Kickstart This! The 4K 2K14 Edition

2014 is barely three weeks old and already there is so much to be excited about. The next-generation consoles are stepping into their stride, CES gave us our first taste of the next wave of 4K televisions, and there is a treasure trove of potentially awesome games seeking funding on Kickstarter. Like Noah going into the ark, we’re kicking off the first edition of the year with some pairs. We have two RPGs, the collective world-building Story, and the more classic adventure RPG The Meridian Shard. After that is a pair of robotic logic puzzle games, Level and Algo-Bot. Finally, there is a single space-set games project vying for your cold, hard cash: Space Pioneer.

And a-one, and a-two…

Genre: Collective RPG
Platforms: PC
Funding Target: $85,000

In A Nutshell…
Story is an idea that takes tabletop gaming and fuses it with an online submission system, allowing the fantasy world of Opus to thrive. Opus is where the first installment, Myth: Magnum Opus, takes place. Story is the system through which this, and many other planned campaigns, will be played. As other genres go live, creator Adam Bowman and his team will open the doors to submissions, and those chosen will be used to make future stories, with compensation available for the content creators.

Why Flash Your Cash?
If you like tabletop RPGs, this should certainly flag your interest and pause your dice rolling for just a moment. What Story’s Kickstarter campaign lacks in clarity (including the website, which is devoid of information), it makes up for in ideas, especially writing the narrative as more people play. In a sense, this is how Bungie has pitched Destiny and its ongoing evolution.

A minuscule $2 donation will see you receive a playable copy of the initial campaign, Myth: Magnum Opus, while $5 grants access to a digital art book at launch as well. The artwork already created for the game, mostly by artist James Shields, makes this level worth it. $10 opens up the first five campaigns of Myth, while a donation of $15 provides beta access to any future genres, such as the planned Noir.

At the top end of the tree, a pledge of $500 (limited to 20 people) will see you become a real part of the ongoing story, with models and artwork based on your likeness. The biggest reward, jumping to a massive $6,400 donation, is for hardened tabletop game fans who may have an idea of their own for a game. The team will work with you to flesh out these ideas and bring them to life within Story.

The Meridian Shard
Genre: Adventure RPG
Platforms: PC
Funding Target: $6,500 CAD (est. $6,000 US)

In A Nutshell…
The Meridian Shard is a classic, top-down style RPG from Vancouver-based Ultimate Fantasy Studio (no, not that kind of Ultimate Fantasy), with a focus on strong storytelling over gimmicky gameplay. You take control of a mercenary warlock whose first mission is to deliver an important scroll to the healers of Dularian, a leaping-off point to explore this new fantasy realm. The game also makes that fateful promise that “every decision matters” and that each scenario has at least two different choices that will change the outcome of the mission.

Why Flash Your Cash?
With character names like Goredrum Spunkhammer AKA Murderbeard, the question is why [i]wouldn’t you sponsor this game? In the Kickstarter clip, Spunkhammer can be seen discussing how he handles the deadly krotch snake. It’s a shame UFS has not marketed this as a satirical spin on the RPG genre, because it sure reads that way.

In order to actually get a hold of the game, players will have to donate $10 CAD, while $15 CAD also nabs you a magnetic postcard. Doubling up to $29 CAD will see you gifted with a physical copy of the game as well.

The top two tiers are $129 CAD (limited to 25 backers) and $199 CAD or more (limited to only 12 donors). The former option will see you receive the special “Warriorlock” edition of the game, with extra regions and dungeons to explore, as well as a t-shirt and a smattering of in-game items. The latter level rewards you by immortalizing you within the game by creating a character with your name and likeness, as well as all previous rewards.

Genre: 2D Puzzle Platformer
Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Ouya
Funding Target: $10,000

In A Nutshell…
Take control of Wall-E-style maintenance droids as you are tested for the job of Maintenance Bot Director. The levels feature a relative shift through the “Shifting Platform Independent Kinetic Environment.” Translated, this means the levels are cut horizontally, and have to be aligned so the bot can progress, while also connecting live wires and avoiding deadly pools of lava and monsters lurking in the sewers.

