#NoLookingBack #010 – #SketchbookAdventures – Mecha Mania! Part Three, Launch!

Welcome back, boys and girls! I hope you’re as excited as I am for another week of old mecha drawings! Maybe my mania isn’t as engrossing for you as it is for me. But I just love designing robots and other cool stuff… but, y’know, particularly robots.

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Limitless Logic Leap Mechaworks’ One-of-a-Kind Brave Armour – Dai Polarion


Jackie Otsuyama would look much better if I could draw in a more anime style.

Dai Polarion is another super robot from the Giant Robot Universe. Manufactured by the Mechaworks division of Alliance-based think tank Limitless Logic Leap (L3 for short) and piloted by a specially chosen candidate in hot-blooded Jackie Otsuyama, the Dai Polarion is a platform for truly advanced Alliance technology. Like all Brave Armours, the Dai Polarion is a large machine that benefits from thick armour and the steely will of its pilot to see it through attacks. Its armament is focused around the Zwitterion Pylons which allow it to generate and manipulate vast quantities of energy in astonishing ways.


Next Generation Giant – TEX-800



Minimal but adaptable armaments.

The TEX-800 here is a bit of the odd man out of these designs. I had been working on a comic book proposal for a Post-Apocalyptic Giant Robot Western and was reveling in the idea that I might be able to include parts of it into my wider Giant Robot Universe. The TEX-800 was to be a successor of the TEX-666 from my comic, however at the moment that comic has been indefinitely sidelined as the artist whom I was paying and I have reached an impasse in our working relationship. It seems likely that it may, in fact, never see the light of day. Working with other people is hard, particularly when they don’t share your passion to do things and are not willing to be in it for the long haul.


Dynamic Lady Defender – DLD-10001 Hathor


Love Whip, baby!

Herein I was inspired by two specific elements of preexisting Super Robot meta-fiction. First, as one can obviously tell, from the name and design, the DLD-10001 is based on the idea of mecha with female body types, akin to those one would see in 70s anime like Mazinger Z. The second inspiration is in that DLD, that Dynamic Lady Defender, riffing off of the Super Robot Wars Dynamic General Guardian, or DGG, line of mecha but (of course) these ones will all be feminine.


Limitless Logic Leap Mechaworks’ Limited Production Carry Armour – LLLM-72VHX Voodoo Hummingbird


It is always fun naming crazy weapons.

The Voodoo Hummingbird is one of my favourite designs from this sketchbook, where I pushed myself to do things I would otherwise not have chosen to do in my mecha design process, such as have the feet attached firmly to the lower leg to convey that this machine in meant more for space combat than ground based fights. As a limited production machine it is intended to be highly effective and powerful, and the reason i chose to have one remaining in LLLM (L3M?) hangars is because, as this was intended to be for a grand scale RPG, I wanted the player to be able to obtain one. I can’t remember if the 3 that are together, and have been given special names, were stolen by pirates or part of a black ops crew. I’m leaning towards pirates.


XLR Evolver w/ Infantry Package


Oh man… look at that, I never even finished naming all its stuff!

The XLR Evolver is my most Gundam design yet, and is intended to evoke those Gundam designs that had the multiple different parts you could swap on and off of them. I tried to evoke Gundam without ripping off any specific design and I feel I have mostly accomplished that here. This name and mecha design have stuck with me for a while. The original drawing I did of this idea was old. Way old. It sadly had to be thrown out because a cat got between the ceiling and the floor and pissed in there, and it rained down upon my drawing. No jokes. Terrible moment to all of a sudden have urine falling on you from on high. Not much I can say about this other than that anecdote, I think. It is pretty self evident that it is inspired by the original RX-78 and that I did my best to give it a unique head design and body part styling. Oh well…

And last and probably least we have this…


Ah, he has no legs! Or is it the Zeong effect?

This was the inteded Samurai-Package for the XLR Evolver that I never finished. I really liked some of the ideas here but I was going at it without a pan form the beginning and I totally butchered the proportions I had established on the original XLR drawing. I’m not entirely certain how much of this is salvageable, but I really liked the collection of additional beam sabers on his shoulder.

