About this project
Wow! $40K! I am now committed to making at least 20% more content; the first person mode; and the Oculus Rift support for those backing at Beta and higher.
The next stretch goal, $55K seems oceans away, so here's what I'm going to do over the last few hours: For every $500 we raise after the $40K, I will commit to contracting original animation to add a "move" to the game - a flip, spin, grab, pose - something.
We've already hit $40.5K, so that means I'm already going to get at least one more midair move in there.
This is just fantastic. So excited. Thank you all so much!!
I’m Jamie Fristrom, and back in the dark ages I was technical director and designer on the Spider-Man 2 game, the one that came out with the movie. Unlike most movie license games, Spider-Man 2 turned out pretty good, and one of the reasons was its crazy swinging system, a system that I invented. Players who dove deep into the system really got a sense of what it might feel like to swing from rooftop to rooftop, holding onto dear life from a tiny thread, as momentum and gravity did their work.
Famous game reviewers “Yahtzee” Croshaw of Zero Punctuation and Daniel Hardcastle of NerdCubed have both gone off on how much they liked the swinging form Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 2 is on both of their "top five games of all time" lists. (Here's Yahtzee's; NerdCubed says it in the video.) Many other reviewers loved the feel of the game's revolutionary swinging system, and the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences nominated it for their Excellence in Gameplay Engineering award.
You can’t find gameplay like it these days, so I've decided to bring something like it back. And Energy Hook is that something.
Working on Tony Hawk games gave me an appreciation for games that reward you for style, and something I never really got to do with the mechanics in Spider-Man 2 was explore that. So this is an opportunity for me to do just that, create a swinging game where style is just as important as speed, where mixing up wall-runs and loops and big air with your swings is more important than just getting from point A to point B.
So imagine a future in which the 'energy hook'—a tractor-beam device normally used in construction—is re-purposed by young athletes out for a thrill. Energy Hook becomes the extreme underground sport of the future—the players use their home-made energy hook gauntlets to swing through obstacle courses, racing in winner-gets-your-tech competitions, competing in speed and style.
And did I mention you’ll have a jetpack?
Energy Hook will be for PC, Mac, and Linux.
"I know how to make you want to spend money. Imagine if I told you the guy who wrote the rope-swinging for Spider-Man 2 was making a new game using the same mechanic. See! You want to spend money right now! …. You'd have to be dead to the core to not be at least interested in giving that a go." - Rock, Paper, Shotgun
"I'm going to go ahead and back this, just because Spider-Man 2 was one of my favorite games of the last generation, and the video on the Kickstarter looks amazingly fun. I'm not saying you should give him money, but I really think you should give him some money." - Penny-Arcade
"Man makes fun part of Spider-Man 2 game, makes new game from just the fun part? I can dig it." - Yahtzee Croshaw
"Bugger. There goes all my money." - NerdCubed
"I'd play that game for sure! ... Can't wait to back it!" - Tim Schafer, President of Double Fine
"I really think you should at least vote this up on Steam Greenlight and if you want to see this maybe get some cool stuff added in pitch a dollar or two on the Kickstarter ... I wouldn't be saying this if it wasn't a cool game. Do it for Peter! And do it for me because I want to play this game. I want to play this." - Rockcock64
"It's really quite fun. I've been playing it nonstop ... I just want to swing, and swing some more ... It's so satisfying. Lovely." - Sproginator
"...it’s possible that the finished game will literally have our jaws on the floor while we swing around a city running up the side of buildings..." - ShogunGamer
"Have you ever been playing a Spider-Man game and thought to yourself "Man, this game is great, but would be much better with JETPACKS."? Well, your dreams have come true..." - gamrReview
"It's super satisfying to nail successive swings." - Chris Jurney, Supergiant Games
"The mechanics work. Beautifully. It's all the exhilaration I thought it would be ... Keyboard-mouse is beautiful. Tight, responsive, correct default controls." - Vartul Srivastava
"I enjoyed the game enough to hunt down every virtual geocache in the final level, and to keep playing for quite some time beyond that." - Alec Lofquist
"Even if it is PreAlpha, it is still fun enough to play for several hours ... I am really looking forward to seeing where you are going with the game!" - H1bbe
"The game's already excellent fun ... I've had a real blast playing it." - Andrew Dinmore
You've probably noticed the one dollar funding goal and are wondering WTF?
