Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by Ryan Sharr and Zach Barson the two man team bringing us the Kickstarter project ROAM.  Thank you for joining us.  

Hey! It’s great to be here.

At first glance, and I know you must get it a lot, it just looks like Minecraft crossed with DayZ in a third person view but I know there’s more to it than that.  Would you care to describe your project for everyone?  

Haha, we are fans of Minecraft and DayZ! I’m sure there are elements from those games as well as many others in ROAM. The easiest way to describe ROAM is as a top down co-op action shooter- combining elements of survival, base building, and crafting. The game is heavily based around survival so death plays a huge role in the game.

With around twenty days to go you’ve already raised way more than your goal, congratulations!  Obviously that means Kickstarter was a good choice, what made you bring the project to Kickstarter?

Thanks a lot! It’s really the backers who are making ROAM happen. We owe media credit to www.Rockpapershotgun.com though. They posted the first article on their front page and it spread like wild fire.

Kickstarter is a great platform to launch your ideas and it only made sense to take a stab at it. We had become so absorbed in ROAM that we knew it was a pretty cool idea and a game we would want to play, but weren’t sure if other people would think the same. Usually when you spend so much time doing something your views on the subject tend to be skewed. If it failed on Kickstarter then we had our answer.

How is this game controlled?  Like a dual stick shooter?  Like an RTS?  Like a 3rd person shooter?  All of these?

The game plays like a traditional FPS/third person shooter with your aim being controlled with the mouse and WASD controlling your position.
Controls are a huge deal to us and we easily get annoyed when other games have wacky over the top controls. (Press ctrl+alt+w+right click twice to pick up that crate!) An example of our take on controls is in our structure construction. It plays like a traditional RTS with the mouse scroll wheel rotating the object and left click placing it. Not the most complex system, but something that makes sense to anyone picking up the game for the first time.

We are open to the idea of implementing controller support, but its very early in development to make a 100% confirmation.

My wife is an MMO player but that’s the extent of her gaming ability.  Will she have trouble playing this game with me as we survive in the wasteland?

There are a ton of play styles we hope to implement in the game. Over the development process a lot of these will come to light.

For example, someone who wants to avoid confrontation with enemies may try to sneak everywhere and only settle down at night when the zombie threat is increased. They may choose to never have a permanent base setup and move out in the morning as to not draw attention to their location.

A team dynamic could have designated scavengers and builders where 1 player will collect resources, drop them off at “home base” and move out again to find more resources. The other player can use all the collected resources to construct the base in the most efficient way without feeling rushed.

Is this a permadeath game?  Will I be able to go back to my dead body with my  “New” character or does it always generate a new world?  

Yes and no. Since surviving is a core gameplay mechanic we wanted death to be the worst thing that could ever happen to a player. Something that a lot of games nowadays do is they implement character growth, but never allow the player to truly feel like they have grown. We hope to make the player feel like they are learning and growing themselves by dying over and over again and learning from their mistakes. Everyone will die and you're supposed to die!

The mechanics of loot on a dead player have yet to be determined. We want to avoid situations where players in coop games die, have their buddy pick up all their loot, and give it back as a fresh spawn.

Death doesn't mean the end of playing though. We plan to have a system where you assume the life of one of your NPC party members. NPCs are treated as “lives”. You will choose which NPC in your party you assume, but you will lose that NPC as a party member. The player’s character will absorb all of that NPC’s stats and gear. The only thing you don’t absorb is the NPC’s appearance. You will appear as you did at the beginning of the game.

Single player and multiplayer have different rules for death. If no NPCs are available in single player it is game over. You must restart and reload a new map. If no NPCs are available in multiplayer you will spawn in at the “home base” as a fresh spawn.

We hope this death system involving NPCs will create a dynamic system where balancing your party will affect gameplay. Having too many NPCs in your party will cause issues in terms of supply levels, but you will have an increased amount of lives. Having too few or none will mean the player can survive off very little supplies, but also an increased risk in losing everything!

Just how much fun is it to build a tower and shoot everything that comes up at you?  

The precision aiming system is really fun to play with. There is something disturbingly fun about shooting a zombies arm off or popping their head like a watermelon. Our current prototype is very limited in terms of gameplay, but we both found ourselves loading it up and just shooting zombies when we should have been working!

How hard is it to get ammo?  I’d hate to be stuck at the top of my tower with no bullets!  Are there melee weapons when the bullets run out?

