Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate your way across a galaxy of Timothy Zahn's favorite aliens... and some of your own
Nobody on our team is a salesman… If you’re like most people, you expect to be sold on things, and have built-in defenses against it. But this isn’t a sales pitch about something we think we can build: every single one of the team members has proven, time and again, that they can do what they say they will, and each of us want to – and are sure that we can – meet the vision we have for this game.
We’re doing this Kickstarter because it will provide us with something we can’t create: time to do it NOW and release it within a year, rather than it being a side project for the next couple of years. In exchange, we’re offering you a chance to get in on the decision-making process right from the pre-production stage (or, if that’s not your thing, to just pre-order the game a year early, and save at least 40%).
So that’s our sales pitch: back the project and you’ll get to play this game sooner and cheaper than you would otherwise, and you’ll get to follow along as we develop it. And - if you want - you can also help us refine our vision for the game and make sure we get all the little details just right, so it’s a game everyone will waste countless hours on for many, many years to come.
- Timothy Zahn is going to be actively working on the game
- Backers (see rewards for details) will help create the aliens, space fleets, and tech for the game
- Dynamic, so the game can automatically download new content (and any user-created mods)
- Digital license - one license for every device you own (no DRM)
- Windows (desktop), Linux and Mac OS X for the initial release
- Gameplay similar to Master of Orion and other 2-dimensional 4X games
- "Simple" front end, with lots of variety to keep replay value really high
- Pledge $10 extra for each digital add-on ($40 and above tiers already have them all), $10 extra for another Multi-Platform Pass, $30 extra for T-shirts, $40 extra for hoodies, $50 extra for the game's companion book
- Everyone who pledges at the Contributor tier or higher will get beta access (anyone who pledged at one of the lower tiers can pledge $20 extra for it), which should start in May - 6 months before the targeted release date - and will get to name a star in the game, and gets their name (or psuedonym) displayed in-game for any content they help create
- Everyone who pledges $100 or more will get a Parallax Backer T-shirt (and can upgrade to a polo or hoodie by pledging the difference)
- Please check the FAQs for more details
- Full Design Document (conceptual overview) HERE
- This document goes into detail about the gameplay and the game mechanics
- Solar System Generator sample HERE
- Uses the solar system generation code for the game to give you an idea of the types of solar systems you'll see
- Prototype version of the Contributor website HERE
- This is where the backers will enter suggestions and ideas for the game (site will be completed just after the Kickstarter ends)
- Previous work from the Artist HERE (some content NSFW)
- Game album from the Composer HERE (work in progress - he'll add new tracks as they're completed)
- More to come! :D
And now, a word from Tim...
The Qanska are gas-giant dwellers, with a rigid caste system based on age, that uses herd tactics, their phenomenal healing ability, and a complicated genetic diversity to survive. They don't have access to many resources on the gas giants, and can't do much research or development (especially since they can't really manipulate things), so they'll probably need to conquer the galaxy "naturally".
Parallax will be a turn-based strategy game in keeping with the classic 4X genre, and heavily inspired by the feel and simplicity of the original Master of Orion. The player, as the leader of a fledgling interstellar civilization (AKA a "Faction"), will direct just about every aspect of their faction's development, including galactic exploration, expansion of the empire, exploitation of resources and technologies, and extermination of any competitors that refuse to join their empire.
To differentiate itself from the rest of the games in the genre, Parallax will focus on presenting a richer, more varied, gameplay experience. Some of the core elements of this experience will be:
- A civilization can be composed of more than one alien race, due to conquest, immigration, aboriginal races that are incorporated into the civilization, etc.
- Other factions will have “memories” – betraying them, or offering assistance, will affect the way that civilization deals with you for the rest of the game (as opposed to just the next few turns)
- Each game will be, as much as possible, a new experience: minor, often hidden, details will change, and affect the way the game plays out
Timothy Zahn will be co-creating the game, and bringing 5 of his favorite aliens along for the ride: the Zhirrzh [Conquerors Saga], Kalixiri [Icarus Hunt], Qanska [Manta’s Gift], Pom [Spinneret] and Modhri [Quadrail Series].
We're also creating a bunch of all-new alien races just for this game, and the backers will help define the details and bring them to life. At the Contributor pledge level or above, you’ll get to participate in the game’s development, and we’ll work with you to create your personal contribution to the game.
