Castle Story's success: more than $600K on Kickstarter and counting
Sauropod Studio — a three-person team run by François Alain, Benoit Alain, and Germain Couët — has entered the closing hours of its crowdfunding campaign for Castle Story, but all is well in the kingdom of the Bricktrons. The developers have raised more than $600,000 on Kickstarter, greatly exceeding their start goal of $80,000.
The team kindly took the time out of their hectic schedules (Kickstarter time isn't like normal Earth time) to chat with us about the project, the inner workings of Kickstarter, and what's next.
GameZone: Congrats on being way overfunded! You reached your goal in under five hours, which is amazing. Why do you think people have responded so well to Castle Story?
Sauropod Studio: Thank you! When we started working on Castle Story, we couldn’t wrap our heads around the reason why this game didn’t already exist. An enormous amount of people grew up playing with Legos, and although we learned about Minecraft soon after, we had never seen a game take the block-building mechanics and put them in a video game universe. The way I remember playing Legos during my childhood seems to translate directly into real-time strategy mechanics, and I suspect a lot of people feel this way, as well. I think if game developers make games that they would want to play themselves, there’s a good chance that the game will be popular in some way.
GZ: The first thing that came to mind when I looked at your Kickstarter page was how well it’s organized. I love that you have little mini updates, right there on the front page … and overall the information is just spaced out very well. Not every Kickstarter page looks that good. Did you put a lot of thought into the format and how you wanted to present the Kickstarter?
SS: Yes, we did! We spent the three months prior to the start of the Kickstarter filling up legal paperwork. Since we’re Canadian and Kickstarter is only available for US citizens, there was a long delay until we were eligible. We used that time to film a really good trailer and build the best Kickstarter page layout we could.
I think the layout that Kickstarter [provides] isn’t so great. It’s very limited and often buggy when editing. So we looked at a lot of successful Kickstarter pages and picked out what looked good: updates on top, quotes before the game description, banners to split sections, and bullet points for features.
GZ: You have a quote from Notch on the front page. I’m wondering if that’s a fun little joke. Castle Story looks inspired by Minecraft, but it also looks like it has some of the kid-friendly charm of the Lego games.... How would you describe your vision for Castle Story? How did you come up with the idea?
SS: We owe Notch a favor since back in January, he tweeted a very good comment about us on Twitter, which gave us a lot of visibility. The quote itself is from a Reddit Q&A, where someone mentioned Castle Story.
The initial inspiration behind Castle Story wasn’t from Minecraft. We wanted to do a Lego simulator with capture-the-flag mechanics inspired by a very innovative Half-Life 2 mod called Sourceforts. But once we started doing some research to see if the project was doable, we quickly stumbled upon Minecraft, which was at the point in early alpha version. We thought that the voxel paradigm would be the best way to approximate Lego bricks. We only needed to weld two voxels together, and we got a 1x2 brick, which was the most accurate way of portraying a Lego brick with all its functionality. A few months later during development, Minecraft got a huge boost of popularity, and it gave us the courage to change our scope to something more ambitious [and] motivated us to go in a slightly different direction.
GZ: In the video, Germain mentions the magic that holds up the islands and affects the game’s mechanics, and how the characters have evolved from rocks. Benoit even said there was a “mystery” to the world. Is that something that will be explored in the game, or do you have that all stored away in your head?
SS: It will definitely be explored one way or another. Our design philosophy in Castle Story is based on always explaining our game mechanics with in-game elements, contrary to traditional role-playing games, in which you assume that characters are not aware of their stats, for example. Nothing will be abstracted, and since some elements include magic, we will explore these ideas, as well.
GZ: What’s the difference between the beta and the prototype versions of the game? Can you explain each stage of release that you have planned?
SS: The beta is the game. The only reason we call it a beta is that our Kickstarter backers will have access to it as soon as we reach beta. It will be updated with new content and fixes until we call it version 1.0, and then they will own the final game. The prototype is more like a demo. We want to avoid calling it an alpha because we don’t plan on updating it with new features, just some bug fixes. Thing is we want to test our game mechanics to a limited public in the near future, so that’s why we’re releasing a prototype.
GZ: Will any in-game content be exclusive to the Kickstarter?
SS: We just recently released a video explaining what we are going to do with the names of our backers. Basically, we are going to build a special area in our game called the “Credit Island," where you can dig up gems containing the names of the 20,000 or so backers. This is some sort of minigame where players are encouraged to search for backers (or their own names if they are backers themselves) to gain points and achievements. We think this is a much better way to motivate players to look at our credits, and we think it’s a wonderful way to give a special place for our backers in our game.