An Essay About Sir, You Are Being Hunted, Kickstarter

WARNING: Blatant self-promotional post ahead. Love you!

As many of you will doubtless be aware, I’ve spent the last couple of years dual-classing as journalist and game developer. I’ve worked with two friends – Tom Betts and James Carey – to create the indie studio, Big Robot. We are currently Kickstarting our third game, Sir, You Are Being Hunted. With just a week to go, I wanted to talk plainly about why we’re making it, what the game is, and what it means to us. Specifically, what it means to me. Because this whole gaming-making business is a complicated, tricky thing, and worth talking about in some detail.

It perhaps goes without saying that if there are traditional routes into game design, I didn’t take them. Before Big Robot, the last time I seriously considered making games was when I was a teenager. Inspired by hours in front of my 16-bit-powered TV, I half-finished an Alien Breed clone on the Amiga 500. I did bad pixel art and animation, while a friend did the coding. I’m pretty proud of it in retrospect, but it didn’t launch me into a career. It seemed like a nice idea at the time, but I never thought much more of it.

A few years ago, though, I began to find myself being hit with the desire to start making games again. Having spent years and years talking to game developers of all kinds, I had no illusions about the kind of work making a game would entail. Crucially, I knew I would have to work with others if I wanted to get a game made – I’ve not spent the last decade honing any technical skill and I’ve been far too busy with RPS to achieve anything useful on my own. I was also acutely aware that the only way to be a game designer is to get on and actually make games. Talking about making them is meaningless, and so I tried not to talk (or even think) about it as I did my day-to-day journalism.

A series of fortunate circumstances changed all that. Firstly James Carey, and longstanding friend, moved back into Somerset, where I live, and we began to frequent country pubs with excited chatter about trends we were seeing in game development. At the time Carey was working on Arma 2, and as that project came to a close he started to look for other work in the gaming space. He was getting to grips with Unity, and we began to discuss the kinds of things that he’d like to make. As James’ experiments began to blossom, it became clear that we were definitely going to make something together, we just hadn’t decided quite what that was.

Ultimately it was decided for us. Channel 4 were, at the time, looking to hire UK indies to make a series of educational games. Having been looped into this conversation by Channel 4, I volunteered myself and James, who had just started making games – including our manic RPS effort. The result of that conversation with the TV company was Fallen City, our first commercial project. The circumstantial happenings that would push Big Robot towards Sir, You Are Being Hunted did not end there, however. At the point at which we were putting the team together for this, I had also been talking a great deal with lecturer/artist/programmer Tom Betts, and I managed to persuade him to take on the Fallen City project with us. He was a proficient and exciting programmer: full of ideas. It was clear that we were going to be able to turn Channel 4’s little idea into something that really worked.

Conversations with Betts generally dwelt on another topic: procedural generation. Before we’d even embarked on Fallen City, we had begun to look at how procedural generation might be used to create game worlds that were different every time. More importantly, we began to look at how proc gen might be used to speed up the tricky process of level design. Not just providing us with a template to then build on, as many game devs do, but actually generating everything from first principles. We made an engine that built an infinite science fiction landscape, that could be explore for hours. We (eventually) called this project Lodestone, and the technology that we produced was spectacular, and enormously exciting.

Stuff like:

Once Fallen City was completed, we came back to focus on the Lodestone idea: the procedural generation of huge, living game worlds was going to be where we wanted to go. Clearly, this was a project that would require money, time, and serious research and development. To do it right – to make the game that we had envisioned, with the technology we knew we could build – was going to be one of the most challenging and important tasks of our careers. As we planned the project out, another game entirely sprouted from its fantastical, fertile terrain.

That new idea was Sir, You Are Being Hunted, the game we are making today.

The notion that captured our imagination, and focused our decision-making, was the idea of AI hunting a player. Sir is founded on this idea. The title tells you everything. We loved the feeling of being on the back-foot in games: fleeing as much as fighting, knowing that escape, rather than victory in combat, was the true goal. The fear from being vulnerable. Mix this with a strong stew of British sci-fi and our indigenous terrain and accompanying folklore – moorland, tweed, robots, pheasants, rain, poachers, hunters, hounds, horror – and we had a heady mix. We couldn’t resist plunging into it.

We designed robots and sketched out landscapes, with procedural tools making it possible. We created a world where the player is on the run, hunted by hounds and gent-bots, looting old cottages for food, fleeing through woodland and across desolate fields. This design process gave us The British Countryside Generator: a new procedural engine that allowed us to generate blocks of countryside in seconds. For all of us, this was something dream-like. Tom was able to work his procedural generation research into a game, James and I were able to design the kind of open-world, freeform game world that we’d always wanted to play with.

I can’t explain the delight of bringing this stuff to life, week after week. As much as my heart as always been in writing, the process of seeing things conjured onto screens and then playing through the result is a unique thrill. To explore a world that is unique of every generation has been a wonder.

And we could do all this with a tiny team, and just a few artists helping us out.

Until, of course, we couldn’t afford to work on it any more. The hard truth is that James and Tom need to get paid, so that they can afford to eat and pay the rent. I’m infinitely lucky in having my RPS job, and so didn’t need to worry about taking a dollar, but I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to afford to get to the end of this thing before we got to where we needed to be. I couldn’t do any of this stuff alone: for James and Tom this is a full-time job.

Inevitably, we discussed Kickstarter. Our original interest in Kickstarter didn’t even come from games. We’d first invested in Printrbot, a desktop 3D printer project, which was being funded on the site in 2011. James and I have always had a keen interest in rapid-prototyping, and have both interviewed a local guru on the topic – a Bath University researcher behind the RepRap system. We jumped at the chance to build our own.

