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Nerd Brigade is a JRPG in the 16-bit tradition, a parody of comic book superheroes seen through the lens of awkward high school reality

Nerd Brigade is a JRPG parody of comic book superheroes through the lens of awkward high school reality. Think of it as what would happen if Freaks and Geeks had been set in Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, run by the shadowy forces behind Clone High.

Nerd Brigade follows a small team of dubiously superpowered high school students over the course of a school-year. Disguised as a typical small town high school, Powerman Jr. Memorial High School is actually a secret government installation for training and controlling the next generation of superheroes. This is a place where your superpower is your social currency. Without obvious and flashy powers like super strength or the ability to fly, the main characters are social outcasts who form a superteam on the basis of shared interest and abilities in science and mathematics. Despite their intelligence, the members of Nerd Brigade still face failing grades due to their lackluster crime fighting skills. It is up to the player to leverage and improve each member’s unique powers as they progress through the school year, and the team uncovers an evil plan. A former super villain who has allegedly turned over a new leaf, Principal Overlord is secretly working with his PTA minions to turn the entire student body into his own private army of super villains. Only the Nerd Brigade can see what he’s up to, gradually catching on to the sinister plot while they stay after class. If the Nerd Brigade can use their powers to unite the school, they could save the world from evil, and even save themselves from failing finals.

On March 11, 2013, Spaceship Villain announced the launch of the Nerd Brigade demo. This early draft of the game features one full chapter from early in the storyline, and is meant to act as a proof of concept for the full game. You can download the demo now at http://www.spaceshipvillain.com/nerd-brigade/ and sample the gameplay in its initial state. It is fully playable, you'll see a wide variety of systems already in place and functioning: battles can be won or lost, experience gained, and your characters level up. Buying and selling items, extensive dialogue and conversation options, and a cutscene editor are all working right now. Undertaking a game of this scope is a daunting challenge for a small studio, and we're tremendously proud of this demo as a representation of we have completed already. 

But there's a lot left to be implemented. We want to make this a full game on par with some of the Super Nintendo greats, and that means adding a lot more content. We've invested the time and effort to build this demo to show you what we're capable of, but now we need you to invest in us. Bringing this project to completion will require an additional eight to ten months of development, which is the funding amount we are asking you for today. Just ten dollars is enough to secure a pre-order of Nerd Brigade, but we also have some great incentives to reward higher donation levels. Please take a look at our rewards and choose to support this project - Nerd Brigade means the world to us at Spaceship Villain, so please help give us the opportunity to complete it for you.

You can read the FAQ for more information or follow us on Facebook to get updates on Nerd Brigade as we continue along into development. And let us know what you think about the project - it's been so personal and private for so long that I would love to hear any feedback now that everything has been made public. I hope you all enjoy this world and its characters as much as we do, and enable us to continue telling their story.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

The largest foreseeable problem is going to be in the method of distribution. Ideally we would love to be able to release and sell Nerd Brigade on Valve's Steam platform. We know that this is technologically possible, as our software is created in Unity 3D which features support for this outlet on both PC and Mac operating systems. The larger concern is getting our product approved through the channels Steam makes available for indie developers. Currently this is accomplished through Greenlight, and if everyone who funds this project also supports Nerd Brigade on Greenlight, we should be able to clear this hurdle successfully. But there is speculation the entire Greenlight system may be subject to change before our game reaches completion, and if that happens we are unable to predict what new system might take its place, or how that might affect our desired release via Steam.

We already have contingency plans in mind for this possibility, including alternate distribution services or even setting up our own storefront with Amazon Payments if necessary. Self-publishing has become a viable option for indie games through numerous different methods, so we remain confident that one way or another we will be able to deliver the final game to consumers.

FAQ

  • I agree, $38,000 does seem like a lot of money, but I honestly think it's the minimum I would need to realistically make a game of this scale. This particular genre takes a long time to make and often comes with the player expectation of 40 hours of gameplay. With only one person functioning as both artist and developer, I'm estimating it will take at least ten months to complete a full game based on the foundation you've seen in the demo. From that estimation I came up with the funding goal by approximating $3000 a month plus $5000 for marketing/promotion and miscellaneous pieces of software like what I used to do the screen recording. Add a bit extra to buffer the 8-10% fee that Kickstarter charges, and the resulting price is a bit of a sticker shock. But I think it's a fair estimate of what it will really cost to make this game - I would rather have a realistically high goal that will allow me to make a polished and substantial game than have to compromise and create a shorter or more rushed game.

    To offset this large total I made sure in the rewards structure to keep the entry price low. The finished game will be a tremendous value at only $10 individual investment, so I am hoping to attract a large number of backers at the lowest donation level. Please help me share this campaign and continue to get it funded!

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  • This was largely a personal decision, it’s a genre that many of my all-time favorite games fall into, particularly in the SNES era. I have always loved this style of game, and had long considered making my own “tribute” to the genre. I have notebooks full of more serious or traditional story ideas I might revisit at some point. But I think there are elements about Nerd Brigade that make it a natural fit for this style of game. Almost all comic book to videogame adaptations are action-oriented beat-em-ups, and I just knew that would never fit my characters. All three Nerd Brigade members are competent at what they do, and I want the player to feel that they grow in strength over the course of the game, but they are not brawlers. It just seemed like such a better fit for these characters to engage in combat in the turn-based, stat-driven model of the JRPG battle, as soon as I had the idea I knew it couldn’t be done in any other way.

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  • The first step will be to get basic save/load functionality implemented - this wasn't as big of a concern in a demo that could be completed in a single session, but for a finished game of this scale it will be essential.

    Beyond the basic elements, we have a lot of content planned. Some features have already been hinted at in the demo, in the form of grayed-out or inactive menu items. Each of the three main characters will have about one dozen unique battle abilities, as well as the addition of shared abilities and powerful team-up attacks. Beyond just expanding the systems already shown in the demo, there are several additional systems which we are looking at implementing. Inspired by other games in the genre, we would like our battle system to make dynamic use of timed hits. Outside of battle we are planning to include a Bestiary to log your encounters against various enemies, numerous NPC conversations and sidequests, and character-specific minigames for learning new skills and abilities. Genre standards like item synthesizing and an overworld map are also in consideration. Many of these additional features are nothing more than ideas at this point; their inclusion will depend on the time needed to implement versus player interest, so we will be seeking input from the players early in development.

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  • We are projecting a ten month development time starting from the end of the Kickstarter campaign. This would optimistically put our release in March 2014, but this is just an estimate, and probably the earliest we could expect to deliver a finished game.

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  • We're not planning a boxed version of the game, although it was something we had considered as a limited edition reward item. The reason we decided against it is that Unity (as far as I have found) does not cleanly support patching, so when an update comes out it completely replaces the previous .exe or .app file. I think that even with the best testing I can provide there will still be patches and bugfixes after release, which would immediately render the version on the disk obsolete.

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