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Timothy Zahn’s Parallax – A Community Driven 4X Kickstarter

By on September 17th, 2013 10:55 am

Timothy Zahn's Parallax - Kickstarter

Abram Jablonski, the owner and founder of Prototype X Software, is currently on Kickstarter for Parallax, a retro-style turn-based space 4X game.

Abram’s proposal indicates simple graphics and interface. The game would be optimized for mobile devices but also be released for the PC. Interactive storytelling and “making sure that the interactions with the other aliens are realistic” seem to be the major focus. For the races design, Abram counts with the support of Timothy Zahn, a science fiction writer (in the picture above), which would be co-creating the game, and bringing some of his favorite alien races from previous works.

Abram presents a fairly dense game overview already. But, as far as I understood, the design doesn’t seem to be finished yet, or at least not yet set in stone. The reason being that the developer intends this to be a community-driven project.

“You can join the team too: every backer who contributes at least $10 will become an active member of the creative team, and an integral part of the process. (…) I honestly can’t say what else might be included in the game, since all of YOU, the Kickstarter backers, will help to create a great deal of the content: alien races, space fleets, random galactic events, technology, and myriad smaller details as well.” –Prototype X Software

Silicoids alien race: Timothy Zahn's Parallax kickstarter

Silicoids: "can digest most minerals and thrive in environments that other races would find lethal"

Prototype X Software’ Timothy Zahn’s Parallax proposal in a nutshell:

  • Turn-based space 4X strategy
  • 2D, simple graphics and interface (heavily inspired by the original Master of Orion)
  • Community-driven development (backers as active part of the game creation process)
  • Major focus: Interactive storytelling and realistic interactions with other alien races
  • Platforms: Android, iOS, PC; and some consoles (“if possible”)
  • ETA: alpha in May 2014; beta in June 2014; release in October 2014
  • Goal: $500,000 (until Oct 13, 8:00pm EDT)
  • Get game pledge: $15
  • Why Kickstarter: “That’s the minimum amount necessary to be absolutely positive that this game will be delivered”. If goal isn’t reached: “develop a more limited version of the game, over a longer period of time”

Seems like a challenging project, not so much because of the game development itself, which the developer says would only take about 3-person months to complete, but more because of the management overhead generated by the community-driven process. But, the developer seems confident and has produced quite a comprehensive plan already. Will Abram and Timothy manage to create their community, and game? Time will tell.

\Edit (20 Sep 2013): Kickstarter cancelled. Reboot planned soon.

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  1. Ivan says:

    How can they estimate something they don’t know? 7 month for going from no code base to alpha phase is IMHO pretty fast when making 4X. And they have no design document.

    Do they have their own vision of the project?
    – How will storytelling fit in a 4X TBS?
    – What is the scope of the game? Single planet, star system, star cluster, something bigger?
    – What will player do (colonize worlds, build buildings on planets or in space, move ships on the grid or between fixed points, …) and how?
    – What will be player’s main focus (moving Han Solo’s ship around or actively managing cities/colonies/…)?

    • Adam Solo says:

      Good questions. They do have a fairly large game overview available, but it seemed rather general to me.

      I was a bit confused myself with the somewhat precise estimation for developing something that seems to depend so much from the community-driven content creation process… that should add a good degree of uncertainty to the entire plan and schedule, I suppose. Unless Abram is very confident about his community management process. Perhaps he plans to use some kind of strict policy to handle that.

      Maybe they’ll clarify this better and answer your questions on further Kickstarter updates.

  2. Gary says:

    I’m afraid that the project’s creator/programmer isn’t really aware of what’s involved to bring his project to fruition. The time estimate for completion seems WAY too short, especially for a community-built game. And speaking of community built… that might work for some features for a game, but for an entire game itself, I just don’t see it working out well.

    In any case, these days, I’d rather see some gameplay before buying into a project.

  3. ashbery76 says:

    Get name writer and expect 500,000.

    “it will be an attempt to bring back the fun and simplicity that was so much a part of the original 4X games”

    That reads hollow gameplay for smartphones in my book.

    It has a delusional target anyway.

  4. Mark says:

    “The game would be optimized for mobile devices but also be released for the PC.”

    Why do I get the feeling that the word “optimized” should be replaced by “dumbed down”?

    • Adam Solo says:

      Well, to be precise, the exact words used by the project creator are “Because the screen layout need to scale gracefully for a smartphone, the graphics will be fairly simple, and the focus will be on making it a fun, interesting experience”. The “optimized for mobile devices” was my interpretation from that statement.

      • Mark says:

        Well that’s actually somewhat promising. I don’t care if the graphics are simple as long as the game-play itself is deep, complex and satisfying.

        I’d be surprised if it will be though, most smartphone games *do* get dumbed down in all areas, not just graphics. Hopefully we’ll all be pleasantly surprised.

  5. Jay G says:

    Sounds like Starbase Orion, a game I’m already playing on the Iphone/Ipad.

    • Xyggy says:

      I wish Starbase Orion was on the Kindle Fire HD (i.e. Android OS). Sounds like I’d lose a lot of time on that one.

    • Ivan says:

      Me too, wish the game on a platform I own. Since Apple made App Store basically unavailable to “older” devices I think I’ll never buy iOS based device again.

  6. Trent says:

    So he’s picked a name for game that’s already being used by a puzzle game on steam. It’s also the name of the enemy in the green lantern. Lousy choice even if it is an interesting physics concept.

  7. Alien JD says:

    The programmer answered a lot of these questions on slashdot. Basically he’s a professional programmer who works with large data sets and simulations. Because a 4X is pretty much a simulation with graphics for input and output he’s confident he can build the alpha quickly.

    full discussion:

    Just the developers comments:

    • Ivan says:

      Abram’s comments show he is an experienced developer and how the project will be worked on but the real answer to my questions can be found in gameplay PDF. I didn’t noticed it at first since it’s buried under 100 paragraphs of “races with character”.

  8. who cares? says:

    of the 500k$, only :

    Administration and Software Development: 27% (135k)

    are for doing the code of the actual game? Somebody is dreaming.

  9. Gary says:

    It’s been a week since the project began, and it’s only got just over $15k of $500k. My bet is that the project doesn’t make it.

    What he needs to do is to develop/program enough so that people can see the gameplay. People aren’t as willing as they used to be to just throw money at a project that hasn’t even started, yet. I realize that’s counter to the whole “community-built” idea, but that’s the way it is.

  10. stuff says:

    In other news, the fact that Disney, JJ Abrhams won’t use the already amazing Thrawn Trilogy for episodes 7,8,9 is a great tragedy. They would make bank for one of the more amazing stories that took place after the RoTJ timeline. Of course there are many other amazing stories by other authors too, all combined into one super EU timeline.

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