KickPicks – An Introduction

In these modern times, when piracy is rife, self-entitlement is rampant, and ‘fuck you’ mentality often reigns, it is refreshing to see that the milk of human kindness hasn’t yet turned completely sour.  Charity may well begin at home, but now so can investment in the things we love – games.  Thanks to the recent highly-publicised Kickstarter campaign by the darling of the adventure industry Tim ‘Monkey Island’ Schafer, to secure funding for his return to the genre, a wealth of gamers and media are now suddenly aware of this intriguing site, which can only be a good thing, in our view.

Founded in 2008 by Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler, is a ‘crowd funding’ platform, which allows the general public to back independent creative projects, ranging from music, films, art and fashion projects and, of course, games.  Backers can opt to pledge as little or as much as they like, with a variety of incentives (artwork, boxed copies, beta access, etc.) usually being dangled for pledging cash at certain tiers, such as $25, $50, $100, and so on.

Of course, with the scheme having been around for some time, many titles have already been successfully backed, such as Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – recently mentioned in our Great GL Adventure Roundup 2012 – but now, with the attention of the gaming community and media firmly upon it, more developers and indies are using the scheme to fund their titles, and more gamers can invest in fledgling projects, giving them a greater chance of becoming the reality that their creators only dreamed of.

The appeal of Kickstarter is that it effectively allows indie developers to bypass the publishers and turn their back on the traditional blood-stained path, instead, forging their own way and maintaining full creative control and rights over their work.  Just as digital distribution opened up a whole new world for indies in getting their games to the masses, without the crippling cost and publisher/retailer/distributor stonewalling of more traditional routes, Kickstarter will (hopefully) make life easier still.  Indeed, things have rarely seemed more rosy for the humble indies.

Many of us have dreams, creative visions, and armchair ambition.  Few of us go on to do anything about them.  Instead, we merely build up a layer of dusty regret beneath our sofas.  For those brave, crazy, and driven few who take the leap, Kickstarter funding offers the chance of realising their creations and giving the rest of us the chance to help them along the way.  While gamers’ enthusiasm is partly out of self-interest – for the reward goodies as much as the games themselves – it will ultimately allow great, weird, and wonderful (as well as some dreadful and disappointing – let’s be honest) titles to fill the void left behind by cautious, playin’ it safe, or niche snob publishers and enrich the hobby we hold so dear.

So why are we here?  Having been drawn in by Cognition and salivated over many current projects, GamingLives will be producing a semi-regular Kick Picks feature, showcasing some of the gems that we have come across buried on the site (yes, their search function is pretty shite) for you lazy bastards to cast your eyes over and, perhaps, even get involved with.  Without further ado, welcome to our first KickPicks showcase.

Moebius and Pinkerton Road
The first game to fall under our beady gaze is Jane Jensen’s Pinkerton Road project.  No, that isn’t the title of a game, but rather the name of Jensen’s newly formed studio, as reported a short time ago on GamingLives.  Pinkerton Road was started up by master storyteller and adventure genre veteran, Jane Jensen, and her hubby Robert Holmes (of The Scarlet Furies who provided the outstanding vocal tracks for the recent Gray Matter).  Their focus is on developing 3rd person adventure titles, and their funding target is $300,00 to develop their first title.

When the campaign began, backers were offered the chance to vote on a choice of three game concepts: Moebius, Gray Matter 2, and Anglophile Adventure, with the winner being the first game to be developed by the newly formed studio.  After keeping an eye on the page and casting our own vote, Moebius eventually triumphed and the funding page has subsequently been updated to reflect the project now in development, delivering regular updates, and videos.  If the funding is doubled to a whopping $600,000, then Pinkerton Road will produce a second title this season, which is likely to be one of the two runner up games – Gray Matter 2 or Anglophile Adventure.

So what is Moebius?
Moebius focuses on a Manhattan antiquities dealer, Malachi Rector who, after his classy store is ravaged by fire, is hired by billionaire Amble Dexter to investigate and document a series of events – the first of which is the mysterious death of a young woman in Venice.  Malachi swiftly discovers that the woman and her life had great significance and that Dexter, for whatever reason, is toying with the fabric of life.  Of course, Malachi becomes immersed in trying to discover why.  The question is whether he will attempt to change the outcome of his own pre-set role.

The concept art so far looks gorgeous, presenting a 2D graphic novel feel with the usual point and click mechanic working the gears.  In a twist on the usual adventure mechanic, Moebius, as with all Pinkerton Road projects, will have two modes: Casual Mode, featuring hints, hotspot finder, and simplified interface, and True Adventure mode, for those who like it hard.  Ahem.

Funding target:
$300,000, but there is a further target of $600,000 for work to begin on a second title.

In or out?
Pitch in and back the game here.

Our view:
We’ve had our collective eye on this one for some time now and the fact that Jane Jensen is headlining the project should speak volumes for the quality of the story and, thanks to the presence of Robert Holmes, the score would also appear to be in safe hands.  With the adventure genre still very much alive – yet, sadly, often ignored – a new Jane Jensen adventure may well be the pull that gamers (and press) need to flood back – especially as Moebius is being billed as being in a similar vein to Gabriel Knight – arguably her most famous creation.   Thankfully the game remains attractive and accessible to genre newcomers as much as veterans, thanks to the stunning artwork and inclusion of a more casual mode.

