Project image
pledged of £100,000pledged of £100,000 goal
Funding Canceled
Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on Oct 8 2013
Gameware EuropeBy Gameware Europe
First created
Gameware EuropeBy Gameware Europe
First created
pledged of £100,000pledged of £100,000 goal
Funding Canceled
Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on Oct 8 2013

Concept Art and Game Design

Posted by Gameware Europe (Creator)

Fresh from the mind of Chris Sorrell we can now reveal the latest in our direction for the game, the High Concept, what Chris has planned and some early concept art!

It's long, but bear with us because there's some awesome stuff in there, that inspires some great imagery, asks some questions and gives not too much away about whatever Chris has planned next. Enjoy!

A high level design update from Chris:

Hello! …And thank you so much for all the support you've shown Pond so far!

We started this campaign with a clear end goal: to make a brand new Pond game. Our quality goals were clear: to make a 2014 James Pond that is as good for 'now', as the original games were for 'then' ...better hopefully! And of course we had some fairly clear goals for style and content: it should still be a 2d platformer, it should feature the best mechanics from the old games, it should continue Pond's mission with all of the quirky, off the wall and frequently random humour of the old games. ...What we didn't have any clear idea about: the actual high level concept that might unite all of those other objectives and start to bring some substance to the whole initiative!

Over the last week I've been starting to think about exactly that… Trying to mentally dust off old ideas that missed their window of opportunity when I left Pond behind in 1995, or ideas I've had since then that are only possible in a world as accommodating as Pond's. I've also been thinking about new story and design elements that might reflect what Pond has been up to since we last saw him defeat Dr Maybe and his giant robotic cow at the end of Pond 3, and not least that reflect the kind of world he might find himself in now, twenty years past his glory days.

Each of the original games had as a loose initial inspiration a classic Commodore 64 game that made an impression on me in my childhood. For Pond 1 it was 'Gribbly's Day Out' - the flying mechanic turned into swimming. For Pond 2 it was 'Thing on a Spring': the toy factory and overall bouncy feel. For Pond3… well actually that wasn't inspired by such modest sources - for that one I had the loftier goal of wanting to take the best qualities of contemporary Sonic and Mario games and somehow outdoing them both (despite our far more modest team size)! ...Well that was kinda foolish, so this time I think a return to the classics is due: 'Bounty Bob Strikes Back'. I'll explain how that relates a little later...

By now you're probably thinking: 'TELL US ABOUT THE DAMN CONCEPT ALREADY!' Ok - no need to shout - I'll do just that...

After the dramatic events of James Pond 2: Codename Robocod, Santa moved his toy production to a brand new, high security facility. His original factory stood abandoned, gradually falling into darkness and decay. Twenty years later the stories began. ...Stories of strange sounds coming from the derelict facility at night. ...Stories of missing toys. ...Stories of missing penguins. ...Stories that pretty soon reached the ever alert ears of crack underwater intelligence agency FI5H...

Special Agent James Pond is one week away from retirement. His legendary missions have taken him to the moon and back, have seen him mature from fresh faced guppy into grizzled super-agent. Now he is called upon for one last job: to return to the Arctic, back to the site of his most high profile case. His mission: learn the secrets of the shadowy factory and recover the missing penguins. This is -

James Pond: Terror Fin

Equipped with a full arsenal of tactical toys: the latest revision robo-suit, rail-boots, and bubble gun, Pond will explore the crumbling toy facility. He will find himself trapped in the domain of the Lost Toys. One by one he will face these crazed, broken play things and the bloodthirsty creatures pulling their strings. He will uncover a dastardly plot like nothing he has seen before, and at the heart of it all a familiar yet altogether changed foe from his own past.

...So there's only a few paragraphs here, but I think (at least I hope - really you guys are the judges!) that this sets us on a very interesting path. Firstly I really like the idea of returning to the world of Robocod. I'm sure virtually all of us would agree that this was the most fun world (and game) of the original three and I think that's because if you're making a crazy, whimsical platform game, there really is no better place to be than a toy factory! ...It has more character, colour, and licence for warped creative abstraction than just about anywhere else I can think of! Add to that the fact that we get to make more than a few nostalgic nods to past Pond and really, where could be better? (By the way, I'm all for there being a strong vein of nostalgia running through this new concept but personally I don't want to see that dominate proceedings - we need to make a game that can stand on its own merits too).

Next, I like the notion that we might get to see what that old Robocod playground looks like after twenty years of decay. Some might see this an an incredibly on the nose metaphor for how I see the state of the James Pond brand after all these years, but no! ...You're wrong I say! ...Anyhow, I think this would be a cool place to re-visit when we're giving ourselves the licence to show old stuff in a new, warped form, show places we never saw before, and using the whole environment to frame story events that can truly take our feisty fishy friend into the new Millennium (pun intended!).