Well, that’s it for this first set of Mecha Mania weeks! I had some weird little doodles I did somewhere of some other mecha from the Giant Robot Universe but presently cannot find them. If I do, I’m certain you’ll get to see them too. And I have some other mecha designs that are intended for the GRU which weren’t done in the same sketchbook or format at all, so they’ll have to be for another time.

Do you have any feedback or questions? Please leave a comment here.

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#NoLookingBack #009 – #SketchbookAdventures – Mecha Mania! Part Two, Launch!

So, here we are again with more mecha mania for all my fellow lovers of giant robots! I’m still pulling these from a really old sketchbook as I try to get more content with my up-to-date skills built up in my newest sketchbook for these adventures that we are on.  So, here we will continue the feast of designs I have done for the Giant Robot Universe concept!


Vrangian Guard Prototype Assault Carry Armour – Siegfried


His neck is inhumanly thick, but Logan Sabrodt is cooler than you’ll ever be. Look at that hair! That helmet! That flight suit!

Unfortunately, with this drawing, while I absolutely love the design I cannot help but notice that I tried to build 3D perspective on the rifle, got it inconsistent with itself, and then did no 3D work on the body in any meaningful way. This prototype Carry Armour is designed for close-quarters-combat and quickly breaking through enemy defenses to gut their leadership. It’s tethered axe is designed to allow it to bring troublesome foes into a range where it can dispatch of them, and for preventing their escape. Designed to charge straight ahead into the fray of combat, pummeling the opposition with its gatling mortars and assault rifle until it is within range to deploy its axe and impact claws.

The Varangian Guard, named after the ancient Viking mercenaries that fought to safeguard the city of Constantinople, are deployed to safeguard a remote, key system in the Alliance’s control. The system is a choke point for interstellar travel and sits at the border of Alliance and Xalbangan space and the Varangian Guard are constantly on their toes, facing the persistent probing of Allied defenses by their nearest, most hostile neighbours on a daily basis across the wildly varying terrain of the planets and moons under their protection. They have been granted complete autonomy and a bountiful budget to safeguard this system.

Logan “The Tiger” Sabrödt is one of the eldest active combat pilots and has survived many of the worst campaign the Varangian Guard has ever endured. The Siegfried was designed with his successful combat techniques in mind, and he sat in on every design meeting and equipment test to provide combat insight.


Vrangian Guard Assault Carry Armour – Turisas


Brunhilde’s Spear is a force to be reckoned with on any battlefield.

The Turisas is the tried-and-true machine of the Varangian Guard’s assault forces, armed with a complement of weapons that make it effective at any range. Unlike the Wolverine Gatling Mortars of the newly developed prototype Siegfried, the Brunhilde’s Spear Longcannon cannot be fired while moving. In fact, the Turisas must temporarily bolt itself to the ground through special mechanisms in its feet to brace itself against the impact of the weapon.

This typically leads to a strategy of long range bombardment of fortified targets before they move in for the kill with their quartet of close range tools, switching progressively down to their Mauls and Rocket Spikes as it becomes a melee.


Varangian Guard Heavy Fire Support Carry Armour – Bullfrog


Not much to say here, pretty self explanatory isn’t it?

While the majority of the machines deployed by the Varangian Guard promote an aggressively close-quarters style of combat, the Alliance’s shield wall certainly recognizes the necessity of long rang combat. Designed and deployed to assist in long range bombardment and provide continual fire support for the quicker, smaller Carry Armours, such as the Turisas and Siegfried above, the Bullfrog is the Varangian Guard’s backbone.

At the start of combat the Bullfrog can be seen next to Turisas units as they all use their long range firepower to wreak havok amongst enemy forces. They will then remain in position, continuining to provide long range fire support for their compatriots as they close the gap, and finally, once the smaller Carry Armours have engaged in disruptive close ranged melee combat with their foes, the Bullfrogs will move forward while firing their Skorpion-G lasers until they are close enough to deal a deathblow with their mighty Muspelheim rocket chained beam maces.


Variable-Form Fire Support Carry Armour – Stingray


And in “Wave Rider” mode, to quote some Gundam.

