Spin-Off Of The Stars: Kerberos And The Pit

By Alec Meer on November 13th, 2012 at 11:00 am.

Kerberos haven’t been spending all their time licking the wounds gained from Sword of the Stars II’s messy release – they’ve also been developing a spin-off roguelike set in the same science-fictional universe. Sword of the Stars: The Pit might be set aboard some manner of space station, but features permadeath, door-hacking, rat-stabbing, starvation-avoiding and all that good masochistic dungeon-crawler stuff. There’s a demo out now, offering a 10% chunk of the game.

I’ve been having a play and I’m at least passably taken with it. It comes across as very low budget – not in a tawdry way at all, but just one that suggests the Kerberos A-team didn’t work on it en masse. Bobbleheaded isometric 2D graphics, blip-blop sound effects and a slightly inelegant control set that is, at a guess, more because it’s trying to replicate vintage roguelikes’ obtuseness rather than because it doesn’t know better. Additionally, this is an ‘alpha demo’, a prototype designed to gain crowdfunding, so there’s every chance it’s be slickened up if and when it makes it to full release status.

Far more importantly, I immediately lost myself to inward-looking concerns about getting my lockpicking skill up, finding enough food to stay alive (in addition to replenishing health) and frantically switching to melee attacks to conserve ammo.

There are the requisite shedloads of stats and randomly-generated level layouts, so it’s going to do its job, I think. It’s no doubt too lightweight to please the roguelike true believers and perhaps a little too awkward to attract a more casual audience, but for boring middlers such as I it’s a reasonable fit. I do wish it wasn’t immediately so rat-laden, but then complaining about rats in RPGs is pretty much up there with complaining about guns in first-person shooters now.

The ‘alpha’ demo, containing but one of the three playable classes and a mere five levels, can be grabbed here at a hard drive cost of just 8.4 UFO: Enemy Unknowns. Here’s a trailer if you can’t suckle on a download pipe right now.

The full game isn’t out as yet, but as is increasingly par for the course they’re doing the preorder via crowdfunding thing, in this case on IndieGoGo. They’re $18k into their $60k target with just 40ish hours left so they must be feeling the pinch right now, but see what you make of the demo at least.

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60 Comments »

  1. RaytraceRat says:

    Looks good, but they are killing rats, so I’m off ;)

    • vonkrieger says:

      I love the bit where he shoots the bat and just gets ignored.

      Pay attention to me, or I shall fire again space bat!

      • greenbananas says:

        RPS uses “Rats in RPGs”!

        A wild Fallout Fan appears!

        IT’S SUPER AWKWARD!

        • vonkrieger says:

          Ah, I’ll never forget first leaving the vault. No idea how to equip weapons.

          Punching rats was all I knew.

          • greenbananas says:

            The start to Fo1 is a pet peeve o’ mine but it was first booting up Fo2 and finding out the first decent quest was killing the Rat Keeeeng that had me contemplating sudoku. I hope I never learn the address of whoever designed Klamath…

          • son_of_montfort says:

            Greenbananas, why would killing rats have you contemplating a grid-based number puzzle? ;-)

            *cough* seppuku *cough*

          • greenbananas says:

            And why would I be contemplating suicide by sword? Overkill much? (HA!) But thanks for the suggestion, not that I’m sure what I did to you to deserve it. (I’m pretty certain that nasty cough isn’t any of my doing. Maybe.)

            Though, I’ll say, the english language desperately needs some sort of punctuation indicative of obviously not-so-obvious deliberate “mistakes” (since contemplating snubbing an annoying computer game in favor of a number puzzle does make some measure of sense, hence the sentence above) and other similar wordplay. The internet as literal-ville is about as interesting as, well, as clearing several sublevels of rats in a RPG.

  2. Snidesworth says:

    Can I play a psychic power armoured space dolphin?

  3. WMain00 says:

    Kerberos shouldn’t be given the time of day, let alone a nice press report on RPS. After the shambolic embarrassment that is Sword of the Stars 2, anyone who is foolish enough to give Kerberos a penny or even a minute of their time really should get their head checked and hand in their wallet.

