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Kickstarter Katchup - 24th February 2013

Kurb Your Enthusiasm

Only one victor this week and several projects either on the brink of the precipice of funding failure, or in a prolonged mid-term slump. It's enough to make a man pre-emptively proclaim the Kickstarter craze dead and buried, but if that same man then casts an eye over the promising new projects and remembers successes and shortfalls of the past, he may well decide to cancel the obituaries, at least for now, and simply play some prototypes instead. There are plenty of projects with playable demos, at varying stages of completion, and the new entries include another old-school adventure, an educational game of vikings and robots, and a game inspired by FTL, one of the first games ever to receive a Kickstart. We have come full circle.

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 two currencies in play. Always check!
  • Only food that has been purchased within the Katchup may be consumed within the Katchup. A few greasy chips wrapped in newspaper will set you back £6.50 and will be delivered sometime before Q2 2015.

The Winners

Asylum - Senscape

Goal: $100,666
Now: $107,233

When I'm not rolling my eyes around the desk because this particular horror game is set in an asylum, I'm actually quietly pleased that it's being made. From the team that made Scratches, a deceptively disturbing adventure, Asylum is likely to provide at least one sleepless night, although hopefully I won't spend the small hours bashing my bonce against a horribly obscure puzzle. The post that followed the success of the fund-raising speaks a lovely truth about indie gaming, while also being as gushing as the celebrity geysers that tonight's Academy Awards may well uncork:

This was a very important Kickstarter for Argentina and, dare we say, Latin America as lots of friends from Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil and Chile have been following us. There are no frontiers when it comes to independent games, and we consider this a success for the whole community.

The Players

Aurora Rising - KaneFreeman

Goal: $15,000
Now: $3,159
Days: 20

I loved FTL. Correction - I love FTL because it'd be silly to pretend I don't still play it occasionally during the day when I'm supposed to be writing about a new Tomb Raider screenshot instead. Being a greedy sort, I wish there was more FTL and I've often speculated about how a fellow could go about adding more. Of course, being a talentless halfwit I'm incapable of doing anything beyond mere speculation, but thankfully I'm not the only person making like Twist and asking for more.

Like many people last fall, I found myself playing way too much FTL (Faster Than Light) and loving the experience. But every time I played the game I found myself thinking, “I would love to have this experience in a more traditional RPG setting”. So after a lot of thought, I decided to focus all my efforts into making such a game.

Well then!

Death Inc. - Ambient Studios

Goal: £300,000
Now: £72,726
Days: 10

Following the release of new videos and a downloadable prototype in the week just gone, Death Inc. is heading into the final stretch. We've had plenty of coverage of this Pikmin-like plague-spreading RTS already, so either tuck into that or watch the post-demo Q&A below.

Watch on YouTube

Mage's Initiation - Himalaya Studios

Goal: $65,000
Now: $50,224
Days: 26

Himalaya Studios is made up of a group who have been remaking Sierra adventures since 2001 and the fruits of that work can be downloaded here. Along with the first three King's Quest games, you'll find a version of Quest For Glory II there and Mage's Initiation, although set in a new world, looks to have been forged on the same anvil as that venerable series, combining RPG-like choice of classes and skills with a point and click interface and flow. Development on a large portion of the game is already complete but the funds will provide the final push, as well as paying voice actor wages.

Poker Smash - Void Star Creations

Goal: $7,500
Now: $1,797
Days: 23

I noticed that a Poker Smash PC port was in the works when the game appeared on Steam Greenlight. It is, as I said then, "a fast-paced, combo/hand-building game, which shares some of its genetic makeup with Tetris Attack". I enjoyed the XBLA version but haven't played it for ages. The small Kickstarter goal reflects the progress that has already been made, although the game could be delayed, or lack multiplayer at launch, if the game isn't accepted by Steam. There is a demo.