In short, as I’ve been working on this game I’ve fallen in love with it, and I’m going to finish it, no matter what, even if I don’t raise a dime. Now, since I went indie years ago I’ve been bleeding money, and I don't know how much indie resolve I have left. And having a family to support, it would be irresponsible of me to keep working on the game for too much longer or blow what’s left of our savings on it, which is why I’m trying to raise some money—to get an idea of how much people want this game, and find out how much more time and money I can responsibly spend. So it’s up to you: whether I’m going to spend just a few months tying a bow on this and shipping it, or, in my dream world, spend many months, bring more people onto the team, and do something super-extra-awesome.
In a way, this is what a lot of indie games, like Overgrowth, Prison Architect, and Desktop Dungeons, do to fund development—through preorder campaigns—but I’m using Kickstarter to concentrate it into one month so I can get a good idea, right off the bat, what budget I have for this project.
I already love this game and think it's easily going to be worth your money—at the very least it’ll have five levels, thirty challenges, and give you hours of enjoyment. But it could be so much more. And it's up to you to make that happen!
In other words, I don’t need your money. But I need your money.
I’m a jack-of-all-trades programmer and game designer who has been making video games for over twenty years. I was the second employee at Treyarch, where I worked on games like Die By The Sword, Tony Hawk, and Spider-Man, and helped that company grow to the behemoth it is today.
Here's some nice things some pretty cool people have said about me:
"Jamie has a great game design sensibility and a knack for thinking outside the box. He is one of my favorite people to work with - and I am looking forward to whatever he comes up with!" -Richard Garfield, creator of Magic: The Gathering
"I loved his work on Die By The Sword, still one of my faves." - Brian Fargo, CEO of Inxile Entertainment
"Jamie was the rock on which the Spider-Man 2 team was built." -Greg John, producer on Spider-Man 2
It Looks Like The Character Is Automatically Grappling. Can You Control What Your Energy Hook Attaches To In The Game?
I've been getting asked that one a lot, and the answer is yes! The way you point your character is the direction the hook attaches. The cone of green lasers shows how your energy hook searches for something to attach to.
Your Energy Line Always Connects To Something, Right? It Would Be So Uncool If It Just Attached To Empty Air.
That would be uncool. Not on my watch. There's always something solid your energy hook attaches to, be it building or cell tower or sky bridge. Not only is that more "realistic", but it's a better game as well - the terrain around your character matters.
What's the Game-Game-Type-Game Part Like? How Do You Win? How Do You Keep Score?
Players familiar with early Tony Hawk games and SSX will recognize the "macro game"—as a player in the underground Energy Hook league, you'll participate in a series of challenges: some races, some score-attack, and some 'Can you do this?' Completing the challenges unlocks more challenges and, if we make our first stretch goal, new gear. There are multiple challenges to choose from, so if you get stuck on one you can work on another.
Like in SSX, doing tricks fills up a meter that lets you use your special powers, in particular your jetpack's speed boost—but we have an in-story justification for it: your character is always playing in front of an online audience, and when you do tricks, they Like and +1 and Upvote you the energy you need to use the specials. (They'll also like it when you bail, if we hit that stretch goal. They're fickle that way.)
I don't have a gamepad. Will it support keyboard & mouse? Will it suck that way?
I've already implemented a keyboard + mouse control scheme, and I'm happy to report that about half of my playtesters so far prefer it to the gamepad version—therefore it must be about as good. Mission accomplished!
Is there a story?
There is, though it's subject to change, and whether it's all just subtext or presented as in-game narrative depends on how much money is raised.
You play as Delilah, one-time Energy Hook great who has been out of the competition for years--raising her daughter--and now needs to get back in to pay for her daughter's medical bills. Maybe not as daunting as it sounds, with the anti-aging medical technology of The Future, but still, she'll have to learn the ropes all over again, as she competes to earn her way back up to the top of the Energy Hook league. An old friend, crippled in an Energy Hook accident, will help her through these tough channels and the changes that have happened in the sport since her heyday.
I’m making the stretch goals a bit conservative, because I don't want to make any promises I can't keep, and because I want to leave enough slack in the schedule to respond to Alpha player feedback. But rest assured, every dollar raised buys more time to make more game!
$10,000: Social leaderboards and trophies, plus Gear Customization feature. REACHED
Unlock new capabilities and adjust parameters on your jetpack, energy hook, and gravity boots that let you play the game the way that feels best to you.
