Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kickstarters Not To Miss: July 2013

by Randy

Hello there! You guys know how we love Kickstarter, right? Well, we've have the opportunity to try out a couple games on Kickstarter right now. Ready for some recommendations? Let's kick it off!

Fire and Flora

The Growing Up Gamers crew love games that teach something. 'Educational Games' have been around for a while, in one form or another. In my experience, though, most that fall into this category only educate or entertain, but not both. Tim Handley's Fire and Flora did both for us: it delivered interesting play, and we learned a bit about fire ecology. Nifty, huh?

Overall, the game is pretty simple: you try to acquire lands and plant native species, and earn victory points for doing so. Land is purchased with coins, and often has a plant species on it. Native species give you victory points, and invasive species fill your lands, invade and drive out native species. You can grow, propogate or kill species with the four resources: Fire, Water, Time and Labor. Each species has a personality that defines how they react to each resource. You may also play resources on your opponents' plants. There are also event cards, and most of these are wildfires.

The brilliance of the game is that it shows the effects of fires and invasive species on the environment. The designer is a [wildlife biologist?], though, and notes that some species actually propogate due to fire. This, coupled with beatiful pictures of plants make this a great teaching tool for discussing plant invasion and wildfire, as well as an interactive building game that is fun and combines simple strategy with risk management.


Much like the title implies, IncrediBrawl is a fighting game. The designers sent us a copy to try out, and we enjoyed it. Our daughter in particular liked it. Each player has a deck of characters, and each character has an attack type (Physical, Energy or Primal) and a level. Each player secretly chooses a character, and then reveals simultaneously. Attack types overcome in a rock-paper-scissors fashion (Energy beats Physical,  Physical beats Primal, Primal beats Energy), and if the attack type is the same, there is a level and the highest wins. That's the basic resolution system, and that is enhanced by powerup cards, and the characters themselves each have a special ability.

Multiplayer games have the players do two-person matches, with winners facing off. The winner is the first person to get 10 glory, which are the victory points of the game. We noticed that glory tokens exchanged hands a lot, based on character powers. Overall, a fun and light game.

Warmachine: Tactics

Warmachine: Tactics is a game we have anticipated for a while. Since Privateer Press announced teaming up with WhiteMoon Dreams a while back, I've been frothing at the mouth for this. Warmachine: Tactics is a PC/Mac version of the Warmachine tabletop miniatures game that supports both single player campaign modes and multiplayer online matches. Since the project launched on July 10th, it steamrolled through its initial goal and has been unlocking stretch goals like mad. We interviewed Matt Wilson of Privateer Press shortly before the project launched (you can read that here).

If you like turn-based strategy, take a look. This should be amazing. Also note that there are some great-looking miniatures playable in the tabletop game as backer rewards. We have high hopes for this game, and we are watching the project closely.

Daft Dice

After getting a comment below, I had to check this campaign out. I don't normally add things after-the-fact, but I just loved the Daft Dice campaign. The custom dice are really nice: laser-cut wooden dice with great designs. But what are really amazing are all the accessories. Take a look at the beautiful dice towers!

I can't even tell you how much I want a set of these business cards. Wow. Well played, Daft Concepts. Well played.

Did we miss any?

Any projects you feel should have been included, or comments about the ones featured? Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Privateer Press's Matt Wilson talks Warmachine: Tactics!

by Randy, Angie & Julian

Hi, readers! We have an exciting treat for you today. Matt Wilson of Privateer Press agreed to give us an interview about Warmachine: Tactics, the computer version of their amazing tabletop miniatures game. The Growing Up Gamers crew have been big fans of Western Immoren, the setting for Warmachine, its sister game Hordes and the Iron Kingdoms roleplaying for about a decade. This is a world at war, a world of steampunk-inspired fantasy where nations go to battle with great machines of war called warjacks. Controlled and directed by powerful armored spellslingers called warcasters, these steam- and magic-powered robots are the game's namesake.

