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$360 pledged of $50,000 goal
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By Rebecca Leonard
$360 pledged of $50,000 goal
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About this project

The Story of FFZ

FFZ is a game we've dreamed of making for a long time. It stars a very unassuming little frog who goes on a wide variety of adventures, using his tongue and his brain along the way. Based on a newspaper comic series that ran in the central Pennsylvania region for many years in the 1990's, our amphibious star combines a spirit of childlike wonder with scientific curiosity to become accomplished in fields ranging from barn building to paleobiology.

One of the old comic-strips. This one has been blown-up and framed, and has been hanging on our walls for over 10 years.
One of the old comic-strips. This one has been blown-up and framed, and has been hanging on our walls for over 10 years.

There is no particularly important backstory - just a frog that gets up every day and does something strange and amazing, usually with a comic twist. In the comics, the frog typically starts off on a crazy quest based on his complete misunderstanding of human culture. He considers himself quite intelligent, but as we all know, frogs just don't have very large brains. He thinks that marshmallows grow in marshes and eggs grow on eggplants. But he means well, and is always helpful to others. So we designed a game to be played in episodes, just like the comic strip was. Some of the episodes are small and simple and others huge and complex. You can have several of these adventures going at once, playing each one for as long or as little you want per day. Finish one? Great, there'll be more to play all the time.

Where do these new episodes come from? We'll produce them, but so will you. Our web-based world editor will be available to everyone! Make your own frog adventure and share it with your friends or the whole Internet! The editor will be the same one we use, so it will be a complete toolbox of all the game features for you to combine in new and creative ways.

Why did we design a game this way? A long time ago, games were played on CRTs and mobile phones were bricks (and not even fun bricks, like Legos). Games were fun and all, but we always wished that we could make our own world and dungeon maps for console games, or that every game came with its own editor. Years went by, and as we became skilled in software development, a brand developed around our frog character, and the OUYA made console game development possible for industry outsiders like us, it now seems like the perfect time to combine all of our lifelong dreams into this project.

It's not just a game, it's a way of life.

Well, maybe not a way of life, but FFZ is more than just a game. What we are creating is really a game engine - capable of playing not only the adventures we create for the frog, but the ones you create as well. Our world editor is an online tool that anyone can use to create their own worlds for the frog. Send him on your own wacky adventures and share the experience with your friends! You can save your work and let anyone with the game play it. This is the same editor we will be using, so it will be full-featured. Anything we can do, you can do! Maybe you can even do it better!

FFZ Editor
FFZ Editor

How do you play? With your thumbs! And your brain!

The game is a 2D overhead orthographic view, a classic type used in tons of games ever since the dawn of time. Most people will be able to pick up the controller and immediately understand what to do.

There are a few very simple game mechanics. First, the frog's tongue is his most important tool and weapon. Use it to hit things, both enemies and obstacles. It can be upgraded, temporarily, with some power-ups like 

  • Peppers, so he shoots fire instead of his tongue
  • Poetry books, so he has a silver tongue, which of course is used to bash things
  • Strawberries, so he becomes a strawberry poison dart frog and actually shoots darts from his mouth
  • Thick glasses, so he shoots a laser beam from his mouth in true rocket-scientist style
Knowledge is Power! And matter is energy! So if power is energy, does knowledge matter?
Knowledge is Power! And matter is energy! So if power is energy, does knowledge matter?

And because we're dealing with a cold-blooded amphibian here, you have to watch the temperature and moisture level. Too cold? Better get near some fire (or light one) to warm up or you'll move slower than molasses in January. Skin dried out? You won't even be able to stick out your tongue until you re-hydrate. Jump in some water, or carry a bottle with you.

