Here is the text of the original campaign:
Hello! I'm Lars Simkins. I'm a VFX artist by trade and an indie game developer by passion.
I'm here to make that first person exploration/survival game we've all been dreaming about.
I can still remember the first time I played Daggerfall.
Yes, it was uglier than a monkey's armpit and controlled worse than a bumper car on a frozen lake. But it also created the feeling of a world that lived on even after I'd stopped playing, and that feeling still sticks with me all these years later. A world where you could spend hours searching every pixelated nook and cranny. A world of potential. A world of EXPLORATION...
...and then a Dragonling would chomp my face because I hadn't spent ten hours grinding in the easy regions. Arg! So frustrating!
Other games have touched on that elusive feeling, especially Elder Scrolls and early Fallout games, but as fun as they are and as much as I love hardcore RPG mechanics, I've always dreamt of a game that emphasized exploration above all else.
FRONTIERS is that game
In 2011 I finally decided if no one else was going to make it, I'd give it a try. For a full feature list check out the 'Game Features' section below.
The trailer you see is the result of hundreds of hours of work and many thousands of dollars out of pocket. I'm close to finishing this thing. Another six months ought to do it.
But it needs a push - and that's where you guys come in.
So far I've paid for this game out of pocket with money earned at a day job in VFX. This worked for a while because I live really frugal, but over time it has become unsustainable. I've reached that point where I have to decide between taking on more work to support myself, or the game.
Between now and January, I need at least $80,000 to give FRONTIERS the attention it deserves & deliver a game you'll all love.
That doesn't just replace the VFX income I stand to lose - more importantly it enables me to bring on a small team of hand-picked programmers & artists to flesh out features and content. Here are some examples:
- The World - I've done what I can with the game world, but I'm just one guy, and opportunites abound to make it sing. With one or two artists contributing odds and ends it willl make the leap from adequate to amazing.
- Lore - We all know how much good lore contributes to a game. A talented writer is chomping at the bit for a chance to write the in-game books and family trees and ancient histories. He's really good, folks. And I'm picky about writers.
- Music - Steve can't wait to get started on new tracks for each region. I don't even have to tell you how good he is, just give the trailer another listen.
- Oculus Rift - This and other controllers will get proper attention and support. And if there's time, Virtuix’s Omni as well, because holy awesome.
- Better AI - My current AI system is servicable. It'll never be top-tier but I'd love to upgrade it, and I know just the person to do it.
- Bugs - Fewer of them, that is! Any loose ends tied up by outside hands frees me up to polish existing features and squash bugs.
- Possible Extras - Hoped-for features like multiplayer co-op and full mod support fall in this category. I would love to try and make these happen. Working alone there isn't a chance I could pull it off. But with a dedicated expert at the helm, there is. I can't make firm promises here, at least not this early, but I'm optimistic.
- Trust me I could go on forever - I've listed the biggies; for a complete list of planned features see the 'Game Features' section below.
Where am I getting that figure?
First there's cost of living because I'll be taking on little to no VFX work. Then there's estimated costs of art assets based on a reasonable hourly rate, as well as the estimated cost of programming (far more nebulous) based on a reasonable hourly rate. A dash of applied Phlebotinum rounds out the package.
All that said: I work in VFX so I know how absurd fixed bids are on creative projects. Requirements bob and weave, and how you roll with the punches is what determines the quality of your product more than your initial estimates.
I'm inexperienced with game development. That's the bad news. The good news is that a venn diagram between game dev and VFX has a lot of overlap, broadly speaking. And after six years of delivering complex shots for TV shows & films with pressure cooker deadlines, I know a thing or two about creating high quality material with changing requirements under intense pressure. I've also got a great infastructure for working with an offsite team.
This whole thing could turn out one of two ways.
Option 1: I fail to raise the funds and I'm forced to shelve the game. I become a hermit out of frustration. You all get nothing. This option's just an overall downer.
Option 2: You pledge, I put a game in your hands that lives up to its potential, and that itch we've all been feeling for a good exploration game finally gets scratched. You win, I win, everbody wins!
The choice is clear. (Hint: it's option 2.)
Apart from the game itself, I plan to make any generic assets I create or comission for the game freely available - tree models, textures, weapons, C# scripts, etc. I wouldn't have made it this far without support from sites like Open Game Art and the Unity community, so this will be a chance to contribute to the growing pool of high quality art & code available to aspiring game developers.
Lastly, there are the perks for those who want more than the game. These aren't your typical 'here's a t-shirt' throwaway perks. I'm genuinely looking forward to making this stuff, almost as much as the game itself.
When Will The Game Be Finished?
I'm shooting for January 2014 - but take that with a grain of salt. As I said I'm inexperienced, and even the least ambitious, most experienced teams can slip behind schedule. If that happens don't say I didn't warn you, because I will warn you, repeatedly, as it's happening.
You mean apart from the money and the ability to hire artists & programmers? I'll get you guys. You know what they say - a thousand heads are better than one. We have six months to shape this thing into an experience we'll all enjoy and I want to give you folks every opportunity to help me do just that. (This sounds like sentimental pap but whatever, I'm serious.)
I can't promise to include everything - sometimes even ideas I love aren't possible for some stupid technical reason, and even with extra help there just isn't time - but I can promise to listen and take every request, complaint and dire warning seriously.
Other Ways You Can Help
If you know someone who wants to see a game like this, then tell them FRONTIERS exists! This whole project is based on the gamble that other people share the same dream and want the same game that I do, so spread the word and help me make it happen!
