Some gaming projects on Kickstarter are criminally overlooked by the general public. Imagiro Studios MODUS, a 2D turn-based artillery shooter set in a chaotic, post-apocalyptic Earth dominated by mutated beasts where humans once reigned supreme, is one such title.
We recently had the chance to talk with Allan Wang, CEO and Story Developer at MODUS developer Imagiro Studios, about the game’s failed campaign, alien monstrosities, Studio Ghibli influences and home-made beaver tails.
Andrew Rainnie, Warp Zoned UK Correspondent: Hi Allan, welcome to Warp Zoned. You were seeking $30,000 CAD in your Kickstarter campaign for your turn-based artillery shooter, MODUS. Explain the concept of the game in the length of a tweet (140 characters).
Wang: This [is a] question we had been pondering for a very long time during the inception of MODUS. We had to constantly ask ourselves what we find fun and how to convey that in the simplest terms. The way we would describe it now would be: “Precision shooting robots on a mission to exterminate aliens and saving lives.” It doesn’t really explain a lot about the genre, but it really did appeal to us as gamers since it is more epic.
WZ – Andrew: Unfortunately the Kickstarter campaign did not catch on, with just under five percent of funding achieved. Is there anything you wish you had done differently before, or during, the campaign?
Wang: One of the principles of Imagiro Studios is that we own up to our mistakes and learn from them. Although it does hurt to see our project not catch on, the event did shed light on a few aspects, one of them is the importance of marketing. We have underestimated the power of marketing or rather the consequences of poor marketing. We really did not do enough to put the MODUS concept out there and generate a following before the campaign went out. It hurt us a lot at the start and sort of took its toll all the way through. To be honest it was a let-down for the amount of effort we put into it, and as the individual responsible for that area, I am guilty for not anticipating and taking action. A warning to other indie developers out there using crowdfunding, do your marketing and do it months ahead. Once you build up a crowd or at least some following, then move in to publish your campaign.
WZ – Andrew: In terms of morale, how has this failure affected the team at Imagiro?
Wang: Of course it was a disappointment for the entire team since we put in a lot of effort and had high hopes for getting funded. Fortunately, having the world’s most awesome and persistent team, we decided to change the direction of the game to a PvP-based game. We sort of reinvigorated ourselves into working harder, mostly because we really want to see this game go live, and a small part is that everyone seemed to be more comfortable with doing PvP than story mode anyways.
WZ – Andrew: So rather than give up, Team MODUS is retooling the game to be more appealing to gamers? Can you explain what is changing from the original concept?
Wang: I’m glad you asked that and as you can imagine, restructuring a game requires a lot of changes. The genre of artillery shooting robots will remain the same; however it will not be against alien AI, but against other player robots. We went from a mission/story based single player game to a multiplayer battle arena. With that change, we had to adjust a few gameplay features such as the shield defence, shot variation, attack buff effects, and super gauges. We will also be creating more robots rather than alien creatures for players to choose from in battle.
WZ – Andrew: So the new approach will shift the focus away from much of the detailed backstory and characters brought to life for the game? Was this an easy decision to make, given the hours that must have gone into creating a new world?
Wang: This was definitely not an easy decision to make, but it was part of our contingency plan. We did put a ton of hours into the design of the world, storyline, and character, but games of this genre generally are PvP based rather than campaign-based, so the shift was rather easy to implement. Although it is no longer our priority, we are not giving up on the campaign mode. Once the game beta is released we will be resuming the design and implementation of story mode missions for players to unlock new content and earn achievements.
WZ – Andrew: Now that the focus and core mechanics of the game have shifted, are you tempted to run another crowdfunding campaign? Or will you be seeking alternative funding avenues?
Wang: Running another crowdfunding campaign definitely came across our mind, and should we decide to do so, we will definitely do a lot of marketing before we publish. Due to the game getting smaller, we are choosing to use internal funding at the moment.
