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A tactical puzzle RPG designed for busy people. Read more

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This project's funding goal was

A tactical puzzle RPG designed for busy people.

About this project

We're building a team of MIT Game Lab alums to turn this prototype into a game worth your precious time.  With your help, we will release Lex Laser Saves The Galaxy, Again on Linux, Mac, and Windows in the first half of 2014.

Lex Laser Concept
Lex Laser Concept

Dear Implant,

  If you are reading this, then I've reactivated you, and we're probably in trouble.  DON'T PANIC.

  You are a computer, or something like a computer, and you think really fast.  You've got plenty of time to think. 

  But as soon as you commit to moving my body, time will move forward just for a split second.

  At least, that's what you've told me it looks like from your end of things.  From my end, my body turns into an action movie hero and I try to stop screaming in terror.  Don't worry about that right now.  Just know that you can take your time, and I don't mean all the bad things I say.

  If something happens so that I need to activate you in spite of all the really good reasons not to, it's going to be serious.  So I'm writing a bunch of files in this memory augment for you to read if you need them.  There might not be time for me to explain personally.

  The basics:  You are a combat implant.  You think so fast that time seems to stand still.  You can take control of my body.  You have subroutines that measure and calculate weapon trajectories and analyze the most likely outcomes of any shot you make.  You can control my hands with perfect precision....  So you don't ever miss.

  If I've activated you, there's probably something you need to shoot.  It's probably asteroid dwellers of some kind.  They aren't sentient; they are barely alive at all.  Think of them as highly mobile kelp that likes to hang around the heat given off by valuable radioactive ore.  

  If it's not asteroid dwellers, then try to avoid killing people unless they are shooting at me.  Us.

  It may look like a bunch of squares with funny pictures to you, but I'm really here and we're really in trouble.  If I die, you die, too.  (I think.)  I can't get out of this without you.

  And yeah, you can make fun of me later.  I still can't hit anything smaller than an asteroid with a gun.  Get us out of this, and I'll take whatever you care to dish out.

  You probably don't remember me.  That's a side effect of shutting you down as thoroughly as I did.  I'm really sorry about that, but I didn't have any choice.  If it's any consolation, shutting you down again will almost certainly kill us both.  So welcome back!  We're together again for the long haul.  

  I've missed you.

   --LEX

Screen Concept
Screen Concept

Gameplay Overview

Play at your own pace, deploying area-of-effect weapons in highly visual tactical puzzles.  (more)

Completely rebuild your weapons between Episodes.  (see Equipment, below)

Explore a blend of procedurally generated and hand-crafted gameplay. (more)

Enjoy a quick challenge in Puzzle mode.  (more)

Live with the consequences of your actions in Adventure Mode.  (more)

Easily pick up where you left off, and don't worry if kids see your screen. (see Motivation, below)

Check out our prototypes here.

Who Is Lex Laser?

Lex Laser is an asteroid miner with a knack for getting into sticky situations.

Recent advances in affordable warp drive technology have opened up new frontiers at the edge of human controlled space.  Settlers brave the unknown to form new colonies, while the more independent souls homestead alone on distant worlds.

With a fervor reminiscent of the Gold Rush, fortune-seekers mine asteroid fields for rare elements and search alien ruins for valuable technology.  But there are scary things in those ruins, things that we don’t really understand. Things better left alone, perhaps.

Lex Laser Concept
Lex Laser Concept

In this new frontier, Lex Laser is a legend.  S/he is Paul Bunyan, Annie Oakley, Johnny Appleseed, Pecos Bill, Calamity Jane, Davy Crockett.


Lex Laser is the lone conscript who fought off 300 zologs in the Battle of Hilbert 5. Lex Laser is the only human to have been made an honorary member of the Vkesti Immortal Council. Lex Laser released, caught, survived, and cured the final outbreak of Smallpox IV.  Lex Laser dug up a fortune in alien artifacts in the asteroids around Rigel - and lost it all three days later.

