About this project
PAGE UPDATE: If you're a new visitor, or returning since we launched, scroll down for fresh images, gameplay and behind-the-scenes videos, stretch goals, and more!
Welcome to the World of Buddy & Me
Ever had a dream so fun, you wished it wouldn't end? At Sunbreak, we've got a dream like that, a journey that we'd like to keep going a little longer, with your help... but first, we'd like to share the dream of a very special little boy:
As the boy falls asleep each night, a strange transformation takes place. A mysterious golden light appears outside, the bedroom shakes, and it feels like the entire house is being lifted upwards. Startled, he sits up and looks out the window, only to see a giant, familiar orange face looking in, with a wide-eyed friendly grin, beckoning him to come out and play. Smiling, the boy grabs his hoodie, opens the door, steps into the light…
...and suddenly realizes his room is no longer in his home, but suspended high in the treetop canopy, the first of an endless series of treehouse platforms and bridges leading deep into the enchanted forest. Night after night, dream after dream, the boy returns to this enchanted place. It’s here that he meets and plays with his best friend, a magical flying creature named Buddy, a loyal companion that watches over him. Together they run, jump, glide, swing, bounce, and fly through the night, racing as far as they can before waking.
Buddy & Me is a unique 2D platforming game about friendship, that merges the high-quality painted backgrounds and cel-shaded characters of an animated film, with the gameplay sensibilities of a highly replayable, lighthearted childhood adventure in the woods. Buddy & Me is a game for everyone, accessible enough for anyone to pick up and try, but with depth and challenge for the big kid in all of us. We've designed it for the simple touch interfaces of tablet and mobile devices, starting with select iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. With your help, we hope to have the initial version wrapped up in June 2013.
Behind-The-Scenes Video: Choosing Buddy & Me's high-quality Art Style
A Runner with a Friendly Twist
Choosing a new studio's first project isn't something to take lightly. It's too easy to either promise something too ambitious (dangerous for a new team and tech), or go the opposite route and just throw together a forgettable clone. Neither option sounded appealing. It's no accident that we chose the "endless runner" genre: the budget-friendly structure gets more gameplay out of fewer level assets (smart for a startup!), and our hand-painted art style would certainly stand out among the competition. But how could we make the gameplay experience unique? That's when we realized, the one thing that seemed constant throughout the genre could lead to a huge breakthrough: the player's always alone. So we gave him a giant flying best friend to lend a hand!
Never Run Alone Again
As the Boy, the player's more than capable on his own...he can run, jump, double-jump, and even glide with his oversized hoodie. Then there's the fun obstacles he can play with... swinging on ropes, bouncing on mushroom trampolines, flying down zip lines, and more. But just in case, Buddy's always looking ahead for danger. And when he sees it, he rushes ahead to help, using his body however he can!
Behind-The-Scenes Video: Basic Gameplay Mechanics Explained
The "Buddy System" as we call it, comes in two flavors. In the first, “Buddy Assists”, Buddy regularly spots danger and automatically rushes ahead, helping by using his back as a platform, his belly as a trampoline, his tail as a rope, even hurling the boy ahead like a cannonball ... and we've got all kinds of other cool ideas we'd like to try with your help!
The second way, “Buddy Flight”, is even more exciting... if the player earns it, Buddy swoops in and picks up the Boy for a fantastic ride, which the player can control!
But Buddy's not the Boy's only companion. Look closely, and hiding high in the treetops are gentle, curious little flying creatures we like to call "Angel Bunnies". They're the guardian spirits of the forest, and can often be heard singing soft lullabies. If the Boy is lucky enough to collect one, a Bunny will fly into formation behind Buddy, creating a long trail of friends following along the adventure.
Companionship, Infinite Treehouses, and The Great Outdoors
Some of the most interesting game experiences are inspired by life experiences. As we pay close attention to the things outside of work that affect and motivate us as human beings, we often find interesting themes to articulate as gameplay experiences. At Sunbreak, we're dedicated to crafting entertainment with a more "positive" tone, so for Buddy & Me we focused on three core themes: companionship, an obsession with treehouses, and the natural excitement of exploring the great outdoors.
The most important thing we want to establish is a believable friendship between Buddy and the Boy, but that has to extend well beyond the action Assists from Buddy. It's about the little things. They're frequently looking over to check on one another, and Buddy reacts strongly to the player's successes and failures. That relationship extends beyond the gameplay and into the various scoring and menu screens, where Buddy might react to the player's results and choices.
Treehouses are a major theme in Buddy & Me’s environment. They have a kind of timeless, universal appeal. No matter how old you are, it's magical to look up and see something so creatively out of place. To stand in one and look around offers a new perspective on the world. For Buddy & Me, we thought it would be the perfect childhood adventure, to be able to run along an "Infinite Treehouse" of endless platforms, ropes, bridges, and ziplines... a jungle gym high up in the treetops where you never have to come down. And living in the Seattle area, we're lucky to be surrounded by so many other treehouse enthusiasts, giving us lots of real-life reference material to visit and draw from.
