About this project
Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire is an episodic turn-based tactics RPG set on a world that has fallen into a medieval dark age after the collapse of space faring civilisation.
Created by three developers, Tahira draws inspiration from journeys through Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Nepal and India.
The game will be available on Steam and DRM-Free.
1 AUD = 0.65 EUR
1 AUD = 0.75 USD
Watch the trailer in HD (recommended)
Update #17 - Add-ons!
Update #16 - Lord Baruti - The Lion of Avestan
Update #11 - Alpha Build and Paypal
Update #8 - Animating Our Characters
Update #5 - The Claw
Update #3 - The Origins of Tahira Part One
Once, it is said, humanity roamed the stars with impunity. That time is long past. On what was once a partially terraformed outpost world, the descendants of the long-dead colony struggle to eke out an existence on a planet that is growing ever more inhospitable.
You are Princess Tahira of Avestan, a small kingdom to the west of humanity’s last great city, Babylon. The death of your brother has left you as the sole, unwilling heir to the Throne. After your anxiety over this burden sparked an argument with your father, you left Avestan to explore the lands that lie to the south.
A year later, a message arrives warning of a vast army intent on returning to the stars, crushing all who stand in its way, and begging you to return home.
It is here that your real journey begins.
In Tahira the story and combat are intrinsically tied together. Every battle you fight has different objectives, which are informed by the story. In one, you fight desperately to hold a town long enough for its citizens to flee. In another you ambush an enemy squadron, trying to rout them before they can make use of their superior numbers.
When you’re not fighting you’ll have the chance to walk around your surrounds, engage with your travelling companions, and learn more about the different cultures you’ll encounter as you travel on the road.
We're writing Tahira's story episodically, and this campaign will cover the remaining costs of the first episode. We’ve chosen this format so we can execute the scope of what we feel Tahira should be.
Episode One will feature a dense and thrilling plot with fleshed out characters who develop over the course of the game. Taking cues from studios like Bioware and Telltale Games, decisions and progression you make in Episode One will continue to influence your journey through later episodes. We estimate Episode One will run for 4-5 hours and are designing it to have the density of an episodic Telltale game.
Trekking through the Himalayas and exploring the Middle East were the dual inspirations for Tahira. Beyond anything else, we want to transport you to another world and to take you on a journey that will stay with you well after you have finished playing.
- A character-driven story centred upon Tahira, an unwilling princess forced into a leadership role she never expected.
- A rich cast of colourful characters, from a bitter, drunk merchant to a swaggering mercenary power-couple.
- Painstakingly rotoscoped animations, with the frame-by-frame technique creating a realistic, hand-drawn appearance.
- A journey across hand-painted environments, which showcase the bittersweet beauty of a dying world.
- Challenging strategic combat, which demands that the player both plan ahead and adapt to a changing battlefield.
- A modern twist on classic turn-based tactics where units tire and grow more vulnerable throughout the fight, and your units can skip the turn queue and act instantly.
- A wide range of scenarios, ranging from scrappy fights between a couple of soldiers to epic sieges where the player must manage multiple fronts.
- Upgrade your forces, choosing from a range of improvements to suit a variety of play-styles.
- Learn the history of both the current denizens of a former frontier world, and the ancient space-faring people who first explored it.
- An atmospheric soundtrack composed by Max LL that incorporates the sounds and textures of Central Asia and the Middle East.
Tahira's combat is inspired by childhoods spent secretly playing Gameboy games such as Fire Emblem, Advance Wars and Final Fantasy Tactics under the covers. As well as more modern titles like XCOM: Enemy Unknown and The Banner Saga.
Acting through Tahira, the player leads their forces into battle by taking control of several groups of units, each with their own distinct stats and abilities. Leveraging the unique skills of your diverse team is the key to victory.
Any leader needs allies, and Tahira is no exception. She is joined in combat by several great warriors, each leading a cadre of troops who share their leader's strengths. As the game progresses, you'll unlock opportunities to upgrade each of these heroes. When you do so, you upgrade their personal stats, skills and abilities as well as those of their followers. The system takes inspiration from XCOM and Starcraft 2: these aren’t just little skill point buffs, they’re distinct choices that will change the way you play the game.
The combat system in Tahira is designed to simulate the flow of a real battle. Rather than relying on the traditional "we all move, then you all move" system, turn order is assigned dynamically, based on the speed of each of the fighters.The game's heroes can skip this queue and act immediately - at a cost - creating opportunities for skilled tacticians to turn the tide of a losing fight, or punish an enemy in a weak position before it has a chance to rally. Additionally, as fights progress, your troops grow fatigued. Each attack suffered by a unit reduces its defence, meaning that your force becomes exponentially more vulnerable as the battle wears on.
To further create a sense of realism in combat, no two combat scenarios are alike. Battles in Episode One will range from scrappy skirmishes between a handful of soldiers, to epic sieges involving dozens of units and multiple fronts. In these larger fights, players will need to act on a solid strategy, distributing their forces between two or three areas, and prioritizing certain objectives at the expense of others.