WZ – Andrew: The game is being developed solely for PC. Was there any consideration to try and tackle the ever-growing mobile and tablet market, which has various artillery titles available?
Allan Wang: Funny you brought that up because MODUS was actually designed to be a game for mobile devices. We built in-ame assets to be able to run on phones and took advantage of touchscreen capabilities from the very start. So yes we will most likely enter the mobile market only with story mode campaign, because PvP networking between PC and mobile device isn’t the most stable thing.
WZ – Andrew: Imagiro Studios is based in Mississauga, Canada. How the hell do you pronounce that town name?
Wang: [Laughing] I had the same issue when I first moved here too. It is pronounced as “Mis-sis-saaga.” Just a bit of trivia, the international standard for emergency evacuations is based on the procedures taken by the mayor in a poison gas explosion that happened in Mississauga. Oh ya, and we also have a mayor that has served for 35 years and is approaching 100…
WZ – Andrew: Speaking of rulers, the king of the 2D turn-based artillery games has always been Team17’s Worms franchise, which incorporated a surreal sense of humour into its addictive gameplay. Was this ever a consideration, or was MODUS always going to be a straight sci-fi action game?
Wang: We did think about taking that direction with the game design at first. And for sure, Worms was definitely a big influence. But a greater influence was a game called Gunbound by the South Korean company Softnyx. It is more serious than Worms, but it has the same type of design and art. The team was more accustomed to using Gunbound as a reference, but with so many games out there already using the 2D design, the team wanted to do something more, and since they are all very talented 3D artists, they did their thing and voila, you have MODUS, a 3D realistic artillery shooter.
WZ – Andrew: MODUS comes off like a futuristic Pacific Rim. Was there any game, book or film inspirations that you or your team drew upon?
Wang: Indeed it does, and Pacific Rim did inspire us somewhat, but that story was well-known long before the movie came out. The Evangelion Neon Genesis anime series, which I highly recommend checking out, told relatively the same story, and who doesn’t like giant robots fighting aliens or each other? As for the setting, Space Battleship Yamato really set the bar for us, as well as Studio Ghibli’s post-apocalyptic classic Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind. As you can tell, we are bigtime anime and manga fans.
WZ – Andrew: Have you ever seen the 1990 film Robot Jox? If not, please watch the trailer.
WZ – Andrew: Do you think MODUS may be improved by giving the lead character a Russian mullet?
Wang: [Laughing] That gave me a good laugh, I think it would REALLY add character if he did, but I’m not sure if our illustrator is happy with that. I will however bring it up and try to convince him to add it in!
WZ – Andrew: As a developer, do you get the chance to actually play any games? What platforms do you own, and what games do you enjoy personally?
Wang: The team is really all over the place with games preferences, but as developers we definitely do make time to play games. It is, in the end, “research.” I personally am not a console person, so it is mainly PC games for me. The Assassin’s Creed franchise had been always part of my collection as well as MOBA games like DOTA 2, Heroes of Newerth, and League of Legends. Mobile games are also something I enjoy playing
WZ – Andrew: Where’s the best place to buy Poutine in Mississuaga? And do they have Beaver Tails? Because Beaver Tails are awesome.
Wang: Poutine? Beaver Tails? What’s that? [Laughing] But honestly, we don’t get much of that here. If you ever have a chance to visit Montreal, they have some great poutine and Beaver Tails there. That or come over for my house party and I’ll make some…
WZ – Andrew: I’m a Scotsman with a big belly, you shouldn’t be making promises like that. But back to the game. Assuming that MODUS is successfully completed and released, what project or genre would you like to tackle next?
Wang: We have lots in mind for this one. One of my favourite genres is action-adventure, or maybe an RPG.
WZ – Andrew: Once again, thank you for your time Allan, and good luck with MODUS.
Wang: The pleasure is mine, and thank you for your time and for giving us an opportunity on Warp Zoned.