It's hard to be a living tall tale. Despite the fame, or perhaps because of it, Lex Laser just wants to be left alone. Lex Laser doesn't want to save the galaxy, but sometimes, you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that's when you have to act.

As the player, you take on the role of Lex Laser's sentient combat implant. You are the secret behind Lex Laser's greatest victories.

Gameplay Details

You are Lex Laser's combat implant, the secret of his/her success.  Lex Laser may be an expert technician, spaceship mechanic, and sometime scientist, but when the going gets tough, you take over.

You direct Lex Laser in a 2d game world. Lex Laser will be fighting hordes of zarbats, mining explosive crystals, running away from angry robots, looting a scuttled dreadnaught, or exploring an alien ruin, and more.

Lex Laser is turn based. There are no twitch elements to this game.

Most tactical games rely heavily on numbers to express their core concepts. A tough creature will have more hit points, and the only way to deal with that is to do more damage. In Lex Laser, most foes just take one hit, but there are lots of them.

Lots and lots of them.

Your challenge is to deal with your enemies quickly, before they overwhelm you.  At higher difficulties, your challenge is to deal with your enemies efficiently, before you run out of ammo.  You do this by choosing the right weapon for the situation, and placing your shots carefully. If you are only destroying one enemy per turn, you are probably falling behind.

The result is a blend of tactical combat game and puzzle game.

Finally, we'll keep you on your toes with variations on the basic combat system.  We'll mingle combat objectives with story objectives, forcing you to make trade-offs. 

Lots and Lots Of Enemies (prototype screenshot)
Lots and Lots Of Enemies (prototype screenshot)

Equipment

Between missions, you use the various technological items and alien artifacts you have found to improve your arsenal.  You won't have to guess at recipes, though.  Lex Laser is a top-notch technician, and can stick almost any mod onto any weapon.

For example, the Orthobarrel mod adds a second projectile to every shot from a gun, but always 90 degrees to the right of the main shot, and the gun will take twice as much ammo per shot. Stack the Explosive Ammo on top of that, and you can turn your simple pistol into a mini-multi-grenade launcher. That's fantastic until you find yourself in a museum filled with fragile crystal sculptures - then you might want to go back to the base model.

You will also find (or build) sensors, such as a tactical readout that predicts enemy actions, or a life detector that can give you hints about where to go to rescue that last refugee.

This equipment mechanic is the primary way Lex Laser improves as the game goes on, so a little creativity here can go a long way.

Inspirations

GamesRobots, Gauntlet, RogueDiabloDungeons & Dragons, SSI's Gold Box games,  HERO System, Star Control II, Star Saga, FTL

Fiction:  Heinlein's juveniles, E. E. "Doc" Smith,  Babylon 5Firefly


Motivation

What am I doing, again?  

You will probably not play Lex Laser in one sitting.  When you pick the game up again, you will have to figure out what was happening when you left.  We're making that as easy as possible so you don't mind putting the game down when you need to.

To accomplish that, we're increasing the importance of location and relying on highly visual elements like area-effect weaponry.  This helps players jump back into the action without having to refresh their memories about which things do what.  It's all on screen.

We're also separating the story elements into short Episodes.  An Episode is a self-contained subplot, much like a single episode of your favorite Sci Fi television show.  These bite-sized chunks are easy to remember, but if you forget, we'll provide a quick summary of the action so far in the Episode.

Once you've completed an Episode, you don't need to remember all of the details about it.  Again, we'll provide a short summary.  "Lex Laser and the Gene-Cow Stampede:  Lex Laser's escape pod landed on Fornax II.  Lex helped the local settlers, who provided a nice meal and a ride to the starport."

Don't traumatize the children! 

Lex Laser started out as a game designed specifically for experienced gamers with small children: people who might have to stop playing at any moment, who might go weeks between sessions, who might have to deal with curious faces peeking at their screens without warning- but who still crave the deep, rewarding game experience from the Days Before.

This is an under-served market.  (I should know.)