On the surface, Parallax is going to be a simple game, with a streamlined interface, fairly simple gameplay, etc. Like an iceberg, the vast majority of the complexity will go unseen. As much as possible, it will be an attempt to bring back the fun and simplicity that was so much a part of the original 4X games. Simple, straightforward, and fun - and different enough each time that it's as fun the 100th time as it is the first.
Beneath the surface, however, it will be much more. To include features that even the biggest games of the genre have left out... The Modhri is a prime example: what would you do as a parasitic race? Sure, you could take control of every host you come into contact with and ravage the galaxy like a plague, but you could also play it subtle, infiltrate and influence other races, turn the tide of a battle, affect political negotiations, avert or cause wars.
Other races might be found in a prehistoric or medieval state, and you'll have the option to exterminate them, use them as slaves, incorporate them into your civilization, observe them from afar, etc.
Ruins from ancient, forgotten races will be found now and then, and their advanced technologies might catapult your civilization to the top, but they might be beyond recovery instead, be incredibly dangerous, or be completely incomprehensible without significant research.
There could be both "micro" and "giant" races, such as insect collectives or gas-giant dwellers like the Qanska [from Manta’s Gift]… Maybe even zero-G races, solar inhabitants, rogue planets and more, with quasi-realistic limitations to match.
What else might be included in the game? You help decide: alien races, space fleets, random galactic events, technology, and myriad smaller details as well.
(For a longer description of the game, check out the detailed gameplay documentation, in PDF format, HERE)
The Humans are the most unpredictable of all the factions. They are highly adaptable mentally, and their view of a situation can quickly change, from "incredibly weird" to "completely normal". They often become obsessed, as a group, over new technologies and attempt to include it in many aspects of their everyday life - and just as quickly discard it when a newer technology catches their interest.
One of the most influential Star Wars Expanded Universe authors (creator of Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade), and Hugo-Award winning author of 40 novels and 90+ short stories, Tim will oversee the storytelling aspects of the game, as well as help shape the theme and overall feel. He will also be "floating", and working both directly and indirectly with backers on ideas that catch his interest.
Abram Jablonski (The Developer):
With 15 years of experience designing and developing highly-complex, dynamic systems (usually space or space-related), Abram will create both the dynamic shell for Parallax, and the content-creation tools to fill that shell, and will work closely with the backers to help them shape their individual visions into a cohesive whole.
Daniel Le Serve (The Community Manager):
A former member of the Community Manager teams for a number of browser-based games (including Gladiatus, OGame, Ikariam, MetalDamage, Tanoth, KingsAge and Katsuro), as well as a Product Community Manager for Gameforge, Dan will oversee, participate, and facilitate the backer community forums, where the backers will be able to discuss how their individual pieces will fit together to complete the larger picture of the game.
James O'Reilly (The Artist):
James has worked on a number of mobile and browser based games, where he either created all of the art assets, or served as Art Director (and still created a large portion of the art assets). Previous titles include Sewer Wars and Unstoppable Jake (iOS), Immortal Souls and Chaos Faction (Flash-based), Shopper's Paradise HD (Android), and the Steam Greenlight title, Cubicity, among others. James will be the Art Director/ primary artist for Parallax as well, and has also created all of the concept art you see here. More examples of his work can be found here (browse carefully though, some content is rather adult in nature).
Matthew A. C. Cohen (The Composer):
An award winning composer who has scored numerous films and web series, written the music for several musicals, written for and recorded with international orchestras, university and college orchestras/wind ensembles, big bands, jazz combos, and various other professional and student ensembles, Matthew will be the game’s Composer, creating all the music and sound for the game. Even better, he will be working directly with some of our backers to create the mood music for each of the alien races. You can find some of his current work on his webpage, soundcloud, and IMDB.
The Zhirrzh Faction has a unique multi-dimensional presence, in that their "ancestors" can actually survive death itself, and continue to exist in an incorporeal form. This allows near-instantaneous communication and coordination across the galaxy, but at the cost (due to the mechanism behind this ability) of a painful intolerance for radio waves. Obviously, First-Contact with most civilizations generally goes badly...
