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Martial Arts Demo? Kung Fu Superstar Kickstarter

Kung Fu Superstar has in-game footage that shows something pretty interesting. A combat-focused martial arts game, where the control method you use can be dynamic. Although primarily designed for PC, it’ll let you use controllers, Kinect, and so on, switching on the fly as you see fit. And of course it’s tied up in a Kickstarter, and of course it’s a confusing one. Very confusing. Too confusing.

The game itself professes that it will teach proper actual kung fu kicks, punches and hiiii-ya!s, as you play a young actor – Danny Cheng – trying to make it big in movies. You’ll play through various movie scripts as levels, all the while learning more complicated martial arts moves and techniques. Take a look:

Which all looks pretty promising (using the Unreal engine, in case you wondered). Things get confusing when you scour their 89 billion word Kickstarter front page, and eventually discover that the hefty £200,000 they want isn’t going to fund a full version of the game. With the exception of Defence Grid 2, that did some last minute about-facing to fix it, I don’t think there’s any Kickstarter that’s been confusing about this that’s been successfully funded.

It’s the work of a bunch of industry vets who’ve formed the team to work on this project, and a year of working from their own savings, they’re now after funding. But for what? Very, very ambiguously mentioned in the main wall of text is “Kung Fu Superstar: Origin”, which is called “the Kickstarter game”. This is not Kung Fu Superstar itself, as the Kickstarter page is titled. And this is bloody stupid.

Origin is a limited version of the game, given to Kickstarter backers in the reward levels. Hidden down in the FAQ is what this actually means – it’s the first chapter of the game. This is something mentioned in their original pitch video, which they’ve now swapped for the video above. The original is embedded as a Youtube video on the page, and certainly not flagged as containing such information. And even then, it’s not until six and a half minutes in before it’s revealed that it’s only for the “first part of the game”. Then ten seconds later gets back to talking about the game as a whole. They explain this with this statement:

“With the kind of money we’re asking for [the full game] would be unrealistic. However to ask for more would also be unrealistic (and unfair) as we don’t want our backers to bankroll a AAA project, we don’t think that’s what Kickstarter is for.”

It’s something that’s been seen on Kickstarter a few times, and it hasn’t often gone down well. In this case, they seem to imply that after they’ve created what seems to be a large demo, they’ll then go to publishers for the rest of the cash. Well, that’s my interpretation of:

“The way we’re approaching it is, we made sure we ask for just enough to complete developing our innovative technology and build the exciting beginning of the saga with it in the form of Kung Fu Superstar: Origin. Once that step is successfully completed, we’ll build upon that success and using our vast network of industry relationships we will move on to even more content rich versions of the experience available on even more platforms.”

It’s a perfectly legitimate use of Kickstarter. Developers can raise money for whatever the want, and use it however they say they will. But I think there is FAR too little emphasis on what’s been funded here, especially with its absence from the main title, and the real details only being mentioned in the hidden text in the FAQ at the bottom – words only added yesterday, when the project was already a few days old. The fact is only mentioned once in the 2,200 words preceding it, muddled into descriptions of the top tier reward categories (despite lower tiers only referring to offering a copy of “the game”).

And that seems a massive shame, since the project looks great. I’m not sure I’d personally want to back a £200,000 project to make a demo that allows a developer to get a publishing deal, but others may. I just wish they’d been quite literally up front about it.

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John Walker

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One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and general hero of humanity.

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