I've been surprised at what bothers my son and what doesn't.  He really doesn't like sudden surprises in Daddy's game.  He gets very uncomfortable when he hears any sounds of pain.  But he doesn't mind complicated moral situations.  Either they are great conversation starters, or he doesn't understand them yet (which is, frankly, more likely).

So while we won't be terrifying you with sudden movements and sounds, and we won't be showing graphic gore and horrible death, adventure mode will present you with complicated situations appropriate for grown-ups.

This is not a game for kids.  But it is a game that can be played near them.

This game isn't for everyone.  If you've read this far, we're hoping it's for you.

Will the real Lex Laser please stand up?
Will the real Lex Laser please stand up?

Who Is Making This?

Andrew Haydn Grant (Team Lead) is the Technical Director for the MIT Game Lab (formerly known as the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab), where he has mentored students in code and design, led teams, and helped ship a lot of research games in the past 6 years. He started professional computer game development as a designer/programmer at Looking Glass Technologies in 1994, but has been refining his gameplay and storytelling techniques since beginning as a Dungeon Master in 1980.

The team is primarily staff from the MIT Game Lab and alumnae from our programs, including both MIT and RISD students.  These people are battle-tested, and have all shown that they can make fun games on a very tight schedule.

"It's an honor to work with this team, and if the Kickstarter fails, you should totally hire these people.  We've worked with a lot of excellent people at the Game Lab, and these all stand out even from within that very talented group."   --Andrew

Art

  • Toril Orlesky is an animation student at RISD & MIT Game Lab alum. When she isn't making games, she can be found making comics and wishing that faster-than-light space travel would become a thing, already. (site)
  • Yue Li is a RISD Illustration & MIT Game Lab Alum, and currently a freelance UI/UX/graphic designer with a love for drawing and games. (site)

(And a special "thank you" to Emily Walus for her work on the early concept art!)

Code

  • Alec Thomson is completing his Masters Degree in Computer Science at MIT with his thesis on procedural puzzle creation. (site)
  • Andrew Grant (see above)

Sound

  • Wes Carroll is not a Game Lab alum, but he is a Looking Glass alum.  A man of many talents, he'll be pitching in with the music. (site)
  • Abraham Stein is the Audio Director at the MIT Game Lab.  Abe is also just completing his Masters degree at MIT's Comparative Media Studies program.

Production

  • Rik Eberhardt is the Studio Manager at the MIT Game Lab, where he mentors students in game production best practices. (site)

Quality Assurance

  • Sharon Wang is an MIT Game Lab alum who studies illustrative art at RISD by day and writes code at night.  However, her all-time hobby and true passion lies in breaking video games. (site)


(And another special "thank you" to Generoso Fierro, who produced the main Kickstarter Video!)


Click for more concept art
Click for more concept art

Stretch Goals

The bare minimum funding level will get us to the bare minimum we're willing to ship: a quality game with some new ideas, puzzle mode, and adventure mode.

We're not revealing details on the stretch goals yet (we don't want to jinx ourselves!), but here are the biggies:

  • Adventure Mode becomes Story Mode, with a much meatier plot.
  • We create development tools for the community.
  • We port the game to tablets.

Even if we don't hit any stretch goals, any extra money we raise will go a long way to improving the overall quality of the game across the board.

Budget

This is a small team, but we're expecting at least 8 months of development time to get Lex Laser to a point where we'll be proud to ship it.  The Kickstarter base amount is assuming that some of the team is working only part-time, and everyone is working at a reduced rate.

Why is that reduced rate not zero?  Well, for some of us, it is.  But a lot of the team are fighting student loans and other financial commitments that they just can't put off.  On top of that, the people on this team will be turning down other opportunities to work on Lex Laser.

That said, here's our budget:

  •  $6,000 - Legal & Accounting
  •  $7,500 - Software
  •  $6,500 - Amazon, Kickstarter, failed pledges: $6,500  (10%)
  • $20,000 - Art
  • $12,500 - Code
  • $2,500 - Sound
  • $10,000 - Quality Assurance (play testing)

Yes, we're budgeting for Quality Assurance up front.  I wish we could budget more for it.

