Hardware: Shipbreakers trailers highlight back-story, freemium perks

Hardware: Shipbreakers has one of the most distinctive art styles I've seen in a video game. The real-time strategy game is being created by former Homeworld developers, and there's a new trailer showing off its unique aesthetic.

While the trailer provides some back-story on what I presume is one of the game's central elements, it's unclear whether the footage is from gameplay sequences or cinematics. Either way, it looks fantastic.

The official Hardware: Shipbreakers website has been updated since we got our first look at the game. Developer Blackbird Interactive is still accepting beta applications, and you can now guarantee entry by shelling out $100 for a First Wave VIP Package. The package includes concept art, naming rights, special forum access, and a copy of the game's soundtrack. Shelling out for the VIP program will also get you the Prospector's Guide. This guide is available separately for $50, and another trailer provides a glimpse of what it offers.

Although Hardware will be a free-to-play game, Blackbird is selling these extras as its "own little version of a Kickstarter." According to the FAQ, Blackbird "could use the help to get this game out faster and ensure we maximize our investment in its quality." Right now, the closed beta is scheduled to kick off in the fourth quarter, which suggests the final version won't be out until next year.

I'm not sure I'd shell out 50 bucks for a glorified game guideā€”even a digital one that promises constant updates and tablet support. However, I am encouraged to see developers pursing alternate funding approaches for free-to-play games. Independent studios like Blackbird Interactive have to be creative if they want to get ambitious games made without the aid of meddling publishers.

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