With an endless supply of similar looking games on Kickstarter, projects have a difficult time standing out. While many developers can still manage to entice backers with visual styles that, while conventional, are skillfully rendered, the games themselves may lack personality. That’s why I’ve decided to look for Kickstarter projects that are brimming with personality, even if they’re not much different aesthetically from their competition. Script Kiddies shows us what programming culture is like through retro lenses. Ray’s the Dead creates a convincing argument that it’s better to be on the side the undead in a zombie apocalypse. And A Rite of the Stars shows us the evolution of the point-and-click genre through the theme of rite of passage. Which game do you find to be the most charismatic?
Project by: Austin Dixon
Current Funds: $8,898
End: August 27, 2014
Without any programming experience, I can’t help but assume programming looks just like it’s in movies and video games–is what I would say if I wasn’t an avid Cracked reader. Script Kiddies, with its cute retro aesthetics, also presents programming in a weird, yet appealing way that is most likely inaccurate compared to the real thing; however, it is one of the few games that features programming as the focus of its mechanics.
Described as a PVP and PVE server hacking game, with plenty of booty shaking in between, Script Kiddies is about defending your server from your opponents’ viral attacks. The challenge lies in your base’s layout: it’s a tower with multiple terminals that you or your opponents can access at any time. In order to defend your tower and terminals from oncoming threats, you must quickly travel between each computer and enter the correct scripts—the correct button combinations—in order to thwart opponents and give yourself a brief window of time to launch your own viruses. Certain viruses travel at different speeds, and all of the playable characters have their own special ability that helps them stand out from the rest of the Script Kiddies. This combined with the scripting results in a game that’s a pure, chaotic, fun, and defeat means a humiliating booty-shaking to the face.
While billed as a multiplayer game Script Kiddies is actually a game that lovingly pokes fun at programming culture. The game’s story mode is structured similarly to Punch Out!, as your programmer-extraordinaire rises from the Script Kiddies to join the Legends League and everything else in between. Scenes play out in between matches that are full of technical puns, and many of these apply to video game culture. This means that Script Kiddies should appeal to every geek’s sense of humor regardless of their programming experience.
Keeping in line with the programming culture, Austin Dixon and his team are making Script Kiddies open source. If you’re a budding GameMaker developer, this means that you’ll be able to use most assets from Script Kiddies including scripts (ha, ha), sprites, graphics and more. If you visit the Kickstarter page to look at the video and other graphical assets, you’ll see that the game is programmed with charm, so I can see many backers wanting to unite and create whatever unique projects they can, falling in line with the inclusive nature of Script Kiddies.
Project by: Ragtag Studio
Current Funds: $30,000
End: September 21, 2014
I’m not necessarily sick of zombies, although I can understand why many might be. There’s no shortage of zombie films and games depicting the zombie apocalypse as a bleak affair that details the lowest humanity can becomes. It makes sense, as it’s a reflection of our experience with the recession; however, at times I think it’s good to see a work of zombie work fiction that, like Ray’s the Dead,can not only show players the perspective of the zombies but also encourage them to have a good laugh.
Ray is a zombie who used to be human, of course, but then he got a thing lodged into his brain and now he’s undead. Being a practically brain-dead zombie, Ray doesn’t seem to mind, and he sets off to bite other citizens in order to create a gang of zombies. And while Ray may be focused on tasting different cuts of brain, you will inadvertently play as both the mortal and undead version of him in order to uncover the mystery surrounding his entire existence.
Part of the appeal of Ray’s the Dead is how charming Ragtag Studio depicts being a zombie could be. Ray recruits members for his undead posse by biting and scratching them of course; however, the cartoonish style, paired with appropriately green emoticons, makes it impossible to feel guilt for ruining his minions’ mortality. As part of the combat, Ray commands his posse to cause otherwise violent mayhem, although the city in which said destruction takes place is a giant, stylish throwback to the 80s. Environmental puzzles usually involve destruction of some kind, and the pop-up book art style makes each explosion make more of an impact on the screen. Finally, Ragtag Studio is enlisting the help of many musicians whose work include Shovel Knight, Double Dragon and Tony Hawk to create an infectiously catchy soundtrack that’s eerily reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s Thriller—perfect for a game that has a unique, silly perspective on the Zombie apocalypse.
While the zombie apocalypse won’t wane from popular culture any time soon, I wish that creative types would stop being so doom-and-gloom about it. Ray’s the Dead, in a sense, helps stories with an alternative take on the zombie apocalypse rise from the grave of uninspired zombie fiction. This time, however, games like Ray’s the Dead comes back with such personality that one can’t help but reconsider his or her own mortality.
Project by: Risin’ Goat
Current Funds: $8,898
End: September 5, 2014
Looking at the Kickstarter page for A Rite from the Stars makes me appreciate the perpetual existence of the point-and-click adventure genre. Similar to the rites of passage theme that makes up the bulk of the content for A Rite from the Stars, the point-and-click adventure genre has been passed down to several generations of gamers since its inception. While what worked for Gabriel Knight won’t hold up today, the foundation—pointing, clicking and solving puzzles—remains the same, even if each generation of game developers adapt those principles to current tastes.
Speaking of rites to passages, the game follows the story of a young boy named Kirm who sets out on his quest to become an adult in his tribe. Each culture holds their unique version of the rite for passage, and Kirm’s just so happens to fall in line with point-and-click logic. According to his tribe’s traditions, Kirm must follow three paths, each one denoting an important symbolic trait such as courage, wisdom and spirit. Kirm’s journey will not be easy, but with the help of the elders in the village, Kirm should be able to prove that he is ready to leave his childhood behind.
Like many point-and-click adventure developers before them, Risin’ Goat is implementing its own design philosophies that adhere to the classics while streamlining the annoying aspects. In the Kickstarter video, various employees promise that you won’t need to hunt for pixels or need to manage a pesky inventory system. The team is also including trends used in later adventure games such as autosave and performance-based puzzles in order to expel old frustrations and create a new type of challenge. In addition, A Rite from the Stars takes place in a fully explorable 3D world in an attempt to differentiate from other games of the same genre on Kickstarter. The entire package should help them achieve that front while setting the bar for the next generation of adventure games.
I can imagine that some may want the traditional point-and-click experience that Double Fine promised with Broken Age, and these people might not find A Rite from the Stars to meet their nostalgic needs. Riot Goat’s game never promises to be a strict nostalgic experience, making room for new adventure game fans while keeping things just familiar enough for fans who have witnessed generations of point-and-click games.
Have you seen any interesting projects on Kickstarter that you think deserve mention? Are you a developer who is currently running a Kickstarter campaign? Let us know in the comments section, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.