The Path to Playable Mockup

It’s been a swift and incredible journey to go from a humble petition to reboot Firefall (and create a new, unique style of multiplayer game), to a over 600% fundraiser, a website, forums, concept art and thousands more signatures.

The fans have shown incredible support for creating an MMO that never got a chance to launch: a open world, horizontal, go-anywhere, dynamic event driven game based on resource collection, customize everything, and open war against an alien race. Basically what Battlefield 1942 or 2142 would have been if it was turned into a bigger concept. A game that my World of Warcraft team wanted to make after WoW, and that was attempted by Blizzard with the now defunct Titan project (whose remnants became Overwatch).

We have the idea, we have the hard lessons learned with Firefall (and Titan) that will allow us to avoid all the past mistakes and focus on what worked and worked well. But how do we get from here to game? How can the fans help make this popular idea a reality?

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” is an old proverb. But we’ve taken it to heart here. We’re creating a process for crowdfunding that is similar to what publisher do for games: milestone based funding.

The problem with most crowdfunding is that it is billed as a one-time event, where backers pledge and wait years before seeing any results. A blind fire, hope and pray method for large projects. Milestone based funding, on the other hand, breaks up the goal into smaller pieces, delivered quickly. Each milestone is evaluated by the ones funding it before the next is approved.

We are doing this for crowdfunding. We’re taking our game, Ember, and dividing its funding and its playable deliverables up into small steps. By delivering tangible, game advancing goals that backers can judge for themselves, we can build a trust, a momentum, and a growing game step by step. You, the backer, will get frequent updates that let you decide if we are on track and growing the game.

Backers can do this for as little as $1 to participate, all the way up to larger rewards and perks. You won’t wait years for the results, as we plan to deliver milestones at least every two months.

The first milestone was:
* Launch a community and forums for Ember (DONE, and thriving!)
* Create key concept art (DONE, Thumper, Omniframe and Alien Tsihu DONE)
* Prepare for 3D modeling of THMPR (DONE, orthographics completed)

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We completed this milestone in record time and with very high quality equal or better than larger game studios. We exceeded 600% funding and used the funds to create all the key artwork we needed to start developing the game.

You’ve shown the demand is there for this game. The petition did its job and the fundraiser showed you were serious about Ember.

So what’s next?

We’re Committed. We’re Building the Game.

We’re going to build Ember. We’re going to make it real with your help. You’ve show we can do this, and we’ve shown we can deliver with our first, out-of-the-park, milestone.

Now we need to start the second milestone. And the secret is we’ve already started! Modeling of the THMPR has begun, and we’ll post some video soon when we release Milestone 2 funding goals on IndieGoGo.

I believe in this so much that I’ve started to fund the second milestone out of my own pocket, and we’ve started building it, confident you will be there with me. So let’s do this.

Here’s a sneak peak of what we’ve been working on:

Let’s Build a Playable Mockup

The ultimate goal of the current milestones is to build what we call a playable mockup. The mockup is meant to demonstrate the potential fun, marketability and playability of the game. We’re going to take one encounter, the iconic “thumper” encounter and build it to a high degree of polish in Unreal Engine 4.

In the playble mockup, backers will be able to suit up in an jetpacking, gliding, Omniframe with a default loadout of weapon and abilities. They will be able to call down a THMPR MEK-A and start mining for resources while waves of xenomorphs and the Tsihu attack to try and stop you. When the THMPR is finished it will run back to a target area where you will have to escort and defend it along the way. When it reaches its destination, the resources will be deposited as your “score” and the mockup will end.

This mockup will only be available to backers, but backers will be allowed to take screenshots and stream it to help build public support. This support will be used to fund our main Kickstarter to launch the company full-time.

Playing the Mockup in Just a Few Milestones

We’ve broken up the ultimate playable mockup goal into several funding steps. We may split or combine these steps into various funding goals depending on momentum and complexity.

Step 1:
Develop Key Concept Art – DONE

Step 2:
Model the THMPR mining MEK-A and get it into Unreal 4 with PBR shaders. Create and illustrate “vision book” that will define and guide the game’s development. (This will be the current funding round).

Step 3:
Model the Omniframe and player Character and get it into Unreal 4.

Step 4:
Model the Tsihu and get its shapeshifting working in Unreal 4.

Step 5:
Build a playable mockup using the assets we built in prior steps. Players can thump, pilot Omniframes, and fight Tsihu using the Unreal Engine.

We are going to try to get each goal done in 1-2 months from completion of funding. We do this by actually starting on the next goal before the last one completes (as we have with the THMPR modeling), and by taking on additional part-time staff. We want to deliver rapidly and keep the momentum up.

These mini-goals will be on IndieGoGo, until:

Have Playable Mockup, will Kickstart

Once we have a playable mockup of the THMPR encounter, we will prepare and launch our largest goal, a Kickstarter to launch the company that will build the game, full-time. By using screenshots, videos and streams from YOU playing the mockup, we hope to build enough momentum for a very successful kickstarter and start a real live game company, together.

Step 2 Funding goal and campaign will go live on Monday, Aug 29. Hold on to your butts, its going to go fast!

28 comments

  1. Dr Doom says:

    I want (wish) more videos like this. For me they are really helping me to understand better how they work, how they are made, why they made like that and not like THAT or such. Also, I would like to see how they will texture it under the 3D software then how they will work it out in the UE4. All I can do at this moment is to hope that you guys will make more videos about modeling/texturing/importing to UE4/making them work in the engine.

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