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Kickstarter Scouting: Phoenix Dawn
by Benjamin Gifford on 09/02/14 12:01:00 pm   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutras community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

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Phoenix Dawn is an RPG adventure game is set in a geometrical 3d low-poly world reminiscent of Dune, Fallout and Final Fantasy, created by the indie studio Apixal.

You take control of a young female mage named Phoenix who is on a journey to stop the evil that is destroying her world, and from there each player experience will be different due to the player being able to learn new spells and combine the 15 base spells into unlocking over 100 different spells through an alchemy setup. This then opens up a huge skill tree that isn’t dependent on churning through a required set, instead the player is open to explore the world and react to it in a way that suits their own playing style. It’s truly about choice, and your choices impact the game experience. This is a fantastic concept that I would like to see more of in mobile gaming. The play style is like Diablo with what appears to be an isometric view on Phoenix as she explores her world. I haven’t seen the user interface on how you actually fight and move though.

 

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The low 3d poly design of Phoenix Dawn draws inspiration from classics like Final Fantasy VII, in which the art is there to support the story, and which the story and player experience within that story is the main focus of this game. I like that I don’t have to be wowed by the latest 3d graphics that push the edge of the envelope and then you’re left with a rather hallow experience as the story can’t match the quality of the graphics. That Apixal is targeting the story first is a big challenge, especially on the iOS mobile platform where the playing fields are small and most seem to ignore text. Perhaps with Phoenix Dawn there will be an encouraging change whereby players remember to take time and get lost in the fantasy storytelling that Trowbridge is writing. I want to experience another moment in gaming where I feel a connection to the protagonist or supporting players similar to when Aerith was lost in Final Fantasy VII and I feel that Phoenix Dawn hints that this can be possible. This part I’m most excited about the game, and that it does it on the mobile platform presents a significant challenge.

Replayability in mobile games is a serious challenge, however the game proposes to have a unique experience each and every time you play. This isn’t new, harkening a Roguelike experience with the setting and content generation in the randomized content of dungeons, monsters and item placement. This always is interesting and gives great value to the purchasing player’s dollar.

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Trowbridge is working on this himself. This part is both a great thing and something to keep an eye on. As he doesn’t have any direct iOS game development background or experience in publishing/marketing, I feel that the indie scene is a place where we can generally support one another and especially when someone is trying to create a piece of art whereby it challenges current practice and helps the industry evolve. As a rather new entrant to the indie scene, Apixal is a two man studio focused on story, art and experience. Trowbridge is the lead developer for Phoenix Dawn; his background in art, computer graphics and film gives significant leverage in terms of telling a compelling story through the visual side of Phoenix Dawn. While I’d like to see more in terms of experience, his proof of concept clips of Phoenix Dawn show me that this is a talented individual who has the abilities and drive to work on such a title.  He’s a developer that is putting himself out there, making himself available to backers and being quite responsive to questions and feedback.

Is $33,000 the budget for an iOS game? In my own experience, no, however that’s the magic of Kickstarter and doing it solo. The main point I’d like Apixal to not lose focus on is ensuring the soundtrack is of the highest quality that supports the storytelling in the same way the graphics does. Going the cheap route on this won’t do the game justice, nor do I think Trowbridge’s vision for leaving a lasting impression. There is the expectation that the game will be ready in six months, which follows three months of development that has already been put into the game. I’d expect to see the game pushed by a further two to three months and not think anything negative about it. He’s upfront that the majority of the costs are for him personally, however that shouldn’t alarm anyone as that simply is paying the cost of a developer and remember that he is doing this all by himself with artwork, design, UIX, etc. It’s actually not high. The rest goes into specific development costs like licensing fees and I’m happy to see an indie budgeting for legal advice.

There is a plethora of backer rewards, ranging from the digital to the physical in goodies. The main draw is the $35 pledge level, in which you obtain all beta access as well as the game. I think the physical costs of the rewards might dip into the budget and leave not much left for Apixal, that’s always an issue when there’s a focus on giving backers physical rewards as the costs for creating/shipping is quite high versus the amount retained by the developer. There is an early bird special that still as of this writing is $30 for the $35 level. 

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The project currently is at 30%, with $10,000 reached for it's $33,000 goal. With five days of funding already in the past, the trend looks as though it will fall short of reaching successful funding unless there is pickup.

Do you believe in magic? That really is the question that Trowbridge and Apixal are asking you. Can a newcomer indie developer with aspirations of leaving a telling mark on society create a piece of art that has a compelling story and engaging player experience? I can’t answer that for you, but as for myself I believe in the magic that Apixel want to create.

Back the game here.


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