Today, Pocket Mana launched a Kickstarter campaign for the company’s debut game, My Uncle Merlin, an interactive adventure for the PC about wizards in space. We caught up with Predrag Mladenovic (who composes stuff), Milan Andrejevic (who writes stuff), and Stefan Sladic (who draws stuff), to find out more about the game, and what had led them to crowdfund the project.
Andrew Rainnie, Warp Zoned UK Correspondent: Hi Predrag, welcome to Warp Zoned. You’ve just launched My Uncle Merlin on Kickstarter. Can you tell us briefly what the game is all about?
Predrag Mladenovic: My Uncle Merlin is a tale of a young man, his uncle, and their unconventional journey through outer space on an unrelenting, dragon-propelled wizardly tower. It’s a non-linear, choose-your-own-adventure, interactive fiction game, enriched by several RPG elements.
WZ – Andrew: I understand that the game is going to feature over 140 characters! That’s quite impressive. Can you tell us a bit more about some of them?
Mladenovic:: Well, the whole game is built around having interesting encounters with some pretty unorthodox folks, and we figured, the more the merrier! But we’re not doing it purely for the numbers. We’re hoping to go a bit deeper than that. By going through many branches of dialogue, you can really get the feeling that the character you’re encountering has a fully developed personality, and also that he/she/it will behave and react pretty consistently, but not in an obvious way.
That concealed consistency will be at the center of the whole gaming experience, even though the first thing you’ll see is the funny, bizarre aspect of the NPC’s characteristics. So be prepared to play a high stakes game or two with a lonely, narcissistic, bodybuilding Djinn, earn the respect of a mean, hipster, orc mercenary, and if you’re really willing to cross great lengths, get naughty with a tower-propelling dragon.
WZ – Andrew: You and the team at Pocket Mana have been preparing for a few months to launch the crowdfunding campaign. What was involved in the preparation?
Mladenovic: We decided pretty quickly that we wanted to have a functioning, representative demo, because we wanted to allow potential backers to really get to know what they are getting behind. But planning a Kickstarter campaign is a whole other beast we had to tackle. So we invested a lot of our time into research, which mostly meant exploring both successful and unsuccessful campaigns and getting in touch with people who actually went through the whole experience.
After that, we followed the usual steps. We made a list of people who might be interested in the project, put up a website, recorded a video, wrote a bunch of copy, prepared even more artwork and finally, everything is coming together on the 15th of November, when our campaign is going live!
WZ – Andrew: How did you decide on Kickstarter as a crowdfunding platform?
Mladenovic: We discussed other options, like Fig and IndieGoGo, but after some discussion and research we concluded that the Kickstarter is the way to go. The number of their unique monthly users is a lot higher, the presence of their projects in social media is bigger, and when it comes right down to it, Kickstarter is a brand that is synonymous with crowdfunding. Also, since we don’t have a big marketing budget, we figured that Kickstarter will give us the best chance of reaching as many people as possible.
WZ – Andrew: What targets have you set, and how did you come up with them?
Mladenovic: We carefully calculated the bare minimum, so we can continue working on the project, but also eat. We added some buffers regarding the potential tax expenses and we’re currently set on a $22,000 goal, which is supposed to cover eight months of production.
WZ – Andrew: So what exactly inspired you to make My Uncle Merlin?
Mladenovic: We started off by setting up some boundaries. We’re all artists in our own way, and we couldn’t afford to get flamboyant with complex game mechanics, so we decided on a game that was going to be simple, but content heavy.
And I guess since we cornered ourselves in one way, we allowed ourselves a lot of freedom in another, leading to having odd, “wizards-in-space” type ideas. Our main inspiration were the works of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, but our sense of humor is a little different, and a lot edgier.
WZ – Andrew: Where in the world is Pocket Mana based? And what is the game development scene like where you live?
Mladenovic: We’re based in Nis, Serbia, and before you say anything, rarely anyone has heard of it. All jokes aside, Serbia does have a few very prolific gaming companies, like Nordeus, but the indie development scene is quite small and it’s difficult to connect with other indies.
There are a couple of examples of successful Serbian video game Kickstarter campaigns, like Moonburnt Studio that got $40,000 for Columnae, or the more recent one, where Ebb Software gathered a whopping $192,000!
WZ – Andrew: Assuming the game is a success (and my fingers are crossed for you), does Pocket Mana have any other game projects lined up?
Mladenovic: It’s a long way off, but we do have a couple of vision statements that we can use as basis for something bigger. We’re definitely not lacking ideas, if anything, it’s frustrating that we have to choose one game, and not simply make all of them. But all of our energy is currently focused on finishing My Uncle Merlin, and to do that, we need to see this campaign through as best we can.
WZ – Andrew: Thank you for your time, Predrag, and we look forward to following the campaign and trying out the demo.