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$9,290 pledged of $30,000 goal
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By John Brewer
$9,290 pledged of $30,000 goal
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About

Slower Than Light is a computer game based on the assumption that the speed of light in a vacuum is truly a universal speed limit in our universe.  After decades into centuries of trying to find a way around it, humanity has to accept that we will never travel faster than the speed of light, and that if we are going to be exploring and colonizing the galaxy, it is going to be at subluminal speeds.

THE FERMI PARADOX TRAILER:

ENERGY ECONOMY:

RESOURCES & PRODUCTION OVERVIEW:

RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT OVERVIEW:

PERSONALITIES, POPULATIONS, AND GOVERNMENT TYPES:

NOTABLE BLOG ENTRIES

Personalities, Populations, and Government Types

Colonies, Resources, and Production

The Energy and Information Economy

Time Delay and Signal Mechanics

Research and Component Development

UPDATE: Lightspeed Communications Demo and Video

The Observed Universe, or "Home" Screen.
The Observed Universe, or "Home" Screen.
Component Research & Development
Component Research & Development
Spacecraft Design
Spacecraft Design

There are a number of things that make the Slower Than Light engine exceptional among other space-based Strategy and 4X games. First off, the galaxy isn't mapped as squares or hexes or even a Cartesian plane as we normally see in space games; movement happens along orbits, and the speed of a spacecraft isn't just a function of its thrust. Powerful tools help the player plan mission from launching ships piece by piece into orbit all the way to landing on the moons of worlds orbiting distant stars.

Signals propagate at the speed of light in Slower Than Light, and you are always playing from a particular point in the universe; you don't instantly know that a revolution is in progress on Alpha Centauri; it will take over four years for word to reach Earth, and another four before your reply gets there.  It could take over forty years for a ship to get there; direct command and control simply isn't an option.  Thus does the issue of how to run the newly minted Terran Star Empire (or United Earth Colonies, or whatever you choose to call your program) become a driving challenge of the later game.  A system of strong, independent governors can allow problems to be nipped in the bud before word even reaches the Homeworld that there was an issue, but strong leaders often seek to expand their influence, which can cause consider strife and eventually tear an unwary empire to pieces.  On the other hand, a lack of initiative on the part of the local population can allow threats on the outskirts of civilization a chance to grow and thrive before any coordinated reaction is staged.  Careful manipulation of cultural norms and use of influence can make the difference between a Galactic Empire and a set of ruins spread across a few light years marking the grave of a civilization.

While glitches in communications and complex and evolving populations and NPC rulers provide emergent gameplay challenges, STL still employs a narrative director to help avoid the mid- and late-game slumps of boredom that many 4X games run into.  The director works carefully to make sure your play experience has a pacing that fits your desired level of challenge.

Legacy games (games passed from player to player) have full support in STL.  Assume an in-universe personality for yourself, and rule the budding galactic empire.  When your term (or life) is up, the game will stop your play and help you forward it to the next player.  Play together and share your experiences to build a unique world with a history flavored by all of your friends.

Why We Need The Money

The video blows through the budget pretty quick, so here's an overview of what we're looking for:

The Intended Uses of the Kickstarter Funds
The Intended Uses of the Kickstarter Funds

All told, this project has a budget of abut $44,000 left to complete it.  $17,000 of that I'm able to finance internally, but that leaves a $27,000 shortfall.  Bridging that $27,000 gap is the goal of this Kickstarter.

About a third of that $27,000 is earmarked for art contracts; Slower Than Light desperately needs some good art assets both for its interface as well as its content.  Some of the reward tiers will eat up from this budget.  About another third is direct costs from development; keeping the proverbial lights on during the eight months to launch.  The last third is split between processing fees from Kickstarter and Amazon, legal and accounting fees in setting up infrastructure of the small business that will end up owning this product, licensing fees for the development tools being used, and other business development costs, which are mostly related to setting up distribution for the game this autumn.

Stretch Goals

I would be incredibly honored just to reach my goal and have the opportunity to develop this product.  If we pass that amount, though, I have a few ideas...

$40,000 - Content/Local Bubble: Default Map will be the Local Bubble.  Get to know your way around our interstellar backyard!

$50,000 - Worldbuilding Support/Wiki:  Provide an interface to export information about your game to a webpage (the current plan calls for MediaWiki) so your friends can follow your game as it progresses.

$75,000 - Modding Support/Mapmaker: Provide a tool for players to create custom maps for their STL games.

$80,000 - Multiple players can be playing in the game simultaneously in different star systems.  With Light-Cone Turns, play is much more flexible than traditional 4X turn-based games, because the two players can play ahead of each other as much as a several years without fear of corrupting the game state.

$100,000 - Technical Support/Dedicated Server: To facilitate playing STL with groups of people, the Dedicated Server software will allow players to run a server off their home computer or hosted Internet server.  

Risks and challenges

There are a number of risks associated with this project in the event that it funds with effects that can vary from release and fulfillment delays to total failure. I'll take a moment to discuss the largest risks, as evaluated from a project impact and likelihood perspective.

The largest risk to the project at this time is that it has a bus number of 1; if something happens to incapacitate me personally, be it my severe injury or death, this project will almost certainly fail unless my funding level had reached such a point as to have allowed for a team to be hired to help me. If we fund near the $30,000 base level, that prospect is unlikely and as a result I would consider this risk to be in full effect. According to the best numbers I have been able to find (http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/100/12/845.full), I have approximately a 1.3-1.5% chance of perishing in the next year. I'm afraid I will have few remediation options in the event of my demise, but I will look at what can be done once I have established myself in the new status quo.

