Skullgirls Follow-Up Indivisible Secures $3.6 Million

Skullgirls creators Lab Zero have successfully raised a whopping $1.5m for their action RPG, Indivisible. $1.6m even, with a couple of days left to see that grow even taller. $3.6m even, with the now-secured publisher funding too. Enough money, it seems, for the characters to afford clothes this time out.

“Action RPG” seems an odd description for this one from the videos – that just doesn’t strike me as a genre that exists in side-scrolling brawling 2D. But what do I know? It’s inspired by Valkyrie Profile, and I’ve never even played Valkyrie Profile! It’s certainly proving very popular with the peoples, bringing in an enormous sum over the last month, and looking likely to reach at least $1.7m before it’s done. What a lot of dosh, and they’ve another $2m to add to it from publishers 505 Games now the crowdfunding is secured. Cha-ching.

There are, of course, stretch goals. More music from Hiroki Kikuta looks guaranteed, but the Titmouse & Mystery Anime Studio animated opening looks unlikely at $1.9m. There are a squillion videos to watch on the campaign page, and you can get a prototype there too. As for the finished game, they’ve set a very sensible distant date of January 2018 for that.

44 Comments

  1. EhexT says:

    The prototype, despite missing a lot of the deeper combat complexity, is already a ton of fun. It’s brilliantly animated and well drawn as you’d expect from Lab Zero, and this time it’s not underage girls with giant boobs flashing their panties so you could actually play it in the presence of normal human beings.

    All in all this might be the game Lab Zero’s team was born to make.

    • Pich says:

      There was only one underage character with panties flash, and those were removed a while ago.

      • Zankman says:

        And the game is still almost entirely consisted of sexy female characters whose designs, along with the game’s art style, not only lend themselves to be such, but are straight-up intended to be sexual.

        You damn well know this – so don’t nitpick in order to avoid the criticism. His point thus stands (despite him being inaccurate with his wording).

        • Pich says:

          There’s nothing wrong in sexual character designs imo.

          • Zankman says:

            And expectedly, a randomly defensive statement.

            Who said that there was?

            Only thing he implied was that he doesn’t like content like that *and* that it isn’t family-friendly; One is a personal opinion, the other is just true.

            Personally, I find the designs to be sexy but that also makes them off-putting for me in terms of them being an integral part of the game.

          • CptPlanet says:

            Who is defensive here? The guy you are replying to only corrected OP’s statement. Maybe you should leave it at that.

      • Datagram says:

        Hi, Skullgirls player here. Filia definitely still has loads of pantyshots; the changes they made just removed the one in her K.O. pose, since they felt it was a bit too gratuitous/weird.

        But I still prefer the reasonable pantyshots in SG to the magical skirt physics they use in games like Blazblue and Under Night to avoid them.

    • Zankman says:

      *Leggy protagonist drawn in Anime-esque style and design notwithstanding*,

      Yeah, conceptually it is much more likable and tasteful, much more approachable for the wider audiences.

      • elderman says:

        Yes. I’m definitely getting a sense of the things Lab Zero is into as a company. It reminds me of anime, yes, and also of other things designed in Europe and the US with an young adult aesthetic in mind, but that appeal to older people as much or more. I’m thinking of young adult literature like The Hunger Games and early the films Jeunet and Caro collaborated on in the 90s. This could also describe a lot of Hollywood, but there’s a distinction between Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen on one hand, which is what I’m talking about, and the Marvel universe on the other that I’m having trouble making right now.

        Even with this in mind, here’s something about Skullgirls and the Indivisible demo that makes me uncomfortable.

        I know a woman, former ballerina, who wrote her doctorate on the framing of women’s crotches in the choreography of someone, Nureyev or some other famous dancer. Maybe someday someone will do the same thing for Lab Zero’s games. Framing her crotch is the very first thing the Ajna does. I don’t know why that makes me feel icky, and I love going to the ballet.

        No conclusion or TL;DR, sorry.

        • Kitsunin says:

          Well, there’s some degree of sexuality to it. I wouldn’t expect the person in charge of Skullgirls’ art to completely eliminate that sort of subtext from their work. Skullgirls was sexual enough that it wasn’t family friendly, this is far less than that. That’s…pretty much the long and short of it.

          • elderman says:

            I don’t think my personal discomfort is about sexuality per se. There’s sexuality in other art that doesn’t bother me. Ballet is also erotic in a way that’s barely sublimated — sometimes not sublimated at all. I enjoy burslesque, and Skullgirls sort of, almost feels like burlesque. I don’t know anime, which is why my references are to European and American stuff.

