Growing up in the 90’s, it was pretty hard not to develop a fondness for Kaiju-centric entertainment. From the Power Rangers, to Godzilla (both the VHS movies and animated TV series), to the developing worldwide fondness for video games featuring massive-in-scale bosses, the Kaiju scene has always played an important role in most mainstream gamers’ lives. The development team at Kerberos understands this, and wants to provide an exciting new Kaiju experience with their upcoming IndieGoGo project, Kaiju-A-GoGo. I got the chance to chat with the team’s producer, Chris Stewart, about their plans for the light action-strategy adventure.
Indie Game Magazine: This is Kerberos’ third crowd funding effort, and the previous two games were successfully released and are available now. What is it about the nature of crowdfunding that keeps the team coming back to pitch new ideas to the community?
Chris Stewart: We find crowdfunding serves two critical purposes for us. The first is the most obvious; a small, growing developer needs a leg up to bridge the gap between the creation of a game on paper and the day it makes it to market and the royalty payments begin to arrive. People have to eat and pay rent during that time, and that would be impossible without the help of the fans, old and new. The second critical purpose of crowdfunding is as a gauge of public interest and initial feedback. This part of the crowdsourcing process is often overlooked by the media, but it’s very important in the creation of a game that actually meets the ideals of the public.
IGM: Tell me about the gameplay mechanics of Kaiju-A-GoGo. It’s described as a light strategy-action game, but can you be more specific?
Chris: Kaiju-A-GoGo is comprised of a pure real-time tactical combat section, which is you controlling a cool monster, stomping all over a city, while the military tries to stop you. And then there is a strategic section where you plot what cities to attack next, which structures you want to research and build for your secret lab, and the care and training of your giant, destructive minion. For those of you who enjoyed the original X-Com with its spinning globe, it’s probably helpful to imagine that your opponents were looking at the same globe from the other side of the equation. That is your own strategic position in Kaiju-A-GoGo, peering over your digital representation of the globe, probing it for weak points and looking to conquer it all.
IGM: What can you tell me about the different monsters in the game? Do they each represent a different “class”, or are they all fairly similar in base stats until players customize their Kaiju?
Chris: Each monster in Kaiju-A-GoGo will initially represent a different style of “technology,” and through that will express themselves in the game quite differently from each other. The first monster in the game will be Ginormasaurus and he and his scientist, Dr. Norman E. Farious, represent pure mechanical technology. Ginormasaurus is alloy and electricity and his master is an expert in all that requires. Dr. Farious’ secret base will be all edges and corners and bright shining antennae. Ginormasaurus’ powers will be about armor, and targeting, and increasing mastery of energy. He will be a technological powerhouse, and when playing him, you will be on the lookout for power plants and munitions factories while avoiding strange chemicals like the plague.
On the other hand, Shrubby begins her life on a jungle island where her owner has carved a variety of biotech structures from the surrounding life itself. Bio science will reign supreme here and Shrubby will reflect that in all her organic glory. When attacking cities as the Chlorophyll Menace, you will be causing damage just by moving and when wounded be looking for sources of organic matter to heal yourself in the field… ANY organic source!
Basically the Monsters in Kaiju-A-GoGo will follow the same directive that all units in Kerberos games follow… Function flows from form. We don’t look at a unit as a skin that goes over a set of numbers, but instead approach each one from the standpoint of “Ok, what would a giant <fill in the blank> attack with/move like/heal by etc. etc.?”
IGM: Players have a five year timer within which to exact their plans for world domination. How does time pass in the game? Can players actively affect the passage of time?
Chris: Time passes in a variable fashion with the player in control. If there is a bunch of things you want to get done, then slide the time controls to the far left and time passes at a slow 10 minutes to a real hour. On the other hand if you are waiting for a building to finish or your monster to limp back from across the globe, then slam the timer over to the right and watch the world spin by at a day per second until something happens where you need to intervene.
IGM: How many different “regions” are there in the game? Will they each be divided by an equal number of cities?
