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Found a community, ignore senpai, and discover your roots in this irreverent, compelling punk rock immigrant teenager sim.
Found a community, ignore senpai, and discover your roots in this irreverent, compelling punk rock immigrant teenager sim.
375 backers pledged $17,278 to help bring this project to life.

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$17,278

375

-- Download the latest demo (v0.400) here!

-- UPDATE: Stretch goals! See Backer Update #3 for details.

  • - MET! - $15,239+: Buy Kevin a copy of Photoshop, because he's too legit to be a pirate.
  • - MET! - $16,000+: New country. Backers get to pick which one!
  • $17,000+: Professional UI. 
  • $18,500+: New Game++.
  • $20,000+: True Wuv (improved romance system)
  • $21,750+: Character animations
  • $25,000+: Tactical Sporks Microaggression System
  • $30,000+: Climates 
  • $40,000+: Extra main storyline

Four Horsemen is an SLG/visual novel--a richly narrative social sim game in the Japanese tradition--about what happens to immigrants after the news cameras leave. 

It's also a story about four lovable teenage goofballs who hang out in an abandoned World War II-era machine gun bunker.
It's also a story about what it means to be at the end of the world.
It turns out that these are all the same thing.

Every day, there's another news story, another documentary film, about bright-eyed souls completing their exodus, fleeing from conflict, persecution, and hardship in their homeland--or simply defying destiny.

What happens to those people after they get off the boat?
What happens a generation later? Two generations? Five?
It's a tale told over and over--echoes of the same people, the same stories, across time.
The choices, the context, and the consequences change with history.
The experience doesn't.

Meet war, death, famine, and pestilence--themes in an eternal fugue.
This is a game about lived experience.
It's about the experience all immigrant communities share, and eventually forget.
It's about what is different, on each turn of history's wheel, that takes the world by surprise.
Any two playthroughs may be resonant with one another, but will never be alike.
What will your story be?

FEATURES

A microcosm of real immigrant communities and the legacy of borders. 

Inspired by history and firsthand accounts from post-WWII immigrant communities around the world, from Soviet Poland to American-occupied Okinawa to the contemporary exodus out of Syria.
The countries are fictional, the people are familiar, the world is our own.

Gameplay influenced by our favorite narrative-heavy Japanese SLGs and visual novels--but with a distinctive Western style.

In developing the game's unique mechanics, we closely studied Persona 4, Phoenix Wright, Fate stay/night, and Tsukihime--but also Western socially conscious sim games like This War of Mine and Molleindustria's McVideogame.

Lots of little surprises will keep you on your toes.

Not just black and white.

Your characters belong to one of ten fictional races, none of them real, all of them familiar.
This affects their appearance everywhere in the game--even in CGs!
You get to choose what race your characters are exactly once. 
Every playthrough after that, the game chooses for you.

This is no hold-hands-sing-kumbaya, America-centric moral tirade about how racism would magically go away if white people would just be a little more polite to brown people. 
We aspire to explore the subtleties and complexities of racism and international race relations more deeply than any other game you've played.
There is no "lawful/chaotic" binary, there is no moral alignment gauge. Faction loyalties are not quantified as stats.
Your characters will struggle against not only the racism of their new homeland but the racism within themselves, and among each other. 
We want to move the conversation around racism away from "you can't say that" and more towards "this is what it feels like." 
In service to this concept, we took great care to make identification with each race feel convincing without pandering to stereotype. 
A few of our playtesters--no strangers to narrative-heavy video games--told us this was the first game that made them feel truly represented.

Play once, then play again from the perspective of your adversaries.

Over ten different countries, with several completely different main arcs and an astounding number of side stories. No two countries play alike--like a real-life immigrant, you must learn your new culture and use that knowledge to adapt.
Do you assimilate, and aspire to be treated as countrymen by your new neighbors?
Or do you preserve what you can of your parents' heritage and strive to be respected for being different?

