Reid McCarter

Reid McCarter is a freelance arts, culture and technology writer based in Toronto, Canada.

New Videogame Promises to Value Your Time

Dinofarm Logo

Most game designers pitch their work by describing how immersive their experience is, how it will suck a player in and joyfully consume their free time. Not Dinofarm Games, the creator of this week’s featured Kickstarter project: Auro: The Golden Prince.

Dinofarm is best known for their last release, 100 Rogues — a successful iOS game that put players in the shoes of a dungeon explorer. Now, having refined their approach to development, Dinofarm Games has spent a year working on their sophomore effort.

The plot revolves around the eponymous Prince Auro, the title’s royal, spoiled protagonist. At the beginning of the game Auro is, for the first time in his life, actually asked to go and complete the quest of . . . [getting] down to the bottom of the Kingdom sewers.” Things take a wrong turn when the “childish Auro carelessly awakens an ancient evil that may be spell the end for his people.” 

Auro: The Golden Prince is, like 100 Rogues before it, based on exploring dungeons and also incorporates role-playing game elements, but differs from the developer’s first game by introducing new play mechanics like randomized levels, a variety of different modes (Story, Exhibition and Puzzle), a focus on turn-based, strategic combat and more. Dinofarm is currently working on iOS and Android versions of Auro but hopes to port their work to other platforms in the future as well — and implement synchronized saves that will let buyers seamlessly transition from playing on their mobile or home computer.

Auro‘s concept is one that follows in the footsteps of several other iOS and Android games but elevates the usual “pick up and play” style by tying the experience together with a cohesive storyline and novel gameplay systems. If this sort of thing catches your fancy it may be a good idea to get your generosity on over at Dinofarm’s Kickstarter page.

To finish Auro, Dinofarm needs money. The art and graphic design, programming, animation work, writing and other elements involved in developing the title require a lot of time and effort and the team is only made up of three people. Though much of the preliminary work has already been completed Dinofarm needs help making some type of income while completing its “collective love letter to the idea of the digital game.”

So what do you get in return? Well, Dinofarm Games has lined up a number of excellent rewards. Smaller pledge amounts will be thanked with free copies of the finished game, a listing in the Auro credits and/or branded t-shirts. Those who are able to donate more money will be able to have custom, in-game character sprites designed and used in the title, monsters modelled (and named!) after themselves and more.

Check out the trailer for the game (at the project’s Kickstarter page) to see more details of exactly what Auro is all about and how it plays. If you’re interested in learning more about its developers, head to Dinofarm Games’ official page or the 100 Rogues site. Auro: The Golden Prince will be funded on Sunday, December 18th at 7.46pm if its $15,000 goal is met on time.

Refined Product Brings Farming to the Urban Apartment

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Urban farming is catching on as more and more people are getting interested in DIY projects and locally-grown food, but it still remains something of a niche that is held back from wider popularity by interested parties living in climates with harsh winters or, say, a lack of space. Windowfarms, this week’s featured Kickstarter project, looks to change that by providing a system that is capable of growing a variety of plants without requiring ample space or a consistent outdoor temperature.

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New Doc Chronicles, Promotes Videogame Culture

Animatronic Ackbar Beyond the Game

Beyond the Game, despite sharing a name with a 2008 documentary about videogame culture, is a brand new film about, well, videogame culture. No, no, no! Don’t go just yet! This is a different project with a much different focus — and one with a current Kickstarter campaign deserving some attention from game players and mystified outsiders alike.

Animatronic Ackbar, the wonderfully named filmmakers behind Beyond the Game, are approaching their doc’s subject matter in a manner that really hasn’t been done properly yet. Rather than focus on portrayals of videogame developers or players the group is instead broadening its scope to record the wider culture that has grown up alongside the industry.

Playing games, for many people, has far less to do with actually sitting down at a console or computer than it does with expressing themselves using the iconography established by games. Much like how hip-hop culture encompasses more than just a style of music, Beyond the Game wants to show just how deeply digital play has influenced the lives of those growing up with a love for it.

