Indie Fund Now Backing The Flock

Remember flashlight tag? You didn’t play it like this. Vogelsap’s The Flock is a brutal first-person asymmetrical multiplayer game where three to five people compete for control of an artifact containing the last bit of sunlight left in the world. Only one player can be “it.” The rest remain monsters, trying to claw that person apart. By combining stealth with seamless motion through a dark and stifled atmosphere, The Flock manages to be as fast-paced as it is suspenseful – and Indie Fund is proud to now support it.

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Ambitious as a 3D online multiplayer may be for the first project of a student team, Vogelsap has restricted the scope of their game in a way that reinforces all its elements. Players begin as members of “the Flock”, a dying but deadly species with the speed and agility of Ridley Scott’s Alien. Players must pick up a glowing orb to win, either from it’s original spawn point or the corpse of whoever had it last, but doing so transforms them into a slow and vulnerable humanoid “Carrier,” unable to hide the light they’ve stolen for long. Catching the Flock in this light turns them to dust unless, of course, they’re not moving. Or was that just a statue?

“I love sharing new experiences with gamers online, but I hate the tired mechanics of most of them,” Indie Fund investor Kellee Santiago said. “The Flock stood out to me immediately as a delightfully scary and fun game to play with friends, both old and new. There’s something about shrieking and then laughing at yourselves that really bonds people together – and that feeling of connection is ultimately what I’m always looking for in an online game. And it’s why I’m proud to be a part of this unique project.”

To convey the consequences of the Flock’s lemming-like attraction to light, and to heighten the stakes of an otherwise endlessly looping deathmatch, Vogelsap is introducing a new twist – The Flock’s population will be finite. Each senseless death will count against a running total, resulting eventually in extinction. Players will trigger a finale when the counter reaches zero, in which players can partake and then the game will never be playable again. Vogelsap is still working out the details, but they’ve pledged to be transparent about the extinction process, and disciplined in applying it.

The Flock is currently in a closed beta, and will release on PC this summer. Until then, you can follow the project on Twitter and visit Vogelsap’s website for updates.

Indie Fund Adds New Investors, Now Backing Armello

We’ve got some exciting news to announce about the future of Indie Fund. We have restructured how the fund is organized, which allowed us to add more investing partners.

This means more ways to contact us, more brains to pick, more available funds, and hopefully more games! We’ve funded a couple games under this new model, and we are proud to announce the new expanded Indie Fund is now funding Armello, due to launch later this year.  First, a little bit about Armello and why we funded it, and then we’ll explain some of the changes at Indie Fund.

Armello is a procedurally generated, turn-based strategy game where one to four players vie for the throne of a mad king through loyalty, hostility, or treachery. It combines the best elements of card and board games with the capabilities of digital platforms for an experience that’s simple to start but deeply complex and replayable. While stories within individual sessions will differ, Armello is set in a rich and beautiful world reminiscent of Game of Thrones- were the warring houses of Westeros replaced by clans of woodland creatures.

“Armello is both extremely pleasing to the eye and crammed full of creamy gameplay goodness; it somehow manages to feel simultaneously familiar and innovative.  This is the kind of game that makes people willingly sink a huge amount of time and I’m excited to contribute to it as our first investment via Indie Fund,” said Paul Kilduff-Taylor of Mode7 Games, the team behind acclaimed strategy game Frozen Cortex and one of the latest developers to join Indie Fund.

More details about the new Indie Fund:

The original 7 partners started Indie Fund in 2010 with the goal to support the growth of games as a medium by helping independent developers get and stay financially independent.  We’ve helped fund over 30 great independent games, and almost all of them have met our internal success benchmark in that they allowed their developers to self fund their next game from the revenue of the game we funded.

However, after doing anything for 5 years, life changes — kids arrive, people start new projects, games come and go — and we started to feel like we needed to change the way the fund operated.  Fortunately, many more independent developers have had their own success in the last five years, and have now come on to help out.

Last year we started partnering with individual investors outside of the fund with good results. More people got to participate, which meant developers had access to more capital, ideas and advice. With this more ad-hoc model, investors could vary the amount they wanted to put into each game, allowing more flexibility depending on life changes, interest in the specific projects, and how much money is available. Games like Future Unfolding, Duskers, and now Armello have been funded with this more flexible model.

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Internal structure aside, all the fundamentals behind the fund, including our investment terms, will remain the same. We will continue to be selective about the projects we fund, be transparent about our work, and judge our own success by the success of the developers we fund.