The upshot of this was that both James and myself felt awed and excited by the entire Kickstarter concept. The very idea of crowd-funding was, we believed, one of the best things that internet has created. There’s been a lot of rhetoric tossed back and forth about what this means, and what it is for, particularly in the last six months, but one thing stands out for me: people’s generosity. The internet folk who want to help projects of all kinds get made have a people system for doing so. We want to see people make cool stuff, and we will pay to make that happen.

That’s a life-affirming kind of realisation. Kickstarter actually demonstrates that people want to put their money down on things they believe in.

It’s an amazing thing, and nothing can detract from that beacon of light.

We wanted to be part of that.

Anyway, it’s also true that this year Kickstarter began to overflow with games. If anything, that gave us most pause for thought: if we went this route, would we just be drowned out by the wealth of other projects – with the likes of Obsidian and Double Fine taking to the platform? We weren’t sure that our offbeat procedural first-person adventures would really cut the mustard any more, not with all these high profile beasts stepping into the action.

The question of whether these big companies and famous names should be on Kickstarter, especially in the light of “nostalgia projects”, has been posed in our direction a few times, and I have mixed feelings about it. I can see why people think that the likes of Molyneux and Braben shouldn’t be going to Kickstarter for their money, but on the other hand, I want to see a new Elite and a new Populous. I just don’t want those to drown out the smaller projects by ambitious, small teams. It’s a confusing feeling.

And I understand the established guys wanting to go directly to their audience. I understand the appeal of being part of the Kickstarter thing first-hand, and why wouldn’t they want a piece of it, too? It’s new and exciting for everyone, and we’re just beginning to understand how it’s going to work.

So, yeah: the Big Robot team took a step back and considered our other options. We’d had a bit of publisher interest (mostly from console types), but didn’t really want to give the controls of our project to an outside party. That road seemed rocky, with the possibility of being raildroaded. We didn’t want that. We could also open up pre-orders, do “the Minecraft thing” or any number of other permutations that indie game devs had been exploring. But which one would make sure Tom and James could stay focused on our goal?

Would people even be interested in our ideas? Kickstarter was a terrifyingly public way to find out.

We had to be quite brutal about what we needed to do. We knew the amount of money that – at an absolutely minimum – we would need to keep the guys working full time, and to actually get something out. Kickstarter could do that… Couldn’t it? Maybe.

We ummed and ahhed. We made tea and thoughtfully drank it. It was a hard question.

Meanwhile game development continued, and we began to feel the fun of being hunted. Our faith in what we were doing grew a great deal in the weeks leading up to the decision to go to Kickstarter, and by the time James was producing the gameplay videos – even with the game furnished with largely placeholder materials – we knew we were on exactly the right track.

Ultimately, Kickstarter was the best option, because it allowed us to talk to a lot more people than we might otherwise have done, and it made us take seriously the idea of deciding what the game would be, and what sort of things people should get for pre-ordering outside the game itself. It’s been a fantastic experience.

There were moments of abject terror, of course – realising that the UK system did not use Amazon payments, and did not display the amount in US$ was one – but we’ve managed to get past them, swallow the terror and carry on.

Honestly, though, this has been a gruesomely long month. I have seldom been so aware of each passing hour.

The reception we’ve had for our Kickstarter has been amazing, exhilarating. Having made digital things for so long, it’s actually been super-exciting to see the physical rewards from that tier and hold them in my hands. The poster has gone up on my wall. And that has made all this seem all the more real, all the more nail-biting.

We’d love to push it further, of course.

Back on the topic of what we’re actually making: I’m extremely proud that we’ve been able to show so much of the game. It’s definitely unfinished and unpolished, but with out gameplay vids we’re able to let you see a prototype of the kind of thing that we are building. Our two gameplay videos are missing all kinds of visual polish – animation being the most critical one – but I am excited when I watch them, because I know I can actually go away and play this thing, just as you will be able to do in a few months time.

This is the “big” game for us, not just because it’s about keeping our developers at their computers. It’s big because it’s the game that showcases our ideas and ideals, while at the same time being exactly the sort of thing we ourselves want to play. It contains solid examples of applying things we’re really excited about in games: procedural generation, stealth, AI autonomy and life in the world. (We’re aiming to have groups of robots meet, and then either get into a fight, or stop and chat, drinking tea and smoking pipes. We’re obsessed with the idea of games which get on with their “life” without you, even when you are at the heart of the action.)

We’re acutely, agonisingly aware that it might not all work the way we’ve intended. This is, after all, the great, perilous danger hanging over Kickstarter projects as a whole: that they might not live up to expectations. We are asking people to pay for something that is not yet done, and that’s always a tricky business. It’s scary. Very scary. It’s even scarier when we see people assuming we have the time and resources of a AAA team. I know people don’t always understand what goes into making games, but I hope the majority will understand what an ambitious undertaking this is for a handful of developers. Other game-makers seem to, and they’ve been fantastic about wishing us luck.

I hope it’s clear, though, that we’ve committed to this idea completely. I’ve put everything I have into it. Our hearts and minds are right in there. For me this is a chance to make the kind of game that I’ve been day-dreaming about for years, complete with tea, cheery ironies, and a mixture of comic themes and violent horror. Even with a tiny team of just a handful of people, we’re going to make something that I will enjoy, and I hope some of you guys will too. We’ve got a long road – we’ve been looking at just how long this week – but we can see to the end of it.

And, thanks to the past few weeks, it looks bright.

I suppose I should finish rambling, and point you to the comments if you have any questions. I just really wanted to explain where we were, and how myself and the guys are feeling at this strange, intense point in our project. Thanks to everyone who has backed us. We’ve got just a week left, and we’re already way further along than we’d ever expected. I’m beginning to understand why people give so much of themselves to make games – I know why the Molyneux cries – and I’m looking forward to spilling out more reflections on that process, what we’ve learned and the difficulties we’ve stumbled into, in the coming months.