In Tahira you’ll encounter dozens of characters, ranging from a depressed alcoholic wine merchant, to a swaggering mercenary power couple. Some will ask for your help, others will travel with you and a special few will fight alongside you.
Conversation is an important part of Tahira. You’ll be given opportunities to talk to your travelling companions as you progress through Episode One and your interactions with them will have consequences within the story and the battles you fight.
The sounds you’ll hear in Tahira are an integral part of the experience we are building. We want to transport you to another world, a world that is familiar enough to feel real but alien enough to excite your imagination.
We’ve partnered with the talented Max LL to score Tahira’s soundtrack. Max has just returned from many months spent traveling through Central Asia, capturing the sounds and textures of the region.
Here's an alternative version of the music he wrote for the trailer:
From the moment we heard his music, we knew we wanted to work with him. We can't wait to hear him bring the emotion and cultures of Tahira's world to life.
The other integral part of the audio is the sound design. Each of our environments will have its own detailed soundscape. We want you to feel as if you’re really journeying across the world as you play. We’re working with Sound Designer Brendan Holyland to achieve this.
Here's a little sneak peek of some of his early work for The Southern Waypoint.
- Launch – Tahira will launch on PC, Mac and Linux. We hope to release on Steam (see our Greenlight campaign) and we will also release a DRM-free copy of the game.
- Beta – We will be running a beta later in the year. If our Greenlight Campaign is successful we will conduct it using Steam. All backers who pledge $35 or above will receive Beta Access.
We’re a three person team and we don’t want to promise new features that will delay the game by months, or worse be dropped when we realise we can’t execute them.
Instead we’ve picked two goals that we think would make very positive additions to the experience of playing Tahira, and budgeted them to exactly what we need to make them a reality.
Backers at this tier will get exclusive, Kickstarter-only access to an alternative version of Episode One: Super Fresh Ultimate Tahira X! This version of the game will be a loving parody of the decade which gave us some of gaming's most iconic characters, and will be embellished with all things '80s:
- Over-the-top neon colours.
- Garish visual effects.
- Incredibly questionable style decisions.
- It will also have a talking horse.
While Super Fresh Ultimate Tahira X! will be fundamentally the same game as Echoes of the Astral Empire, it will amount to a completely different playing experience. All of the game's art will be lovingly (heinously) re-coloured and Tahira will get a stylin' new pair of shades. Further, the script will be partially re-written, as Tahira's equine companion Iba has mystically gained the power of speech.
These mugs have frames from the most action-y parts of our favourite character animations printed on them.
Choose from one of the following designs:
- The Hammer's earth-shattering strike
- A Footsoldier's attacking lunge
- The Claw's vicious swing
- Tahira channelling her staff's energy
We'll ask for your preference when we send out the backer surveys.
Commissioned from Iranian born Disney Artist, Merhdad Isvandi, this beautiful piece will be printed on 23.4" x 33.1" (A1) high quality glossy stock.
The image we've uploaded of this really doesn't do it justice. It's a gorgeous, incredibly detailed piece of art. For example, you can clearly see both The Hammer and The Claw among the people walking through the valley.
Commissioned from Italian artist Simone D’armini, the T-shirt features Tahira in action across the chest and the Tahira logo on the back of the neck.
The T-Shirt will be printed on a 100% cotton white tee. It will be available in both men’s and women’s styles. We will ask for your size and gender preference when we send out the backer surveys.
(Artist's impression of what it'll look like. We haven't made the book yet.)
The Art of Tahira will be equal parts art book and development journal. It'll contain heaps of otherwise-unreleased concept art, stories from Tahira’s development, and details about our creative process. The book will have approximately 80 full-colour pages printed on high quality glossy paper. It will be a soft cover book, with the cover printed onto 320 GSM.
Please note that we won't be finalising the book until we've shipped the game as we want to include all the finished art work from Episode One.
Want to be a part of the game? We've got you covered. Pledge to this tier, and we'll transform your likeness into one of the game's characters.
We'll ask you to take photographs of yourself and then the transformation will begin! You'll likely have a few different portraits done, with different expressions and emotions.
This pledge tier is limited to three people, as we've only got so many persistent roles in the game, and we want to guarantee that those who pledge to this tier don't see themselves become nameless henchmen who get mown down after speaking a single line.
Avestan wasn’t always the city it is now. Hundreds of years ago, before the people of Babylon spread west across the mountains, the people of Avestan were tribal villagers whose belief system was rooted in a shamanic reverence of the earth and sky.
Some still follow the old ways.
Tahira will meet one of these mystics on the road and - through him - will learn of her nation's ancestral roots.
The backer of this tier will work one-on-one with our writer, Peter Castle, to help create a folk tale for the mystic to tell Tahira. If you're the kind of person who enjoys mythology, fairy tales, or teaching through elaborate metaphors, this may be the reward for you.