The Varangian Guard are not the only element of the Alliance military using some particularly interesting Carry Armour. The Stingray is a variable-form Carry Armour deployed by all matter of special forces operations. It boasts both high levels of firepower, most notably from its Hyperion Mega Particle Cannon, and immense speed while in its high mobility mode. But don’t count it out in humanoid mode either, as the Flashfire Beam Sabre is a top rank melee weapon perfect for the intended vacuum and high altitude combat this machine was designed to excel at.


“Sojourner’s Light” Avatar-Class Warframe – Ilyan Koa


Look at that arsenal!

The Ilyan Koa is a one of a kind Avatar-Class Warframe, deployed only when the Ancient Ones’ colony ship the Sojourner’s Light is threatened or must actively engage in warfare. A massive machine nestled in the heart of the colony ship, it’s fueled via a directed wireless energy transfer straight from the vessels power core. So long as Sojourner’s Light survives, the Ilyan Koa will never stop fighting, never deplete its reserves. In this way, only its scattering launchers and corrosive breath rely on stored munitions, meaning it can dedicate all of its weight to carrying as many different options for combat as it needs. Its arsenal is vast and allows it to engage with and dispatch multiple targets at varying ranges simultaneously.

The Vagabond Tribes fleets must at all times be prepared for the worst and safeguard their dying cultures and species. For the Ancient Ones, the Avatar-Class Warframe is their solution. Each of the species has their own solutions for how to best safeguard against the ultimate dangers.


Xalbangan Imperial Military Special Forces Use Personal Unit – Granzeal OT


I love the optional weapon here, masers are just amazing!

The Xalbangan Imperial Military has its own special forces machines, like this Granzeal OT. A heavily modified version of the standard issue Granzeal boasting improved mobility and unique armaments, like the entangling Orbweaver Missiles containing nets of microfiber razor wire that bind, mobilize and damage their opponents.

So, there you have the second set of mecha designs! Hopefully these give you an idea of the setting and aesthetics the Giant Robot Universe. I’m looking forward to slotting these designs in to my practice work to see how much better I can do with them now.

Do you have any advice or questions? Please leave a comment here.

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#NoLookingBack #008 – #SketchbookAdventures – Mecha Mania! Part One, Launch!

In case I hadn’t made it clear in my coverage of Code: HARDCORE’s campaign, I absolutely love giant robots. Like, maybe i don’t spend as much money on merchandise as some people do, and maybe I don’t watch every single series like some people do, but I dream of Giant Robots, I see Giant Robots out of the corner of my eye when its late at night, I design them, I have them tattooed on my flesh,  and the I dream of leaving an indellible mark on the international envisioning of mecha.  The art in this #SketchbookAdventures special feature series is from an older sketchbook. The art isn’t as refined, and my techniques are on the weaker side, but these designs form the basis for conceptualizing my own Giant Robot Universe!


T-Series High Performance “Super Junior”-type Carry Armour – Thermopylae


That Zweihander-configuration screams Obari Sword Pose!

The Thermopylae is a  “Super Junior” class Carry Armour, a specific designation of giant robot weapon used by the Allied Military Forces. Carry Armour are essential the real robots of the Alliance,  but the “Super Junior” classification is for mecha designed to push the boundaries between real robots and super robots. They are equipped with specialized weapons and systems that push the limits of technology or human capabilities. This is in much the same way that the Gundam moniker has functioned in many incarnations as a super weapon stronger than mass produced units with remarkable specialization or adaptability.


T-Series Limited Production Multi-Purpose Brave Armour – Shenlong


That little doodle is like the Obari Sword Pose of navel energy beams!

The Shenlong is a Brave Armour, which  designates that it is what would generally be called a super robot. Brave Armour are designed to take advantage of  different aptitudes for pilots than the real robots, such as Carry Armour and Personal Units,  do. Hot Bloodedness and spirit, while valuable in pilots of all kinds, are the bread and butter of a Brave Armour, allowing them to dish out immense attacks that are amplified by their pilots emotional and spiritual traits. Their giant scale tends to lead to them having to soak up damage rather than dodging attacks, which is its own kind of mental strain.


