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!

Auroch Digital

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

Find us 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!


Auroch Digital

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

Find us on Stream Mixer.com/AurochDigital or more regularly on @AurochDigital

The Auroch Digital Sale

So guess what? We are having a sale.

It’s not just any sale though… it’s on absolutely everything we have got!

With Christmas around the corner we know now is the time to start thinking of friends and family and what on earth to buy them… well for that special geek in your life we have some amazing deals on offer for you.

We’ve collected all them for you in one handy place. 👇 👇

Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics - 20% Off

How and why to review on Steam

Steam reviews are important.

They are really, important.

As a small independent games developer - Steam reviews are basically everything. Did you know 90% of all consumers will look at reviews before they purchase something online? Did you also know that Steam uses review numbers as a way to determine what games to promote?

The mystic art

So here is another interesting question: how many reviews have you ever left on Steam?

We are often so enamoured, or enthralled by a game that we often forget to pop over and give it a thumbs up and leave a comment saying how much we liked it. But the question is why don’t we?

If you are anything like the author (who is planning on leaving a lot more reviews after doing this research!) it’s often because you have never done it before and so a handy guide on how to would be helpful… and wouldn’t you know it… we have exactly that here!

The fool-proof guide to leaving a review on Steam (with photos)

Step 1: Log into Steam and find a game to review

We could pick anyone of these great titles…

We could pick anyone of these great titles…

Step 2: Click on Store Page and scroll down till you see the review box

I will not apologise for my love of Black Dynamite

I will not apologise for my love of Black Dynamite

Step 3: Type in your review into the box and then select a thumbs up (we hope!) or thumbs down.

As a developer we would love to know what you particularly loved about the game and/or thoughts about what might be added in the future.

Perks of the job...

Perks of the job...

Step 4: Move the mouse down to “Post review” click the button.

Step 5: Sit back, relax and embrace the joyous feeling of helping an indie developer make more awesome games.

This gif will be you after you’ve done.

In all seriousness, it is that easy and it is really helpful. So if you have bought one of our games (or any game from a developer you like) pop on Steam and leave a review. We’ll be super grateful for it!

Auroch Digital

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

Find us on Stream Mixer.com/AurochDigital or more regularly on @AurochDigital

We need your help to make a game

Robots are cool. The multitude of types and examples makes it a treasure trove of opportunity. The idea of controlling a giant, gun-totting, cyber badass is high on everyone's to do list (or the people I hang out with at least).

With that in mind we’ve made a short survey that looks at a number of different topics related to mechs. We want to know what mechs are your favourite, what kind of story and setting you prefer in mech games, and the importance of things like single player, multiplayer, and mod support.

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So if you’re a fan of things like MechWarrior, Steel Battalion, Chromehounds,  Armored Core, World of Warships, Silent Hunter, Cold Waters, Gundam or any other robot-related thing (Day the Earth Stood Still anyone?? No?… just me?!) we’d love to hear from you. And if you know anyone you think would love it, please send it across to them as well, as we want as many people as possible to weigh in!

Fancy some Auroch and Chill…?

While we’ve got you here… you might not know, but we are now streaming weekly!

You can join us on Mondays 16:00  - 18:00 (UK Time) for Auroch Plays. Kick back and watch us as we play a number of classic games from big strategy to some of the coolest indie tactics titles.

Then on Thursdays 16:00 - 18:00 (UK Time) join us for Auroch and Chill. In this show we get under the bonnet of some of the titles we’ve been working on, giving you an exclusive look at new content as well as revisiting a few of our older games.

Thank you from us

We just wanted to also say a massive thank you to everyone who has bought, reviewed, and shared our latest game Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics. We really hope you‘re enjoying it, and hugely appreciate your support

Until next time!

Auroch Digital

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

Find us on Stream Mixer.com/AurochDigital or more regularly on @AurochDigital

Out now: Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics

You read that right, our new strategy game is available to purchase for PC via Steam right now.

As you’ll know, it’s a turn-based, squad-level tactics game in which you control a group of Allied specialists at the height of World War II, attempting to thwart a Cthulhu-tinged Nazi menace that’s hell-bent on bringing the free world to its knees.

