Thursday, August 1, 2013

Constancy: Roa

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by the members of InfinityArk who are here to talk to us about their first Kickstarter project Constancy: Roa.  Thank you Damian and Abram for joining us today.  

Damian: Hi, I'm the lead designer of Constancy: Roa, thanks for having us.

Abram: And I'm the programer thank you for inviting us here today!

So Constancy: Roa is an odd title for a game, could you tell us what it’s all about and where the title comes from?  

Abram: Constancy:  Roa is a 2d action platformer/shooter that is inspired by games like the Mega Man series, in particular, the Mega Man X series.  However, we put our own unique spin on the classic format to evolve it to a higher form.  Such things include the two button shooting mechanic, combination attacks, databanks, memorable, multiphase boss fights with highly elaborate AI, and a strong story conveyed in such a way that does not interfere with gameplay.  I’ll let Damian tell you about the story...

Damian: The story is about its title character, Roa.  She used to have a degenerative illness that would claim her life before she turned 18. One day when she's feeling better than usual a nurse invites her to come to a martial arts tournament with her. This results in her meeting Shiki backstage after the event who was a contestant. Shiki takes a liking to Roa and after hearing of her illness vows to save her.
Years later Shiki joins the cyber-genesis program and invites Roa to join as well. Roa has a successful procedure and Shiki regulates her to a support role for herself. The game begins right after this as Roa is waking up as a cyborg for the very first time. Unfortunately something has gone wrong while Roa was asleep and she wakes up to the sight of someone pointing a gun directly at her face.

In regards to the title it's the state of the world Roa wishes for, a state of constancy, since Roa's been in a hospital bed all her life she has never seen the world in it's current form. In contrast, Shiki wants to change the world from it's current state. There's another meaning to it that people will likely discover when experiencing it for themselves.

Is there going to be a “Stage select” hub like in Megaman or a Metroidvania style map with backtracking and the like?  

Abram: There is a stage select hub of sorts, but it’s contained within a hub area that you run into shortly after the intro level.

Damian: This area's kinda like Mega Man Zero 2's hub area. You can talk to various characters there as well as a couple of our backers assuming the Kickstarter is successful. You can talk to Rylia on the bottom level to go to various areas. In addition to that you can have conversations with her or other characters in the hub based on things Roa has learned. The game will have a menu that pops up with characters showing topics Roa recently learned for conversations.
There is also a training area here on the same level as Rylia where you'll be able to take on various challenges in a virtual space. In addition you can learn information about machine enemies and the like from another character in the hub. There's a lot of things you can do in the this area if you want to and it's all optional.

Do you think the game can be played with a mouse and keyboard or are you building it with a gamepad in mind?

Abram: Although keyboards are already supported, the game is intended to be mostly played with a gamepad.

Damian: I think it'd be rather hard to control a fast paced action game like this with a keyboard, so that's why we recommend a gamepad. I'm sure it's possible to finish the game with a keyboard but I wouldn’t recommend it.

How many of the “Features and Modes planned” are planned to be funded with your minimum goal in mind?  

Abram: All of them! We had those in mind from the beginning.

Damian: Yeah there was a lot we intended before we started the kickstarter. We vaguely thought of making some of them stretch goals but we felt that would be dishonest. So instead we came up with new stuff we'd like to add and made that into the stretch goals!

Roa is a “non-combat” person at the beginning of the game, how much of a role did the gameplay take in the decision to make that story choice?  Is this a case of the gameplay following story or story following gameplay?  

Damian: I started out with the idea of creating a game like the MegaMan X series but with significant changes to it. From there I developed the designs for Shiki and then Roa. One of the goals with the main character was to have a “normal girl” that was not self righteous and wouldn't take life without meaning or flat out deny others their own rights. So for this to work I figured the best way would be to make a “support” unit which changed their abilities for attack but, hung on to her values. That's the basic concept of the main character Roa. I also have a penchant for complex but fun gameplay systems. So that's where the dual arm firing, combination attacks and databank abilities come from. So I guess the answer would be it's a little bit of both.

