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Behind The Kickstart: XIA: Legends of a Drift System with Cody Miller

 

Kickstarter has been a great avenue for developers to get their games not only noticed but actually made. It has become almost as addictive as ebay for hunting for that next game to put my hard-earned dollars toward. Today we feature a game we recently spotlighted on the show, and it's called Xia: Legends of a Drift System. The game is a 3 to 4 player strategy title that enables you to win in a number of ways, as the ultimate goal is to amass the most fame. Whether that's by conquering the final frontier with an iron fist or by becoming the most successful trades dealer in the galaxy, the choice is yours.

One of the most charming parts about Xia is its open-ended gameplay, and I was excited to be able to touch base with Cody Miller, creator of Xia as well as the startup behind it, Far Off Games. Peep our conversation below.

Matt Mueller: Thank you for taking some time out to talk to me about Xia. The game itself looks incredibly detailed, and you can tell a ton of work went into giving each ship and planet/territory its own lore and backstory. This makes it easy for eager role-players like me to take the baton and really make the ship as well as the experience as a whole truly their own from game to game. Why did you decide to give each ship its own story?

Cody Miller:I think it all comes back to Star Wars. The people who made the Falcon and the X-wing really put their heart into those ships. I was enamored by these ships growing up, and that was really the catalyst for Xia. I didn't start out to make any kind of successful board game, I really just wanted to make something for me and my friends. So I invested lots of time in the ships, really trying to flesh them out. Each one is special to me, and I'm really proud of them!

I really wanted each player to feel like they could be the captain of that ship. I wanted them to smell the grimy faux-leather of the crew seats, and to hear the crackling COM when they checked for new missions. I realize most players won't read the stories, or care too much about the setting, but for me it's really important.

MM: One of the pieces I love about Xia is that it goes beyond just killing all the other ships on the map. You can mine, you can trade, and in effect do what Star Wars Galaxies attempted to do and create a small thriving world in one gaming session without necessarily having combat be the sole choice. What inspired that decision?

CM: I really like sandbox games! I love games that put you in charge of your own destiny. And while this isn't an RPG, I wanted to capture that feeling of deciding your own fate in the galaxy. I've heard that games are simply a series of choices linked together. So I wanted every choice you make in Xia to be fun and interesting. I never wanted to force you to do anything. So you can be a pirate, you can be a trader, or you can do whatever crazy thing you can think of. I just set up the rules of play, then you get to do what you like! 

MM: I was reading a bit about your hiatus from gaming before the creation of Xia came around. We've all been there at some time or another when you suddenly go "hey, where did that 4 hours go?" and "why is it dark outside now?" and at that point a break is indeed needed. What's the aspect of games you love most? Maybe better phrased as the thing you would miss most about them if you couldn't play them again.

CM: Games are the one medium where you get to make an impact in your experience. Movies, books, television, I love what each one brings, but games are unique in this. I love to make my own story, to write my own destiny, or to make my own legend.

Board games in particular bring a social element that I love. I think many people would say that their favorite thing is to simply "hang out" with their friends. Board games let you hang out and share a fun experience together.

The other thing that distinguishes board games from video games is that it all comes from you, the player. A video game you can pop into any system and it will play the same no matter what. A board game will be different depending on who's playing: What rules do you remember? Or forget? Did you decide on house rules for certain things you don't like? The human element really makes board games different. 


MM: Integrating games into family life can be touch and go, especially at the beginning, and while I've struggled with it occasionally, it seems me and my fiancé have been able to find a happy balance, as she enjoys them as well. A game like this can be intimidating, though, for someone newer to the genre. With so many systems in place, how easy is it for someone to get in and get going in the world of Xia? How steep is the learning curve?     

CM: I'm hesitant to say one way or the other without knowing your situation. It really is going to depend on your familiarity with games in general. I reference quite a bit of gamer "norms" in Xia. Here's an example:

I had some local kids, middle school, come over and play Xia. I gave them the rulebook and a pretty brief overview, say 4-5 minutes. They started playing and didn't have hardly any trouble. They maybe played about 15% of the game wrong (just little rules, like not applying appropriate amount of damage) but in general they "got" Xia super quickly, and had a great time! Things like Spawn Points, NPCs and free-roam elements were simply taken for granted.

