Kickstart This! The Sweet September Edition

In the space of two short days, Keiji Inafune, co-creator of video game character Mega Man, managed to reach 100% funding for his new project, Mighty No. 9. The new game, whose lead character Beck bears an uncanny resemblance to Mega Man, has managed to rekindle something in the hearts of all those fans let down by Capcom with his Kickstarter campaign. It is the clearest sign yet that big-named developers are turning to the crowd funding site to raise capital for their dream projects. While the game is definitely coming to PC, if it manages to raise $2.2 million, it will be developed for current gen consoles and the Wii U to boot.

What it also does, and does very well, is walk the tightrope between creativity and plagiarism. Kickstarter developers take note. When the Mighty No. 9 video was shown at PAX, with the Kickstarter campaign simultaneously going live (and what a lovely piece of marketing that was), many began to wonder if Capcom was aware of the project, given its uncanny resemblance to Inafune’s other character for which Capcom holds the rights. Time will tell if the goliath game company decide to take legal action against indie outfit Comcept, but given the careful steps taken to distance Beck’s initial outing from Mega Man, while playing on fan’s prior knowledge of and desire for a sequel to that series, they may not have any legal recourse. Of course, this does not always guarantee immediate success; just look at Precursor Games Shadow of the Eternals, a spiritual sequel to the GameCube’s excellent Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

So what other titles are currently vying for your money? There is Death Road to Canada, which is The Last of Us meets Dead Rising for mobiles, Mac and PC. Continuing the horror theme, there is psychological horror Neverending Nightmares, which looks like a hand drawn Silent Hill. Also drawing comparisons to that series, as well as Eternal Darkness, is Shades of Sanity.

Changing tack away from horror (kind of), RedNeck Assassin draws on House of the Dead: Overkill and Splinter Cell. Meanwhile, Super Mario Galaxy meets Portal in the gravity-bending FPS platformer Aterra. Last but by no means least, sci-fi ARTS .Decimal which looks like the futurist offspring of Mechwarrior and Command & Conquer.

In three, two, one…

Death Road to Canada
Winning the Best Description of the Year award for “Randomized Permadeth Road Trip Simulator,” this top-down, pixel zombie smasher comes to you from the hordes of undead developers at Rocketcat Games. The randomization means that no playthrough is the same, with cities changing each time, as do the events and survivors found within. The game allows you to recruit up to five healthy souls, including some rare and unique survivors including a panda, a Mountie and Elvis. It also lets you teach a dog how to drive. The zombie-thumping action, where you literally plough your way through a wall of the things, is broken up by decision-making moments, which take the form of retro text adventures.

Due out this year, Rocketcat Games is seeking $25,000 in order to make sure the game is jam-packed with all the features you could possibly want upon release, including more art, as well as special characters and weapons. The team is also budgeting for showing the game at festivals. For a humble $10, you will receive a full copy of the game on PC, Mac or Linux. However, it may be worth extending this to $25 in order to get the soundtrack and, more importantly, the instruction manual. It’s the zombie apocalypse – you want an instruction manual.

At the top end of the survival chain, making a donation of $500 or more (limited to 20) will see you adorning a T-shirt designed by the game’s artist G.P. Lackey, as well as designing graffiti within the game for others to find. You can also put your own pet in the game! For the next tier up of $1,000 (limited to 15), you get to write an abandoned journal. Your terrible poetry could be found by a survivor of the zombie hordes! If you double this figure to $2,000 (limited to seven), you can design a one-of-a-kind character that others can recruit.

Neverending Nightmares
No, this is not a twisted take on the beloved childhood movie series The Neverending Story, yet the story behind the game is worthy of a film. It relates to another game, Retro/Grade, from 24 Caret Games. Described as a hybrid rhythm game and sci-fi shooter, it was envisaged in 2008 as a reverse-shooter, and while it received megatons of praise in 2009, it missed its 2010 release window. When it eventually debuted in 2012 on PC and PS3, it bombed.