Animatronic Ackbar have created a film that traces the unprecedented growth of the videogame industry, showing its evolution from a niche in technology development to its current state as a massive player in the world of entertainment. They do so by “[presenting] specific elements of the culture with great emphasis placed on the fighting game community, the advent of the chiptune sound and the formation of underground art collectives.” In this way, Beyond the Game will illustrate just how deeply videogames have pervaded the mainstream. And while it’s hard to tell exactly how the completed project will look, early trailers and the concept of the film itself make it appear to be well worth looking out for.

To finish their documentary, Anamatronic Ackbar has taken to Kickstarter for some of that good ol’ fashioned crowdsourcing. They’ve been filming the project over the last year and a half, carrying out interviews and capturing footage from the various music, art and social scenes visited, but now need a bit of outside help to finish production. This money will go toward offsetting the travel, equipment and post production expenses that will continue to be racked up as the film makes it way to the finish line.

Those who donate to Beyond the Game are able to snatch up a few nice rewards in return for their generosity. These include digital downloads of the doc’s chiptune soundtrack (music created in the style of older computers and console games), copies of the finished film, t-shirts, an original, autographed Game Boy, tickets to the LA premiere, associate producer credit and more.

Head on over to Animatronic Ackbar’s official website, Kickstarter page or Facebook for more information or check out this link (or this link!) for two earlier Vimeo-hosted teaser trailers. Beyond the Game will be funded tomorrow (Friday, November 11th) at 5.17pm EST if it reaches its $20,000 goal on time so, if you’re interested, make your donation now before the clock ticks the rest of those minutes away.

New Doc Combines Art and Social Activism

Art as a Weapon Logo

Any form of communication that’s able to spread awareness of important social issues is well worth supporting. This week’s featured Kickstarter project, Art as a Weapon, is looking to use the crowdsourcing website to help inform its audience about the repressive junta ruling Burma and how art is being used, within and outside of the country, as a form of peaceful protest.

Art as a Weapon wants to show the immense possibilities afforded by creative expression motivated by a desire for poltitical change. It focuses on exploring, in its creators terms, “the connection between street Art, Buddhism and Democracy by using the closed country of Burma as a case study.” The film’s concept is a powerful one, especially in light of the innovative and peaceful forms that civil unrest has taken in Burma in recent years. From 2007′s Saffron Revolution to the success of 2008′s Burma VJ, nonviolent protest has been able to help the nation’s general population by raising international awareness of its fight for a democratic government in lieu of beginning an outright civil war.

Breadtruck Films and Jeffrey Durkin, the director of Art as a Weapon, have already completed a number of interviews for the documentary. These include subjects as diverse as Aung San Suu Kyi (Burmese politician and Nobel peace prize winner), Shepard Fairey, street artists, Buddhist monks (including one of the Saffron Revolution’s leaders), an elementary school art class, musicians and others. The finished movie will use these various perspectives to show the considerable power that artistic expression can have in achieving something as enormous as instituting democracy from within a notoriously oppressive political situation.

The film’s creators need support from interested parties in order to complete their documentary and help spread the message it’s looking to put forward. Breadtruck has already been preparing to record more interviews for use in the film but require funding to travel to the Burma/Thailand border and finish the hard work of carrying out further interviews in the region.

For anyone intrigued by the premise, tossing a few bucks the projects way seems like a very good idea. The money raised via Kickstarter will help to give a wider audience access to information on modern Burma, the inherent potential in passionate artistry and the creation of, what looks to be, a fascinating movie. Art as a Weapon, in a conceptual twist, is also looking to have those who help fund the documentary give their input in the actual creative process. Contributors, aside from receiving the usual rewards (like copies of the film, silk screened posters, premier tickets, etc.), are also being encouraged to provide feedback on aspects of the production including interviews, video footage, website design and the final name of the documentary itself (Art as a Weapon is only the working title).

Learn more about the documentary by visiting its official site, Kickstarter page or Breadtruck Films’ Facebook and website. Further information on Burma, the Saffron Revolution and Aung San Suu Kyi is also available through links provided at the bottom of the Kickstarter page. Art as a Weapon will be funded on Friday, December 9th at 4.18pm EST if it reaches its $30,000 goal on time.

Kentucky Celebrates Kentucky with Crowdsourced Superbowl Ad

Kentucky Campaign

There are certain words that lose all meaning after having been said, heard or written too many times. I expect “Kentucky” to become that word for both you and I by the end of this week’s featured Kickstarter campaign: Kentucky for Kentucky.

