By Nathan Grayson on February 5th, 2013 at 12:00 pm.
The last Kickstarter project Tom Hall was involved with did not go so well. Old-School RPG (nee SHAKER) neither shook nor stirred up much interest, and both Hall and Brenda Romero decided it was best to go back to the drawing board. It seems, however, that they beelined for different drawing boards, because now Hall’s launching a Commander Keen spiritual successor all by his lonesome. It’s both a game design tool and a game rolled into one. So says Worlds of Wander’s Kickstarter, via the universal language of needlessly gratuitous caps: “It starts with a COMPLETE GAME for you to mess with – the spiritual successor to Commander Keen – SECRET SPACESHIP CLUB!” Somehow, I doubt it will remain a secret for too terribly long.
First up, there’s that running joke of Kickstarter come true, a Keen successor. And yeah, this one’s certainly a lighthearted platformer, but hmm. Times have changed, and while dark, gritty reboots are absolutely, categorically not the way to go with these kinds of things, I can’t help but bristle a bit at words like “BUMBLEDYBOTS.” These’s also not much in the way of actual details for Hall’s game. It’s a platformer with a kooky sci-fi story, but what about mechanics? Platformers are the most populous species in the history of existence. So hopefully Hall’s got some interesting design decisions in mind. That he’s choosing not to tell us. For some reason.
Of course, that’s perhaps a sideshow to the main event: a suite of platformer creation tools. The basic mode has a few strands of LittleBigPlanet in its DNA (never exit the game while creating, etc), but with an interface that’s less linked to play and more to “drawing” things like hills, ladders, and fences. Or at least their basic shapes. Advanced mode, meanwhile, will allow more technically inclined sorts to dig into the Lua-like WanderScript and change in-game objects, add NPCs, direct cut-scenes, and whatnot.
The style underlying Worlds of Wander is, um, not necessarily the most attractive, but Hall and co are at least leveraging its simplistic nature well. Levels can be shared across PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and probably also time and space, so it’ll be quite a versatile tool, if nothing else.
Is there really much demand for something like this? Aren’t there already lots of engines for making platformers? I suppose LittleBigPlanet did reasonably well on PlayStation, but that’s an entirely different stroke for very different folks. But I guess that’s sort of the thing: PC has tons of tools for entry level game creation. Hall’s hope, naturally, is to strike a perfect balance between intuitiveness and anything-goes potential, but a) Is this the best way to go about it, and b) Is that the perfect mentality for attracting vets and newcomers alike, or just an awkward, no-man’s-land middle ground? What do you attractively keen and commanderly folks think?