So the "next-generation of games" has begun. Already tired from seeing slightly sharper versions of what you've already seen for the past decade? Here's something truly unique, something thatlooks different from anything you've ever seen before, yet familiar at the same time...
"...Fans of hand-drawn animation will want to pay close attention... Journey of Existence is incredibly unique..." - The Indie Game Magazine
Don't want to put money down for the Kickstarter campaign? Give us a free opinion, good or bad, on our Steam Greenlight Concept page, to help spur development over the next several months!
You can also continue to follow the game on IndieDB!
"James - Journey of Existence" is a computer game currently in development for PC, and if funding allows it, Mac and Linux. It is a hand-drawn, story-driven 3D puzzle/adventure/platformer, by one-man independent Canadian developer "Dust Scratch Games."
That's right, I said "hand-drawn 3D game." You've never seen traditional animation used quite like this!
"The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living." - Marcus Tullius Cicero
James is a young boy who wakes up in a strange, fantastical place. The problem is he doesn’t know where he is or how he got there… he doesn’t even remember his own name! Help James as he journeys to incredible lands and meets a cast of interesting characters, as he uncovers his memories and discovers the dark secret of this mysterious realm.
The story is set to be simple, but abstract and surreal. I don't want to give too much away, but I hope that the themes and the ending will help keep this game in your mind long after finishing.
You can expect plenty of platforming stages, environmental puzzles, and dialogue with plenty of odd characters in a varied and dream-like world. There's even two possible endings: one of them the true ending only available if you find the collectibles that uncover James' memories.
"We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.
" - C. S. Lewis
I love "traditional animation." If you think back to some of your favorite animated films when you were growing up, chances are many of them were drawn by hand. This is a rare form of art today, as most animation today is classified as "computer animation," where the computer actually does most of the work filling in frames of the animation cycle, among other advantages. While computers does make animation easier and allows artists to focus their talents on improving the art overall, it also means that the artist has less control of the final product, and it doesn't have the heart and soul that traditional animation does, where every detail and frame was crafted by hand.
Video games have evolved rapidly over the last decade, and as the new generation of gaming began, people wondered exactly how graphics would improve. We've already seen 2D games that look exactly like hand-drawn art, and 3D games that are almost indistinguishable from real life. In terms of graphics, next-gen must rely on something no one has ever seen before. This is it. And I hope it catches on.
Hasn't this been done?
Not well enough to catch on.
Games like "Dragon's Lair" were classified as "interactive movies" instead of games, and were played as a series of quick-time events. They looked beautiful, but the player had little to no input, resulting in poor gameplay. Older first-person shooter games like "Wolfenstein" and "Doom" used hand-drawn textures instead of 3D models, due to hardware limitations. They looked cool, and the method used largely inspired how "James - Journey of Existence" was formed. But they were limited to a horizontal point of view (you couldn't see them from above or below at different angles), and the art suffered from pixelized characters with low animation rates, again due to hardware limiations. Some games attempted to use "cel-shading" techniques to make computer animation look hand-drawn. It looks nice, but it simply doesn't replace the look of hand-drawn animation.
A recent attempt called "Time and Eternity" (or "Toki to Towa") was a Japanese role playing game for the PS3. It was advertised as the first playable anime, featuring high-definition hand-drawn animated characters. But they were placed in the world in front of the camera in a very specific position, and the result left much to be desired for critics. This also required the art to be made around how the camera was placed, and the gameplay and camera movement was limited because of it.
How did I do it?
Not only do I use HD art (every frame is a 1024x1024-pixel square), I also use a regular third person camera in game. That means, in theory, that absolutely any genre of game could be made with the methods used in this game, and I intend for "James - Journey of Existence" to be a showcase for this, as well as a full game in its own right. It's a full 3D game as you've always known them to be, it just looks a little more interesting.
"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney
After waiting for years for other developers to come up for a better solution to make traditional animation in 3D games, I got fed up and did it myself!
And there couldn't be a better time! The implementation used here requires a lot of RAM and hard-drive space due to HD textures, but with the new next-gen consoles and most computers sold today, it is now possible.
