Xeno Crisis: An Indie Game Kickstarter Done Right

By Tim Youngblood

Xeno Crisis, a retro top-down shooter for Sega Genesis developed by Bitmap Bureau recently more than doubled its crowdfunding goal on Kickstarter. See how they did it!

A few months ago, I wrote about some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to making a Kickstarter campaign for an indie game. Xeno Crisis, developed by Bitmap Bureau, stuck by most of the principles I recommended and even did some things I would have been too timid to try. Although Bitmap Bureau was founded in 2016, the development team behind the company has a lot of experience, some going back over 20 years and they have some great marketing tricks for studios with a small or non-existent budget.

 

A Simple Game Trailer

I’ve harped on about game developers over-diverting time and effort into making extravagant cinematic trailers in the development and crowd-funding page. Don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful cinematic trailer as much as the next person, but I think that they fit in better for the release. When it comes to generating interest while the game is still under development, gamers want to get a feel for how the game plays more than anything. If you watch the trailer below, you’ll notice that the trailer is just gameplay and sweet retro synth metal.

 

Keeping it short and sweet.
 

Keeping the Content Focused on Gameplay

Even if a game has the greatest story ever told, plenty of games with great stories don’t have the gameplay to match it. When reading through Bitmap Bureau’s description of Xeno Crisis, they make practically no mention of the game’s plot in the description and instead go immediately into gameplay style comparisons. That being said, the game itself probably has a decently in-depth plot, but for crowdfunding purposes, viewers can simply gather that there is an alien infestation and some badass space marine has to shoot up a lot of xenomorphs to save the day.

 

This GIF illustrates the procedurally generated levels. Not the prettiest marketing material but it gets the job done.

When is the Best Time to Begin Crowdfunding an Indie Game?

Knowing the answer to this question can save developers a lot of redos when it comes to crowdfunding campaigns. Bitmap Bureau waiting until the frameworks of Xeno Crisis were completed before seeking funding. This ensured that their game would be playable when they began marketing it, even if they are still adding more levels and features between then and the release. The framework for gameplay, menus, and procedurally generated levels are already in the game, meaning that the odds of a catastrophic programming error delaying the game’s release are much lower. Xeno Crisis is already more complete than many EA releases lately…

 

Addressing Risks and Challenges

Bitmap Bureau was quick to address what they felt would be the primary concerns of backers. Since Xeno Crisis will have physical copies for Sega Genesis (Or MegaDrive in the UK) and Sega Dreamcast, the logistics become far more complex than a simple digital download. There is nothing worse for backers than funding a Kickstarter, having the project reach its funding goal, and still having to wait years to get your own copy or model. if it ever arrives at all… Reaching a crowdfunding goal and not delivering on your product is a good way to never get funding again.

Bitmap Bureau got ahead of the situation by noting that programming Sega Genesis cartridges can be troublesome and this could cause delays in the release. Bitmap Bureau’s solution was simple and effective, they included a digital download of the game for all backers and buyers. This ensures that even if there is a supply chain disaster or hardware difficulties, players will at least get to play the game!

 

Physical game copies can cause additional challenges to arise when releasing a game. 

Bitmap Bureau does a lot of little things with their marketing that allow a small studio to have success on a small budget. This goes beyond their Kickstarter campaigns and applies to their websites as well, which I’ll get into at a later date. If you’re a developer who doesn’t have much experience with marketing, emulating Bitmap Bureau is a good place to start!

If you know any tricks that Bitmap Bureau did that I left out, or if you know of any other any indie developers who you think market their games well, please share in the comments!

More Indie Game Marketing Tricks and Tutorials

Be sure to check in for more marketing tutorials and tricks. If there’s something you’d like to learn more about, let us know in the comments!

 

*All images courtesy of Bitmap Bureau and Kickstarter

CastleBound: A Harvest Moon Meets Metroid 2D Platformer

By Zac Jackson

As a solo developer myself, I grew a soft spot in my heart for CastleBound the moment I laid eyes on it. Developed by Scott Reid, CastleBound is a 2D Action Platformer with some of the simulation aspects of everyday life (like Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon) and the action/platform adventure gameplay of Super Metroid.

You can head out into the world and engage in combat against monsters, discover treasure and explore dungeons. Alternatively, you could build yourself a house, raise some cattle, and farm up some veggies in your spare time, it’s up to you!

 

 

You start the game off as a young noble who has finally returned home have been sent away as a child. Your character quickly learns that his home is now overrun with the undead and other creatures, which an evil wizard is responsible for.