It’s a fusion of deep strategy and fast play, set in a unique alternative history universe we think you’re going to love.

Grab the game now and let us know how you’re getting on through any of the usual social channels.


Auroch Digital

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

Find us on Stream Mixer.com/AurochDigital or more regularly on @AurochDigital

Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics, more Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics, and also... Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics

Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is almost here...

The studio is laser-focused on our new Weird World War strategy game right now, as development begins to wrap up and we start to think about release dates. It's been in production for a good long while, but the end is sight and we're eager to get it into your hands, whether that be on PC or console.

With that in mind, we've been revealing more and more about our turn-based tactics title, such as in articles over on our Steam Community page detailing various aspects of the game, including The Shroud a.k.a “Fog of War 2.0”, and we’ve been introducing the world to two of our four main characters - Ariane Dubois and Captain Eric 'Badger' Harris.

Episode 2 of the podcast is also now out in the wild, available through all good podcasting platforms and it’s well worth a listen for a behind-the-scenes look (or should that be “listen”?) at some of our thinking during development.

And if you like all of that stuff then you’ll be pleased to know there’s even more where that came from - expect to see much more of the game over the coming weeks.

Developer commentary trailer now out

Yup! This video’s got more gameplay of Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics than you can shake a moderately-sized stick at.

Plus studio owner Tom steps you through how to play the game, talks about the game’s systems, and much more.

Media coverage is starting to roll in

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Since our last blog post, we’ve taken the game to both Gamescom and PAX West - two huge games industry events - and the response from press has been really encouraging.

Lots of coverage has been generated from these events, as well as the release of our developer commentary trailer, including articles from our media pals in Japan, Russia, Greece, Hungary, Serbia, Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, and many more besides.

But for the English speakers out there, you can see a selection of what the media is saying about the game over on sites like Trusted Reviews, Ready Up, PCGamesN, Operation Rainfall, TrueAchievements, and Hooked Gamers.

Auroch Digital

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

Find us on Stream Mixer.com/AurochDigital or more regularly on @AurochDigital

Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics takes formation with a brand new trailer, goodies from Modiphius, studio press day and new Dark Future content!

Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics update

If you follow Auroch Digital on our various platforms, you will definitely have heard about Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics. It's a tactical, squad-based shooter with RPG elements based on the wildly successful tabletop RPG Achtung! Cthulhu, by Modiphius Entertainment, scheduled for release on Steam, Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. The game pits you, a crack team of elite allies from across the globe, against two rival Nazi factions that have taken their fixation with the occult to a dangerous extreme, utilising technology and allying themselves with otherworldy horrors from the Cthulhu Mythos.

The game has come on fantastically, as you can see in the comparison screenshots (pre-alpha) below;

Our publishers at Ripstone Games have also just released a brand new teaser trailer for the game too featuring all-new artwork, setting the tone for the game with its light vs dark theme. The trailer was launched just ahead of the Steam page for the game going live, where you can wishlist the game now! 

We LOVE the style and how it will fit into the game with the new 'Shroud' system, which we'll talk about below; 

And if that STILL doesn't scratch the itch for Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics, you can literally watch it being played by lead designer Adam Carter-Groves. It doesn't get much more horse's mouth than that! Adam talks through the gameplay and UI, future plans, the new Shroud system and much more in this short stream. You can follow us on Twitch to keep up to date with our live broadcasts, which will be picking up as we get closer to releasing Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics, Mars Horizon and Dark Future: Blood Red States.

You may have been following our How to Make a Game with Auroch Digital podcast series about how we're making Mars Horizon, implementing real science and engineering principles and talking through the challenges and results over the course of development. If you haven't yet, you can check it out here. It's been an interesting way of looking at our own processes and strategy when making a game, and it made total sense to us to do the same for Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics! You can check out episode 0 and episode 1 on the Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics game page, and be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Podbean, Castbox, Mixcloud, Podchaser, Acast, and/or Stitcher (aaaand breathe).

One final thing on Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics before we move onto what else we've been up to this month; Modiphius, the creators of the original tabletop game, have given away a FREE PDF copy of their Achtung! Cthulhu Combat rule set, which is a simplified version of the Achtung! Cthulhu Skirmish rules, designed to allow you to play faster and larger games with multiple players. Also included in this free package are force guides for four major factions in the game; Section M, Majestic, Nachtwolfe and Black Sun, allowing you to build up a typical army from scratch!
 