A screenshot of the frog in action
A screenshot of the frog in action

Now that you understand the basics of frog life, what do you do? Each episode you play through will have one or more "chapters" in which you have a goal of some kind. Collecting an item, defeating an enemy, saving a town from termite invasion, making a funnel cake...something. There will be enemies in your way - other animals, robots, pickles, etc. There will be obstacles as well. Fire. Locked doors. Fences. Big rocks. Sometimes, the challenge to an area will be defeating all the enemies. Other times an area will challenge you because it is a maze. Still other areas are challenging because you need to find a certain tool to clear them. Who needs opposable thumbs! For example, you might have to find a wrench in a corn maze to open a pipe to get some water to put out a fire that prevents you from reaching a turtle. Other times you might need something to pick the lock (or just find a key. Maybe a porcupine has it). Maybe you can smash through a fence with a sledge hammer.

Tools! Not just for primates anymore!
Tools! Not just for primates anymore!

But remember, all of these areas are being created with the same world editor that is available to you. Think you could make an awesome set of puzzles for the frog to adventure through? Have a great idea for a cave level with an underground lake? Give it a try yourself and see what your friends think.

We want the environment that the frog can explore to be diverse. There are obviously grassy fields with streams. But we also want to have underground limestone caves, towns and buildings, county fairs, beaches, lakes, swamps, and more. The particular warmth and moisture levels of each environment must be taken into account when playing in those areas - too cold or too dry and the frog will suffer.

Level design sketch for the first episode
Level design sketch for the first episode
Early design for the county fair episode - where genetically modified plants must be defeated!
Early design for the county fair episode - where genetically modified plants must be defeated!

Where are we now?

Right now, with about 150 hours of development (coding and artwork) spent on the game since January, we have a playable prototype on the OUYA. It allows you to select a world that you have created in the editor and move the frog around in it. You can attack some enemies and take a swim to rehydrate after using up all your water. It is very basic, but it proves the concept and gives us a sandbox to test additional functionality.

We have a great engine design that allows us to add new game components and behaviors quickly, but making the artwork for new items or better animations takes a lot of time. Also, building the game engine and the editor at the same time is like managing two separate projects - it is very time consuming.

Who are we?

Syslark, Inc. is a team of software engineers, artists, and game enthusiasts in central Pennsylvania. We have been creating amazing software systems for business customers for years. When we first learned about OUYA a year ago, we were extremely excited - now we can use our software talents to create the kinds of games that we want to play, and hopefully the kind you want to play too! Several of us backed OUYA's Kickstarter immediately, and have been enjoying our consoles for months...both by playing games and making our own!

Don't worry, we're professionals
Don't worry, we're professionals

Why are we doing this?

We believe that OUYA is the perfect platform to finally live out our dream of making a video game out of our frog's adventures. Just a few months ago we had nothing but a love of frogs, Inkscape, and mad skills in software engineering. To create a game engine that plays on a TV with a real controller in such a short time and with so little invested is amazing. We would not be able to do this anywhere else. But really turning this simple prototype into something everyone can enjoy will take more resources than we have to commit right now.  This campaign will enable us to get a lot more artwork, an original musical score, and write a lot more code. We've only got about 1 mythical man-month in this thing so far, imagine what we can do with 6 or 8 actual man and woman months.

Production Schedule

If we are backed, this project will kick into high gear almost immediately. We will start adding lots more original artwork to the game - more enemies, more obstacles, more foliage. We'll also be able to devote lots more time to the development of the software, both the game and the editor. Level designers will also begin working with both game and editor developers to create some more fun episodes for the frog. We already have some rough cuts, but we want lots more.

Our goal is to have the game available to everyone on OUYA by June 2014. But we don't want development to stop there! We'll employ an agile development methodology which will enable us to keep releasing updates to the game, adding new features all the time. We don't want you to lose that sense of excitement you get when receiving a new toy!

The Game Artwork can be Expressed as a Mathematical Formula

This game is designed to be played on the OUYA, on a high-definition TV. Therefore everything on the screen is going to be done in high-definition. You won't see any big pixels here. All the lines will be smooth. It's actually all vector art. All of the game artwork, much like the original frog comics, is created out of simple shapes and uses bold colors. As we progress and add new objects to the game, we will always maintain this same style.

The Musical Score has Banjos

Being true to our rural Pennsylvanian roots, the game soundtrack will be all original Folk/Bluegrass songs created by local musicians working with our team of artists and engineers. Special thanks to Wendy Bonson for creating the awesomely bluegrass prototype music.

