This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sat, March 30 2019 6:01 AM UTC +00:00.
Silk is a Sandbox RPG Adventure Game and a tribute to the late Mike Singleton, especially his groundbreaking 1984 game The Lords of Midnight.
The engine used to produce the world of Silk has an identical design to the original ‘landscaping engine’ he designed, although it uses 2D assets rendered in Unity to create a more vibrant feeling wilderness with retro roots and a contemporary lo-fi vibe. All the exploration and warfare of the original will be here, along with trading and recruiting Advisors who make up an RPG party inspired by the Clan Ring of King of Dragon Pass.
Join us for the adventure on PC, Mac and consoles - you can also download and play the PC demo right now! (More information about the demo below).
With a lo-fi visual aesthetic and a lightweight interface that delivers endless engaging decisions, Silk is an innovative role-playing adventure like no other. Rise into glory by running your caravan from the Roman Empire to war-torn Three Kingdoms China. Defend yourself from bandits, sandstorms, and rebellions by hiring Advisors skilled in everything from battle to wayfinding. Fall in love with your own unique party of Advisors and the enchanting world of the Ancient Silk Road in 200 AD.
Recruit: Choose the Advisers to protect and advise your caravan
Do you want the best Guide, or someone who is skilled in both Wayfaring and Battle? Will you hire Merchants and Camels and transport goods, or Guards and Horses and raid other caravans? Will you befriend the locals with Ritegivers who can take part in the regional ceremonies, or defy the gods and go your own way?
Travel: Follow the paths between the great cities of the Silk Road
Find your own path through the wilderness, or travel faster by taking the more direct roads. However, you must keep your eyes on the road ahead – a rock fall, bandit ambush, or sandstorm might lie in your path. Do you face the danger, or turn back and take a longer route?
Lead: Listen to your Advisors and make the best decisions you can
Everywhere you go, four of your party will suggest options. In the city, do you hire a Soldier and some Guards to protect you, or save the silver to buy more spices for trade? In the wilds, do you stop to hunt for food, or hope you can make it to town before your supplies run out?
Fate: Traverse the Silk Road, or raise an army to claim a Kingdom!
Each game begins by choosing a Heroic Destiny – will you be the first traveller to cross the entire length of the Silk Road and back? Or will you forge a trading empire that spans the world? Or will you raise an army and overthrow the Parthian Empire, or build your own kingdom?
Travel the Silk Road… Forge your own destiny!
“The djinn are fighting in the deserts of Takla Makan,” your guide informs you. “We must turn back to Kashgar!” But your head guard looks less convinced... “Forget these foolish superstitions,” she says, “let us upend the wagons — we can shelter from the storm here.” What do you choose?
Enter the incredible wildernesses of 200AD in this one-of-a-kind videogame experience!
200AD: Roman Empire to Three Kingdoms China
There are five different cultural powers along the Ancient Silk Road, four great Empires, plus the many Nomad clans, some of which have great power.
Imperial Rome, the Mediterranean’s melting pot
The frontier territories of Assyria and Mesopotamia are the furthest east that Rome power stretches — and it is not unchallenged here. Roman Advisors include disgraced nobles from the heart of the Empire, legionnaires retired from service, herders from Britannia, and Egyptian merchants, all curious about the riches of the east…
Parthian Empire, bitter enemies of the Romans
For more than two centuries now, the Parthian Empire and Rome have battled over ancient Babylon and laid siege to each others citadels, but the battle remains unresolved (and will remain so until almost five hundred years later). Parthians build citadels strong enough to withstand a long siege, and their cavalry strikes obliterate exhausted troops that try to retreat.
The newly established Kushan Empire, rulers of Ancient India
Here Buddhism and the cult of the storm god Shiva collides with Zoroastrian fire temples, the Greek sun god Helios, and the lion goddess Nana. No power ever had such a diverse set of gods appear on its coinage, and the Kushan have grown rich off the trade flowing down the newly-established Silk Road, especially through trading their magnificent horses, which are the envy of their neighbours...