Xalbangan Imperial Military Frontline Personal Unit – Granzeal


The Xalamites were supposed to look like 80s anime aliens…

The  Xalbangan Empire are one of main antagonistic forces to the Alliance in the Giant Robot Universe.  They are a strict militaristic regime whose people have naturally no aptitude for Hot Blooded super robot combat, but excel with real robots because of their keen senses and naturally quick reflexes. Their military training pays particular attention to precision aiming, tactical prowess, and quick maneuvering.  The Quintagrams painted on their Personal Units, the Xalbangan equivalent to Carry Armour, denote rank and mission records and are meticulously updated by their pilots, who take a pivotal and involved role in performing maintenance on their machines. To a Xalbangan soldier, their Personal Unit is an extension of their pride and prowess in personal combat.


High-Mobility Close-Quarters-Combat Quadrupedal Carry Armour – Sturmlowe


The Storm Lion has two options for its long-range armaments, giving it anti-armour (Plasma Blaster) and suppresing fire (Quad-Barrel Railguns) options, best used in a mixed hunting pack.

As i am a fan of a myriad variety of mecha, I wanted to represent all sorts of possibilities using Giant Robots. While Zoids has long been the king of animal-themed mecha, they have shown up in other long-standing franchises such as Gundam SEED, and of course the Tokusatsu Super Sentai series. I wanted to be sure to include these kinds of options in my all inclusive mecha magnum opus.


Heavy Artillery Quadrupedal carry Armour – Trizerkanone


The perfect mix of long range devastation and close range defense.

Absolutely anything based on a dinosaur has to have serious destructive potential, or they’re just not doing it right.  In the fight to shift balance of power in the galaxy blah blah blah but the Alliance and Xalbangan Empire are only two of the powers at play in this Giant Robot Universe…


Multi-Purpose Frontline Warframe – Gyargao


The Point Singularity Projector fires miniature unstable black holes.

There are far more than two forces in the Giant Robot Universe.  Warframes are the standard combat unit of the Ancient Ones, one of the contingents of the Vagabond Tribes. They interstellar wanderers who have formed a cross-species bond to find new homes after their original worlds were lost. They are sentient endangered species. limited populations For them every ship is a colony, every soldier deployed a needed breeder to keep the genetics of the population, every Warframe a precious resource.  It is a matter of necessity that all of the Vagabond Tribes practice some form of eugenics to prevent inbreeding and ensure a strong, adaptable and viable population once a new home is found…

As they are the oldest collection of species in the Universe they field the most unique and devastating technology at every level, only limited by numbers they can deploy. The reptilian Ancient Ones were the first of the Vagabond Tribes, the calamity that took their home so archaic that they have lost even the traditional name of their people.  To keep their technological advantage they will work to sabotage, destroy or self destruct any downed unit that cannot be salvaged.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first introduction to the Giant Robot Universe. These designs being rather old, I see places to improve upon them and my technical skills being better than what they are now, I want to refine and redraw them, including many action shots. I feel there’s a strong base to most of these designs that can definitely form the basis for my own Universe’ diverse aesthetic. I’ll be sharing many more designs over the next little while, and will also be adding some redesigns and sketches of these mecha into my new sketchbook to continue the #SketchbookAdventures 😀

Do you have any advice or questions? Please leave a comment here.

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#CrowdPleasers #002 – Code: HARDCORE on KickStarter

I’m going to start this off by revealing my bias: Little in life gets me as excited as Giant Robots. Mecha just reach deep down inside of me and flip a switch that fills me with childlike exuberance. I grew up, and still am, enamoured with Transformers and easily found that love of heavy  mechanical action carried over to Gundam, Front Mission, Mazinger Z, Gurren Lagann, and a seemingly endless supply of other amazing designs and stories centered around them. My introduction to many of the most classic of Mecha franchises came through a fan created English language patch for Super Robot Wars 3, which I ate up vigorously and played with fervor on the old ZSNES emulator. What I couldn’t have anticipated would be that in the long run I would fall more in love with SRW for its Original Generations designs and characters than for their licensed appearances. To this date, the only games I have been willing to import and play in complete Japanese with tonnes of translation guides and menu aides open on my computer next to me have been these vaunted Banpresto masterpieces. Rocket Punch Games’ Code: HARDCORE draws heavily, and openly, from this and so much more.

