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Kickstarter Katchup - June 30th 2013

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Last week I was at Rezzed instead of looking at Kickstarter pages but I’ve made up for it by spending most of today browsing through projects. Thoughts of Kickstarter’s purpose have been hanging in the air (on twitter and in chatrooms that I frequent) and I have been pondering how I see the site. I have backed projects knowing that I’m essentially pre-ordering something that I assume will be released and will be as expected, based on the team’s previous work and a comfortable place in a familiar genre. But I mostly back smaller projects that I want to support and to play because they are different, risky and challenging. There’s a great deal of innovation among the nostalgia.

The Rules

  • Featuring a game in this list doesn’t mean we endorse it. We likely haven’t played, and as such can’t say whether it will be worth your cash. That’s your call.
  • Letting me know about a game (which you can do via my name at the top of this article) doesn’t mean it will definitely be included. Leaving links in the comments is a good way to let other readers know about projects, but please email me if you want them considered for the list. Include the word Kickstarter in the subject line too if you care about making my life even slightly easier.
  • We only include games where pledges reach developers only if the target is met.
  • Projects asking for fifty billion dollars, with 45c in pledges, fall off the list eventually. It gives more space for other games.
  • Projects that have reached their funding get included in the Winners list, and then aren’t featured in the weeks after that, to give more attention to those that are still needing the cash. Tough if you don’t like it.
  • Be aware that there are several currencies in play. Always check!
  • This week’s Katchup was composed while listening to Digable PLanets.

The Winners

UnderTale – Toby Fox

Goal: $5,000
Now: $23,200

UnderTale’s demo immediately granted the game residence in both my heart and my mind. There’s a tiny penthouse on my left ventricle and a caravan parked on the meadow alongside my limbic system. While those dwellings may cause health problems later in life, I’m glad to lend the space to such an inventive RPG, which consistently surprised and delighted me. I’m also glad to see that it has found a rich vein of backers – the twenty thousand dollars were raised with more than three weeks left on the clock. Do try the demo. And stick with it even when you think you know what kind of narrative it is. It’s far more subtle than a twist but the game switches and swerves beautifully.

GhostControl Inc. – Application Systems/Bumblebee

Goal: £7,500
Now: £8,877

The success of GhostControl has made me think about genres, because that’s the kind of brain I have. In game genre terminology, it’s a turn-based tactical/strategy game with team management aspects – X-COM with ghosts. On another level, applying a more widely applied genre tag, GhostControl is a comedy, with gadgets such as the slippery ‘Butter Bastard’. That makes it a very different prospect to X-COM, which I’ve always thought of as sci-fi horror, even if the horror aspect has somewhat fallen by the wayside with age and the greater fidelity of the reboot. I’d like a horrific ghost hunting game, a strategic Project Zero, rather than a comedy one. But in terms of its gaming genre, GhostControl ticks all the right boxes.

Void Destroyer – Paul Zakrzewski

Goal: $20,000
Now: $32,100

Void Destroyer deserved to succeed, not only because it was a strong concept (hybrid space combat simulator and RTS) but because communication has been clear and frequent throughout the campaign, and that standard has continued now that the goal has been reached. As well as providing a playable alpha, Paul has elaborated on the changes, future plans and current state of the game from the very beginning. Good work. The page now contains a summary of the campaign, which is well worth a look.

Our Darker Purpose – Avidly Wild Games

Goal: $40,000
Now: $42,256

Our Darker Purpose cut it close, raising around a third of its total funding in the final three days. I reckon the playable demo probably helped because while aspects of the game are clearly in their early stages, the quality of the world-building that has made the game’s page a highlight of my Kickstarter browsing for the last few weeks shines through. I predict good things.

Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet! – Alasdair Beckett-King

Goal: £15,000
Now: £20,076

The Fowl Fleet will float again, hitting the high seas of Windows, Mac and Linux. A fine victory for a campaign that was tied to a past project but feels like something altogether new. Remember when people pretended traditional adventure games were dying? Next they’ll be writing an obituary for interactive fiction, shortly before being stomped into oblivion by Twine. They are so silly.

Armikrog – Pencil Test

Goal: $900,000
Now: $974,578

This is a surprise. In the entry above, I mock ‘them’ for writing premature epitaphs and yet I was ready to pen something of the sort for the claymation adventure Armikrog, which seemed doomed to fail. “The goal was too high, though understandably so considering the work that’s no doubt needed’, I would say, nodding sagely. A massive final week pushed the project over the finishing line though and the game should be finished next summer.

The Players

Taxi Journey – Lexis Numerique

Goal: $230,000
Now: $6,355
Days: 26

I haven’t read a great deal about Taxi Journey and I almost don’t want to. The visual design makes it look like a physics platform-puzzler/adventure from the artistic mindspace that created Zeno Clash. Warn your eyes that they are about to have a feast.

Tesla Breaks The World – M. Robert Hymer

Goal: $5,500
Now: $3,770
Days: 6

In the last week of its campaign but making its first appearance on these pages, Tesla Breaks the World is a 2d platformer in which the inventor and his moustache attempt to save the world, shortly after breaking it by raising a plague of zombies. Yes, there are even zombies here, although I think they’re the only ones in the Katchup and they’re of the comical shambling variety rather than the blood-vomiting, reminder of the inevitability of death sort. Tesla looks pleasant and charming. And so does the game.

