'Interactive graphic novel' Troubadour speaks to technology moderation

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'Interactive graphic novel' Troubadour speaks to technology moderation

Eric Doty spends his days at Microsoft as a content producer and community strategist for Xbox, but he also aspires to create video games. Enter: Troubadour, an "interactive graphic novel" about "growing up in the digital age" from Doty's independent studio, Cicatriz Entertainment.

Doty tells Joystiq he's had the idea for over two years now and that Troubadour is chiefly about "our own social anxieties and the consequences we face when technology permeates so much of our world" – even if those consequences aren't all bad."There's definitely a place for technology to assist us in communicating with others or help us relax after a stressful day, but we have to maintain a healthy level of moderation like anything else in life." Doty goes on to say social media presents us with a means to interact with people we otherwise wouldn't be able to know, but that it also presents a problem to those who abuse it and isolate themselves from physical society. "Part of Troubadour is questioning how we enthusiastically welcome new technology into our lives while ignoring what potential new points of stress they bring. This topic really resonated with me while reading What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly."

Doty, a first-time developer, says Anna Anthropy's Rise of the Videogame Zinesters is what really inspired him to start developing games. "I immediately picked up GameMaker and just started going through tutorials. You learn so much by just doing instead of obsessing about planning something. Within a few weeks I started building out what would be the start of Troubadour."

Right now, Cicatriz is seeking $15,000 in funds through Kickstarter to finish Troubadour, which is expected to be a standalone experience – not the first episode in a planned series. Doty needs $15,000 to finish the game and the pledge drive is already a third of the way to reaching its goal. Doty says the team was "very hesitant to go to Kickstarter," despite having already achieved success there once before. Doty launched a comic book called Steamfunk through donations he received on Kickstarter.

"We finally made the decision to crowd-fund Troubadour because we realized just how great this project can be with a real budget and proper development timeline," Doty told Joystiq. "I have two partners who make this project much better than I could ever do alone. We've been piecing Troubadour together slowly as they have have free time to build art assets and music. Having an actual budget allows us to operate on an appropriate timeline versus casually building assets when there isn't other work competing for the team's time."

As for stretch goals, which the Kickstarter page promises to reveal as funding nears the $15,000 goal, Doty says there won't be any additional modes or things of that nature. "As far as stretch goals go, we don't have the luxury of adding co-op or multiplayer to Troubadour because that would A) make it a completely different experience and B) ruin our planned development timeline. What we can do is put more work into supplemental scenes, the zine that's coming with the game (digital PDF and printed), and work with others who can bring an extra level of polish to the project."
Should Cicatriz find success on Kickstarter and release Troubadour on PC and Mac, it will allow Doty and his team to consider ports on other platforms. More importantly, however, it will allow the team to pursue its next project – which Doty's already preparing. "How our culture handles our humanity in a world where we're overwhelmed by technology will probably always be a shared theme in my projects."

We sampled an early build of Troubadour at PAX in Seattle last year and were impressed with the game's emotional storyline and unique visual aesthetic. "I have a theory that every story can be told in every medium," Doty told Joystiq during that meeting. Growing up, finding yourself and your place in the world, Doty added, "that's the story I'm trying to tell."
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