Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Refreshing Experience

During the last few weeks Andrei has shared some of what had transpired before Progress:The Evolution of Technology reached the first of its backers. Designing and developing the game was an experience NSKN Games is no stranger to. Crowdfunding it was a wholly different matter, both to spectate and be a part of.

The first time I played Progress was at a relatively late stage of its development. Some artwork had already been done, the card layouts looked a lot like what you get in the final game box. The working title was still different – it suggested a game about evolving species, which is why I had not been too keen to play it in the beginning. My interest was piqued however, when it was revealed to me, that I would be playing a civilization game.  

Every gamer seems to enjoy civilization games – myself included. The number one of my all time top ten games has been occupied by Through The Ages for several years now, and a civ-building theme is definitely enough to turn my head. However, for me to fall in love with a civilization game, it needs to... sing to me. Yes, well, I know it sounds tinfoil-hat crazy, but bear with me for just a moment longer.

Some civilization games capture me the moment I play them for the first time, with the theme, the scope and, most importantly, the potential to tell stories that spam through ages or even millennia. Sometimes the process is by far not instantaneous, it takes some time (I needed to expand Sid Meier’sCivilization to start really enjoying the game) and a big chunk of my spending money. Sometimes, the game just does not gel with me (I cannot believe everyone’s love for Clash of Cultures), and there is no way I can enjoy it despite the favoured theme. And sometimes, like with Through The Ages, everything clicks within a few turns. I look at the game and I hear its song – and the song is beautiful.

Progress was one of these games.

From the moment I looked at my first hand, from the time I played my first technology (Musical Instruments – the singing voice needed some company), understanding how I will be able to build upon it to move into an exciting future. As the game unfolded, it sang me a song of a technological civilization of poets and engineers, who finally came to rule the world (I won). My mind’s eye saw a magnificent gaming construct, a tree I was immediately ready to hang from for nine days just to see where the roots and branches fork, where they go, and where the beating heart of Progress was.

My first Progress game... in progress ;-)
Simply put, I fell in love with Progress and I got even more excited, when I heard of the plan to kickstart the game. In my heart I knew that with its solid gameplay, the gorgeous art and a most popular theme, Progress would be a great success on Kickstarter. My optimistic approach prevailed in the end, but Agnieszka and Andrei had been much more cautious about their plans before the campaign started – and during its first few hours.

It may be hard to believe, but repeatedly pressing F5 might become an activity that will keep you at your computer for hours – especially when you are following a Kickstarter campaign like the one Progress had. When it goes well – and it was going well for Progress – it validates the hard work put into the game and into its presentation. It clearly indicates that what you find interesting, what lures you into gaming, what makes you want to play a given game is shared by enough people to fund your idea. And the taste of this is sweet enough that, while not being a Kickstarter project creator, I could feel some of what is felt by those, who are directly involved. And by becoming invested I suddenly caught myself just sitting there, looking at my screen and pressing F5 from time to time to see a planted seed grow, much like a civilization during a game of Progress, before my very eyes.

A prototype wall on a prototype card.
But a Kickstarter campaign, even as successful as this one, is not something you just leave on its own, thinking of the benefits you will reap when it is over – and woe betides any project creator who thinks this to be true. It is an ongoing task, a job that needs to be performed almost 24/7, an effort common to both the creators and those backers who not only come on board, but also take it upon themselves to get more involved, actively helping to grow a sprawling sapling into an impressive tree. And as you press the F5 once again, you are not only watching the growth, but also the labours of those who tend to it on a daily basis.

Progress: The Evolution of Technology was a great crowdfunding success and from a personal perspective I am happy I could see the whole process – and even help a tiny bit to build the game’s initial success. Now, as the game reaches its backers, another chapter begins, and one we hope will be as fascinating as the previous one.

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