Meanwhile, I’ll put the kettle on. Cheers.


  1. Shakermaker says:

    Awesome read, thanks for that. You all seem to have the heart firmly in the right place when it comes to this game. That alone made me pledge on day one. Good luck with finishing the game. Can’t wait to try out the first public build.

    • rapier17 says:

      My thoughts exactly. Just wish I could afford to pledge more than I already have.

      Best of luck Big Robot!

  2. golem09 says:

    Now I feel even better about backing it.
    I’m so glad that these are times where the biggest hurdle to gamedesign is to get your ass up and do it.

  3. tumbleworld says:

    I’ve been delighted to see Sir jog smoothly past its target. I’m looking forward to my early access with childish amounts of glee. Frankly, the hours of enjoyment I get from RPS every week make supporting team kickstarters a no-brainer, and I say that as a regular site donor. (I look forward to John’s hypothetical kickstarter with genuine fear.)

    What really excites me about Sir is the procedural stuff. I’ve always been fascinated by story — I’m an author, Gods help me — but at the same time, I understand how unsuitable games are for many forms of narrative. I suspect that the true intersection of game and story is going to come through procedural process as emergent narrative. Dwarf Fortress is one side of that coin, with it’s insane pathos (I’m excited by Gaslamp’s Clockwork Empires). The other side, I think, is Echo Bazaar, where the story is entirely generated inside the players head, by means of evocation. It’s the way that Michael Moorcock wrote his Sword & Sorcery, and the reason it had the power it did.

    The future of story is lurking somewhere in the hazy lands that border Echo Bazaar, Dwarf Fortress and the current Sir incarnation, sleeping, waiting for the time when the Stars are Right and it can live.

    And that is a truly amazing thing to look forward to.

  4. augustuskent says:

    Onwards and upwards, best of luck to the game

  5. Yachmenev says:

    Jim: Considering that Sir now has almost 200% of it´s goal, do you still have the opinion that the presence of bigger names on kickstarter is a bad thing? (not certain how I feel about it myself)

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      No, like I say up there, I can’t say if it’s a bad thing. I still want to play a new Elite.

      I think the bigger concern is that these projects seem to be about looking back, rather than funding the new and different.

      Really tough one to call.

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        You agree that “looking back” games have too their place in the computer gaming market? If your answer is yes, I think you will solve your dilemma.

        Or to put it in another way: You agree that wanting to make a game, regardless of your personal preferences of genre, style, design, or motivation is a worthy enterprise?

      • Prime says:

        Think of it this way, Jim: if you drive into a narrow cul-de-sac, you have to look backwards in order to reverse properly to return to the road that lets you continue driving forwards.

        I see nothing to fear and everything to celebrate. Games have such a rich and bountiful history, with so much in there lost to modern gaming. It’s utterly baffling to me how anyone can see a desire to re-present these nuggets of gaming gold to modern eyes as a worrying trend.

        • Muzman says:

          Now there’s a tortured metaphor for the ages. Not just the tortured-ness I mean!

          Seriously, I have been trying to think of a way to express how, despite being at least partially nostalgic (if not extensively) in their appeal, at least some of these retro-remakes/updates could actually be good. They go back to the fork(s) in the road where gaming lost its way and chased fads, rigidness and pointless spectacle because it was “easier”. (“200 person crews and hundreds of millions of dollars later…)
          Nothing forgets its own history like gaming and the industry is only as good as the games it can actually play. If it’s not an 8-bit platformer with chip tunes, it could well be worth another shot.

      • Yachmenev says:

        I agree, it´s tough. I was pretty sure that I thought it was only a good thing, but I starting to have doubts, so I thought I would just ask if you if your success has changedy your opinion, but you still seem to have the same legit concerns then.

        And I´m still doubting much. Neither Brabens nor Molyneux kickstarters are pure remakes, but are trying to innovate within their gengres, which I think is an ok plan for a kickstarter project. And yet there are still so many question marks surrounding them.

        The 22 Cans kickstarter, which is for an upstart company that might actually need the funding are not really explaining how they are going to innovate, just that they are (but have promised to start posting concret details next week).

        And Brabens kickstarter which doesn´t have much footage to show have explained how they are going to build on the previous formula and innovate it, but is the same time from a company established since 1994 with 200+ employees and multiple projects in the works already.

      • woodsey says:

        I’m hopeful that most of those types of projects are just a first-step into exploring the “what ifs?” of how gaming’s involved. Alternate history that at first requires a reset.

      • Continuity says:

        It’s simply that there is a big pent up demand for these classic game types… there is nothing to say that once that is sated we wont see more forward looking projects.

        Just be damn grateful we’re getting what we want! rather than always looking at the negative.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      come now, you don’t get names much bigger than Jim Rossignol!

  6. grundus says:

    This is a genuine, honestly-not-intended-to-be-rude-but-will-probably-come-across-that-way question: Jim, what sort of input do you have in the game? I mean, do you do any programming or artwork or are you mostly designing how the game itself should work (is that what a director is?)? Just curious is all.

    Also I just want to let you know: Good luck, we’re all counting on you.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I’ve done a lot of the design, but at the moment I mostly act a producer and project manager. I’ve made sure things get done at the right time, and I want to make sure everything looks and feels right.

      • Big Murray says:

        Sounds like you’re in possession of the whip. Good show.

      • Juan Carlo says:

        Well that, and he also has an incredibly popular video game blog which he can use as a pulpit from which to advertise the game. Which is maybe what qualifies him most in being a “game designer.” You can’t buy this sort of publicity.

    • AmateurScience says:

      I just want to let you know: Good luck, we’re all counting on you.

    • wild_quinine says:

      It’s a different kind of game design, altogether!