An SLG unlike any other.

Triumph against destiny in a deliberately unfair world. Use your wits to beat the system--or work around it.
Or overthrow it.
Or cast it aside and try to make your way with nothing.
Four Horsemen observes how you try to live within a hostile society, and your choice of strategy, not what items you get or quests you complete, drives the story. 
How the local people perceive your race affects everything, from the prices in the shop to the options you have available in dialogue. 
No two races solve any storyline the same way, and some stories only belong to certain races.

A deliberately impossible economy loop.

Your knowledge of other video game stories will betray you!
Stats, gear, and grinding will not deliver victory.
Negotiation is never as easy as always flattering people bigger than you and making grand speeches for people smaller than you.
Fishing for the best possible reward can bring dire consequences.
You will have to use your brain--and your heart.

The most sophisticated profanity system in the history of video games.

We're not even fuckin' kidding!
Meticulous linguistics research, cross-checked against native speakers, ensure that characters swear convincingly (and hilariously) in any of the game's languages.
Your protagonists sound like real teenagers, not what adults want teenagers to sound like.

Tense, exciting microaggression system (instead of combat). 

With fancy Phoenix Wright-like animations!
Talk your way out of any situation, or resort to your fists!
But beware, any choice in a difficult situation comes with consequences...
How will you get out of this one?

CHARACTER ARCHETYPES

Ask any schoolteacher, bartender, or flight attendant: there are only so many different kinds of people.
Different names, same personalities.
This game is about four of them.

Four teenaged immigrants, one born in the old country, three born in the new, who find something everyone wants: a place to call their own.
They may find their heritage--or their heritage may find them...

WAR!

The leader of the Riders and the only first-generation immigrant of the group, War's haunted eyes and tough demeanor belie the playfulness of a girl who struggles to balance between growing up too soon and catching up too late on her lost childhood. A bit of a jock.
She has a secret fondness for lurid poetry.

LIKES: playfighting, woooo partay, slashfic, cigarettes
HATES: actual fighting, solitude, thinking about the past, thinking about the future
THEMES: personal identity, security, armed conflict, heritage, nation-building

DEATH!

A free spirit and incorrigible smartass who spends way too much time hanging out with college kids from the old country on the Internet, War's younger sister Death couldn't care less about politics or identity. She lives for one thing and one thing only: making herself all the cool stuff she's not allowed to have. Unfortunately, she's not very good at it yet...
Everyone thinks she's going to grow up to be the next Steve Jobs. She doesn't know who that is.

LIKES: breadboards, bright pink, social media, yolo as a way of life
DISLIKES: stupid boys they're so dumb like she could go on forever about how dumb they are
THEMES: lived experience, erasure, self-determination, industry, the meaning of labor

FAMINE!

Famine has it pretty good compared to War and Death--he's a naturalized citizen who grew up in his new country, speaks with the local accent, and could almost pass for a native if given the chance. But this "almost" is what torments him: he's the only child of a single dad, he's an unremarkable student, he's just a little too awkward to be well liked at school, and there's always just barely not enough money to get by without cutting corners.
That's not going to stop him, though! Oh no. Just you wait. He's got big dreams, and he's going to make them happen--just as soon as he figures out what they are.

LIKES: gumption, giant robot anime, cooking poorly, wearing French maid outfits (shut up bro it was just that one time and also that other time and the time after that), Death
DISLIKES: his dad, being made fun of, being broke, himself 
THEMES: opportunity, entrepreneurship, gender roles, equality, respectability, institutional privilege

PESTILENCE!

Pesty is an enigma wrapped in a shroud of pot smoke. The son of two unremarkable, well-off parents from the old country, Pestilence has spent his entire life in his new homeland. A gentle giant, he is unflinchingly upbeat, slow to anger, and fond of platitudes from hospital anti-depression brochures. He is often high.
Despite his unaggressive personality, he is widely reviled at school for reasons no one seems willing to explain. Strangers recognize him on sight, and find him immediately unsettling. He seems pretty chill about it, and cultivates his aura of unease into a morbid sense of humor.