    • Sarissofoi says:

      “We are not presently supported by Paradox. In order for us to keep up support on SotS 2 past November 30, we will need direct support from our player base. I cannot make things any more clear than that, and I will not try.

      The Pit is a fund-raising campaign for all Kerberos products. Period. If ten dollars is too much for you to spend to help the company keep the lights on–then yes, that is a vote for certain. It is a vote for this company, and its forums, and its games, to vanish.

      As for the other fund-raising campaigns? In a world where our own people are not threatened with unemployment, we do not mind hosting these discussions. We believe in the community of independent developers, or we would not be fighting for our first true independence ourselves. But we expect for this to be a two-way street, obviously. Using our forums to promote other games and then telling us to our faces that we’d have to PAY you to do the same for us…not cool.

      –Arinn”

      • WMain00 says:

        Which has to be the most odious and insulting blackmail intent ever. Pay us money or we’ll stop patching our horrendously broken, buggy game. Feel free to talk about your games so we can leech of this and con people who don’t know us well into giving us more money!

        Honestly, I would not shed a single tear if Kerberos faded into oblivion.

        • The_Mess says:

          @WMain00

          /rollseyes

          Funny, the present build of SotS][ works entirely well, with the only thing missing at present being espionage functions. There’s a few balance issues also, but nothing serious.

        • Mordsung says:

          SotS2 is now in patched, working order. Further patches would just be polishing or new content.

          That wasn’t black mail, it was a letter giving you a very simple choice: vote with your wallet.

          You obviously want to see them crash and burn, so don’t buy The Pit.

          I want to see them continue, so I’ll probably buy it.

          Make the choice yourself and worry not about the choice of others.

        • magusprimex says:

          WMain00, you don’t seem to actually know anything about what you are talking about, so your misplaced willful hatred in the face of ignorance can be excused, Spear, or Sarissofoi on the other hand, is just plain trolling these comments and is well out of line, if not out of reality.

          Kerberos proved that it had dedication and integrity when they kept up with Sword of the Starts II. Logically, monetarily, they should have dropped it. They literally are making no money, not getting a single cent, for SotS2 or its continued support. But they never left a single fan hanging, and they didn’t abandon their project. Despite seeing not being paid for it, Kerberos never whined, never pointed a finger, and never refused or rebuked any upset individuals over it, even the ones who were more than just little overly…dramatic about it. They took it on the chin and finished an amazing game well worth its money.

          That’s the kind of company that is worth giving money to; who should keep making new projects and deserves some respect, not this absolutely insipid generation of completely fictional big evil personality traits. Kerberos has never displayed one of them. They have displayed integrity, dignity, and a creative aptitude to make a pretty fun game. I’d like them to have the chance to show us more, and The Pit looks like a very interesting start to do that.

          • Sarissofoi says:

            Simple.
            If they would not fix SotS II to playable state they will have Paradox on their ass.
            Dunno how they get released SotS II in that messy state but Paradox learn their lesson and sink Magna Mundi(similar situation).
            Paradox learn from its mistakes and quality of their releases improwed greatly.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            I would rather give money to companies that can finish projects on time and on budget and keep their ambitions in line with their budgets. its much preferable to companies which will lie to their customers repeatedly about the state of a broken unfinished game, but then do a really good job at trying to make up for it.

            A wife who is sweet and loyal, is much preferable to one who constantly cheats on you but then provides good make up sex.

            Despite what is reported above SotS II is still an expansion away at least from being as good of a game as the original, which is really not a good sign because it is a sequel. It is now, even after a year of patching, a hugely disappointing game compared to what most fans were expecting.

            The AI is brain dead, lots of stuff is still unfinished or in the first roughest (unbalanced) draft. It is really too bad the company didn’t have a business manager so it wouldn’t have blown itself up.

            It is like instead of making SotS 1.5 or 1.8 (which probably would have been a smart idea for a studio their size) they jumped right to trying to make SotS 4.0, and then failed miserably.

