5-27-2012 UPDATE: The source code licensing is finalized. The engine source will be released under the GPLv3 and the assets under the CC BY-NC-SA.
5-26-2012 UPDATE: Two new tiers have been added! By pledging $4 you not only support the project, but get instant access to the backer exclusive wallpaper. If you want to show more support, pledge at the $8 level and get a digital copy of the DRM free extended soundtrack!
5-20-2012 EDIT: Just to be clear, there will be a Windows version soon after the Linux version.
“Confront them with annihilation, and they will then survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will then live. When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory.”- Sun Tzu
Agathon. Exodus Earth: Pre-Exodus Collection of Oral Tradition. Vol. 2. Sisyphus, 3920.
Lodestar: Stygian Skies (LSS) is the first game in a series of plot driven, tactical, science fiction RPGs that immerse the player in the Lodestar Universe. LSS is being developed on Linux and will be released for Linux first, with a Windows version following close behind. Mac will be supported if the Mac Extra Goal is reached. The classes and combat mechanics are loosely based on Open Game License (OGL) content, which is available to the public under the same license. If the final extra goal is met or exceeded, I will release ALL the source code to ALL backers after the game is complete.
This project will be participating in Kicking it Forward!
More about Kicking it Forward @ http://kickingitforward.org
The game is set in the distant future on a planet residing within a rare type of cataclysmic variable star system. The Lodestar Universe is set in a universe much older than our own. LSS falls loosely into the category of hard science fiction, and includes xeno-drones, re-purposed quasi humans, adaptive sub-quantum xenobiological nanotechnology, genocidal paraterraforming, and quantum mass weapons.
Rare Cataclysmic Variable Star System
In a typical binary CV system, a white dwarf star accretes mass from a single donor star. LSS takes place on a planet orbiting a ternary CV system. Instead of a single donor star, this system has two donor stars in a diametrically opposed orbit around the white dwarf.
The accretion of hydrogen onto the surface of the white dwarf is doubled, increasing the frequency of the nuclear fusion responsible for the novae that blast away the planet’s atmosphere. Autonomous alien technology has erected structures designed to shield us from the harmful radiation, create paraterraforming domes, and collect nova ejecta. The collected stellar matter is used for many things, including conversion to and storage of power in xenite power cells. All power is derived from the alien technology and traditional electricity is unstable due to the massive surges of electromagnetic radiation produced by the CV star system.
In the year 3218, humans discover the means for traveling faster than the speed of light through the use of interplanar travel.
“During the first unmanned test flight, things went horribly awry and our people inadvertently solicited the attention of an ancient and hostile planar race. The unwanted attention threw us headfirst into a war across the planes, and even faster into a fear-drunk, crowd-panic, grapple for survival. Our only hope was to beg aid from the enemy of our enemy, an alien race we now refer to as Helpers in what recorded history we have left. We don’t know their true name. What they called themselves has been lost to time. The Helpers were an alien race at war with the invaders for displacing them from their homeworld. In order to save our race, the remaining Humans were herded on-board terraforming vessels built using borrowed technology and unsure hands. The borrowed tech enabled the survivors to escape with their lives, and whatever fragments of our home their desperate, trembling hands could clutch. Earth was done.
The adapted technology was too foreign, however, and became subject to disrepair and failure. Soon, the equipment failed outright and the ragtag fleet began to drift. Maybe through planes, maybe not. We really don’t know. Some vessels lost heat and succumbed to the frigid paralysis of space. Some slipped well beyond the thin veil of madness. Some became infected, mutated and viral. Others drifted silently into the deep black, or piloted their doomed and captive crew into small asteroids in a feverish search for utopia. However, some survived and even prospered.
Lodestar: Stygian Skies is the story of a people whose lineage can be traced back to one such ship: the Sisyphus. During the exodus from Earth, an opportunistic man thought, amid all the life-threatening chaos, to transfer the databases of the Global Works Initiative via a data smuggling port. See, a hundred years before, an initiative was created to archive information, specifically innovation and art, as these were seen as a kind of currency in Earth's global marketplace at that time. This man, surrounded by pandemonium and death, fought against the rising current of fleeing people, fought against the invaders, fought to retrieve the GWI data. This man risked his life to save our culture… or just to get rich.
