Hive Jump Is Spelunky Starship Troopers

By Ben Barrett on August 16th, 2014 at 10:00 am.

My father's name was Big McLargehuge!

Not the laziest x + y comparison in the world because not only is Hive Jump a ridiculously murderous co-op roguelike (with a rather nifty death mechanic) it’s also set in caves. So there you go. I’m a genius, me. Developers Graphite Lab, who’ve previously specialised in licensed games, are looking for $50,000 on Kickstarter to make their twin-stick alien blastinator. It looks beautiful, the demo build I was sent plays wonderfully and you can see the pitch below.

The demo – which is inexplicably not available on the Kickstarter page, come on folks, we’ve been over this – is excellent. They’ve nailed movement, the jetpack being a particular joy to control and with the exact right amount of flight time to make it useful but not overpowered. The speed of it all is exhilarating, aliens swarming at incredible rates, guns offloading dozens of rounds a second… There’s really no messing around, it’s immediate and constant action.

I didn’t play co-op, but the elements there to support it are clever. You can respawn reasonably quickly after death, but during that time your backpack is vulnerable and you have to retrieve it afterwards. If it’s destroyed you’re done, so team-mates will need to protect it while they wait for you. Similarly, the three different styles of gun (with more to follow, according to the Kickstarter) complement one another at different ranges. One takes quite a lot of charge time, so isn’t so good used on your own, but with a protective frontline of buddies will be useful for bringing down larger enemies.

It’s actually Graphite’s second shot at the prize, after trying and failing earlier this year for $75k. In an update to that Kickstarter they explain why they were cancelling and that they’d manage to secure some funding to lower the goal for the next attempt. As with most failed post-mortems, it’s an interesting read.

Kickstarter take two does seem to be going a lot better, and they’ve put out way more content for it. Here’s the archive of their first Twitch stream, while the latest update talks about new monster types and their Reddit AMA.

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45 Comments »

  1. eggy toast says:

    Three art guys plus one design guy, while only one programmer.

    The “Early Bird 4 pack” is 4 times the price of the non-early-bird game. The non-Early Bird 4 pack is oddly enough only an extra 2.50 per copy.

    Stretch goals for 3 weapons or one set of monsters have me wondering what all those artists are going to be doing, honestly I’d much rather see tons of those things in the pipeline than just a trickle.
    Also, honestly, with this many artists on staff it makes the “pay to design in game assets” thing seem extra stupid, to me.

    The physical rewards are insane. Three different physical printed pieces at the $80 tier is going to lose them money every time someone backs at that level, and then they seem to not be included in the higher ties at all. The poster comes in two sizes, even!

    Having said all of that, if this game delivers anything close to what they’re promising I’ll buy it when it inevitably hits Early Access.

    • eggy toast says:

      I guess my point is why cancel and relaunch a Kickstarter and then drown yourself promising dumb physical rewards and not linking to your demo?

      • mattdonatelli says:

        Hi Eggy!

        This is Matt Donatelli from the Hive Jump team. I wanted to take the time to answer some of your questions and concerns. I’ll take them in order.

        1) Our team may seem a bit art heavy, but we’re very savvy about building tools that artists and designers can use to implement game content quickly and efficiently (our pipeline). Additionally, we’re considering bringing on another programmer if the Kickstarter campaign is a success. Either way, we’re an experienced work for hire studio that knows our limits and have budgeted both money and time appropriately to meet our goals.

        2) Building off of the answer above, we wanted to include the “designer” level reward tiers for backers who wanted to put a little piece of themselves into the game and the Hive Jump universe. It’s not about getting people to do our work for us :-P. Our first few stretch goals are meant to come in rapid succession, because we didn’t want to discourage people by putting a huge 50K or 100K stretch goal right after the main goal (that might never get reached).

