Questions by Andrew Skelton (Outfoxed)
This month, a new Kickstarter has caught our attention: Failure. Despite what seems to be an odd (and hopefully not prophetic) name for a game, Failure is a promising conceptual mix of RTS, Tower Defense, and CCG. Throw into the mix hacking, faction warfare, and a complex world that supports both a narrative campaign and competitive arena multiplayer, and you’ve got a melting pot that promises something awesome. We talked with Dream Harvest, the development team behind the game, to find out more.
Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the game.
Failure was original conceived during an internal game jam – we were in a bit of a pickle due to losing our lead artist to a big studio in Germany and with our previous project being so heavily influenced by the art we needed to come up with an idea that would at least allow us to lay the foundations without the need for an artist. The idea for Failure was Milcho’s, our gameplay programmer. He’s a big fan of RTS games such as StarCraft but he also took ideas from games such as Populous, Black & White and From Dust, the idea of being a God that can’t do anything directly to units and instead can only influence their behaviours through your actions.
When we saw his original prototype we instantly thought he was onto something. Here’s a video of what he built during the game jam – The basic gameplay was much simpler than it is now; you could simply just add blocks on a square board to change the pathing of the AI:
When production began we decided to set Failure within the same world as the previous game we were working on, as a prequel to the events that we had planned for the other game. We’ve all been big fans of Cyberpunk and the hacker and cyberspace / Metaverse setting seemed to fit well with the gameplay we are creating.
Not controlling your units sounds like a big risk for an RTS title. What made you decide on this strategy?
We wanted to do something that was different to other RTS games. The genre has become a bit stale as of late, at least in our opinion, with most RTS games having very similar mechanics or adding only small adjustments to the way you play them, not to say that the current batch of RTS games that have come out are bad, just a bit boring.
We wanted to turn this on its head and give players something that felt truly fresh and challenged them in a new way. That’s the great thing about the Indie dev scene, we can push boundaries a bit more and take risks. With Failure I think it’s paid off, at least in terms of “fun factor”, we’ll just have to wait and see if our player base thinks so too. I think they will, they just need to experience it.
Has having Antony Johnston writing the narrative of the game helped shape the world in ways you didn’t initially imagine?
The game was conceived over a year ago, and the world and overall narrative was part of that. But one of the purposes of doing a Kickstarter is so we can bring extra talent like Antony on board, to flesh out the bare bones that we’ve been building on so far.
He’s only just begun to work with us, so at the moment we’re going through a sort of reshaping process, designing the Factions, refining the backstory, doing more world building, and so on.
One of the first things that Antony did when he came on board was to scrap all the names for the Factions, Sectors of the MetaNet. . . even the MetaNet had a different name. We wanted to make sure that Antony put his creativity into the game, so we’ve given him full creative control in terms of characters, narrative and naming.
Some of Antony’s ideas are already taking the narrative to new and further out places than we originally imagined, and we’re really excited to keep pushing the world of Failure.
Can you give us any hint at some of the abilities we’ll see in play?
I don’t want to be too specific yet as the abilities we have at the moment are evolving as we improve all the systems. However, one of the things we want to make sure of when we add abilities (Scripts) to the game, in the form of the Constructs (buildings that can spawn units) and Functions (Hacking abilities), is that there is a good blend of offensive, defensive and tactical abilities for the player to choose from when building their Deck.
Traditionally a rock / paper / scissors approach is used when balancing an RTS games, but due to the variety of Scripts the player can choose we’ve had to take a more lateral approach to how Scripts and specifically functions work in the game and how we balance them.
We’re also toying with the idea of incorporating abilities that the player can trigger that are separate to their deck abilities and, instead of affecting the game board, will affect the player directly in pretty cool ways. We’ll announce more once we get a bit further down the line.
How will the global battlefield work, precisely?
This is something we want to keep under wraps until we’ve sorted out the finer details, but in its basic form, players will be working for one of three Factions, all of whom want to control the MetaNet for their own reasons. Once the player reaches a certain point in the game they will be tasked with taking control of the individual sectors by completing special missions, some of which will be single player and others against human players. These missions will be narrative driven and give the players a deeper understanding of their chosen faction.
Once a Faction gains control of a Sector they begin to earn bonuses; both in game (though balance is key here) and when interacting within the Script building system known as the Compiler. They will also gain access to items that only the controlling Faction can purchase (with in game credits earned through battle).
Teams of opposing Factions will then be given incentives to compete in these Sectors in order to try to win them back. This is the evolving part of the game and we want to make sure it keeps players coming back week after week with new challenges, rewards and secrets to discover.
Are upgrades simply linear progression, or will it also add a measure of customization as well?
We’re going down the customization route, at least with how you build and customize your deck of scripts; there will be a high number of mods to discover in the game, each enhancing your Scripts in different ways. You then also have the Fusion System that allows you to combine certain scripts together to create new script types, something we’ve spent a while trying to make sure we get right.
While playing a match you’ll be able to upgrade both your units and buildings, but you’ll be able to choose which upgrades to apply. We’d love to do visual customization as well, allow the players to change the looks of their units and buildings with decals and other elements, but this really depends on the success of the Kickstarter. . . this type of customization is actually one of our stretch goals which we are yet to reveal. There would be quite a bit of additional work needed from the art team, which would require additional funds.
How many different types of units are you aiming for?
Around 10 different unit types will be available on release, however we plan to add more in the future along with additional Function and Construct Scripts for the player to discover and build.
We want to incentivize the player to try new combinations and constantly evolve their decks. I’m pretty sure that we’ll see people that claim they’ve found the perfect deck soon after release, but due to the variety of combinations, what might be an ultimate deck for one person and their playstyle won’t work for another player and theirs. We’re amazingly excited to find out what players will do with the game and we can’t wait to jump into some matches with them.
What would you like to tell people who are on the fence about backing Failure’s Kickstarter?
I know that pledging on a Kickstarter campaign is always a risk. The team here at Dream Harvest have all been backers of other projects and we’ve all been burnt by one project or another. The game might be called Failure, but rest assured that that won’t be the outcome of this project.
As a core team we’ve been working on the game, completely self-funded for the past year and before that we worked together for 2 years on other prototypes without pay. We’re committed to see this project through to the end, even if it means the core team won’t earn a salary during the process – Our artists and writer on the other hand need to be paid and this is why we’ve launched the Kickstarter. The £30K we’re trying to raise is for them not us.
For more information on the game, and to back it on Kickstarter, check out the link and video below!