You may remember the fantastic success enjoyed by a team of Digital Arts students last Spring, when their videogame Axle won a trophy for Chapman at a major independent gaming event here on campus.  After being nominated for a Cecil Award, then graduating, the alumni have been hard at work preparing the game for release, and their Kickstarter campaign is now launched and ready for your love!  Alumna Liz Fiacco has contributed a post letting everyone know what they’re up to.

Last April, when the Axle team and I won the IEEE Gamesig Intercollegiate Showcase for our innovative mobile game, Axle, it felt very fitting to receive the award in Dodge’s own Folino Theater.  The game is about an intelligent little gear, who adventures inside of dangerous, twisting, turning machines in order to repair them.  The education we received in visual communication and storytelling was as valid and crucial in video games as it is in filmmaking.  Emotional characters, artistic style, and viewer (or player) experience are critical.

In Dodge’s history, only been a handful of game projects have been created, particularly at the Senior Thesis level.  The video game industry is growing, and games are held to more filmic standards each year.  In fact, there is a lot of overlap between filmmaking and game designing, from the inherently collaborative processes, to crafting emotional journeys.  By partnering with Computer Science students, me and the team were able to make something really unique – and also very marketable.

We knew independent games could be built and released with a shockingly small budget and a lot of elbow grease, so with an idea in hand we pooled our resources and set to work. Starting in September of 2011 we spent what time we had between schoolwork, job searching, and internships, designing and programming Axle. Our work paid off when we were recognized with first place at the IEEE Showcase and a Cecil Award nomination for Best Achievement in Visual Effects.

Like the many people who encouraged us along the way, we knew we had something special. Even months after the initial attention we received from the competition people still remembered Axle, and not just the game, but the character. Whether it was in the packed Folino Theater or one player with a smartphone there was always a cry of empathy whenever Axle was hurt, or a smile when he succeeded.

Since graduation we have continued to refine Axle to prepare it for release. Our team was accepted by the Chapman University eVillage Student Incubator and with their help started an LLC, Fallstreak Studio, to support the project and future games.

As we draw closer to releasing the game we realize one of our fundamental challenges. Axle was built using many of the tools and resources available to us as students of Dodge College. But we’re not students anymore, we are a commercial business. In order to release and sell the game we will need professional software licenses among many other expenses to ensure we build both a solid game and business. For this, we decided Kickstarter, a popular crowdfunding site, was the best way to both let the world know about Axle and cover the costs to release and support the game.

Check out the Kickstarter campaign for Axle – Mobile Platformer in a World of Gears

We are currently looking to raise a minimum of $15k to release Axle for the Android. But, if we manage to gain support up to $22k we will be able to afford to release the game on iPhone, iPad, and Kindle Fire. With $30k we can release a level editor to let players create their own levels using the assets from the game, a frequently requested feature.  If Axle looks like something you or someone you know would play, please consider donating.  Through Dodge Axle became possible, and through you we can make it a reality!