Former LittleBigPlanet developers have turned to Kickstarter to raise money for a new, quirky strategy game called Death Inc.
Formed in late 2011, Ambient Studios is an 11-person team based in Media Molecule's old office above a bathroom showroom in Guildford, and is headed up by Jonny Hopper, who was the lead coder on LBP's Poppet and user creation portion having joined the Sony-owned studio just a few months after it was founded, and Daniel Leaver, who was a senior designer on LBP.
Ambient's first title, a PS Vita game funded by Sony, never saw the light of day after it was canned after a year in development. Now, Hopper, Leaver and former Lionhead, Fable and Burnout developers will use Kickstarter to raise money to create a new game, described as a “strategy game mixed with Katamari and a dash of the Pied Piper”.
In Death Inc. players control the Grim Reaper and use the mouse to draw trails of pestilence throughout Medieval England. Your followers follow this trail. Hopper told Eurogamer the control system is more fluid than the “repetitive click, click, click” controls of other strategy games, and facilitates flanking and other advanced troop movement.
The Katamari comparison comes from the collection of more people, who join your horde. Tower Defence elements see you using your horde to attack villagers, who then become your followers. “It's a bit like a zombie thing but we didn't want to be zombies because everyone's doing zombies,” Hopper said. In some of the larger levels you're able to gain hundreds of followers.
The 30 day Kickstarer launches on 4th February and asks for £300,000. This money, Hopper said, will guarantee the completion of the single-player version of the game in four to six months, with a September/October 2013 release targeted.
It is a PC and Mac game built using the Unity game engine first and foremost, but one of the stretch goals will trigger a tablet version, which Ambient would love to do.“The way you draw stuff fits finger control so nicely,” Hopper said.
LBP is, of course, famous for its user generated content. It was something Ambient intended for Death Inc., but ditched. “It felt like we would be shoehorning it in,” Hopper explained. “It's the sort of thing we'd love to do. A user generated strategy game would be exciting. But perhaps there's a misconception about how easy that is to do. It's not easy. All the tools suddenly becomes a massive amount of work as well as the game.
“It's certainly something we'd consider. Maybe if we suddenly raise loads of money we might be able to make it work. But it's not on our list of priorities for this game.”
So why Kickstarter? After Sony pulled the funding plug on Ambient's Vita game, the studio sought interest in Death Inc. and found some, but decided it being a strategy game on PC and Mac Kickstarter would be a good fit.
“We'd been working on the [Vita] game for about a year,” Hopper revealed. “Eventually it came to a mismatch of expectations of what we wanted to deliver and what we could deliver and what they wanted. So near the end of last year they pulled the funding plug unfortunately.
“We were really gutted. It was a bit of a shocker. But these things happen. That's game development. Games get canned all the time.
“We could pick it up in the future. We don't really want to right now. Financially it wouldn't work for us.”
Meanwhile, Ambient is working on a self-funded iPad game, due out in March. This will be announced in the coming weeks.