            If there’s a market for it this mix of sexuality, violence and youth, so much the better. I like how weird Skullgirls is. Maybe it’s that it’s not quite weird enough for me? Feels too much genre, not personal enough? I’m still trying to figure it out.

            Maybe Lab Zero is working their way toward audiences outside their niche. In that case, they’re working their way toward me, too.

          • Zankman says:

            Well, I don’t see why they couldn’t completely eliminate it, but, as you say, it is reasonable that it is present in a way.

            With that said, from the brief sightings of other characters, we can see that sexual content won’t be plentiful – but featured maybe here and there; That is of course fine, nothing wrong with a character that is one way or another (visually or otherwise) a “sexual” character.

            Most important is the main protagonist and she doesn’t look sexualized to me: Cute but otherwise “Normal”-looking, normal attire that seems to fit the world in which the game is set in and normal body shape.

            Now, of course, it’s art and the devs went for (expectedly) stylized and not terribly realistic or unrealistic art style, with some exaggerated proportions and whatnot, which means that characters will either have comedic or otherwise “bluntly” designed figures (like, say, very round figures) or “perfected” figures.

            The MC is, again, most important and she looks fairly normal to me, having a nice and slender frame, albeit with accentuated and exposed thighs (with the notion that them being exposed is not in any way weird or forced).

          • Kitsunin says:

            When I said I wouldn’t expect it to be completely eliminated, I didn’t mean that I thought there was any amount of overt sexuality left (I really don’t see any at all). Rather there might well be lingering subtle aspects such as actions which draw the eye to her crotch, and don’t need to. Likely unintentional on the part of the artist, as the majority of her work seems pretty risque.

          • Zankman says:

            Gotcha, thanks. That does make sense.

            From the trailer, though, you can see that there is some mild sex appeal here and there (saw some male and female characters that would qualify) and you could even maybe say that for the MC’s transformation (again, in the animation, not so much in the game itself).

        • pepperfez says:

          Do you mean when she hitches up her skirt? Because I thought it was a nice touch that she does that facing away from the camera, specifically to avoid sexualizing it.

          • elderman says:

            That is what I mean. Maybe I’m a dirty old man, I’m willing to consider that possibility. I’m not going to give them art direction, and their stuff has been riding a line with with my comfort level, sometimes I think I’m ok, sometimes I’m not. It certainly makes sense in the game world. It could be the intention is to demonstrate the fact that her hiking up her skirt is practical. Maybe it’s a response to the criticism they got for Skullgirls. But it means that almost the first thing I do with this character is look at her crotch. That feels weird.

          • elderman says:

            Oh and I meant to say, to me it works as a “reveal”. Something happens out of my sight, so I want to know what was going on. Then she turns and looks straight out so we can see what it was. Does that make sense?

          • Zankman says:

            I personally didn’t see it as sexual and, rather, as something practical. She runs, jumps, climbs, fights…

          • pepperfez says:

            It does make sense! I guess my read on it is based on taking everything Lab Zero does as a reference or pun, so Ajna is literally “girding up her loins like a man” (Job 40:7) in advance of her adventure. And there is a reveal, of the fact that under her long skirt she was wearing shorts, so as to be decent for kicking fools at a moment’s notice.
            (Just to be clear, I don’t say any of this to somehow “disprove” your reading of it. I’m just tossing mine out there because I think there’s legitimately interesting stuff going on in Lab Zero designs and I like talking about it.)

          • elderman says:

            The suspicion that Skullgirls might be smarter than I can see on the face of it, or more playful, or something, is why I’m wondering about this. I’m still not certain.

        • Zankman says:

          Well, thanks for the interesting reply. I am a bit too ignorant and dumb to fully grasp what your references and ballet-talk brings, although I appreciate it (and tried to grasp it).

          With that said, I am not sure what you mean when you say “Framing her crotch is the very first thing the Ajna does.”, as well as the rest of that last paragraph.

          Can you elaborate?

          • elderman says:

            I’ll try. Skullgirls has been tickling the back of my mind
            and I don’t have anyone IRL to talk about it with. What I should probably do before trying to think more about this is read a bit more about anime. The response I have to these games is probably about the anime genre tropes.

            I think I’m trying to say two things.

            One is that to me, these two games by Lab Zero both have the look and feel of entertainment for young adults. However, the demo starts with a content warning: “content inappropriate for children.” Now, I dig some things that use a kid-friendly aesthetic while aiming for an adult audience. However, something about Skullgirls and the Indivisible demo bothers me, it’s related to the aesthetic, even though I admire the animation. I’ve had trouble figuring out why I’m troubled.