What about Pond? Well here I like the idea of playing up all of those cliches you always get in the cop/action films: a grizzled hero, his last week before retirement, etc. …It just seems like a funny way to think about how Pond might now be, and a fun way to allow us to do a little pastiching of things like Metal Gear Solid, Die Hard, maybe even Se7en! One of my favourite things about Pond 2 was how the title 'Robocod' managed to mash together a light-hearted cartoon fish game with an uber-violent R-rated movie cyborg - we need to find more juxtapositional clinches to throw Pond into! Would he look good with an eye patch? I'd like to to find out. I'd also like to think more about how events in the game might literally re-invigorate Pond as a character while giving us some fun new mechanics to play with. ...Watch this space!

What did I mean earlier with my reference to 'Bounty Bob Strikes Back'? Well firstly if you don't know that retro classic, go find an emulator and play it - it's awesome! (And it's predecessor Miner 2049er equally so …in fact that one really holds a special place in my heart as the first - and for six months the ONLY - game I had to play on my first computer, an Atari 400 back in 1983!). Its relevance to a Pond game? Well those games were great platformers that in addition to their neat core runny/jumpy mechanics, also featured a whole load of great little environment based gadgets: cannons, conveyor belts, crushers, teleporters, lifts, etc. …What could be better suited to a game set in a factory than stuff like this? Even teleporters - I mean this used to be Santa's factory after all, and I'm sure none of us are buying the whole travelling-round-the-world-in-a-sleigh, coming-down-the-chimney baloney as a viable gift delivery method, right? …Oh and beyond Bounty Bob, if any of this sounds like it could be channeling a little a bit of Castlevania too, well why not?!

Then there are the penguins. Of course I hated having to sully my nice, lovingly crafted game with evil product placement back in 1991, but apparently a fair few of you came to regard those pesky penguins as an integral part of Robocod's charm. Who am I to argue? …But that still doesn't mean I have to like them, right? So I was thinking it might be fun - assuming we're allowed to use them - to have the penguins adopt a more antagonistic role this time around. Dr Maybe's nefarious new scheme has him having developed a serum that will turn anything - even pure, fun loving penguins - into blood-thirsty vampiric monsters. I can picture their little beady eyes glinting with malevolence as they follow orders, locked in his alpha-vamp thrall. (Side note: I truly feel guilty about how many of you may have grown up believing that the arctic is home to flocks of frolicking penguins. I'm sorry to tell you: it really isn't. For the sake of future generations, this time there really needs to be a strong disclaimer: 'Warning: this game may not be an accurate reflection of the real world, go read some books' ...that kind of thing?).

Finally there's Dr Maybe. So yes, I'm suggesting that he's now a *vampire*. Ok, yes, I know vampires have been done to death… I'm sorry… But I think this really just fits so well (and I guess I still want to channel a few ideas that we never got to finish with 'The Curse of Count Piracula'!). ...I can just picture him with his lab coat worn away into tattered vamp wings, his white collar popped to the max as he bares his fangs at Pond with a hateful hiss! Of course he's holed up in a crazy science-lab-come-crypt deep in the heart of this dark, foreboding castle (the factory). As always he has a plan for world domination. …His evil new serum will 'turn' anyone who drinks it, causing them to sprout fangs, and bringing them totally under his command. Now he once again has access to all of Santa's secret devices and of course he's planning an extra special Christmas gift for boys and girls all over the world! …Only Pond can stop him from releasing an army of ankle biting maniacs! If we can squeeze in a '30 Days of Night' reference or two along the way then so much the better!

So that's basically the high concept - I really hope you guys approve. I also have some ideas for graphic style and presentation. I'd like to see a game that's fundamentally 2d, but created within a 3d world where we can do some neat visual stuff and perhaps - from time to time - turn your level expectations on their head. Not quite ready to talk about that in too much detail - it's the kind of stuff that needs a bit of prototyping work before making promises… How retro styled is all of this? Well that's something we can discuss... Personally I'd rather not go 'full retro' (i.e. the low-res pixelly look). I'd rather remain true to my original philosophy: just to try and make slick, polished use of the target platform ...but of course the right look will be one that's evocative of and consistent with its roots too. Suggestions welcome!

No doubt there's a ton of stuff still to figure out: the exact player abilities (definitely an enhanced robo suit in the mix), power-ups, gadgets (of course a bath-tub), environment themes, bosses, etc… But in my experience - and especially in a world as creatively liberating as Pond's - those things almost design themselves if the core concept of the game is strong enough. I *think* this one is, and I really do think this could be the basis of the best Pond yet!


Only backers can post comments. Log In
    1. Trepan on

      @Osian Thanks for the feedback. I like your 'back from retirement' suggestion. I'm ashamed to say I haven't seen Skyfall so that approach hadn't occurred to me :) I do think the vampire thing would be cool and fun to explore!

