Prototype to Kickstarter - The story of Mars Horizon: Blast Off!

It’s funny how things work out at times. When you start working on a project you think you have a clear idea of where it’s going and how it’ll pan out. It’s not often though that a pen-and-paper prototype can get so much interest and good feedback that you end up running a Kickstarter for it. But here is the tale of how that came to be...  

A playtest that made us think twice

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So for those who follow our content will have heard of Mars Horizon. That game is still progressing well. (And is looking pretty slick so far. We’ll have some more news from this is coming very soon!)

Now it’s quite common for when we’re testing a gameplay idea for us to revert to good old fashioned pen-and-paper. This project was no exception. There were many prototypes that we built at various points to test different ideas. One of these ideas though, shone out above the rest.

Would this work as a standalone game? Could we make a full card game out of it? And so it began…

Fail-Safe Testing

The video game has always been intended to be an authentic look at what it would be like to run mission control. So we have been working with the UK Space Agency (UKSA) to make sure that what we were saying was correct.

We decided to pop along to their very nice offices and take along the prototype. There we met their informal lunchtime boardgame club (I know… very cool!). To our delight we had the some great feedback, including how great this would be as a physical game too.

That idea stuck with us, so we went away and did some more work. We also decided to demo the game at two boardgame events - just to sanity check our thinking. City of Games in Bristol and Dragonmeet in London. Both times we had the same sort of feedback.

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What is the game like?

The game puts you in the hot seat of a space agency as it attempts to get a mission to Mars.

You managing your resources and invest in buildings, technology and vehicles to get there before anyone else.

The more missions you complete, the more research, money and prestige you can get. But, bigger missions need more funding and getting there before the rest of the players requires some calculated risk taking…

What does it share with the digital version?

The key thing it shares is the theme - getting the first crewed mission to Mars. It shares an art style and the missions listed are actual space missions - past and future. It also shares a bunch of gameplay ideas on the way rockets, vehicles and facilities work.

But, over time the card game has created its own life that has emerged from the extensive testing and iteration. So each is its own thing.

They are sister games both proudly carrying the Mars Horizon title and logo.

How can I get my hands on it?

So we are going to be Kickstarting the game. If this is your first time to the concept we’ve come up with a handy guide to explain everything as simply as we can.

If you are already on Kickstarter you can follow our page now! You'll get all the latest information as soon as it comes out.

When is Mars Horizon digital coming out?

There is a ton of really awesome stuff going into the digital game at the moment (including some awesome reveals, like the one below) and the development team working on it is bigger than ever.

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We are getting loads done and it is looking more and more like it’s ready for some serious testing soon. So we hope to have a firmer date for you soon… keep an eye on the Steam page where we will update everyone with the latest news!

Matt Davies

Marketing and Community Manager for Auroch Digital in Bristol, UK.

Find me on Twitter: @mattlosvert, on Stream Mixer.com/AurochDigital or more regularly on @AurochDigital

The Year In Review 2018

First off a big Merry Christmas to everyone from all of us here at Auroch Digital. We’ve had a bumper 2018 and there has been a world of stuff that has gone on here so we thought we’d give you a quick rundown on what you may have missed…

January - A month of us talking to the world! Nina Collins spoke at PC Connect about the how we translated Ogre from a tabletop game into a digital game, while Peter Willington was on a Digital Discovery Track panel talking indie publishing. In the same month Tomas Rawlings spoke at Gamesforum discussing what happens when games intersect with the real world. We were also a part of the Global Games Jam in Bristol too.

February - We made a big announcement and launched our third Kickstarter campaign for Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics (A!CT) which was successfully funded and reached four of its stretch goals! We also went down to City of Games to show off the paper and pen prototype of the game. for the eagle eyed amongst you… there might be another good reason to click the follow button on our Kickstarter page for January 2019 👉 *HEAVY WINK* 👈

March - We started the month off right by completing the Kickstarter campaign for A!CT and getting a whopping 218% funding from your awesome people. It also coincided with our announcement of the PS4, Xbox One and Switch versions too. Tomas also wrote about why Dune II: The Battle for Arrakis is a seminal real-time strategy game with a massively influence today.

April - A!CT became the obsession for the studio and as we all got fitted for new robes and cultist gowns, we decided to give the website a much needed face lift. You are looking at it now - ain’t it pretty?

May - Due to the overwhelming success of the A!CT Kickstarter we launched the project on PledgeManager letting those who missed out a chance to back the game too.

*insert Thus Spake Zarathustra music* We announced the super awesome mission control, rocket building and space management strategy game… Mars Horizon. With some support from the guys at the UK Space Agency the game looks at the reality of space exploration and trying to land the first manned mission to Mars. We did a Podcast series about it too… have a listen!

June - We carried on with A!CT and Mars Horizon got a spot in the BBC’s Sky at Night Magazine, while Tomas Rawlings got a nomination for the Lifetime Achievement Award category at the 2018 SPARKies tech and digital awards.

July - Ogre players stretched their creative muscles in the screenshot submission contest for Ogre to celebrate Origins Game Fair 2018. There were some incredible entries, including the winning entry, of a recreation of Coronado Island for their Invasion of San Diego scenario!

We also appeared at Develop, with Tomas talking about the “Steampocalypse” and Nina talking about the benefits of working for an Indie company.

August -  A!CT started taking shape and we had some really cool pre-alpha shots to show and a very early look at the game on Steam with Lead Designer Adam Carter-Groves. We also completed the trifecta of promotion with the launch of the A!CT podcast series.

We also had some lovely journo folks down to have a go on a few of our games including… the long sort after Dark Future: Blood Red States.

September - We said goodbye to our old Community Manager Jake and said hello to our new Marketing and Community Manager Matt in what can only be described as a seismic monumental moment for the company. (Take one guess who is writing this article…🙄)

However the big news from from September was...

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph'nglui mglw'nfah Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn! Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph'nglui mglw'nfah Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn! Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics came out on steam by the way this month. Ph'nglui mglw'nfah Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn! Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph'nglui mglw'nfah Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn! Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph'nglui mglw'nfah Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!

October - We asked you for your thoughts on a brand new project we are working on, currently called “Project War Strider”. We wanted to talk to you about robots, what are the coolest robots, what settings should robots be in and how your robots should move.

In amazing news, we had over 450 of you reply so a massive, massive thank you for that. If you want to stay in the loop, make sure you’re signed up to our newsletter and keep an eye on the blog as we will talk more about the results soon.

In sad news, no one really wanted a 1950s robot detective game #heartbreak

November - We launched our brand new podcast series where Matt Davies and Matthew Walker interview some key people at the studio on the ins and outs of video game development. As well as ramble on about chocolate bars and Civilization. You can grab Episode 1, Episode 2 and Episode 3 now (there will also be some special episodes for Christmas so don’t forget to subscribe!). Also an interesting look at our Twitter data told us that 99% of our fans are dog lovers - so that’s a thing.

December - ...and here we are! December 2018. A whole year done and dusted! Again as we said before a massive thank you to everyone who has supported us and followed our stuff throughout the year. If you’ve bought one of our games in a sale - thank you. If you’ve listened to a podcast - thank you. If you’ve liked or shared a post of our - thank you.

2019 is sure to be another bumper year and we are really excited to be releasing A!CT on the Switch, Dark Future: Blood Red States and Mars Horizon - as well as another exciting project (all will be revealed soon)

Till next time!


Matt Davies

Marketing and Community Manager for Auroch Digital in Bristol, UK.

Find me on Twitter: @mattlosvert, on Stream Mixer.com/AurochDigital or more regularly on @AurochDigital