About this project
We have now reached our initial goal, but are still seeking funds for improvements to the game. See explanations of the Stretch Goals in earlier update.
Latest update (4/28/2013): Success! Plus, art team members finally revealed!
A long time (12 years) ago in a galaxy far, far away (a suburb of Seattle) three people working full-time in the game industry got together in their spare time and created something with a long name: Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. It was a genre-busting indie classic, with 8-bit graphics not because it was hip and retro but because I based its graphics engine largely on "Windows Game Programming for Dummies".
Its strengths were in its quirky, humorous writing and the addictive nature of the short-form gameplay where your brutal defeat in combat would have you click the restart button rather than giving up. SAIS would soon be called "The Perfect Short Game" in an article by a Real Famous Game Designer and get all manner of accolades, followed by a sequel with an equally long name: Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space. In the meantime I had read up on OpenGL so the game was a bit easier on the eyes. It also made quite a splash and gained a cult following, partly because it was designed with user-made mods in mind.
At its core, Sea of Stars is a single-player science fiction roguelike similar to Strange Adventures and Weird Worlds. Turn-based star map navigation is combined with a real-time combat system. The game provides a randomly generated open world for you to explore, and will only reveal a fraction of its secrets each time you play. There is no going back to a saved game - everything you do has a permanent effect. Death is frequent, but only makes you want to try again.
Although Sea of Stars builds on the universe you visited in the earlier games, it is expanded with fresh new material and gameplay. Discovering the interactions between items, alien races, characters and random events will keep you busy for years - yet each session of the game is a complete adventure that you can finish in one sitting. To extend the game's longevity even further, we encourage people to make mods and even provide tools for it!
One thing that has advanced since Weird Worlds is technology. I wrote a 3D engine for our previous game, Data Jammers: FastForward, and a lot of the code will now be reused to expand the Infinite Space universe into the third dimension. Other games and projects have resulted in a variety of subsystems, from procedural texturing to mundane data file handling. All kinds of fun and useful stuff.
However, what will really set this game apart from its predecessors is what we are going to do within this expanded universe. The Sea of Stars will be more alive than before, both reacting to the player's actions and acting on its own. Locations like star bases will be real places with more to do than just trade items, and you may have to attack or defend one in combat. Individual NPCs as well as alien war fleets will go about their business that may or may not be aligned with your interests, and you will have to pick sides. Technology available to you as well as others will advance as time passes, including larger ships showing up.
Of course, we won't forget the mod creators who helped make Weird Worlds great. Not only will all the content use standard file formats so you can use any editor of your choice, we will actually release tools to make things easier. This will ultimately evolve into a full-fledged mod editor within the game that will help you put it all together.
Digital Eel is an independent game developer consisting of two guys, Iikka Keranen (programming, design, art) and Rich Carlson (audio, design, art). We have both been in the game industry since the 1990's and released a plethora of commercial titles while working on Digital Eel games on the side. Counting our video and tabletop games, Digital Eel has shipped sixteen titles. Between 2001 and his passing in 2012, we were joined by Bill "Phosphorous" Sears, a fellow game industry veteran and an amazing artist whose creative input will be sorely missed.
Our games have won various awards, including four Independent Games Festival awards: Dr. Blob's Organism won the audio and visual art categories (2004), Weird Worlds (2006) and Brainpipe (2009) won in the audio category. Weird Worlds was also the Quest/Adventure game of the year at Game Tunnel and was nominated for the Seumas McNally grand prize at IGF.
Sea of Stars will require quite a bit of content to be created, from starship models and character illustrations to music and sound effects. Without funding, it would be up to me (Iikka) and Rich to create all of it. Our estimated release date would be in the latter half of 2014, and Rich would possibly have to sell his cats to science.
The good news is that there are several experienced artists as well as a great composer who have offered to work with us (Their names will be revealed when the project reaches its funding goal). With their help we can get this game done this year, and with your help we can pay them for it.
When you make your pledge of $10 or more to support us, you don't just get the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from helping out an indie developer. You will also get goodies ranging from a digital copy of the game to tangible keepsakes that you will be able to pass down to your future descendants living on Gliese 581g. Check them out below.