. . . Kentucky.

Kentucky for Kentucky is a pretty ingenious concept, started up by a couple of super-patriotic Kentuckians (Kent Carmichael, Griffin VanMeter and Whit Hiler) who want to celebrate their home state through an extravagent, crowd-funded commercial slated to air during the 2012 Super Bowl. The trio is hoping to advertise well enough to grab a few bucks from the rest of “the great Commonwealth of Kentucky” in order to make their grand commercial and set the record for the most money yet raised through a Kickstarter campaign. To paraphrase them slightly, just one or two dollars from each Kentuckian will be enough to make the project a reality. Luckily they’re not banking entirely on drumming up that sort of exposure though.

One of the smartest decisions made by Carmichael, VanMeter and Hiler is to offer “big money sponsorships” to Kentucky businesses. For a donation of $250,000 or more these sponsors are able to piggyback their way into immense visibility without having to foot the enormous bill of a solo Superbowl spot. A few businesses and enough awareness from the general public could actually make Kentucky for Kentucky a success, nicely big-upping the state while also demonstrating the enormous potential inherent in crowd-sourced fundraising campaigns.

And what is it about Kentucky that everyone should get so excited about? The Kickstarter page lists a sampler of the state’s contributions to the world that boasts “We first sung Happy Birthday, we first fried chicken, we first slapped high fives. We invented bourbon, bluegrass music, and the motherfreaking Kentucky Derby. We birthed cool with Clooney, Depp, and Hunter S. Thompson. We nurtured beauty with Loretta Lynn, all the Judds and Diane Sawyer. We championed sport with Ali, SeaBiscuit, and Rondo.” That’s actually pretty impressive! If I was from Kentucky I’d be really proud of all that too!

An actual cost breakdown for the campaign isn’t available but we can assume that the bulk of the money raised will be spent on securing the Superbowl air space. Kentucky for Kentucky‘s Kickstarter page lists a “cost [of] about 5 million big ones to create the Superbowl spot and buy the air time for its inclusion in the massive event’s advertisement line-up.

There are a few rewards on offer for contributors as well. These range from bumper stickers and Kentucky Bluegrass seeds to string ties, an engraved mint julep cup and a host of other appropriately themed (and kind of hilarious) items. The biggest draw for large-scale contributors, of course, will be the potential for advertising at the bloody Superbowl. That’s a big one.

To Kentucky more about Kentucky for Kentucky, Kentucky over to Kentucky for Kentucky‘s Facebook or Kickstarter campaign page. Kentucky for Kentucky will be funded on Monday, November 7th at 9.44am EST if it reaches its enormous $3,500,000 goal on time.

“BlindSide” Takes the ‘Video’ out of Videogames

Black

A whole lot of what we talk about when we talk about videogames has to do with how they look. With everyone hyping the cutting-edge graphics of big releases and the bulk of indies relying on unique art styles to set themselves apart, it’s pretty easy to think of playing games as a mainly visual experience. This is definitely not the case with BlindSide, a new game currently being developed by two innovative designers and the subject of this week’s highlighted Kickstarter project.

BlindSide: The Audio Adventure Video Game is different. It’s an adventure game that requires players to explore an environment to progress through a story — like many others — but that presents all of its information entirely through audio — completely unlike any others. Inspired by an accident that caused one of its two creators to temporarily lose his sight in high-school, BlindSide is a videogame that looks to give both visually impaired and sighted players the ability to experience a piece of entertainment in the exact same, highly unique way.

The story, only slightly revealed thus far, is split into episodes and concerns two protagonists who awake blind and must deal with discovering why while also being threatened by man-eating monsters looming just outside their home. BlindSide‘s environments are all modelled entirely in 3D, the catch being that none of this modelling is ever seen. Instead, players must rely on audio cues from ambient noise and sound effects to make their way forward.

While it may sound like an overly ambitious idea, for two developers with the dedication and ingenuity to pull it off, it’s not. Santa Monica, California’s Aaron Rasmussen and Michael T. Astolfi have both done a great deal of work in their fields (creative computer science and evolutionary psychology/game design respectively) and approached their idea with the theoretical background necessary for pulling it off. 

