Hey guys! Kind of a short update today because the team is still working on most of the same things they were working on in the last update.
We have a new narrative editor that was completed last week which is being used to make things way easier when getting the text in the game.
Mark and the rest of the art team are hard at work in getting scenes completed for the full game. Trust me when I say, things are really looking amazing and lives up to the standards that he has set for himself in the past. I’ll be posting something for you on this soon!
The development team have been hard at work rewriting some of the code for our event driven system that we are using in Unity(our game engine) to make life easier behind the scenes of the game.
We are still planning to put out a more polished version of the demoas soon as the underlying code is where it needs to be.
Thanks everyone!Chris Pope a.k.a your humble local intergalactic SpacePope
If you haven’t already heard, Police Quest creator Jim Walls along with his partner fellow Sierra alum Robert Lindsley decided to end their Kickstarter and run their own funding model. Please help support them by visiting http://fund.precinctgame.com/
I wanted to let you know that Jim Walls and I will be doing a Reddit AMA. It is happening Thursday, August 15th at 5PM ET. If you have any questions about Precinct, our new funding model, or just want to chat about all things Police Quest, please join us!
We will also be having a community chat next week. The chat will be moderated by Rudy Marchant (our Community Manager) and will also be a great opportunity to ask Jim and I anything you’d like. We haven’t figured out the exact timing on this, but will let you know as soon as we do.
As opposed to a typical video game crowdfunding campaign, our goal is deliver Precinct Backers solid accountability, more funding flexibility, and true collaboration between Precinct Backers and the Precinct game development team.
Instead of reaching a single funding goal and then asking our backers to simply wait and see what they get, our staged funding approach allows our Backers to weigh in heavily during the entire development cycle. Precinct Backers are NOT charged for a pledge unless the next funding goal is reached (currently $25,000).
Precinct Backers can pledge ANY amount they wish, at any time, and ALL backers receive a digital download of the finished game whether they pledged $1 or $10,000 throughout the project.
We have provided a full-featured community area, accessible only to Precinct Backers. We maintain a persistent dialog with our Backers, constantly seeking their opinions, suggestions, and feedback through forums, web chats, and online polls. But that’s not all we’re doing on this front. We are extremely happy to have SierraChest.com founder Rudy Marchant as a member of the Precinct development team. Rudy will not only manage the Precinct community but also attend design and production meetings to make sure the voice of the fans is heard loud and clear.
We also decided to make the campaign about the game, not elaborate and costly reward tiers that ultimately take away from the game development budget. Doing this has allowed us to reduce our minimum funding requirements for the full game by approximately $100,000. For those interested in items beyond the digital downloads, we have set up a store that will offer Precinct badges, T-shirts, etc. To learn more about how and why we are funding our game this way, please visit our FAQ’s section for more info.
$25,000 – Proof of Concept
This allows us to build and deliver you a short but playable sample of Precinct.
This Proof of Concept will clearly illustrate how the user interface will
operate and how the basic navigation of the game will function. During this
phase of development we will be working closely with the Precinct Backer community,
conducting polls and discussing basic elements of story and gameplay.
$90,000 – Vertical Slice
Hitting this funding mark will allow us to build and deliver you a more comprehensive
example of the Precinct experience without actually building the entire backend components.
This will likely be a partial or complete mission that shows off how you progress in the game.
Some of the game’s novel features and gameplay “hooks” will also be present. During
this phase we will be working with the Precinct Backer community,
incorporating feedback and suggestions from the Proof of Concept build.
$250,000 – Game Demo This funding level allows us to complete many of the required tools and tech
needed to deliver a final game. This is the official demo that is meant to immerse you
into the world of Fraser Canyon and the type of adventure that lays within. This
build of the game is to include a reasonable level of gameplay polish as
well as story elements. Backer collaboration will be critical at this stage as the
game will be very much solidified on its course to a final version.
$400,000 – Full Game This is the official release of Precinct, which is a product of our team’s hard work
and our collaboration with the Precinct Backer community.
JIM WALLS PRESENTS
ABOUT THE GAME Precinct takes players on a police adventure as Officer Maxwell Jones through the mean streets of Fraser Canyon, CA. Starting out as a rookie and then moving up the ranks, players face adrenaline charged scenarios and conduct real police procedures while solving crimes and arresting perpetrators.
