Gamers will soon have tribes of mischievous goblins at their disposal, as Kiwi critter and city management title Goblins of Elderstone launches to the public next week.
Goblins of Elderstone is pitched as a city builder crossed with a goblin tribe simulator. You grow a tiny clan into dominating tribe, battle other races, raid dungeons, and attempt to maintain order within your green-skinned community.
The game's "alpha 2.0" will be available on July 5 for US$20 via itch.io's First Access programme, which is similar to Steam Early Access except it isn't viewed as a proper launch pad the way Early Access is.
"This is exciting for us. It's the first public retail version I guess you could call it," Lost Goblin founder Gustav Seymore says.
Players will be able to give developer Lost Goblin feedback via itch.io's forums, and the game will be updated every two to four weeks.
The first update is already half-finished, and will add new features including fire, which burns down buildings, propagates, and can be put out by goblins using water from a well.
"It's another chaos feature that will doom and destroy your village," said Seymore.
The update after that will likely include diseases, priests that can heal said afflictions, dead goblins turning into undead goblins, and goblin on goblin violence.
Goblins of Elderstone is the most successful New Zealand game Kickstarter to date, raising NZ$50,924 in October last year.
It has been in the hands of its alpha tier Kickstarter backers since January 31, and about a quarter of those 350-odd souls have provided feedback so far.
Since then, five minor updates have been released, adding procedural level generation, new building types, and the first layer of combat, among other things.
It was released to other early access tier Kickstarter backers last week, slightly later than Seymore hoped it would be.
"We're probably three months behind where we wanted to be," he says.
"We wanted to release publicly since April but you know: it's game development, and we wanna make sure it's good – the best we can do. So it has been delayed a little bit, but it's what's best for the game."
The first six months of work Seymore put into Goblins was while he held a day job at Outsmart Games. After he left that job, he managed to go full-time on the game for six months, alongside two programmers and an artist.
Only some of them have remained full-time on the project, but to reduce costs, Seymore has picked up full-time game development contract work for an overseas studios. That only leaves him evenings and weekends to work on Goblins.
It has been a lot of hard work, but he remains upbeat about working the equivalent of two 30-40 hour a week jobs to keep the game ticking along.
"It's alright. I mean, I love it, right? Doing work for Goblins, it's not work," he says.
"It's like a hobby that I'll hopefully get money for one day."
It helps that he has a partner who is very understanding.
"My wife is amazing," he says. "She knew since we met it's always going to be this way, but she's super supportive – she's never once complained a second.
"Even all that crunch I went through at Gameloft, she never once complained. Luckily I don't have kids either."
Lost Goblin is keen to emphasise that because the game is in alpha, it is unfinished and broken in some ways, so only those wanting to give feedback and suffer through a few bugs should buy it right away.
For those on the fence, Seymore does a developer Twitch stream every Saturday, wherein he jams the game and discusses new features with its backers.
The aim is to get Goblins onto Steam Early Access in September, but Seymore freely admits that the target was initially August, and that it might slip further. Whatever happens, he will continue to keep backers updated.
The next immediate step is getting the game into the hands of a dozen or so YouTubers (including Kiwi channel Tiny Pirate) who will help get the message out, and provide some feedback as well.
You can join in with those playing Goblins of Elderstone from next Wednesday, and follow Lost Goblin on itch.io here.