Films by Walt Disney Animation Studios, Don Bluth, Tim Burton, Henry Selick, Japanese anime films directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Mamaru Hosoda, Makoto Shinkai, and Satoshi Kon, as well as animated films The Triplets of Belleville, The Illusionist, and The Secret of Kells are all animated films I hold dear to my heart. I happen to be a fan of the humorous writing of Douglas Adams, the dramatic writing of William Shakespeare, and the eye-opening works of HG Wells, Jules Verne and Issac Asimov.
Video games such as those from Nintendo (Mario, Legend of Zelda), The Prince of Persia series, ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, Heavy Rain, Braid and Fez all had a huge impact on me. In particular, games like the Dreamfall series, Journey, Okami and Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon are games that can be considered direct inspirations for this project.
I am a humble student at the University of Windsor, in Ontario, Canada. I am fortunate to have experienced working for a local mobile app company, and working as a research assistant, alongside maintaining a honor-roll status throughout my student life. I have a serious passion for art, animation, video games, film, computer programming, artificial intelligence and good stories. I have been described as a "living cartoon" on more than one occasion, for some reason or another...
Game projects I've been a part of you have likely never heard of. While I have worked on several games in the past both individually, for work and with groups as a hobby, none were ever completed to reach a level of quality I felt comfortable with showing outside my friends and family. As of now, I have worked with Unity3D, the game engine powering this project (yes, this is another indie game made with Unity, it's a very popular engine), over the last three years. My advanced understanding with the engine helps me create levels and gameplay elements quickly, and Unity's ability to port quickly to almost any platform helps ensure compatibility with most operating systems. This is easily the most impressive project I've been a part of, and I am quite proud of what I've accomplished so far.
I currently have no team... this project is so far to be made entirely by me, under a developer name of Dust Scratch Games. While I am capable enough to finish the project alone if necessary, the help of other skilled individuals would be appreciated and would help improve the quality of the final game. But this game revolves around a very niche market, and past experiences have shown that creative projects are never completed when a group works together for free. Kickstarter is both a means for me to acquire funding to potentially hire other local students/recent-graduates as well as a means to determine public interest, both of which can lead to growing the team at Dust Scratch Games to finish the project.
Currently, tech demos as you have seen have been made to showcase the potential of the art style in this game, as well as what some of the game world would look like. The story is largely complete, and will be finalized in the coming weeks. The animated characters will, by far, take up the most time during development, but other elements are quick to put together.
UPDATE: WE HAVE MUSIC!
Kim Derome and Kevin Morris have agreed to help promote this Kickstarter, and upon reaching our minimum goal hope to continue providing music to this project. Listen to some samples of their music below:
A Fairy's Journey - Kim Derome
Existence - Kevin Morris
A basic breakdown:
Unity3D Pro license (not necessary for completion, but a huge help with certain features and debugging/optimization tools) - $1500
I don't consider this Kickstarter campaign necessary to complete the game, but important in ensuring quality for a public release, and assessing the interest in such a project for myself and other potential independent developers.
The minimum goal will help "James - Journey of Existence" get released for PC in 2014. Exceeding the funding goal will help expand to other platforms (and getting hardware to test said platforms), and hiring other talented individuals.
Why am I giving a project file of a level for so cheap?
I want hand-drawn 3D games to catch on, and I want to see as many different styles of it as possible. With the original art assets for playable character "James," I want to show you exactly how I implemented the animation, and to encourage others to improve and expand it. I do plan on uploading some of the tutorial videos on our youtube channel for the curious developer, but only through Kickstarter can you get the original level assets AND rebuild it entirely from scratch with no knowledge of the game engine!
Want more? Check out higher reward tiers over there! -->
If we exceed the minimum goal, then we can really make this game shine!
$5,000 - Minimum goal, "James - Journey of Existence" will be released for PC for September 2014.
$6,000 - "James - Journey of Existence" will be released for PC, Mac and Linux platforms for September 2014. All pledgers who have a digital/physical copy of the game will receive versions for PC, Mac AND Linux free of charge!
$8,000 - additional team members will be hired on to help provide music for the game.