Dark Matter – InterWave Studios

Goal: £50,000
Now: £2,683
Days: 17

I have a preview build of Dark Matter, which I spent some time with on Friday and will write about in more detail tomorrow or Tuesday. Superficially, it’s a Super Metroid sort of a game, but intelligent use of impressive lighting makes for interesting combat and heightened tension. The enemy behaviour and crafting push Dark Matter toward survival horror, which is something I tend to be appreciative of.

Liege – Coda Games

Goal: $15,000
Now: $10,512
Days: 28

Almost everything about Liege makes me want to throw money in its general direction and I’m pleased to see that it’s had a pleasant welcome to the world of Kickstarter. The game is a party-based RPG with tactical battles and it’s the depth of thought on display when John writes about combat systems that really endears me to Liege.

The game emphasizes spatial elements over leveling and equipment, so you won’t be able to grind until your party is effectively invincible. Your units will always be vulnerable; in fact, a single direct strike to an undefended unit will often prove fatal. Unused actions during your turn will determine your unit’s defensive ability during enemy turns. As a result, you will always need to balance evasion and defense, with well-timed, coordinated offense to survive.

Read more. Read everything, because this, on paper at least, will probably be of great interest to many of you.

Satellite Reign – 5 Lives Studios

Goal: £350,000
Now: £96,889
Days: 28

When Jim spotted Satellite Reign, absorbed the ‘successor to Syndicate’ idea but didn’t actually notice that the game is actually the brainchild of the creator of Syndicate Wars. Despite its 3d collapsing buildings, Wars never gripped me in the same way that the original Syndicate did, which is to say with all the power of a fully augmented set of cyber-limbs. Satellite Reign sounds truly special though – there is the promise of a living cyberpunk city in which things are happening at all times.

The St. Christopher’s School Lockdown – Laney Berry

Goal: £9,000
Now: £7,879
Days: 11

I suspect this would have been given a post of its own if any of the hivemind tendrils had happened across it while probing into the darker corners of the internet. Here’s the blurb:

A point-and-click adventure game set within a British private school. When a political protest turns violent, whose side will you take?

Unusual and immediately attractive, this is a far more exciting proposition, to my mind, than a £500,000 sequel to something that I liked when I was fourteen. Be aware that the final game will be episodic, seven in total, and the £30 pledge is the lowest that guarantees access to all episodes.

Frozen State – Snow Arc

Goal: £60,000
Now: £14,406
Days: 22

Plenty of updates, including information on the world and factions, but not a great deal of monetary progress for Frozen State, which is a survival-based horror RPG. There’s a new video below but remember, the game is still at a very early stage of development, with more than a year’s work planned.

…we have a bigger picture and more sophisticated gameplay in mind with stealth and tactical elements. They are just not fully implemented or very raw to show up. We are working hard right now on the core game logic and functionality, it’s like a foundation for a house, if you make it right it will stand long.

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A Vampyre Story: Year One – William Tiller

Goal: $200,000
Now: $75,464
Days: <1

If the Vampyre Story point and click prequel makes it, with over a hundred thousand dollars to earn and less than a day to go, it’ll be among Kickstarter’s most unlikely successes. The project had a strong opening week but hasn’t enjoyed the late-stage surge that often occurs. I think the episodic length and prequel plot may be at least partly the cause.

World of Diving – Vertigo Games

Goal: $75,000
Now: $16,085
Days: 2

Vertigo added some in-game footage to the Indiegogo page of their diving game just over two weeks ago but have been quiet since then, at least as far as updates are concerned. It’s hard to imagine the money arriving in time now, which is a shame as I can imagine this being an unusual and tranquil co-op experience. I love the hand signals and would probably find the inclusion of vulgar gestures far more amusing than I really should at my age. As my partner tried to take a picture of an ethereal manta ray, I’d drift past in the background, flicking the v’s.

Fleish & Cherry In Crazy Hotel – Red Little House Studios

Goal: €29.000
Now: €6,460
Days: 4

Red Little House released an alpha demo showing the adventure side of their old-timey cartoon game, which also has an isometric action component. The project joins the list of others that are close to failure this week but this does give me a chance to link to HOTEL, an interactive animation from what now feels like an earlier era of the internet. It’s by Han Hoogerbrugge and apart from the word ‘hotel’, it also has its isometric viewpoint and mostly monochrome graphics in common with Flesh & Cherry. It’s much more unsuitable for work environments though and decidedly creepy.

Deus Ex Machina 2 – Mel Croucher

Goal: £64,000
Now: £30,111
Days: 7

I’m happy to concede that Deus Ex Machina may have been influential and maybe even enjoyable when it was first released in 1984. Whether directly or not, it’s possible to draw a direct link between the experimental multimedia life journey and many of today’s ‘art games’. The recently released playable demo for the sequel has excellent music but that’s the only real point of interest. The player’s avatar, a sperm and then an about-to-be-born baby, floats into the screen, down a tunnel, avoiding obstacles and listening to music. The art is repetitive and the controls feel like they adjust the camera in swinging arcs rather than directly guiding the sperm/baby. There isn’t enough happening for the scene to even resemble a barely interactive music video. Try for yourself and perhaps you’ll disagree?

And another thing…

Coin Opera 2: Fulminare’s Revenge – Sidekick Books

Goal: £1,500
Now: £1,280
Days: 9

I wrote a few words about Coin Opera 2 earlier this week. It’s a compilation of poetry about games, written by proper wordsmiths and seeking money to cover printing costs. This post contains all of the information and insight you could wish for.

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Adam Smith

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