I came across Code: HARDCORE about a week ago in, frankly,  an unusual way for myself. Generally I like to browse through KickStarter and IndieGoGo project lists sorted however they would be at their default setting. “By Magic” as KickStarter calls it. This is to give myself an overview of what is presently there and to try to pick out the ones that are doing the beat and the worst jobs at catching the viewer’s attention in this overcrowded crowdfunding marketplace. This time however, I chose to click on “Recommended for you”. I was curious how well they could do at guessing what I would like based on what I have looked at, and they went well beyond what I thought they could do. This game was right at the top of the pile, and is right in my wheelhouse.

I knew immediately that SRW was an influence from the primary visual they chose. It was very high quality work in that eye catching image. I’ve seen this aesthetic chosen before and been for something that wound up looking subpar in concept or execution and had been disappointed. But something of the care they’ve taken shone through and I didn’t expect it to be bad. But I never could have expected how good it would be.

This campaign is very slick and pretty. No doubt can be had in the fact that a lot of time and cost has already been put into getting this project ready to be put on KickStarter and to structure the campaign page in the best way possible to try and get their funding, and as of this writing they have about 30 days left and have already blown past their very first funding goal. They look on track to hit stretch goals en masse, with very attractive options built into what looks to be a reasonably paced layout. Most Mecha fans, and I feel confident in saying this, will easily want the campaign to reach each and every stretch goal level that adds additional playable machines to the lineup.

I’m going to try something a bit different from the last time I critiqued a campaign. I’m going to go from top-to-bottom and point out strengths and weaknesses in the way that they are encountered . I may not be 100% on target, but I will try to cover everything.

Thus, the obvious place to start really deconstructing the qualities of this campaign is with the video that headlines their page. I really like it when campaigns include a video at the very beginning. It’s an easy hook for an overall distracted and over busy Internet population. A campaign that includes absolutely no video content at all better  damned well be a 10/10 + Bonus Points on all other parts of it.

Code: HARDCORE’s opening video package is beautifully animated and edited SRW-fan pandering at its finest. If they had splashed in the SRW logo in place of the Code: HARDCORE one, I would have believed it was a new spin-off side game. The aesthetic quality that has come to be expected from Banpresto’s franchise is replicated with loving attention to detail by Rocket Punch Games, not only in the amazingly fluid gameplay footage using SD styled art but also in the regular styled cut scenes and super move animations. The gameplay on display in their campaign video, before they very openly talk about their influences, looked familiar and exciting. At play were elements from classic side scrolling arcade-style shooters, like U.N. Squadron and, not coincidentally, Metal Slug. After they’ve wowed you with their stunning visual display, their video gives you a window into their mindset, as many campaign videos have done before. Switching from a hype reel to the talky bits can often be where a crowdfunding campaign’s video package falls apart due to their creators’ lack of personality or charisma, or, worse, not sounding like they have confidence in either themselves to complete the project or in their project’s quality. Not only is their product high quality and well showcased , their staff are as well. Charming, confident, and passionate. Those are the traits that Rocket Punch’s staff, and Louicky Mu in particular, convey to the viewer. Their blatant acknowledgement of their inspirations and their mission statement, that Super Robot Wars is the coolest Mecha series around but that they wanted to make a game that let you perform the cool moves instead of having them all be pre-rendered, gives the viewer a succinct and clear definition of what the game will be, and informs your understanding of the previous flashy gameplay trailer.