        3) We’ve planned our physical rewards very carefully for the Kickstarter. In our research, we found that the vast majority of backers donate at the $50 or below tiers, and only the most dedicated fans and aficionados back at higher tiers. You’ll notice that physical rewards only appear above the $80 tiers (except for the early t-shirt tier, which is limited to 100 backers). We’re not eating too much cost on the $80 tier with our printing connections and flat rate shipping, in fact our most costly physical tier will be the $100 tier in terms of how much we have to pay out to fulfill the manufacturing and shipping of the goods. Rest assured we have carefully planned out our tiers, and will be able to put the vast majority of our gathered funds straight into developing Hive Jump!

        4) Thanks for considering supporting us! We are still contemplating the benefits and drawbacks of Early Access, and will definitely consider if doing Early Access is right for Hive Jump.

        5) We canceled our earlier Kickstarter because we didn’t properly prepare for all the marketing that goes along with a Kickstarter campaign. Shortly after we cancelled, we were Greenlit on Steam, and threw ourselves into improving the graphics (2x all the art assets and adding Sprite Lamp), refactoring the game code, and properly pre-marketing our next campaign and growing our audience. We’ve returned to Kickstarter and are in far better shape than before, with a superior product and demo to our first attempt.

        6) We’ll consider releasing the demo to all of our backers later in the campaign, but for now we’re just sharing it with close industry friends, press contacts, and videogame streamers.

        I hope these responses help to address some of the concerns you have. We’re committed to running a great Kickstarter, responding to all queries from fans, and making Hive Jump the best game it can possibly be. Thanks for your interest and your insightful questions!

        • eggy toast says:

          Wow I wasn’t expecting a reply, but thank you for taking the time. I was more trying to point out things that often lead to problems in Kickstarters than call you guys out personally, just to let you know. The game really looks great.

          RE: 4 packs and early bird pricing (mentioned down in the comment stream)
          Most games on Steam have the 4packs at buy 3 get 1 pricing, also you have normal and Early Bird pricing for both the game and the 4packs, so it would make sense for the Early Bird 4 pack to be less than 4 x the EB price, or to apply the Steam index, $30, instead of double that with the non-Early 4pack at $45.

          • mattdonatelli says:

            Thanks! We’re happy to take the time to respond to people’s questions and concerns. We want to work together with our potential audience to make the game as good as it can possibly be!

            RE: EARLY BIRD 4-PACK. Here’s how our math and thinking process worked when crafting this tier. A backer at the $60 tier is actually getting a $110 value (again, according to our math), and is receiving:
            $15 x 4 = $60 Game Keys at Standard Price
            $10 x 4 = $40 Alpha Access Keys
            $10 Soundtrack
            = $110 Value.

            Not to mention, they also receive: backer credit, “name a jumper,” a digital art pack, a digital art BOOK, developer forum access, digital game manual, and “write a jumper shout.” Which are all digital/design rewards, so it’s hard to put a $$ Value on them.

            We did our best to make sure the reward tiers scaled well and were a good value for our backers. But not all tiers are for everyone’s tastes obviously. Again, thanks again for your interest!

  2. golem09 says:

    Sorry Ben, aside from the setting, and maybe the overarching genre, this looks absolutely nothing like Spelunky. Everything that makes Spelunky Spelunky is missing. That’s not a bad thing of course, just a totally different game.

    • Ben Barrett says:

      I’d say the biggest departure from Spelunky is this actually looks (and is) fun to play.

      • Tinarg says:

        Thanks for making it absolutely clear that you don’t know what you are talking about.

      • Lone Gunman says:

        Heaven

      • Deakul says:

        So basically you’re a fucking idiot, awesome.
        Pointless game comparison a trademark of RPS these days, no knowledge of the games you’re comparing, and then you proceed to rip into the game you’re comparing.

        I shall remember to not read your articles from here on in.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          Luckily we won’t have to remember not to read your comments.

        • Ben Barrett says:

          Normally I’d erase this comment and move on, because your language is totally unacceptable, but I figured I might as well just point out the possibility that I’m not being entirely serious. Just something to think on.

          I don’t love Spelunky, but I appreciate its qualities. The entire comparison to the game is said in a humourous light, which apparently didn’t get over to you in the opening couple of sentences. Having actually played both games I think there are some similarities, but I agree the claim but would need to see some of the promised features in the game before I agreed totally with it.

