Now that we’ve gotten a primer on what crowdfunding is, and particularly Kickstarter, I’ve got a suggestion for the game designers out there who are looking for a good project to put together.
Outpost was a Sierra simulation game for PCs that came out in 1994. I loved it! I played it for hours and hours on end!
In the game scenario, Earth was about to be destroyed by an incoming asteroid. You had the limited resources to build one colony starship. Your decisions and tradeoffs were critical.
You had to start sending out probes to find a place to go. Should you send a lot of probes with less information back from each or a few probes with better data? You had to figure out what to spend your limited money and launch mass on. Should you take more colonists with a much thinner margin on life support, or a smaller group with better resources to handle disasters? Bring a comm satellite, or more food? Bring a nuclear power plant, or solar panels and more seeds?
Once you picked your destination and left the doomed Earth behind, you had to start building your colony. Now you had to juggle where you put your resources. Keep your colony small to conserve energy and materials and the crowded quarters would make the colonists ready to revolt. Build a spacious colony with recreational facilities and you would die when you ran out of energy, food, water, air, or some other vital resource.
Should you build factories or farms? If you didn’t have factories to build mining robots and diggers, you would run out of resources and you wouldn’t be able to build underground. But if you didn’t have enough farms, you would start losing colonists to starvation.
When you got to your destination and started your colony (assuming you hadn’t picked a star with no planets – oops, you’re dead!) you got an AI to help you along. Until I found an old enough computer on which to re-install the program to get these images, I had forgotten just how amazingly cool it was to hit that button and hear this sexy, sultry, female voice say, “Yes, Commander? How may I be of assistance?” She had Siri beat by almost twenty years!
If you lost enough colonists you wouldn’t have enough workers to keep the colony going. But if your colony was healthy and growing you needed to allocate resources for additional space and life support. And remember, you need your colony growing and having kids because sooner or later the original colonists are going to start dying of old age no matter how great a job you were doing as colony commander.
If you found that the farms were going well, the factories were turning out mining robots and supplies to keep your colonists happy, the mining robots were bringing in ore, and the happy colonists were having kids, then you had even more problems to solve. Did you remember to build warehouses for that food and ore? Reservoirs for the water? Oops, it gets destroyed or lost and you wasted all of the resources you used to create those goods. Did you remember to build schools for the kids? Oops, they grew up unable to run the colony you built for them.
At some point. if you had figured out those puzzles, you needed to start building labs and doing research. You left Earth with the best technology of the day, but there are problems here that Earth never faced. You needed to start getting smarter (all while maintaining the survival balancing act) and juggling the needs for research in engineering, materials science, biology, sociology, physics, medicine, and just about every other field.
Outpost was just fun to play, a bit like that other popular city-building simulation game in the ways that you had to juggle resources. But Outpost was off in the hostile far reaches of outer space with the fate of humanity riding in the balance, not just some nameless, faceless Sims.
The graphics were great (for the day) and I really loved the 3-D nature of it where you had to learn to build certain things on the surface (farm domes for example) and other things deep underground (living quarters). You had to make good choices at the beginning in order to give your colony what it needed for a chance to survive at all. I had a great time playing different games with different starting conditions and initial tradeoffs, just to see what would happen.
The ultimate goal of Outpost was to first get your colony self-sufficient and then to start spreading out. In theory you could start a second colony, to keep your eggs from all being in one basket if something happened to yours. Or if you learned enough you could start terraforming your new planet so that it wasn’t quite as hostile. Or if you got enough research done, you could build a new starship and send a group off to another planet to start a second colony.
The real world interfered with all of that however. Some of the later aspects of the game were never finished when the game was rushed to market, so it was impossible to actually “win”. A lot of items that were supposed to happen later in the game (advanced research opportunities, advanced factories, multiple colonies, terraforming, building the second starship) just never got coded.
So with my wistful longing ringing in your ears, let’s get back to why I gave everyone the capsule tour of Kickstarter and crowdfunding yesterday. (Didn’t you just know that I would get back to that sooner or later?)
I mentioned that my friends Corey and Lori Cole were game designers at Sierra way back when. They’ve now got a great new project that got funded on Kickstarter to make a new game that has the look, feel, and style of those old strategy games. I backed their project and I’m excited about it, but it got me thinking.
Why can’t someone make a new and improved version of Outpost using a Kickstarter funding project to get it off the ground?
Not only could it be as much fun and as complex as Outpost was in 1994, but it could be twenty years of progress better! Better graphics. A better user interface. More reality based simulation modeling. More variables. More interactions. Internet connections to have your colony trade with colonies created by other fans of the game. And all of the missing elements at the end of the game could be finally done and done right!
New wondrous and amazing options could be added. For example, instead of all of the destination planets being various levels of rocky and hostile (Moon-like or Mars-like) you could have water planets, ice planets, gas giants, and even marginally habitable planets with critters. Probably critters who didn’t like you moving in. Think of the possibilities!
We could save humanity from the incoming asteroid and colonize the stars!! It would be GLORIOUS!!!
Um, yeah. So, why couldn’t someone do that? I would so much totally back that project. In a heartbeat. Big time!
I’ll be waiting here for it, anxiously. (Playing a twenty year old game on a small fifteen year old laptop when I would really like to be playing it on an XBox 360 hooked up to a 80″ LED flatscreen and able to actually win!)