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ZiMo23: Justin Vandermeer

Justin Vandermeer is another designer using the new Crowdfundr platform, raising funds for Ailing Away.


Q: Easy question first: Give us the elevator pitch of your project. Tell us about it in two sentences or less.


A: AILING AWAY is a solo mystery game with romantic historical elements. It's about a consumptive detective trying to solve a murder by charming the suspects into sharing their secrets.

Q: Is this your first ZineMonth project or have you done it before? If it's your first, talk a bit about what inspired you to give it a shot this year. If you've done it before, what's something you've learned from previous crowdfunding projects that you may be doing differently this time, or, if you're not doing anything differently, talk a bit about your previous projects.


A: This is not only my first ZineMonth project, this is my first real crowdfunding campaign! Crowdfunding with big platforms like Kickstarter always seemed very big and intimidating to me. I really wanted to make sure I had all my metaphorical ducks in a row before I got in over my head. Now that I have a few games and a bit of experience getting things printed, I felt more prepared to jump in, myself.


I have always been a huge fan of Zine Month and have discovered some of my favourite creators through ZiMo campaigns over the last few years. I'm new to the game development scene and have a very small following. Participating this year will hopefully help me reach a larger audience. I know my odds of doing that would have been better if I had signed up with a bigger platform, of course, but


I'm a li'l indie guy and I'd like to support smaller companies. (Besides, Crowdfundr lets me assign custom images to the reward tiers and I think it's really cute.)

Q: Finally, tell us something about your current project that really excites you but the average backer may not be aware of. Maybe a twist to an old trope, a new way of presenting something, or maybe just something you've never tried before that you're using this as an opportunity to try out.


A: If I I have made a bit of a name for myself in the community, it's because my most popular titles are solo journaling games. AILING AWAY is a solo RPG, but it's not strictly a journaling game. There are 48 clues to keep track of, and that requires a certain amount of organization that a diary or letters just can't provide. Players are meant to keep track of their game in the form of a detective's notebook-- a print-your-own version of the notebook is available in all of the reward tiers, and a physical copy is available in the Fancy Stationary and Love Letter tiers. The notebook is completely optional, of course-- players can use any stationary that tickles their fancy-- but I think that there's something really satisfying and thematic about making a little conspiracy board in a secret notebook that you may or may not have ripped a few pages out of to draft love-letters.


It is also worth mentioning that AILING AWAY does not discriminate. Players can play a dandy, a lady, or anything in between. Gender doesn't limit detectives from pursuing romantic relationships with any of the eight suspects, and while the mechanical advantages of developing a top-tier platonic relationship in-game is different than the ones a romantic relationship provides, they aren't inferior. There's something in the romance genre for everyone. If you play your cards right (literally, in this game) you should be able to kiss who you want to kiss-- or just hold hands if that's what makes you happy.

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