Thursday, May 31, 2018

We Did Our First Kickstarter! And It Worked!

Another journey begins. A long, long journey.
For  the fifth time in 25 years of doing business, we at Spiderweb Software are making a whole new game world (and new engine to go with it). Along with the announcement of our new series, Queen's Wish, we are launching our very first Kickstarter to support it.

We've put a lot of information about the new story and a video on our Kickstarter page.

We're getting older, enough so that the end of our careers is in sight. We only have so many new stories in us now. That is why we've put a lot of work into planning Queen's Wish. I've been designing it in my head for years. It's a very personal project in a lot of ways, and I've thought a lot about what I want to say.

This long blog post is for our fans, who might care about what we're thinking.

All-new (old) graphics style. All-new art. Note that all of these screenshots are very early and will heavily change.
The Basic Game Details

The Queen's Wish series, starting with Queen's Wish: The Conquerer, will hopefully be a trilogy  for Windows, Mac, iPad, and, for the first time, the iPhone.

Our earliest games, the Exile series, had a simpler top-down graphics style. Many fans have, over the years, asked us to go back to this. We're finally doing it. I like this style a lot. It's very graphically clean, and makes it  clear what creatures are in what spaces,  which is necessary for a game like this on small screens like the iPhone.

We're trying to give the series a nice unified look and interesting graphical effects. where you can always be sure what space you are selecting and where all the creatures are. Our games will never look that fancy. We can't afford it. But we do try to improve things with each new game.

However, the indie game business is super-difficult and competitive right now. Outside of a few hits, most indie games don't make much money. At the same time, replacing all of the art in a game is very expensive. How can a small company like us make our own unique sort of game without going bankrupt?

Fortunately, the internet has provided a way ...

These brigands dared to steal a fort from Haven. Set them on fire.
To Kickstarter!

In a lot of ways, Spiderweb Software is the sort of company Kickstarter was made for. We're a tiny company. We make unusual products for a loyal niche audience, and we sometimes need help.

We're moving to Kickstarter very late. The big crowdfunding boom was years ago, and customers are rightly nervous about backing video games. A lot of careless game developers took peoples' money and gave nothing in return.

Happily, we have a very long record of shipping good games on time. We know what it takes to write a game, and we aren't going to rip anyone off.

But why support a Kickstarter to make a new indie game. Aren't there too many indie games? Isn't the turn-based RPG market totally glutted?

It's on us to prove that supporting us will create something new and worthwhile.

Collect resources, upgrade your forts, and get stronger characters. The sort of upgrades you buy improve you in different ways.
Yet Another Game About Empires

Most computer RPGs are about killing some big bad guy. There's some evil demon/wizard/monster/robot and it's totally evil and you get strong and kill it. The End. There's a lot of good games that follow this pattern, but it's not our thing.

I've always been obsessed with story, politics, power, and choices, and all my games reflect that. Every one of our games is about a huge power dominating others, and you have to find a way to survive under it. Support it. Fight it. Remake it. Destroy it.

I am obsessed with the history of Empires (successful and failed), and this comes through in the stories I write. This is appropriate. I am, after all, the citizen of an empire, and so are most of the people who play my games. I'm not ashamed of this. Sometimes Empires do good. (But often not.)

I love my country. But this doesn't keep me from thinking about my homeland and the power it holds, and what that means. These thoughts work their way through my brain, bubble and transform, and come out as game designs.

Video games are art, and art should reflect the world. The world very rarely gives us one end boss to kill to solve all our problems. The real world is much more complicated.

More Stuff About the Game

So this is another game about an Empire. But with a big difference.

You are not some peasant or bottom-rank soldier changing things from the bottom. In Queen's Wish, you are a prince or princess. You have power. You make the decisions, and you have to clean up the consequences.

You will be dealing with other nations, poor but proud, weaker than Haven but just as brave and determined. Each has its own history, beliefs, grudges and resentments. I want them to feel real, both sympathetic and infuriating, and then force you to deal with them.

People who have played my games for a long time know that I hate the idea of a Bad Guy. Whenever I introduce a faction, I let it plead its case as convincingly as possible, and I try to win some players over to their cause. If I introduce a faction and no player ever joins them, I have failed.

A Lot of Stuff About Forts

In Queen's Wish, your power comes from forts and trading posts. You will be trying to rebuild old keeps, once held by Haven. You can get permission to do so through force or diplomacy. These will increase your wealth and power and your standing with the Queen.

I love games that let you make fortresses and fill them with stuff. However, those forts seem to only rarely make a difference in the game. In Queen's Wish, you will have power to build and make decisions, and those decisions will give you noticeable power and bonuses.

Note that, if you aren't into this sort of thing, you can do the fort stuff very quickly. Just think of it as another way to train your character.

You can also make furniture and cosmetic improvements. My younger daughter told me that she wants this, so I put it in.

You can just build your shops quickly and get on with the fighting, or you can decorate your forts and make them all nice.
How the Combat Will Work

It will still be turn-based combat with hand-edited fights, like all our other games. We're working hard to make sure the fights are  fresh and don't repeat themselves.

The game system will be skill-based. There won't be character classes. You can pick your skills from four different trees, hopefully allowing for a wide variety of different builds and strategies.