    • Skabooga says:

      Would you say that getting the process going at first was sluggish, like a wet sponge?

  7. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Will there be a small group of friendly robots round a fire, with one of them playing a guitar?

    Also, is that a cute octopus face staring back from the scrollwork on that side-by-side shotgun?

  8. GoodMorningSir says:

    Yay, congratulations to all of you!
    One can see how attached you are to your project and how much it means to you. So for that reason alone I hope that in the end you will be proud and happy with what you have achieved, no matter what other people might think. If they like it, all the better. So, good luck on the road ahead!

    What I am wondering though: what is your role in the developement, Jim? And what skills did you have to acquire during the project?
    How has your involvement in the making of games shaped your way of thinking and writing about games?
    And why do you like robots so much?


    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I’m not sure where the robot thing comes from, to be honest. They’re a good sort of figurative tool.

      See upthread for my input – I’d say that my influences, Stalker etc, have defined a good deal of how we’ve approached this project.

      • GoodMorningSir says:

        Thanks for the quick answer!

        But it seems my second question was misleading.
        I know of your love for the STALKER games, so the influence this way was clear to me :)
        What I wondered: now that you have experience in developing games yourself, how has that shaped your way of thinking about games? Now, that you aren’t only a “consumer” anymore.
        I am interested in it, since you hinted at it yourself, when you said you can understand the Molyneux now.

        • Jim Rossignol says:

          >What I wondered: now that you have experience in developing games yourself, how has that shaped your way of thinking about games?

          Not really. It means I know a lot more about how games are actually made, but I had a pretty good grasp of that anyway, particularly with a decade of interviewing developers behind me.

  9. olemars says:

    I was never in any doubt Sir would blaze past the KS goal. Successful KS pitches depend on two things: visibility and credibility. RPS has a large reader base, and that provides visibility (which is perfectly fine, don’t worry). The Rossignol has a fair share in causing that reader base to happen, and that coupled with the proof-of-concepts from the team provides you ample credibility.

    Edit: I am surprised the 100 t-shirts haven’t been ripped away already. It looks dreadful and I’m going to wear it every day.

  10. beatdarwin says:

    We love you too, Big Robot! Thank you for sharing such an intimate portrait of this enormously exciting time in your lives.

  11. Lemming says:

    I’m truly envious of your luck Jim. Having friends who can code who want to work with you on a game: That’s pretty much the dream of every armchair game developer.

  12. Mbaya says:

    Rather looking forward to getting my hands on this, I love exploring game worlds and honestly, the British Countryside Generator looks stunning, I can’t wait to skulk about taking screenshots.

    Its clear there is still a lot of work to be done, but I love that you’re not hiding that fact, its clear you’re pouring your heart into this project and I feel, whether the end result is truely something great or not, that will clearly show through and still present many hours of glorious entertainment.

    I truely envy you at this point, I imagine many of us readers have thought long and hard about the games we’d wish to make, seeing that come to life and growing week after week must be a wonderful experience.

    I wish you and your small (but amazing) team all the best, keep up the good work :)

  13. Wunce says:

    My largest concern with the game so far is about keeping the tension without making the game too frustrating. What sort of save system will you be implementing Jim?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Right now we have it so you can save at your “base” area, and the entrances and exits to islands. As you say, though, it’s something that needs testing to make sure it’s not frustrating. So it’s subject to change.

      • Lemming says:

        Save on Exit wouldn’t seem entirely inappropriate.

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          That would be a really annoying form of quicksave.

      • Wunce says:

        Cheers for the reply Jim.

      • Premium User Badge

        jpupu says:

        If at all possible, please allow saving at any time. It’s entirely okay to do it nethack style (quit when saving and delete the save on load), but I’d like to be able to stop playing when something comes up and not lose progress.

        • LionsPhil says:

          (But as a technical note, don’t do it that way, because if the game crashes…)

          • Ragnar says:

            Right, much better to just have a single quick-save slot that gets overwritten.

        • tigerfort says:

          Speaking as someone who occasionally has to unexpectedly stop playing right now and not touch the computer for 36 hours, save on exit makes a huge difference to my ability to actually enjoy a game. Checkpointing (or equivalents) can leave me totally unable to play a game in any useful way, if they require playing sessions more than about 20 minutes long.

  14. Ich Will says:

    Are things like the British Countryside Generator and the game code going to be accessible to modders at some point? Can we have a play with the engine before release?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      We had discussed releasing the generator up front as a sort of demo, but actually we’re going to be tweaking it right up to release, so we’re now planning to ship it with the first playable build.

      I don’t really know how Unity works with modding, but I think it get in the way of doing anything useful. I will have to look into it.

      • Ich Will says:

        Fair enough, I really can’t wait! I’m as excited about this game as I was about dishonored/Xcom, I think because it’s yet another brilliant looking take on stealth!

  15. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I’m afraid to say I didn’t back this project because it simply isn’t the type of games I like to play. It’s a good thing though that, if I made a mistake, I’ll get to buy the game when the time comes.

    And this is what scares me about Kickstarter. The fact that it may give the wrong message to thousands of developers out there that didn’t see their projects approved.

    • Thirith says:

      And how is this different from before Kickstarter, when many niche or innovative ideas had even less of a chance of being funded?

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        Kickstarter gives the wrong impression that if a game isn’t fully funded, it’s because people don’t want it. It surely has been discussed like this on many a venue.

        And yet Kickstarter visitors amount to a small percentage of visitors (common sense dictates, no data backing this up exists yet). Before Kickstarter, the decision to make a commercial game was it too based on what people wanted to play. But this was general knowledge at best. Now we are asking a small percentage of gamers (who visit kickstarter, of those who visit a certain project, of those who have money to back it up, of those who may want to see the game but will prefer to back something else right now) what everyone else wants to play.

