About this project
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Prismata is an easy-to-learn, fast-paced hybrid strategy game that borrows familiar elements from real-time strategy games, collectible card games, and tabletop strategy games, combining them in a radical new way. Think "turn-based StarCraft", but without a map. Or, think of Hearthstone with workers and build orders instead of decks.
In Prismata, players take turns spending resources, building up economies, constructing an army, and obliterating the opposition until only one side remains. Games last only minutes, but always feel fresh thanks to randomly-generated unit pools that are unique to each match. Each game, there are new strategies to plan and discover, and new threats to respond to.
A FREE OFFLINE DEMO is now available!
Want to learn how to play Prismata? The video below explains it all.
Prismata may remind you of RTS games like StarCraft, card games like Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone, tabletop games like Dominion, or even classic games like Chess and Go. And although it is deeply inspired by these genres, Prismata is much more than just a blend of ideas from other games.
There is no other game like Prismata. At all.
Prismata features a number of breakthrough design decisions that completely differentiate it from other strategy games. We've stripped away a lot of the bells and whistles to distill the game down to its core strategic components, making every decision important. Prismata has:
- No real-time pressure. Prismata uses turn-based gameplay with a fast timer, but your dexterity will never hold you back.
- No decks. The pool of units available for purchase is the same for both players and is chosen randomly at the beginning of the game. You'll never need to pay or grind in order to be competitive.
- No randomness. No unlucky draws, no tournaments decided by coinflips.
- No fog of war. You'll never lose to a rock-paper-scissors "build order victory" that you were unable to predict.
- No fixed opening book. Prismata's random unit pools force you to plan a new build order every game. You can't memorize your way to victory.
- No unit-on-unit combat. Combat math is greatly simplified but depth is preserved.
- No map. We've found a way to emphasize the core economic and strategic ideas in RTS games without the cumbersome unit positioning found in other types of turn-based games.
There is literally no other game out there having this combination of design choices.
The Origins of Prismata
How an MIT hobby project became a gaming obsession
A longer, more detailed version of the "Prismata origins" story can be read here.
Prismata began over four years ago in the summer of 2010 as a freak accident that arose when founders Elyot Grant and Will Ma began experimenting with the idea of a deckbuilding game with no randomness. Despite being incredibly simple, the game ended up being so compelling that Elyot and Will soon found themselves playing it for several hours a day. Their obsession spread, and soon a group of five friends—the "dev team"—began a 4-year journey to craft Prismata into the game it is today.
Throughout the years that followed, Will and Elyot lived together as roommates while pursing doctoral studies at MIT, spending much of their evenings and weekends together playing and developing Prismata. Working alongside the rest of the dev team, they built a simple software client that supported online play. Despite its minimalist graphics and basic interface, the game was furiously addictive.
A major turning point occurred in 2013 when the developers started showing Prismata to friends. Many of them, including poker legend Mike "Timex" McDonald, instantly took to the game and continued playing Prismata for months. Though Will and Elyot were still enrolled in their PhD studies, the pressure to grow Prismata into a proper game was too much to bear. That autumn, they withdrew from MIT to work full time on Prismata. Lunarch Studios was born.
Prismata has an unusual history, as it spent years as a personal hobby project before the developers ever considered commercializing it. Consequently, Prismata has many awesome features that excite serious players greatly, but would be considered low priority developments for other games.
Here's a brief list. To remind you, these features exist in Prismata right now:
Dozens of units: Prismata will have over 100 highly impactful units at the time of release, and new ones get added every month. Here's a selection from the first 50:
Replays: Every game you play can be watched in real time as if you were spectating the game live. While watching, you can pause and play, change the playback speed, skip forward or backward by moves or turns, and slide with your mouse over the timeline of the replay. You can even share replays via a URL, like this.
Analysis mode: Play from any position (whether watching, replaying, or playing a game). You can open up a new analysis board that gives you control of both players and lets you explore the whole tree of possibilities.
Observer mode: Watching games is a lot of fun. You get to think about what you would do, without the stress of playing. It’s also a great way to learn more about the game, as you can watch strong players, or the top rounds of an ongoing tournament.
Social features: Follow top players and watch them as they play high-profile games. You can also make friends, chat with them 1-on-1, observe their games, and challenge them to custom matches.
Streaming: A built-in list of current Prismata streamers is displayed prominently (using the Twitch API), and there are streamer cam protection options to help ensure that a streamer's face cam never obstructs the battlefield.
Tourneys: Organize a tournament among your friends. Many modes are available. From the tournament hub, you can also observe games in progress and the replays of completed games.
Advanced User Interface: Prismata has far more units on the screen than most other card games, and we've found excellent solutions to the problem of displaying all the important information at once. You'll be amazed at how seamless gameplay is as the units rearrange themselves automatically on the battlefield while you swipe, tap, and drag across them. You can also undo absolutely everything.
