Crowdforging: Below Kryll

By John Walker on December 12th, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

I am increasingly aware that I’m a creaking old granddad, stuck in my archaic ways and unable to understand the games the kids play these days. Starbound leaves me utterly bemused, shouting something about how it was all better on the wireless, and wondering what happened to good old fashioned big band swing music. But Below Kryll, which too is a side-scrolling platform-based game made of those ever-more familiar Terraria-like squares, has drawn me in much more quickly. And that’s despite this being a game entirely created by its players.

Okay, not quite entirely. The opening tutorial and above ground area is built by the developers, and while it will mercilessly mock you while you stay up there, you can get the hang of its platforming and RPG ways, before taking the plunge into the player-created content below. Here’s the trailer:

The team behind it are currently Indiegogoing, but be warned, it’s “flexible funding”, so if they fall far short of their goal, they’ll get all the pledged money anyway. The game is already out, and will cost you $10 for an “unlimited account”. There’s also a trial version for free, which you can play directly in your browser. It switches to fullscreen nice and easily, and seems well implemented.

The game itself is interesting. It’s quite the opposite of perma-death – killing yourself is often the correct thing to do, should you have destroyed a pathway you need, or simply want to be back at the start of an area. Hitting Backspace any time takes you back to your last spawn point, and Shift-Backspace resets the area completely. Once you’re down below, player-created levels are grouped by theme, with Creative and Action in separate areas, and then further split in those themes. It seems like a damned smart idea.

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23 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    AngelTear says:

    At the cost of sounding grumpy, this kind of games to me looks like “Hey, we the developers can program but have very little ideas; we can’t create narratives, we don’t have any stories worth telling, and we don’t quite know how to make levels, pace gameplay and just generally make a game. So, we’ll give you some tools, and you players do it for us, for free”

    Not that toolboxes and sandboxes are inherently bad, but sometimes they come across as… shallow, I guess. I want to play a game, not make a game for myself so that I can play it. Otherwise, how would this be different than, say, a partially pre-programmed and simplified version of RPGmaker?

    • Bull0 says:

      Hardly setting me on fire either. It doesn’t compare well to efforts like Little Big Planet, which dwarfs it in terms of both the options available and visual appeal, and also contained a proper amount of developer-authored levels, instead of trying to crowdsource the whole shebang.

      • TeamKryll says:

        Levels are subjected to a rating system based on the upvotes of people who have finished them.
        So the cream of the crowdforged levels can be easily located! We have found that community members can be incredibly ingenious in level design.
        In terms of options and visual appeal, Below Kryll is separated into biomes as you progress deeper. Every biome contains completely different items/enemies. Many of our decorations have some animation as well, whether it be the bobbing of a mushroom or a squirrel running underfoot.

    • RaoulDuke says:

      +1, this is especially important when you look at the best Metroidvania games and see that the level design is a big part of why its a great example in the genre, backtracking is almost a staple in these games. When you come back to the old area but you can now just sprint/jump/dash/fly/grapple/teleport through the old area in a tenth of the time and it feels soooo good.

      Example [21s long] – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNyKDzbu8zE [You swam across the lake the first time]

      • TeamKryll says:

        In Below Kryll, any level beaten will unlock it’s shrine for teleport!
        So backtracking is never a problem since you can teleport directly to the last shrine you found.

    • TeamKryll says:

      There are many developer created levels Below Kryll, but we do so as players. We subject ourselves to the same rating system that all others are subjected too.

      All the players share the same world map, so everything created is a permanent addition to the world. Can any other game claim to grant immortality to a created level (for better or worse)? And as for how “shallow” our game is” We offer “And”,” Or”, “Not” logic triggers. So the complexity of level creation can be quite vast.

    • Premium User Badge

      fractallatcarf says:

      From your first paragraph it sounds like you never enjoyed lego blocks.

      • Premium User Badge

        AngelTear says:

        My parents never bought me Lego or anything similar =(

        In games, I prefer it when there’s an overarching narrative (loose or imposed, with or without choices, even just an atmosphere). I feel that if I want to express myself, I’ll do it with my own tools (writing, music, or a true software for game developing) and when I’m on the passive side of things I want to feel like the creator is trying to express something.

        To me, a toolbox like Minecraft is to gaming like MS Word, or pen and paper, are to writing: the most important part of the finished product is missing.

        • TeamKryll says:

          Angeltear: I can really respect that perspective. There are some mysteries to discover about Kryll.
          Some of our users have created quite interesting and involved storylines that span multiple levels.
          I would not discount the creativity of the individual to expand on the lore of our world.