          Anyway, yeah. Sometimes things are lampoons. Simple lampoons.

    • mattdonatelli says:

      Hi golem09,

      This is Matt Donatelli from the Hive Jump team. I just wanted to thank you for your interest and taking the time to comment. As lead designer on Hive Jump, I look to Spelunky a lot as inspiration. I’ve played hundreds of hours of it, and consider it one of my favorite games of all time. That being said, Spelunky isn’t for everyone. Not everyone enjoys the masocore nature of trying over and over again until you get better and better, etc…

      You’re right in saying that Hive Jump looks like a very different game. We’re more visually inspired by Super Metroid, while also crafting our own aesthetic in the pixel art genre. Gameplay-wise, Hive Jump will focus on co-operative teamwork a lot more, and the death of a single player will be less punishing, but the destruction of your Backpack (mobile respawn point) WILL BE.

      We definitely have a long ways to go in our development of the game, and that’s why we’re raising funds on Kickstarter. We have plenty more traps, enemies, tilesets, events, etc… to develop for the game. I hope one day fans of Spelunky will also be fans of Hive Jump. They will be very different games, but Spelunky has been a big inspiration for us… as have other games.

      Thanks again for your time and interest!

      • Hypocee says:

        You’re doing great work explaining here, no heat from me, but I did need to pick a nit: Spelunky’s diametrically opposite to masocore. Masocore lives in memorisation challenges and the humour of wasting the player’s time; Spelunky’s genius arises from actively preventing both.

  3. Vorrin says:

    Yay jetpacks!

    Also ‘The demo – which is inexplicably not available on the Kickstarter page, come on folks, we’ve been over this – is excellent.’ good point, but you could have taken the chance to give us a link to the demo there :D

    • Ben Barrett says:

      Sadly it isn’t actually publicly available at all (it was reasonably buggy, in their defense) unless I missed it on their website or something.

      • Vorrin says:

        Ohhh, I see, sorry I understood it was available but not linked in there!

        • mattdonatelli says:

          Hi Vorrin,

          This is Matt Donatelli from the Hive Jump team. We haven’t officially released any demos of Hive Jump yet. We’re only demoing at local venues and sending builds to the press and game streamers. However we’re definitely considering releasing the demo to our backers near the end of the campaign. Thanks so much for your interest and I hope we can share the game with you soon!

  4. Jim9137 says:

    ABUSE

    ABUSE

    ABUSE

    *chanting intensifies*

    • Geebs says:

      Turrican.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        I haven’t played any Turrican in a long, loooong time, but I do seem to recall Abuse having much more likeable controls. Also jetpacks.

      • Kempston Wiggler says:

        TURRICAN!!!

        How on earth did I not see that until you said it! ONLY one of my favourite games series of ye old times! God, even the music is scraped directly out of Manfred Trenz’s brain!

      • NailBombed says:

        Best run n gunner ever, no question. Also, the startup sequence scared the crap outta me – WELCOME TO TURRICAN AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHahahahaha……

  5. LionsPhil says:

    Nice Big Giant Circles soundtrack.

    Weird claim to be “one part Spelunky, one part XCOM” when I see no evidence of either, especially the latter.

    Stupid early-bird tiers which makes me see they’re sold out and walk away. May as well wait for it to hit a Steam sale.

    • Ben Barrett says:

      I meant to mention it had Big Giant Circles on music, he’s a master.

    • mattdonatelli says:

      Hi LionsPhil,

      I’m Matt Donatelli from the Hive Jump team, and I wanted to thank you for taking the time to comment, and address some of your comments and concerns.

      1) BIG GIANT CIRCLES! We’re thrilled to be working with him. He has a mastery of the upscaled retro sound. From day one, we knew we wanted to work with BGC, and we’re very grateful he’s on board to make the OST for Hive Jump.

