Emergent Games' board game Kickstarter, Fireteam Zero, is down to its final hours with over $170,000, well past its $50,000 goal. I sat down with Mike Langlois, co-founder of Emergent Games, and author of the Emergent Earth books Bad Radio and Liar's Harvest on which the game is based.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us about your Kickstarter.
Mike Langlois (ML): Fireteam Zero is a cooperative game for up to four players who must cut a path through an endless swarm of deadly monsters in order to discover and defeat the ultimate evil behind them. Each player possesses a set of brutal combat skills that are represented by a deck of cards unique to that character. Play cards to devastate the creatures in your way, help your teammates survive the onslaught, or even reshape the tactical landscape with the proper application of explosive ordnance. Each player will become a member of Fireteam Zero and commit acts of badassery against different families of monsters while trying to capture or destroy the arcane artifacts that are creating them. The Kickstarter features a core set, two expansions, and tons of unique monsters, mission packs, and more.
MT: Tell us about your gaming background.
ML: We might be a bit obsessive about board gaming :) We all have regular gaming groups and the majority of our friends are also board gamers. I think Christian is one up on Gary and I, though, since he has several award-winning games under his belt before FTZ and even attends conventions out of the country every year. It was our search for great gaming experiences that got us thinking seriously about joining forces and making our own games.
MT: Tell us about your company.
ML: Emergent Games is myself, Gary Simpson, and Christian Leonhard. We all have a hand in every facet of FTZ, but Gary has primary responsibility for art direction, Christian is the lead designer, and I have the theme/story elements and whatever wordsmithing needs to be done. Honestly, I feel very lucky to be working with such talented guys. I know everyone says that, but I don't know anyone else who could have done such a smart job making a game this big.
MT: Have you Kickstarted any other products in the past?
ML: This is our first, but it certainly won't be our last!
MT: How has Kickstarter changed or influenced your business model?
ML: Before Kickstarter, we would have had only the option to try and get picked up by a publisher. While that model works great, you do give up some control over your project and your potential rewards for years of hard work might not be what you hoped for. One of the most important things about using Kickstarter to create a game is that you can work directly with gamers before production.
For example, the community overwhelmingly voted for a set of female hero variants. Without Kickstarter, we wouldn't have heard that request until the game had already been manufactured, at which time it would have been too late. Now, we not only have a full team of female heroes, but we included one for free in the core set as a thank you for the suggestion.
MT: Why should backers contribute to your Kickstarter? What sets it apart?
ML: A couple of things. First of all, we didn't set out to make a miniatures game because they are popular. We started work on FTZ because we had a system that we were incredibly excited by, and that we thought could help advance the state of the art for tactical theme games. We felt there was a gap between games that had great theme, but simplistic gameplay, and games that were simply too complex to keep that fast-paced sense of excitement that we were looking for. In short, FTZ was born out of a desire for amazing gameplay, not as a framework used to sell miniatures :)
That said, once we had the game in place, we wanted to amp up the theme as much as possible so we turned to Chris Deavellar to bring the Emergent Earth universe to life in the miniatures. Chris is an amazing guy and the amount of creativity and thought he puts into each figure is insane. With the miniatures, the strong thematic elements and prose, and the next-gen gameplay, we couldn't be more proud of how FTZ turned out.
MT: Other Kickstarters have steadfastly refused to offer a miniatures only support level even though many backers asked for it -- and it seems that miniatures (not the game itself) often drive a Kickstarter. What made you decide to provide a miniatures-only version of the game?
ML: We've tried very hard to listen to the community on this Kickstarter, especially when we get a lot of requests for the same thing. The first big wave of requests was for female hero variants, which was a great idea and one we should have thought of ourselves, and the next was to provide the minis for collectors. Honestly, we were already creating the minis for the game, so there was no real reason to withhold them from our backers. We're not so much launching a game as a game company, and if we can fill a need for gamers while still being profitable and financially responsible, then we'll do our best to make it happen.
MT: What's next for your company?
ML: Fireteam Zero is only the start for us. Not only will FTZ continue to grow with new expansions and tie-in products, like a possible pen & paper RPG and community created content using our open source modding kit, but we also have more games in the development pipeline that we are equally excited about. We intend to build the trust of the gaming community by keeping the focus on the gameplay experience first, then creating mind-blowing components to go along with it. Board gaming as come a long way since we first started playing and we want to be part of pushing the limits of what people can expect from the hobby.
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
ML: Come see us at emergent-games.com once the Kickstarter is over. Right now the site is a bit new and sparse, but as we wrap up the Kickstarter, we'll start 'moving in' and create our full-blown home on the internet with resources, forums, and even an online store.
MT: Anything else you'd like to share?
ML: Just that we are humbled by the amazing outpouring of support from the community around our first kickstarter. The number of thoughtful, sincere comments and just general camaraderie and good humor was and is astounding to us. It's been a fantastic experience.
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