      • frightlever says:

        Hey, fair enough. It’s an opportunity for die-hards to give them money so the studio stays open.

        I didn’t get burned by SOTS2. Oh no, it was Fort Zombie that burned me, but even then I got a certain amount of entertainment out of that particular buggy, unfinished mess. Meta-entertainment, if you will.

    • DK says:

      Except they spent a year doing practically weekly patches to fix SotS 2 – and have done just that. Many other games that launch in such a barebones buggy state don’t get fixed at all, much less have as much work poured into them.

      On the other hand, The Pit is a gigantic mistake. What they should be doing, is developing a tactical combat only skirmish mode based on the SotS 2 tactical engine and crowdfund that that for 10 to 20 bucks, free for all people that own SotS 2 – with some good stretch goals. They already have the engine, and the tactical side of SotS 2 is simply fantastic.

      • gorkomatic says:

        Agreed. I’ve recently returned to SoTS2 (after buying it, and paying premium, more than a year ago. Yeah, still a bit sore about that), and while the strategy layer is a bit… dull to be honest, the tactical part – what I’ve seen of it, anyway* – was reasonably fun.

        And that could be expanded into tactical game a bit like Nexus:TJI. There’s a market for that ($160K market, as failed Nexus 2 kickstarter has shown).

        *) most of what I’ve seen was my underdefended planets (no dear, you can’t put your ships on defense here) getting whacked by Random Encounter of the Day. Still fun, though.

      • Sarissofoi says:

        How nice of them to patch broken game.

        They are not nice. SotS become their main goods and they have deal with Paradox. They need to fix it or Pradox will show them how bankruptcy look.
        They did a weekly patches to SotS 2 mostly because in other way Paradox will make them run naked on the snow.
        You can thanks Paradox for free patches. Otherwise you will get patches in the form of paid expansion. Probably.
        Developers aren’t nice. Their are here for money(mostly).
        Keeping good reputation help earning money.
        So if they want to stay in business they need to fix SotS II.
        Look at Fort Zombie. Broken game, never fixed.
        SotS only get polished and expanded because vanilla version even that was poor in options was playable and have potential. Nothing nice about selling good services. Its all about money.

        • Aidan says:

          Dude. Paradox are the ones who pushed out unfinished product. They clearly took Kerberos for a ride and then left them for dead.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            That is not what happened at all. The publisher isn’t ALWAYS the bad guy (as most gamers seem to feel). Kerberos had multiple extensions, eventually Paradox stopped the extensions. The game was late not early.

            Kerberos was saying on its forums 18 months before release that the game was more or less done, then 18 months later it was in pre-alpha stage, you think that is Paradox’s fault?

            You pay some company X dollars to build you a garage and they say it will take 3 months. After 3 months they say they need some more money and another month due to unforeseen problems. Then they ask for another month, and another. Meanwhile you still don’t have your garage. At some point you are going to stop giving them extensions right?

            Kerberos was hired to do a job, one they should have been easily capable of doing, and they failed badly. That isn’t Paradox’s fault. Maybe Paradox should have been keeping a better eye on them, but that is another issue.

        • vinco says:

          @ Sarissofoi and Joshua Northey
          Do you know something I don’t? I’m rather surprised that you can speak so clearly about where fault lies in this case, given that such matters are routinely covered by the standard NDA’s which are a part of any publishing agreement. I can tell you that KP knew full well what the state of the game was at release. I’m probably breaking my NDA by telling you that I was in the beta prior to release. Yes, even the beta was covered by NDA, so you can certainly believe that KP are under a NDA regarding ANYTHING about the process that Paradox doesn’t want them to discuss.

          Moving back into general territory: Publishers set prices and release dates. When they say a game ships, it ships. Kerberos has kept their promise to the community. They promised that they would make things right and fix the game. Seems to me that they’ve done exactly that. I’ll admit that I was very disappointed by the state of the game at release, but Kerberos have kept their promise to the purchasers.

