past few months in the copious free time where I wasn’t programming game features.
Check it out:
Five months ago
Three months ago
One month ago
Things that broke my brain:
- How do you express a 70′s futuristic art style?
- How do you convey the notion that things are repetitive and re-used because they’re manufactured?
- How do you convey that things are built to be practical instead of extravagant?
- How do you accomplish the last two things without being bland and same-y?
- How do you replicate the desire for safe shapes like the Puppeteers use on their ships in Ringworld (Look it up)?
- How in the hell do you pick a color palette?
- How do you make it feel safe inside while incredibly dangerous outside?
These are a few of a much larger list of questions that I wasn’t equipped to answer when I started. I had many false starts, but when you put your mind to something and have a passion for the subject matter, you find ways to use the tools you have to make things unique and interesting.
- “These Crew Quarters need The Price is Right privacy curtains to really bring out the 70′s.”
- “These Medbay beds double as a sealed tube so you can just push a button and seal someone inside for quarantine or to dispose of the body.”
- “This kitchen is friggin’ Avocado green and has a watercooler for people to hang around.”
By being the artist making the assets and the coder using them in the game, it allowed me to do some interesting things.
For example, a module’s walls can turn partially invisible when it is obstructing the player’s view of the inside. Since I’m the one writing the code that manages how that happens, I can be smart about how I subdivide the walls into parts to make the best looking effect.
Another example (work-in-progress) is the projector in the classroom. The goal is to give something approximating an 8mm effect. Now, I could spend a lot of time calibrating the lighting or making the projector screen have distortions that would modify the image, but I know as the coder that I can manipulate the light being projected so it occasionally dips in brightness or jumps to one side, which I find to be a more interesting approach.
This whole process challenged me to learn something entirely new, an opportunity I probably wouldn’t have had elsewhere. And I’ve developed a whole new appreciation for the work of artists as a result.
Got a bunch more work to do on this for the Kickstarter video. Make sure to check us out on November 12th!
Date: October 29, 2013
Log Entry by: Ilaliya
We looked at various funding options available to us, and I am pleased to announce we’ll be kickstarting in about two weeks — November 12. So mark it on your calendar. It will run for the standard month, and the funding goal is basically the min-spec for Astrobase Command and what we strictly need to have the core game.
Here is where we’re at:
I want to thank all of you who have contributed up until now on the forums with design discussions and other feedback, as it’s very important for us as developers to gut-check what we’re thinking and also to incorporate what you guys are thinking about! Plus we are extremely excited and happy about the positive reaction we’ve gotten so far, and it really inspires us to deliver a game that lives up to our expectation and yours. Kickstarter was a natural choice because apparently we’re not the only ones who want to play Astrobase Command!
Because we passionately believe in community-as-partners, something we’ll be doing is setting up a poll so you guys can vote on what features you care about for purposes of stretch goals.
A lot of kickstarters seem to use really fuzzy math here. Where as a developer I’m like “how is it possible you can do THAT for THAT little?” or “wait, where is all that money going?” This annoys me as a gamer that wants to be excited and hopeful about up-coming games on kickstarter. So we plan to do a pretty detailed breakdown of items just to be as transparent as possible, because we want you guys to be excited and hopeful about our kickstarter.
The other thing we want to get the community opinion on is rewards, so we’ll put polls out to that end too.
I just want to be clear again that we’re making Astrobase Command for people who want to play it, which certainly includes us (this is our motivation for doing it in the first place) but also includes all of you! So come help us do this thing.
P.S. Sign up for the mailing list! We’re going to be relying heavily on feedback, and the mailing list is the best way for us to push you info larger than 140 characters. Also in the coming weeks, we’ll be using the mailing list to send out the details of our progress, how we spend our time and money, as well as other exclusive things that are a bit too “how sausage is made” for a public forum.
Date: October 29, 2013
Log Entry by: Ilaliya
In this post I’m going to talk about our first datapad program — the module builder.
But first, a bit more about the datapad. The datapad screen real-estate was adjusted to fit a full 16:9 widescreen, so it has a standard aspect ratio. It’s native resolution is now 624×351. While normally it sits on the shelf, it’s fully draggable around the screen.
What’s really interesting is that the datapad runs unity packages. And it has hooks to game functions. So for example, the community could write a poker cartridge program where you bet in-game resources. If we don’t do it first! But really, you can write and distribute any cartridge you want. Either things that really help you plan your base (graphs, metrics, management), or just mini-games to compete for high-scores with other base commanders!
Modules are broken up into quadrants. In the first screen of the module builder you select the shell, and the contents of each quad by browsing the category and then dragging the object into it’s spot. The details are listed in the main pane, and the module itself is an aggregate of the attributes of it’s quads. Then you select your build crew (whose skills should match the build skills required of the module), and put them to work!
One of the downsides of being an indie company is that you get to do everything, but one great things about being an indie company is that you get to do anything. At a triple-A studio, the GUI team would be about five to ten guys focused on making the GUI look good. But the GUI would be a separate feature which has its own drawbacks. You see this in a lot of modern RPGs that might have an extensive and deep crafting system, a beautiful world, but you craft by manipulating drop down lists. Ultimately you end up staring at very basic 2d menus for a combine-style crafting system. Best case scenario, the menus are well skinned.
But because I’m one person I can put a strong design vision into every aspect of the game. I wanted to game-ify “the looking at GUI” parts of the game. While building modules is essentially a combine crafting system, in fitting with the world aesthetic of Astrobase Command, the Module Cartridge itself is reminiscent of old games. It’s fun to play.
I am not a pixel artist. I spent about a week trying pixel art to learn how deeply this is true. I’m good enough to modify someone else’s pixel art at best, but that’s it. Part of the reason we’re kickstarting is to be able to hire an actual artist.
So I emailed Daniel Cook to get permission to use the art from projects he’s worked on in the past, so we could get the module builder in-game. The Module program is using art from Hard Vacuum and Tyrian. I chopped it up and it looks fantastic. So thank you Daniel!