      2) Lamentably, X+Y comparisons have become a necessary evil in game marketing. This is not to say that Ben has not written a stellar article, quite the opposite! We, the Hive Jump team, have put forward this Spelunky + XCOM amalgam as a way to try to encapsulate a lot of our game ideas and content in one sentence. We could have just as easily called it Metroid + Contra, or something else. The difficulty is explaining our quite elaborate game idea before the average internet user loses interest. X+Y comparisons help achieve this quickly. It’s all marketing, and I wish I could just have you over for a cup or tea or whatever beverage you prefer, explain the depths of the Hive Jump game and universe to you, and answer all your questions personally. Alas, there’s just not enough time on the internet to do that. All in all, we’re doing the best we can to explain our game (which is still in it’s infancy), on a limited time budget. (Also, head over to the Kickstarter page to learn more about the “strategic planetary campaigns” which is what makes the game a little more XCOM-ish aside from the elite-human-soldiers-fighting-aliens part.)

      3) I’d love to understand better what you don’t like about the early bird tiers. Feel free to reply, but I’ll take a shot at explaining the early bird tiers better in the hopes that it answers your questions. EARLY BIRD GAME, is basically like getting the game ON SALE… our planned price point upon release will be $15, so you’re getting the game for $10. (Lots of Kickstarters do this to encourage people to back the game on day one, as a strong day one is very important for marketing purposes) EARLY BIRD T-SHIRT, is all about fans who love getting T-shirts, sure we’ll eat a little bit of the KS money to pay out shirts at this level, but we’ve limited the tier to 100 so all-in-all, it should be that bad. EARLY BIRD 4-PACK ($60) is a great price, because not only are you getting 4 copies of the game, normally $15 x 4 = $60, but everything else listed below, including the Soundtrack! PLEASE, don’t hesitate to ask any more questions. We respect your decision to wait for the game to come out, but we’d love to have you as a backer too!

      • Nidokoenig says:

        Well, obviously I can’t speak for him, but what gets me about early bird tiers is that everyone who backs your Kickstarter is already early, so telling me I’m late because I wasn’t around for the first couple of hours of your first day is a bit much. It feels like they were a treat for people on your mailing list which inclines me to leave you to fund the game out of their pockets. I know that’s irrationally salty of me, but it leaves a bad first impression and fires up cynicism, which you don’t want when someone is looking over your project.

        Besides which, using trickery to make the funding fit a successful curve is dodgy, both on the level of playing fair by the consumer and as a tactic in itself, because projects that spike early and succeed do so because they’re good, or at least popular, not because they spike early. Basically you’re emulating the sizzle rather than the steak of successful projects with this particular tactic, and it just smells of cynical corporate-style marketing which you obviously don’t want wafting around a game you’re pouring your heart and soul into.

        One last point, early bird tiers are usually insanely low quantities. Your early bird tier covers 2% of your minimum funding target, which is low enough that I’d question whether it’d make an appreciable difference in the initial spike you’re aiming for. I backed The Way partly because their early bird tier was set so that it would raise the minimum target itself if it sold out, and asking for more once you’re shooting for stretch goals is reasonably logical.

        I won’t be backing the project because my personal preference in Metroidy games and similar shooters is more on the exploration side and platforming challenges than the enemies, and my preference in run and guns is towards fewer enemies with more difficult patterns, so mowing down dozens like this isn’t my cup of tea. A bit more info on environmental challenges and how you’re going to procedurally generate them and keep them interesting would be nice. Also, floating damage numbers are just noise when rapidfire weapons throw up dozens of them at once.

        Finally, you say your team has all worked on a lot of games, but names are conspicuously absent. As a follower of WayForward I’m aware that licensed games are often held back by publisher meddling and outright unrealistic schedules and you’ll unavoidably have some awful dreck, but there should be something you’re proud enough to put your name to. Looking on your site, I see primarily interactive storybooks, which doesn’t really give me much reason to be enthusiastic about a run and gun. Also, your link for Catnap Climb is dead.