Immediately after the video they jump to what is, unequivocally, the most important piece of information: they have a ready to play alpha demo. However, this information is also problematic. The demo is locked away behind a pay wall. Before the campaign was funded no one had access to the demo, and now that it is funded, you can start playing and testing the game out immediately so long as you are willing to first support the campaign for at least $25.00USD. Really, this isn’t a demo so much as an early access situation. While this is still leaps and bounds above presenting a video game crowdfunding campaign without any play-ready content at all, it really doesn’t do what I want it to do. Play-before-you-pay demos being standardized is the model I see for generating the most success and transparency in Video Game crowdfunding. Maybe I’m spoiled, having really only started seriously putting my own money into other people’s dreams starting with what I see as a benchmark in crowdfunding,  Lab Zero Games’ Indivisible,  but I see being able to present a sample upfront,  and not just an idea pitch, as paramount to earning the trust of the investor on these platforms. Particularly in response to the very large amounts of negative press generated by certain projects who have stunk it up with big promises and delivering big failures. Locking the sample, the Proof of Concept, behind a pay wall is foolish. As this article exists to critique the quality of the campaign, not any of the products delivered afterwards, I can only really take into consideration the promise that there is a demo, and not the quality of their innovative gameplay nor the super high caliber animation which they have spent good effort and good money hyping up to me.

And hype it up they do. They run through different control options, gameplay modes, and awards in a heartbeat. While I can’t say I have heard of the IndiePlay show before this campaign,  a quick  Google search informs me that it is a Chinese independent game developer convention of sorts. The fact that they have brought Code: HARDCORE to IndiePlay and the Tokyo Game Show and have footage and proof of people playing their game lessens but not dissolves my concerns about preventing the Play-before-you-pay opportunities I think are essential for moving forward. I won’t dismiss a campaign entirely if it doesn’t have a ready and free to play demo, but it has to work much harder to win me over. Every campaign I dig into my expectations are a little higher and my sense of discernment is that much greater. I fully recognize that the potentiality that I will not get my reward for my investment exists, but if by being smart and critical I can maximize the probability that there will be a return on my investment,  why wouldn’t I do it? It is my money.

This does not, however, decrease my excitement that one of the awards they won was for “excellence in design”, which means so much more than one purely for animation would. Rocket Punch Games have no reason to worry about communicating how good their game looks to their investor base. Their work speaks for itself, and the campaign page is repleat with it. The game is, barring anything else, one of the prettiest looking games I’ve seen come out of anywhere in a long while. Their art style and gameplay looks like what I imagine a team up between Banpresto and Vanillaware to make a licensed SRW game would be. No, they need no award to tell me that this game is pretty. But gameplay,  and game design, can only be experienced through the act of play. Without a demo to play before I hand over my money,  I  have to take your word that your game is good, or innovative. But an award of this nature, it legitimizes your claims.  And while not all awards are equal, all awards are better than no awards. Unless they’re a sham award, or an award for being bad. Along with their usage of GIFs to demonstrate how their gameplay and animation features will look in game, this award goes a long way to solidify one’s confidence in the team.


Image Taken from Code: HARDCORE’s campaign page

As such, their lists of features are all the more tantalizing. They promise a cinematic story mode, competitive local and online multilayer,  tight and responsive controls, a wealth of customizability in, from what I can tell, both story mode and more explicitly multilayer (user loadouts). For now, let’s simply say that they have presented enough of a well laid out and professionally constructed and presented campaign that I am willing to trust them on  their claims, even with their demo locked behind a paywall. I’m also willing to admit a certain amount of personal leniency, as there really aren’t enough good Mecha games on the market (a fact that they themselves draw attention to in their campaign video) and, as a biased fan of the genre, I’m more willing to have hope take a frontseat in this equation. The further you scroll down their campaign page, the more impressed you get.

I’m going to take a brief moment to get critical about their Mecha design before we move onto their reward structure and stretch goals.


The four major designs revealed thus far for Code: HARDCORE. Again, sourced from the campaign page.