We have a real treat for art lovers with this limited edition run of ten framed fine art prints of the poster design.
Commissioned from Iranian born Disney Artist, Merhdad Isvandi, this beautiful piece will be printed on 23.4" x 33.1" fine art watercolour paper:
- Museum quality,
- Acid free
- Archival with guarantee for 75 years.
We've framed these beautiful prints in a 30.43" x 39.84" rusted gold frame. We've already got one on our office wall. Believe us when we say the pictures don't do this piece justice.
In a word, independence. So far, we've been working to create the game we want to make, without having to compromise with anyone. The price we've paid for this is that we don't have investors or a publisher. We've survived financially by all working part-time jobs, but this can't be sustained.
Our artist Peter S, gets up each morning at 3am and spends five hours baking muffins before he comes into the office. He then draws for a solid 8 hours before going home, going to bed, and starting all over again. With your support we can remove the distraction and stress of having a second job, and focus entirely on making Tahira as good as it can be.
Though it is mainly a means of restoring our team's sanity, Kickstarter also lets us add features that we otherwise couldn't afford. One of those features is contracting the immensely talented Max LL, who created the music for our trailer, to write the whole soundtrack for Episode One
We've been working on Episode One of Tahira for 18 months. In that time we’ve built functioning versions of all the gameplay systems, created half of the game’s art, written a comprehensive draft of Episode One’s story and developed a world with a history that stretches back hundreds of years.
Still-to-do remains the other half of the art and a ton of iteration and polish on the gameplay. The bulk of the remaining art work that still needs to be done are the animations. The frame-by-frame, hand-drawn style we've chosen meaning that each character takes roughly a month and a half to animate from start-to-finish.
We expect to have the full game playable by July 2015 and to have it ready for release by January 2016. We’ve given ourselves those six months between July and January to polish the game and to conduct a Beta Test as it’s very important to us that we take the time we need to do the game justice.
When we sat down and imagined what Tahira could be, we knew we wanted to show players a vast world with a rich history. We wanted our characters to develop and grow realistically and we wanted to design epic battles in which you defend fortresses and cities. In short, we wanted Tahira to have the scope of an epic fantasy series. Then we remembered we’re only three people.
To create a game with the visual fidelity and scope that we’re aiming for would take the three of us a very long time. We talked to some of our peers and they suggested we could make the game episodic. The more we thought about it, the more we liked the idea.
Making Tahira episodically allows us to design each episode with a beginning, middle and climactic end. It gives us the means to do justice to our vision. As we move through the series, each game will add new playable characters, which we simply couldn’t spend the time making if we were trying to create all of Tahira in one go. You’ll see so much more of the world in this format and have many more opportunities to talk to your travel companions. It also lets us take feedback on board from you, the players, and gives us the opportunity to iterate on all of our systems. We think it will be a better experience for you and for us, win-win.
How many episodes?
We envision two seasons of Tahira games. Season One of Tahira will have two episodes. At this stage we have written a draft for the entire series, but other than that, all of our work over the last 18 months has gone into Episode One. This is how we will continue to work. We will work on Episode One until we are happy it’s met the quality bar we’ve set ourselves and then we’ll move onto Episode Two.
We're shooting for 4-5 hours for Episode One. We're not adding any filler, it'll just be you playing through the best story we can write, fighting battles in unique scenarios and having lots of conversations with your traveling companions. We're making Episode One as dense as we can without adding fluff for the sake of padding it out.
Whale Hammer Games is a three person independent developer based out of Canberra, Australia. We're a team brought together by a mutual desire to use games as a medium to tell compelling stories.
Peter Castle (Writer + Producer)
Peter is a published travel writer and award winning creative writer. He loves to write, draw and to travel to remote places. He wants to create games that capture the exhilaration, sense of discovery and retrospection that he experiences when he travels.
Tom Cox (Programming + Design)
Tom graduated with a Bachelor of Software Development from the Australian National University in 2012. He is an avid gamer who believes in the ability of games to challenge people and influence their broader perspective on life. He wants to make games that have this effect on people, and help them explore real-world issues in a meaningful way.
Peter Simpson (Artist)
Peter worked as a Photoshop Artist and Illustrator for ten years before writing his book Practical Anatomy for Artists, which was published in 2010. He relishes the challenge of bringing a new world to life in a striking visual style.
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Risks and challenges
Although each member of the team is well-versed in his own field, the fact remains that none of us has published a game before. We have done a great deal to minimize this risk by building a functioning prototype prior to going to Kickstarter, and by going through the asset-creation process for everything we'll need, at least once.
There will always be unforeseen issues along the way. We've already encountered plenty, but we're committed to finishing the game and making it as good as it can be. You have our word on that.
The funding goal we’ve set will give us the resources we need to finish the game. It would have been easy to set the goal lower, with the hope of over-funding, but we’ve asked for exactly what we need.
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