I want to show you some of what I'm working (Codex, Flowchart, and a Fighting game) and tell you about Patreon. Patreon has been the biggest surprise-great-thing to me in the last year. It might remind you of kickstarter, but it's really not like that at all. Instead...it's fun. You can get to my Patreon here.
Kickstarter is a great and useful tool to raise money for a project. "Fun" is the last thing that comes to my mind when I hear it though. It's a place to do an enormous amount of work in a short time and mostly deal with hassles like shipping. Also, you shouldn't be "trying out a new idea" there. You should be showing something you thought every detail of through, completely visualized, and hopefully already made most of. Anything less than that, and it's going to be hard to get people interested because you don't have enough to show AND it's a bad idea anyway because you have to commit to a specific release date which you wouldn't be able to estimate unless you had things mostly figured out already. (Side note: I shipped 3 out of 3 kickstarters on time, with the 4th one on track to be on time too!)
On Patreon, you support a PERSON, rather than a specific project. That person might have many projects, some of them not really even appropriate for a kickstarter (such as doing podcasts). The part that has turned out the most FUN to me, and to my patrons I think, is that I can post every update of everything I'm working on there, big or small. During Pandante development, I posted dozens of versions of the game board, cards, rules, etc. Patrons helped playtest and also just point out errors or give suggestions how to improve things. What I didn't expect is that overall, patrons gave better feedback than any other medium I have used. So that encouraged me to post even more there, and so on. It's a supportive and friendly environment where I can actually get things done, and show people the steps along the way.
Right now, in addition to my podcasts, I have three main game development projects in the works. Codex, Flowchart, and now...the Fantasy Strike fighting game (yes, really!). At the $10 subscription level, patrons get my "Raw Game Design" podcast where I discuss actual design problems in the middle of solving for my games, as well as some sneak peeks at art. Everyone, even non-patrons, get my main podcast about game design for free. At the $25 subscription level, patrons get all that plus they can see all the latest gameplay materials for the tabletop games so they can make their own print-and-play version, and they will get builds of the digital games when those are ready. For example, they got keys for Steam Yomi weeks or months before it launched.
The tabletop version of Codex is now very far along in development. Its theme is inspired by RTS games like Warcraft and Starcraft, so you can think of it sort of like Warcraft 3 in card form. Heroes are really important to the game and you need them to cast spells. Tech buildings let you build more powerful units. Your opponent is always a step behind what you're planning, kind of like the fog of war in those games.
You can play 4 factions of Codex with the Patreon materials right now, which is hundreds of cards. It has all real and beautiful art, not placeholder, and the rest of the factions to follow very soon. Codex was a huge hit at Fantasy Strike Expo, and is what most attendees played and talked about the whole time.
Codex is a customizable card game that stands apart from others like Magic or Hearthstone in that it's competitively fair. You will never play with an underpowered deck that doesn't have enough rares or anything like that because there are no rares. You will never have intentional material advantage or disadvantage over opponents because it's simply not possible in the game system, for anyone.
Just as importantly, it's designed to not even need endless new cards. We can make lots of cards, sure, but there is just so much to the game that it's interesting to play for years as it is right now. This comes partly from the core mechanic being that you build your deck as you play (but not like in Puzzle Strike or Dominion), and partly that from there just being so many in-game decisions that matter. Likewise, out-of-game decisions are vastly less important in Codex because so much of the strategy happens WHILE you play. Think of it like in a fighting game: you want all characters to be roughly the same power level so that you can choose one that's FUN to you without being gimped and without having to start the game at 1-9 disadvantage or something. In Codex, there are over 1000 possible decks, each one of them differing from each other by more than 1/3rd, and ALL of them at least as strong as a weak fighting game character (such as ST Cammy, for example). It's really not like put together like any other card game in that respect.
Here are some cards:
This game is really simple to learn, but mind-bending to play. It was originally from designer Tim Fowers of Paperback and Wok Star fame, but I'm adapting it to the Fantasy Strike universe. In Flowchart, you play your cards double-blind with the opponent like in Yomi, but you must play your next card wherever the arrow points from your first card. If you get hit, you follow the red arrow, for example.
It's possible to loop back around and end up arriving on a card you already played. In that case, your combat option is already locked in! Your opponent can play anything they want against you...unless they arrived on an already locked-in card too! This creates interesting loops and can sometimes end the game instantly. The best description I've had of the game from player so far has been, "Wow this feels like playing a fighting game really badly!"
Fantasy Strike Fighting Game
Speaking of fighting games, let's make one. I talked about an idea for a simple fighting game in this podcast and now I'll start making it. Fighting games have gotten so full of difficult execution stuff that adds nothing to gameplay, that it can be really frustrating. Kara throws, option selects, plinking, etc just gets in the way of the actual decisions that are interesting. That said, there are some fighting games that have tons of interesting strategy even though they are very complex, such as Guilty Gear Xrd. But either way, the market of "very complex fighting game" is pretty saturated.
On the other end of the spectrum, there's Divekick. I think Divekick is a really notable game in that it's kind of out there all alone. It only uses two buttons and no joystick, and it's much, much simpler than any other fighting game. But there is surprisingly much to the game. It has much more strategy to it than I would have imagined ahead of time. Divekick shows us that we really can do a lot with just a little.
I'd like Fantasy Strike to be in the middle. More of a "real fighting game" than Divekick, but still much simpler than any other non-Divekick game to play. Simpler to play doesn't mean there's less skill needed though or fewer decisions, just less execution skill.
I'm already commissioning art and programming for the game, and Patreon patrons can help support the development of it. Here's a figure of Grave that is the basis of his model in the fighting game:
Let's talk about costs for a moment. Keep this universal truth in mind, "people don't know what things cost." Things generally cost massively more than you probably realize. The tabletop version of Codex has been in development for 10+ years off and on, and if we ONLY count the art costs, it's six figures at this point. Here's the real killer though: that's before you even start making an online version (and before you do any manufacturing or shipping of the physical version). Hearthstone, a digital-only game, had about 15 employees working for years, which comes to over $2 million in development alone, let alone marketing. (From what I can tell, you can add in hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing from JUST their first appearance at PAX East at launch).
Ok, and what about a fighting game? Imagine a team of 15 people working on that. Now look up the credits for any other fighting game and see how far that gets you. If we had a team of 15 on the fighting game and another team of 15 on the online version of Codex, that's maybe...$180,000 month burn rate? That's assuming paying people industry standard salaries (or below), but it's not JUST salaries there. Software licenses, equipment, rent, accounting fees, legal fees, employment insurance, and a significant amount of taxes. I'm probably estimating low there.
That sort of money is not within my grasp, and while there's some long-shot a portion of it could be available through kickstarter, as I explained at the beginning, it's best to hold off on kickstarter until you really have things figured out. So my actual goal will be teams of just 2 or 3 to get things going for these online games to at least a playable state and THEN we can figure out whether do a kickstarter, or grow it organically or what. To get even that starting point off the ground, I can't really do it alone though. And Patreon has been so excellent so far, that I'll ask more of you to join it.
So if you want to be a "patron of the arts" in a real sense here, you could help the creation of a pretty great alternative to every CCG out there as well as a pretty great alternative to complex fighting games out there. (Not that those are inherently bad. I love Guilty Gear Xrd!)
Here's where you can sign up. www.patreon.com/sirlin. Please help make these games happen.