Risks and challenges

As far as gameplay, the equipment customization bit is the riskiest. It will make game balance extremely difficult. To combat this, we're prioritizing Puzzle Mode first, complete with weapon mods. Once that mode is solid (and fun!), we'll have a much better idea of what to expect from Adventure Mode weapon arsenals at each stage of the game.

The main risk is present for all projects. What if something goes horribly awry? We could lose team members, or hit some unknowable stumbling block. Our main defense against this is a highly modular game design that will allow us to cut content until we have a manageable workload.

Hopefully, we won't have any such problems. But if we do, we'll give you a smaller, high quality game rather than a larger, half-finished game.

If you like what you see, please pledge! We need your help.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

FAQ

  • No. Those are all placeholder assets, the bare minimum for you to get an idea of the basic gameplay. With your support, we will create a top-notch visual design. Look at the concept art to get a feel for where we're going, and check out the artists' sites to get a feel for what they are capable of.

    Last updated:
  • We have a technical proof-of-concept built on top of a ton of paper prototyping and planning. With your help, we will go into full production.

    Last updated:
  • We plan to support Android and iOS, but those come after the Linux, Mac, and Windows versions. If we can hit the tablet stretch goal, mobile versions will come a lot sooner.

    Last updated:
  • We're targeting Linux, Mac, and Windows first.

    Last updated:
  • We are using Unity3d. Part of the Kickstarter funds go towards buying the additional copies of Unity needed to expand the team. http://unity3d.com/

    Last updated:
  • Yes. We've posted links to a few tutorial prototype missions in Update 2.

    Last updated:

Rewards

  • You selected
    $1 reward

    8 backers

    BACKER - Thank you!! You'll get access to all of our updates, and also access to a secret backer-only online store for physical goods. (We'll take suggestions for new products.) All later tiers share this benefit, too.

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    $6 reward

    287 backers Limited (213 left of 500)

    EARLY BIRD PLAYER - Thank you!! We'll give you a digital copy of the finished game for Mac, PC, or Linux, DRM free.

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    $12 reward

    25 backers

    PLAYER - Thank you!! Just like in the EARLY BIRD PLAYER reward, we'll give you a digital copy of the finished game for Mac, PC, or Linux, DRM free.

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    $20 reward

    25 backers

    IMPATIENT PLAYER - Thank you!! We'll send you your digital copy of the finished game at least a week before it goes on sale.

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    $25 reward

    24 backers

    BETA TESTER - Help us get the bugs out! We'll give you early access to the game well before it is fully done. Comments and bug reports welcome. ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER benefit. ====

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    $35 reward

    15 backers

    ALPHA TESTER- Please help us stamp out bad game design before it can take root and destroy us all! Alpha access to Puzzle Mode as early as we can get it to you. Admire our placeholder art! ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER and BETA TESTER benefits. ====

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    $45 reward

    12 backers

    SONIC RISK TAKER - A DRM free download of the game soundtrack. Also, you can choose to be listed as a Patron in the game credits. ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER, BETA TESTER, and ALPHA TESTER rewards. ====

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    $75 reward

    3 backers

    ARCHEOLOGIST - Thank you!! See how it was made. We'll send you a digital download of the Development History Pack: a collection of art and snapshots of the game from throughout the development process, with developer comments. ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER, BETA TESTER, ALPHA TESTER, and SONIC RISK TAKER rewards. ====

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    $95 reward

    13 backers

    CAMEO - Thank you!! We'll include a (tasteful) name of your choosing in our random database of extras. You could appear as a refugee, a wage-slave, a soldier, a colonist, a corpse.... ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER, BETA TESTER, ALPHA TESTER, SONIC RISK TAKER, and ARCHEOLOGIST rewards. ====

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    $140 reward

    2 backers

    FAMILY CAMEO - Thank you!!! Like with CAMEO, the names of your entire (nuclear) family will appear in our database of extras. We'll try to have you appear together in the game. ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER, BETA TESTER, ALPHA TESTER, SONIC RISK TAKER, and ARCHEOLOGIST rewards. ====

