High Frontier is a space settlement simulation game for Mac and Windows (and maybe Linux!). Based on real physics, you design your space colony, select an orbit, and build. Then you enter the colony and run your orbital city: lay transportation lines, assign building zones, place trees and lakes, provide power and air, and keep your residents happy and healthy.
Stretch Goal: at $12,000, we will commit to a Linux version!
Why You'll Love High Frontier
High Frontier takes the city management genre to a whole new level (literally!). Each city is, in some ways, isolated, and constrained by the physical limits of your design. But all your cities are connected economically, and impact a larger background simulation of the entire solar system. Materials and technologies will become available in an expanding wave, determined in part by where and what you build.
In sandbox mode, you can build whatever and wherever you want, without being constrained by trivial things like budgets. In career mode, you start off with a small colony in low-Earth orbit, and use the revenue from that one to fund the next, and the next, expanding upwards and outwards. Play well, and the solar system is your oyster — your colonies will grace the many moons of Jupiter, and sparkle like jewels among the rings of Saturn.
Why High Frontier Matters
High Frontier is a game, and designed first and foremost to be fun. Yes, it's also the most detailed and accurate space colony simulator ever built, and has already led to important scientific insights (such as the compelling benefit of building early colonies in low-Earth orbit, or the advantage of inverted endcaps on a cylindrical colony). But it's not a CAD program, nor is it edutainment; it is a game, and it will be fun to play.
But High Frontier isn't just a game. It's also really important. Too many people these days have forgotten that our beloved Earth is only one small rock in a vast, rich solar system. Even those who look up at night often believe that we need planets to live on. In reality, we can build our own places to live, anywhere we have a good supply of materials, energy, and human ingenuity. These will be custom-built worlds, complete with trees, grass, lakes, and wide-open spaces.
That's what High Frontier is about. By supporting this project, you not only get a fun game to play, but you're helping to spread the idea of humanity expanding into space. Kids will look up and dream big dreams. Teachers and parents will be able to point to a bright future ahead. And we all move a little bit closer to the day when Earth is our cradle, but not our cage.
What You'll Get
We've lined up some great rewards for our supporters. First, everyone who pledges $5 or more will get one full license to the game. This is a DRM-free game for both Mac and Windows; you'll get the current version of the game as soon as the KickStarter is over, and then get all future updates to the game as well, at no further charge.
But wait, there's more! Supporters at the Founder level or more get a special in-game monument, available only to KickStarter supporters, which provides a local happiness bonus to your residents. Or, if you want to give High Frontier as a gift, the Giver level is essentially the same thing, but somebody else gets the license and a special Gift Shop building with your name on it.
Beyond that, the rewards start to get really cool, because you'll be creating content that goes into the game for all players to see. You could have a transport ship named after you, or a major building, or even an entire store chain! For real celebrity, you can have your likeness appear in the in-game Portrait Museum, appear as the star on a billboard, or even have a statue crafted in your honor, and again, these will appear for all players of the game. We also have limited-edition signed CDs and T-shirts for whose who prefer something physical.
Check out all the details on the right, or refer to this handy matrix to see what you can get for each funding level. (Click the chart for a bigger view.)
We've been following the iterative model of development since early summer (2014). That means we build a little, then release an update, and repeat. We've done 10 releases so far, each one richer and more playable than the last.
We've now completed all the essential functionality of the "design" and "build" phases of the game. You can design a colony, considering factors like gravity, radiation, air pressure, and more; then build this colony in any of several near-Earth orbits. We have a custom physics engine that correctly handles rotational dynamics, and we accurately simulate things like solar power, radiation, and shielding effects.
Right now, management mode is strictly external; you see your colony from the outside, against an accurate backdrop of the Earth and Moon, with passenger ships coming and going. If you've done well, residents will flock to your colony; if not, they'll let you know why they are unhappy!
We're ready now for the next big part of the game: the internal colony simulation. This is where you manage the city: laying paths, building public works, zoning for residential, commercial, and agricultural areas, and setting public policy. You actually get to see what life in your space colony would be like, and shape the life of your residents through hands-on directorship.
This part of the game requires a lot of artwork. There will be many sorts of buildings, monorails, stadiums, statues, plants, boats, and much more. All that artwork is expensive — and that's where you come in!
We Need Your Help
High Frontier is going to be a truly unique game, both important and fun. But for that to happen, we need your help. There are two things you can do right now:
1. Pledge your support. Pick a level and one of the cool rewards at right. The money used will go directly into development of the game (primarily, art assets needed for the internal colony view). Remember, this is KickStarter; if we don't reach our minimum funding goal, then you won't be charged anything at all (and we will all be sad).
2. Tell your friends! Projects like this succeed mainly through word of mouth. Send your friends and colleagues email, post about it on your Facebook page, tweet about it — do whatever you can do to help folks find out about it. Some of them will want to get involved in High Frontier too!
With your help, High Frontier will be a fantastic game to play, and will also have a significant positive impact on our global outlook and how we think about the future. Thank you for your support!
Risks and challenges
We've already prototyped the most difficult parts of the High Frontier game, including the physics of space colonies, traffic simulation, population growth, and the weird particulars of life in space, such as water that curves around a wall.
The biggest risk to this project is that some misfortune my befall the developers. We're a small team — one chief developer, one junior developer, and a tester — so, if somebody is hit by a bus, the project would probably stop.
However, barring that, the risks are all quite minor. If the simulation gets bogged down for large cities, we will divide it into larger chunks, and reduce the detail where that has the greatest benefit. If artwork proves more expensive than anticipated, we will reduce the initial scope — for example, reducing the variety of buildings somewhat to stay within budget. None of these would have a big impact on the value of the game, and we will continue to extend it later.
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