        • Thirith says:

          I’d put it differently: if a Kickstarter project isn’t funded, it’s because people don’t want it enough to help fund it. Simple as that. Obviously the people who visit Kickstarter are just a subset of gamers, and the people who actively fund a project are a subset again – but they’re the ones who are willing to put their money where their mouth is. I guess I don’t really see what the scary message is that you think is going out to the people who don’t get their projects funded through Kickstarter.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            It seems you don’t. Maybe ask the guys behind Ars Magicka. Or many others who made the mistake of turning Kickstarter into an all or nothing option for their projects.

            Even we, gamers and press alike, have turned kickstarter into a major competition. We have a column here on RPS calling Winners and Losers to kickstarter projects. This is not what I would like the gaming industry to rely on. Particularly small independent developers.

          • Thirith says:

            No one’s taken away the avenues they had before crowdsourcing – they still exist. This is one additional method, not a replacement. Braid came about without Kickstarter, as did World of Goo and To The Moon. You keep hinting at something that’s supposedly bad about this system without coming out and saying what it is, which makes the conversation rather difficult – which is a shame, because I’d be interested in what you think beyond the somewhat nebulous statements you’ve been making.

          • The Random One says:

            I kind of see Mario’s point, though. If you fail to get a traditional publisher behind you, or an angel investor, you can turn to crowdfunding. If crowdfunding fails, though, going to a publisher or investor becomes much harder, because your failure (and, in fact, the precise amount of your failure) is now extremely public. And because crowdfunding is a model that offers much more freedom, some creators will go straight to it instead of cautiously trying to exhaust other financing models first… so a project that goes all-in on crowdfunding and fails might just be done for.

            It’s sad, but I think it’s more a symptom of the 2012 Kickstarter Fever than a long-time effect of the model. Hopefully people will adapt to its existence, if they haven’t started to already.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            I really have no idea what you want anymore. I already spoke of what I think is wrong about Kickstarter. You argue “but other places…” Seems to me more you don’t want to agree and choose instead to cheaply call my arguments blanket statements. If you can concentrate for one moment on Kickstart and Kickstart only without drawing comparisons, maybe we’ll get somewhere.

            One last try: Kickstarter isn’t in any way representative of what people want. Not even in the slightest. It reflects only a small percentage of gamers who happen to have the money and the desire to put it where their desires are. And that happened to come across your project page. And yet, what gamers want is exactly how Kickstarter is openly being discussed. This has two problems: it might give the wrong impression that if that guy couldn’t get his turn-based strategy funded this is because people don’t want turn-based strategy games, so I will not make a turn-based strategy game (or put it up for kickstart). And it has the problem that it limits the creativity of potential developers who will choose to swing with the tide, instead of doing what they want for the pleasure of doing it.

            In itself Kickstarter simply ensures a project gets developed if the one wanting to do it don’t have the money to do so. But people are wanting to see into kickstarter more than this. Some sort of gauge of what people want. This is detrimental to both kickstarter and the gaming industry in general.

          • Thirith says:

            Which friggin’ tide? The projects currently funded are all over the map, from old school RPGs to jump’n’runs to space sims to adventure games. Also, Kickstarter – or the rest of the industry – does not exist in a vacuum: that hypothetical project starter who doesn’t get his turn-based strategy game funded and decides that people don’t want TBS never heard of XCOM? Looking at Kickstarter while ignoring the overall industry strikes me as a rather pointless thought experiment.

            Edit: I agree that it’s silly (or at least premature) to see Kickstarter as some sort of gaming messiah – but your criticism, at least as presented in our discussion, doesn’t really convince me. It seems based on a worst-case scenario that, at least without better argumentation, doesn’t strike me as particularly plausible.

        • Emeraude says:

          Before Kickstarter, the decision to make a commercial game was it too based on what people wanted to play.

          More precisely on what publishers (or, well, those controlling the purse) *thought* people wanted to play. Which given how risk adverse they have become (for legitimate/understandable reasons on the individual scale) has generated the complete averaged-out standardization of gameplay and game types that made something like Kickstarter a necessity in the first place (as far as that particular aspect is concerned).

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            Seems like a contradiction. The indie industry didn’t start with Kickstarter. Years before kickstarter, we were already hearing about the Indie Fund (which never materialized) and yet indies were making games no one did before.

            Kickstarter was never a life changing event on the gaming industry. t didn’t save us from impeding doom.

  16. The Tupper says:

    Mrs The Tupper (for all intents a non-gamer) thinks it looks great.

    As do I, of course.

  17. sinister agent says:

    I suppose I should finish rambling, and point you to the comments if you have any questions.

    Why is the second cup of tea never truly satisfying?

  18. StranaMente says:

    I’m a bit perplexed by the possible difficulty of the game. I get that the core mechanic is fleeing not fighting, but since all the stretch goals seems built toward make the game harder and harder, isn’t there the risk of making the player crawl into a corner to hide and cry?
    Besides the shotgun, and the dynamite it looks like the player can’t do much harm against enemies in the air, on horses, robotic hounds and powerful warmachines.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It will be challenging, for sure. But there’s a bunch of offensive stuff you can do: traps, a hunting rifle and so on. Stealth is your friend, though: creep up on enemies and take them out with an axe, etc.

  19. Cooper says:

    Every single time I see a screenshot of Sir, I just want to go find another John Wyndham book to read…

  20. Jason Moyer says:

    While I do not have the funds to kickstart this right now (just built a new PC, bought a WII, *insert excuses here*) this game is so far up my alley that it’s *insert witty metaphor here*.. This hits pretty much every box on my list of things I’d like to see in an immersive sim type game (vulnerable PC, stealth, procedurally generated towns, emergent AI behavior, atompshere, fancypants british humor, etc).

