DARK STARS is a hardcore vertical scrolling anti-shmup set in a universe suffocated by cosmic mysteries. Mastering its myriad challenges requires careful maneuvering, proactive resource collection, and clever use of The Maw, an infernal presence that may or may not have your best interests at heart.
Incapacitate enemy ships by moving in close and abducting the souls of their crews in challenging proximity-based combat. Your shields are energized by these souls. Collecting them is key to your survival.
Collect enough souls to unleash a trap that has both offensive and defensive properties. The more energy you have, the longer it lasts.
- Negates enemy fire, shielding you as long as you're inside.
- Snatches away souls that wander too close. Every soul fed to the Maw increases your power.
- Has esoteric functions you'll have to discover for yourself.
Taking advantage of The Maw's protection has other costs. Using it drains you of energy, and therefore health, leaving you instantly vulnerable. It is a monstrously powerful weapon, but do not use it lightly. The animation below showcases some of its behaviors.
The game design of Dark Stars is lean and mean. This is no bullet hell. There are no weapon upgrades, no score drops, no flashy distractions. It's just you, the levels, and the world. However, this doesn't mean there are no optional goals to chase. The game keeps track of a handful of metrics as you play, including number of souls captured, number of souls eaten by The Maw, number of ships converted, and more. If I can raise enough funds, I would love to add online scoring and achievement support so that you can see how your harvesting stacks up against the community's.
It is tempting to believe a virtuous life earns us our place in Heaven. In our hasty egotism, we forget: it is the windy will of God that spurs the currents upon which we drift. We patch our sails, hoist them into the gale, and our souls find their way home. A storm of spirit rages in the cosmos; we are driven by forces beyond our reckoning. Thank God, truly, that they are benevolent.
- Saint Yulena of the Sulci Theodemy
You are a dubious harbinger with the inexplicable power to digitize souls at a distance. Dig your way to the shrouded hearts of three advanced civilizations to rend out a secret common history. Glean clues from the environment and decipher the ramblings of a large cast of characters to discover why the seeds of an ancient religious schism are bearing macabre fruits in the present.
The universe of Dark Stars is rife with old religious iconography and ideas, twisted by the passage of countless ages and distances. The themes are inspired by Walter M. Miller Jr.'s amazing classic A Canticle For Leibowitz, although the storytelling itself is heavily inspired by the tight-lipped worldbuilding and morbid humor of From Software's Souls series.
Alex (center): That's me. I created the game, and handle the programming, game design, art, etc.
Adam (left): He helped conceive the game's universe, and is handling the lion's share of writing duties.
Erik (right): He is composing the music. Stream a killer in-game sample track, “Praesidium Pulse”, below.
Where I'm At
Dark Stars is largely a solo project that I've been developing in my spare time over the past year. It is my first commercial game! It is built with mostly free tools, but in terms of money spent on software already, and time spent on development, I have invested a great deal into this project myself.
The game is in a fully playable state, and nearly all the visual assets are in place. The screenshots and trailer are all captured in-game footage. I have a couple minor systems left to implement, I plan on totally overhauling the user interface, and the complete soundtrack is on its way. And of course there is a lot of polishing to do.
Where I Want To Be
As I approach release, there are things I need that have upfront costs I cannot afford out of pocket. In order to bring Dark Stars to as many platforms as possible, I need your help.
It is first and foremost a touchscreen game, so releasing it on Android, iOS, and Windows Phones is the primary goal. This will require hardware - phones to debug and run play tests on - and software subscriptions, such as Xamarin, which will allow me to port my existing code to other platforms. I am committed to releasing Dark Stars on PC for Windows as well, with gamepad support. I'd love to submit the game to Steam Greenlight and other online distribution platforms, which costs money. Other registration, submission, and licensing fees add up as well.
I have decided to not include stretch goals for the time being, but I am thinking ahead. If the support I get is enthusiastic enough, I will create a detailed list of new goals. Financial security would give me the extra time I'd need before release to add new features such as New Game Plus and achievements.
I'm asking for the minimum viable amount to reach my goals. That means offering physical rewards, which require a good deal of time and money to fulfill, would ultimately be counter-productive. Every penny I get will be in the game, on the screen, and in your ears.
The reward structure is modest and simple. All donations will come with a digital copy of the game for the platform of your choice and your name in the credits. You can also get a digital copy of the searing synth OST by Erik Helwig of Girls Who Care (girlswhocare.bandcamp.com) and Hot Dad (hotdad.bandcamp.com). We are also working on an in-universe PDF lore booklet that will include artwork from the game, in addition to information about the universe that may help you solve its mysteries. These rewards will be available prior to the game's release. The top reward is special. Erik will compose a song just for you! He is a musical chameleon, and will work with you to create the song of your dreams.
If you have read this far, THANK YOU. And if you decide to contribute, thank you even more!
If you're interested, follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/darkstarsgame/.
Risks and challenges
This is my first commercial project, though not my first time coding a game. I have intentionally kept the scope tight and manageable. I've been careful to avoid feature creep and other development pitfalls. I haven't attempted to include everything but the kitchen sink, but instead I've tried to create a solid core experience.
The game will be completed one way or another, and released for at least PC and Windows Phone, the two platforms I debug on currently. If the project is funded in full, I will certainly release it on Android and iOS as well. Because I am new to those platforms, I may run into unforeseen hurdles that could slow my progress. Like all the hurdles I've come to so far, though, I'll work through them.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)