Your characters are stranded deep in a hostile land, and I want the feel of combat to support this. When you leave the base and get into fights, they will wear you down. The missions won't drag you down with lots of trash fights, but each battle will exhaust you. You will have to conserve your power and choose when to use your best abilities and items to push all the way to victory.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Aaaand ... we funded.

I wrote this blog post before the Kickstarter started, planning to post it on the second day of the campaign. I genuinely didn't expect that it would have funded by now. I am humbled by your generosity and faith in us.

Barring my getting run over by a bus, we hope for Queen's Wish to be done by May, 2019. Based on the size of game we have planned and what we have done so far, this seems very doable. It's a crowded market, but I will do my best to make something surprising and unique, and I think I will succeed.

If you have more questions, feel free to post them on our Kickstarter page. We are really excited about this new story, and we are grateful for any support you can provide!

34 comments:

  1. Congratulations on reaching the $30,000 goal within the first two days! I grew up with the Exile series, and now working full-time, it feels incredibly satisfying to support Spiderweb Software for a brand new series.

    Looking forward to seeing the stretch goals get smashed too.

    Is there any breakdown you have in mind with the Kickstarter funds? I know it'd pretty much go into art, but does that essentially mean the more we raise the more variety and art will be mustered within the game?

    You're a legend, Jeff. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
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  2. It sounds neat, and congrats on the successful Kickstarter!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think you'll succeed too. Watch out for buses. Please.

    ReplyDelete

  4. Your blog is great. I read a lot of interesting things from it. Thank you very much for sharing. Hope you will update more news in the future.
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    ReplyDelete
  5. Good morning.

    If you don't know what to do with the extra campaign money, just two words: Spanish translation.

    Half the world can't enjoy your games because they're only available in English! So you could hire someone to make a good translation.

    Thank you for your attention,

    Juan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Half the world doesn't speak Spanish, and this sort of game is too niche too warrant translations, which are expensive.
      Also, the "extra" money is mostly just customers purchasing the game, not additional revenue.

      Delete
    2. I know it's not half the world. I was obviously exaggerating. However, the truth is that Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world (after Chinese), surpassing even English as its mother tongue:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_number_of_native_speakers

      And you can't really enjoy Spiderweb Software games if you're not a NATIVE English speaker, as there is really a lot of text. If English is your secondary language or even third language (as in my case), you can still play, but not enjoy it as much.

      I didn't know that the extra money is not additional revenue, though.

      Delete
    3. A language being spoken by a large number of people doesn't mean it's a large market.
      I'm a professional translator, I know it wouldn't be worth it for any Spiderweb Software games to be translated in any language. It's a shame, but that's the way it is.

      Delete
  6. I got to know your games when, in 1998, I bought a computer magazine in Brazil with a bonus CD with a Heroes of Might and Magic 3 and other games demos. One of them was a huge Exile 3 demo. I found the unusual graphics quite charming and I couldn't get enough of the gameplay. I have been following the steps of spiderweb soft. ever since and I wish you guys a lot of success with this new trilogy.

    Regards,
    Raphael F.M.P.
    PS: Exile 3 remake looks awesome. But I miss my 6-member party so much...

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is the first time I've funded a Kickstarter project, but I couldn't resist being a part of the latest SWS game. I'm as graphics-happy as they come, and I'm currently playing some very fancy AAA RPGs, but I always find myself coming back to an Avernum or Avadon and trying new party builds and playing styles. The story-first is what I truly appreciate about a good game, and yours are some of the best I've played in that regard. I'm really looking forward to getting into this new series...

    ReplyDelete
  8. $60k and 26 days to go. That could end up being a *very* big sum of cash. But then what? Could end up being a double-edged sword. The higher the sum the higher the expectations. That $75k stretch goal looks like it should be easily attainable at the rate of funding. And then what?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not that big when you have to live on it.

      Delete
    2. Vahnahti invaded Sacramentum too :-D

      Seriously, that's a fine stretch goal. iPhone one seems odd, in a sense - why contribute unless the funds are at $49000 and you only have an iPhone?

      Anyway, don't get too hung up on stretch goals, that is the bane of many Kickstarters.

      Congratulations on the successful funding!

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete
  10. Congratulations on the successful Kickstarter. I'd like to see more tilesets/music/portraits as a stretch goal. I think this will really help you keep things fresh in the future, especially if you make a sequel. As much as I like your games, most towns look the same, as do most forests, et. I think having more tilesets could make each area look more unique. Same with npcs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Yep, me too. I'd rather see better graphics than iPhone ports and extra content in a game that's already going to be very long (too long for me, most people don't finish games).

      Delete
  11. I like the new UI. Looks like it would fare well even on smaller screens.
    I couldn't get into the Avernum series on Android because it was hard to do many things even on a 10" screen, so this should make playerbase a bit bigger.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I like the top down POV. I loved Exile 3 and that was my introduction to your games, so going back to that style after using the isometric approach for so long is very welcome. Having six characters again would also be pretty nice if possible. I'm not really a fan of the little saucers the characters appear to be standing on in battle as if they're figurines of some kind. Either way, looking forward to this, Jeff. Hopefully there will be less reused assets.

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  14. I have always wondered why you wouldn't try crowdfunding. It could be the best way to avoid finishing the writing process of a game in a panic and a hurry ;-)

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  16. Meanwhile, your kickstarter campaign has reached the seseco stretch goal. I am already curious about the additional realm.

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