Back to Bed - Bedtime Gaming

Goal: $12,000
Now: $2,303
Days: 19

Nathan wrote about the IGF Student Showcase prototype of narcoleptic, isometric puzzler Back to Bed last May and a full version has been in production, now turning to Kickstarter for the final funding push. The demo is well worth a look, as much for the style as for the puzzles. The funds would allow the team to expand the game considerably, as well as adding iPad support:

Our goal is to end up with 30 different levels, adding in new mechanics as the player progresses through them. These levels will be split into two worlds, the first being the original, and the second being a whole new world with a maritime theme and dangers inspired by this.

Var and the Vikings - Brainworth

Goal: $31,000
Now: $3,916
Days: 27

Three cheers for another Kickstarter project that has launched with a playable prototype available. It's a damnable interesting proposition as well, and not just because of the vikings and robots, although I rarely complain about the inclusion of either.

Var and the Vikings is a puzzle-platformer that will teach players about ‘behavior trees’, an artificial intelligence tool used commonly in video games and 3D animation...To this end, players of Var and the Vikings will design artificial brains for their Nordic heroes, automating them in the same way that game programmers design non-player characters in current commercial video games.

I hate learning about things that are too complicated for my non-artificial untelligence but I do like teaching vikings to hit things. Try the prototype here.

Enemy - Tom Johnson

Goal: $15,000
Now: $11,368
Days: 12

A tactical roguelike, with combat inspired by UFO: Enemy Unknown and procedurally generated everything, including plots and final bosses - Enemy could have been pitched directly to me. Its worlds are patchwork quilts of gaming history and they hang on a scaffolding of physics-driven turn-based tactics. The target is close and Linux support could well be on the cards. An update providing details of the skill system is due soon.

Actual Sunlight - Will O'Neill

Goal: C$2,000
Now: C$1,785
Days: <2

You can read John's thoughts on the current free version of Actual Sunlight here. He begins with these words:

Actual Sunlight is a game about suicide. Primarily a visual novel, but with player participation, it’s a superbly written, but ultimately incredibly dark and hopeless game. I think it’s also a very good game, and I find it terrifying to write about.

The two thousand Canadian dollars, if the remainder is raised in the next 40 hours or so, will go toward developing artwork and, depending how much is left once art is sorted, "a soundtrack that reflects a deep, gritty, Torontonian feel". More details here

Omega - Steve Stanley

Goal: £20,000
Now: £803
Days: 41

Omega is a platformer that encourages exploration of multiple routes rather than a hop and a jump from left to right. The project hasn't found a great deal of attention yet but there is a demo available and work continues.

A quick update about Omega's progress - Whilst feedback on gameplay and mechanics is being gathered, I'm continuing to work on future levels after the forest in the demo. The first of which will be the mountain ascent. I am planning on at least ten playable levels in the game, with this mountain ascent level being the fifth.

Days of Dawn - Bumblebee

Goal: $50,000
Now: $41,014
Days: <1

Days of Dawn is an RPG with an emotional magic system and that doesn't mean the spells will bring tears to your eyes. Rather, characters magical abilities are based on their emotional state, with casters unable to control their powers "in times of emotional stress". That could lead to all manner of intriguing plotting but with a couple of hours left, Days of Dawn's second Kickstarter attempt looks likely to fail. The open world and painted graphical style are prominent claims, and a similarity to Legend of Mana is picked up in a media quotation at the top of the page, but, apart from the magic system described, it's possible that people haven't picked up on anything unique to guarantee their pledge.

Factorio - Tomas Kozelek

Goal: 17.000€
Now: 11.734€
Days: 8

Factorio has raised a considerable amount in the past week but the campaign's success is far from guaranteed. The game is a strategic puzzler, or puzzling strategy game perhaps, in which the player constructs a factory on an alien planet. There are elements of Dwarf Fortress in the complex simulation of the world and of SpaceChem in the positioning and interplay of machine parts. A demo is available. The game has already built up quite a following and there are plenty of Let's Play videos on Youtube, including the one below, which shows the first level.