Ladder: We know that a game like Prismata will gather its share of super hardcore players vying to be the very best. That's why we've introduced Ranked Play, a competitive game mode in which players are automatically matched based on their skill level, and compete to climb to the top of the Prismata ladder. Prismata's advanced Multi-Queue system allows us to support a wide range of game modes and time controls without any increase in waiting time.
Blitz mode: Most games of Prismata are played with turn times in the 30s to 60s range. But Prismata can also be played at breakneck speed, with turn times of 10 seconds or less. To facilitate this, Prismata supports a wide range of customizable hotkeys that allow players to play incredibly quickly. See this video:
The Prismata timer: Many turn-based games suffer from player frustrations induced by poor design of time control systems. Full game time limits and fixed turn timers can both lead to negative player experiences, especially in the event that a player encounters an opponent that really wants to waste time. The solution: we use a fixed time bank system with a partial savings rate. More information here.
AI: One of the highest priorities for us is to have an incredibly strong computer opponent in Prismata. That's why we teamed up with Dave Churchill, who single-handedly developed UAlbertabot, which won the 2013 StarCraft AI Competition, defeating all other teams' entries.
Dave's created a framework for building very robust computer opponents that will challenge new, intermediate, and even expert players. That framework involves using Monte-Carlo Tree Search (MCTS), a technique which was the subject of an entire panel at this year's Game Developers Conference AI Summit. A lot of AAA companies want to use MCTS, but haven’t yet figured out a good way of implementing it in their engines. We have. This is huge.
The Art of Prismata
Lunarch Studios was founded by a group of MIT nerds who, quite frankly, all suck at art. Much of our "programmer art" is still evident in many of the screenshots and animations you see on this page. It's a work in progress. But we have a plan to improve it!
In-game interface and animations: Improving the graphical quality of the user interface is likely one of the most cost-effective ways to improve Prismata. That's why we've brought on talented 2D effects artist Dan Hunter to help juice it up.
Dan's a 20-year industry veteran and master of particle effects; he's done a good chunk of the fire, smoke, lasers, and explosions in games like Bioshock 2 and Halo 4. Check out his sizzle reel. Then picture all those effects in Prismata. We can't wait.
Character art: We want to tell a powerful story with our single player campaign, which means we need powerful characters that can express emotions well. This isn't something that can be skimped on. That's why we've partnered with top artists like the legendary Stanley "Artgerm" Lau to draw the characters for the visual novel cutscenes in our campaign.
Environments: We've recruited top environment artists to draw the backgrounds for our campaign cutscenes. Many of these folks have done concept art for AAA titles like God of War, or have drawn card art for games like Magic: The Gathering. Their work speaks for itself:
The Prismata Campaign: "Dawn Waits Forever"
We're working on a full single-player campaign for Prismata. Not a short series of tutorial missions, but a full-on expansive campaign with dozens of missions, brilliant storytelling, and plenty of secrets/surprises to discover.
Best of all, the campaign will be completely free!
Welcome to Beacon One—a faraway tidally locked planet. One side always faces the sun, with the other lying in perpetual darkness.
In a post-scarcity world, the Tachyon Revolution marked the dawn of a massive social change, as robots began to assert their own rights. Meanwhile, an infectious virus known as V.I.L.E. is surreptitiously causing robots to become more aggressive and defiant. You assume the role of Swade, a swarm-wielding guardian thrust into a journey to discover and eradicate the plague that threatens humanity.
You first work with Anya, a luminary sent to investigate the source of the plague. Along the way, you’ll meet other major characters that will help you in your journey: Plato, a superintelligence on a quest for ultimate truth in the universe; Xelgudu, a dragonoid outcast with access to mysterious biotechnology, and Reige, a veteran politicker with a robotic arm and a thirst for influence. As you travel the world, more characters join your party, and you’ll have access to more interesting technologies. You’ll need everything you can muster in a final confrontation for humanity on the dark side of the planet.
Campaign features: Here's what will be included:
- At least 40 missions spanning five episodes (with more to come in future expansions)
- Cinematic visual-novel cutscenes for each mission, featuring a cast of over a dozen characters.
- Multiple difficulty levels, including brutally challenging "diamond" difficulty.
- Secret missions to uncover.
- A brilliant futurology-fantasy narrative by writer Mike Fong.
The campaign is expected to be ready for an initial release in summer 2015. We will try to have a preview out in the spring for our alpha/beta testers, featuring a few episodes.
Equippable Cosmetic Items
Prismata will feature tons of exciting cosmetic content to purchase or earn through gameplay. These items do not confer any advantage in gameplay, aside from possibly dazing your opponents with their undeniable snazziness.