Why Flash Your Cash?
Even though the demo is only a prototype, it is extremely well animated. The split-level scrolling will add something new to the puzzle solving environment, literally a game with a twist! A basic version of the game was designed in 2011 for the Adobe AIR App Challenge, utilizing the dual screen of the Tablet P from sponsors Sony. It is a shame the game is not targeting Nintendo’s 2DS/3DS, as the dual screens would be a perfect fit.

If players hurry, they can get the Early Adopter donor package (limited to 150), meaning you will receive a digital copy of the game for only $8. The standard pledge level for a game copy is $10. If you really like the look of Level, a pledge of $25 will grant you access to the game prior to launch, as well as the opportunity to offer feedback.

The second-highest tier of $250 or more will see a custom bot designed with your help available to play in the game. Doubling down on this to $500 will also allow donors to test their game design skills by helping design one of the main puzzles for the game. These top tiers include previous rewards such as a physical art book.

Genre: Isometric Robotic Puzzler
Platforms: PC (Stretch Goal: Mac, Linux)
Funding Target: $60,000

In A Nutshell…
Belgium-based Fishing Cactus has teamed up with training firm Technobel to create this collaborative project that the companies hope will help people understand more about how to code and program, but without the boring nature of a computer science lecture hall. They do this by taking a similar concept to Level; players must guide a robot (this time like Wall-E’s Eve) through a toxic waste factory, storing the right containers in the appropriate places. The idea is not to teach how to program code, but to mold player’s minds into the logical frame that it requires.

Why Flash Your Cash?
Despite only being in the alpha-build stages, the game is gorgeous. It has been showcased at several high-level festivals and won the Best Serious Game HR-Training award at the Serious Game Expo 2013.

To receive a digital copy of the game, players will have to pledge $10 or more for the early-bird version (limited to 800) or $15 for the normal tier, which also includes the developers’ infinite gratitude and some exclusive wallpapers. Doubling this adds some Algo-Bot papercraft, credit within the game, and a voice in how the game processes in the future. Meanwhile, the top two tiers of $6,000 and $10,000, both limited to one lucky and very rich donor each, include a boxed copy of the game, a t-shirt, a limited edition watch, hats, a tour of Fishing Cactus’ studios in Belgium (excluding travel), and access to the level editor to help create your own game stages.The second highest tier will see your name used as the Warehouse Director character, while the top tier will see your likeness used in the game.

Space Pioneer
Genre: Real Time Strategy/Space Sim
Platforms: PC
Funding Target: $150,000

In A Nutshell…
In the 22nd Century, man has stretched out into the stars. Space Pioneer sees you start off as a cadet in the Global Space Agency, soon given his or her own ship to explore the galaxies, colonize planets, and uncover the mysteries of the universe. Players will come into contact with other races and colonies, and decide whether to co-exist or launch wars over resources.

Why Flash Your Cash?
Space Enigma Studios has set a huge target of $150,000, but the price is equaled by its ambitious plans. Space Pioneer has been developed in conjunction with a variety of scientists and real world astronauts and cosmonauts, meaning that the game should feel educational and well-researched, as well as actually fun to play. While the game itself has yet to be built, the early ideas and stunning artwork are reminiscent of Hello Games’ recently announced No Man’s Sky.

A $15 donation will reward you with a digital graphic novel and various artworks, but in order to actually play the game, donors will have to cough up $30 or more. An extra $10 will also gift you with the soundtrack, and for those old-fashioned players, $60 is required to receive a physical copy of the game.

Soaring into the atmosphere, a mighty $5,000 pledge (limited to 10 lucky souls) features a space dock chock full of goodies, including rare astronaut items not available to buy in public, as well as a some custom-made threads identical to those worn by those fortunate enough to visit the International Space Station. You also get books, commemorative coins, the option to name a solar system in the game, and an invite to the private launch party.

If you double this to a bank-breaking $10,000, you will receive all of the previous rewards, but also be invited to tour the Mars 500 Project in Moscow, which, if you are into space exploration, is a pretty big deal.

Well, that trip through time and space has wiped us out. Hopefully one of these projects has sparked some burst of creativity in you, encouraging you to part with some money and help a game get off the ground. Even if you are unable to help financially, designers always like hearing from people who like their ideas. If you want to help them, you could do so simply by tweeting about the project, liking it on Facebook, or sharing this article with people who may wish to donate to some great projects.

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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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