As much as possible, we're going to include our backers in the game-making process. The backer community will drive the vast majority of the stuff that the player sees and interacts with, such as:
- The Alien races, to include their appearance, alien-specific technologies, and their strengths and weaknesses
- The Factions (the playable teams/ alien race civilizations) and their general behavior and tendencies
- The different approaches a Faction may have toward galactic expansion, with each Variant/ Subfaction being, essentially, an alternate history
- The appearance and capabilities of the various Space Fleets
- Technology items, their benefits, research difficulty, and relationship to each other
- Secondary indigenous races in the galaxy
- Random Galactic events for the player to deal with or benefit from
- The actual dialogue for the game
A lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff, like the software architecture and code, will be strictly for the developers (and is already planned out/ prototyped), and the core "vision" for the game is set, but the backers will have significant input into the actual game content.
Details will, of course, vary depending on the type of content, but the basic pattern will stay the same: the primary backer or backer group for the content comes up with an idea, it is refined and presented to the community (where it is further refined, or even changed completely), the "owning" backer approves it, and it is finalized and added to the game.
Born hunters and apex predators, the Kalixiri have a symbiotic relations with their "outrider" hunting animals, which allows them to order the creatures to perform tasks and to "download" the outriders' memories. Generally considered ugly and brutish, they are actually a highly refined and orderly civilization, and often rely on cunning over raw force.
Note: Due to size limitations, this is only sample screens to give you a feel for the game - detailed gameplay documentation is available HERE.
The main game screen, which you oversee your fledgling empire from: the galaxy map, your advisor panel, and a little info area that tells you about whatever you click on. This high-level overview will give you at-a-glance information about the entire known galaxy, and allow you to watch your glorious reign unfold...
No need to constantly monitor your planets, unless you want to - your advisors will ask for guidance as issues arise. This will SIGNIFICANTLY reduce the "end-game grind"
The Wisps are a plant-based organism, consisting of free-floating "Seedlings" that use their Hydrogen/ Helium-filled globes to provide buoyancy as the move and hunt, and later plant themselves and grow into a full tree, which can live hundreds or thousands of years, and - as its roots grow, and the shell-covered "brains" grow larger and more numerous continues - more intelligent (although with a limited focus).
All of the pledge tiers include the multi-platform Parallax license, which allows you to play the game on multiple devices with that single license (see the FAQs for details).
The basic $15 license will be good indefinitely for any platform Parallax runs on, you will receive any upgrades and enhancements we make to the core game and game content, and you will also be able to play any community-created Content Packs (AKA mods).
If you'd like beta access, but only want to play the game and have pledged for one of the tiers that doesn't include the Contributor rewards, simply add $20 extra to your pledge amount to receive it.
The Bugs are kinda scary, but we haven't created a backstory for them... Any ideas?
The 3 Digital tiers allow you to choose from the following selection of digital rewards (or, simply pledge $10 extra for each one you want):
Regular Content Packs (as well as user-created "mod" packs) will add new aliens, factions, starships, dialogue elements, weapons or music to the game, and will be free to everyone with a regular license.
With this upgrade, your license will also automatically unlock all of the Special Content Packs, which will provide something extra, such as a new look for the game's interface, a new Greater Mysteries set, or a special group of interrelated content (these are expected to sell for a few dollars each, so it's a lot of special content later, for a little extra now).
You'll be able to download high-quality digital files containing the intro and background music from the game, including any extended or "inspired by" versions that Matt creates.
PDF of the Galactic Survey
The Galactic Survey will be a companion book to the game, and it will include extended descriptions of some of the aliens, factions, space fleets, tech and galactic points of interest in the game (with lots of pictures, including some of the concept art).
Hi-Resolution Digital Images
A collection of images from the game - kinda like the game screens but without all those annoying buttons in the way - that you can set as backgrounds for you computer, tablet or smartphone, use as wallpaper, or to print out and hang on your wall, or give away to friends (but you're not allowed to sell them).
Set of Space Fleet Posters
A poster for each space fleet in the game, with the Fleet Selection Screen image and fleet name at the top, and all of the hull designs (with names and basic information for each), laid out on the rest of the poster. These will be high definition images, suitable and intended for printing.