In-Game Screenshot – On Patrol
Written by Jim Walls and some of today’s brightest Hollywood talent, Precinct features a gripping crime story based on true accounts of real police activity. As players clean up the crime ridden streets, the plot thickens with corrupt cops, greedy public officials, and a deadly struggle to break up Fraser Canyon’s criminal underground.
Gameplay Concept Sketch – Alley Confrontation
Gameplay Concept Sketch – Weapon Drawn
Playing in the first person perspective, Precinct’s real-time 3D environments and gameplay deliver significant realism to the classic police adventure style Jim is famous for creating. Along with staple elements such as adventure and puzzles, players also encounter intense fast action gameplay sequences that include shootouts, high speed car chases, investigations, foot pursuits, hand-to-hand combat, and more.
In-Game Screenshot – Arriving at Scene
Gameplay concept sketch – Bar Fight
Gameplay Concept Sketch – Non-Lethal Force Being Used
Jim is leading an effort to successfully combine original Sierra-style adventure with modern video game technology. The Precinct team is poised to redefine the cop-game genre by making a game that both classic and modern gamers can enjoy.
In-Game Screenshot – Approaching Crime Scene
Precinct will be released as a DRM-free digital download for PC and Mac with distribution across platforms such as Steam and our own website. If our stretch goals are met, we will be able to release Precinct on additional platforms (more about stretch goals below).
OUR CAMPAIGN Precinct Backers can pledge ANY amount they wish and every Backer will receive all prototype downloads, including a DRM free version of the final game when it is completed. Because we removed reward tiers that are typical in most crowdfunding campaigns, every dollar you pledge actually goes directly towards developing Precinct. We have also created a private community and polling system that will allow you to be a true contributor to the development process. As opposed to most crowdfunding campaigns where you are asked for money and then left with little knowledge of what’s going on, we have created a staged funding system for Precinct Backers, which is meant to deliver better clarity and accountibility throughout the Precinct development process.
Each Precinct Backer will have the option to include their name and Backer Level in the game credits. All Backers can also choose to proudly display their Backer badge within the online community on PrecinctGame.com too. The Precinct Backer Levels are as follows:
STRETCH GOALS If we are successful with our fundraising we are going to be able to make a great game. However, the more money we get, the better the game will be. Every dime we receive goes directly towards building Precinct!
$500,000(Awesomer) – At this level, we will be able to provide a more immersive gameplay experience. We will be able to produce hours of additional content and achieve a higher level of detail and beauty throughout the game.
$600,000 (Mega Awesome) – If we get to this level, we will be able to include more locations, more characters, a deeper story, and deliver a very high level of polish. We expect to release a Linux version at this level as well — if we hit this goal we will dedicate an engineer, tester and art person to Linux.
$700,000 (Badonk) – This level allows us to pretty much do everything we want to do for Precinct. In addition to more gameplay, more characters, more story, more polish, we expect to bring Precinct to iOS, Android, XBLA and PSN as well. You can also expect subtitled versions for the French, Italian, German and Spanish markets at this level too.
“There are few more storied franchises in adventure gaming than Sierra’s Police Quest series.” – Kotaku
CREATING POLICE QUEST Jim is a retired California Highway Patrol officer who left the force in 1984 after being traumatized in a violent shootout. During his recovery from the incident, Jim serendipitously met video game pioneer Ken Williams who was in the early days of growing Sierra On-line with his wife and company co-founder Roberta Williams. Ken asked Jim to design gameplay and write a story for a realistic police adventure series Ken wanted to make. Police Quest was born.
Jim Walls (second from right) with the early Sierra On-line design team. Company co-founder Roberta Williams in front.
Upon its release, Police Quest was an instant hit, wowing early gamers with a unique point-and-click adventure style and unprecedented realism for the time. Police Quest went on to have five sequels, selling millions of copies.
Most games fade to black in the game industry but the interest in Police Quest still burns brightly almost thirty years later. Possibly because of its deep storyline and the dedication it takes to play Police Quest successfully, the series has amassed a legion of fans from all over the world.