One of the major uses of this funding is going to be engaging with an artist or group of artists to provide the graphical assets to make Slower Than Light the most visually appealing we can make it while still retaining a functional and elegant user interface. While I have relatively clear specifications for the length and breadth of this artwork, it is still possible for any collaboration to break down, which will cost the project both time and money, but likely will not threaten completion. The current project plan allocates 30 days for the search and engagement process and 90 days for the delivery window, which means that in the worst-case scenario (missed delivery and the art team "disappearing" without providing any substance), we'll be looking at having to restart that process 4 months into our 6 month development window, potentially pushing launch back another 2 months, to 1 December 2014. Based on a poll I have taken of my own engagement with art teams in the past and colleagues who have done likewise, I estimate the probability of the art relationship failing as 1 in 8, or 12.5%, with the outcome being a delay in the project. If we encounter multiple failures and the resultant multi-month slip in development, this risk could potentially threaten the project (see Financial Mismanagement below), but the probability of two engagements failing back-to-back (presume the problem isn't me) is about 1.5%.

Feature Creep is always an issue on software projects, and I could optimistically guess it would have a 70% chance of being relevant to this project, but it will almost certainly manifest in one form or another. Although I have a firm set of features for "good enough to launch," stretch goals may commit me past that feature set, and I may want to add to new features that come to me or are suggested by backers or members of my team. To that end I am keeping a bucket on my timeline for "Slower Than Light: Expansion Pack 1", a hypothetical project that would release six months after the main product to include features that we wanted to include, but either were not ready in time for launch, or intentionally put off because we were not committed to them by stretch goals and including them in the base game threatened the timeline. Quantifying this risk is difficult because of the nature of feature creep, but for my planning purposes I'm estimating a 20% chance for each month being added to the release date; thusly, I would guess there is 20% chance of Feature Creep pushing our release to 1 November, a 4% chance of it pushing to 1 December, and so forth. This delays would likely in parallel to any art asset delays.

Financial Mismanagement. I would like to think I'm savvy and experienced enough to avoid unwisely spending the resources you have so generously granted me, but the risk is nevertheless present. I have a strong budget with reasonably hard numbers for the six-month run of this project, but a sudden change of costs, either because art assets are considerably more expensive than expected, the discovery that licensing or legal fees that our research didn't turn up apply, or anything that might cause the project to significantly overrun projected launch day could bankrupt the project. In that eventuality, I have alternate funding means I can turn to that would allow me to bridge thousands of dollars of shortfall, but in the event of a five-digit cost overrun, I would have to make some serious decisions about what the status of the project is and if it is viable to continue. This kind of risk is almost entirely of the "project-killing" rather than "release delaying" type, but is connected to the delay risk in that it adds a project-killing aspect to any of the above delays. I would conservatively (that is to say, as a high guess) estimate a 10% chance of financial failure without other compromising factors, and another 20% chance per month we exceed projected release. Obviously, if we overfund, this risk is reduced, but never eliminated.

Given these numbers, and presuming we fund at exactly our target amount, I estimate the risk probabilities for this project to be:

On Time Delivery -- 46.22% (~48% chance of delay, 11.1025% chance of failure)
1 Month Delay -- 54.73% (~23% chance of delay, 28.88% chance of failure)
2 Month Delay -- 50.60% (~11% chance of delay, 43.11% chance of failure)
3 Month Delay -- 43.10% (~5.3% chance of delay, 54.48% chance of failure)

These numbers represent the worst-case scenario; committing to delivery by a specific date with the bare minimum of financing we need to achieve that goal. While I cannot eliminate any of these risk entirely, I can assure you that I am monitoring and managing them, and taking whatever actions are most appropriate to ensuring the success of this project.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    SUPPORTER: Support STL! Also, get emails when Kickstarter Updates are posted.

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    JUST THE GAME: A downloadable DRM-free copy of Slower Than Light when it releases.

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    BETA ACCESS: Get a DRM-free copy of Slower Than Light on release, and become a participant in the Closed Beta, expected to begin in early July 2014.

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    NAMING RIGHTS: BETA ACCESS rewards, plus have the name of your choice added to the pool of personality names (subject to editorial review.)

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    IN-GAME PORTRAIT: NAMING RIGHTS plus you may provide a photograph of a human for our artists to convert into an in-game portrait that will always represent the character using that name. Subject to editorial review.

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    TECHNOLOGY NAMING RIGHTS:
    NAMING RIGHTS plus the opportunity to give a name to one of the game's speculative technologies.

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    COLONY NAMING RIGHTS: NAMING RIGHTS plus colonies submit a name that NPCs might give a colony they create. (Subject to editorial review)

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    SHIP NAMING CONVENTION: NAMING RIGHTS plus submit a set of names for space ships. When NPCs design a new ship class, they will choose one of these lists, and name all of the ships of that class off the list they choose. (Subject to editorial review)

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    CAUSING A CRISIS: NAMING RIGHTS plus you can provide one of the possible crises the game director will throw at players. We'll work with you on mechanics and balance.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    FRIDAY NIGHT GAMING: NAMING RIGHTS plus access to the weekly build of Slower Than Light. Each weekend, I'll make the latest build of the game available to backers at this tier.

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    A SEAT AT THE TABLE: FRIDAY NIGHT GAMING plus weekly group discussions with me about design, progress, challenges, and development. Front-row seats to how development happens!

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Funding period

- (30 days)