$14,000 - additional team members will be hired on to help provide art and modeling for the game.
$20,000 - additional team members will be hired on to help with voice acting for the game.
$24,000 - additional team members will be hired on to help with level design/coding for the game.
$45,000 - "James - Journey of Existence" will not only be in English, but will also be available in French, and two other languages voted by backers (text only, not audio).
$50,000 - Expand the game's story... (to be revealed later)
$75,000 - Expand the game's world... (to be revealed later)
$100,000 - Expand the game's reach... (to be revealed later)
"In technological evolution, we must start a revolution, by putting all we know aside, and starting from scratch..." - Dust Scratch Games
Risks and challenges
Every creative project has risks. It's impossible to know what the final game will be like. I am currently the only person attached to this project, and while that does make it more difficult, it also makes the project less likely to end without completion. Should any other team members come in and drop out, I will continue in their place, and I am confident that I am capable enough to finish the project on my own, for better or for worse. I have slowly been working towards this over the last year, and my determination to see it to the end hasn't changed.
I am a University student. I still attend class, I still have other commitments. Depending on the success of this campaign, I may have other jobs during the development of this game. The release date of this project may change if not all goes according to plan. Should the release date change, expect me to send out the most recent build of the entire game to backers expecting the full game in the meantime. And I will do everything in my power, health permitting, to ensure that "James - Journey of Existence" is completed before the end of 2014.
Where other projects rely on name and business recognition to gain your support, there are many developers in-training desperate to get their start in the industry. Look not just at me, but at my game and idea, before considering to add your support. Thank you.
Currently, a PC release is planned (compatible with Windows XP service pack 3 and higher).
If we meed our stretch goal (only slightly higher than our minimum project goal), we will also release the game on Mac and Linux. The game is made with the Unity 3D game engine, so this shouldn't be difficult, but we need hardware to test with...
The versions of the game for Mac and Linux may not be carried out, unless our first stretch goal after our minimum target is reached.
If that stretch goal is reached, every reward tier that mentions a copy of the game for PC (digital or physical) will also include a copy for Mac and Linux (included with digital release, and included with physical release).
This game does require a lot of RAM and hard drive space, both of which mobile phones and tablets have a very limited quantity of. Also, tests to have a demo of this game on a smartphone showed that the processor and graphics card does a lot of work to update the frames of the animations, regardless of the size of the frames. Most personal computers made in the last five years can handle this without issues, but mobile is still a ways behind.
This game does require a lot of RAM and hard drive space, both of which older consoles have a very limited quantity of. Also, the processor and graphics card does a lot of work to update the frames of the animations, regardless of the size of the frames. Most personal computers made in the last five years can handle this without issues, but older consoles is still a ways behind.
This game is made with the Unity3D game engine, which currently only supports 32-bit limits on its games. I intend to max these limits out in terms of RAM.
Expect the final game to require at least 3.5 GB of free RAM, approximately 30GB of Hard Drive space, and a dual-core processor and Intel HD 3000 Graphics or better.
Parts of these requirements seem demanding for some computers, but it should run fine on any computer released in the last few years. If you are concerned, I am planning to make a port of the game ("James - Journey of Existence" SD or Standard Definition, if you will) that would reduce the texture size of the animations and other art assets just enough to cut RAM and Hard Drive space in half. Such a port would be released and included with the main game (but may not be available as a simple change in the "quality settings" menu, and be a separate executable game).
Hopefully, yes. But this won't be certain until the game is closer to completion, such that I can submit these games to these outlets.
I may put this on Steam's Greenlight program soon, but it will need your support to go through, so stay tuned!
If you have a favorite online store to get your indie games, let me know and I will try to make sure that this is released there!
The reward tiers will likely come with downloadable codes from one or more of these outlets for you to collect your version of the game. However, in the case that this game cannot get on these outlets, it will be made available to you through other means (through www.fromdustscratch.com).
There used to be a time when a game was developed until complete, and then released to gamers as a complete and whole product. The gamer never had to come back to "fix" bugs in the game that weren't fixed before launch. The gamer never had to come back for the rest of the story. The gamer never had to spend more money then the original price. Developers who rely on post-DLC and updates as a common practice should be ashamed.