Matt Wilson, creative genius behind this world and founder of Privateer Press, is quite a guy. In addition to to being the game designer who brought us Warmachine, Matt is an accomplished artist whose work can be found both in Privateer Press products as well as in Magic: The Gathering; I highly recommend checking out his art site. Matt's company Privateer Press now makes tabletop miniature games (Warmachine, Hordes, and Monsterpocalypse), board games (Level 7, Grind, and the Bodgers line of games), hobby accessories (the Formula P3 line of paints, brushes, and hobby tools), and now is about to go electronic with Warmachine: Tactics.

A Warmachine computer game has been anticipated for a couple years, since the announcement of a partnership with Privateer Press and WhiteMoon Dreams. Two weeks ago, it was announced that Privateer Press would be going to Kickstarter to fund development of their game. We feel that this is a great move, as it allows fans to really get behind the game and have a more direct connections with the people producing it. The project launches July 10th, and we had the opportunity to ask Matt a few questions. Check out what he had to say!

Metal on Metal, by Matt Wilson

Growing Up Gamers:  I am so excited to play Warmachine on my computer! What can I as a player expect from this? Can I build my own warcaster? 

Matt Wilson: WARMACHINE: Tactics has both a multiplayer mode and a single player campaign mode. The multiplayer mode has a lot of similarity to the tabletop version, but as this is a different medium, we're taking advantage of what it can do to enhance the experience, while at the same time, eschewing that which works better on the tabletop. In the single player campaign, while you're not building your own warcaster, you are in control of the character's progression from level to level. Each campaign focuses on a single central character, the first of which we'll be revealing in our Kickstarter video.

GUG:  Different characters and campaigns? Awesome! How close will this adhere to the rules for the tabletop game? Have there been any challenges in translating those rules to a computer game? And is there anything your team is bringing to the digital game that couldn't be done on the tabletop?

Matt: The experience will feel familiar, but it's not the same game. Conceptually, it's the same world and environment and we're adhering the the same basic mechanics on a fundamental level. But the math behind the scenes works differently. There aren't any cannon fodder soldiers that go down when they take one point of damage as sustainability is much more crucial in a game of this scale, lest balance be tipped too quickly in a match. And definitely, the medium gives us the opportunity to do things like interactive terrain, that is less viable on the tabletop. Of course, the very exciting part of this game is getting to experience it all happening in front of your eyes. We've taken a very cinematic approach to the action. Seeing Warjack power attacks happening as real-time events in the middle of a combat round is just awesome!

GUG: Are there plans to port to any consoles if the Kickstarter is successful?

Matt: Our focus is entirely on PC and Mac, but we are developing with other platforms in mind should the opportunity arise. The team at WhiteMoon Dreams has designed a UI that can work on virtually any platform with any control set. In other words, it works just as well with a touch screen as it does with keyboard and mouse, as it does with a standard console controller. So, if opportunities do come up in the future, we won't have to reinvent the game from scratch.

GUG: The GUG crew is no stranger to Kickstarter; we (as Escapade Games) used that platform to fund our upcoming game, Storm Hollow: A Storyboard Game. Crowdfunding allows a connection between game creators and fans that traditional publishing just did not do, and we love the way it has allowed game designers to bring their products to market. The press release made it pretty clear why you chose to crowdfund Warmachine: Tactics. I would follow up and ask, why now?

Matt: It took a long time for me to believe that Kickstarter was the right route for us to take in order to make this game. While Kickstarter has quickly proven to be a powerful platform for fundraising, it's still a new platform, and one that is little understood. We needed time to study it, to determine if the risks inherent in crowd sourcing are worth accepting given what we are trying to achieve, and to understand the actual business necessary to manage a successful Kickstarter project. The majority of Kickstarters fail. Of those that fund, many individuals and businesses alike find that they have not properly planned how to manage the capital that they've raised. In conducting a Kickstarter, you're making a huge promise to the people who back your project, and more than anything, we wanted to be confident that we could deliver on that promise. So, before our project will even launch, we have put a great deal of time, effort and money  into developing enough of WARMACHINE: Tactics so that our potential backers can have the same confidence we do.

