Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! Today I am joined by Tammy McDonald from Heavy Water who is here to talk to us about their first Kickstarter, “Axis Game Factory.” Thank you for joining us today Ms. McDonald.
Thank you for having me.
The Axis Game Factory is one of those products that defies simple definition isn’t it? What’s the best description you’ve come up for explaining your product?
Yes. Axis Game Factory isn’t a new concept, but it does take the “Game Design Tool” picture that everyone has in their mind and turn it on its head! Axis Game Factory is an easily accessible creative tool aimed at promoting community, creative exploration, and education. Axis Game Factory could become a powerhouse toolset for game developers but first we want it to be a way for everyone interested in gaming, casual or hardcore, the ability to show what *their* dream games would be like if they were the game designer. Allowing anyone to become a game designer is what the Axis Game Factory is all about because, for us, that is the most creative thing you could possibly do: create an entire new world!
Is Axis Game Factory like those “edutainment” games that you can “make” a game with but they’re really just cheesy premade game types?
There is no “premade” game type here. Those look more like a set environment or game where you just alter a few things here and there to create your “game.” Axis Game Factory is a blank slate where you can place in anything and everything that you want. We can’t know for sure how robust the tool will become in the coming year, but right now it is already capable of platformers, side-scrollers, and hack-n-slash adventure games. The ability to make more and more complex games depends on the ability for the team to produce more and more sophisticated systems that can all intertwine to create those game types. So you could technically create almost anything as long as you can work within the code’s limitations which we plan on expanding from now until well after the official launching of Axis Game Factory.There is so much potential with Axis Game Factory that is all at once exciting and mind-boggling!
Why bring this project to Kickstarter? It sounds like you’ve already done much of the work and could just continue on to a regular release.
We brought this project to Kickstarter because this tool is for the user, and not something to please a publisher into funding the project. We’ve worked on PlayStation®Home for the past 4+ years and that offers a lot of direct interaction with the community. We like having that direct link so we can make the best product for all involved and not just what a few people think it should be. Since we are not going through the normal publisher route, we need the community’s support to see this project through! We are passionate about this tool and work forward everyday making it better, more robust, and as if we’re already funded. We are 110% committed to making Axis Game Factory a reality in whatever way that comes about.
I know directly comparing your product to other products is reductive, but it is simple so I’m going to toss out some other games/products out there and can you tell me how they compare and contrast.
Lets start with a obvious and fairly well known one: “Little Big Planet.” The idea of a game that lets you make your own games isn’t unheard of and Little Big Planet is well known for being “simple yet complex” is that what you’re going for here? Is there a plan for a “built in campaign” to help ease folks into the systems? Are users going to be sharing their modified versions of existing models with one another?
I believe Axis Game Factory will have a “simple yet complex” feel to it, akin to the Little Big Planet series. We aim to hopefully make the connective coding handle things similarly to the way I’ve seen it done in LBP2. If we can match the power of LBP2’s create mode, on top of the fact it is a full 3D realm with scene linking, it will be limitless in the realm of gameplay that can be created.
My next comparison would have to be to Trackmania. Trackmania also sold “themes” worth of models that you could build and share with others with the game. Users could also skin the assets in game or even import assets. Will Axis Game Factory allow asset importing or only officially released assets? Will free-to-play users be able to play things made by folks using different themes? Will I have to own all the themes to see everything?
Axis Game Factory’s initial launch will focus on the current assets already packaged into the tool. Once we have that locked down and people getting used to the tool, we will be looking at opening it up for asset importing. That will most likely be more of a PRO feature to the Axis Game Factory, so people who want to make the next step to creating their games have an opportunity to do so. Free-to-play users will definitely be able to play any and all games created by Axis Game Factory, regardless of the assets they do or do not own. When friends/community members want to collaborate on a game scene, they will need to have all the correct assets to be able to modify the scene file. You could also create a scene separate from your friend, have different assets, but still scene link them together to make a game together without having to match your friend asset for asset!
Another program similar to this that springs to mind is RPGmaker. The way it sounds with Axis Game Factory you could totally create entire games just like in RPG maker that you can share with others who have Axis Game Factory is that correct? So while I couldn’t sell them as stand alone games I could make the games and others could play it in the community?
You can definitely create as many games as you can think of and share it for the Axis Game Factory community to enjoy. Since the software is free-to-play to start out with, all anyone needs to do is download Axis Game Factory and browse current created games, click, and play! We are still looking to make a PRO version where developers could possibly sell their creations, but that is after the initial launch of the product.
I noticed in one of your updates that Turn-based gameplay isn’t planned to be in the product yet? Why is that? One would think turn-based systems would be easier to implement than a full real time/physics system.
Turn based systems require a locked in code structure with timers, move lists, menus, etc. Real time physics is built into UNITY and makes it a lot more simple to have the moving parts active in the physics engine to detect collisions. Plus having the basic physics working from the start give you more options than the turn based system: platformers, side-scrolling, action/adventure, limited RPG. A turn based plugin could definitely be developed for Axis Game Factory at a later date though.