Unfortunately, during the escape from Earth and the subsequent equipment failure throughout the journey, the majority of the copied GWI database was destroyed. The only remaining data was a cluster of disjointed literature on Greek mythology, a thesis on Boophis mating, and the recipe for pop rocks. In Greek mythology, King Sisyphus was punished by being compelled to push a large boulder up a hill only to watch the stone roll back down to the bottom, again and again. The Sisyphus got her name from that fractured pile of Greek myth. Rightly so, too, as ship repairs began to feel like the unfortunate king’s boulder. The repair crew of the Sisyphus struggled to keep her from falling apart. They would fix things just to have them fail days later; fix it again just to have it roll back down the hill. Over and over, on and on. Forever.
Many generations came and passed while we drifted, repaired, and lived on board the Sisyphus. Exactly how many, we don’t know. Things were shaky in the beginning and records of that time just don’t exist. Some estimate fifty or a hundred generations passed, some estimate even more.
During that time the people on board came to regard the vast, open black of space as the River Styx, again pulling from the only source of literature and ideas they had. Some groups began to believe they were actually on a journey to the underworld.
The Sisyphus did eventually reach the other side of the river and come to rest on a distant planet, and the ancestors of the survivors that arrived on that fated ship still refer to the sky, to where we came from, as The Stygian or Stygian sky.”
- A retelling of part of the Exodus Earth, inherited through oral tradition; subject to interpretation.
The game is driven in a nonlinear fashion by an emerging story that is interwoven with rich lore. Much like a jigsaw puzzle, clues to the big picture are revealed slowly and randomly, increasing replay value and complementing the other procedural and random elements found in the game. The Sisyphus landed on the planet Protos, in what we now call the Kol’estri system. The ship burrowed deep under the surface, after which, paraterraforming technology was released. The transformation began below the surface and took mere months, whereas the transformation on the surface took generations. As the game begins, the paraterraforming of the planet’s surface is well underway, with many habitable domes having since been constructed and stabilized by the co-opted alien technology. As the player, you are charged with leading a hand-picked team to the surface of the planet and establishing a base camp from which to explore. Your team is responsible for surveying the newly terraformed areas and investigating the fate of missing colonists who have previously travelled to the surface. The story told by the game begins to unfold as you discover and unite pieces to the puzzle.
As you explore the surface of the planet, you have the opportunity to recruit rescued colonists into your base camp. Once recruited into the base camp, rescued colonists become units that provide specific functions according to their occupation. Each unit is assigned one occupation, for example, a cartographer or xeno-engineer. A unit’s occupation level increases when that unit uses a skill granted by its occupation.
Each occupation offers specific bonuses. For example, if you have a cartographer unit in your base camp, you unlock the navigational minimap feature. A higher level cartographer may allow you to note landmarks, and in doing so, be able to revisit a previously generated map, or point of exploration. If you have a xeno-engineer, you can craft or repair items that fall under the xeno-engineering category. Other occupations may include tailoring, xenobiology, xenoarchaeology, xenolinguistics, astrophysics, genetic engineering, and xenite research.
There is an item crafting system, however, it is not a requirement for game progression. Each occupation has a different set of craftable items. In typical RPGs, items found while exploring in the field amass in a player’s inventory. The LSS crafting system allows you to break down items into raw crafting materials while in the field, thus ridding you of the repetitive task of running back to the base camp to sell items and recover valuable inventory space. Raw crafting materials can also be discovered while exploring. Occupation levels play a role in determining the value of the crafting materials produced from deconstruction. When an item is deconstructed with a high level occupation, you have a greater chance of retrieving the more valuable raw components.
Items discovered while exploring or fighting, such as weapons, armor and consumables, are randomly generated using a component/attribute based item system. Item power is determined either by the difficulty level of the area, or by the difficulty level of the unit that dropped the item.