Han Empire, crumbling into the chaos of the Three Kingdoms era
The first great empire of the world, but now its ruling dynasty is usurped and three powerful kingdoms are about to vie for control of Ancient China. Merchants, soldiers, and peasants all flee the collapsing imperial territory, seeking their fortune by trading their unique silks, which the wealthy of all lands covet.
Some clans are harmless traders, but others have great numbers and immense skill with horses. The Xiongnu confederation of the ‘Sea of Death’ (the great Takla Makan desert) have gone toe-to-toe with the Han Empire on many occasions, at recently took the walled city of Turfan under their control. The Nomad horse lords have consolidated their hold on the desert at the eastern end of the Ancient Silk Road, and are eager to prove themselves further...
Silk is a tribute to the late Mike Singleton, especially his groundbreaking 1984 game The Lords of Midnight. The engine used to produce the world of Silk has an identical design to the original ‘landscaping engine’ he designed, although it uses 2D assets rendered in Unity to create a more vibrant feeling wilderness with retro roots and a contemporary lo-fi vibe. Although all the fighting and besieging of the original is certainly going to be a part of this game.
Silk also includes more Elite-like trading and exploration - we're basically making Elite on the Ancient Silk Road. Additionally, the roster of Advisors is inspired by the Clan Ring in King of Dragon Pass. In that game, you can listen to the elders of the clan to decide what strategy to follow. In Silk, your roster of Advisors serves to offer you a set of up to four choices for every location and encounter. It’s like the party in a Japanese RPG except there’s no pre-scripted story — you decide which course of action to follow at every step of the journey. Our scripting language, SilkSpeak, is also inspired by OSL, the scripting language for King of Dragon Pass. Take a look at the extract below from the Parlay script:
"Hi there! I'm Chris Bateman, a game designer and writer whose worked on over fifty published games with my consultancy International Hobo Ltd. Back in 1999 I had the privilege of working with the magnificent Terry Pratchett on my first game as lead writer and designer, Discworld Noir, who was very supportive of my writing and from whom I learned a great deal more than I deserved to! I picked up critical acclaim for my work on both Noir and Ghost Master, a unique haunting sim released in 2003 that picked up a cult following. I've really loved working on other people's projects, whether its racing franchises like MotorStorm, strategy games like Tropico 6, or horror VR games like The Persistence. But for some time now, I've been feeling like I'd like to get back to working on my own projects, even if that means working on much smaller games. Silk is a game I've wanted to make for more than ten years, but it never felt like the right time. Now I feel like if I don't make this now, I won't get another chance. I hope you'll help me bring this game to life and you can share my fascination with the world of the Ancient Silk Road in 200AD."
ihobo Games is a new developer focusing on innovative, EuroBritish heirloom games. It has been set up by the award-winning game design and narrative consultancy International Hobo Ltd, best known for the games Discworld Noir, Ghost Master, and the Heretic Kingdoms franchise. Our new games wing exists to implement fresh game ideas ("Innovative") that have a British and European perspective ("EuroBritish"), and that have strong roots in the history of videogames ("Heirloom"). Our plan is to make games that honour and pay tribute to classic games – new and old – while finding novel and inventive spins on their gameplay and narrative designs. These 'heirloom games' could be retrogames, or they could simply be a means of passing the player practices of games we've loved onto a new generation. That's what great game development is about – passing something on to the future that was inspired by what we loved in the past.
We can complete a the game as planned for £15,000, including the entire Ancient Silk Road from Damascus to the Takla Makan Desert on the edge of Three Kingdoms China. This Kickstarter is to secure development funds that will be enough to complete the Windows, Linux, and Mac game, after which we will be seeking further funds from our publishing partners to support other platforms. We are offering digital keys for all platforms (PC, Mac, Switch Xbox One, PS4) in the Kickstarter since we are confident we can get a publishing deal to cover porting costs if we succeed in the Kickstarter. We need the Kickstarter money for additional Advisor portraits, not to mention the music and sound effects, all of which has to be commissioned from contractors. We have kept the scope of the game manageable, and already have all the core scripts written as well as a fully fleshed-out map of the Kushan Empire territory.