Machinima is mentioned multiple times in your listing, what is it? How is your product going to be a boon for Machinima creators?
Machinima is when creative individuals take virtual worlds, characters, and settings to create their own mini-movies or show series. A lot of people use PlayStation®Home with its vast array of settings, props, and costumes to create varied Machinima projects. Axis Game Factory gives Machinimators the tools to set up all their scenes, cameras, and characters as they see fit. They will run their scenes in real time and just use a screen capture tool [like FRAPS] to capture the scene. No need for time consuming rendering!
Why would aspiring creators buy your product versus using Unity or Unreal directly?
Our product has almost no learning curve to create really diverse gameplay and intricate environments. If you are one person, wanting to start down the road of game development, you would need to learn 3D modeling and a programming language to start. From there pick your engine and start learning how to import models, hook up the code, debug the code, so on and so forth. With Axis Game Factory if you can click a mouse you can start building! Once you start grasping the more interesting and deeper features, like pattern offset and radial offset, you can begin creating really high quality environments. Once you have the environment set in place you will find easy to use sliders and drop down menus for things like enemies or NPCs, as well as a simple flowchart to set up objectives, gameplay, and/or quests for your game! The only debug you need to do is jump into “Play” mode, play through the level, and see if it’s fun and engaging or not.
How simple is it really to make a game using your system? Have you made one? What kinds of games are we talking about “out of the box?” How much coding do I need to learn?
We have made and documented the creation of two game styles already with the prototype. The first was a Side-Scrolling demo, and the second a Platformer demo. You can find these, and all Axis Game Factory videos, on Matt McDonald’s YouTube account. So from this point you can already create a Side-Scroller and a Platformer, but you can also create a Hack-n-Slash type adventure game, possibly a puzzle adventure game, a first person shooter game, and anything else our users can think of with the current assets and options available in the tool. Those named are already achievable, and we have no doubt that by official launch we can offer even more possibilities, if not very soon after launch.
As for coding, you don’t need to know anything about code. This is all handled with our “smart objects” and the amazing system running in the background of the tool. These “smart objects” have menus where you can alter variables with drop down menus or sliders. Once you hit “Play” the code takes those options you’ve outlined and the game just works! It’s incredible.
You’ve mentioned a 1-to-1 Axis Game Factory for Education for every delux version purchased, what is the story behind that? How can people get involved? How well is it working out?
Our company has been involved in 3D Animation and Training and from 1996 - 2003, we had a private training center using LightWave and was sponsored by NewTek and Digital Computers. We produced an award winning curriculum that was nationally recognized by President Bill Clinton and Steve Jobs. We really believe in giving up-and-coming talent the opportunity to shine and that is why we wanted to match a 1-for-1 Axis Game Factory for educational purposes. People can get involved by backing the project on Kickstarter and knowing their copy will give a student their own copy, and for those interested in receiving educational copies can send us a message to firstname.lastname@example.org!
The 1-for-1 program is being very well received by the educational and gaming communities both!
A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer. How are you engaging your backers? What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on? Interviews? Videos? Stories from the project?
We at Heavy Water are constantly engaging the backers! We are responding to their comments, responding to their emails, creating updates each day with new videos, art, announcements, and now the ability for backers to access the prototype *now* to start playing with it and working with us to make it better! Anyone who is on the “remind me” side of the fence will be seeing a lot of engaging features, new build notes, etc. Anyone actually following the development of the tool will see just how dedicated we are and how quickly we can implement the features, bug fixes, and requests from our backers.
What kind of media attention have you received with your project? How are you spreading the word? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Youtube? Advertising?
We have had many articles written about Axis Game Factory on site like the Jace Hall Show and VentureBeat.com. We have also been featured on the local San Diego news. We are using our Twitter, our Facebook, our LinkedIn, our YouTube, and anything else we can to try and reach as many people as possible. We’ve even added a concept page to Steam’s Greenlight and have seen some positive traffic and feedback there as well!
Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?
Kickstarter Campaigns are a HUGE endeavor! We began preparing at least two months in advanced and to be honest, you never really know “when” is the right time to pull the trigger and “go live.” My first suggestion would be to make sure you are prepared! Get your materials together, get a solid video/pitch down, get your media and PR rolling and if you have friends and strategics with money - line them up to hit the ground running on day 1. Don’t ask for more than you need, don’t overpromise and underdeliver... Don’t give up through the process... even if you don’t end up funding, the exposure, contacts, and back-channel conversations are invaluable and it’s worth seeing it through.
Thank you for spending your time with us! Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?
We see the Axis Game Factory as an industry game-changer... never before has anyone empowered the end-user with as much access and means to an end as we have with this product. From the casual gamer to the industry pro; from educators to Machinimators - the Axis Game Factory is a ubiquitous toolset that allows anyone to draw upon their imagination like never before!
That’s a bold way to end an interview! I hope that positive energy translates into a great end to your campaign! Thanks again for joining us!