Chris: The world will be divided into six regions and yes, all regions will have the same mix and number of cities.
IGM: How many different abilities are there for each monster? Does each Kaiju have their own specific skill tree?
Chris: Each kaiju will indeed have its own skill/ability tree with 90 entries. Since we are aiming at an average of you accessing 25-to-35 skills/abilities per game, we think it should take around a minimum of three separate playthroughs to see all of what a monster has to offer.
IGM: How do players earn the upgrade points needed to train their monsters and learn new abilities? Are there bonus side objectives in each city?
Chris: Kaiju have five tiers of abilities to learn, and each tier will require a special facility in order to train your monster in those abilities. The trick is that those facilities require time, resources and money to build. Where those come from is part of what drives your choices when picking cities to ravage. Short of funds? Time to hit a city with a rich financial district. Short of tech? Maybe it’s time to kick around MIT… literally. There are multiple places of interest in a city, but their target priority is driven by your own needs instead of a contrived questing system.
Once a training facility is built, [the Kaiju] can use it to train any ability within its tier level; but of course training takes time, and time is not your friend when you are trying to conquer the world.
IGM: Players also get a Secret Lair as well, correct? What types of activities will they be engaged in during downtime while their Kaiju heals in between battles?
Chris: Yes. As mentioned, you will have a secret island base, with each scientist having a different locale and base style that reflects their needs and tastes. Here you will research and build facilities that will aid you and your monster in gaining power and influence. Your secret island is your center of power. From here you monitor the world, issue threats, watch the progress of your monster across the globe, manage your resources, build defenses for the inevitable moment when the world’s military finally finds you, and decide which will be the next city to fall to your beloved monster creation. If the cities you fight in can be considered to be the action heart of Kaiju-A-GoGo, then your base is the strategic brain of the game.
IGM: Kerberos has quite a unique approach to crowdfunding. Would you mind explaining your philosophy, and how it affects game production at the studio?
Chris: Crowdfunding, particularly at a full-indie level, and in the recent economic climate in general, is supposed to be about first-wave consumers and the developers sharing the risk of development. This is kind of lost in a lot of the high visibility campaigns, where the consumers essentially fund the entire project – and beyond, sometimes – and hope for the best.
In our campaigns, we are carrying a lot of the development budget, but the support of backers is critical. At best, there are a lot of backers and we can add in content or features, and at worst, it’s enough so that the team doesn’t have to take a financial hit to get the game finished. Without enough backers we can’t get these games done, or if we decide we can, it has a direct cost to the team. We love making games, but love doesn’t pay the rent, and other 70s classic country songs.
Our approach to crowdfunding is the harder, but way more responsible path – developers have to be very realistic about what they ask for and what it does for the project, and backers have to take a close look at the project and the developer’s track record and not just vote with the crowd. Fortunately, we’ve done it twice now, so people can see we’re very serious and we follow through. We also take advantage of our backers to help shape the vision of the game. It’s still important for the team to have a core vision for the game – that’s what you’re pitching to people – but why not find out what people like most, or are asking the most questions about, or are the most uncertain of, and use that to shape the final product? Shared risk, but shared rewards throughout development, not just the final product.
Chris: We have a good selection of rewards to suit most people. Ones that give you the game or all our games, the usual extras, like a t-shirt, but the really fun ones are where backers get to add to the game, either by picking a building or city to feature, or a special skin for a monster.
The one I’m most excited for though is the Kaiju Subscription reward – $20 gets you the game and all the DLC monsters we put out thereafter! It also happens to be the most popular reward with backers too!
IGM: Speaking of, what are the post-launch plans in terms of DLC for Kaiju-A-GoGo?
Chris: Given the current funding plan, we would like to release monsters number 2, 3 and 4 every two or three months, and then create the first full blown expansion, Monster Island, approximately six to nine months after game’s release. Should we meet the stretch goals that will allow us to have all 3 monsters in the initial release a la the initial funding plan, then that time table would be bumped up accordingly.