Its a sad fact that sometimes a Kickstarter campaign just falls apart. Maybe the developer doesn’t budget well enough and runs out of money and calls it quits or maybe they just take your money and runs off. But Mars Frontier is different in that the developers, Dan and Ian with SpinPunch, did actually complete the project and release the game on schedule. That’s a big deal; something I can’t say about most games featured in Kickstarter MIA articles that we do.
SpinPunch billed Mars Frontier as “Starcraft in a browser,” it was even the title of their Kickstarter campaign in fact. The idea was to create an RTS game everyone could play for free on Facebook, with the developers being dedicated to the idea of making a faster and prettier HTML5 game. HTML5 means that it works on most browsers without the need for plugins so you can play it through Safari, Firefox, etc.
The team at SpinPunch seemed to have what it would take to create a fun game; Dan worked with digital effects, helping NASA and Pixar with their films (Roving mars and WALL-E, a personal favorite of mine) and Ian worked at a movie-streaming startup backed by Sony and Warner Brothers according to their unusually barren Kickstarter page. The project was funded in 2012 by 29 people contributing a whopping $10,000. There was a public thank you celebrating the campaign’s success, and then updates were locked down to only be available to backers. Not that much was missed, after the game was funded there were only three additional backer updates that seemed mostly administrative in nature. The last update was way back in June of 2012, which makes sense given that SpinPunch hasn’t logged into their Kickstarter account since March 2013. Typically that level of abandonment would be the end of a Kickstarter MIA article, but Mars Frontier turns out to be a bit different. See, the Mars Frontier forum sees regular use, and the games Facebook page features regular postings. Mars Frontier was was released and this is cause for celebration.
Given Dan and Ian’s background I initially thought that the company actually could make a pretty good game, until I actually played it. Sadly Mars Frontier is nothing more than your average Clash Of Clans-esq Facebook game that doesn’t bring anything new or particularly exciting to the table, with gameplay revolving around building a base and attacking other bases using your little army of rovers. The kind of game that’s sadly a dime a dozen on Facebook. Mars Frontier was released and then promptly disappeared into the background.
SpinPunch seems to have disappeared as well, the link to their website in the Kickstarter bringing you to another company called Battlehouse, that seems to have either bought, absorbed, or been transformed from SpinPunch and owns Mars Frontier. Their About Us section says they’ve got teams distributed through America, Canada and Korea and everything seems rather official and tidy. They’ve built two other Facebook games, Thunder Run and Summoners Gate that seem to run along the same vein as Mars Frontier but with different settings, one being modern and the other being fantasy.
At the end of the day the story of Mars Frontier’s fate isn’t as dramatic as some others we’ve covered, but it’s no less disappointing. What was once a promising take on the StarCraft formula because yet another also-ran whose story is only interesting because of how quickly the developers abandoned Kickstarter.