    2. Osian Llewelyn Edwards on

      That's a pretty cool concept! I love the idea of revisiting Arctic Toys, and having Pond be older and more battle-hardened. Having said that, I'm not so convinced by the vampiric angle - it could work well to lend a Gothic look to the art style, but personally I feel vampires are better suited to genres other than a spy-centric action platformer. I'm willing to give it a go, though - I wouldn't have backed, otherwise!

      Also, I reckon the week-away-from-retirement gag would actually work better if it was done in a more Skyfall-esque way. Rather than leaving F.I.5.H., it might be better that Pond is generally past his prime due to 20 years of inactivity. Better yet, could Pond be called back in *from* retirement, as F.I.5.H. know that's he's the only fish with the experience to take on Dr Maybe? (On the subject of Bond/fish pun titles, may I suggest FryFall?)

      Again, you can take or leave my comments - I'm no games designer, and I'm just glad to see Pond given the chance to shine again. I look forward to following Pond 4's progress!

    3. Cariad Eccleston on

      I'm totally jazzed about this concept! I'm so happy you're planning a 2D platformer and nothing too wacky (though "wacky" is a relative term in Pond's world...)

    4. Trepan on

      @jennytablina - Don't worry, certainly nothing disrespectful about your comments - your points gave me the chance to clarify something that was certainly a little vague in my write up. Besides... honest feedback and discussion are tools to make things better :) Hope you enjoy the Jak games. Naughty Dog were amazing back then just as they're amazing now (just somewhat more light-hearted in their tone).

      @ChrisJCapel - Sure, swimming levels sound good to me! As for the level presentation format, that's far from pinned down. I like the idea of the factory exterior continuing to function as a hub to connect levels. I also like the possibility of going a little bit 'Metroid' with things opening up more organically based on acquisition of abilities. There need to be plenty of hidden bonus levels as part of the mix.

      For sure there will be plenty of discussion about getting the right name if we're able to move forward. Personally I think the best names are the type where the puns truly feed into the concept as both James Pond and Robocod do. Pond 3's subtitle was certainly weaker. Knowing a bit more about Pond's new ability should help us.

      Thanks again for the feedback!

    5. Missing avatar

      deleted on

      This user's account has been deleted.

    6. Chris J Capel on

      Silly Dark - totally fine with this. In fact all of it I'm fine - hi-res pixels included.

      Fun idea - if the main game will be Robocod-style, how about the occasional special level (akin to the Warp Levels in Super Mario Sunshine) in the style of James Pond 1?

      The only thing I think needs work is the name. I think a selection of titles opened up to backers to vote on might be a fun idea. "Robocod 2" or something along those lines might get you more backers for instance (I'm open to the fact finances come first!) but if it's riffing on the older, grizzled agent that's common right now maybe going off of Skyfall would work better - like the tier title on the side, "SkyShoal". I insist on a movie/fish pun in the name, dammit! I'm still in denial about Splash Gordon's title change...

    7. Trepan on

      Thanks for the feedback guys! Glad you (mostly) like the ideas :)

      @jennytablina - I can absolutely reassure you that I'm not a fan of dark and edgey reboots of games myself. For example I loved 'Jak & Daxter' on PS2, but was almost put off 'Jak 2' by redesigned scowly goatee Jak (although I persevered and it became one of my favourite games for a host of other reasons). What I'm proposing here is only 'silly dark' in a way that should be totally consistent with Pond. I don't know if you remember the vampire fish found inside the sunken ship-wreck in Pond1? ...Those are my yardstick for what a vampire looks like in Pond's world. Perhaps vampire Dr Maybe would be a little more fearsome than that, but still very much flash and fangs without any *real* bite. Hope that works for you!

      I never played Disgaea but having looked up Prinnies - I like the look of those guys - is that a bad thing?

    8. Missing avatar

      Elliott Wildon on

      Love the new concept Chris! Im really stoked to see Pond returning to the toy factory! Plus penguins in tow \o/

      Very much anticipating further updates and continually praying that funding is successful!

    9. Missing avatar

      deleted on

      This user's account has been deleted.

    10. Missing avatar

      Kevin Wylie on

      This sounds like a really clever idea. I can definitely see why you would revisit the Robocod setting and I adore the idea that the world has aged parallel to real life.

      the concept of a darker storyline yet still keeping it in the Robocod setting, making it an entirely new game and concept yet still familiar, is incredibly appealing to me - an original James Pond player - and it should still appeal to younger audiences.

      I'm so glad to hear that Dr. Maybe is still the villain. In my eyes, this was a must and you have delivered.

      It will be interesting to see how you adapt the colourful world to match the darker storyline yet retaining the wackiness of James Pond.

      I am very excited to see this project develop and look forward to more James Pond news.