    • Kitsunin says:

      In my opinion, those thoughts don’t matter that much in a world where such player-content based games are so few. There are exceedingly few games which incorporate player design in a seamless way, and it’s not like the world is wanting for yet another new platformer, so let them have their gimmick ;p

      Seriously though, if you’re putting the time into making a game engine, I don’t think that level design is going to be what ruins your game. Occasionally developers can’t do it, but usually it’s a simple enough idea to wrap your head around that not doing it after having put all that effort into a game wouldn’t be lazy, rather, just wasteful, if you didn’t have a good reason.

  2. Snargelfargen says:

    2013 is the year of the metroidvania, it seems.

  3. TeamKryll says:

    Thanks for the article. We at Team Kryll do in fact create levels Below Kryll. We may be the developers, but we are also avid players and creators. Shockwave, Renboy, Gregie, Jermex, all members of the Developer team that have created dozens of areas Below Kryll.

    We aren’t asking the players to do our work, we give them the freedom to work right along side us.
    If you have any questions, feel free to post here.

  4. yolTwice says:

    I’m a long time lurker here at RPS – but had to say that i’ve been playing this for a month now – and it’s seriously insane!
    at first I thought that a player created world would spell out disaster – but somehow the entire world looks good and it’s just a really weird experience to go into a room that someone created and it tells a crazy story about some things that you can’t help but lol…

    • TeamKryll says:

      We are thrilled you are having a great experience! One of the wonderful things about Kryll and it’s user created levels is that the sense of exploration is very real. Every level is a unique reflection of it’s creator, and so there really is no way to know what to expect!
      People tend to pour love and time into their areas because they had to use their earned gold to claim the land. Our fame system gives people incentive to create interesting and diverse areas!

  5. blenni says:

    wanted to try it, discovered arrowkey movement and keys are not rebindable, so that needs to be fixed before I can try this, sorry

    • TeamKryll says:

      Keybinds are a high priority for us. If/when we get greenlit on steam, it is near the top of the list of features that will be implemented!

      • Urthman says:

        Glad to hear it. The current binding works OK for me but it would be nice to switch it around a bit (of course there’s always AutoHotKey).

  6. Urthman says:

    I’m kinda surprised at how much I like the artwork here. I’m not usually a fan of 2D art that is this blocky and low-res unless it’s very simple, clean and stylized like VVVVVV or something.

    But I think it’s something about the color palate here that just works really well. I really like how this game looks. Kind of reminds me of Dustforce.

    I’ve only had time to try the introductory area, but it seems like it could be fun. I especially like seeing that there are links to highly-rated fan levels in a bunch of categories (cool design, cool music, cool puzzles, cool action challenges, etc.)

    • TeamKryll says:

      Glad to hear you are enjoying it. We added in those warp areas when we introduced the new portal epic item!
      We are constantly adding new features and items to the game, so there are always new and interesting areas popping up all over :).

    • Kitsunin says:

      Yeah, I feel like I would normally call a game that looks like this ugly, but something about it works.

      One neat little aspect, is that when you upload an avatar it is put through a filter that pixelates it. For the avatars I’ve seen thus far, it fits pretty well with aesthetic.

  7. geldonyetich says:

    The trick here really isn’t to let players create massively multiplayer worlds and share them in a persistent space. Second Life and its ilk have been doing that for decades.

    The trick is to do it in such a way that it actually is an interesting game that isn’t rife with massive grief play. Many players just look at a virtual world as a place they can misbehave without having to deal with the consequences. Give them the ability to shape the world to their pleasing, and they’ll just torment others for their own amusement. Even if these players make up less than 5% of the playerbase, they’ll effectively drive most everybody else away.

  8. TeamKryll says:

    Geldonyetich: Absolutely you are correct. People DO make levels that are obscenely difficult, or “trollish”.
    However we do have a system in place that dimished these occasions. In order to build a new area you must spend the gold you have accumulated to claim the space. Gold can only be earned by completing other levels, or people granting you upvotes on your own level. If you make a trolly level, you likely won’t be getting any/many upvotes and therefore very little return on your invested gold. The system encourages you to give your level some kind of real value.

    That being said, there are players that crave that ultra difficulty. Those players want to feel like a true ninja, and they can when they overcome those surmounting challenges.

    So in closing, that 5% can’t ruin the fun of the other 95%. Because they will have limited resources with which to create levels, while the others will likely be rolling in gold.

  9. ParkerVR says:

    Just try it out for an hour- it’s great. The “Trial” means that basically, you can play the first few layers below kryll (where most levels are currently, anyway), and can’t build levels. Other than that, you can still play and enjoy levels.