$20,000: Linux support and new feature: zipping. REACHED
Be able to play on Linux, and adjust the length of your energy hook in mid-air, or push a button to retract all the way, zipping you up to dizzying heights.
$30,000: Original music and audio by Brian Luzietti.
Brian Luzietti is a veteran game musician and sound effects designer who has worked on an insane number of titles, including Descent, Fallout, Die By The Sword, and a nearly endless list of NBA, NHL, NFL, and ESPN sports titles. (Which could just come in handy here.) He’s the $30,000 [≈ Average in-state public tuition (four years) (2009)] stretch goal, and if we raise that much, everyone who backed the game at Beta level or above will get a digital copy of the soundtrack.
"Dude, what do you mean I'm just a stretch goal!?" - Brian Luzietti.
$40,000: New Level: "Wallrun Heaven"; First Person Mode; and Oculus Rift Support
Doesn't this sound like it would be cool with VR? A handful of people have suggested they'd like to play it with the Oculus Rift.
Sounds cool to me, too, but doesn’t that mean it ought to be First Person instead of Third Person? So there’s going to be a lot of work to do to make it work with the Oculus Rift. And I’ll be honest with you: I bet it’ll be too hard to control, and could induce motion sickness. Finally, most people don’t have an Oculus Rift, so I don’t want to spend their money pursuing an experiment that might not even work.
So what I decided to do was this: yes, I’ll make Oculus Rift support part of an early stretch goal, but also only give it to the people who support at the Beta level or above. In other words, if you want the Oculus Rift support, you need to kick in a little extra.
Side note - the first-person mode should be...interesting...even without the Oculus Rift, and everybody will get to try that.
Also: additional level, one with lots of long walls pointing at each other to make for a wall-running paradise.
$55,000: Midair Tricks and Animation Makeover
This used to be the $110K goal but now we have Spider-Man 2 animation director James Zachary offering to help us out.
Not only will we be able to improve the animations that are in there now, we'll add flips, grabs, spins, "boneless" and more.
$70,000: Rail sliding/grinding.
Be able to grind rails and ledges; retrofit all the existing levels, including the bonus ones, to put opportunities to grind everywhere. Will be great for lining up stylish chains.
$90,000: Additional, seventh level: Sky City! & ragdoll bails.
A floating city in the sky. A whole new set of building assets and floating platforms to create this cloud city with a whole new look.
The ragdoll bails will be a mode where you eat it when you hit a wall or an edge too hard, and let us do a sort of 'stair dismount' mode where you get points for breaking bones.
$110,000: Additional, eighth level: Underground City & slides & ziplining.
A city built in a giant underground cavern. The cavernous roof will mean there's always something to swing from.
Slides and ziplining are two features I experimented with early in development that have fallen by the wayside. Slides are like baseball slides - when you hit a wall or roof at speed, you can go into a slide for style points. Ziplining is a mode when you attach to a slanted ceiling your energy hook can slide down it - like a zipline. I'll be able to bring these experimental features back and make them a proper part of the game.
$130,000: Art Makeover
With this much funding we can afford to bring on a full-time artist for several months to make across-the-board improvements in the game's look.
I'll provide more details on this as we get closer to the goal.
And there's more I'd love to do after that. But I don't want to jinx it, so I'm going to stop there for now, and leave those future stretch goals locked, until we see how the Kickstarter does. Wish us luck!
I will absolutely be Kicking it Forward. 5% of profits will go to help crowdfunding other projects.
"I can't wait to play it!"
If you can't wait to play Energy Hook, you want to be backing at the Alpha level. As you can see, the game is playable right now, and after just a little more work I'm going to let my baby out in the world. In June, in fact, less than two months away.
There's an additional benefit to being an Alpha: you'll be able to give feedback and help steer the direction of the game while it's still in its early stages. Maybe your sweet idea will make it into the final game!
"I came, I saw, I bought the t-shirt!"
An incredibly scientific poll I did on the Energy Hook Facebook page let me know that the only physical merchandise Energy Hook fans wanted was t-shirts. So t-shirts you shall receive. Exclusive, backers-only t-shirts that let the world know you are a supporter of the Videogame Arts. These will be made by Forward Printing (forwardprinting.com) and therefore really nice. (These designs are not necessarily final.)