ABOUT SIERRA Located in the small mountain town of Oakhurst, CA, Sierra On-line was founded in 1979 by husband and wife team Ken and Roberta Williams. Through Ken and Roberta’s hard work, vision, and talent, Sierra became a pioneering force that was instrumental in shaping the video game industry and bringing home computer games to mainstream culture. Since the 1990’s, several mergers, acquisitions, layoffs, liquidations, and the departure of Ken and Roberta effectively rendered Sierra defunct. The company’s brand and remaining assets were last owned by Activision.
PRINCIPAL TEAM MEMBERS
JIM WALLS Jim has been in the video game business for almost 20 years and is considered one of the original pioneers of the adventure game genre. His game titles include Police Quest 1, 2 and 3, Codename Iceman, Blue Force, Blade Runner, Pirates – Legend of Black Kat, and Earth and Beyond.
ROBERT LINDSLEY Robert began working at Sierra On-line at just fifteen years old. Although already precociously well versed in programming, Ken and Roberta Williams brought Robert into the company to help box games and copy floppy discs. Robert was eventually given a shot at programming and it wasn’t wasted on him. Robert soon began coding professionally and eventually began producing. At Sierra, Robert worked on several classic Sierra titles including King’s Quest V & VI, Laura Bow 2, Mixed Up Mother Goose, and Phantasmagoria 2. After Sierra, Robert worked for Microsoft Games where he wound up on Microsoft’s Xbox launch team. Robert has also led development at Atari and Harmonix, shipping over 80 games in his career. Most recently, Robert’s credits include Rock Band, Ghostbusters, and Dance Central. Robert is currently Jim’s partner for this project.
SCOTT BUTLER An early employee of the pioneering game studio Argonaut Software, Scott has worked in the video games business for over 24 years. 11 of those years were spent at Sony Computer Entertainment as a senior artist and art director. Scott has shipped over 50 games in his career, including Kingsley’s Adventure (PS1), Croc: Legend of the Gobbos (PS1 & Sega Saturn), Neopets: The Wand of Wishing (PSP), Eyetoy: Play (PS2), and Ren & Stimpy (SNES). At just 17 years old in 1989, Scott began his career making games for the Amiga and Timex Sinclair computers. Over the years, as game technology, tools, and business models have evolved, so has Scott. He has worked on virtually every game platform possible, Scott holds a US patent for a game engine technology he invented in 2009.
JASON CRAWFORD Jason has spent nearly two decades as an entrepreneur and creative professional in technology. The last 12 years of his career have been in the video game industry. Jason has launched multiple companies, including a game development studio in 2001 with Precinct’s Executive Producer, Robert Lindsley. Jason has played influential roles in shaping the vision and logistics for several games and interactive initiatives with clients such as Acclaim, Hasbro, IAC, Atari, Sony, Samsung, Sesame Workshop, and Walt Disney Imagineering. Jason is currently the founder and studio director of Tiny Castle Studios, a new Unity3D focused game development studio located in Glendale, CA. Jason and his team have been instrumental in creating this fundraising campaign.
RUDY MARCHANT Rudy is a hardcore fan, collector and curator of everything related to Sierra On-Line. He was introduced to Sierra in the late eighties and became a collector from the mid-nineties on. By 2003 he joined other fans on the official Sierra forums, where he became moderator in 2006. His claim to fame came in 2008, when he created the Sierra Chest, a massive fan site covering everything about Sierra On-Line in detail throughout its entire history – his “life project” as he calls it. He is also administrator of Sierra Gamers, Ken and Roberta Williams’ personal Sierra fan site. Through his passion and work for Sierra over the years, Rudy has become a representative of fans worldwide. Being involved to some extent with basically any Sierra-related project in recent years, he connects the fans, alumni and game developers.
RISKS AND CHALLENGES GAME DEVELOPMENT The biggest issue in development is keeping the game within scope and making sure the project never goes over-budget. Our entire team is intensely aware of this issue and know we must be vigilant in managing it responsibly. Leading this effort is Precinct’s Executive Producer, Robert Lindsley, who has over 20 years experience producing video games. Working on small games up to hundred-million dollar AAA titles, Robert has a proven and unbeatable track record for shipping products on-time and on-budget. As with any game development project, Precinct will undoubtedly throw out its own unique challenges but those challenges will be met by a team of seasoned video game industry veterans that know how to solve problems effectively and responsibly.