LIKES: friendship, chilling, posi vibes, deep thoughts, plants
DISLIKES: shouting, negative feelings, toxic people, bureaucracy
THEMES: faith, conquest, demography, social justice, the spread of ideas

THE TEAM

Nuclear Fishin' Software is a tiny studio with a exceptionally diverse team, representing extraordinary talent across the underground comics, music, and independent games scenes in New York City.

We are based in Brooklyn, we are professionals with years of game industry experience, we are all immigrants, and we love SLGs. This game is very close to our hearts.

Our core creative team consists of:

  • Kevin Chen -- writing, programming, direction, design
    NYC game industry veteran and Nuclear Fishin's founder.
    Has worked in games for just under seven years, in both AAA and indie, and has been making games for much longer than that.
    Former Gameloft NYC programming lead.
  • Iasmin Omar Ata -- character design, CG illustration 
    Professional comics artist and curator at the Babycastles video game art gallery in NYC. 
    Creator of Mis(h)adra, the celebrated webcomic about epilepsy.
  • Olga Andreyeva -- background and item illustration
    Freelance comics artist and illustrator.
    Creator of the phenomenal transmedia comic Xantara.
  • Alyssa Menes -- music and sfx
    Professional composer and video game sound designer.
    Has done audio work for over 20 game projects, including Blackwell: Epiphany and Hiveswap.

(Our Kickstarter video was shot and edited by the talented Caroline Voagen Nelson.) 

We've licensed music from exceptionally talented musicians in a variety of genres. Have a listen!

Out of System Transfer's "Fear Jelly":

Our day phase BGM by Alyssa Menes:

 Sky Flying By's "The Last Place You Looked":

 

THE DREAM

We've been plugging away at this game for about half a year now, and it's really shaping up! All of the game's important systems are implemented and ready to scale, and we've already finished one of the main storylines, a variety of side quests, all the art for the protagonists, and most of the NPCs. Given the ambitious nature of the game's narrative and our eventual emphasis on replayability, we estimate it will take about another half year to deliver on its full potential. This timeframe includes at least two more main storylines, a complete UI overhaul, and enough new content to make multiple playthroughs fun and meaningful.

Alas, only Kevin is working on Four Horsemen full time, and he doesn't believe in asking people other than himself to work for free. This project is not going to fund itself. That's where you come in!

We think a game can communicate the immigrant experience in ways that a book or film can't. This game puts you directly in the shoes of young people in a new land, trying to find their place in society and piece together who they are. You are the one who navigates the rules of a foreign society, figuring out its values as you go along. You are the one who sets precedents, on purpose or by accident, for a new community that may last generations. You are the one who confronts blistering racism, both overt and subtle, and decides how to respond. It's one thing to read or hear about such things, and another to have to answer the question: What would I do?

For those of you who are descendants of immigrants, we hope this game will lend you some insight to how your ancestors thought and felt. And for those of you who are not, we hope it will instill some empathy and understanding for strangers who arrive on your shores. Given the terrifying wave of xenophobia that sweeps every country once a generation, it's no hyperbole for us to say we think this game has the potential to make the world a more compassionate, understanding place. 

Help us make this happen!

Risks and challenges

Backing any crowdfunded game project is a risk. We've all backed exciting projects that went south because the developers got excited and scaled up to the point where it became more than they could handle, or because they so overcommitted on their backer rewards that they didn't have the time or money to complete the actual game. We've also heard horror stories about teams that promised the moon and ended up delivering very little. We don't want to be your next cautionary tale--our ambition is bounded by a careful, hard-won pragmatism, and a deep understanding of what we can realistically accomplish with our time, team, and budget.