Code: HARDCORE’s first set of revealed Mecha,  based on both what is visible in the hype package in their video as well as what they display on the campaign page itself, all look very smooth and their drive to present the player with Mecha based on all sorts of international genre tropes seems well within their grasp. The four named machines on the campaign page are, each and every one, a love letter to certain traditional giant robot archetype. The Thunderbolt is your Gundam/Huckebein archetype, with a very predictable set of armaments and a body type instantly recognizable to even your most casual Mecha fan. Maybe it’s head borrows more inspiration from the Gespenst or the designs from Virtual-On,  but it’s movements and build give it away clearly. The Roundhammer screams Macross,  Battletech, and, to a lesser extent, later Gundam-franchise styled artillery Mecha. The Geier is more Macros Plus meets the SRW Altairlion. The Crimson Flame is certainly a modern super robot, blending together aesthetic elements I’ve seen in such disparate entities as Gurren Lagann, Danball Senki  (LBX), and the SRW Original Generations’ own attempts at the modern super robot. Every design they do at full size and then squash down to the toddler-like SD style popularized amongst Mecha fandom by the Super Robot Wars franchise, in direct reverent mimicry of Banpresto’s aesthetic. Their competent design choices along with their wonderfully high quality referential art styling really works hard to reinforce the idea they present in their video, that they want to make a game that is as cool as the  SRW games but where the player can do the “cool moves” themselves, instead of entirely prerendered combat. And they furthermore understand where their project would benefit from prerendered sequences, dedicating prerendering to the realm of super moves for the players to execute that would freeze the action much in the way super moves do in Street Fighter. Herein they also call heavily upon the roots of their aesthetic,  switching to regular proportions for these sequences much as SRW does in their major moves. They know their target audience so well because,  most likely, they are their target audience.

Now, when it comes to their rewards I have my reservations. Their lower tier options allow the investor to get in on the ground floor rather affordably,  with access to the alpha build of the demo coming in at a reasonable $25.00USD as mentioned previously, and they have your standard “backer exclusive skin” and “backer exclusive weapon” to up the ante a bit. As these are likely very simple digital goods to produce without wildly unbalancing the game, I see these as standard fare. Heck, even Indivisible has a backer exclusive colour pallette. These kinds of aesthetic perks act like preorder bonuses would in the regular game market. What concerns me the most are their more elaborate rewards, both physical and digital in nature.

I  worry that their “Metal Saga” tier, which exists as a standalone option or as an add-on for other tiers, will bog them down logistically and be undeliverable. Physical goods are expensive to produce and prohibitive to ship, and this beautiful looking Thunderbolt action figure is being made of metal, which inevitably will raise the cost of materials and shipping.  Even worse than the action figure being undeliverable due to unforeseen costs would be them cutting corners to ensure that it is deliverable and we wind up with something akin to the Transformers: Titanium toys that could hardly hold together because of unbalanced weight and weak joints over stressed by heavy metal components. However, if they can pull this off at the high level of quality they attest to, it should be a very interesting piece of Mecha history to own. The Chinese gaming industry is on the rise, and I could see this becoming a franchise all on its own.

As for the digital goods that trouble me, my eyes are drawn to the “creation” tiers at the higher end of the investment spectrum. As of this writing there have been 69 people who, on Kickstarter alone  (the game has a Japanese-language crowdfunding campaign as well over on Modian), have purchased reward tiers that requires the game developers to include them or their designs into the game to varying degrees. This is no small undertaking. Many of these tiers include more than one thing for the investor to design, which means that the larger cost investors could slow the project down if the team does not carefully manage their time and the backers’ expectations and punctuality. I’m not bashing this kind of reward as an option.  In fact,  “creation tiers” are often my favourite options to see, as I fancy myself a good designer and want to put it to the test. And, while I lament my inability to afford to get these tiers, I respect the logic behind them having high costs and big rewards.  But this is a lot of work to do, particularly if they aim to keep the same quality animation throughout these designs. Being untested, Rocket Punch Games have an excellent opportunity to prove that they can deliver on some big promises and big rewards.

Now, remember how I mentioned that Code: HARDCORE also has a home on Modian, where it presently has a healthy ¥378,597?  Well, Rocket Punch Games have decided to combine the Kickstarter and Modian sums together to tabulate stretch goal achievement. This means that before the campaign even had time to catch it’s breath from accomplishing their initial funding goal, they had unlocked the first four stretch goals. With a physical art book,  two additional Mecha,  two additional multiplayer maps, and the game being ported to PS4 a lock, the new investor only has to worry about unlocking more boss levels, a playable boss robot, and a famous voice actor… But wait, what’s that down there at the bottom of the stretch goals all fuzzy like? That’s another goal that we aren’t close enough to see clearly. This kind of teasing is intelligent, but might remind some people of the endless list of stretch goal promises that tanked Mighty No 9. Again, we reach a question of tipping points and resource management. Even if they raise enough money between the two platforms to hit all of their stretch goals,  is it maybe too much?  Time will tell.