TECH &PRODUCTION DESIGN It’s going to be an enormous undertaking building a lot of our own tech and tools above the already robust Unity3D platform. We created a game prototype of the world that not only shows off the art style, it was as an exercise to vet if Unity3D and our proprietary game editor will be possible given our minimum budget range.
GAMEPLAY Although upgraded to modern gameplay standards, we believe audiences will enjoy the fun of a realistic police adventure because of Jim’s past success with Police Quest. “If you’ve played Police Quest, you know exactly what Jim Walls is like, because that game is Jim Walls.” – Al Lowe, creator of Leisure Suit Larry and programmer on Police Quest.
As you know we are almost in the final week of our Kickstarter. As of this morning our project is just over 15% funded and it’s clear that we’re not going to hit our goal.
Throughout the project we’ve had a ton of great feedback from the community. It’s clear you love Police Quest and Jim Walls, but there are questions about the project. One of the things we’ve heard is that you want to see more. You want to understand what the game is going to be like. How is it going to play? How is the first-person perspective going to work? What will the balance of action and adventure be?
These are all great questions and we want to answer them! So as of today we are shutting down our Kickstarter and launching a new and unique crowdfunding campaign at www.precinctgame.com. Our goal is to create a staged funding campaign that lets you see the vision in as little time as possible. Here’s how the campaign works:
– You can pledge $1 or $100,000 — support the project as much or as little as you would like. Whatever you choose to pledge, you will receive a DRM free copy of the game when it ships.
– Our campaign will be open-ended, meaning there’s no deadline for funding. We will build each stage of the project as soon as we hit our target milestones, plain and simple.
– Our campaign has four funding milestones; $25K, $90K, $250K, $400K. At $25K we will begin building a playable prototype, which will be freely released to all backers. $90K will allow us to build a vertical slice. When we reach $250K we will begin building the game demo and at $400K we will build the full game.
– Because the current project rewards are so costly (taking up nearly $200K of the total amount we were trying to raise), we have decided to remove all rewards. All pledges will be used to directly fund the game. We will be opening an online store in the next few weeks so you can buy Precinct related merchandise — including a Collector’s Edition Boxed Set that so many people have asked for.
I also want to announce we will have a dedicated Community Manager moving forward. Rudy Marchant is a hardcore fan, collector and curator of everything related to Sierra On-Line. He will be the voice of the community, connecting the fans and game developers. He will also attend design and production meetings, bringing the thoughts of the community with him. We are extremely excited to have him on the team.
We still love Kickstarter! It’s been a great platform and we will personally use it to support projects in the future. Our Kickstarter campaign has been truly amazing — we wouldn’t be where we are today without the help of our backers. We hope you’ll continue to support Precinct and give us the opportunity to show you what our vision for the project has always been.
So we hope everyone enjoyed playing the SpaceVenture demo! We really appreciate all the feedback you guys gave us over at the SpaceQuest.net forums! If you somehow managed to miss the release of the demo all together, CLICK HERE to see the update on that.
SO WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS?
Mark Crowe, Scott Murphy and myself(Chris Pope) all had a great time showing off the demo to people at SDCC 2013. Lots of Space Quest fans came by our table that were crazy excited to meet up and get their hands on the demo right there at the convention center. We even found Roger Wilco.. ASLEEP, AGAIN!!!
Lori and Corey Cole(creators of the Quest for Glory series) even dropped by and had very nice things to say about what they saw with the demo.
Pictured from left to right: Mark Crowe, Corey Cole, Lori Cole, Scott Murphy, Chris Pope
As a side note, if you haven’t been keeping up with their Kickstarter progress, check it out here! We had a nice lunch and reinforced Sierra friendships and plans to continue to stick together throughout the development of our games! 🙂
SO NOW THAT THE DEMO IS OUT, WHAT’S THE PLAN?
We will continue to make some updates to the demo, there is still a lot we’d like to do to it(more narrative, VO, and bug fixes), but I’ll be honest here, most everyone on the team is focused on the game as a whole. There will still be bug fixes and polish coming out on the demo but we hope everyone is supportive of the fact that you guys kickstarted a full game, and that’s what we are going to give you, but in order to do that, priority has to go to getting towards that finish line.