If there is enough new content to be added, I may consider a sequel. This is the attitude I hope all game developers adopt again.
You may pledge more if you are so inclined, but it's ridiculous for someone to pledge/donate/pay that much for a single game to be made. Instead, consider spreading the word of this game to as many people as you can: friends, family, social media, and so on. The more people who see this game, the better!
Physical rewards are exclusive to the Kickstarter campaign. These cost money to make, and Kickstarter is a convenient way to calculate how many of an item need to be manufactured. Pledging to the Kickstarter campaign is the only sure way of securing a copy of an item.
Samples of the digital rewards may or may not be provided as extras with the game's release through online outlets. But the complete versions of these rewards will be exclusive to the Kickstarter campaign. Only the game itself is to be the same to all Kickstarter backers and future supporters who buy it.
The game itself will likely be between $5 and $10 when released, so early birds who pledge to the Kickstarter campaign can receive the game at a special price! Remember, without your support, this game may not ever get released (or at least, such a release would be severely delayed).
Currently, no. But let us know if you are interested in giving support for the game's development by leaving a comment somewhere on http://www.fromdustscratch.com . If enough people are interested, of course we would extend support options through other methods directly on the site!
If you have any doubts about a Kickstarter project, you should not back it. But all Kickstarter projects always come with risk, so you have to ask yourself if you think the project is worth your support.
I'd encourage you to consider pledging the $1 amount to get the "extended-demo," to be released before the end of the Kickstarter campaign. If that demo doesn't convince you, then you only lost a dollar. If you like it, then you can add to your pledge and seek higher rewards.
As said in the description, development will continue to an extent even if our Kickstarter fails. If the project doesn't convince you now, wait until it gets closer to completion in the months to come to decide if it worth your time.
I also welcome any and all comments and criticism, so please let me know of your thoughts!
EARLY BIRD: a special price for early Kickstarter backers for a full DRM-free digital copy of the game for PC, plus pdf instruction manual. Includes extended demo to be released before the end of the Kickstarter campaign period, plus your name/username in the game's credits!
ON-TIME BIRD: full DRM-free digital copy of the game for PC, plus pdf instruction manual. Includes extended demo to be released before the end of the Kickstarter campaign period, plus your name/username in the game's credits! Includes a few desktop wallpapers to be released with the game.
DIGITAL MAKING-OF PACKGAGE: all previous rewards from $10 tier, plus a digital copy of "Developer Documentary" containing behind-the-scenes facts and interviews with the creator, plus a pdf of "Developer's Script" containing dialogue and story secrets from the game.
DEVELOPER IN-TRAINING: all previous rewards from $10 tier, plus a digital Unity3D project file of a level from the game, plus hours of digital video tutorials showing how to create the level and animation effects from scratch using the free Unity3D game engine. For the inner game developer in you!
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: all previous rewards, plus special mention in the game's credits. You can be listed with your name, your group/company, a message up to 140 characters, and/or a website url, to let others know who you are! (backers are listed in order from highest pledge to lowest pledge).
PHYSICAL GAME: all previous rewards, plus a physical DVD of the game for PC, with double-sided cover and instruction manual. Plus a special letter of thanks from the creator. Limited quantity at this backing level, but higher levels will also receive this reward!
SEMI-PHYSICAL SPECIAL EDITION: all previous rewards, plus a custom USB Flash Drive containing digital copy of the game and all digital rewards! (due to game's hardware requirements, game cannot be played directly from the flash drive). Exclusive to Kickstarter backers!
PHYSICAL SPECIAL EDITION: all previous rewards, plus physical softcover copies of "Artwork Archives" and "Developer's Script," CD of the soundtrack, DVD of "Developer Documentary," a hand-signed letter of thanks from the creator, and more goodies all in special packaging! Exclusive to Kickstarter backers!
YOU IN THE GAME: includes all previous rewards, plus you will be animated as a playable character. Take the main character's place as you explore the game's world and story! You will be given the option to make your likeness public to all, or to be exclusive to your copy of the game. With your permission, you may also be featured in the "Artwork Archives" book!