We’re now fully adopting this model, and Indie Fund will be managed by a much larger group of investors moving forward. We’re especially pleased that some of the new partners are developers we’ve funded that are now looking to invest in the next generation of developers. We have a list of current partners, along with our updated guidelines on how to apply.

Indie Fund Now Backing Her Story

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Fans of crime stories that blur the line between fiction and reality rejoice! Sam Barlow’s Her Story is now being supported by the Indie Fund. A game about reopening a cold case set within a lovingly-crafted period interface, no other game has focused so unforgivingly on the words of a single “NPC.” It’s a game that rewards a certain kind of detective work on the part of the player, the type of work that we don’t often see on the screens of popular drama. Through careful listening, cross-reference, and archiving, you’ll begin to forge a version of the truth that others have failed to see.

It’s a bit like watching a TV show where the scenes are connected by your own ingenuity and logic rather than the dramatic missteps of others. Yet Her Story also forces the player to question their excitement for the cold dissection of an alien subjectivity—here played with nuanced desperation by Barlow’s friend and collaborator Viva Seifert.

Indie Fund partner Ron Carmel describes his experience: “Her Story came across like a nostalgic toy to me, at first. I remember that CRT glare and those ASCII UIs that tried to look like Windows 3.0. But as I watched more videos, I was drawn in not only by wanting to understand the unfolding story, but by the detail and craftsmanship of the game. The acting is convincing and reinforces the constructed reality, and with costume changes and time codes in the videos there were multiple layers to pay attention to in guiding my investigation. Before I knew it I had an actual pen in my hand and was taking notes on the back of an envelope that was laying around on my desk.”

Barlow is best known for his role as the lead designer and writer of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, a complete reimagining of the series that stands as one of the great Wii games. Prior to his time in AAA development, Sam invented a unique subgenre of interactive fiction with 1999’s Aisle; it’s a game that only lets you make one move—think of it as The Garden of Forking Paths for grocery shopping. His passion for exploring the many possibilities of nonlinear storytelling has paid off, and in March Her Story was honored as one of the Leftfield Collection at EGX Rezzed.

So congratulate Sam on entering the home stretch in his development process! Her Story is launching simultaneously for iOS and PC/Mac in June of this year. If you’d like to read Sam’s thoughts on interactivity and narrative, check out his articles on the Her Story blog (the piece about FMV games and the crucial domesticity of early video is especially good). Otherwise, follow him on Twitter for news and musings on the project.

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Indie Fund Now Backing Engare

 

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Summer is almost here, along with the good news that the Indie Fund is now backing Mahdi Bahrami’s Engare. Part puzzle game, part drawing tool, Engare is a all about your geometric imagination (tellingly, it means “unfinished pattern” in Farsi). By selecting a point on a moving object, players trace delicate shapes in the air (and hopefully match the target glyph for that level). It’s a meditation on the dynamics of simple machines and the beauty buried deep within repeating motion.

Bahrami’s audio and visual styling is unique even among other indies, drawing direct inspiration from the Islamic art and architecture of his hometown. The mosques of Isfahan, where Mahdi grew up, are decorated with abstract mathematical shapes and patterns, many of which you will encounter in Engare. Aaron Isaksen, an Indie Fund partner, says “I have always been fascinated by the beautiful and intricate art developed by Islamic artists, and Engare celebrates the pure beauty of this art form, combining interesting puzzles that mesh perfectly with the geometric style. I’m very happy we are funding a game that focuses on an important part of Islamic culture that we don’t appreciate enough.”

At this point, Mahdi may well be the most lauded university-aged game developer in the world: Both Farsh (an earlier puzzle game, which is about tactical carpeting rolling, of course) and Engare have been honored by the Student IGF. An early prototype of Engare was selected for 2010’s Sense of Wonder Night in Tokyo, while its latest public demo awed GDC-goers at the 2014 Experimental Gameplay Workshop. Engare’s evocative soundtrack is being composed by Moslem Rasouli, whose long-term collaboration with Bahrami has helped them grow together as artists.

Please join us in welcoming Mahdi to the Indie Fund family! We look forward to playing the finished game in winter 2015, when Engare launches for PC and Mac. Until then, you should follow Mahdi on Twitter. If you’re interested in checking out his other work, many of his games are available for free on his blog.

 

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