Unit Classes and Progression
The class list and class progression is loosely based on Open Game License content and is publicly available.
When the game begins, you get to roll your own unit and assign it an occupation. Your unit starts as the leader class and is the only unit that can make use of the leader class. This unit is always in your party and represents ‘you’ in the game. You are then able to select additional units to become part of the team headed to the surface. These initial units are rolled by the game and automatically assigned one of the random base starting classes.
A handful of classes become available shortly after the game begins and new ones become available as rescued units with new classes are recruited. As more classes become available, you are able to select classes from different orders and assign up to two per unit. Classes can be assigned to any unit at any time except during combat.
Currently, there are three orders, with additional orders to be added. The currently defined orders are the Order of Themis, the Order of Hyperion, and the Order of Astraeus. Two of the Orders, Themis and Astraeus, have been fleshed out significantly. Themites, from the Order of Themis, are peacekeepers and physical defenders. They can choose from six playable classes: sharpshooter, gunslinger, peace broker, drudge, enforcer, and Themite disciple. Astraeans, from the Order of Astraeus, are field workers, responsible for the control of the summoned tools called Xenodrones. The Astraeans have only one playable class. However, the Astraeans can select from three types of modular, progressively customizable, player controlled drones. The Hyperions, from the Order of Hyperion, use xenotech to repair machines and heal biological constructs.
Units gain experience through the use of skills and abilities during combat. This experience is applied in full to the primary class progression and applied in half to the secondary class progression. The secondary class assigned is limited to skills and abilities of a level equivalent to half of the primary class level.
The combat mechanics are loosely based on Open Game License content and are publicly available.
The tactical, turn-based combat consists of moving units around a grid, and is similar to the combat in games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, Vandal Hearts, and Front Mission 3. Before you enter an overworld map node, either for combat or exploration, you are allowed to choose your party from units available in the base camp. The maximum party size varies depending on the encounter.
LSS combat features certain types of destructible terrain, providing a variation on the tactical theme. You can destroy the ground under a unit to reduce the unit’s height, making it more susceptible to attacks from higher ground. You can also alter the makeup of terrain. For example you could turn dirt into lava, damaging a foe, or a grassy surface into an icy one, restricting unit movement.
LSS combat features turn switching, allowing you to switch a unit’s current turn with either an enemy’s later turn or a friendly unit’s later turn. Why would you want to do this? Consecutive actions by units on the same side gain combination bonuses. Switching turns allows you more control over the initiative-based turn order, giving you the opportunity to set up subsequent attacks and combinations.
The top-down, overworld map uses procedural and random generation techniques, ensuring that no two games play out in the same fashion. The overworld map consists of pockets of terraformed atmosphere contained within radiation-shielding domes. These domes double as collectors for the nova ejecta emitted by the ternary CV star. Several different biome and subsequent overworld tactical map types offer different environmental challenges.
Nodes appear on the overworld map as the overall unit level increases. Each node represents a point of exploration, or random combat map. Each time a player is drawn into an overworld node, for either combat or exploration, a new map is generated based on the region, or biome, that contains the node. The only way to return to a previously explored map is to use a special cartographer occupation skill. Not all of the game maps are randomly generated. Select maps are created with the map editor to be used in specific quests or to reveal some of the story.
Vast underground tunnels, manufactured by the planet’s previous inhabitants, are still intact and ripe for exploration. These tunnels, like the majority of the game content, are also procedurally and randomly generated to maximize replay value and eliminate stagnant gameplay.
Initially, multiplayer will be cooperative PvE and allow fifteen to twenty players per server. You can host a server, taking your single player experience to the next level. Invite your friends to all play together in the same world. Progress made by characters, such as plot advancement or NPC recruitment, affects the server as a whole. Characters rolled by players on a server are saved by that server and unavailable elsewhere.
When you are drawn into combat, you have the option to request help from other players currently on the server. If another player chooses to assist you, they are transported to the location of the battle, and afterward, returned to their location prior to the battle. You are responsible for choosing and directing all NPC units in battle as well as your unit’s actions. The assisting players are only responsible for their unit’s actions during combat.