  21. Cleave says:

    Looks great. Just pledged, can’t wait to play it :)

  22. Chizu says:

    So when can we expect the live action promo trailer of you running around a field being chased by someone wearing a few tweed-patterned boxes.

    Also, I hope there will be a perma-death option eventually, as I could see that really upping the tension of the hunt.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Not sure about perma-death, but maybe. It’s pretty lethal at the moment.

    • edwardoka says:

      I logged in to say “very much yes” to both of these.

      As Mr. Rossignol lives in Somerset it should be a matter of little difficulty for a tweedy boxy day-trip to Dartmoor!

      Re: Permadeath, the only Minecraft save I ever play these days is a hardcore one, because it adds a ridiculous amount of tension and makes me far more invested in it.

  23. dangermouse76 says:

    Dear Jim,
    may be a bit far in the future this question. But what are you hopes and dreams for any sort of co-op / multilayer type efforts. This game seems to scream co-op DayZ type play ?

    Also – this may be in the kickstarter page – is there a crafting ( a la minecraft ) system to the game, it suggests lots interesting game play consequences for me.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Crafting: no, but there is hunting and cooking.

      Re multiplayer: we want to have a mode where four people can work together and then against each other to get off the island. The idea is that everyone will be hunted by the robots, but only one person can actually escape. We think it’ll create an interest intrigue layer to co-op.

      We’re not planning co-op for release, but if we hit £80k (which I hope we will) it will be a free bonus for everyone who owns the game at some point after the single-player.

      With regards to it being DayZ-like, we don’t currently have the resources to do anything at quite that scale, but we’ve clearly been developing along parallel lines (we started this about the time Rocket started Day Z) and we’d like to work towards similar things in the future.

      Some of the stuff we have planned for Lodestone has parallels in DayZ.

      • dangermouse76 says:

        ” The idea is that everyone will be hunted by the robots, but only one person can actually escape. We think it’ll create an interest intrigue layer to co-op. ”

        This sounds really interesting, a race to the line or face off over resources ( not trying to give you advise here just thinking out loud ) could be very tense. Stealthily hunt down your partner for parts, or oh god ! imagine if the only way to activate an exit from the island, one of you had to stay or be some how tricked into staying.

        Looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
        Cheers for reply.

      • Gnarf says:

        I think I remember someone, and I think it was John Romero, talking about how they used to play DOOM like that. Like play co-op, but just decide that you scored a point if you was the guy who activated the end of level button thing. So on the right difficulty, you kind of wanted to kill all your mates and go for the exit by yourself, and you kind of needed your mates in order to get through the level.

        It sounds like a cool kind of thing, and like a kind of thing it would be cool to have a proper game mode for.

  24. Wurstwaffel says:

    How final are those graphics? Will there be bumpmaps, rimlight shaders and all that?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Bump maps no, at least not on most of the stuff. We don’t have the resources to do that kind of fidelity. There are a few more effects to go in, but we’re quite pleased with the slightly sketchy lo-fi look, and it’s affordable!

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        What about the interface elements? They seem a bit… off. As if they don’t really fit with the rest of the game. I’m also not sure about the positioning.

  25. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    I love the idea of a game like this with AI doing it’s thing without you. I’ve been interested in Sir, but not much, honestly. The bit about Big Robot’s love for games that go on going on is adding adverbs like “keenly” before interested.

  26. Laketown says:

    first time you mentioned it I didn’t read the story because oh it was just another kickstarter thing, but realizing you worked on it… I mean you already are using your status as RPS writer extraordinaire to get donations (not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, of course; I’m pretty sure 90% of kickstarters would do the same thing). I am a little skeptical about the journalistic integrity; even if it continues to be rock solid, the perception of it coming down can be devastating.

    All I’m saying is I kinda hope RPS doesn’t cover it after it’s released with a WiT. when Giantbomb covered Bastion very deeply, as well as it being made by a former co worker of theirs, they didn’t review it; they still considered it for GOTY stuff, of course, but that never really matters in the big view of things. I have the utmost respect for you guys and honestly this is just the worst case scenario but I hope it works out for all of you.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      To be fair to Jim, he’s been selling the game on its own merits. I don’t think he’s mentioned RPS at all on Kickstarter.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It’s definitely complicated.

      But yeah, I just want to be as open about this stuff as possible when it come to RPS coverage. That’s a big reason why I have written most of the coverage – why not, when I need to be open about both things being part of my work?

      It doesn’t make sense for us not to cover Big Robot at all, but at the same time people should be well aware that I am heavily implicated in both. People can decide for themselves when they have that knowledge, I am sure.

      • Ich Will says:

        Eh, there’s always someone bitter for no apparent reason who will run their mouths off with their conspiracy theories, I’m sure you guys will be able to cope with it though

        • Gnarf says:

          Uh. This kind of thing strikes a lot of people as a bad kind of thing. If you think gaming journalist writing about his game and posting it on the gaming site he’s working for is not so good, then there’s very little room for conspiracy theories. That part is kind of happening in plain sight.

          They’re choosing very carefully which Kickstarters they should cover and which they should not. There are lots of Kickstarters struggling for attention that would love to get articles on sites like this. Game RPS guy works on has like seven RPS articlethings so far.

          I’m sure some people think that is totally fine. And others think it is not. But the idea that you have to add conspiracy theories into the mix in order to think it is not fine is nonsense.

      • The Random One says:

        I want Jim to write a WiT which starts with hyperbolic praise of the game and then halfway through changes into vicious attacks at small issues until he becomes downright depressed and curses out all of mankind. It’s the only way to remain unbiased.

