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Kickstarter Katchup – 3rd March 2013

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There haven't been any 'losers' in the Katchup for a while, partly because projects that are moving very slowly tend to be removed before they run out of time, and partly because there haven't been quite as many small projects to cover. The list of 'players' is increasing rapidly though and even though the first comment will undoubtedly be from somebody reminded me of a game that I've missed, there are plenty of things to see. However, the influx of new entrants is balanced somewhat by this week's losers. One is a small, surreal project, the other is a grander and more direct proposition. The creators of both have vowed to continue their work in some form.

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!
  • When you have finished consuming the Katchup, please place the wrapper into a waste disposal unit. Do not leave discard it willy-nilly because it is garish, non-biodegradable and constructed of highly radioactive materials.

The Winners

Actual Sunlight - Will O'Neill

Goal: C$2,000
Now: C$2,545

Considering the small target, this looked like being a much closer thing than the final result might suggest. It's a triumph for the truly indie project though, with the two thousand target going toward artist's fees for updated graphics and whatever is left paying for as much original music as possible, and the Steam Greenlight submission fee. It's easy to forget that those fees are a barrier when dealing with projects valued at a few hundred thousand dollars and more every week. You can read John's thoughts on the current free version of Actual Sunlight here.

Days of Dawn - Bumblebee

Goal: $50,000
Now: $54,135

This was Bumblebee's second attempt to Kickstart their striking open-world RPG, with turn-based combat and a 'unique' emotional magic system. When I mentioned it in last week's Katchup there were a couple of hours left on the clock and almost ten thousand dollars to raise so it's quite a surprise to write Days of Dawn into the winners' section. It's still possible to donate via Payapal. Reaching $62,000 would unlock Android and cross-platform support, while the $55,000 goal, which seems inevitable at this point, will allow for more content.

Factorio - Tomas Kozelek

Goal: €17.000
Now: €20.446

Factorio has had an incredible campaign. Two weeks ago I started to receive emails about it, from people who seemed amazed that I hadn't already been playing the alpha demo, which you can should try right now. It's "a 2D game about building factories on an alien planet" and when the full alpha comes out later this month, I'm hoping that even more people play it and realise that it might be one of the most intriguing strategic-puzzlers ever committed to code. Word of mouth has done wonders for the game already - when I played it, I immediately knew that there were four or five people in my life who have been waiting for this kind of thing for a long time. Even if it's not for you, you'll more than likely know somebody who is waiting to fall in love with its exploration of arcane, alien assembly and management.

The Losers

Ritual Dementia - Sithog

Goal: $10,000
Now: $4,343

Ritual Dementia was a risky proposition - for many, it was clearly too weird to fund, but thankfully, it's too rare to die. Sithog will be returning to Kickstarter in the near future to re-pitch the generational roguelike-horror adventure. In the meantime, you can follow any developments at the Sithog website and it wouldn't be a bad thing if you checked out some other games while you're there. Lumberjack Simulator is great and contains the essential ingredient of every game of the year worth its salt. Bears.

Worlds of Wander - Tom Hall's Pieces of Fun

Goal: $400,000
Now: $107,766
Days: 5

Tom Hall's platform game creation toolset and Keen successor had a surge of support in its final hours but it wasn't enough. Chins are up though, at publicly at least, and the project has its own website.

We will do our best to make this is a reality in our spare time (and that also depends on what our day job’s company rules are). But we will get there. If you want to be generous and support our efforts, donate here.

Those are direct contributions, remember, rather than 'protected' Kickstarter pledges.

The Players

Ultimate Disassembly - Noble Empire

Goal: $30,000
Now: $930
Days: 53

I've played with a few of Noble Empire's disassembly kits before, although I didn't know they were all the creations of one studio. You can pick apart the inner workings of several guns and vehicles via the company's website, or you can take a look at the more ambitious models in the video below. The four models set for inclusion are a time-travelling automobile, a WWII carrier-capable aircraft, a Humvee and a Russian helicopter. These projects are fascinating, making me dream of another life where I decided against being a medieval lord, dark fantasy hero or spaceship pilot, and chose to be a mechanical engineer instead. It's a good life.

XING: The Land Beyond - White Lotus Interactive

Goal: $15,000
Now: $8,876
Days: 28

I look at a lot of games so I'm forgiving myself for the lapse that occurred a few moments ago. I was preparing to write about this first-person adventure and as I scrolled through the Kickstarter page, I noticed that one of the handsome men of RPS had already written about the game. What a silly headline he had written! Turns out it was me. It's good to see the project in such fine shape and the small target reflects the progress already made. I've included a video packed with exploration below because it's ace. The actual pitch video is, as always, at the top of the Kickstarter page.

Watch on YouTube

J.U.L.I.A. Enhanced Edition - CBE Software

Goal: $5,000
Now: $2,207
Days: 41

J.U.L.I.A. is a sci-fi adventure with a strong sense of xenobiological mystery and several different playstyles. I have to admit, I only ever found time to play the demo of the original release but it has developed an appreciative following. The crowdfunding campaign is at least partly a result of the fallout from the Lace Mamba Global situation. CBE cancelled their publishing agreement with the firm back in January:

It's an extremely sad ending of the past four years of our life. We've created the game using our very own budget without any external funding yet we were able to create a title we are really proud of. When well-known publisher, whom we have trusted so much, behaved like that, it was an extremely demotivating experience for us.

