On the pulse of crowdfunded gaming

Dan FitzGerald and Lisa Bromiel

Dog Sled Saga slides forward towards PAX, Steam Early Access

Posted by Marcus Beard on March 27, 2014 | Jump to 0 comments

Of all the sports we’ve seen video game-ized, we never thought it’d come to husky racing. But Dan FitzGerald and Liza Bromiel’s retro racer Dog Sled Saga shines with a surprising amount of heart and beauty.

Having reached over twice its $6,000 funding goal in 2013, backers have been enjoying Dog Sled Saga‘s treat-chucking racing set to serene, snowy backdrops for quite some time. It’s been a long road for Dan and Lisa, but with Penny Arcade Expo East on the horizon and a release on Steam greenlit, excitement is higher than ever.

“You can be making games anywhere in the world, and it’s going to be really great to come together with other indie devs,” Lisa said about PAX East, which takes place from April 11 to April 13 in Boston, Massachusetts.

“Yeah, this is our first chance to meet a lot people we follow who are outside the Chicago indie scene, which is really great and supportive of us, by the way,” Dan added.

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Even though the duo more than doubled its initial goal, it’s missing its first December 2013 release window by quite some margin.

“We’ve heard time and time again that game development always takes longer than planned, and that has definitely been true in our case,” Dan said. “We love our full plan for the game too much to compromise, and now that we’ve run the campaign, we also owe it to our backers. I’d much rather take the extra time and see it through than make huge cuts.”

Dog Sled Saga is certainly an expansive game, even though its pixelated dogs and one-dimensional racing might have you believing otherwise. It’s all about building your reputation and climbing the leagues in the cutthroat husky racing scene of Mount St. Something. Yes, it’s really called that.

Every dog is unique, with different strengths, vices and desires. Work them too hard and they won’t race as well. You don’t want Ol’ Axe Thickwood showing you up now, do you?

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Dog years

Despite the delay, a preview build got into hands of backers in November. Some gamers were more invested in the subject matter than you might think.

Mushers — the people who train and race with huskies — started sending Dan and Lisa suggestions. Feature ideas, first-hand knowledge, things to be wary of and so on. At first, Dan felt overwhelmed. It’s a video game — did it really need all these complications?

Dan believed it did.

“As time passed, though, I’d have an epiphany and realize that something that was suggested was just what our game needed,” he said. “A good example is dogs getting tangled by the tow rope.

“Every time we do a major update to the preview build, there are a few players who send an amazing list of feedback that helps us a lot.”

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Looking to Steam Early Access, Dan and Lisa want to be sure they aren’t going to come under fire of criticisms that the game is “broken” or “unfinished.”

“I have heard the misgivings of some players about Early Access, and I do think there’s something to be said about just finishing and focusing all of your energy into hyping the release of the finished game, but we’ve kind of already cracked that egg,” said Dan.

“The racing aspect of the game is getting pretty close to what I’d call complete. After that, we’re going to be expanding the role-playing and bite-sized narrative aspects between races, which I’m very excited to work on.”

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When the game is released (no date on that yet), the metagame and narrative elements will be fully fleshed out, along with a new breeding system and multiplayer racing.

You can buy Dog Sled Saga on Dan and Lisa’s website right now, which will grant you the Early Access build and the full release. If you’re dropping by PAX next week, be sure to seek them out.

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