You can download and play the PC demo to try exploring and trading in the territory of the Kushan Empire, caught between the immense power of the Chinese Han to the east and both the Parthian Empire and the Romans to the west.
The demo version currently features:
- Fully explorable Kushan Empire region
- Caravan of up to seven Advisors you can hire
- Trade in all goods and livestock in every settlement
- Camping and provisions
- Storms, Wild Animal, and Bandit encounters
There is currently limited combat features and no quest-tracking, but try the following freeform quests in any order you like:
- Quest 1: Visit Samarkand
- Quest 2: Capture a Wild Horse
- Quest 3: Perform Rituals to get the Parthian Citadel of Merv 'Friendly'
- Quest 4: Defeat Bandits by hiring a Soldier and Guards
- Quest 5: Capture a Wild Camel
- Quest 6: Acquire 100 Silk
- Quest 7: Trade and perform Rituals to get at least one 'Allied' Kushan Citadel or Town
- Quest 8: Pay your respects to the Buddha's skull by discovering Nagara Vihara Monastery
- Quest 9: Acquire 2,000 Goods
Steam Keys for PC or Mac Version of the Game
We're using Steam to distribute keys for the game for PC or for Mac (you choose). The PC version will run on both Windows and Linux. Additionally, for higher tiers you also receive two free Steam keys to give to your friends!
Digital Keys for Console Versions of the Game
For Switch, Xbox One, and PS4, you can get a digital key to unlock the game on these platforms at the Digital Game Bundle tier or above. You'll also get some Steam keys included so you can get it on PC or Mac as well, or give them away to friends.
1980s Retro Cassette USB drive
The Retro Cassette USB includes the PC or Mac version of the game as well as the original sound track - perfect for adding to your retro games collection. For higher tiers, the Retro Cassette comes with a wild and eclectic selection of Backer-exclusive materials, including the original design documentation, concept art, and much, much, more.
Personal Adviser Portrait
Get yourself into the game! Our Portrait Artist will design one of our characters using a photo of your face as inspiration. For higher tiers, not only will one of the Advisors in the game be inspired by a photo of your face, but you'll get a canvas print of your Advisor portrait emblazoned with the Silk logo.
Each Advisor is assigned a Culture and a Class.
The Cultures are:
- Roman (also includes some options for Celt - see below)
- Parthian (Ancient Iran)
- Kushan (Ancient India)
- Han (Three Kingdoms China)
- Nomad (roving masters of the horse)
The Classes are:
- Guide (helps find a path and survive in the wild)
- Soldier (defend against bandits and lead the guards)
- Merchant (strike deals in towns and cities)
- Drover (look after the animals)
- Ritegiver (perform rituals to appease the gods and befriend the locals)
The full list of available Advisors is as follows:
- Roman Soldier Male (Legionnaire)
- Roman Soldier Female (Legionnaire)
- Celt Female (portrait could be used as Guide, Drover, or Ritegiver in the game)
- Celt Male (portrait could be used as Guide, Drover, or Ritegiver in the game)
- Citizen Female (not available - already in the game)
- Citizen Male (could be used as Merchant or Ritegiver in the game)
- Han Drover Male (could be used as a Drover or a Guide in the game)**
- Han Guide Female (could be used as a Guide or a Drover in the game)
- Han Merchant Female (could be used as a Merchant or a Ritegiver in the game)
- Han Ritegiver Male (could be used as a Ritegiver or a Merchant in the game)
- Han Soldier Female (Three Kingdoms warrior-maiden, bodyguard, or soldier)
- Han Soldier Male (not available - already in the game)
- Kushan Drover Female (could be used as a Drover or a Guide in the game)
- Kushan Guide Male (not available - already in the game)
- Kushan Merchant Male (could be used as a Merchant or a Ritegiver in the game)**
- Kushan Ritegiver Female (could be used as a Ritegiver or a Merchant in the game)
- Kushan Warrior Female (Ancient Indian or Siberian warrior-princess or something similar)
- Kushan Warrior Male (not available - already in the game)
- Nomad Drover Female (not available - already in the game)