All of the earnings from the original release have been spent to repurchase the rights to the game so that it can be self-published in its enhanced form.

Empire Eden - New Horizon Games

Goal: $19,000
Now: $522
Days: 24

Watching Empire Eden in action reminds me of a holiday during which I spent every day playing Shinobi on an arcade machine. I don't even know if I was in England or somewhere overseas. I think it might have been Italy. Maybe it was raining and I had at least a vague excuse to be trapped indoors but probably not. Anyhow, Empire Eden reminds me of those times because, at least superficially, it resembles Shinobi, although it may be more like Contra or something else entirely. I'm not the best person to quiz about these run n' gun affairs. I should warn you that the pitch video contains a bare bottom, although it's only made out of a few pixels so shouldn't cause too much offence to any passing nuns.

Grump's Quest - Rockkiss

Goal: £450,000
Now: £5,265
Days: 25

In search of almost half a million pounds, Grump's Quest aims to combine the best of Donkey Kong Country and Abe's Oddysee. The finished game is a long way off, with an estimated release date of June 2014, but a great deal of work has already gone into building the right team for the job. Rockkiss brings together folks with experience in game design, and visual effects work in television and film.

Our animation has been on channels from the BBC and Discovery to Disney, with our games team lead by Simon Credland being credited on numerous titles published by Sony, EA and SEGA.

Ten pounds is the minimum pledge to secure a copy of the game. Hopefully we'll see more of the design work in future updates.

Fathom - Ironsun Studios

Goal: £120,000
Now: £2,146
Days: 26

Ahoy there, full steam ahead, or should I say 'full steamPUNK ahead'? I definitely shouldn't because I sound like a nincompoop when I say that. I sound bad enough just saying 'ahoy'. Anyhow, Fathom is an attractive underwater steampunk:

You play as Nathaniel Lockhart, a Victorian adventurer, who is shipwrecked in the Caribbean Sea during the late 1870’s. Your memories of events surrounding the shipwreck are hazy, but since your rescue violent dreams of a mysterious craft attacking the Cruise Liner dominate your every thought.

Nathaniel Lockhart strikes me as a sensible steampunk name and the game strikes me as Aquaria and Bioshock's lovechild.

Rogue System - DCI

Goal: $300,000
Now: $23,610
Days: 18

Jim spotted Rogue System long before the Kickstarter campaign started and now, two weeks after the campaign began, I've managed to notice it as well. The core of the premise is to create a spaceship sim with the in-depth fidelity of an aircraft flight simulator. How can a fictional craft have accurately simulated parts, you might well ask, and I'd respond by furrowing my brow and pretending to be a space captain.

The goal of the "Core Module," or CM (the base sim), is to combine the depth and fidelity of a complex flight simulator with the classic gameplay of the space combat genre. Systems are modeled individually and are dependent on each other for proper operation; and, they are fully under the player's control.

Aurora Rising - KaneFreeman

Goal: $15,000
Now: $5,250
Days: 13

The pitch for Aurora Rising is simple and appealing - 'FTL in a more traditional RPG setting'. The aim is to include ship combat similar to FTL, with more in depth crew and equipment management:

The game strives to create a balance between dynamic space combat, crew micromanagement, strategic ground combat, and elements found in more traditional RPGs. Elements such as hidden items for you to find, new skills for your crew members to discover and a compelling storyline.

I hadn't realised quite how similar the combat would look until I saw the video below, which shows the new UI at play.

Watch on YouTube

Death Inc. - Ambient Studios

Goal: £300,000
Now: £104,132
Days: 3

Alanis Morissette would probably choke on her jagged little pills and insert a couple of new lines into her next performance of 'Ironic' if she noticed that Death Inc. has had one of its strongest weeks right before the end of its campaign. The art design was an instant hook for me and there's a powerful pedigree in the team as well, with ex-employees of Media Molecule, Lionhead, and Criterion at the heart of the new studio. They've even released a prototype for people to play with and there's no sign of a towel flying in from the corner. Here's the latest video, showing the day/night cycle and all that it entails.

Watch on YouTube

Mage's Initiation - Himalaya Studios

Goal: $65,000
Now: $62,371
Days: 19

The folks behind Mage's Initiation have been remaking Sierra adventures for more than a decade and their new project is an original game that has a strong resemblance to the greatest of Sierra series, Quest for Glory. You can't argue with that assertion unless you're willing to back Police Quest because you enjoy nothing more than mindless procedural guff, or Gabriel Knight because you're too hip to play games with swords and sorcery in them. You can try Himalaya's remakes here. Mage's Intiation is clearly on the path to success but the updates are all excitable babbling about rewards and new/adjusted tiers, which won't be particularly interesting unless you really want a cloth map or have lots of money to spare. Come to think of it, I do like cloth maps.