NOTE: you can print as many as you want, as long as you don't try to sell them (because that's a no-no) - we actually recommended this over buying the physical versions and having them shipped to you - especially if you live overseas - since you can often have them printed for less.
Set of Faction posters
A poster for each faction in the game, with the Faction Selection Screen image and faction name at the top, and select related aliens, Fleet images, advisors and tech (with names and basic information for each), laid out on the rest of the poster. These will be high definition images, suitable and intended for printing. See the Space Fleet Posters note about printing these.
The Pom are a highly-intelligent faction, and excel at research, especially physics (such as energy and atomic manipulation) and materials science. Requiring liquid water, they can only inhabit a small percentage of the available planets, but their scientific prowess will allow them to progress very quickly in the game and develop, among other things, highly-advanced terraforming techniques.
NOTE: for all of these physical rewards, add 10% for overseas (non-US) shipping. And because we save money on printing costs if we sell enough, we're offering volume discounts if you want more than one... 5-9 items are 10% less than the listed cost, 10-19 are 20% off, and 20 or more are 35% off.
We'll get with you after the Kickstarter finishes to find out which of the add-on rewards you pledged for, which size/ color shirt you want, your desired poster version, and to coordinate getting them delivered to you.
T-Shirts and Hoodies
Show your support with one of our official Parallax T-Shirts or Hoodies. If you're a backer that's supposed to get a "one-of-a-kind" shirt, we'll make it "two-of-a-kind" (or whatever's appropriate for however many extras you get).
Unlike the rest of the physical rewards, this one isn't available as a digital download, but the bulk discounts above do apply.
Note: while these are the only T-shirts currently listed, there is a good chance that we'll offer some other designs as well (based on backer feedback), containing some of the aliens and space fleets from the game as they're completed.
- Backer T-Shirt in your choice of colors - $30
- Long-sleeved T-Shirt: $35
- Hoodie: $40
The Galactic Survey will be a companion book to the game and, as stated above, it will include extended descriptions of some of the aliens, factions, space fleets, tech and galactic points of interest in the game (with pictures and concept art). The plan is for it to be about 9x12 inches, and 150-200 pages.
If we get more than 1000 pledges for it, you'll receive a hardbound version. Bulk discounts, as described above, do apply to this item.
- Galactic Survey: $50
Each space fleet and faction in the game will have 2 posters made for it: a light-background and dark-background version. The Fleet posters will be similar to the examples shown below (but with all of the ships and a lot fewer question marks). The Faction posters will be similar, with selected aliens, Fleet images, advisors and such related to the Faction.
The Fleet posters will be similar to the examples shown above (but with all of the ships and a lot fewer question marks). The Faction posters will have the Faction Selection Screen image and faction name at the top, and select related aliens, Fleet images, advisors and tech (with names and basic information for each), laid out on the rest of the poster.
Each space fleet and faction in the game will have a matching poster in your choice of a light or dark background, and bulk discounts still apply to all the physical rewards.
- 18X24 Fleet or Faction Posters: $20 each
- 24X36 Fleet or Faction Posters $30 each
The Silicoids are a silicon-based, amorphous race composed of a semi-liquid crystalline structure, which use a photosynthesis-like process to absorb and live off of radiation. They can re-form even after considerable physical disruption, can live almost anywhere, and employ significantly more powerful industrial and starship power plants, often operated without any type of radiation shielding. Their planets are difficult, if not impossible, for other races to occupy, and battling their starships is a nightmare of sensor-scrambling and potentially-lethal radiation.
Backer Referral Program
Times are tough, and we've had quite a few people tell us that they want to back the project or pledge more, but just can't afford it, so... Tell everyone about Parallax - friends, family, colleagues, and everyone you hang out with online. At the end of the campaign, we'll ask everyone who referred them, and you will receive 10% of their pledge amount towards an upgrade to one of the higher tiers (referral upgrades don't include the physical rewards, though). We do ask that you back the project for at least $1, so that you receive the updates that we send through Kickstarter, but it's not a requirement.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The biggest challenge associated with this project is actually going to be managing the community collaboration with the Kickstarter backers: We will be coordinating and helping refine ideas from hundreds of primary contributors, moderating the forum discussions and communicating with all of our backers, as well as summarizing information for Timothy Zahn's review, and creating project updates for the larger community. While most of these ideas will be fairly quick to work out, others will take much longer, and there are a lot of them. Plus, we do need to write the core piece of the game at the same time as well.