Watch on YouTube

Delver's Drop - Pixelscopic

Goal: $75,000
Now: $41,040
Days: 16

A slow but far from disastrous week for Delver's Drop, which is an attractive dungeon crawler with semi-permadeath. Until the most recent update, I'd assumed the structure of the game provided the player with a single goal - to collect loot, progress and escape. There are plans for a wider storyline though.

The narrative will be communicated in several ways: environmental ambience; secret tomes, tablets, and messages; player character monologue and non-player character (NPC) dialog. The story will be revealed organically, based on the random generation of levels, items, and NPCs, as well as how / when / where the player encounters these elements.

Race the Sun - Flippfly

Goal: $20,000
Now: $3,728
Days: 10

If a Star Fox were to race forever, the resulting action would closely resemble Race the Sun, which you can already play in demo form. Now, if that demo were to receive around $16,000 of funding and a few months more development time, it would have more features, modding tools and multiplayer. New since last week is a Linux version of the demo.

Project Awakened - Phosphor Games Studio

Goal: $500,000
Now: $184,269
Days: 9

Kickstarter seems to have slowed down this week - almost every project covered has had a slow week and for Project Awakened that could be damaging considering how far there is to go. It's a third-person action game powered by Unreal Engine 4 that allows broad customisation of the player character, including appearance and powers, thereby providing many ways to play. Whenever I see it mentioned, I think of a multiplayer experience, with creations pitted against one another, but Phosphor have recently emphasised the single player campaign, which they reckon would be compelling even without the 'Create-a-Player' tools. They've also provided a video showing modding possibilities, which turns very Tron, very quickly.

Watch on YouTube

Project Cornerstone - Aidem Studios

Goal: $24,000
Now: $7,471
Days: 13

I've been impressed by Project Cornerstone since I first clapped eyes on it, intrigued by the idea of an open world game of crafting and exploration that seems more RPG-like than most of its type. The most recent video update provides details of the 'rune' system, which gives players a reason to explore and rewards them with the ability to explore even more.

Let’s say you find a rune of power in the world and you get super exited because now you can improve your “Heavy Lifting” ability which will enable you to lift heavier objects that you now can play around with, finding more runes will give you the availability to increase these abilities further, so you can lift heavier and heavier objects.

Watch on YouTube

Ritual Dementia - Sithog

Goal: $10,000
Now: $3,693
Days: 4

First, I'll allow Ritual Dementia to speak for itself:

A dreadfully dark adventure of occult, horror, and family bonding. Warning: this project may be cursed...

Now, this was never going to be an easy sell. It's rough-hewn, bizarre and confusing, sometimes wilfully so, as far as I can gather. It does sound fascinating though, with demon-human interbreeding, genetic mix-ups, perma-death and prosthetic limbs. I'd hoped the low Kickstarter target would permit success with the backing of a relatively limited number of curiosity-seeking pledgers, but time is short. If you haven't taken a look before, now is the hour. You may be (un)pleasantly surprised.

Worlds of Wander - Tom Hall's Pieces of Fun

Goal: $400,000
Now: $45,194
Days: 5

Tom Hall's platform game creation toolset and Keen successor may be another relatively high profile failure, with just over 10% of the target raised with less than a week to go. Speaking for myself, a man who spent many evenings in his youth playing various Commander Keen games, I don't feel any urge to play a spiritual successor to those hoary pogo-platformers of yore and I'm more interested in mucking about with Twine than a platform game creator. Four hundred thousand dollars is a large sum but even without the Kickstarter, recent comments from the team suggest the project will go ahead somehow.

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About the Author

Adam Smith

Former Deputy Editor

Adam wrote for Rock Paper Shotgun between 2011-2018, rising through the ranks to become its Deputy Editor. He now works at Larian Studios on Baldur's Gate 3.