When we update the demo, we’ll let everyone know.
PLEASE NOTE: Future playable content will be considered BETA testing and will only be available to $30 and up backers(as promised in our reward tiers)
One of the big things the team is focused on right now is getting the narrative editor for the rest of the game functioning to a higher standard. We weren’t happy with the amount of work it took in order to actually get text on the screen which is one of the reasons the demo didn’t have all of the narrative it should have had. Things are looking good on that front!
Mark has been hard at work on some scene related artwork. I’ll post some in the future for you to check out. As always, he manages to squeeze little pop culture references in all over the place. Anyone interested in a soylent smoothy? mmmmm tasty!! (hint hint)
TWO MONTH CONTRACT POSITION FOR A UNITY GAME DEVELOPER
We are looking to bring another developer on for a couple of months to help accelerate the development of SpaceVenture. Are you a “Two Guys” fan with a lot of experience programming with Unity? Know someone who meets that criteria(as vague as it is lol) If so, email me: chris @ guysfromandromeda . com
Be sure to include a resume!
PLEASE SUPPORT JIM WALL’S(MAKER OF POLICE QUEST) KICKSTARTER!
Great news! We are finally ready to ship out your physical rewards!
But you won’t receive yours …unless we have your correct mailing address.
We emailed everyone who was supposed to receive a physical reward last week and asked you to verify your address. If you didn’t received that email, you have one more chance. Check your spam folder or verify your shipping information right here: https://www.replaygamesinc.com/kickstarter.
Our shipper requires all addresses by Wednesday, July 31st. If yours is wrong, you won’t get your “goodies.” And, if your package is undeliverable, you’ll have to pay any additional shipping charges.
Kickstarter and other crowd-funding sites such as IndieGoGo have created amazing opportunities for creative developers in many media, especially games. They are also very different from previous ways of financing projects, and that sometimes causes confusion. I regularly see articles questioning whether “Kickstarter is dead”, and whether backers are wasting their money when they support a crowd-funding project. So far, they have been wrong every time, and fans continue to fund projects they consider worthy.
Kickstarter is not a place where you preorder games (or other products) – It is a chance for you to support projects you want to see developed. Because project creators are required to list estimated delivery dates for backer rewards, it is easy for backers to make the assumption that they are promising delivery of certain things on those dates. Let’s see how this works in the traditional game industry.
Not Exactly Rules – More Like Guidelines
Game development is an exercise in barely-controlled chaos. Major game companies – as well as small indie developers – start and cancel game projects constantly. Everyone is at risk – The company, its investors, the project creators, and other employees and contractors. The gamers have an emotional risk as well, but usually no financial risk.
One effect of this risk is that most game companies rely on “safe bets” – sequels to existing franchises and games licensed from other media. Another is that they are very willing to cancel a game at any point of development. I’ve read that as many as 8 out of 10 games are cancelled by their publishers during development. At least 98 of 100 game proposals never even make it that far.
As for budgets and shipping dates, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”. And “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” The enemies of game development include the creative nature of the process, the uncertainty of developing new processes and supporting constantly-changing technology, the demands of corporate executives and investors, and the uncertainty of the marketplace.
In practice, this means that publishers cancel most of their games before shipment, and almost every game comes in late and over budget. Much worse is that game publishers often force developers to release unfinished games in order to make arbitrary deadlines; that happened to two of our games. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather get a great game six months or a year after the scheduled date than a broken one delivered on time.
Kickstarter is Better… But Not Perfect
How do Kickstarter-funded game projects do compared to ones financed by publishers? Actually, very well. I’ve read that 90% of Kickstarter projects eventually ship, but that almost all of them miss their deadline estimate. That’s a heck of a lot better than the 20% of publisher-financed games that eventually make it out. My numbers may be off, but the conclusion is definitely correct – A game funded on Kickstarter is much more likely to ship than a traditionally-produced game.
As to the missed deadlines, those are almost inevitable. If a project barely reaches its goal (such as Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption), the creators need to scramble for resources and use part-time developers to get the project done. If it makes a lot more (e.g. Double Fine Adventure), the developer is expected to make a much more complex game with stretch goal features. It takes a lot more time to make a big game than a small one.