If you don't game at all, then the learning curve could be pretty intimidating. Like if you don't know what an NPC is, that might be hard to figure out. My target audience is people who enjoy games, so I wouldn't recommend Xia as a "gateway game" for someone just getting into tabletop.

If you like sci-fi and gaming, you'll feel right at home in Xia.

MM: While on that subject, how hard from a design perspective is it to maintain a balance of making the game deep and rewarding while simultaneously keeping the game manageable and from being overwhelming, especially to new players?

CM: It's been tremendously hard. Xia has probably gone through 30 or so major revisions. I had so many things I wanted to cram into the game. At first I started out really simple, then I just kept adding and adding.

I was really excited to play-test it with all these new things, and my fiancé came and played with me. She was very gracious, but after about 2 incredibly complex turns, I knew I had to go back to the drawing board.

I started this process I called "crystallizing" where I would take an idea I wanted, say movement, and try to reduce it down to the most simple, fun core. I would ask, "What is it about this system that is fun? What sucks? How can I get rid of the bad part, and keep the good?" I kept doing that over and over with each system through the years. I think that was the hardest part, figuring out the best way to do something, and making it play well!

MM: The thing I'm most giddy over though is the modding system you've implemented into Xia. Being an avid fan of creating backstory's for everything (I have a net named claude that I use in my pathfinder campaign. Yes, I named a net) I love the idea of being able to create my own ship and bring that into the game. Can you go into a bit more detail on how that will work? Obviously copyright violation won't be tolerated, though that won't stop the Starbird Exonerprise creations from popping up. I'm already working on a Micnicholson Talcon, just saying.

CM: I am really excited for the modding to begin. I'm working on some ways to really support that flow. I want people to be out there creating and sharing what they have made, and I want it all to look the same as the print version.

I will be releasing the ship card templates, front and back, as well as the special ability card templates. I work mostly in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, so those will be pre-requisites to making your own cards, but I'm hoping to make it super simple. You'll be able to just type in your information, drop in your ship art and print it out!

The home manufacturing revolution is very interesting to me. I'm a big proponent of 3D printing, and I think it's really going to take off in the next few years. So I'm looking to leverage that technology for the tabletop. I want people designing and sharing miniatures, and printing them off in their own homes! I am also a realist, and I know most people won't have one for a while, which is why I'll be directing people towards Shapeways.com. They have really high quality 3D printers and you can get your design made and sent to you from them! I think people are really going to have fun designing and sharing their starships!

I've got some more ideas on modding, but I can't say anything until I hear back from my manufacturer… 

MM: Kudos on the design for the ships themselves by the way. You've got a bit of everything style wise within the 15 that come with the game. Is any one of those a particular favorite?

 

CM: Ha! Don't make me choose a favorite! I love each one. I actually modeled the original concepts from scratch, one by one out of wood and plastic and glue. That was before I had any dreams of sharing the game with other people. But if I had to choose, I'd say the sleek black one called Cold Phoenix. She was inspired by the old point-and-click adventure game "Full Throttle". The main character had a motorcycle with a crazy exhaust system, and I thought it would be a great idea to have a similar aesthetic but use thrust modules.

MM: Speaking of Design, what was the best part of this experience as a whole? I'm sure this process has been full of potholes so to speak, but what is the one thing you will carry with you going forward in future projects?

CM: Best part of the experience was just letting my imagination go wild with what I could create. I love the process of dreaming up something cool, then trying to figure out exactly how that will work, mechanics wise. Going forward I think I've gotten much better at determining what things will actually play like once they hit the table. So I think my next project wouldn't take quite so long.

MM: As of right now Xia is just about 97% funded. While you have some stretch goals in place already, any thoughts to life after launch? Of course you have the modding built right in, but have there been any thoughts to full on expansions down the line?

CM: I have lots of ideas about what I could do with Xia. But they are all pretty nebulous (ha) at this time. I'm really focused on this project and "finishing strong" so to speak.

MM: I gotcha. Is there something you didn't get to implement into Xia that you would like a chance to do?

CM: Nope! I'm 100% happy with the game. I feel really good about it, I know I've done the best I can, and I think people will really have fun with it!

MM: Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about the game, and I wish you nothing but success! Congratulations again, and I'm excited to see what's next.

Xia has since been 100% funded, and so the first stretch goals are already being reached. Take a look at the new sector called Smugglers Den below. If you interested in funding Xia, or just seeing what all the fuss is about, head over to the official Kickstarter page to check it out. 

 

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