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Kickstarter, contests bring FTL to life

Since late last week, three simple letters -- FTL -- have been floating around on Twitter as devs and gamers alike discover a new release on Steam that could very well be "the next big thing" in indie games.

Mike Rose

September 20, 2012

3 Min Read

Since late last week, three simple letters have been floating around on Twitter as devs and gamers alike discover a new release on Steam that could very well be "the next big thing" in indie games. FTL -- or Faster Than Light -- is a space-faring simulation in the same vein as the wonderful Weird Worlds, as players blast off with a custom crew, visiting randomly-generated planets and taking care of randomly-generated business. The game hasn't exactly come out of nowhere. In 2011, it was a finalist at IGF China, and in 2012 it earned honorable mentions in two categories at the IGF -- including for the Grand Prize. Then, earlier this year, the game popped up on Kickstarter and promptly destroyed its funding goal, earning just over $200,000 in pledges. Now, since the game released on Steam last week, it has constantly stayed in the top 10 best selling games on the service. This is a game on a mission, and the buzz it's receiving is infectious. "I have absolutely no idea how the response got so big so fast", admits Subset Games' Justin Ma. "My guess is that the game is pretty unique and we were in the right place at the right time in a number of situations." The Kickstarter was definitely one of the key elements to making FTL as popular as it has been, he reckons -- not least because it provided the team with four thousand beta testers to help them cull the rubbish and leave the good. "When the Kickstarter was really exploding we were busy trying to figure out how we would support four thousand beta testers when we were expecting only a few hundred," he notes. "In the end, the extra funds helped us make sure the beta ran smoothly and improve the game beyond our original expectations considerably." Although the team was unable to add "stretch goals" (as is a common Kickstarter element now) due to the release date of the game being only a few months away, it still made for "a really nice Kickstarter success story," says Ma, adding, "I'm sure it was a large factor in our initial surge in press." Before the Kickstarter, however, the Subset team was laying the foundations for success through competition entries. Subset entered numerous contests, eventually coming up with the aforementioned success at the IGF, and also becoming finalists at IndieCade. "Submitting to contests was crucial for FTL's success in more ways than one," explains Ma. "We did very well which lead to a lot of press and legitimacy; getting an honorable mention in IGF allowed us to have a demo online through OnLive which helped our Kickstarter launch considerably." Ma also notes that the rigidity of competitions means that teams are forced to perhaps work harder and stronger than they were previously. "Using the submission deadlines as milestones also helped push us forwards while developing," he says. "For example, the core game really came together in the 2 week crunch before the China IGF submission deadline." FTL is currently available via Steam for Windows PC and Mac.

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