Poker Smash - Void Star Creations

Goal: $7,500
Now: $2,028
Days: 17

In my own words, based on experience with the XBLA version, Poker Smash is "a fast-paced, combo/hand-building game, which shares some of its genetic makeup with Tetris Attack". The port is apparently almost complete and a demo is available but the most recent (and indeed only) update on the Kickstarter page seems rather desperate.

We need you to spread the word! We have a great conversion rate of people backing us, but we need more people to know that we exist!


That is not a poker face.

Back to Bed - Bedtime Gaming

Goal: $12,000
Now: $3,790
Days: 13

This puzzle-laden somnambulist simulator has not made a great deal of progress in the last seven days, which is a shame because the demo, created for the IGF Student Showcase, was delightful, if rather simple. If they reach the target, the team will be expanding the game considerably, with new levels, new mechanics and a second world with a new visual theme. After having my socks blown off by its trailer earlier this week, seeing an isometric puzzler automatically causes me to mention Pavilion again.

Var and the Vikings - Brainworth

Goal: $31,000
Now: $7,834
Days: 20

There are a lot of diverse projects loitering around the Katchup at the moment, making slow progress toward their goals. Var and the Vikings actually doubled its earnings this week but it's still less than a third of the way to victory. There's plenty of time left and I suspect that some of these more esoteric projects, with smaller funding targets, will defy the usual mid-term slump, maintaining slow, steady progress throughout.

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.

Try the prototype.

Enemy - Tom Johnson

Goal: $15,000
Now: $14,582
Days: 5

Four hundred dollars left to go, but I'm celebrating already. Enemy has enough metaludological gubbins at its core to make my weary academic mind creak pleasantly back into action but wrapped around all of that is a tactical roguelike, with combat inspired by UFO: Enemy Unknown and heaps of procedural generation. Its worlds are patchwork quilts of gaming history and they hang on a scaffolding of physics-driven turn-based tactics. There is a large update detailing the skill system:

Mental health is also drained by sustaining injuries, and seeing allies injured; loss is reduced in the presence of allies and increased when a character is alone.

Delver's Drop - Pixelscopic

Goal: $75,000
Now: $63,705
Days: 9

Delver's Drop picked up the pace this week and appears to be destined for victory. I've had the chance to play an early build and it looks as impressive in motion as it does in stills, making good use of what I like to call 'debris effects'. Things break apart well, including the player character, who bursts into skeletal components when he dies. Each level of the drop is like a small arena, with various forms of loot-stash to smash into bits, monsters to murder and traps to avoid. The current build only contains one game mode, which is a survivalist dash to the bottom of the pit, or rather a headlong dash toward death. I've already become quite accomplished, until I meet ghosts. And then they slaughter me, every single time.

Race the Sun - Flippfly

Goal: $20,000
Now: $7,745
Days: 4

The demo version of Race the Sun is stylish and slick, which makes the extremely slow progress of the Kickstarter perplexing. It's possible that the endless racer genre doesn't naturally lend itself to the possibility of expansion, but Flippfly's new pitch video attempts to put such doubts to rest. Along with more obstacles and scenery, the full game would have modding tools and multiplayer support. The new video is below.

Project Awakened - Phosphor Games Studio

Goal: $500,000
Now: $255,081
Days: 3

Project Awakened has pushed its 'create-a-player' feature so hard that it's entirely possible that some people don't realise the entire game isn't an avatar construction kit. There are missions, with multiple approaches possible, a plot that involves some dramatic alternative history and varied multiplayer scenarios:

Different gameplay scenarios will call for different character makeups. A capture-the-flag game might involve one character with stealth abilities sneaking past the opposing team and grabbing their flag, while another character with freezing powers stops the enemy flag carrier.

That said, the latest video does show more of the character customisation, which involves a hand that splits open in a horribly unnatural fashion, and a skull with startling eyes that happily reminds me of the Knightmare 'Life Force' face as it peels back in the latter stages of a contestant's life.

Watch on YouTube

Project Cornerstone - Aidem Studios

Goal: $24,000
Now: $8,154
Days: 6

Project Cornerstone doesn't have a mind-bendingly brilliant concept or a pitch video that makes my jaw drop, but it looks like a solid combination of various things that I do enjoy. It's a roast dinner but at the moment the Yorkshire pudding is entirely lacking a gravy-coat and the potatoes are undercooked. Sixteen thousand dollars are needed to complete the dish and the latest video shows a reasonably large slice of the meat of the matter.

Watch on YouTube

And also!

Continue Magazine

Goal: £50,000
Now: £2,659
Days: 18

Continue is "a features-led magazine celebrating ALL forms of gaming and gaming culture". What that means is long-form explorations, dissections and dissertations of and on topics related to gaming, specific games and the wider culture of human persons 'having fun'. The money would go toward producing four more issues and paying the writers who produce the included features. Continue invests in slow-burn journalism, allowing time for research and development of stories and only releases an issue once every three months, so the funding would support a year of publications. Check the reward tiers for details on what's in it for you, because not every pledge will receive every issue. In place of a playable demo, you can see samples from the first three issues here.

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