The pledge tiers already provide a rough hierarchy to organize everything around, but we will also offer certain backers, based on the backer community's support/ votes, the opportunity to help lead and direct the conversations, which will ease the task considerably. Dan (The Community Manager) has significant experience in facilitating and helping to organize online communities for other games, and will take the lead for this community as well.
We're also going to retain our focus regardless of the final Kickstarter amount - any extra will go toward increasing the number of people we have working on the game, rather than trying to add more features, which would almost definitely delay delivery (we do plan to improve/ extend the game after the initial release, however, and everyone who purchases a license will get these upgrades/ updates for free).
Making a Good, Fun and Interesting Game:
Creating a successful and engaging gameplay experience is always a risk with any game development effort, but that is part of the reason that there are so many "active" rewards: early playtesting will be instrumental in getting the balance and feel of the game right, and there will be enough backers to ensure that it's not just the opinions of a few people that shape the entire game.
While almost every reward level offers you the opportunity to be directly involved in some aspect of the game, please understand that getting the balance, content, and details right can be a difficult balancing act. We will work with you as much as possible to get your initial vision included in the game, but we can't guarantee that it will be a good fit. If someone else already added a similar-enough idea, if it infringes on someone's intellectual property, is vulgar, offensive or otherwise inappropriate, or anything else along those lines, we're going to have to work together to find something that's a more appropriate fit.
If your original idea can't be included, then we will absolutely help you find an idea that does fit properly into the game, and that you're happy with, regardless of the reward level you have selected. Because we will be on a firm schedule, and if we can't find an alternative in a reasonable amount of time, we'll need to postpone the specific item until after the game is released and we can spend a longer period of time focusing on it and working out the details.
Tim is budgeting, on average, a few hours each week to work on this game, and he wants to spend all of that time as productively as possible. We will be setting up a special game-specific account for him that he'll check once a week or so (when he's focusing on the game).
Backers that Tim's working on something with (for specific rewards, and also for ideas that spark his interest and that he chooses to offer input on) will have access. That account will be proctored: everything that Abram or the rest of the team can deal with, they'll respond to, ensuring a timely response. We'll summarize the longer emails for Tim, so that he doesn't have to search for the relevant content. This will ensure that Tim's time will be spent working on the actual game.
If necessary, we will make "tweaks" as we go along to add or change functionality as new ideas come up about the content, but we're pretty firm on what we want the core game to be.
While the details and content are going to be shaped, in large part, by the backers, we do have a definite vision for what the final game will be like, and a budget and schedule to stay within, so we want to be sure that the final project is what you expect when you pledge. On the technical side, our plans include:
--- Style: this is going to be a fairly simple-looking 2D game, similar in feel to the sample screens above (with upgraded graphics), and the initial release will have limited animation. Part of this is intentional, and part of it is time and resources - eventually, almost everything will have "twitches" like eye blinks or shoulder shrugs, but it will still retain the same feel.
--- Longevity: we will be creating a "standalone" game. While the user will be able to point the game to specific repositories (websites/ services) to download content, the game itself will run without requiring any server-side connectivity.
--- Portability: long term, we want to push out the same game, with the same features (and only layout changes for the smaller screens) to as many platforms as possible. We're using Mono/ Xamarin, which will compile the same source code for multiple different platforms, to make this as straightforward as possible, but we will need to test it thoroughly on each new platform.
In the event that certain rewards aren't pledged for, the development team will select a suitable replacement. The actual process will be decided on a case-by-case basis but we'll fill all the reward slots, one way or another - often, this will involve going to the backers for suggestions and votes (but we do have ideas about things to include, too).
For the initial release, we don't intend to include any multiplayer functionality. Longer term, and if there's a lot of backer interest, we might add single-device multiplayer (AKA "your turn's over hand it to the next person"), or even a "server" application that players can use to host their own multiplayer games.
As much as they want, but we're going to make it as easy and fun as possible for them - the linguists, for example, will chat with us about the psychology and structure of the dialogue, and we'll create some simple fill-in-the blanks web pages where they can add their ideas (approximately 20 or 30 different phrases each, so it's not a whole lot).