Skins: Express yourself, or just show off with a variety of ways to reskin the units you play with.
Skin sets: Take your collection even further!
Some skins will be organized into themed skin sets. Collect every skin in a set to unlock special animations and graphical effects for the units you have completed sets with.
Emotes: We love emotes, especially that feeling when something happens and you want to share it with your opponent.
But we asked a serious question: why limit emotes to just a small, unchanging set? So we decided to take emotes to the next level.
Welcome to Emotes 2.0—COLLECTIBLE, EQUIPPABLE, ANIMATED EMOTES OF DIFFERENT RARITIES. Wow! Slowly build a collection of the perfect set of emotes that fits your personality and play style, then equip them and show them off! Here are some sample emotes to get your feet wet:
Badges: Did you accomplish something totally unique? Climb to the top of the ladder? Get 10 wins in a platinum arena run? Want to show it off? You can with badges. Equip up to three displayable badges and show off your skills.
A small number of emotes, skins, and badges will be introduced to Prismata on a "testing" basis by the end of 2014. Sometime in Winter 2015, we will add many more emotes/skins (including some ultra-rare ones) and introduce the in-game system for collecting and unlocking them as you progress.
Because if we went to a publisher instead, Prismata would never happen.
Our plans for Prismata are huge—we truly want Prismata to be the next great strategy game of our generation. But the Prismata we're dreaming about simply isn't a good fit for the typical investor/publisher funding model for video game development. There are several reasons:
Prismata isn't your typical "mainstream" game. As a truly unique "turn-based RTS" that doesn't piggyback on the design of an existing successful game, Prismata turns off publishers, who see it as risky. Why? Because publishers want a guaranteed return on their investment, and the best way to do this is to copy a popular game in a successful genre/theme.
Publishers want to see traditional free-to-play monetization, and you know that means... Publishers want to see tried-and-true business models that will pay for the game's cost in a short amount of time. For a free-to-play game like Prismata, they'd want us to switch to a pay-to-win model (buy packs and build decks) or a pay-or-wait model (you're out of energy, please insert money!) These business models generate profit by inconveniencing the player and monetizing player frustration, which is not something that we're willing to do.
Prismata's business model is too "long term" for publishers. We're following the footsteps of games like Team Fortress 2, DOTA 2, and Path of Exile, which have exhibited a very profitable alternative to the traditional free-to-play model. However, these titles spent years building truly dedicated player bases before they reaped the rewards. Publishers simply don't want to wait that long to see a profit, but we intend to forge an enduring brand by respecting our users. We're in this for the long haul.
We're committed to upholding the player experience. This is our "Prismata Promise".
We didn't drop out of MIT to make another bullshit free-to-play game. Prismata will be different. That means:
- No pay-to-win. Ever. You cannot pay for a competitive advantage in any Prismata game mode, ever. There are no packs to open.
- No grinding. You'll be on a level playing field against all opponents you face. You can't gain an advantage by grinding for more rewards.
- Genuinely free. No bullshit. You'll never be forced to pay to "refill your energy" or "refill your lives". We do not monetize frustration.
- Zero regret. Our philosophy is that you should never regret spending money in our game. If you do, we're doing something wrong.
Is $140k enough? What steps are you taking to preserve cash?
You might take a look at our team (which includes six PhD-level math nerds) and guess that we must be burning hundreds of thousands per year on salaries. Not so. Actually, $140k will go a long way, as we spend money at a much slower rate than other companies of our size.
The reason? None of Lunarch Studios's six founding members have ever drawn a salary from the company. For us, it's not about the money. Many of us have foregone high-paying jobs in software or finance to pursue our passion—sharing Prismata with all of you.
Working in Canada, we also get very generous government grants thanks to programs like SRED (research and development), Ontario interactive digital media tech credits, and co-operative education tax credits for our interns. These help pay for a portion of our salaried employees' paychecks, meaning that your Kickstarter pledge goes even further.
Breakdown of expenses
Here's a rough breakdown of where the $140k will go:
- Kickstarter fees + credit card fees: 10%
- Taxes + accountant fees: 3% (most of the tax can be offset)
- Sound for Prismata: 10% (full AAA quality sound effects for the entire game)
- Additional Music: 2%
- Character Art: 6% (the rest of the characters for the campaign)
- Unit Art: 8% (50 more units + several sets of skins)
- Interface Art: 18% (menus, in-game animations, and effects)
- Server/system Programming: 15%
- Campaign/game Programming: 12%
- AI Programming: 6% (strength + campaign features)
- Marketing Intern: 6% (blog, social media, etc.)
- Server Costs: 2% (amazon EC2/RDS/S3/etc.)