Bristol Games Hub Press Day

Bristol Games Hub, where we are based alongside a multitude of other fantastic indie developers, held an event last week to exhibit all the exciting stuff we're working on. The response was fantastic, with the producer on Mars Horizon, Mike Daw, sitting down with Bristol 24/7 to discuss the game and Hub in general. Jupiter Hadley of IndieGameJams.com was very impressed with Dark Future: Blood Red States.

Speaking of Dark Future... 

We've also just released a brand new screenshot from Dark Future, which can be found below. We'll be sharing more and more Dark Future: Blood Red States over the coming months as we gear up for the early 2019 release.

Auroch Digital

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

Find us on Stream Mixer.com/AurochDigital or more regularly on @AurochDigital

Mars Horizon rockets onward, a look back on GameTheNews, the Steampocalypse, and more...

More about Mars Horizon
We’ve had a lot of interest in Mars Horizon since we first announced it, so we put together an article on Medium that goes into an area of it that we’re most proud of: its links with real science.

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As you’ll have heard on the studio’s podcast about the game’s development, as well as read about on here, Mars Horizon is tied closely with the real-world realities of managing a space agency. We’ve worked with people in the field who have guided the direction of our thinking and ultimately the game’s design, by giving us their insight into, for example, why certain agencies specialise in certain kinds of missions into space, or why public interest is so important to science.

A GameTheNews retrospective
A lot of people will have first heard of Auroch Digital through its work during the GameTheNews initiative, where we were part of the vanguard leading the charge into the (then quite new) world of newsgames.

Tom wrote an article about our experiences creating works in that field, talking about the huge positives of making them, as well as some of the downsides. If you’re interested at all in “serious games” or “games with purpose”, it’s well worth a read.

Asset flips and the Steampocalypse

There has long been a debate about the subject of “asset flips”. This is a term given to games that primarily feature pre-made assets, usually with the subtext that they are of poor quality and created for nefarious reasons.

It’s lead to a rise in poor quality content on Steam, the primary channel for PC games distribution, which many have linked with the “Steampocalypse” - the idea that at some point making money on that platform for most studios will be next to impossible.

Tom weighed in on both of these topics across a variety of high profile media channels recently, including VentureBeat, GamesIndustry.biz, and MCV, and spoke about how developers can best prepare for the Steampocalypse at Develop.

And everything else...
As noted above, we were at Develop, with both Tom and Nina giving talks.

And we’re proud to report that podcasting is doing surprisingly well for us as a studio. Our go-to audio expert Matthew Walker has been producing them and walks through his process in this great article that you should totally read if you’ve ever thought about dipping your toe in the warm waters of branded podcasts.

Auroch Digital

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

Find us on Stream Mixer.com/AurochDigital or more regularly on @AurochDigital

A selection of the best submissions to our Ogre Screenshot Contest

We recently ran a screenshot submission contest for Ogre to celebrate Origins Game Fair 2018. 

Fans submitted a fantastic set of screenshots which really encapsulated the nature of the game, the brutal mechanical warfare it is centred around and the futility of standing up against the might of the Ogre itself. 

PZMCGWIRE's Invasion of San Diego scenario

PZMCGWIRE's Invasion of San Diego scenario

This is pulled from Google Maps. The similarity is incredible!

This is pulled from Google Maps. The similarity is incredible!

Huge congratulations to our winner, PZMCGWIRE, who utilised the power of our built-in Scenario Creator to recreate Coronado Island in their Invasion of San Diego scenario! They recently received their prizes, signed copies of the Ogre Reinforcements expansion for Sixth Edition and the paper insert 40 Years of Ogre by Steve Jackson himself! The paper insert contains the unique scenario Bad Timing and a full game map, cut-out unit counters and rules. 

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As well as our great winning submission, we received a bunch of other fantastic screenshots over the course of the contest, which we really wanted to share, as thanks for the time taken by our wonderful Ogre community!

Auroch Digital

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

Find us on Stream Mixer.com/AurochDigital or more regularly on @AurochDigital