      • crinkles esq. says:

        I think it’s certainly fair to mention the game on RPS, but the coverage has been a bit excessive. Regardless of who writes the features, you’re putting the name constantly in front of a large audience, generating buzz. I genuinely hope Sir does well, I’m just not sure I like the way it has become entangled with RPS.

  27. derbefrier says:

    Looks great man, as luck would have it I get another paycheck before your kickstarter is over and plan on setting aside some money to pledge. I was wondering if you guys were planning to try and get your game on steam either through greenlight or the traditional route and what kind of post release support you plan on(expansions, DLC, hats, things like that)

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      We’re hoping to get on Steam, one way or another. I guess we’ll see next year!

      Post release plans aren’t really sorted yet, so I don’t want to go pre-empting myself.

  28. Sp4rkR4t says:

    I’ve loved all the stretch goals as they have been announced but one issue people seem to have down the pub is the fear of the game becoming to much of a challenge for the more casual (read: crap) gamers among my group, I was wondering when starting a play through will we have the options to tweak what enemies, etc spawn in our world?

  29. Hillbert says:

    I went camping last month and for the final leg we walked from Hawes to Tan Hill inn. We reached the pub just as twilight was falling. That’s the sort of landscape and lighting which rarely appears in a game, until now.

    Top stuff.

  30. Alexian9 says:

    Fantastic write-up, and I’m really excited to try out the game when it’s done.

    I’m not sure the big companies will continue getting involved with Kickstarter on a large scale. Based on the experience with Hero-U, I don’t the commentary understands the absolute brutality of running a Kickstarter in it’s first week. There is a constant feeling of stress at the beginning that no one will fund, the amount you receive never feels enough (unless it almost entirely funds) since you know it’ll drop off, and the rare troll really stings because you’re in a powerless position.

    The stress goes away after a week, but I don’t think many companies would expose themselves to that public attention, if they consider other funding methods viable. Once the idea that it really isn’t easy money goes away, including the entitled write-ups expecting all the monies, there should be a much better balance of indie companies with a few major fan favorite companies.

  31. sproutmask says:

    Well, conflicts of interest aside I think that it’s an excellent use of Mr R’s journalistic skills to give this nicely written insight into what it’s like to be a developer, and also what it’s like to be involved in kickstarter. I think it would be pretty absurd for RPS not to cover the game and the articles are totally open about the situation.

    Not only that, the game looks frankly stunning – there’s just something about the scenery that makes me want to climb in to the screenshots and go exploring (though admittedly the deranged killbots probably lose it an English Tourist Board rosette or two).

    And despite the cartoonish (if that’s the right word) appearance those robots are downright creepy. This could in fact be the game that finally beats STALKER for pure atmosphere. Very happy I backed it and enjoying watching it take shape. The very best of luck to Big Robot.

  32. MrTambourineMan says:

    I have a question as well. Since it’s quite some time since you started making games with Unity, what is your opinion on it. Is it the right fit for Sir, you’re being hunted or would you choose another engine if you were starting from scratch today?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Sort of one of those impossible questions, to be honest. Unity has some serious limitations, and can be very frustrating to use. On the other hand: it’s easy to use, we have experience with it, and it has loads of super-powerful tech. The ability to compile for OSX, Linux and Windows at a click is amazing on its own.

  33. Totally heterosexual says:

    Looks really great. A few questions.

    1. how is the enemy variety going to be? So far we have seen a few kinds of hunters and the dogs.

    2. Are there any really dark areas?

  34. dangermouse76 says:

    I thought of a secondary question if you have time, can you tell me or point me maybe to how your team constructs it’s AI. It’s a part of game development I cant get my head around. In terms of how you write AI behavior.

  35. Trillby says:

    Right now I’m mostly worried about the evident lack of a number of things essential to the proper FPS experience:

    1) Underwater level where I need to navigate some sort of maze before I drown.
    2) Flying enemies that tear off large chunks of health that I have trouble both dodging and hitting.
    3) Insta-kill “out of bounds” areas that provide critical feedback that I’m not doing things right
    4) A companion I can chat to and sleep with (but keep it PG-13 – I hear you can do some great stuff with in-the-way scenery these days, or otherwise just let them do the dirty with their underclothes on).
    5) Exploding red barrels, crates with health packs in them, crates with ammo in them, crates with smaller crates in them containing nothing – but I can’t know that until I’ve punched/sticked/shotgunned them to bits.
    6) Breasts. Robot breasts. Big metal bouncy robot breasts.

    Jesus Jim, I thought you knew about games and that! Thank God you still have time to include these in your next tier. I have a couple more items that we can discuss, like getting some Americans in to do the voice-acting, but let’s sort out the basics first…thank God I found you before it was too late. And to think you start by saying that you’ve been observing modern trends.
    I trust we can agree to my usual consulting fee? Good man.

  36. hello_mr.Trout says:

    hello jim – not sure if you’ll notice this comment, but had a few questions –

    1. do you have any intentions for modding, or letting the gaming community adapt your game post-release?

    2. would it be possible/viable to adapt the country-side/town naming generator to a character naming generator, so i could have a new and unique spiffing english name upon the creation of each new character? ie “Sir Willoby Emberdink the Third, esq.” type thing

    3. are you including a variety of graphical options/interface settings? – more specifically, would it be possible to tone down the size of the health/vitality/currently held weapon circle things at the lower left and right of the screen? to my mind, they seem really large and kind of dominate the screen – it would do wonders for the imersion levels if they could be opaque, or perhaps gradually fade in at relevent moments?

    anyway, best wishes for the continued development of the project, glad you have been funded!

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      1. Possibly! I am not sure how easy Unity makes such things, we need to look into it.

      2. We’d thought something similar, actually.

      3. Yes, and we will see how people generally feel about the UI once they’ve played it.

  37. stahlwerk says:

    Jim, are there plans to make the player more corporeal, as in “more mirrors edge”? It could really help in raising the man vs. machine tension.