So when people complain about Kickstarter projects “running late”, they are apparently looking for miracles. It’s possible for a game to ship on time, under budget, and relatively bug-free – I’ve managed it on several of my projects – but it’s never the way to bet. Big publisher with a big budget, indie developer with a tiny budget – The process is difficult and uncertain for all of us.
The Return of Sierra Adventures
Many of the former Sierra On-Line adventure game designers have used the Kickstarter opportunity to bring back our dreams of making great story-driven games. Let’s see where they are today:
Jim Walls (creator of “Police Quest”) is currently running a Kickstarter for his new “Precinct” game at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/precinctgame/precinct. Like Police Quest, Precinct is a police procedural game with a mixture of traditional adventure game play and action sequences. You play as a police officer in a corrupt town, and must do your job while trying to clean up your department. If you liked Police Quest, Law & Order, or CSI, you should think about supporting Jim’s game. The funding is moving along slowly, but still has time to succeed.
Make Leisure Suit Larry Come Again, by Al Lowe (creator of the original “Leisure Suit Larry”), Josh Mandel, and Replay Games. This project promised to recreate Leisure Suit Larry 1 with modern standards for audio and graphics and additional text and puzzles. The game shipped this month and lives up to Josh and Al’s promises.
Moebius, by Jane Jensen (“Gabriel Knight” creator) and her new company, Pinkerton Road Studio. Jane offered a “year of adventure”, starting with the Moebius game. Pinkerton Road recently released an Alpha build, and it is getting strongly positive reviews.
SpaceVenture, by Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy (“Space Quest” creators). Lori and I saw a demo at Comic-Con in San Diego, and it looks great! Like us, Mark and Scott are re-examining many of the basic assumptions about how to make a good adventure game, and I think they are going to make a great game.
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, by Lori Ann Cole and Corey Cole (“Quest for Glory” creators). We are working on a playable demo consisting of a short cinematic and a single playable room. This is a true “vertical slice” that plays exactly like the full game, so it is a big step towards developing the rest of the game. Lori and I are excited by what we can do with relatively-unlimited memory – beautiful graphics, great music, and a context-sensitive story and user interface that we like a lot better than the ones we used at Sierra
News and Events
Lori and I travelled to San Diego Comic-Con a couple of weeks ago, and the E3 Expo the previous month. We had a great meeting in San Diego with the SpaceVenture team – Mark Crowe, Scott Murphy, and Chris Pope – and talked about how we can promote each other’s games. We also discussed the issues both teams have faced using Unity to mix 2D and 3D art. Their game demo looks terrific and shows that they have learned some new game design tricks since the 90’s.
What struck us at E3 was how little the gaming industry has progressed since we were last there 8 or 10 years ago. The budgets keep climbing, but we aren’t seeing many real advances in game play, or even in the quality of the graphics. The “uncanny valley” theory suggests that when a game reaches a certain level of detail, we expect it to feel “real”. At that point, more realistic graphics actually take away from the player’s feeling of immersion. I think that most high-budget games are now at that uncomfortable level where they are too realistic to not be completely real.
The most impressive new games I saw were Thief and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. The lead writer and a senior game designer for Thief gave a good talk at Comic-Con about what they are trying to accomplish with the story and game play. They are smart people, and the game sounds as though it will have some depth.
Our final trip of the Summer is this week. Lori and I are travelling to San Francisco to speak at the International Game Developer’s Association (IGDA) Summit, and to have some meetings with potential partners. Our topic is “Game Design as a Subversive Activity”, and will be at 4:00 on Wednesday, July 31. It’s open to attendees of the IGDA Summit and the parallel Casual Connect conference. I’ll plan on posting part of the talk (or at least a link) in the next Update.
What’s so “subversive” about letting our players be heroes? We believe that the things you do and learn in games can carry over to your non-gaming life. Although we avoid “preaching” in our games, each one has an underlying message about making the world a better place. And that’s why making our own games is so important to us, especially when we read messages about how our games have encouraged fans to help people in need and to make themselves better.
Kickstarter is subversive too. By supporting projects here, we are each saying, “I am choosing for myself which dreams I believe in, and which games I want to see made.” We are not delegating these decisions to a committee of “experts”. Our voices and our choices matter here.