An Exclusive "BlindSide" Screenshot

Much of the hard work has already been done but Rasmussen and Astolfi need some help in financing the completion of the game. The money raised through their Kickstarter campaign will go toward costs like hiring voice actors, buying licenses and sound effects, renting out studio time and helping with the developer’s living expenses while finishing the game. If enough money is raised, BlindSide will be slated for a January, 2012 release on Mac, PC and iOS. Contributers will receive rewards like early access to the game’s first episode, special thanks in the game’s website credits, a customized version of the game (with their name taking the place of the the main character’s), a specially designed Braille journal (“written” by BlindSide‘s protagonist) and more.

Interested? BlindSide‘s Kickstarter page has the most information on the project (and an early proof of concept with hilariously bad placeholder audio). It’s also well worth the time to watch Astolfi’s TED presentation (on, no kidding, humanity’s evolutionary predisposition toward videogames) or visit his personal website. BlindSide: The Audio Adventure Video Game will be funded on Thursday, December 1st at 1.53am EST if it meets its $7,000 funding goal on time.

 

“Mongolian Bling” Doc: Mongolian Hip-Hop Exists, Is Awesome

Mongolian Bling Logo

You can be forgiven if you weren’t aware of Mongolian hip-hop until you just read this sentence; I wasn’t until happening upon a Kickstarter project intending to capture the rising genre through a feature-length documentary. It probably shouldn’t be surprising to see how fully-formed and unique Mongolia’s hip-hop scene is considering the music/culture’s proliferation throughout the world but, for most of us, I’d hazard that it is pretty well unknown. Luckily Mongolian Bling, the aforementioned doc, should change this in the near future by capturing the nation’s take on the well-loved genre on film.

The project, spearheaded by director/editor/cameraman Benj Binks, has been developing over the past five years, time spent travelling Mongolia’s expansive countryside and bustling cities. In Mongolian Bling Binks and crew explore the various ways in which centuries of national culture and the overwhelming influence of Western culture are colliding in a country’s modern popular music. From the streets of Ulaanbaatar to its surrounding Ger Districts and beyond, Binks has worked hard to trace the evolution of a music and what the country’s biggest stars think about the ever-evolving artistic traditions of their homeland.

Ultimately, Mongolian Bling hopes to express a little bit of what it “means to be Mongolian for the youth of the country in 2011″ by combining looks into the country’s rich cultural and historical traditions with its contemporary embrace of an internationally prevalent musical movement. It’s an interesting stance to take and one that will likely shed some light on the modern dilemma of so many countries where the domination of Western and national culture intermingle to create new, hybrid forms of identity.

Mongolian Bling‘s makers needs interested parties to toss a few sheckles their way in order to get the project finished in the style it deserves. Although already nearly completed (a TV-ready, one hour version of the doc has already been picked up for future broadcast by ABC) Binks and co. want to do their subjects justice by cutting a full-length film suitable for entry to film festivals and popular distribution. To do this they need money for further editing, sound mixing, soundtrack creation, color correction, securing rights for original music and archival footage, DVD/screen reproduction, international publicity and more.

You’ll be handsomely rewarded for makin’ it rain on the film’s producers and spreading the joy of Mongolian hip-hop around the world. Contributors are set to receive specially designed t-shirts, posters (featuring a blend of traditional and graffiti inspired Mongolian art styles), listing in the film’s special thanks, copies of Mongolian Bling, CD soundtracks and, for the extremely generous, the ability to join filmmaker Benji Binks on a two-week Mongolian Bling Tour across (where else) Mongolia.

Want to know more about Mongolian Bling or Mongolian hip-hop in general? Head over to the project’s website, Facebook page or (of course) its Kickstarter home to get hip to the genre’s history, look and sound. Mongolian Bling will be funded on Tuesday, November 29th at 1.24pm EST if it reaches its $50,000 pledging goal on time.

Is There A Market for Used Digital Media?

ReDigi Logo

Buying and selling used DVDs, CDs and other physical media has been around for as long as the media itself. Doing the same with used digital media is a bit trickier though and, until now, setting up a legal marketplace has seemed all but impossible. This is set to change with tomorrow’s launch of ReDigi’s beta, a service that looks to give its members an avenue for selling and trading their (non dog-eared and moisture-damaged) virtual media.

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