Lastly, we can't help but be inspired by living in the Pacific Northwest, an amazing confluence of rivers, lakes, ocean, mountains, forests, islands, and everything in between. We've spent a lot of time exploring the area, discovering countless jaw-dropping landscapes. So why not try to share those experiences in a game?
With our "Landmark System", from time to time the player will emerge from the deep forest and cross a long bridge with panoramic views to diverse, open landscapes. It provides a milestone for how far the player has traveled, as well as a relaxing break from intense platforming. Using a collection of parts that can be mixed and matched in a surprising number of combinations, we'll be able to compose scenes from high in the mountains above the clouds, down by the ocean shore, flowering meadows, reflective lakes, roaring waterfalls, secret treehouse villages, and more!
Behind-the-Scenes Video: Level generation system and landmark system prototyping.
Sunbreak Games and its first project Buddy & Me, have been entirely self-funded up until this point. We risked it all to go indie, and to take the time necessary to experiment with original gameplay mechanics and characters that would form the game's foundation. We've come a long way in getting the project to where it is currently, but we need help to successfully finish, and fully realize the game's potential. And if the community is really excited about the project, then we’ll be able to add in all sorts of great things!
We appreciate your contributions towards making Buddy & Me a reality, and we'd like to give you something in return! Starting at the lowest reward tier we want to honor every single backer by listing them in the credits of the game in addition to giving them a free copy.
As the pledge amounts grow, so do the rewards, with each Pledge Tier also including the rewards from the previous! (for example: The $250 tier includes the art print, T-shirt, post cards, soundtrack, and copy of the game) For our most generous backers, that goes all the way up to receiving artwork signed by the team and even visiting us in the Northwest to spend a night in one of the treehouse hotels that helped inspire the game!
Sample ($25+): Original Soundtrack by Aaron Cherof:
Check out more reward tiers on the right and some concept images below:
If we meet our minimum goal then we'll be able to wrap up the core gameplay, have basic Boy - Buddy interactions, a set of static landmarks, Leaderboards, and all the rest of the basic game - on select iOS and Android devices.
Due to popular demand, the option to be able to choose between a Boy and Girl character:
This goal will allow us to expand our gameplay features with the addition of "Ziplines" for the boy to ride on, an additional Buddy Assist called "Cannonball" that flings the player across the level, and have time for some additional tuning of other mechanics:
U Asked for it, Wii listened. A huge thanks to loyal Nintendo fans for showing their support and enthusiasm for bringing Buddy & Me to the Wii U eShop as a downloadable game:
It will take us some extra time beyond the initial tablet/mobile release for us to port our engine, but with your support we can pull it off!
***We will add an additional $10 Reward Tier for backers to specifically choose the Wii U release, but only if we reach this stretch goal.***
Additional Stretch Funding:
We have no shortage of features and improvements of shapes and sizes we'd like to try. The most important things we want to add are achievements, more character animations, animated landmark variations, forest creatures, other children visiting the dream in the background, and additional Buddy Assists!
In addition, we'd like to add features that will help the game be more fun to replay in the long-term, like in-game collectibles, missions, unlockable upgrades, and additional gameplay modes:
- Custom Treehouse Mode. One room at a time, build and upgrade a giant treehouse for Angel Bunnies to move into and play.
- Buddy Play Mode. Fun for kids... with simple touch-screen controls, pet/scratch/move Buddy into different poses and facial expressions, then click the photo button to take a post card!
- Character Customization. Make the playable character look like the kid in you. Change his or her features, clothing, and more.
Lastly, we'd like to add some finishing artistic touches, like more animated character-filled menus, more interaction & expressions between Buddy and the boy, environment variations, Day-Night cycle, and various atmospheric FX.
About Sunbreak Games
Sunbreak Games was founded in 2012 in Kirkland, WA by veteran game designer Jason Behr, with a clear mission: to create responsibly small-scale but high-quality, unique, accessible, and positive gameplay experiences.
Jason's early years at Nintendo helped shape Sunbreak's core game design values, and he hopes to take the experience from blockbuster hits like the award-winning Metroid Prime series (Lead Level Designer) and Halo 4 (Senior Mission Designer) and apply it to a wider family-accessible audience.
Meet the Buddy & Me team, with over 30 years of combined industry experience with companies like Nintendo, Microsoft, Humongous Entertainment, and Warner Brothers:
- Jason Behr: President, Creative Director.
- Brennan McQuerry: Lead Programmer.
- Gene Lange: Background Concept, Painter. (website)
- Andrew Brinkworth: Character Illustrator, Animator. (website)
- Aaron Cherof: Composer. (website)
Help Spread the Word
The Sunbreak team has worked very hard to build and prototype Buddy & Me so that we would have a clear, unique game vision to share with the Kickstarter community instead of a vague concept. We believe it's a fresh kind of gameplay experience, in a world filled with possibilities, and a lovable cast of characters that will live on for a long time. This is an opportunity for you to be a part of an original project, to help spread the word, and to bring this game to a new level of excellence. Help us keep the dream of Buddy & Me alive, so that we can share their story, with you!
Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SunbreakGames
Risks and challenges
Developing a video game is a very organic process, where each idea's journey from concept to final form is a winding path filled with unexpected challenges and discoveries. Ideas that sound good on paper need to evolve as the team evaluates them, hits technical hurdles, or is inspired by new ideas. For a variety of reasons, things tend to have a way of taking a little longer than expected.
Also, unlike larger studios, we're still very much a tiny indie team working on our first project together. A small team means we're dynamic and invested in our project, but if a team member gets sick, has a baby, or gets stuck in traffic, etc... the project is affected more than at a large company. Our commitment to detail and quality control means we take the necessary time to develop the best game possible.
At Sunbreak, we've done our best to get the most difficult, unique features figured out first. It puts us in a great position to expand or contract the game's feature set without compromising the core experience. While some of the game's bells & whistles might change or even fizzle over time, every decision is made for the sake of preserving the unique, high-quality experience we've promised. We'll be as transparent as possible throughout that process.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
In short, yes. We've got big plans for Buddy & Me, including an illustrated, interactive storybook about how Buddy & the Boy met. But in the spirit of Kickstarter, and so our team can stay focused, for now we're going to concentrate on one project at a time.
We'd like to release the game on as many touch mobile/tablet devices as possible, including Android and ebook (Nook, Kindle) hardware. Our engine, Marmalade, makes it relatively simple to support those additional devices.
However, at Sunbreak we want to ensure top-quality releases for all players. As a small team, it takes extra time and resources to test and optimize performance on additional hardware. So we're going to start with select iOS and Android devices first, then expand slowly over time.
We're certainly open to it, and our engine supports it, but right now our assets and gameplay are focused on the best touch-screen experience possible. As with expanding to Android and other devices, we want to be mindful of our limited time & resources to ensure an optimized high-quality experience for all players on all hardware. So we're focusing on iOS first, before over-committing to additional hardware support.
We set out to make Buddy & Me a game for everyone, for players of all ages, for guys and gals alike. The main character, "Boy", might be a child, but the game is about the child inside all of us. Family-friendly is about appealing to that inner child we all share, as opposed to only targeting a more grown up audience... but the gameplay provides challenges for all skill levels. Family-accessible is about making an experience that nobody is afraid to pick up and try, that is easy to learn the basics, but provides depth and challenge for those that seek it out.
Our favorite examples and influences are animated films from Pixar and Studio Ghibli, that always seem to strike a balance with a style of grounded, familiar fantasy that audiences of all ages can comfortably enjoy.
You asked for it, so if we meet our new $45K stretch goal, we'll do it!
It's actually always been something we intended to try eventually. The universe of Buddy & Me is about the kid in all of us, boys and girls alike... in fact that's why the Boy has no name, because he could be me, you, anyone. Our original plans called for first tackling a robust character customization system for the Boy (as an aggressive stretch goal or update after initial game release), then later including a customizable Girl after we get one character fully functional. But, we're willing to switch those priorities around since enough backers have asked!
I think we did a poor job explaining our Rewards, so I totally apologize. Because yes, that does sound like the world's most expensive hoodie, doesn't it?
But actually, our rewards are "stacking"... so, at the $750 reward level, it's not just a hoodie we're giving away, it's everything before it, too. It's the hoodie, an art book, a big art print for the wall, a t-shirt, a set of art cards, the soundtrack, a postcard, digital wallpapers, a copy of the game, special thanks in the game, shipping costs for all of the above, and of course access to all of our future updates. It adds up quick!
U asked, Wii listened. :) Thanks to the amazing feedback and support we've gotten from Nintendo fans, we had to add Wii U support as a stretch goal. You can read more about it here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1644707178/buddy-and-me/posts/453061
Why a stretch goal? Because our software isn't 100% compatible with Wii U, we'll need to spend extra time & resources to adapt to it. Also, there's the hidden cost of development kits, figuring out what to do with the Wii U's two screens (TV and controller), and any other changes we'd have to make to gameplay and art to make it work.
First up, let me say that we owe our loyal Nintendo fans so much. You guys have been amazing, and are one of the biggest reasons this Kickstarter survived after its first three weeks. You've reminded the team of how much our previous games meant to you, and really inspired the team. We will not forget that. We don't want to let you down.
Bottom line, it does cost a lot extra to port to Wii U, and we will need to find that funding somehow, somewhere, sometime. We can't in any way promise or guarantee it until we've figured out how to do it... but what we can promise, is that we'll try.
You'll be happy to know, we've already reached out to Nintendo (Nintendo of America headquarters is just a few miles away from us), and are trying to figure out exactly what it would take to get development kits, and get more familiar with the technology.
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