And now for something really special...

OUYA Free the Games Fund
OUYA Free the Games Fund

Double Our Fun(ds)! We're participating in OUYA's #FreeTheGames Fund, created by OUYA to support developers making new and creative console games. OUYA will match your pledge dollar-for-dollar if we raise a minimum of $50,000, so help us get there and make a great game for everyone! To be eligible for this match, we commit that this game will be an OUYA exclusive for six months—no matter what. To learn more about OUYA, go to www.OUYA.tv.

Other Platforms?

Our primary target platform for FFZ is the OUYA. We believe strongly in the goals of OUYA - that console game development should be open to anyone with a dream in their heart and a keyboard on their desk. And as participants in the #FreeTheGamesFund (see above), we are required to make this game OUYA-exclusive for 6 months after release. After that, we may release it for other Android devices if there is sufficient interest. Our early testing has shown that it should play fairly well on tablets with some UI changes but phones might be challenging due to the small screens. But HDTVs with controllers?? Yeah! Go OUYA!

Risks and challenges

The potential risks for this project mostly involve being able to get all the game pieces together. We'll need to work with game level designers, software developers for both the game and the editor, graphic artists, and musicians. It could be a challenge to get everyone on the same page. But we have lots of experience in project management, and getting people of diverse talents to work together is one of our CEO's major strengths.

The engineering complexity of this project lies mainly in the fact that we need to develop a web-based editor and a game engine at the same time. But we approach this challenge the same way we've approached all other engineering challenges we have faced - with gusto! Good software engineering is good software engineering, applied to console games or business applications.

We're certain that solid software engineering practices and great team leadership will make us successful in this venture, just as they have in all our other ventures. We hope that with the OUYA platform, we can change the rules about how games are made.

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    Gamer Award: Thanks for making this game possible. As a thank you, you'll receive a free download of the full version when its available on the OUYA!

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    Sporty Award: In addition to the above awards, you'll also receive an authentic FFZ rubber bracelet (made in the USA) to show off to your friends!

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    The Bob Award: Help us test! You get early access to the editor and game! Back us at this level and we'll give you beta access to the editor and regular downloads of the game for you to side-load on your OUYA before it is released. You'll be able to give us your feedback and help test and guide the development process! You will be super-helpful! You'll also get the rubber bracelet.

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    Fashion Award: Best gift ever! (In exception to the game of course). In addition to the above awards, you'll receive your very own limited-edition FFZ Frog T-shirt to wear. You'll be the coolest frog-shirt-wearing person around!

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    Limited Edition FFZ 18x26 poster. Want it signed by the team? Just say so! (And you will also receive all the above awards)

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    Put the ZZZ's in FFZ Award: Slumber in style with an FFZ pillow created by our resident 8-year-old game tester (in addition to above awards).

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    Music Master: In addition to the above awards (except the pillow), you will receive a free download of the music soundtrack to the game. It will be all-original folk/bluegrass music by central Pennsylvania artists!

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    OUYA Award: Need an Ouya? Receive one with this option signed by the team, and all the above game swag.

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    Graffiti Award: Thanks! With this award you can carve up to 12 characters into a tree or rock in the game! "Rick <3 Jane" "Casey Rocks!" "I love eels" Certain limitations and it must be clean. You also get the rubber bracelet, early access, shirt, poster, and soundtrack.

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    Billboard Award: Think the frogs would enjoy some soda while they are exploring? Or maybe they'd enjoy playing your OUYA game as well? With this award you can place a billboard in the game telling the frog world what you'd like to! Certain limitations and it must be family-appropriate. Of course you also get the rubber bracelet, early access, shirt, poster, and soundtrack.

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    Woh! You guys seriously think this game is going to be awesome. Receive one of each of all listed awards, including graffiti and billboard. We will also work with you to design your own character in the game (certain reasonable limitations apply - keep it clean, people!)! We'll also give you a limited-edition custom-made plush frog to hold and love! AND we'll also send you a box of real central-Pennsylvania Amish-made whoopie pies!

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Funding period

- (30 days)