          Bottom line for me: Kerberos kept their promise to me. And I think that has value.

    • Zogtee says:

      They released a game in such a rough state that it’s taken them a year to patch it into working order and now they want more money? Right.

    • Aidan says:

      This kind of thinking frustrates me to no end.

      I have friends and family working in the gaming industry, and I’ve seen this happen time and again. Kerberos’ main fault here was partnering with Paradox at all, because this shows all the signs of the publisher hanging contractors out to dry, with no money or resources to finish the game.

      Look at Kerberos’ history. SotS 1 and all it’s expansions were released with no more than the normal hiccups you find in any PC release. Fort Zombie was the first game they made with Paradox and that’s when you see the drop in release quality.

      If Kerberos were as callous as you and so many others say they are, they wouldn’t bother putting this much effort into saving SotS II.

      • theleif says:

        Yeah, a shame the game was only developed for more than 3 years. And a shame that the game is still not very fun over a year after the game was released and after 70 patches. The interface, even though much better than at release, is still unnecessary cumbersome by design. The game still feels to me like a lot of ideas that sounded cool on paper, but did not work out that well in practice. It’s a game that doesn’t even know it it’s a grand strategy game or a tactical game.
        On one hand you have big galactic provinces that can never be changed (but strangely enough be created at a whim), and on the other hand you have to micro every single star base and manually produce even drones. You have things like the invoice, that does not fill any purpose whatsoever (speed of research is to fast to make it useful), and only makes it harder to see what you are producing on any given planet. I could go on.
        The game in it’s current state is ok. It’s faults lies mostly in basic game and interface design.
        I’m pretty sure Paradox had nothing to do with that.

        • Aidan says:

          I would argue the stuff you don’t like about the game is, indeed, by design. SotS II is not an easy game. For my money though, it’s a fun game and an ambitious one. Even when stuff isn’t as great in action I’m still willing to give it way more leeway than another game that is low on weird ideas and innovation.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          Well said. The interface is just atrocious. It is as though they didn’t try out any of it before hand (which seems to be the case because there was barely anything to try at release).

  4. Fede says:

    Aww, I misread the title and expected a spin-off of Kerbal Space Program.

    So, if a Kerbal Space Program spin-off was being developed, where would you want it to go? Age of Exploration (Poles, Antarctica)? Journey at the center of the Earth? Oceanic depths? Something else?

    • Didero says:

      Management sim.
      Constructing the space center, trying to earn enough money through fund-raisers and commercial satellite launches, keeping the death toll as low as possible.
      You could optionally design your own spacecraft in the existing editor, or choose from an existing set.

      Actually, this kind of sounds like the direction they’re going in already; I just remembered the ‘Cost’ variable of most parts, which isn’t used as of yet.
      I am excite

  5. Sian says:

    Sorry to say, but I just can’t give Kerberos money for an unfinished product anymore. While I truly enjoy SotS ][ now, having to wait for a full year after release until it was considered to be release-worthy just keeps me from doing that. IF this game gets funded and finished and IF its playable, I’ll probably give it a whirl.

  6. hypercrisis says:

    Crowdfunding a RL is pretty lame, even more so from a studio that can’t deliver when they have publisher funding.

    • Sarissofoi says:

      Also they are dirty liars and scumbags.
      Selling unfinished product as finished and fully working.
      I am full of disgust when I think about Kerberos. They now try to beg fans to fund them and before they have no second though when they betray fans trust.

      • Soulless says:

        Quiet you fool, Paradox determines when they release the games for sale as it is the publisher.

        You sound like a mindless gibbering buffoon.