This commercial disaster took its toll on 24 Caret Games co-founder Matt Gilgenbach, who suffered severe depression. However, the developer managed to take those feelings of isolation and spin them into something positive, namely Neverending Nightmares. Rather than approach horror from a terrifying or disturbing point of view, he is taking a very personal view, in the hopes that his type of horror will help those like him who suffer from mental illness.

Despite its hand drawn, 2.5D approach, for some reason the game had me thinking back to Sadness, the Wii title that never was, with its monotone palate and psychological aspects. Inspired by macabre illustrator Edward Gorey, the game sees you wander through the world, unsure what is illusion and what is real.

Gilgenbach and his team are seeking $99,000, which if met will be matched by Ouya’s recently launched #FreeTheGames fund. In exchange for the money, Neverending Nightmare will be a Ouya timed-exclusive for six months. After this period it will debut on PC, Mac and Linux.

With a targeted Ouya release of fall 2014, the money will make sure the development team has the time to take their proof of concept and transform it into the promised psychological horror. The campaign accepts $1 donations in exchange for an in game credit, while in order to get the game you will have to pledge $10 for early bird tier (limited to 750 people), or $15 if you miss this.

The top end donations are all limited to one lucky soul. There are two $5,000 reward levels, which will see you name either the lead male or lead female character, depending which you choose, as well as a smorgasbord of goodies including t-shirts, posters, art books, novels, soundtrack, plus a physical portrait of yourself in the style of Gorey. However, if you double this to $10,000, Matt Gilgenbach will fly to wherever you are in the world and be your best friend for one day. You can design games or watch movies. It’s completely up to you.

Shades of Sanity
This first-person horror/puzzler comes courtesy of Sword & Spirit Software. If you think it looks like Silent Hill meets Myst, then you should not be surprised to find out that a few members of Sword & Spirit’s development team used to work for Dreamforge, who were heavily in development on a fourth Myst title before Ubisoft bought the rights and moved the project in-house. Like Neverending Nightmares, Shades of Sanity brings a more grounded, psychological approach to its storytelling and gameplay. The player is cast as Joe, a schizophrenic pianist who moves in with his ex-wife after a breakdown, only to find the house deserted. Joe moves around the house, wondering what is a delusion and what is real, trying to solve puzzles that will lead him closer to the truth about himself.

Since Sword and Spirit has designed its own engine, the money from Kickstarter will be poured into content for the game, with the employment of modellers, artists, and possible voice actors. If the target of $200,000 is met and extends by another $20,000, the company will look to bring the PC exclusive to Mac.

In order to secure a copy of the game itself, donors will have to pledge at least $15, which is for the special early bird price limited to 750 people. For those not quick enough to make this list, it will be $25. Both packages also come with the game’s soundtrack and wallpaper. The penultimate level of $500 or over is reserved for those wishing to join the game’s focus group, where they can suggest improvements to be incorporated into the game before launch, as well as receiving lots of goodies. Anyone willing to donate $1,000 will be given the honour of designing an Easter Egg for inclusion within the game.

If anyone does do this, might I suggest a naked portrait of Nathan Fillion, holding his revolver from Firefly.

RedNeck Assassin
Sometimes game ideas are so bizarre they might just work. RedNeck Assassin is one such game. Hirsch Deer, a noble buck, is shot by hunters along with all the other animals and left for dead. Healed by a Sasquatch, the Big Foot trains Hirsch to be the animal version of Sam Fisher. Hirsch then goes up against a bevy of hunters, and while they are armed to the teeth, he has nothing more than a knife and bow.

While the brief alpha demonstration looks very simple, the concept art and grindhouse trailer show the potential that this game has. Seattle-based BloodShot Games is looking for the somewhat humble sum of $30,000 to overhaul the current mobile build for PC and Mac, and to keep everyone’s contracts ticking over until that is completed. Should the money flow beyond that amount, extra bonus levels will be created.