The myth about Kickstarter is that it's a place to fund ideas. We're not Kickstarting an idea, we're Kickstarting a project that is in motion, that has proof-of-concept and a business plan, and that is being executed by an experienced team with overhead and expenses that must be maintained during this startup period prior to even launching the project on Kickstarter. Getting to this point, responsibly, took time, and I wouldn't have wanted to launch it a moment sooner.

GUG: Why does Privateer Press need Kickstarter? There has been a lot of talk among fans of crowdfunding as to who belongs there, whether or not bigger players should be there, even suggesting that they might be edging out independent studios. What can you say about that and the kind of commitment it takes to delve into making a video game, and whether it would have been possible to do otherwise?

Matt: For Privateer and WhiteMoon Dreams, the two practical routes to getting a WARMACHINE video game made are the traditional publisher/financier method, which entails lengthy review processes and a great deal of expense on the part of the developer in an effort to try and align the product they are trying to make with the right financing entity — which in the current video game industry environment I would liken to trying to force a planetary alignment with your own bare hands — or, crowd sourcing. For a company the size of Privateer Press, creating a brand new video game isn't analogous to creating new board game product, it's literally launching an all new business. In order to make this happen on a timeline that is within the foreseeable future and not have to nut away funds for the next ten or fifteen years, saving up enough to launch such a venture, crowd sourcing has become a viable and attractive opportunity.

Kickstarter itself has released its own stand on what's appropriate for Kickstarter. The idea that 'bigger players' have a negative impact on other projects is a theory with no scientific support. Instead, Kickstarter has proven the positive impact 'big players' (or let's say popular companies and personalities) have had on the community as a whole because all the data they have shows how many first-time backers those big projects brought in, and how many of those backers went on to back other projects on Kickstarter. Whether or not Privateer is a 'big player' is somewhat in the eye of beholder. The fact is, we're totally independent, as is WhiteMoon Dreams. But Privateer does have its own community of players and I believe that many of them are going to be first-time backers on Kickstarter with this project, which means we'll also be helping the Kickstarter community grow by conducting our project there and exposing new people to the platform and all the projects going on there.

The best thing about Kickstarter is that its patrons are the ones that ultimately decide what belongs there or not. Anyone arguing that a particular project shouldn't have been on Kickstarter because of its owner's pre-established popularity, is arguing against the very spirit of Kickstarter, which is that the 'crowd' has been given the power to decide. Beyond the terms of use that Kickstarter has defined, it's not for any individual to say what should or shouldn't be put on Kickstarter — the community of Kickstarter users will decide that as a whole, and currently, the community as a whole does not appear to agree with the negative sentiment.

GUG: We are big fans of Magic: The Gathering, a game you are certainly familiar with, given your illustrations can be found on a number of cards for that game. A few years back, Wizards of the Coast released Duels of the Planeswalkers, a great videogame version of Magic available for consoles. Aside from being fun, that game serves as an excellent tutorial for learning to play Magic and has been phenomenal for bringing new players to that game. Do you anticipate Warmachine: Tactics having a similar role?

Matt: WARMACHINE: Tactics will be a great way to introduce people to the ideas of the game and the setting, and we certainly hope it will introduce more people to the hobby of tabletop gaming, but it doesn't function as a tutorial. In the Magic example, you're actually playing the same cards with the same rules in the video game that you are in the physical game. But WARMACHINE: Tactics is somewhat different in scope, and the mechanics that must be understood on the tabletop are largely invisible in the video game experience, so you're not likely to come away from WARMACHINE: Tactics fluent in all of the rules necessary to know in order to play the tabletop game But you will understand the fundamental strategies and the nuance of how different elements in your squad interact and support each other. I do think being good in one would give you some advantage in the other.

