More often than not, crowdfunding campaigns act more or less as a preorder system, despite Kickstarter’s insistence that it’s not a store. Today’s campaign from the Canadian game developer of Spaceteam, Henry Smith, flies in the face of that trend. His Kickstarter campaign is simply to keep him in the business of innovative, interesting games that might not necessarily have the mass appeal necessary to be a commercial success, but pushes new creative boundaries.
If you haven’t played Spaceteam, it’s a very creative local multiplayer game where players connect their devices over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and are each presented with a different spaceship control panel. Orders appear on each screen to turn knobs, move sliders, and tap buttons, and players must make sure to communicate to others what they need to do to keep their ship moving. Failure to do so quickly enough means you and your crew will get incinerated in a nasty super-nova. Pull off enough successful adjustments though, and you warp off to the next zone with increased difficulty. The low-fi graphics, frenetic activity, and ridiculous control names present a unique kind of charm that you don’t see anywhere else on mobile. In fact, it’s one of our favorite action games on iOS right now.
Smith aims to continue supporting Spaceteam through this year, crank out another title, and get started on a third before 2015 with the help of the Spaceteam Admiral’s Club campaign. He says the next title coming up will also be focused on local multiplayer.
Blabyrinth is a cooperative local multiplayer game for phones and tablets (like Spaceteam) about working together to follow clues and find secret treasure in a mysterious labyrinth. It will feel a bit like the board game Escape: The Curse of the Temple. I’m also inspired by Spelunky, Escape the Room-style games, Indiana Jones and TV game shows from my childhood The Crystal Maze and Knightmare.
The third game in Smith’s sights is Shipshape, where players will create spacecraft from modular pieces and guide them with simple gestures. Both of these titles are going to be free for everybody.
I’m a fan of this kind of patronage-based crowdfunding. The folks behind the PC game Natural Selection 2 did something similar, whereby they had an open-ended fundraising period with plenty of extras available for those donating, but no real product to sell, other than the promise to keep updating and supporting the game as they had been for the last few years. Donating money in this way engenders a kind of goodwill between players and developers that you don’t really see in other crowdfunding campaigns, which often amount to little more than a typical commercial transaction. Though it could be interpreted as a fairly lazy "Give me money so I can do whatever," Smith has a track record that speaks for itself, plus he's allocating a fairly modest $32,000 to development and personal costs from the funds for the whole year.
If you’re willing to pitch in towards these goals, you can earn quite a few perks for the existing Spaceteam game. At the $10 tier, you earn the soundtrack and an assortment of digital goodies. For $25, you also get the option to change the words used in Spaceteam controls, for your own personalized experience. On the upper end, you’ve got a custom-built Spaceteam avatar, Spaceteam fridge poetry magnets, and a bunch of other goodies for $100. Full details are available at Spaceteam’s Kickstarter page, where you can see Smith is already over $12,000 towards his $80,000 goal. Anybody already enjoying Spaceteam? Are there any iOS developers out there that you’d be willing to donate to, just so that they could do what they do without worrying about getting paid?