        • Sarissofoi says:

          You sound like butthurt fanboy. Can’t face the truth?
          Sure Paradox determined when game was released but its Kerberos who pull their stunt with:”Oh its beta we will upload right version” and lie the all time: “It will be ready in day/week/month”.
          Paradox probably didn’t check quality of the release(which wasn’t good move for Paradox) but they learn from SotS 2 mistake. They probably didn’t expect that Kerberos will pull something like this.
          Not mention that don’t keeping promises to Paradox would cost Kerberos greatly. So they cheat Paradox and scam their fanbase. Great move Kerberos. Your reputation go to hell to dine with Spartans.
          Oh well.
          There is some other guys in industry who deserve my money much more than these liars.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          Paradox gave them repeated extensions. Say it with me: “It is not always the publisher’s fault”. Sometimes developers are the ones who fail.

    • son_of_montfort says:

      ADOM did a crowd-funding project and it was massively successful. I reject your initial premise.

  7. TechnicalBen says:

    RL in SPACE? Sign me up Scotty!

  8. mariusmora says:

    This looks very much like Dungeons of Dredmor to me, except for the art theme, but…

  9. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    If I say that it looks like a flash game, does that reflect poorly on the alpha or does it reflect rather positively on what I’ve come to expect from flash games? I think it’s more of the latter, personally.

  10. dE says:

    I love roguelikes. I like Space. This looks like mildly interesting. However I’m affraid I have not nearly enough faith in the Developer to give them money for an unreleased game. The issue isn’t with promise, their games always have that. My issue is with, well, too much burn to give them money on good will alone.
    If it ever gets done and I see people state “you know, this actually works”, then I’ll be back with my money. Not before that, sorry.

  11. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    “complaining about rats in RPGs is pretty much up there with complaining about guns in first-person shooters now.”

    Please continue to do so in both cases!

  12. Belsameth says:

    Flexible funding. Clever. It means they get all funds regardless if they hit target or not.

  13. Sunjumper says:

    I was still on the fence about this game but funnily enough all the ridiculous vitriol poured on Kerberos has helped me make up my mind and contribute to the game.

    • Sarissofoi says:

      I am glad that I can help.
      :)

      • Sunjumper says:

        And who knows, maybe it will help them find their stride so that they are able to produce games that work well in the time afforded to them by their budgets. Once that has happened they might even win you back over.
        that way everybody wins for a change.

        • Sarissofoi says:

          I will gladly see a good quality games produced by Kerberos. Also I will gladly see Mecron losing head.
          Probably need to see 2nd first to see 1st.
          Problem is that they will not reform. Before you reform you need to acknowledge your mistakes and find resolve to fix things. And Mec will never acknowledge that he was wrong or make mistake because he is always right. The bands of fanatic cultist I mean fanboys who take everything he does for pure gold didn’t help things.

          • Aidan says:

            I’d say abandoning a parasitic relationship with their publisher for indy development is pretty drastic reform.

          • Aidan says:

            Speaking of which, don’t you post a lot in the Paradox forums?

          • Sarissofoi says:

            I wouldn’t call this a lot but yeas I make few post here and there.
            I was much more active on Kereberos forum when I waste my time on SotS I. I even make a few TARs in old days.
            Also who will you call a parasite here?
            Kerberos get funds from Paradox and then fail to make a delivery. I am not a Pradox fan but I wouldn’t blame them for Kerberos faults.

          • Resok says:

            http://www.kerberos-productions.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=37&t=22033&p342722

            I don’t know how you can claim that they never admitted their mistakes…

            I suppose if you conveniently ignore the bits that don’t fit your opinions, then it’s quite easy to maintain them.

            First thing they did after the botched launch was own up to the fault and dedicate themselves to fixing things up. SOTS2 today is a lot of fun and unmatched in it’s depth, ambition, and feature set. Love them or hate them, they’re one of the few dev studios out there actually innovating and attempting to advance the long-stale 4X genre.

            SOTS1 was a clean release and the multiple expansions only made that game better.

  14. Snargelfargen says:

    If SotS2′s release was a failure in management, then surely flex-funding a small focused project is a step in the right direction?

  15. Aidan says:

    Glad this is getting some press finally! It’s been on the front of IndieGoGo’s gaming page for weeks.

    I’m just glad that Kerberos is finally breaking ties with Paradox, especially if it means they’ll be doing weird, interesting projects like The Pit. I haven’t played a roguelike since Wasteland.