            I mention ballet because it’s a respectable, even staid, art form that has a lot of erotic/sexual content. In my experience, most people don’t talk about this when they go the ballet, but there are some people who do. One of them is someone I know, and she had an interesting way to talk about one aspect of sexuality in ballet, which was this: she talked about the way ballet choreography draws the eye to the female crotch. I find that Skullgirls and the little I’ve played of the Indivisible demo both do the same thing to me that ballet does: they draw my eye to the female crotch. If there’s nothing wrong with that in ballet, there’s nothing wrong with it in video games, but it’s interesting and it might help me, at least, figure out what makes me uncomfortable with the Lab Zero games.

            Sorry don’t have time for a briefer answer. Hope some of all that makes sense. Gotta go now!

          • Kitsunin says:

            I guess that I disagree with the thought that Skullgirls in particular, felt much like entertainment for young adults. It’s not terribly well accepted in the west that anime style works for projects aimed at every demographic (even without being parody, like most western adult animated shows started as), but it does.

            Aside from anime artstyle, Skullgirls was themed after films the sort I’m only familiar with (as a 21-year-old) because of my parents’ extreme interest in film history. It just doesn’t strike me as targeting youths in any particular way.

          • Zankman says:

            @elderman

            Thanks for trying to explain! No problem if it is long.

            Also glad that you can tell us, I hate not being able to talk about niche topics too.

            Oh and yeah, if you are interested and have time, be sure to learn more about this whole “anime thing”, it is very interesting… With loads of positives and negatives, I’d say.

            TvTropes wiki is as good a place as any (warning: can make you use up hours of your time).

            So:

            1st Part: As I wrote earlier, this game definitely has a “young adult” vibe in the sense that it is accessible to everyone, younger and older. Don’t quite get the “inappropriate content” tag they included, but, I guess, there may be some “horrific” and sex appeal elements here and there.

            I wouldn’t thus say that it has “kid friendly (visual) appeal while actually having adult content” – instead, it just looks like pure young adult content to me.

            Skullgirls, though, not so much if at all. It has a heavily stylized art style, fairly unique, loads of overt sexuality and some anime-esque tropes.

            In comparison, Indivisible seems to be lighter on anime influences and tropes, as well as generally having (slightly) more realistic art and definitely more kid-friendly content.

            2nd Part: I can’t comment on ballet, I have never watched it – but it is definitely a serious and respectable art form and I wouldn’t be surprised if it featured sexuality and exploring it, be it subtly or overtly, but in a mature sense nonetheless.

            Anyway, so, you literally meant “draws eyes to the crotch”… I understand what you mean now, though I don’t quite think it is applicable here (for me, I can’t tell you “how to see/perceive”, “how to feel” or “how to connect things in your brain”).

            Skullgirls, I mean, again, as I wrote earlier, it is obviously very overtly about sexuality and sex appeal – boobs, butts, legs, lingerie and various other realistic or unrealistic sexual elements all over the place. Thinking about sexual things while playing it, again, is 100% intended: whether you think about it carnally, perceiving it as something sexually stimulating and titillating or whether you see it as something different, maybe artistic and meaningful (I think the former is more likely in this case).

            And, again, even if it is the former, nothing wrong with “enjoying” it… If you “like/can enjoy” these drawn girls, good for you – a whole new slew of limitless creative possibilities has opened up, heh…

            Back to the topic, so, while on one hand it is very much so expected with Skullgirls, on the other, from looking at the art and looking at this trailer (haven’t played the demo) I can’t really see why you feel this way about Indivisible.

            For me personally, the most I “noticed” was the Main Character’s thick legs/thighs – and even then, not because of the game, but, instead, because of the “cover” art (however you want to call it).

            The movement and combat and so on in the game, hm, I don’t see how it explicitly would draw to the crotch; I even tried watching it again while specifically focusing on that and I didn’t really see it at all.

            At most I could see paying attention to her outfit or legs and then eventually ending up there.

            Anyways, I presume that this “technique” your friend mentioned being used in ballet is done subtly, for the purpose of subconsciously affecting the viewer (for one reason or another). That type of thing is 100% used in games, movies, TV shows, music videos and performances, comics… Be it a sexual element or not (tho it is the easiest to use).

            To finish off, I do wonder why it makes you explicitly “uncomfortable”?

            Sorry for my long answer as well!

          • Zankman says:

            @Kitsunin

            I’d say that it only targets “young adults” in the sense of, you know… Targeting (if I were to be disparaging) weaboos and “horny 14-year-olds”.