 

 

What I love about this game is that it takes the art style of early RPG’s, but also features modern twists on older systems. You are able to constantly discover new abilities that will help you uncover hidden areas (which means more treasure!), as well as use a bunch of different melee weapons like swords, axes, spears and more. You can also craft weapons, armor, and other things from the items you find while you are adventuring,

There is a multitude of levels ranging from forests and castles to haunted woods and deep mines filled with traps, hazardous weather, dungeon bosses, and more.

What if the dungeon crawl isn’t fully for you? You can romance one of many characters and eventually get married instead!

 

 

All in all this game has several features that I can’t wait to try, but before I can do that, it needs to get funded.

A featured Kickstarter project, Castlebound is at ~$1800 of its $5000 goal (36% funded). Not to worry though, as there are 6 days left to go on the campaign. For only $10 you can get a digital DRM-Free copy of CastleBound on release. If the game gets on Steam, you also get a key.

 

 

Scott is determined to make this game a success even if it doesn’t get a lot of funding, which is great to hear! What do you think of this game?

Are Popular Mobile Games Just Clones Of Flash Games From Decades Past?

By Tim Frank Anderson

Mobile games are quickly becoming some of the most popular games available today. Millions of people use their smartphones and tablets to play games more so than they do to send text messages and make phone calls! Mobile games are hugely popular due to their accessibility, and the fact that you can play them “on the go”. You might be sitting on the train, for example, traveling to work – in years past, you would have to sit in silence, but now you can whip out your mobile and play on Candy Crush for half an hour instead!

 

Screenshot from Candy Crush

In the early days of mobile and browser gaming, the majority of titles were created using Adobe Flash (or Macromedia Flash for those who can remember!). For its time Flash was a fantastic leap in technology and it helped create some memorable titles. Today, however, the popularity of Flash has waned and HTML5 technology has instead become the preferred choice. HTML5 is dynamic and can be used on a wide range of devices – many games that you play today on your smartphone or desktop browser will use HTML5.

 

Look familiar? This is Bejeweled. It’s like Candy Crush but with gems…

So are these HTML5 games you play today original and unique? Unfortunately not! You may think that titles such as Candy Crush and Angry Birds were created from scratch, but in reality, these games emulate the gameplay and mechanics of titles that were released decades ago. If you analyze the mobile browser game industry and look at game releases over the years, you can see that ideas and genres have been used time and time again and that most modern titles will have an older Flash counterpart.

If we look at the games mentioned above – Candy Crush and Angry Birds, we can actually see that these two titles simply take concepts from two old but hugely popular flash games – Bejeweled and Crush the Castle. Bejeweled was the original “match three” game in which players had to successfully match three colored gems to remove them from the playing field – this game was released in 2001! Furthermore, Crush the Castle was a medieval themed destroyer game that was released in 2009. This process of using old flash titles for inspiration has been used time and time again – developers can simply use an existing game idea, create new graphics, characters, and storyline and create a brand new title with minimal effort.

 

Look Familiar? This is Crush the Castle

 

It is easy to see why developers choose to do this – it is much easier to simply re-imagine an existing idea as opposed to devoting time to creating something from scratch. Drafting an original concept and a unique idea is extremely time-consuming and costly – by borrowing ideas from an older game, developers can create new and exciting titles for much less expense. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that a new concept will be a success – by re-imagining an existing title, you know there is an audience and that your game will be well-received.

Despite this fact, new mobile games released today continue to excite and enthrall us – developers continue to create fantastic end-products that keep us glued to our screens for hours on end. The future of mobile gaming certainly looks promising, and if developers continue to re-imagine old titles, we are guaranteed a heap of fun with a dash of nostalgia thrown in for good measure!

The First Tree – Two Stories, One Game

 

Developing a game is a huge undertaking, which makes The First Tree incredible considering it was developed by 1 person, David Wehle.

The First Tree is a third-person exploration game centered around two different storylines. On one hand, you have a fox trying to find her missing cubs, and on the other, you have the story of a young couple dealing with a tragedy in their family. If you’ve played Fire Watch, then you should feel right at home playing this game.

You play as the fox, discovering artifacts from the young couples life on its philosophical adventure to the mysterious “First Tree”. Eventually, the fox’s story and the couples start to align. We don’t want to give too much of this a way, but the game did a very good job of making me question the meaning of life and death.

David did very well developing a game with a straight forward and simple design, focusing on the story aspect, but also keeping the game visually appealing. Everything within the environment fits, from the trees and rocks (the texturing and its simplicity is actually brilliant), to the changing weather and foliage.

Wehle expects players will complete the game in just and hour or two, and because of this, the price was set fairly low as a result. The game initially came out with only English language options, but has an “open fan translation system” that’s included to allow people to work on additional languages themselves.

The First Tree can be found on Steam.