Why develop for Linux first when the majority of PC gamers use Windows? Linux seems to be an afterthought for most game developers. Common wisdom in the game industry is that you can't shovel coin by creating games for Linux; the market isn't big enough. I’m not in this to make truckloads of money. Sure, I need some money to survive on, but, more importantly than that, it’s time people recognized Linux as a viable gaming platform. The Linux community needs dedicated game developers, indie and AAA alike, developers who don’t see Linux as an afterthought. You can help break the cycle.
Why not make the game open source? I am a steadfast proponent of open source. That being said, I have a strong desire to protect my story, lore and universe. An indie game is an indie game because only a handful of people, or less, are involved in the development of the game. Developing the game as open source would result in the creation of not one unique vision, but an amalgamation of many visions.
Will you ever release the source code? If there is enough backer interest in the game, meaning if the final extra goal is met or exceeded, I will release ALL the source code to ALL backers after the game is complete. If this happens, you are free to do whatever you want with the code, so long as it remains open source. I would hope that someone would take the code and make a new game from it, a new game with a focus on Linux.
I want to play your game, but I don’t have Linux. What can I do? Download and install Linux for free. It is good experience; you will, no doubt, gain a level.
I have already invested a significant amount of my own time into this project, and now I need your help to bring the Lodestar Universe to life!
My research indicates that, of successful projects, 5-15% of the pledged money is lost due to backers not having the funds to actually pledge when the time comes. Therefore, I estimate that 10% of the money will vanish right off the top, despite reaching my goal.
When we reach the goal of $16,384, 10% of that will disappear due to unfulfilled pledges, leaving $14,746. Kickstarter will then take 5% of that, leaving $14,008. Amazon estimates another 3-5% for credit card processing fees. Let’s say Amazon will take 4%. That leaves roughly $13,448. Now, after Kickstarter and Amazon take their respective cuts, 10% will be set aside for taxes, leaving roughly $12,103 to complete this ambitious project.
When you break it down, $16k doesn’t seem like much, does it? Keep in mind, this doesn’t incorporate the additional fees that I will have to pay. Fees such as hosting fees, domain fees, SSL fees, reward shipping fees, book printing fees, etc. When all is said and done, the additional fees could easily total $800 at the minimum goal level. That is at least one month of work that will not be spent developing the game that you want to play.
I can live on $600 to $800 per month and, since I am passionate about what I do, I work 8 to 12 hours per day, 6 days a week. This is roughly 13 months of dedicated work, paying myself between $2.50 and $3.33 per hour.
If I must, I will seek employment income to finish the game. However, this means that the game will suffer. I will not be able to dedicate my life to the completion of LSS and my energy will be divided. The more you contribute, the more time I can dedicate to the completion and polish of this awesome game!
“Make sure you only spend money you’re willing to lose if you’re thinking about backing a game project on Kickstarter.” I recently read this in a Tumblr blog, and it made me think. I won’t let you lose; this game will be completed. If I should die in a freak accident, the source code will be released in whatever state it is in. You are paying for my dedicated time and, no matter what happens, you get something in return.
Time Equals Money
Quality game development takes time. Designing a game with this level of complexity requires an attention to detail that can only be attained through a substantial investment of time. Additionally, game balance is paramount for a tactical RPG, and game balance requires time. The less time that I have to spend selling my skills, the more time I can spend investing my skills in the game.
Consolidated Web Presence
LSS needs a single location to contain all resources pertaining to the game: blog, wiki, bug tracking, forum, and backer downloads. A consolidated web presence is essential to foster the kind of community involvement that LSS needs. Maintenance of this web presence and moderation of the community forums takes time in addition to the cost of hosting, domain name, and SSL certificate.
Get Back to Work, Testers!
I don’t just need your money. I need your interest in my game, your interest in making this into a solid, fun, and balanced game. I need your interest to bring the Lodestar Universe to life. I need invested people who not only want to play the game, but want to provide constructive feedback in an effort to improve upon the quality of Lodestar.
