Command Your Own Keen: Hall’s Platform Tool Kickstarter

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?

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30 Comments »

  1. Stackler says:

    It’s amazing how desperate Tom Hall seems to be.

    • Bhazor says:

      It shows the best and worst of Kickstarter.
      Best: It brings back the old guard left behind by modern publishers
      Worst: It brings back the old charlatans out to make a quick buck
      Best: It gives old genres a big resurgence (old school RPGs ala Wasteland 2)
      Worst: It gives games huge attention just because of nostalgia
      Best: Backers back smartly with Old School RPG falling apart
      Worst : Backers still back familiar names with many promising new games making less than Old School RPG did.

    • Eclipse says:

      oh shut up.

  2. hanneswall says:

    When I read the headline I got so excited.
    Then I wasn’t.

    I really want a proper HD Commander Keen!

  3. Glottis1 says:

    400k for this?

    It looks like math game i was forced to play when i was in elementary school.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      For the same reason, I would be incredibly suspcious about any man who came up to me and offered access to a “Secret Spaceship Club” for money.

      The lowest “backer reward” for the actual product is twice that for Shaker’s lowest (ignoring early bird discounting), even though the final goal is a step down.

  4. Bhazor says:

    That player character looks insufferably smug. Here’s hoping there will be some Oddworld style cartoony death animations.

  5. SominiTheCommenter says:

    I don’t think anyone cares about commander keen. It was a great tech demo put together by carmack, proved fluid platformers were possible on the pc. Other than that what was the game about?

    • gschmidl says:

      There were six (or seven) Commander Keens, and a ton of other platformers by Apogee. I would welcome a resurgence of the Apogee kind of jump ‘n’ runs with open arms.

      • Lambchops says:

        It was full of glorious pogo sticking nonsense and on one occasion evil fruit and veg. Every once in a while it’s nice to have games like that (see Rayman Oranges). It wasn’t about anything much per se, it was just silly and fun. It was enough when I was 10 and sometimes it’s still enough now.

        (that was a reply to Somini obviously)

    • Barberetti says:

      That was Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement, not Commander Keen.

    • Srethron says:

      Commander Keen hit its stride with Keen 4 when the series benefited from the graphics engine and story upgrade from the Keen Dreams engine. Keen 5 remains one of the best platformers I’ve played, and was full of Tom Hall’s brand of cheerful, goofy creativity. Some of that is surely my nostalgia glasses talking, but it was hardly a bad series. The music was good. The dichotomy of jumping vs. pogo stick high jumping was the core of the mechanics, one that had a surprising amount of depth for a game for children.

      Whether this new Kickstarter will be any good, I can’t say, but the art looks disappointing. I really wish Anachronox could get finished, but that seems about as likely as Psychonauts 2 right now.

  6. ZIGS says:

    I just want Anachronox 2 :(

    • Bhazor says:

      More precisely I want the other half of the original game they were forced to cut because they were blowing all their money on Daikatana.

    • Mollusc Infestation says:

      I feel obliged to express my emphatic agreement.

  7. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Am I mistaken in believing there’s already a couple of ‘design your own level’ platform games out there? Stealth Bastard had that, if I recall correctly. So this’d either be really good or distinguish itself in other ways.

  8. Lanfranc says:

    I kinda feel sorry for Hall, because he probably means well, but… that pitch just screams “trying too hard” to me.

    The “quirky, funny, clever Tom Hall universe” where the “secret spaceship club” must help the “bumbledybots” avoid “galactic obliteration”? It really just doesn’t work.

  9. GameCat says:

    Oh God, think about that all “artsy” and sad platformers about jumping (and mostly only jumping) to find your lost love that will burst from the ground if this thing will be successfuly backed.

  10. Jack-Dandy says:

    This video is so embarrassing… I had a hard time just sitting through it all. God damn.

    Man, this is a difficult position. I loved the Keen games as a young kid. They were really nice.
    But I don’t think they stood the test of time.

    I want to show Hall I appreciate his work, but.. I seriously couldn’t give a rats ass about that project. And come on- 400K..? No chance of this happening.

  11. LintMan says:

    Wow, the cynics are out in force today. :-)

    Personally, I’m not all that “keen” on platformers at all, but a high quality multi-OS editor that really exposes all the inner workings seems kinda cool. I’m wondering if my kids would like that.