How long have you two been working on this project?  What has kept you going up to this point?  

Abram: We started in September of 2009, about 4 months after getting my degree in computer science. The idea bloomed about while we were coming up with character designs.

Damian: When I was younger I worked on a lot of projects, as I got older I started getting really serious about game design. My focus became balanced, challenging but fair games rather than the over-bloated stuff I tried to do when I was younger. At that time Abram got his degree as he mentioned. So I showed him my base idea for Constancy: Roa and we started working on that together. Since then we've been through a lot of people who worked with us, most of them were artists which resulted in us having to redo the art 3 times. That's because we felt consistency in the project was important. The thing that kept me going was the feeling that if we kept at it someday we really would see this to fruition it was also that at first every time we lost someone, we gained someone new to replace them.

We took a major blow at the beginning of this year, losing two key people. One of them quit and the other just vanished off the face of the earth. That's when we put up an ad for a paid artist and we got a response from Heavy Cat. It's because of them that we can guarantee this project at last in a reasonable amount of time. They helped us fill in the gaps we were missing in our group as well as provided a lot of moral support. They've been really great people to work with.

About how far along do you think the game is at this point?  25%?  35%?  

Abram: I’d say about 20%? Most of the game’s intended design choices are done already. It’ll be up to my coding prowess to complete all of it. Most of Roa’s basic form is complete, save for some sprites. The engine had its ups and downs but it’s falling together quite nicely.

Damian: Yeah, I've wrote up extensive design documents on everything from how every boss and enemy acts to what happens in stages as well as the entire story. Anything that can be written about the game is written except for the script. I also did around 300 sprites for the main character Roa. The main thing we are lacking besides a lot of the programing is background art and designs/sprites for machine type enemies which is being provided fairly quickly now by Heavy Cat Media. We're expecting to have about a stage done a month after the kickstarter.

To be perfectly candid with the recent failure of The Doom That Came to Atlantic City people have been paying more attention to the business planning parts of Kickstarter projects.  That said you have probably one of the most detailed, honest, and complete cost breakdowns I’ve ever seen on Kickstarter!  What caused you to put that kind of effort into explaining the costs?  

Damian: I wanted to make sure we were asking for the correct amount. I got quotes from Heavy Cat and did extensive research on things like how much voice actresses can cost and what we'd have to pay for before the game could be released. I also poured over our own finances to see how much we'd need as well. There was a pretty basic version of this on the Kickstarter from the beginning because that's what I saw other Kickstarters doing. I knew that transparency was really important to a Kickstarter but, I wasn't sure what exactly people wanted to see.

Recently the issue of accountability with regards to Kickstarters has been rather rampant in the media. So I wanted to be absolutely sure our backers knew exactly what their money would be going to. That's why I changed the Kickstarter's cost breakdowns to be more detailed.

$20,000 for Voice acting?  So you plan on having the entire game Voice acted and not just fighting sounds?  

Abram: Yes! We intend to have full voice acting throughout the game. We already have voice actresses assigned for some of the character roles. Amber Lee Connors, who you might know from playing Ginger from the indie hit Dust: An Elysian Tale will be playing Aria. Apphia Yu of Funimation and more recently A Hat in Time will play Adama and Laura Post is planned to play Ishida.

Damian: Shiki, Roa, and Rylia have extensive lines and will likely cost quite a bit with the people we have in mind to play them. This is especially true with who we have in mind for Shiki. Though I don't want to mention that yet because we haven't asked her.  In general if any character in the game has a line to say it will be as spoken dialogue without interrupting the flow of gameplay.

Recently some game devs have mentioned to me a concern that Kickstarter campaigns might become requirements before products can be listed on Steam or be picked up by a publisher, what do you think of those concerns?  