            Whether or not that is the case (primary or not, a partially it surely is), sex appeal is definitely there for a reason. I am not saying that the authors didn’t do it for some totally unrelated reasons, they might have – something something art, creative vision, experimentation – but I am saying that sex appeal designed to attract younger males, especially those familiar with “otaku” and “weaboo” stuff, is definitely there.

            In on itself, there is nothing wrong with creating erotic or pornographic games… And Skullgirls is neither, it is just a game that features heavy amounts of sex appeal, bordering on erotica. You can like that, you can not, it’s just a matter of taste. I wouldn’t call someone that does immature or creepy or a weaboo or anything like that, whether they are younger or older…

            Anyway, yeah, it is not “young adult” content in the general sense that we are used to.

            Indivisible seems to fit that mold, tho.

            Aesthetically and in terms of setting, it kinda reminds me of Avatar and Legend of Korra. That is definitely “young adult with potential adult appeal due to good writing”, no?

          • roothorick says:

            @elderman

            It definitely is *heavily* influenced by, a different “school” of anime you could call it. Studio Ghibli comes to mind. The kind of anime where the main character(s) are primarily a vehicle with which to explore a fantastic and subtly alien world.

            I suspect Indivisible will fall somewhere in between. Ajna and her companions will fit that role but also be unique characters that, hopefully, use common tropes as building blocks to create deep but familiar characters.

          • elderman says:

            It’s getting late where I am, so I may loose coherence. I’m obviously thinking through things in public, here.

            I think what bothers me about these games is that I feel I have to ignore some things in order to appreciate them and that these aren’t normally things I ignore in my life. In other media, any hint of sexual exploitation real or imagined and I’m out the door. I’ve got a low tolerance. Or at least, I think I do.

            In combination with that, I don’t live alone. I want to share my hobby with my partner and with my friends. I try to play games I can talk to them about, and I bought Skullgirls because it’s local multiplayer and I wanted to play it with them. None of them are as deeply into the hobby as I am. With this game, I think maybe what I’m afraid of is that if I show them this game, it will reflect badly on me. That I’ll quickly see that what I thought might be borderline will be revealed by their layman’s eyes to be ugly misogyny, or male dominance displays made digital entertainment, or something like that. There’s so much of this in gaming. And if these things turn out to be true, the people I want most to share my hobby with will judge it badly and judge me for wanting to share it with them.

            I can use my words, of course, but I don’t get many chances to make my case.

            ———————–

            And a quick word about the ballet. I’m no expert, but if I understand it right, classical dance has been connected with overt displays of sexual attractiveness since the beginning. In the French court (17th century?), it was all about displaying men’s legs. Later, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, rich male patrons went to the ballet to ogle beautiful young women, who they would then select to become their mistresses. If you ever have the chance to go to a ballet today, at least in the opera houses where I go, you’ll see beautiful bodies (both men and women) doing extraordinary acts of athletics and artistic expression. It’s almost always sensual and often even more intense than that. The Nutcracker is a sexual awakening story. Swan Lake is about seduction. I’ve seen a production of Sylvia choreographed by John Neumeyer that is about coupling, attraction, and love. Wonderful stuff. Maybe among cognoscenti this is a topic of conversation, but it’s not part of public discourse about ballet, that’s for sure.

          • elderman says:

            One more thing about the crotch-framing, which is taking on an outsized importance because I had to explain it so carefully. I didn’t read my friend’s doctoral thesis, but my impression was that it was more of an pre-occupation than a technique. It’s not hidden, it’s just ignored. In the Indivisible demo, this is not an important visual motif. It’s just how the game begins. Because the demo didn’t run well on my machine, I didn’t get to see more, and I’m a bit over-sensitised by Skullgirls.

            Finally, at least for tonight, another part of what bothers me about Skullgirls is the possibility that the sexualised imagery is only there as spice, that the game doesn’t care about it, that they just choose a style and stuck with it. If that’s the case, it’s not a crime, not a big problem, but basically I’m not looking for sexual content in my games, if it’s just there to titillate. It’s annoying to me if it’s not there for a reason. I can’t work out what the game thinks about Filia’s underwear, or Valentine’s breasts, or Parasoul’s Egrets. I don’t want to feel complicit in gawping just by playing the game, but I sometimes think that’s all the sexualised content is about.

          • Kitsunin says:

            @Zankman

            I don’t think Skullgirls was overtly sexual because it was trying to attract horny teens, though it may have been a side effect. It’s clear to me that boobs and butts are just the sorts of things their lead artist loves to draw, and for Skullgirls, Lab Zero thought it worked. Looks at Kinuko’s tumblr gallery — about half of it is highly sexual.