Digital copy of the game: Get Sea of Stars for PC as soon as it is released.
Other Digital Eel games: At various pledge amounts we will throw in copies of our other titles, from PC games to board games. At the higher levels, your name and email address will be added to a list of customers who will receive every Digital Eel game as long as we keep making them! This is not a hollow promise; we intend to continue Digital Eel indefinitely.
Beta participation: Get in the game before it hits the stores. The beta will start when the game is feature-complete but content and gameplay balance are still in development. Your feedback will influence the final product.
Art prints: Receive a piece of Sea of Stars concept art or other art related to the Infinite Space universe. At higher pledge amounts, prints will be larger and more impressive. They will also be numbered and signed by the artist.
Name a star or planet: Write your name among the stars! Every time someone plays the game they will be able to find at least one star and one planet named by Kickstarter backers. It could be your (last) name or a name you invented.
Name a starship captain: Your name, or a name of your choice, is added to the roster of starship captain names in the game. These names may appear as the player character's name or a human NPC.
Physical artifacts: Receive a solid piece of Sea of Stars memorabilia. These will be special, limited edition pieces only made for Kickstarter backers. At higher pledge amounts, the artifacts will be larger and more impressive with features such as gold plating.
Create an item: Have an idea or even a sketch for a cool thing you want to find in the game? We'll work with you to create a lifeform, starship weapon, system or artifact as close to your concept as possible. One or more of these items will appear in the game each time it is played, so many people will see it!
Create an event: Add your touch to the ever-changing story of Infinite Space. We will create an in-game event, mission or quest based on your idea.
Appear in the game: We will create a prominent in-game character based on your photograph (yourself, a family member or friend) or sketch. The character may be a heroic space pilot, a villain, a star merchant... Our choice, but always someone you will regularly meet in the game.
Design a starship or space station: We will create an in-game starship or space station based on your sketch or idea. These will be featured prominently either as ships you can command or space ports you can visit, or in a unique event or quest built around it. You will also receive a one of a kind, gold-plated metallic model of your ship or station as your "physical artifact".
Your name in the credits: To recognize your generosity, the highest-level backers will have their names included in a special "thank you" section of the game's credits (you can opt out if you wish).
Risks and challenges
In video game business, surprises are almost inevitable no matter how experienced you are. The largest risk is that the game could take longer to finish than expected, for example due to additional gameplay balancing required to make it more fun or to remove exploits. We don't wish to ship the game until it feels just right. If there were a significant delay, we would consider making a beta version available to all pre-purchasers in December 2013.
Another possible source of delays is the amount of content required. If we missed our deadline because of unfinished content, it would be possible for us to slightly reduce the scope of the game for an initial release and then expand it in a free update. This would most likely be funded by the initial sales.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
We are currently planning an initial release on Windows with a Mac OS X port following later, but we are considering making a stretch goal to add Linux support (this involves finding another developer to code and support the Linux version, so extra funds are needed).
In the past, we have partnered with other companies who develop apps for devices like phones and tablets. For example, Weird Worlds was recently ported to iPad and Android tablets by Astraware. We hope to do the same with Sea of Stars, and are designing the user interfaces in the game to be more easily adaptable to different resolutions.
To reach the largest possible audience, we intend to sell Sea of Stars digitally at several portals such as Steam, Desura and others (most do not require exclusive contracts). We will not impose any DRM or require internet connection to play the game, as it is a single-player title. On Steam, it should be possible to play in offline mode.
We think we have enough artists lined up to finish the game, and with two musicians/audio guys on board that sector should be covered as well. Later in the year we will possibly be looking for a Mac and/or Linux developer to port the game to those platforms and continue to support it.
Many of the rewards include other things in addition to the game (Sea of Stars) itself, and can be partially fulfilled well before the game or the public beta come out. Digital copies of our existing games will be delivered within two weeks of the Kickstarter campaign finishing successfully, if you have pledged for a reward that includes any. Physical artifacts and art prints will be delivered by the end of August 2013, allowing for production time. The public beta is expected to begin in October, followed by the full game in December.
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