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    $200 reward

    3 backers Limited (12 left of 15)

    GRAD STUDENT - Thank you!!! You invented a fantastic piece of technology used in the game. Your advisor gets top billing in the hyphenated title, but you still get your name on it. Imagine the Smith-YourName Warp Drive! We'll try to get you a technology that you think is particularly cool, and to pair your name with a cool-sounding partner. (If there are conflicts, we'll draw straws.) Later tiers do NOT share this benefit. ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER, BETA TESTER, ALPHA TESTER, SONIC RISK TAKER, ARCHEOLOGIST,
    and FAMILY CAMEO (or just CAMEO) rewards. ====

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    $200 reward

    4 backers Limited (3 left of 7)

    SYNTHESIZER - Thank you!!! You're off the chart. As the discoverer of one of the elements 119-125, you get to name it. These unexpectedly stable elements are useful and extremely valuable. Later tiers do NOT share this benefit. ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER, BETA TESTER, ALPHA TESTER, SONIC RISK TAKER, ARCHEOLOGIST, FAMILY CAMEO (or just CAMEO) rewards. ====

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    $250 reward

    3 backers Limited (12 left of 15)

    PROFESSOR - Thank you!!! You invented a fantastic technology used in the game. (One of your grad students helped a little.) It's not the Smith-YourName Warp Drive, it's the YourName-Smith Warp Drive! Later tiers do NOT share this benefit. ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER, BETA TESTER, ALPHA TESTER, SONIC RISK TAKER, ARCHEOLOGIST, FAMILY CAMEO (or just CAMEO) rewards. ====

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    $375 reward

    0 backers Limited (50 left of 50)

    SCRAP BOOK HERO - Thank you!!! We'll send you a high quality print of your favorite game art, as a "thank you" signed by the entire development team. (We'll have to send it all around the USA to get it signed, first.) ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER, BETA TESTER, ALPHA TESTER, SONIC RISK TAKER, ARCHEOLOGIST, and FAMILY CAMEO (or just CAMEO) rewards. ====

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
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    $525 reward

    2 backers Limited (8 left of 10)

    MAD SCIENTIST - They all said you were mad, mad at the University! No one would listen. But you still made it work, and now one of the truly great discoveries of all time has your name on it. No one else can claim credit, because they all said it couldn't be done. This is like GRAD STUDENT and PROFESSOR, but it's just your name and you get first choice on which technology you invent. Later tiers do NOT share this benefit. ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER, BETA TESTER, ALPHA TESTER, SONIC RISK TAKER, ARCHEOLOGIST, FAMILY CAMEO (or just CAMEO), and SCRAP BOOK HERO rewards. ====

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    $1,400 reward

    0 backers Limited (3 left of 3)

    WORLD BUILDER - Thank you!!! You will work with the team to define a setting for at least one of our Episodes. An alien jungle? A zero-G theme park? A ballroom dance hall? (This setting will be available for all players, so we will reserve editorial control.) Later tiers do NOT share this benefit. ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER, BETA TESTER, ALPHA TESTER, SONIC RISK TAKER, ARCHEOLOGIST, FAMILY CAMEO (or just CAMEO), and SCRAP BOOK HERO rewards. ====

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  • You selected
    $1,900 reward

    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    IMAGE CONSULTANT - Thank you!!! You will help define a variation on the Lex Laser character visuals for our artists to create. Age, gender, race, hair, body type, facial features.... What does your hero look like? (This version of Lex Laser will be available for all players to select, so we will reserve editorial control.) This is a visual representation only; all Lex Laser variations will have the same gameplay and story lines. ==== You also get the IMPATIENT PLAYER, BETA TESTER, ALPHA TESTER, SONIC RISK TAKER, ARCHEOLOGIST, FAMILY CAMEO (or just CAMEO), and SCRAP BOOK HERO rewards. ====

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (25 days)