            But I take issue with the idea that making something sexual causes it to target horny teens. Yes, a lot of crappy games use sexuality in their ads in a way that is so stupid you know it won’t work on adults, but that isn’t the same. Look at the way Skullgirls advertised itself. It put the film aesthetic first, and sexuality was present only because of the character designs.

        • roothorick says:

          It’s kinda dodgy to compare it to ballet, because in a game, the player’s eyes have very different priorities. The player is anticipating a dialogue, so to speak, with the game, and is immediately searching for visual cues as to what shape that dialogue takes. Once the rules of engagement are established, the attention is focused on who or what the player is controlling, what part of them/it is interacting with important things, and anything the player may need or want to respond to.

          My eyes began not with Ajna at all, but at the title logo. Experienced in established tropes, I’m anticipating a “Press Start” prompt or main menu. Ajna steals my attention for a brief second as she turns around — simply out of noticing movement — but I’m quickly back at the vista in the center, waiting. This is a minor UX problem in the current prototype, as that menu never comes. It’s only through mashing buttons out of impatience that I discover I’m currently controlling Ajna.

          Through playing with those controls, the game quickly establishes itself as a platformer. As such, attention is firmly framed on her legs, particularly feet, and platforms I’m targeting. (As you might note, this means the game has good reason to draw attention to her legs, or at a minimum make them easy to see.) Later, of course, arms/axe gets into it too, and potentially scalable walls. In combat, I’m almost completely fixated on the UI, looking up only to study attack animations and their results — the centerpiece being the weapons and the enemies they’re hitting — and to react to enemies’ attacks.

          Her groin never gets the time of day.

    • Distec says:

      Normal human beings fucking suck to be around. Let’s not put them on a pedestal.

  2. rustybroomhandle says:

    Despite a lot of people predicting the gloomy doomy end of crowdfunding for the past 2+ years, using handy buzzwords like “fatigue”, there are still loads of projects of varying sizes that succeed. There are also those who fail, but this was never not the case. I think the media just got tired of reporting on it. This I don’t have any issue with though, since there’s often not a whole lot one can say about a game in its embryo stage.

  3. Ejia says:

    The battles looked more like Valkyrie Profile than Chrono Trigger to me, but then I loved both of them so it’s a win/win.

    • Crafter says:

      I played the prototype, it is a Valkyrie Profile clone.
      Nothing wrong with that though, it was a great game.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        Yeah, it’s basically a VP clone with some Metroidvania elements (different party members will grant Ajna new travel powers) in the exploration which is a pretty great combo.

        • pepperfez says:

          And a real-timeish combat system, which every JRPG should have.

      • roothorick says:

        I think it’s got some creative things going on. I thought it was kind of neat that they made “battles in main area” more than just an aesthetic choice — attacks usually move enemies around in different ways, meaning positioning is a big part of maximizing damage. They move back to their original positions at the end of any combo… which is why you have to plan out your combo to clump them together for those tight AoEs. They might expand it into enemies being healed by a particular attack or retaliating to it with a strong attack, so you have to take pains to move them out of the way before launching a volley at their friends.

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      Bluerps says:

      Hah! I was about to say the same.

      Maybe, when they say they were inspired by Chrono Trigger, they mean setting, characters or plot. Which would make more sense anyway, because it’s not like Chrono Trigger is a classic because of its game mechanics.

  4. Zankman says:

    May not be my cup of tea, but, it looks great! The art style, animation quality, sound effects… And, from a creative PoV, the (hinted at) story and world/setting seem fairly unique and definitely have potential.

    It’s still obviously very much-so “Anime-esque”, but, like say something like Avatar and Legend of Korra, they have taken the cool stuff about Anime while getting rid of the not-so-cool stuff (read: tasteless shlock).

    It will probably be a big hit!

  5. Pich says:

    >side-scrolling brawling 2D
    err no. it’s a spiritual successor to Valkyrie Profile, a 2d platformer with rpg combat. it’s even in the description.

  6. Fenix says:

    and I’ve never even played Chrono Trigger!
    It7s never too late and I’m sure you’ll like it. From your Eurogamer days I remember you saying you have a DS John… there really are no excuses!

  7. anHorse says:

    “Cool a fantastic looking game in the style of the best JRPG ever is getting made, I wonder what the comments are discussing…”

    Oh, arguments about bloomers again

  8. Apocalypse says:

    Darn I forgot to back this and now they lack the fully voiced stretch goal. Skull Girls is so much better with full voice acting.