Nick Geez

When it comes to video game, nothing beats the freedom of independent development! The wind in your hair, the fan’s arms wrapped around your waist as you say, “Hang on tight, baby cakes!”

Okay, maybe indie development isn’t the same as riding a gnarly motorcycle with your babe holding on, but it’s still pretty extreme! Some might even argue that it’s dangerous! Developers live on the wild side!

But, just like being on your hog, developing an indie game has a massive amount of freedom. Folks like Markus “Notch” Persson and Jonathan Blow have the ability to stand outside of the AAA game-building machine in order to express their artistic freedom. They have been able to produce the game that they envisioned without the hassle of some out-of-touch big-wig shutting down their ideas. Fortunately for them, their risks were greatly rewarded!

However, the biggest difficulty for most indie developers is raising the necessary money to create and publish a game. Released in 2012, “Indie Game: The Movie” gave the world an entirely new view on the hardships that actually go into creating an indie game.

Yet, in 2009, Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform, created a space for gamers to financially support projects that they deemed worthy. Developers were given a platform to present their idea to fans, perks for supporting their projects, and could now plead their case as to why they deserve viewer’s hard-earned money.

Recently, two new promising projects have thrown their biker hats into the Kickstarter ring!

Concept art provided by "Nevermind" game.

Nevermind” calls itself, “a biofeedback horror adventure game,” according to its Kickstarter page. Fashioned for PC, the game obtains biofeedback from players using a heart rate sensor which then – depending on their levels of anxiety – changes the level of difficulty in the game. If players become scared, they only make the game more difficult for themselves. Thus, the game encourages players to enhance their stress management skills.

While the game looks like an intense mind-doinker, the developers have high hopes that it could also be used as a therapeutic tool. According to their Kickstarter, the team’s goal is to, “craft a health-centric version of ‘Nevermind’ specifically targeted to help actual patients develop tools to manage and ultimately overcome their conditions,” such as anxiety, stress, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

So far, “Nevermind” has completed $35,000 of their $250,000 goal. Their campaign runs through March 6.

Darkest Dungeon,” in development by Red Hook Studios, promises fans a “tough-but-fair” 2D side-scrolling dungeon crawler-type game. According to the team’s website, they hope to instill new life into the genre with an inventive combat system that won’t coddle players. Heroes’ psychological status will also affect gameplay, creating additional challenges for players.

One of the most striking features of the game is the dour mood that it evokes using a dark, illustrative art style. Reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s work, the desaturated pallet with scarce, but jolting, accents of color complements the games Lovecraftian undertones.

The haunting art work intrigued me! I pledged enough to the Kickstarter campaign to get a printed art book for myself… Then again to get a digital one for a friend! You got me, “Darkest Dungeon!”

The Plague Doctor is one of several classes in “Darkest Dungeon.”
Photo courtesy of Red Hook Studios.

The team’s Kickstarter launched on Feb. 10, and is VERY close to reaching its goal, with almost $63,000 of its $75,000 goal met. The campaign ends on March 13.

While these two campaigns are off to a very promising start, sadly, what seems like a good idea to some may not capture the attention it needs to succeed.

There are countless projects that – no matter how many attempts have been make – never meet their monetary goals. Games, such as “Shadow of the Eternals,” the spiritual successor to “Eternal Darkness,” suffer this heartbreak, to the disappointment of fans.

On the other hand, some campaigns, such as the “Mighty No. 9,” have monumental success by using Kickstarter.

Keiji Inafune, the original creator of Capcom’s “Mega Man” franchise, developed the idea for a spiritual successor to the game. After years of disappointing “Mega Man” cancellations, Inafune announced the launch of the Kickstarter campaign at the 2013 Penny Arcade Expo. Fans pounced on the chance to help the original creator give them exactly what they’ve been asking for.

At the end of the two month campaign, fans had pledged $3,845,170, crushing the initial $900,000 goal.

Though projects like Inafune’s claim to give fans what they hope for, there are dangers to contributing to these types of campaigns. Sometimes, the fans don’t always get what they were promised. As a matter of fact, there has been controversy over the development of “Mighty No. 9” and whether it will keep to the original concept that fans paid into.

While many Kickstarters are scrutinized by fans and critics, this doesn’t mean that all projects are out to rob fans of their hard earned dollars. Nor does it mean they’re all safe! To be completely honest, I donated to “Mighty No. 9,” and there have been more than a couple of moments where I’ve sat here and thought, “What have I done?!” What I’m trying to say is, be cautious when donating to Kickstarters.

I believe that Kickstarter is a remarkable platform that can be used to help develop and encourage creativity! Indie developers who are able to utilize this tool can develop a mutually beneficial relationship with gamers, offering modest to elaborate perks for backing their campaign. Gamers can get what they want while small developers can realize their dream of publishing the exact game they wanted to create.

Good luck to all of the developers beginning their adventures! I look forward to playing your games!

Darkest Dungeon trailer, courtesy of Red Hook Games