It's hard to believe that only a few years ago the crowd sourcing site Kickstarter was unheard of in the videogame industry. Nevertheless, Kickstarter is now a legitimate route for both aspiring and veteran game developers to secure funding for their dream projects. As PC gamers, Kickstarter offers us a unique opportunity to shape the industry we love so much by choosing which projects are worth funding, by interacting directly with developers and following games as they grow.
But the Wild West world of crowd scouring is full to the brim with myriad videogame developers desperate to gain our support. A lot of these games are good, a lot of these games are bad and some are just plain ugly. Read on to learn about some of up-and-coming Kickstarter projects that have appeared this month.
Developer: Bear and Boar
Pledged (at time of writing): $6,948
End date: Jan 4, 2014
It only takes a few screenshots of Treasurebear to understand what kind of game Canadian pixel artist Bear and Boar is working towards – a vibrant 2D platformer inspired by classic 16-bit retro games.
From what can be seen in the well crafted Treasurebear Kickstarter trailer, this charming adventure game draws from the pixelated adventures of yesteryear without relying on them too heavily. As such, Treasurebear features highly detailed, hi-resolution sprites, swashbuckling 16-bit tunes and a silly, simplistic premise with instantly likeable characters.
Ever wanted to take control of a hungry bear and his greedy treasure chest companion as they sail the seven seas in their own customisable ship? Me neither. But after seeing what Bear and Boar has to offer with Treasurebear, my interest is well and truly piqued.
Treasurebear has been on Kickstarter for only a few days and has already acquired roughly $7,000 from over 150 backers. However, with only a month and a half to go and the Christmas period to contend with, it's difficult to tell whether Tresurebear will meet its $70,000 goal. I personally think that Treasurebear has a great appeal to retro-gamers and players of 2D platformers, it's just a matter of Bear and Boar finding those gamers before its Kickstarter time limit runs out.
Developer: Asthree Works
Pledged (at time of writing): $80,731
End date: Dec 1, 2013
Paradise Lost: First Contact is another retro-inspired 2D adventure game, this time inspired by the likes of Metroid, Castlevania and Metal Gear. However, Paradise Lost puts a twist on the games it draws from by putting players in control Subject W – a captured, sentient plant life form which must escape from a human research facility and uncover its dark secrets.
Paradise Lost features some extremely atmospheric pixel art that combines the eeriness of the Metroid series with the surreal minimalism of games like Fez and Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP. It's fitting considering that a lot of Paradise Lost's gameplay involves stealthily evading military forces by utilising the environment and Subject W's special abilities. As the game progresses, different abilities are unlocked via an evolutionary tree, with different abilities suiting different gameplay scenarios e.g. bullet and fire proof vines, releasing poison spores, creating remote controlled mini-plants and controlling the minds of humans.
Paradise Lost: First Contact looks great visually and has a very interesting premise. Thankfully, the game's Spanish developer Asthree Works has already secured the $70,000 need to meet its Kickstarter goal. As with Treasurebear, Paradise Lost: First Contact only needs to make its presence known to a few more caches of retro-loving gamers to reach stretch goals and add new features.
Developer: Studio MONO
Pledged (at time of writing): $5,162
End date: Dec 25, 2013 (Project now cancelled)
New York based dev team Studio MONO hoped to throw their hat into the online multiplayer RPG ring with InSomnia Online - a co-op, tactical RPG set in a dynamic, retro-futuristic environment that draws from both classic tactical RPGs such as Fallout as well as the latest and greatest MMOs. MONO claim to have been working on InSomnia for some time now and require additional funding to see development through to the end.
InSomnia's hook would seem to lie in the freedom it offers its players. The Kickstarter page boldly claims that the game can be played alone, with a few friends or with up to 60 players. It also states that combat is both in real-time and with slower paced “tactical elements”. The plot is divided into clearly defined chapters, yet every player can permanently affect the storyline through their actions via a ambiguously described “sandbox system”.
It certainly sounds ambitious, however, actually detailing how the final version of InSomnia will manifest itself seems to have proved somewhat difficult for the indie team. Is it an MMO? Is it a co-op RPG? Is it both with some overlap? It's not entirely clear, and one can't help but voice concern that the lack of clarity has affected the success of the Kickstarter. As of Nov 14th, the InSomnia Kickstarter project has been cancelled by MONO with only $5,162 secured. MONO have stated that the InSomnia project will return in a few months and it may still be a game worth keeping an eye on, but a dash of cautious optimism is advised.
Developer: Perihelion Interactive
Pledged (at time of writing): $294,564
End date: Dec 2, 2013
Space opera novels have always inhabited a strong niche, and space opera videogames are no different. It's not surprising then to find Californian developer Perihelion Interactive taking to Kickstarter to fund their own space-faring RPG The Mandate. Unlike the aforementioned InSomnia, The Mandate's chance of success benefits from well detailed Kickstarter page that clearly lays out the premise of the game and precisely what the end product will look like.
In a distant future/ alternate timeline, the Eastern European Tsars of yore lead their people on a campaign to conquer all of space and time. After thousands of years of exploration a new planet is declared home and a new galactic empire is formed: The Mandate.
Reaching out across the galaxy, The Mandate maintains its control through its grand fleet of interstellar space craft. But following the premature death of the current emperor and the crowning of a new empress, the many fringe worlds that fall under The Mandate's control begin to rebel. And so it is that the Empress tasks the player to command the crew of a new, powerful ship and to restore peace amongst the fringe worlds with an iron fist.
The Mandate features customisable ships and space stations, fully 3D space flight, inter-ship combat and tactical crew vs. crew combat – all within an open, sandbox galaxy. Perihelion have also put great emphasis on the individual crew members that players command – each of which have their own skill sets that develop and expand over time – and looks to programmes such as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly for inspiration.
With plenty of pre-alpha footage, an engrossing trailer and a Unity-based prologue, ship designer and even a text adventure for potential backers to get busy with, The Mandate is a great example of a Kickstarter campaign done right. There's some way to go before it gets the remaining $200,000 funding of its hefty, $500,000 goal, but The Mandate is definitely a Kickstarter project to keep an eye on.
There's literally hundreds of videogame development projects on Kickstarter of various styles and genres, and a good proportion of them offer something genuinely new and exciting to PC gamers. What they all have in common though is a need for your time and your cold, hard cash. Which of the above projects would you be willing to contribute towards? What current Kickstarter projects do you think should have been included in this article? As for which projects are successful, that's completely up to you.
As for which projects are successful, that's completely up to you.