Melee will play a huge role in the game and probably more so than guns. Guns are loud and ammo will be scarce, but they are highly efficient killers. Melee on the other hand will be silent (most will be silent... chainsaws,mmmmm), but will require you to get up close and personal.

We want combat to be a game of choice and wit. Choosing when to use your gun and when to melee, choosing when to fight or run, and choosing when you should create an efficient trap.

So how did the two of you get started on this?  

It all started a couple years ago when we knew developing an indie game could be a full time job and not just something on the side. We worked towards developing our skills and started drafting design docs for different ideas. It wasn't until a couple months ago when we both were in very similar situations financially and our job (or lack thereof) that we decided now was the time to go on Kickstarter. We cranked out the prototype working 16-18 hours most days and just put everything we had into it. Looking back, it was extremely risky financially.

With Fez and now Antechamber the idea of the “one man developer” is back in  the news.   Do you think your two man team fits into that same “small-time indie” mold?  Does having only the two of you make it easier to get everyone on “the same page?”  

Sure it fits! I've always been a fan of small time indie developers. Now is the greatest time in the history of developing games to be an indie dev. There are so many resources and tools available to help anyone with the passion or drive to make a game they’ve always wanted. I suggest anyone with that passion to pick it up, but be prepared...It’s a ton of work.

We have both been on the same page most of our lives knowing each other. During this project we “feed off each other”. By that I mean, we both want to display each other's work the best we can. If Zach implements a really cool feature, I want to visually represent that the best I can and vise versa.

Given that you’re now entering stretch goal territory do you think you’ll be hiring more people to help you with it?  

It is very likely we will start receiving help from the outside. We have connections in the industry and have already had a few offers from various people with a wide range of skills and talent.

How did you discover Kickstarter?

Probably the same way most everyone discovers a Kickstarter project, media. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment of discovery, but I’ve been intrigued by Kickstarter ever since. Crowdfunding is not a new concept, but it’s amazing what Kickstarter has done to expand on it. A place on the internet to gather and collect everyone's amazing projects and then turn those ideas into reality? Simply awesome.

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?

Responding to everyone has been a really high priority to us. Though I am human and I do miss a question here and there. I try to get everyones question answered and I think we have done a pretty good job so far at that.

We want to “lay the game out” and cover everything about it in as much detail as possible throughout the campaign. We hope to do this through video updates. So far we have enemies and crafting. Hopefully we can create a sort of “table of contents” that will cover gameplay mechanics in depth through numerous videos.

In the end it’s up to each individual backer if they want to pledge or not. If they like the idea and want to back it, great! We appreciate it. If they don't like the idea or simply don’t want to back then we can respect their choice. We prefer to not try to pressure anyone on backing anything they do not want to.
ROAM -- Kicktraq Mini

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

This is probably the weakest part of the entire campaign, but we got extremely lucky. You can see it in the Kicktraq backer graph (which is a great tool that we follow daily).

The first two days we had some interest in the campaign, mainly from the Kickstarter website. We were so focused on the prototype during those 6 weeks we weren't able to create a strong following through blogs or sharing the work we had done. ROAM just appeared out of nowhere on Kickstarter one day. Our break came when www.Rockpapershotgun.com wrote an article on the ROAM Kickstarter after I emailed them. From there it spread like wildfire to other media sites. We really owe a lot to those guys. Thanks RPS!

We have a Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/roamgame/ ), Twitter ( https://twitter.com/roamTHEgame ), and Youtube ( www.youtube.com/user/roamTHEgame ) set up. 

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Create a following as early as possible! Set up a blog that follows your work and update it. Create all the essentials (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube) and if you're doing a video game go check out the indiegaming section on reddit. Every saturday they have an event where you can post updates on your game called screenshot saturday. Do it!

Be prepared for a lot of work and little sleep. I couldn’t have imagined how much work there is in running a Kickstarter campaign. It’s something no one can imagine until they actually run one themselves.

Make sure to set up your Kickstarter page early with everything ready to go (if you have a release date set up with media attention). Amazon takes 3-5 business days to tie your bank account to their account. Kickstarter has a verification process of 1-2 days. After you submit to Kickstarter you aren’t forced to go live right away.

And lastly, EXPOSURE! You need as many eyes on your project as possible. Your backers do a lot of work spreading the word. A lot more than you think. They want to help you so your project can get made. Which reminds me...All ROAM’s backers are awesome!

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Thanks for having us, we really appreciate you taking the time! If you havent seen ROAM check us out at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/roam/roam . Anyone that decides to back, we really appreciate the support and can't wait to get the game in your hands!

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

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