        Good luck with the project. Sorry this post is big and negative, but positive stuff tends to be short and not need a whole lot of comment. Blast Hardcheese as an example Jumper name? Nice. I like the spritework, too, only nitpick I have is that they’d look nicer with a bit of old-fashioned checkerboard dithering for shading, but I’m aware I’m a mutant in that regard.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Basically what he said.

        • mattdonatelli says:

          @Nidokoenig

          No need to apologize for your opinion, in fact you have a lot of great advice! I wish you were around when we were planning our Reward Tiers for the Kickstarter campaign. Obviously we didn’t get any feedback along the lines of yours, or we would have perhaps reconfigured our tiers. We were doing the best we could with the info we had at the time. We’re game devs, not marketers, and if anything seems corporatey, it’s probably just because we’re following advice that we’ve read from dozens of crowdfunding articles and advice from other successful Kickstarter devs. Again, thanks for taking the time to share your opinion. It DOES matter to us.

          Furthermore, we’ve definitely minimized the exposure of some of our work-for-hire projects. It’s not that we’re not proud of them, because we definitely are! (but rather because, as you mentioned, it doesn’t really pertain to the game we’re trying to make now). We’re making the game we’d want to play as gamers ourselves, not another client project.

          Thanks again for all the feedback! Seriously dude, no need to apologize! (You’re obviously not just trolling around comments, your stuff is very insightful!)

  6. Turkey says:

    Please end every x+y article title with “in hell,” or “on LSD,” or “on speed.”

    Thanks

  7. Hypocee says:

    Whether this particular instance lives up to the potential or not, I think you may have hit upon the most devastating three-word string in gaming. I got a physical chill down my spine reading your headline.

  8. rexx.sabotage says:

    See, this is why it sandy-ups my butthole when people harsh on indie devs and their games.

    You don’t see the goons from broware or boobiesoft taking the time to personally address individuals and their questions/ comments/ concerns–on third party websites non-the-less.

    I already liked your game Mr. Donatelli but, now I like you and you team. well-played. Thank you for treating us like actual people and not some vehicle solely purposed to carry around wallets and distribute their contents.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      You headshotted a nail I’ve been blindly fumbling at for quite some time now – by which I mean you helped me realise what it is that (still) gets me most excited about indie gaming.
      I miss the days when games were made by people – or at the very least, when those people got let out of their boxes occasionally. I’m struggling to remember the last game I bought from a ‘big’ publisher and it’s not because I’m trying to make any kind of statement or stand – it’s because I find myself giving a hoot about (many) indie devs, and because they are either
      A- Genuinely invested in making great games that we are actually going to enjoy playing, as opposed to just making shiny things that we’ll want to pay for
      or B- Really good at coming across that way.

      Hoo boy I cannot compose a comment when I’m sleepy. Just ignore me.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Sigh, I wrote a long(winded), insightful(confusing) response to this and the RPS comment monsters ate it.
      Basically, though, just +1 to everything you said.

    • eggy toast says:

      I couldn’t agree more

  9. RUN msdos.exe -DMC says:

    Every time I read “open-world” or “procedurally-generated” my mind says “not for me”. Perhaps the level shown looks a little too bland for my tastes, and other props and architecture could be generated to interest me more? I enjoy a few roguelike-likes, so I shouldn’t be put off by the term “procedurally-generated”, but I am. I have it connected to the thought “not hand-crafted, not purposeful”. I think I just valuate short, directed experiences like Portal so much more.

    I s’pose I didn’t like A Valley Without Wind and that kinda sours the taste of “procedural” to me. Yet Risk of Rain, FTL, Eldritch and Delver are all titles I enjoy.

    Well, it’s not like I won’t keep up with the coverage on RPS! Hopefully it turns out to my liking.

    • mattdonatelli says:

      Hi RUN msdox.exe -DMC!

      I’m Matt from the Hive Jump dev team. I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that not ALL of the game is procedurally generated. We randomly generate the hive levels, but there are optional Relic Rooms you can explore and complete hand-crafted challenges to gather treasures that help you unlock new weapons and upgrades. Be sure to check out the Kickstarter page for all the juicy details!

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