Frankly speaking, this game looks a lot bigger than their budget looks like it can cover. Indivisible’s campaign was lambasted for asking for the sum they did and Code: HARDCORE looks to have a lot of the same challenges to face. Beautiful 2D animation isn’t cheap. Certainly the wages in China are likely to be different and maybe Rocket Punch are closer to a finished product with their demo than Lab Zero were with the Indivisible proof of concept, but it begs the question of how much is really enough, if they have budgeted properly, and if maybe they have a corporate sponsor we are as of yet unaware of (the only console to be getting a version is the Playstation 4, could that mean anything behind the scenes?). I’m likely making a mountain out of a molehill, and I’d like to stay positive here, but concerns merit voicing.

As you move down the page you also come across the “Backer Achievements” section. I’ve seen variations on this idea used across many different campaigns of different sizes to varying degrees of completion. It feels like Code: HARDCORE’s has stalled. The amount of likes, retweets, shares etc. that they require to move on to the next level of unlocked achievement,  like a pseudo-stretch goal list unlocked by social activity rather than by monetary value, seems to have been miscalculated for the pace and scope of their campaign. They still have plenty of time to prove me wrong, but it looks like it’s headed that way. With that in mind,  they are presently only 2 points away from unlocking “a big stretch goal“, likely that semi-obscured one already on the list. I’d hope that they can at least reach that point to sate my curiosity, but I wouldn’t mind seeing an SD proportioned toy either. And, see, that’s exactly what this section is supposed to do. You get your curiosity piqued and then the requests are so simple in principle.  Like. Retweet.  Follow. Share. But can those numbers be overcome?

It seems in my excitement and consternation over other aspects of Code: HARDCORE’s campaign I skipped past discussing their OST samples. I think that kind of speaks to the point I am about to make. While none of them are bad, and they are all certainly genre appropriate, none of them goes beyond to become something special, like the rest of the artistry in this campaign has done so far. I wouldn’t turn off the music if I had it pop up on my headphones, but it’s no “Neppu! Shippu! Psybuster!“.

Before rendering any kind of verdict, I’d like to take a minute to look at their Financials breakdown. Their pie chart looks eerily similar to every other pie chart. I guess that’s the nature of pie charts. What stands out is the interesting fact that they have budgeted 40% of funds collected to game development and a whopping 20% to digital rewards.  Considering the 69 people who each have one or more digital reward that actually has an effect on the game being made, this number is a touch of comfort. Obviously I  can’t say whether or not it would be enough, and the time and resource management skills of this team will certainly be put to the test, but at least it doesn’t feel like an afterthought.  20% has also been set aside for “extra game features”, which is super fascinating, because that totalled with game development means that an easy 60% goes right into making the game complete and better. But why haven’t they budgeted any flexibility in? Maybe everything is scaled up by 1 to 5 percent more than they actually need in those areas already?  Unless they respond to this article, we’ll likely never know,  and if they deliver on this game as well as I hope they can, no one will ever care.

I WOULD SPEND: $25 -$250

As I’ve mentioned before, when I invest in a game, I’m always going to start at the level where, in the end, I get a playable full copy of the game. I can’t really see a reason to start lower than that. So, as the early-bird special is over, you’re going to start at $25.00USD. As this is something that, like Indivisible, I am really excited about I’m going to aim for that sweet, sweet merch. I’m looking at Union level with the Metal Saga figure as an add on. That being said, going up above where that’s at, to get the Civilian or NPC tiers would also be affordable, particularly if you are not interested in the Metal Saga action figure. In fact I may have just convinced myself that Civilian and the figure are worth it. It’s a $10.00USD difference over Union and the figure. Either way, if you’ve gotten this far then I hope that you’re interested in parting ways with some of your money and taking a chance on Code: HARDCORE. I think that just getting the game at all is a great idea if you even tangentially like Mecha.