All of us have worked in games before, some of us on projects much larger than this--we've already learned the hardest lessons through experience. We know how to carefully plan projects to scale (both up and down--what's best for a team of 50 doesn't necessarily work for a team of four) and save a little in our budget for unexpected contingencies, and we've done that with Four Horsemen since before we began.

But you shouldn't take our word for it! That's why we're releasing a huge, free playable demo, with an entire main arc, the mechanics of nearly every system in the game, and more gameplay than some entire finished visual novels. We don't want to tell you what we're capable of in half a year, we want to show you. If we can do all this on a shoestring budget before our first dollar of outside funding, through all the usual surprises and disasters that harry any development cycle, imagine what we can accomplish with your support, with all the foundations already laid and in place.

We can't promise that nothing will go wrong during development. What we can promise is that this team is experienced enough to adapt to trouble. This game isn't merely a learning experience or a resume padder--we know what we're doing, and we're serious about making Four Horsemen a game you'll be telling your friends about for years to come.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 4 or more About US$ 4

    SENDING OUR BEST: Our sincere thanks, and that warm fuzzy feeling you get from knowing you helped people understand what it's like to be an immigrant.

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    Pledge US$ 10 or more About US$ 10

    PIONEER: (Early Bird) A digital download of the completed game for Windows, OS X, and Linux.

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    Pledge US$ 12 or more About US$ 12

    EXPLORER: A digital download of the completed game for Windows, OS X, and Linux, and a pack of fine desktop wallpapers based on the game's CGs and promotional art.

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    Pledge US$ 20 or more About US$ 20

    LIGHTHOUSE: The rewards from the Explorer tier, plus your name in the game's credits scroll.

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    Pledge US$ 50 or more About US$ 50

    MAPMAKER: The rewards from the Lighthouse tier, plus a PDF of the THE FIFTH SEAL: The Making of Four Horsemen, an artbook containing gorgeous high-resolution images of the game's characters, CGs, backgrounds, and concept art, as well as design notes, commentary on the game's many real-world inspirations, and goofy production anecdotes from the team.
    More than a mere backer trophy, we aim to make this artbook a delight in itself.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    PILGRIM: The rewards from the Mapmaker tier, plus a box of rich, decadent handmade Four Horsemen-themed chocolates from Jon Good Chocolates!

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    Pledge US$ 100 or more About US$ 100

    ANCESTOR: You get everything from the Mapmaker tier, and one of the game's magical realism dream sequences will include audio of someone saying your name backwards. Spooky! (While we reserve the right to add additional distortion if the name you provide us is exceptionally offensive, we will do our best to accommodate any reasonable request. Yes, even if you tell us your name is "Dickles F. Moistbottom.")

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    Pledge US$ 150 or more About US$ 150

    PROGENITOR: You get everything in the Mapmaker tier, plus a sketch of you in Four Horsemen's art style by Iasmin! (We will contact you for reference photos.) We will send you both a high resolution lossless PNG and a PDF for easier printing.

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    Pledge US$ 250 or more About US$ 250

    SETTLER: You get everything from the Mapmaker tier, plus a digital illustration of your house, by Olga, in Four Horsemen's art style! (We will contact you for a reference image.) We will send you both a high resolution lossless PNG and a PDF for easier printing.

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    Pledge US$ 500 or more About US$ 500

    FOUNDER: You get everything from the Mapmaker tier, and we will add to the game an NPC who looks like you! (We will contact you for a reference photo. You will have to grant us permission to use your likeness.) Experience the shock and astonishment of meeting your alternate universe self! Awe other Four Horsemen players with your flawless cosplay!

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    Pledge US$ 1,500 or more About US$ 1,500

    HORSEPERSON OF THE APOCALYPSE: In addition to the rewards from the Mapmaker tier, we'll invite you as a guest of honor at our launch party in NYC, buy you a drink, and drunkenly slur stories about the game's development at you! (Venue to be determined. Backer is responsible for their own travel and lodging.)

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Funding period

- (30 days)