You can also visit the Steam Greenlight page and vote it on up - every day it remains in the most popular column is another chance for folks to see it:
In the unlikely event that this happens I have stretch goals in my back pocket. If we're getting close to the first goal amount I'll post them, but until then I want to avoid confusion about which baseline features I have planned and keep the focus on what I can deliver with the minimum amount.
If you've made it this far, you're clearly interested. So let's talk about features in detail, shall we?
Stuff I've got working / prototyped / built:
- Massive open world - last I measured the game world is larger than Obliviion, and there are still a few regions to create. Plus, you'll never encounter an immersion-killing 'Turn Back' message - all barriers in the game are completely organic. Go anywhere, any time - there are no restrictions.
- Hundreds of structures - many with secret passages and hidden rooms! Some of these structures are truly enormous, folks. My playtesters have been shocked at how vast they feel. Moreover, they're a part of a seamless game world, so there's no loading when entering or exiting. Looking out a window from the top of a fifty-story tower means you can see the vast landscape around you.
- A rich and detailed world history - I've spent months writing a backstory that lives comfortably in the world of high fantasy, but with a few twists and tweaks I think you'll all have fun with.
- An epic central mystery - along with the backstory is a massive non-linear present-day story. Best of all, you're free to ignore it if you choose!
- Dynamic path system - create, destroy and alter paths as you explore. This unique feature lets you put your mark on the world and customize it to match your play style. If you like winging it and doing everything on foot, you can ignore them entirely. On the other hand if you like planning routes and fast traveling, you're going to love them.
- Immersive fast travel - unlike most open world RPGs where fast travel feels like teleportation, fast travel in FRONTIERS won't break your sense of immersion. You get to watch as your character makes the journey, with the sun rising & setting and the landscape rolling by. You can even set the pace of travel yourself - zip along at 20x speed or soak in the scenery at 5x speed. Check out a video of fast travel in action here.
- Live off the land - hunt, trap, fish and cook over 30 varieties of plantlife (including hallucinogens!) and a dozen varieties of animal.
- Minecraft-style crafting system - craft items using blueprints that you find, buy or create yourself with the Reverse Engineer skill. There are already dozens of craftable items with many more planned.
- Dozens of skills to discover and learn - an 'RPG lite' skill system that rewards exploration with perks and abilities without punishing you for not grinding and leveling up. Gain skills by reading books, from NPCs or just by doing. Best of all, it's possible to ignore the skill system entirely and still enjoy yourself.
- Continue playing after the end - if you reach the end of the central story, you can continue playing indefinitely.
If you want even more info about features, check out the Steam Greenlight page for in-depth discussion.
Stuff I plan to implement if the game gets funded:
- Oculus Rift support
- Controller support
- Linux / Mac support
- A haunting soundtrack for every region, courtesy of Steve Barnes
- Written Lore - the backstory distributed throughout the world in books, rumor and whispered secrets for you to discover and piece together as you explore
- A full skill-based magic system with magical items and attacks
- More animals and creatures
- More plants and tree species
- More cities and towns! Cities and towns are so much bloody fun
- Many, many more items, weapons, potions and books
- More of everything!
Stuff I want to do but can't promise for sure. I'm optimistic though!
- Co-op multiplayer
- Full mod support
- Full character customization system - at the moment you can choose your gender, but that's about it. I would love to create a proper personalization system.
- Character-built and owned structures - aside from co-op this is the most-requested feature, and there's a good chance I can make it happen
As the campaign goes on, I'll answer questions about the perks here.
Q: So what IS the Apprentice Blade? Why would I want it?
A: The fun of the Apprentice Blade is in crafting and using it for the first time, and I don't want to spoil that fun by posting everything beforehand. I'll understand if you'd rather not spring for it sight unseen, obviously. There's always that risk that you'll be disappointed! But for those that take the plunge, the thrill of discovery awaits.
Q: I'd like a one of your hand-aged maps, but I don't have $500 to spend.
A: All backers will get some cool exclusive digital map art and desktops once the game is finished. It won't be hand aged but it'll be nice and high res.
Q: If I get the Journeyman perk, do I HAVE to write a book? And does it have to be serious?
A: Of course not! It's supposed to be fun. It could be a joke book if you like. Or you could ignore that part of the perk entirely.
Q: Is 600 words a hard limit?
A: No, it's just a suggested limit. I'll be proofing each of these so I don't want to get overwhelmed. If you want to write something really long just let me know ahead of time so I can help you avoid topics that might require extensive proofing.
Q: Aren't we doing work for you by writing these books?
A: On the contrary, I suspect the book writing perk will end up taking more time than writing the same number of books myself. But it's worth it if backers have more fun and feel more connected to the world. And even though I may be able to write the same number of books, I could never match the variety that we'll be creating. (So I guess in that sense... yeah, you are doing my work for me. Suckers!)
Q: What's an Easter Egg?
A: It's a fun hidden message or object that artists sometimes hide in games or movies. Here's a list of examples.
Q: Can my Easter Egg really be anything? Do I have to supply a 3D model for you?
A: Unless it's really, really offensive or something, anything goes, even stuff that breaks lore. All I'll ask is that it be relatively small so I can hide it effectively. No need to provide a 3D model unelss you want to - I'll model and texture it for you.
Got a question? Let me know! I'll update this section when I notice a common question or concern.
Q: How complex are structures? Will you be able to create structures in the game? Will you be able to mod them? Will you release tools for building structures?
A: All these questions and more are answered in this handy video.
Thanks for reading!