Abram: This is actually one of the first times I heard of such requirements. That said, it can be both a good and a bad thing depending on how it’s used. It can help realize interest in a title that might be overlooked in something like Steam Greenlight, which has been rather inconsistent in its policies. A Kickstarter requirement needs to be flexible though. Just because a Kickstarter might not have been successfully funded doesn’t exactly mean it should be blacklisted from exposure. I’ve heard of at least a few games that still went on as planned even if their Kickstarter fell a little short.

You currently don’t have any Stretch Goals Listed, is this because you’re worried about over promising and feature creep, or that you just aren’t prepared to announce any at this time?  

Damian: In general with the Kickstarter we've found it best to follow reasonable requests from our supporters and pledgers. Since you mentioned the Stretch Goals previously I took the liberty of adding them. The only reason I haven't added them previously was because no one had asked and I didn't think it necessary to add them until later.

With our Stretch Goals we checked it out beforehand to find out what each one would cost us. Then we wrote that amount as the amount required for each of them. I'm not personally concerned about feature creep, there's nothing listed there we can't accomplish as long as we have the funds for it. I'd love to do them all really...... except for that current last one. If people want it though I won't have any problems if it reaches it's goal.

How did you discover Kickstarter?

Abram: For me, it was due to a fair amount of such projects being mentioned in the gaming media like Gamespot or IGN. Several projects caught my eye, although I don’t specifically remember any in particular.

Damian: I watched a stream promoting Barkley's Shut Up and Jam Gaiden 2's Kickstarter awhile back when that Kickstarter was going on. I'm fairly sure that the stream was the first time I really seriously looked at a Kickstarter. This year I backed several projects then we started our own.

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?

Abram: All sorts of stuff. We’ve done a few gameplay videos, and we’re in the process of waiting for a more substantial trailer made by our friends at Heavy Cat Multimedia.

Damian: We have cheaper early backer versions of most of our items. Additionally we contacted Gensen Figure to make Constancy: Roa figures. Recently they gave us more precise numbers for them and we lowered the cost to our cost to duplicate and ship them. One thing we really want to do with the kickstarter is not use it “for profit” in the sense that all of our goals, stretch goals, and add-ons are offered at rough cost. This is the way we think a Kickstarter should be run. We're taking a small hit with the early backer rewards, but that, among other things, is what our misc budget is for dealing with.

I also try to post an update at least once a day about our progress.  As well as personally and promptly respond to backer questions and suggestions. We're always listening and if we don't respond immediately it'll usually be because we're working on their suggestion. We like to be able to say we did something rather than that we are doing it.

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?  

Abram: We are using facebook and twitter to advertise for starters. We also have contact with several popular people on youtube who have been friends of ours for a while, some of them with some pretty major fan bases behind them. We also still haven’t fired our “big guns” yet, so I look forward to potentially explosive growth behind our project’s awareness. I’ll be looking forward to the day that happen

Damian: Several of our voice actresses have agreed to promote as well. We also have plans to promote to several potential backer sources like fans of the various MegaMan franchises especially the X franchise. I've been watching kicktraq for awhile but, some days are better then others on there heh.

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

Damian: Above all be transparent this seems to be the main thing that people want to see. If you have problems be honest about them and don't overprice your rewards.

Abram: Be well organized and be clear in your intentions! It’s time consuming but a fairly simple principle really.

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

Abram: I am excited to watch this thing take off, and ultimately, excited to see us finally realize our vision to a successor of the classic 2d platformer. We want to let everyone know that we are very compassionate and very dedicated to our project. With your help, we will fully intend to deliver on every promise that is listed!

Damian: Constancy: Roa being a real game is a dream I've had for awhile now. Finally we can guarantee this dream thanks to Heavy Cat Media and that's why we started the Kickstarter. We're confident we can not only deliver on our promises but exceed the expectations of our backers and supporters. So long as we have the funding we'll be able to release this game in a bit over a year's time. I hope this a dream everyone can share with us!

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

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