If you'd rather just play the game when it's done, only pledge for one of the digital license tiers. You'll still be able to follow along and keep track of what's going on as we create the game.
Activation will require either registering it on a website, or allowing the game to contact a server (to ensure the license key isn't already in use) - you'll receive an unlock code for the game, which will work on any device from that point on, without any need to ever contact the server again.
The game itself will be made available on the appropriate distribution portals for each platform so, for Windows, we'll provide a download from the Prototype X site and put it out on some of the more reputable file-sharing/ download sites. We'll also (unless you ask us to take your name off the list and just want to search for it as we announce them) send you out new links as we release it for other platforms, and you'll be able to just install it and enter your unlock code to play.
Regular DLC is going to be extra aliens, tech, secondary space fleets and such for the game, and will be free to any backer with a license. Anywhere from 10-20% of the DLC will be "Special" stuff that we charge a couple of dollars for, and it will usually be a set of related content that tells a story or adds something out-of-the-ordinary to the game.
And, of course, everyone will receive updates to the game itself, which will add new functionality, and players will be able create their own mods and share them with the community.
With Parallax, you'll be able to "point" it at any server you want - it'll only be web (FTP) servers at first, but we're planning to add in cloud-based storage connectivity as well (for services like Dropbox) after we release the game. The game will automatically check these servers for DLC and updated versions of the game, and will let you decide which DLC you want to download.
The posters won't be available until the Fleet Architects are done with their fleet design (because they have to design it first), and the Galactic Survey won't be ready until just before we release the game (because it's going to contain a selection of the aliens, fleets, tech and such from the game).
The T-shirts will be delivered about a month after the Kickstarter is finished - that gives us time to receive the funds from Kickstarter (about 2 weeks),for you to decide what color/ style you want, and for them to be printed and shipped.
Probably not at first - the T-shirts are fairly expensive unless we're getting a lot of them printed, especially if they're full-color designs, so we're sticking with the single design for now. If there's enough interest as the alien race and faction images get finished, we might offer new designs to the backers later (at close to their actual cost).
We're launching on a Tuesday because it's one of those statistical things about Kickstarters being more successful than if they start close to a weekend,,, But ending on a Thursday just seemed weird.
Definitely - you can just pledge $10 extra to add more Digital Add-Ons to any reward tier, and we'll sort out which reward you're getting once the Kickstarter is complete. But you probably shouldn't do that if you're already pledging for Digital Complete or above, since you've got all the digital add-ons already...
If you do want to pledge a little extra, though, how about a nice T-shirt or hoodies? ;)
We are going to be targeting Windows (Desktop), Linux and Mac OS X for our initial release. After that, we'll add in Android, iOS and Windows 8 as soon as we can (most likely within a month or two).
We want to make this game, and we're going to do our best to make it happen, no matter what. The intent of the Kickstarter is to let us focus on creating the game over the next year, to allow more community participation, and to offer a 40% or more discount to everyone who supports us early.
If it doesn't succeed, we still plan to open the forum to accept suggestions and let everyone discuss the game, but only a couple dozen people will be invited to actively participate. Plus, it could take as long as 2-3 years to get the game released, because we won't be able to dedicate all of our time to the game.
So if you haven't pledged yet but want this game, please do it now - Kickstarter won't charge you, put a hold on your money, or anything like that until and unless the game is successfully funded on Nov 23rd.
About 25% of the money we'll get from Kickstarter will go right back into covering costs related to the Kickstarter itself, specifically:
- Kickstarter/ Amazon fees: 10% (35k)
- Taxes and similar overhead/ indirect expenses: 10% (35k)
- Physical Rewards: 5% (17.5k)
The remaining 75% will allow the team to spend the next year working with our backers and developing the game itself, and will be spent for:
- Administration and Software Development: 26% (89.5k)
- Art & Design: 29% (100k)
- Timothy Zahn's licensing fees (for existing concepts): 5% (17.5k)
- Timothy Zahn's compensation (for new concepts, story development, etc.): 13% (45.5k)
- Software Licensing/ Extra Test Hardware: 3% (10k)
Any extra money we receive will go towards more development resources - either more software/ hardware (so we can test it on other platforms), or adding more people the team (so we can add more content, features and detail to the game).