Indie tabletop game developer Mikey Hamm is releasing a revamped edition of Slugblaster: Kickflip Over a Quantum Centipede after it was named the Game of the Year at the 2023 Indie Groundbreaker Awards.
"You put all this into it, and it just feels good to know that other people enjoy it," Hamm said of the award, presented on July 29 by the Indie Game Developer Network. "And it's a smaller game — indie role-playing games are a sub-submarket, so it's very much a David-and-Goliath situation."
Slugblaster is a story-based role-playing game with a less complicated rule set than classics such as Dungeons and Dragons, which tend to reward strategy. Instead, Hamm built a world that encourages players to do what's "cool," he explained.
"I tried to build all the rules to support this cinematic, fast, wacky action, rather than to simulate realism," Hamm told Taproot.
The narrative places your group in the shoes of portal-hopping teens who record themselves and try to go viral — and not die — while performing sick hoverboard stunts in other dimensions. When they make it home to their small town of Hillview, they have to deal with the consequences of their parents' worries and other teenage trials in a coming-of-age arc.
"The fun of the game is a lot about creating your own movie or TV show with your friends around the table, rather than winning or even beating the monsters or anything like that," Hamm said.
The game-of-the-year reprint will include a hardcover rule book, a colour-coded dice set, and poster-sized maps of four different worlds, designed by rule book cover artist Sex on a Pizza. It will all come together in a pizza-box-like package designed by Hamburger Hands, a Calgary-based artist.
Hamm said the packages will be manufactured this winter and will be sent to project backers and retailers in the spring of 2024.
Slugblaster kickflipped its way into the public market in October 2022, but Hamm can trace its inspiration back to his childhood years.
"The proto-molecule of it was a comic that I wrote when I was a kid called 'Ray Gun Boy,' about a kid with a ray gun — very much just ripping off Earthworm Jim, which was one of my favourite cartoons," Hamm said.
In college, a creative writing class gave him the opportunity to revisit his childhood creation and flesh out the character and his world even more. That assignment and an interest in physics books and the multiverse theory started to make the sci-fi, skater-punk pieces of Slugblaster's world fall together in Hamm's mind.
"At one point I realized that going to other dimensions as a teenager would be super dangerous and I thought, 'Who would do that?' Then I realized, well, teenagers would do that, skateboarders would do that," he said. "Doing something dangerous is part of the appeal, right? I then started realizing that skateboard culture really mapped onto this whole idea of kids going into other dimensions for adventures really well."
Hamm eventually solidified his concept for the game and in 2020, he started building the Slugblaster community and letting people beta-test it. He has since created a Discord server where players can share their experiences.
"Everyone who comes to it comes to it with a bit of their own take and ideas," said Hamm. "I always find that really exciting and I think that conversation of fans sharing their individual takes on it just generates more excitement within the community."
In addition to the community server, there is also a play-through podcast called Quantum Kickflip, which has been airing since before the game's official release. The show is hosted by The Debutantes, a sketch comedy group that has been performing in Edmonton since 2013.
Gearing up for a good cause
After Slugblaster's debut, Hamm started organizing a fundraiser called Wilkie's Goody Jam, in which fans can submit designs and ideas for new gear and weapons, monsters, worlds, scenarios, and more. The submissions get collected and sold as an add-on bundle for the game.
Goody Jam No. 2 is accepting submissions until Nov. 28. All proceeds will be donated to StrongMinds, which provides therapy for low-income women with depression in Uganda and Zambia. Earlier this year, Goody Jam's first round raised $1,060 for Mermaids, which supports trans, non-binary, and gender-diverse youth and their families.
"I like things that theme together well. Mental health is important to me and Slugblaster's about teens and going through hard times a lot of the time," Hamm said. "I thought, 'One day, if something comes up, I'm gonna use Slugblaster to raise money for one of these organizations.'"
Along with the Goody Jams, which he hopes to continue twice a year, Hamm plans to add to the universe in the years to come. He is working on a supplement for the game called "The Book of Slime," which will include new "goopy-type content" like monster companions, he said.
"Role-playing games can have a really long life where people are still excited to try a game that came out even 10 years ago because they just haven't gotten to it yet," Hamm said. "So I expect Slugblaster to be the same."
Now that Slugblaster has entered the world, Hamm has started working on his next creation.
"I'm working with a co-designer to make what we are calling a button masher role-playing game," he said, "which is gonna emulate fighting games like Street Fighter and Double Dragon."