- Nomad Rider Male (could be used as a Merchant or a Ritegiver in the game)
- Nomad Ritegiver Female (could be used as a Ritegiver or a Guide in the game)**
- Nomad Warrior Male (could be used as a Soldier or a Guide in the game)
- Parthian Merchant Male (not available - already in the game)
- Parthian Noble Female (could be used as a Ritegiver or a Merchant in the game)
- Parthian Rider Female (could be used as a Drover or a Guide in the game)
- Parthian Rider Male (could be used as a Guide or a Drover in the game)**
- Parthian Soldier Female (Ancient Iranian cavalry rider or something similar)
- Parthian Soldier Male (Ancient Iranian cavalry rider or something similar)
** About to become unavailable
Because the game needs a distributions of Advisors of different Cultures and Classes, as shown above, we are unable to offer every Backer their exact choice, but the sooner you join as a backer the earlier in the Advisor draft you'll come and the better chance of getting the combination you want.
If you are one of the Unlimited Personal Advisor or Ultimate Glory Backers, you can have UNLIMITED choice of Class and Culture for your Personal Advisor Portrait - even if that combination would otherwise not be available. We'll add an entirely new slot to the Advisor Generator just to accommodate your choice.
Exclusive VIP Pub Crawl!
To celebrate the launch of the game, join key members of the Silk team on one of Chris Bateman's famous (or infamous) pub crawls around Manchester's historic wood-paneled pubs!
An evening of drinks and games industry anecdotes, the tour includes buildings that date back to the 16th century and even one that was moved brick-by-brick from another town! You will need to make your own way to Manchester UK for the Pub Crawl, date to be determined with the Pub Crawl Backers.
We're making this game for you to play, and we want to be as transparent as possible about the process. We vouch to provide weekly updates on the progress of the game via blog posts, to share any news about it that we are permitted to by our publishing partners, and to let you know about our successes and challenges along the way.
This project began as part of International Hobo's Intern Programme at the University of Bolton in 2018. All ihobo games staff are graduates from Bolton, and many of the key staff are graduates from the Masters Degree in Game Development. Even Chris got his PhD by Publication from Bolton! We would like to thank all the staff of the Games department at University of Bolton for their dedication to the career success of their undergraduates and Masters students.
We would also like to offer special thanks to Bolton undergraduate programmer Andy Wilson, who as an ihobo intern took on the challenge of prototyping a renderer based upon Mike Singleton's 1984 'landscaping' engine from The Lords of Midnight, and Chris Wild, whose detailed description of that engine in The Art of Landscaping made that possible, and whose encouragement in the early days of the project helped get us to where we are now.
Whatever dream you're working on - keep going!
We hope you'll join us on this special journey!
Risks and challenges
This is a videogame development project, and subject to all of the usual risks that implies e.g. timings for completion are difficult to set in stone, and the final feature set may not match all aspects of the vision we had earlier in development. Console versions (Switch, PS4, Xbox One) depend upon publisher agreements we cannot set up yet, and there is a small risk that we might end up not supporting one of these platforms owing to lack of support from the console licensors or other equivalent roadblocks. However, the engine for the game is already created and most of the scripted content is already drafted, so we feel very confident of completing the game in some form or another, and should the Kickstarter go well it should be relatively straight forward to complete deals for the ports to our target consoles. If you have any questions about the associated risks involved in backing this project, please do not hesitate to ask us about it!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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