  38. Gap Gen says:

    I am lazy. Please tell me someone has made a Pacman clone called “Sir, you are being haunted”.

  39. strangeloup says:

    At first, dismay: I wish I’d seen this post before the Kickstarter finished, because I would have thrown some money at it, having been a bit on the fence previously.

    Then, elation. You can still pledge!

    Then, dismay again. The funding goes out before I get more monies in, at least in sufficient proportion to what I wanted to donate.

    I think I’ll probably buy two copies when it comes out or something to make up for it. Please make there be a demo, though, because I was too stupid to understand what AVSEQ was until I tried it, and now I only can’t get past the third level.

    • Acorino says:

      well, since you have one more week after the campaign ended to actually pay for your pledge, you might still be able to make it…

      • strangeloup says:

        Splendid, I didn’t know that. In that case I will be pledging a few days after the end, when I am again financially solvent.

  40. Sleepymatt says:

    Ahh, I’m really excited for this one, the videos look fantastic. I’m actually glad to hear that the lo-fi graphics are going to be retained, the graphical style is certainly a big part of the charm of the game!

    Congratulations on running such a successful Kickstarter – it was pretty obvious from the type of updates you made to it, and their timing, that you had meticulously planned the campaign. Your resultant success should be held up as a lesson to certain other KS projects… mentioning no names *ahem*

  41. Scandalon says:

    To counter any hint of impropriety, the other RPS members must download a pirated copy, so that no money/goods are trading hands.

    They must then not play the game before posting their WIT/Judgements –
    It’s the only way to be 100% unbiased.

  42. Premium User Badge

    alhazan says:

    Mix this with a strong stew of British sci-fi and our indigenous terrain and accompanying folklore – moorland, tweed, robots, pheasants, rain, poachers, hunters, hounds, horror – and we had a heady mix

    This brings to mind old Dr. Who, particularly Stones of Blood, which is *awesome*.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Definitely, Dr Who is a big influence.

    • GallonOfAlan says:

      Oh hell yes. I never loved Dr Who more than when it was capering around England’s green and pleasant with Nigel Kneale goings-on in small villages.

      Even with the vanishingly small chance that I don’t like the game after I buy it I won’t care because this sort of thing need to be encouraged.

  43. MellowKrogoth says:

    I was wondering how you guys plan to add a sense of purpose to the game. STALKER was great in part because of ominous mystery at the center of the zone. That plus the “kill Strelok” objective gave some direction to the otherwise very open game.

    I’m not saying you should shoehorn some kind of scripted story into your game. Actually my dream would be to see a fully procedurally generated plot that adapts to player actions and the places/character he’s seen – but that doesn’t sound very realistic :P . The roguelike Gearhead (link to is famed to have a different story every time you play though, might be worth checking out for inspiration.

    Overall I think having a central dangerous location you have to get to every game, just like roguelikes have “retreive the orb/amulet/divine sandwich”, could make your game more interesting. Or anything else that adds fear and mystery to the game, really. (Horrifying underground labs where tea-related experiments happen?)

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      The idea is that you have to get off the island. You collect pieces of a “mysterious machine” which will get you back home. Collecting enough parts is the overall driving motivation for the player.

      • Gnarf says:

        Pikmin! :D

      • MellowKrogoth says:

        Not quite as sinister as I would’ve hoped, but I’m sure the obtaining some of those parts will give you plenty of opportunities to get the player into a lot of trouble.

  44. Switch says:

    I’ve run out of money to spend on kickstarter projects.. so many backed

  45. willfarb says:

    Don’t stress about delivering. I gave you my money with full knowledge that everything in life is speculative. If you, rather than delivering me a game, came and instead urinated on my doormat, I would still not clamour for my money back. You have already earned it, so make your game for yourself, not me.

  46. dorobo says:

    Robots drinking tea and smoking pipes? Sounds great!

  47. bill says:

    If we are still answering questions:

    1- How much development do you think a non-developer needs to have done before getting on kickstarter? RPS has come down on the big guys who’ve put up kickstarters without much to show. But how about someone with a great idea who would need kickstarter resources to even get started on it?

    2 – What time to crate are you shooting for?

    3 – Can we hack damaged robots?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      1- I think it’s all in the quality of the pitch. We didn’t feel it was appropriate for us to pitch without having something quite substantial to show, and I don’t think the pitch would have been as strong if we hadn’t been able to show it working. Perhaps that has worked against us – after all people are just imagining a lot of these other games!

      Regardless, I personally felt I wanted the game to be prototyped to a useful level by the time we took it to Kickstarter. I think it’s shows we are serious, especially when we’re realtively new as a studio.

      2 – What time to crate are you shooting for?

      I think it’s quite long. I am not sure there even is a crate in the game at the moment. There’s something like a wooden tray in the village gardens, but I am not sure if that counts.

      3 – Can we hack damaged robots?


  48. UncleLou says:

    Backing this, not just because it’s Jim Rossignol, but because it sounds genuinely great – in fact, I always wanted a game where you’re hunted beyond the shooter-typical AI search routine that lasts 2 minutes. I also love how the alpha gameplay trailer is genuinely scary.

    May I ask, seeing how so much is procedurally generaed, I guess the idea is to play it again and again and one playthrough is rather short, doable in one session? I don’t mind either way, just curious.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Honestly we haven’t played through the whole thing to know about length, but yes the idea is for it to be completely replayable. But also tweakable to what you enjoyed. If you want more forests, you’ll be able to generate them.

  49. Berzee says:

    Does this game
    contain bees?
    If not,
    will that be
    the 90k stretch goal?

    (This question has probably already been answered. I trust you will pardon my possible ignorance.)

    (why did i ask this i don’t even like bees)