  12. RobF says:

    This is a massively brilliant idea and I hope he manages to pull it off.

    More things for making more games, please.

  13. Saarlaender39 says:

    While I do like the idea of such an (in-game-)editor to create my own game(s), I think Mr. Hall has overlooked something important…If I’m going to make a game, I want to add my own art, sounds, etc.

    And according to this quote (from the Kickstarter Page’s FAQs), this exactly will probably not be so easy to do – if at all:

    Quote:”Will people be able to use their own art?

    That will be part of the community. On one hand, I don’t want this to be a free-for-all “MySpace” — but we will set up something where people can locally use art packs / trade them or apply to have them be available publicly in-game, rated like the levels/worlds are. So yes, just want the games to always look great for the official in-game content.

    But we do want to empower awesome artists, so we will have a developer area where experienced artists can make complete art packs.”

    If I understand him correctly (english is not my native language), the users of his editor will only be allowed to use “official allowed” (high rated?) artpacks?

    On Steam alone there are three “do your own game”- programs (GameMaker, RPGMaker, Construct), and each allows the user to create and use his own art, music, sounds…what would you choose?

    • The Random One says:

      You have a point – it might be better to think of it as a massive mod tool rather than a gimped game creation tool.

  14. qptain Nemo says:

    I can’t quite believe or understand why anybody would want to pretend they don’t realize why Tom Hall is doing this (maybe it’s having to deal with the obvious lack of support and, like, money or something), that Tom Hall would be doing an absolutely mind-numbingly awesome RPG he promised in the other kickstarter if he had the budget (and he proved he’s capable of that, remember? go play Anachronox if you don’t), and why it is so bloody important to support him (hint: he’s really talented and good at making good games). But oh well, what do you know.

  15. Stackler says:

    I don’t understand why people still trust once big names like Hall, Romero or Molyneux.
    We are not talking about a guy like John Carmack who is a brilliant person who really creates new technology and gaming experiences and even releases his old engines under GPL.

    Hall once made Anachronox, yeah. That was more than 10 years ago. Since then he made nothing noticeable.

    When do people stop believing in these people that spent the last years creating shitty “casual social games”?

    Sorry guys, but the time for people like Hall is over. If he’d still be able to make a groundbreaking game, he would have done it since Anachronox was released, wouldn’t he?!

    • Dark_Oppressor says:

      Money is the answer to why people making casual social games, I think. That seems more likely than tons of people in the industry suddenly spontaneously losing their creativity.

    • longleggedbeastie says:

      I don’t understand why innocent people die in the public shootings. I mean, how hard it is to not die in the public shooting? If they wanted to survive, they surely would have just done it. Stupid people, to let circumstances control you like that. Meh.

      Still, I can’t quite grasp why the first thought is to HULK TRAMPLE instead of giving a fair chance, maybe? Because he would totally take all the money and run away to Vegas to make trillions of casual games with them, the evil bastard? Your 15 bucks really deserve a better fate.

      I think he proved what he could do even in the brief updates to SHAKER. Sure, the ideas were a bit genericky, but they also *by some weird coincidence* were the most promising and original ideas for a sci-fi game for years. For more than 10 years, that is. But who needs that shit? Oh well, at least the time for people like Hall is over. Now let’s go all play mass effect and ultra-cool interesting fantasy stuff with dragons.

    • RobF says:

      “If he’d still be able to make a groundbreaking game, he would have done it since Anachronox was released, wouldn’t he?”

      See, the thing is, I don’t think he has to. I don’t care if he never makes another groundbreaking game ever again. I do, however, care that he gets to make good things and quite possibly things he wants to make.

      There’s clearly plenty of smart ideas in this and no, it’s not SUPER PC GAME:THE VIDEOGAME FOR MANLY GROWN UP SERIOUS FACES but good! There’s plenty of them. A super creative and accessible platform game making tool? Yeah, come on, let’s have that. My kid’d bloody love it for one thing and that’s reason enough for me to care.

  16. The Random One says:

    Is it just me or is he some sort of reverse Mike Pondsmith?

    I mean, they’re both middle aged men, not fat but certainly not thin, kind of bald, and wearing a goatee. But where Mike is all gritty and grim Tom is all chirpy and happy. One is making a dark game about future cyberopression and the other is making a funny game about smug preteens jumping over robots.

    Have they ever been seen in the same room? Wait- if they haven’t, don’t make them.