This is one project that we’d dearly love to succeed, and given the current funding standing, we have little doubt, however, it will take quite a push to reach $600,000 if gamers want a second title this year.  Fingers crossed.

When we stumbled across this title, we weren’t sure whether or not it would turn out to be as good as the name and teaser image promised… it did.  An antidote to the fluffy or traditional hero led games, we loved the fact that the devs were inspired by one our our favourite titles of all time, here at GLHQ – Dungeon Keeper.  That’s right, we get to play as the bad guy and kick some arse in the classic ‘revenge and ravage’ story.  Although the gameplay teasers may have been brief, the game looks fucking gorgeous, and the skill behind the character concept art had us weeping into our fluffy-kitten-and-hero-casserole in jealousy.  Bastards.  A creature called Punge who seems like a cross between Oogie Boogie and a Boomer’s mutant cousin?  Sold.

So what is it?
Nekro is an overhead action game that delivers old skool gameplay with modern attitude, taking a light-hearted approach to dark themes while adding a dash of quirky humour for good measure.  It focuses on a powerful necromancer, Nekro, who is out for revenge against the (supposedly) good King who has trapped our protagonist’s soul in a limbo between life and death.  Being the bad guy, you can utilise the lifeforce of your enemies to your own advantage  – don’t feel guilty, they aren’t all that good – and create some nasty surprises from their corpses.  Nekro plays out in a randomly generated world, meaning that no two games are the same and offers a fully integrated craft system and vast game world to explore, along with some intriguing and utterly disgusting (in a good way) creatures with which to rain down misery and carnage upon your foes.

Funding target:

In or out?
Open your wallet and back Nekro here.

Our view:
There are few things we love more than playing the bad guy.  Dungeon Keeper, Overlord, a British politician (okay, not that last one… even we have standards) and, as such, Nekro is right up our twisted alley.  From the sickeningly brilliant character concept art, to the overall dark theme with a humorous approach, this is one that we’ll be following very closely should it meet its target.  The fact that the vibrant looking world will be randomly generated, we can expect it to have a long shelf life in the style of classic games such as X-Com.  Developers DarkForge comprise a number of passionate industry veterans who have formed an international team to bring their vision to life and, from what we have seen so far, we have no doubt that they will succeed.

After we got sucked into the Kickstarter world, thanks to stumbling across a project called Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller (see our 2012 Adventure Roundup for more details), we began to have a good rummage around, and one of the first things to leap out and smack us in the face was Ravaged. The game instantly appealed to us, with its sexy visuals and post-apocalyptic angle, and the artwork on display was breathtaking – we couldn’t decide which scene was more captivating: the snow covered Parisian landscape with the Eiffel Tower in the foreground, or the devastated wasteland of Manhattan, the head of Lady Liberty lying forlornly in the sand. Then we watched the trailer.

‘Fuck’ was the word that fell out of our mouths. It looked stunning and the vehicle fun reminded us more than a little of hacking around the Arid Badlands in Borderlands. Add to that the view of the developers, 2 Dawn Games, that going down the traditional publisher route can lead to the life being sucked out of games as they fall to number crunchers and trends, and we were sold.

So what is Ravaged?
Ravaged is ‘a post-apocalyptic vehicular first-person shooter’ that the devs are billing as being ‘Max Max meets Battlefield’, in which a group of resistance soldiers fight for humanity, while scavengers strive only to control everything. Tactics and teamwork will apparently play a huge role and the game features over thirty vehicles and weapons to be utilised in levels that boldly explore those sobering, yet hauntingly beautiful ‘what if’ scenarios.

Funding Target:

In or out?
Pitch in and back Ravaged here.

Our View:
We were pleasantly, if somewhat naively, surprised that an indie project could put out something more stunning than many mainstream releases and we still remain captivated by the ‘what if’ scenarios. The devastation of the world as we know it may be tragic, but rarely has it looked so damn good. The vehicles look to be a great deal of fun, and although the devs are warning that they will take skill to handle, we suspect that they will be the lynchpin of the potentially manic action. If this one flies, we can see it being a huge success (as long as GL’s Pete doesn’t drive – Ed.).

Last five articles by Lorna



  1. Briony says:

    I had no idea this is what Kickstarter was. I thought it was a government scheme and feel a bit stupid now but it makes more sense that it isn’t. I totally adore the idea too and wish I had more to help out everyone but I will definately back one of these ones not the shooter though I fine them boring.

  2. Lorna Lorna says:

    Some great looking games, and the Jane Jensen projects all look pretty good – well worth backing :)

  3. Edward Edward says:

    I think this is an awesome idea, though I’m also hesitant about Kickstarter. Much as I’ve backed a few projects (not all of them about gaming!) I’m also aware that the games industry has the horrible habit of jumping on a successful idea and saturating it until it explodes and stinks up the place. We’ve had it with WW2 shooters, modern “realistic” shooters and shooters.
    I hope these projects go on to great and bright things, but it’s a dangerous precipice, Kickstarter. I hope we don’t get tired of it after two months once everyone and their uncle has kickstarted a project.

    I’ll be looking forward to more of these articles in future though. :D

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