  16. Joshua Northey says:

    Sword of the Stars 2 was the game I was most looking forward to last year. It was a huge disappointment with its completely unfinished release. Even now a year later Playing it is more an episode of enduring frustration and disappointment than having fun.

    Luckily Endless Space came along and helped show what a game should be like on release. Not quite the same itch, but I would rather have something that is an A at 75% scratching my itch, than something which is an F at 100% scratching it.

    Never again will I pre-order a game.

    • Resok says:

      Should give it a shot now. The game is stable and I haven’t found a game yet to scratch the same itch.

      Regardless of what folks may say about Kerberos, they’re one of the few out there that are making deep games like SOTS. I enjoyed Endless Space too, but it wasn’t long before I found both the technology tree and combat quite shallow. SOTS2 has the staying power and depth that a lot of folks crave in a 4X game.

      As far as The Pit? Well it’s them trying to strike out on their own. They’ve proven that they want and can make great 4X games with depth and innovation in a long-stagnant genre and personally I support the goal.

  17. Resok says:

    Regardless of if you love or hate Kerberos and the politics surrounding the recent releases, the team proved they could make a great 4X game with SOTS1 when no one else was developing for that genre. SOTS1 was feature complete and stable at launch, and only got better with more depth and features from the various expansions through it’s lifecycle.

    For those who don’t know much about Dev/Publisher relationships, the vast majority of Developer studios get very little in the way of royalties from actual game sales (10-20% royalties, only after initial investment costs are made back on the Publisher side). The Publishers may be the ones fielding the initial financial risk, but they’re also the ones to primarily gain from the sales. In most cases even with niche games, the publishers make back their investment just fine. Unless a title is selling millions of copies though, the developer normally doesn’t even make enough profit from royalties to fund their next project themselves – let alone keep their staff employed without the next investment from a publisher. And thus the cycle continues…

    The thing that I think most people don’t realize is that post-release support is very costly for the development studios if the publisher is not funding it (and in most cases, they don’t). A Dev studio basically is spending the little profit they may/may not be getting to support the game post-launch (or spending the profits made from previous releases).

    Now I don’t know any specifics regarding contracts and such between Kerberos and Paradox so a lot of this is speculation. However in my experience and reading various recounts from dev studios both successful and unsuccessful – the profits that the Developers actually see are very small. Why do you think so many devs these days are going with crowd funding?

    This is my reasoning for pitching in my money to help see The Pit and Kerberos succeed. Personally I want to see more 4X and other niche games in a genre that has been stagnant for a long time and this is a way for us as players to help make that happen.

    • Apolloin says:

      A publisher DOES usually support post-release bug squashing and content creation – otherwise it just doesn’t get done. Typically, though, the Publisher has a budget built into the project plan for post-release development and gets very shirty about work continued AFTER that money is spent.

      A sensible Indy Developer always budgets money into milestones to allow for delays and, in most cases, it is possible to play a little fast and loose to get the Publisher to cough up extra money by ‘redoing the Project Plan’ to slip some extra milestones in – essentially funding extensions.

      Only when the Publisher has decided that they are throwing good money after bad and that the PR cost of writing off the game is outweighed by the fiscal cost of continuing to support it forever does the money stop coming. Sometimes, even in a case like the above, the money will continue a little while if the Publisher believes the relationship with the Developer is worth keeping.

      Clearly this was NOT one of those times.

  18. El_Duderino says:

    The alpha-demo-preview-thingie is mildly entertaining, though I usually want my roguelikes with a few pinches more complexity. However, SotS 2 has at long last turned out to be my fav space 4x released in the last year or so, a few design issues nonwithstanding. So I’ll chip in some moolah I guess.

    I think Kerberos needs to get out of the place they are in, hopefully they’ll be able to dodge this bullet and start to make games independently. Working with a publisher obviously isn’t doing them any favours. Also, that Mecron dude probably needs to stop being CEO and concentrate on designing games, don’t know how he should go about that though.

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