New Physical Backer Reward - The Happion Labs Logo Felt Hoop
Catshy Crafts (aka my wife) will make you, with her own sweat and tears, a hand-stitched felt replica of the Happion Laboratories logo. It will look something like this, but made of wood, felt and stitching:
Check out her website to get an idea what her stuff looks like.
"I Can Make A Level For The Game!?"
I was looking at other Kickstarter projects and thinking it was a bit lame that people were donating a thousand dollars to get, like, a tavern named after them or whatever, and then did exactly that with my own. (At least there's only five taverns in my game - it's valuable because it's rare!) But I also thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if they got to create a whole level?"
But wait: not everyone knows how to make a videogame level. Which is why I then thought, "What if I offered one-on-one online (or in person, if they happen to be in the Seattle area) instruction and worked together with these budding level designers to make these levels?"
So that's what I'm doing.
What I'm imagining is at certain times the Energy Hook protagonist, Delilah, has to sleep. And when she sleeps she dreams about Energy Hook. And those dreams are the Bonus Levels that you all will make. Maybe sometimes they're pretty much like the regular Energy Hook levels; maybe sometimes they're COMPLETELY CRAZY. It's up to you. (But I get final cut.)
"But wait," you say, "that means I'd be paying you to work for you?"
Oh, no, you're onto me! Yes! Yes, you would! But it still could be a good deal! You're getting experience and credit working on a game with a veteran developer for a lot less than the price of going to game design school.
Also: you'll be keeping the rights to the stuff you make—so you can use what you create in your own games.
Make sure you have several solid days to work on your level before signing up for this - if your level isn't done in time we just might have to ship without it.
I know, it's a crazy idea. So crazy it just might work!
Risks and challenges
Old-timers like me might be wondering how we can make a whole 3D game with almost no funding. Don't they cost millions to make? That's what I used to think until I started working on this—I can't believe how easy modern tools, outsourcing, and stock assets make it to make a game these days. You kids have no idea what it used to be like! I would have needed a team of a dozen people or more to make this game ten years ago.
Also, you can see yourself from the pitch video (and on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH… ) how far the game has already come. So far I've just spent about six person-months on the project (working part-time for almost a year), and feel I'm 99% of the way to something I'm willing to put in your hands to try. I've already let some players try it and once I've responded to some of their more important feedback I'll let those of you who are backing at the Alpha level have a go.
Experienced game developers know that a game still has a long way to go after its first playable. Fortunately I have a lot of project management experience and have shipped a lot of titles. While several of the games I've led have come in a little late or a little over budget, I've shipped all of them, with two exceptions : a game that ended up never getting greenlit by the publisher we were chasing (RIP Torpex Games), and an RPG that I couldn't finish because the publisher went out of business first (RIP Mindcraft.) Also, I used to write the "Manager in a Strange Land" column for Gamasutra, and have given several talks on the subject at various conferences. So this project is in good hands.
Thank you so much for your time and attention. Let's make this great, together.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The game is on Steam Greenlight, and if it makes it you'll get steam keys. So vote it up: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/…
Whether it makes it or not, I'll also give you the executable for the platform of your choice, DRM-free, if that's what you prefer.
PC, Mac, and Linux
Not right out of the gate, no - it uses Unity, and Unity doesn't make it easy to build modding into your game yet. (But Unity's always evolving, so maybe someday.)
What I do hope to do further down the road is make parts of the game - including the swinging mechanism - available for people to use in their own Unity projects, so they'll be able to make standalone mods that way.
Will we still get updates after we get our version of the game? Will I get Gamma if I'm Beta? Will I get 1.1 if I'm Gamma?
Of course! That would be lame if you didn't. Sorry it's not clear. If you back at Omega you'll also get Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and future updates; if you back at Alpha you'll also get Beta, Gamma, and future updates; if you back at Gamma you'll also get future updates.
I've talked to Nintendo and the answer is: probably!
But I haven't looked into it deeply enough to know whether I want to promise it for the Kickstarter as part of a stretch goal or not. Developing for the Wii U is very affordable, so I could port the game there spending hardly any of the funds we raise here, but it would take a few months and be something I'd do after I finish the game for PC.
It's not that powerful a jetpack! It really just lets you do assisted jumps and boosts. Good for getting extra height, bursts of speed, maybe clearing some obstacles, but it doesn't fly.
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