For a $2 donation, not only will you get a thank you email, but also a hug from BloodShot CEO Clay Hayes if you attend PAX or SIX (the Seattle Indie Expo), which is pretty cool. Hugs are underrated. Add $10 to that in order to qualify for the earlybird discount of the full game, limited to 500 people. Should you wish to fulfill your dying fantasy and dress up as a deer assassin, the top tier of $10,000 is definitely for you. You will receive a full life-sized mascot costume of the game’s lead, Hirsch Deer. As if this was not enough, you will also be named as Executive ‘Bad-Ass’ Producer.

Tempting salivating fanboys by describing his game as “a pleasant cocktail of Planetscape, Portal and Thief,” British-based Erno Kiraly is certainly setting the bar high. Basically, the game exists in a space without gravity, so you float toward islands within the dimension, remnants of other galaxies and realities. Up and down have no concept here. Your ceiling can be your floor.

Aterra’s story sees a cocky thief beaten to the punch by a rival, who disappears into a mysterious portal. Trapped and fearing execution, the nimble assassin follows into the void.

The concept itself is the selling point, and Kiraly and his team at VVVaVe have decided just to create the first chapter in what they hope to be a long running series. Utilizing the Unreal Engine, the game will certainly be rendered beautifully, and VVVaVe has promised a unique control system for moving around the weightless space. As a result, the target amount has been set at the very low £9,000. The company is also participating in the Kicking it Forward movement, meaning 5% of post-release profits will be pumped back into other Kickstarter endeavours.

So what does your coin get you? As with many of the other games, Aterra has an early bird discounted tier of just £5 for the full game, otherwise it will be double that amount at £10. Either avenue will also see your name adorning the special thanks credits. Meanwhile, if you want to give the project a kickstart (see what I did there) and pledge over half the goal, £5,000 or more (limited to three) grants you the status of Producer, meaning you have access to work-in-progress build and get to sit in on conference calls. If you travel to Budapest or Hungary, the staff at VVVaVe will treat you to a weekend of free meals and video game marathons.

Last but by no means least, Orb Interactive’s ARTS/MOBA .Decimal is seeking a smoldering $500,000 in order to become a reality. Taking the traditional MOBA space and giving it a stylish, sci-fi edge. Mechwarriors. Mechanical scout dogs. Hyper-kinetic sniper rifles. You can use them all in your team, as the game grants you the control of a squad rather than a single player. Seeking to strip their MOBA title of any complicated elements that would turn away new players, Orb is hoping to broaden the game’s appeal and fill what they see as a gap in the market. The designers and developers speak with such passion for making games fun and giving each player a starting chance that it is impossible not to be enthused.

The beautifully rendered characters and heavy war robot units will definitely raise the bar in the free-to-play games arena, taking inspiration from the likes of District 9 and Ghost in the Shell. The Decimals of the title are warriors who seek to stop the oncoming apocalypse by preventing WMDs from being launched, while the world teeters on the brink of destruction.

Hoping to entice you to meet the $500,000 price tag, for $10 you can get exclusive alpha access as well as a copy of the digital artbook, where your credit will appear. If you double that to $20, you also receive an Infantry Champion to play in-game, and $20 of credit to spend within the world of .Decimal. Should you decide that one character is not enough, and want every character and weapon ever made (and that is ever going to be made), make a donation of $10,000 or more. You also receive an exclusive developer team T-shirt, as well as the opportunity to design your own champion, physical artbook, figurines, signed posters, more T-shirts… it’s a lot of stuff.

In a perfect world, all of the projects featured in this month’s Kickstart This! will be fully funded. Of course, it is not a perfect world, but we hope we manage to help those designers, developers, entrepreneurs and creative geniuses survive for one more day. Like Jane McGonigal says, “Reality is broken. Game designers can fix it.”

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In addition to being Warp Zoned's UK Correspondent, Andrew Rainnie is a screenwriter and filmmaker. You can email him at andrew AT warpzoned DOT com or you can, if you're inclined, visit his personal website.

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