[Kick It] Icebound - Interview with Indie Visual Novelist Jonathan Xikis
Welcome to [Kick It], where we chat with developers and creators about their Kickstarter projects.
Today we're talking with Jonathan Xikis, of Fastermind Games, about his upcoming game called Icebound. Icebound is an anime-styled visual novel set in a futuristic steampunk ice age and will star the hilarious LittleKuriboh (of Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged fame) as a leading voice actor.
Xikis launched the 30 day campaign on August 22nd, asking for at least $7000 to fund the Kickstarter. The Kickstarter campaign for Icebound closed on September 21st after having been successfully funded by 218 backers donating a total of $7,089. Check out the Kickstarter here.
So, who are you? What is your background in gaming?
JX: "My name is Jonathan X. And I've been a gamer for almost 2 decades. I don't have any “practical” job experience in the game industry, since there are not many open positions for a writer in a tech-oriented industry. I'm just a writer and student who has invested money and time into making his own games using my extensive knowledge of games, as well as films and writing. My goal is to combine the fun I've had playing games with the interesting stories of books."
Anything else interesting about your life?
JX: "I am a recent graduate of Fordham University in NYC. After spending some time off to work on game development, I'm now kicking up the speed on developing games while looking for alternate sources of income. Right now I may be returning to graduate education."
Right then, what is Icebound?
JX: "Icebound is a dark-fantasy visual novel set in an ice age. It takes dark fantasy, steampunk elements like those in “The Golden Compass” and combines it with a more anime-style world with things like clockwork mecha, battle alchemy, ancient hyper-advanced technology, and supposedly demonic beings."
"We are in the final phase of development and adding sound FX and voices to the game."
Where have you been drawing inspiration from with this game?
JX: "For Icebound, I can't really name anything in particular, it's really more of an amalgamation of various things like books, anime, and games. Being dark fantasy, the Icebound universe has the same dysfunctional nature as the modern world of Earth and the ice age is a bit of a darkly comedic spin on what we've done to our own planet. Were the Ancients really godlike beings, or can you never overcome human nature? The people on Permia are directly affected by those decisions, even a millennium later."
Where are you in development so far?
JX: "We are in the final phase of development and adding sound FX and voices to the game."
Why do you need Kickstarter funding?
JX: "Adding voice acting to the game was a decision that promised to strain my budget. I figured that it would be a good idea to make sure I had a stable cash flow."
What was your first reaction after hitting the Kickstarter goal?
JX: "I was relieved that I could send the game out to everyone and that my efforts in marketing it didn't go to waste."
"I'm most proud that I was able to bring something that was formerly in my head to a wide audience using their visual and auditory senses. Creating the universe and story wasn't a group effort, so it's really more like stepping into my subconscious when you read it, for better or worse. And, now, I have an interesting fictional universe that I can expand later."
You refer to Icebound as a "visual novel" with gameplay elements, what exactly do you mean?
JX: "A visual novel is, similar to the Phoenix Wright series, a type of interactive fiction that shows the characters, locations, and some key events in the story, much like an RPG. Icebound has some optional puzzle mini-games that affect the player's reputation in-game. Completing them can help the player unlock a certain ending if they want to."
How did you get into visual novels?
JX: "My initial game development efforts were focused around an RPG, before I realized that there existed a genre called visual novels that RPGs were inspired by. I decided to create a visual novel, since I found the engine less programming intensive, which allowed me to focus on what I did best, writing."
You've got LittleKuriboh lined up to voice act. What has it been like working with him?
JX: "It's been somewhat difficult since he's always incredibly busy and time to record is limited. But, I think many of his fans would really enjoy a game like this one, with a comedic edge and an anime influence. He's certainly very excited to work on the game and enjoys the story."
Now that you've been successful with your Kickstarter campaign, what are your next steps?
JX: "My next steps are to complete the voice acting so that I can begin sending the game out to backers and selling it!"
How long do you think it will be until Icebound is completed?
JX: "I estimate that it will be another month. But, with such a large cast, there is always the potential for delays. If we run into any particularly large delays I may have to simply provide the voice acting in a future update."
What are you most proud of about Icebound?
JX: "I'm most proud that I was able to bring something that was formerly in my head, to a wide audience using their visual and auditory senses. Creating the universe and story wasn't a group effort, so it's really more like stepping into my subconscious when you read it, for better or worse. And, now, I have an interesting fictional universe that I can expand later."
"I estimate that it will be another month. But, with such a large cast, there is always the potential for delays."
Can you describe your interaction with the Kickstarter process?
JX: "Doing a Kickstarter was very tricky. I can only imagine how impossibly hard it is for those asking for huge amounts on it. I don't consider myself a very marketing focused person, so it puts a real strain on you and I'll bet it helps incredibly to have people who are good at marketing your game, if you can afford them. Since I'm bootstrapping this game, I decided to handle everything myself, but it's hard to get your game noticed when you're doing a Kickstarter since they are so common these days."
What advice would you give developers aspiring to use Kickstarter?
JX: "Spend a lot of time making your Kickstarter look interesting, make sure you constantly release updates and set your goal conservatively. I wouldn't expect Kickstarter to the be-all-end-all of game development, but it's good practice for marketing your game."
If you had the chance redo your Kickstarter, what would you change?
JX: "I would probably set the overall goal more conservatively since it missed any time in the successfully funded section by inching past the goal at the last minute. It might have gotten a number of new Kickstarter backers if it had more time in that section."
Anything else you'd like to add?
JX: "My studio page is at fastermind.net where you can check out a couple other games I've developed. I'm planning to write a novel for NaNoWriMo this year, which I'll also be posting details about!"
I want to extend a warm thanks to Jonathan Xikis for taking the time to answer my questions! If you are looking for more details about the game you can visit the Icebound Kickstarter page, or visit iceboundgame.com. Keep track of the development of Icebound on Facebook and follow Jonathan on Twitter via @vnwriter.
Want to try the demo?
Download it from MediaFire here.
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