Lore, Stories, and More...
The Lodestar Universe is rife with lore, thousands of years of lore. Documenting, crafting, and editing this lore, these stories, again requires that elusive commodity: time. I will create a book, detailing lore from the Lodestar Universe. The book will include stories, a bestiary, and concept sketches and development notes by me. If I can raise enough money (Extra Goal - commissioned artwork), I will commission artwork to be contained in the lore book.
Polish, Polish, Polish
Once the game is completely playable and works, then comes the other half: polish. Polish is what makes the difference between a good game, and a game that you remember for years to come. Polish is taking the time to focus on the little details that ensure a player is immersed in the experience, and not drawn out of it. Polish requires, again, time and dedication. Fixing all those little things, tweaking everything to get it ‘just right’ requires a level of dedication and focus that I can only achieve if I have the time to properly apply myself.
When the pledged amount reaches various tiers above the initial goal I will add extra features, such as the voxel tools.
When you and I exceed the initial goal by the following amounts, I will:
$17,384 - Polish and release stand-alone voxel sprite editor. This will allow you to create and replace game sprites with your own creations, adding a unique touch to either the single player experience or the multiplayer PvE mode.
$18,384 - Polish and release stand-alone map editor for unique areas. This will allow you to create unique maps that can be introduced into the pool of preformed, non-procedural maps that the game draws upon, adding a unique touch to either the single player experience or the multiplayer PvE mode.
$20,000 - Extend multiplayer; PvP on custom maps and varied PvP modes. This will extend the multiplayer experience to encompass player versus player. You and your friends will be able to connect to a server and duke it out on random, preformed, or player constructed maps in a variety of modes.
$23,000 - Release a Macintosh version. I do not have access to a Mac in order to develop or test the Mac version. As such, I will need money to appropriate a computer suitable for creation of the Mac version, and the time to develop and test it.
$24,500 - Expose portions of the game to modding, such as: particle effects, enemy definitions, unique item definitions, quests and quest rewards, all text, procedural biome generation algorithms, and graphics. The planned exposed bits are subject to change.
$25,500 - Polish and release script editor with GUI. This will ease the script creation process by allowing modders access to point-and-click script generation.
Above and beyond! - Any funding beyond this point will be applied to bringing the Lodestar Universe to life. This includes spending time recording extra lore, commissioning artwork to illustrate the Lodestar Universe, and polishing the game. I want to commission artwork that accurately evokes the feeling and compliments the setting of the Lodestar Universe. All material will be available in the lore book. Additionally, I may add extra pledge rewards as the funding allows.
$35,000 - Give all backers a copy of the source code six months after I officially recognize the game is complete. I am in this for the joy of game development as well as to bring my universe to life. If I reach this level of funding, in the spirit of Linux and open source, I will release the source code to ALL backers. This means that all backers will receive a copy of the source code regardless of contribution level. The code will be released under an open source license. When will the game be completed and the source released to us? The game will be complete when I am ready to begin work on the sequel and the source will be released to you, under an open source license, six months after that time. I assure you this will not become a feature creep dinosaur. The project will be finished and, if this last extra goal is met or exceeded, the code will be released to all backers.
I have devised a series of rewards and named them after the celestial bodies contained within Lodestar Universe’s Kol’estri system. Check out the planet details below, then check out the rewards at the top right of this page.
You will notice that I have set the estimated delivery date to January of 2014. Some of the rewards, such as the backer involved content creation, will be handled much sooner. Backer involved content creation rewards are marked with an asterisk and the fine print is as follows:
* I will work with you to make your addition to the game come to life. The backer created additions need to adhere to the setting and story, and I have final say on all backer created material. No offensive material will be tolerated. By creating and submitting backer material, you agree that you have no rights to the material used in the game and own no part of the game.
I have already started to shape my vision for the continuation of the story. Without revealing too many spoilers, the sequel will focus on a galactic quest for Human survivors from the other ships in the escaping fleet. Features will include customizable spacecraft, planet exploration, space combat, alien races, terraforming colonies, and much more!