GUG: Since tabletop Warmachine is not a solo game, we were wondering about the depth of the campaign mode versus multiplayer mode. Do you expect most players to spend more time playing in multiplayer mode, with the campaign  being sort of a tutorial? Additionally, will there be an AI for solo play outside of campaign mode?

Matt: The single player game is not a tutorial, but it will be a great way to learn the depth and strategy of the game because it does structure your learning experience through the course of the campaign. But the single player campaign is where we get to tell our story, and that's something that both Privateer and WhiteMoon Dreams share — a love of great stories. So making sure we had an amazing campaign experience has always been a requirement of the project. Whether or not more people will play mulitplayer than the campaign, or vice versa, I can't predict. But the multiplayer environment is going to be something that is constantly expanding, so I suspect that always-fresh experience will keep people engaged in multi-player quite a bit. We're not just doing one campaign, though — it's a big world with a lot of characters, so the single player experience will also be something that is constantly fresh. And we are building an arena where you can test your squad builds against an AI, for sure.

GUG: Sounds great! Will we see our favorite Warmachine warcasters in campaign mode? 

Matt: There are dozens of warcasters in the setting, so whether or not you see your favorite featured immediately remains to be seen! But the ultimate goal is to realize as much of the setting as possible in this game. And the better we do with our Kickstarter campaign, the more we'll be able to get in there.

GUG:  Many of the fans of Warmachine are miniature hobbyists (myself included!) and would say that some of the fun of the game is painting models to bring to the table. Will there be a nod to the creative types, perhaps the option to "paint" warjacks and units with customized colors, or choose alternate color schemes?

Matt: All I can say right now is that we're hobbyists, too, so this isn't something we have overlooked. Okay, I'll also say, "Stretch Goal".

GUG: Thanks for that tidbit! Where in the Warmachine timeline does this take place, or is it outside that timeline? Prime starts in 604 A.R., and Colossals takes us to 608 A.R. 

Matt: The campaign is going to feature characters that are new to WARMACHINE, some of them introduced in next year's expansion book, Vengeance. As such, the timeline is concurrent with the timeline in the story found in the game books.

GUG: In terms of the collaboration and division of labor between WhiteMoon Dreams and Privateer Press, how involved has Privateer been in the development, and what level of freedom has been afforded to WhiteMoon Dreams to make their mark on Warmachine: Tactics? What has been done to ensure the game feels like Western Immoren, the world of Warmachine?

Matt: The level of collaboration between Privateer and WhiteMoon Dreams is huge and will have a huge effect on the outcome of the game. I'm personally part of the core gameplay design team. I'm also storyboarding character animations and cinematics and I'm leading the writing on the campaign story. In doing all of that, I'm also drawing on the resources at Privateer, like Jason Soles and DC in development, and Doug Seacat, our lead writer, who can assist with making sure the story and game are as faithful to the tabletop game as possible. But there's no real give-and-take here, like one might expect, because WhiteMoon Dreams is 100% invested in making a game that looks and feels as true to WARMACHINE as it can. We're so totally aligned in our goals, and I spend so much time with both companies now, it often feels to me like one giant organization. Even moreso as we've been developing these new characters for both the tabletop game and video game. We've got rules being developed at Privateer that are getting interpreted into the video game at WhiteMoon Dreams, and we've got artwork being created at WhiteMoon Dreams that will appear in our books and that our sculptors are using to create miniatures for the tabletop. It's an incredible level of synergy to see happening between two distinct companies and the end result is that we're going to bring WARMACHINE to life in video game form. It's one of the most exciting things I've ever been a part of.


I hope that you are all as excited about Warmachine: Tactics as we are! We will link to the Kickstarter once it goes live. In addition, Matt has agreed to do a follow-up interview at that time. I'm sure we'll have loads more questions once we see what the backer tiers and stretch goals are! Do you guys have any questions for Matt? Leave them below! Here's the teaser trailer:

Images courtesy of Privateer Press