Binging Indie

Binging Indie
Guns of Icarus Found Its Success In a Strong Community

Joshua Vanderwall | 10 Oct 2015 14:00
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In late December of 2011, fresh out of a bad relationship with a publisher, Muse Games started a small Kickstarter campaign with ambitious goals. Its idea was to expand on a previous game, Flight of the Icarus, a solo adventure at the helm of an airship known as the Icarus. Muse saw potential with the Steampunk aesthetic and airship combat and wanted to do more with it. Muse wanted to turn this into a socially oriented, airship based shooter where players could engage in aerial combat with each other. Starting out Guns of Icarus Online had no community to speak of. Most of Its backers discovered the game's Kickstarter by way of browsing the games section or by featured articles. However, even this small amount of exposure was enough. The original goal was a mere $10,000, but, as a community began to spring up around Muse's vision for the game, backers pledged a good deal more than that. When all was said and done the campaign had more than 1,100 backers, contributing $35,000 to see it come to life.

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Guns of Icarus Online puts players in the role of a 4-person airship crew, fighting alongside other airships against player opponents. You can take the helm and navigate the skies as captain, keep the ship in working order as an engineer, or take the offensive as a gunner. Communicating with your team is of utmost importance, since the captain will need to call out which guns to man for their plans to work, and which parts of the ship need repairs. The ships move ponderously in stark contrast to the fast-paced combat, where the crew must dash between guns to take shots at the enemy, and racing around putting out fires. It will quickly devolve into chaos with inexperienced players, but experienced crews can work harmoniously together for maximum combat effectiveness.

In the early days of the game, the only way to have access was through the Kickstarter rewards. Anybody who pledged $10 or more got a digital copy of the game upon release as well as an invitation to the closed beta. As far as Kickstarter pledges go, even with indie games, ten dollars isn't very much. The fact that Muse rewarded even this modest pledge with the full game when finished is noteworthy. Serving as the core of the playtesting team, dedicated backers dealt with poor connectivity, lag issues, servers that often went down, and a slew of other technical problems. This growing community and the game developers at Muse worked hard, collaborating to turn this vision into a reality. To Muse this collaboration was even more valuable than money, and when asked the developers said "More than the funding, the help in terms of community, testing, and feedback that we received through Kickstarter was what benefited us the most". Then, after nearly a year of update-testing back and forths, Guns of Icarus Online went live. The circumstances at launch, however, made for a harrowing experience for Muse, and a troubling first look for backers. Everything that could go wrong - some problems so outlandish they weren't even considerations - absolutely did go wrong.

Guns of Icarus Online launched on October 29th, 2012. This, as you may remember, is the day that hurricane Sandy made landfall not too far from Muse's headquarters. Immediately following the release of their game, the developers found themselves without power, internet, or even physical access to the machines they needed to maintain the game. Muse was in panic mode, recognizing the damage this kind of launch troubles would cause for the game's prospects. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Muse relayed these measures to us, saying, "We also broke into our own building to snatch the build machine so we could start making builds. Yes, literally broke in past a police cordon". Personal dedication is a laudable quality, but risking both criminal penaty and bodily harm is well above and beyond what can be reasonably expected.

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