- Misc: 2%
We rent an office as well, but it's prepaid until 2016 so it's not included.
After the graphic summary, there are descriptions below.
Can’t wait? We are rapidly scaling the servers to support more players, but if you must be first, guarantee your spot with INSTANT Alpha access. Pledge right now to get your key immediately* and begin discovering a wealth of gameplay.
* Instant access may take up to 24 hours, as we have to manually go through the list of backers and send them keys.
Let everyone know you were supporting Prismata from the beginning with an in-game displayable badge next to your name. [Estimated delivery: Jan 2015]
Golden Arena Ticket, Platinum Arena Ticket, and The Golden Pass
Golden and Platinum Arena offers bonus modes and increased rewards when you play the game. To play, you’ll need tickets. These tickets let you accumulate increasing rewards until you lose a set amount of times. Take your game one step further with the Golden Pass, which lets you play Golden Arena any time you want, as many times as you want.
The mission pack is a series of 10 bonus side missions that reveal more abou the world of Prismata.
The puzzle pack contains 20 tricky challenges that don't have any narrative elements, but are extremely satisfying to solve.
Prismatic Shards (Store Credit)
You use money to buy Prismatic Shards, which let you buy everything in the game, including skins, equippable emotes, arena tickets, and one-time purchases like mission or puzzle packs. Take advantage of special Kickstarter pricing and stock up today.
Which of these ultra-rare emotes will you equip and use in-game? Why not all three?
Avatars Unlocked! / Custom Avatar
Unlock all the avatars available on the game’s release, right up front. Choose from any unit, or any in-game character.
OR, GO CUSTOM! SEND US A PHOTO and we will put it in the game for you to exclusively use! [Avatars available from STEELSPLITTER TIER and up; Custom Avatars available from CENTURION TIER and up.]
The Digital Art Book
All the art in the game, including dozens of backgrounds and characters, will be put in a special digital art book. Some never-before-seen concept art will also be included.
The Prismata Soundtrack
Includes all music used in the game in super high quality.
** SPECIAL PERKS OF PREMIUM TIERS **
THE LUMINARY TIER
Prismata’s Future League: Before we release a new unit, we will have to test it first. This perk puts you on the forefront of that testing, letting you enjoy new units before anyone else. What will you do with that knowledge?
Secret Online Community: In addition to playing with secret units, you’ll also be able to disseminate that secret knowledge in our secret online community.
THE COLLECTOR TIER
+100% Arena Rewards: Just want to collect them all? This perk will let you earn skins and emotes twice as fast.
THE MASTERMIND TIER
Multitabling: Bored of just one game? Two (or more) games will let you earn rewards twice as fast! This is a limited perk.
Platinum Arena Ticket x10/wk: As you battle other players in automatically matched games, a Platinum Arena Ticket offers you bonus modes and increased rewards. Those rewards and modes go well beyond what Gold Arena offers. You’ll get 10 tickets EVERY WEEK to play.
THE COMRADE TIER
You’re an awesome friend! Give the gift of 5 INSTANT ACCESS STEELSPLITTER TIER packages as well as 5 more INSTANT alpha keys to share with all your friends!
THE GRAND LUMINARY TIER
All of the above! PLUS, you’ll get a special GOLDEN PORTRAIT FRAME.
Risks and challenges
In one form or another, Prismata will be a playable game. Some people have even suggested that the current product is "practically finished" because the core gameplay and engine are completed, but there's still so much more that can be done.
We already have working relationships with art and music teams that can help us finish polishing the interface and completing the single player campaign. We've been working on this game for over 4 years, and there are already thousands of people playing. We plan to have thousands more playing by the time the Kickstarter ends. It's only a matter of how much new stuff we'll be able to add, and how long it will take.
The biggest risk is that we might not be able to accommodate a massive influx of players immediately after Kickstarter if the campaign is wildly successful. Servers are finicky things and can break in unpredictable ways when strained. Even though we've done some testing, it's often difficult to see what will go wrong until the actual load hits. Fortunately, we have plans in place and financing set aside to upgrade our servers. Since we use Amazon Web Services, we can scale horizontally and vertically as needed with relatively little downtime. Our team is prepared to work to minimize delays, as we have been preparing for this campaign for months. Security and reliability are very important to us, and we don't cut any corners.
One of our greatest strengths is also our greatest weakness: perfectionism. If the campaign just isn't feeling right, or certain missions or tutorials aren't working, then we'll keep working on them until they're perfect. This could mean delays in the expected release date of the campaign or other features. We'll post regular updates concerning our progress. (Unlike with traditional video games, we don't have a critical holiday release window or any other type of hard due date, so we'll be able to take our time perfecting the single player campaign prior to its release.)Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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