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Skulls of the Shogun looks to simplify strategy

After working at big developers like Electronic Arts for years, the team that would come to comprise 17 Bit decided to set out and make their own games. Three years in the making, their first title, Skulls of the Shogun, is nearly ready for release.

Inspired by titles like Advance Wars and a love for 1960s anime, Skulls of the Shogun is all about simplifying the turn-based strategy genre by getting rid of everything that is not necessary. “How far can we go without losing the strategy?” asks Ben Vance from 17 Bit.

Skulls of the Shogun

One example Vance gave was earlier in the development process, players had the option to defend units or themselves to take less damage. The team saw that this made games longer and the project really did not suffer when the feature was taken out. While you may be worried the team oversimplified the game, Vance assured Skulls of the Shogun is one of those titles that is simple to play but difficult to master.

And this is not just an indie game that may or may not be noticed on Steam, Skulls of the Shogun has found a lot of support from Microsoft. When the game releases, it will not just launch on Xbox 360, but also in the Windows 8 App Store, on Windows Phone and on Microsoft’s new Surface tablet with asynchronous multiplayer between all the platforms.

“It’s fantastic,” said Vance on nearing the development finish line. “We all come from big developers and this our first smaller scale project that has our own blood, sweat and tears in it.”

Look for Skulls of the Shogun by the end of the year.


Kickstarter a gold mine for the right project

It all started in February. Beloved indie developer Double Fine had announced they were making a classic adventure game and were funding through crowd sourcing with a Kickstarter campaign. After asking for $400,000, the project would go on to raise over $3.3 million with over 80,000 backers.

With Double Fine’s successful campaign kicking it off, game developers have raised $50 million this year alone through Kickstarter, up from only just over $3.5 million in 2011, and the industry is taking notice.

Creator of the Twisted Metal and God of War series David Jaffe told me he really likes the platform and would consider using it to fund smaller titles if the project was right, and he’s not the only one.

Obsidian Entertainment, developers of titles like Fallout: New Vegas and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, launched a BlackspaceKickstarter last month for Project Eternity and have raised over $2.5 million as of this writing.

One indie developer trying out the platform is PixelFoundry with Blackspace, an action real-time-strategy game with a destructible open-world.

Despite the success others have found on Kickstarter, PixelFoundry is not sure if it is right for their game as the project has only raised $100,000 of the needed $350,000 with just a week to go, though the team remains optimistic.”It’s not something that we will just let go of, it just may take a little longer to get there, and we hope our fans will support it even if it doesn’t hit its release date,” said Andrea Phaneuf from the developer.

While some question the intelligence of pre-ordering a game before it has even been made, as well as criticized the platform for promoting nostalgia-laced products rather than fostering innovation, Kickstarter gives developers more control of their products and does not look like it is going anywhere soon.