Myst’s developer Cyan are currently running about the offices shouting “Money fight!” having just passed the funding target of their Obduction Kickstarter campaign. They now have $1.1 million to throw at a first-person puzzle game.
The team have 65 hours left to raise funds for stretch goals. If they can get to $1.3 million then they’ll be working to implement support for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
As Kickstarter pitches go Obduction’s is a little, well, pants. There’s a video of a glowy acorn and then four minutes of Rand Miller talking about how much people liked Myst. The final three minutes give no firm details about the project they have in mind. Which they’ve just been given $1.1 million to make.
The Kickstarter page gives scant details of the story of Obduction saying “Obduction begins with... well… an abduction - your abduction. On a crystal clear, moon-lit night, a curious, organic artifact drops from the sky and inexplicably whisks you away across the universes to who-knows-where (or when, or why).”
When it comes to design Cyan are a little more verbose:
Build every element of the experience to make you, the player, feel like this virtual world has become your world.
The interface should be intuitive and transparent.
The story should be revealed through exploration and not necessarily shoveled out in cinematic form.
The puzzles should range from easy to difficult, but even the toughest puzzles should be designed so that you know that all the pieces to solve it are there in front of you.
The sound and music should be balanced; they should add emotion but not become distracting or annoying.
That’s all the details Cyan provide on the main page.
Squirrelled away in the updates are a few further details. For instance, that glowy acorn is indeed a seed. “Seeds, as you will come to discover, are an important part of Obduction. There’s a reason that the Seed is the emblem for the entire project. These particular Seeds have a very special purpose. One might say it is their only purpose. They are designed to scatter. They emerge, they travel, they blossom, and then they scatter.
“At the beginning of Obduction you just happen to be the victim (or beneficiary?) of one such scattering. Unlike the “Cyberdyne Systems' Model 101” in The Terminator, you at least seem to arrive with the clothes on your back... but beyond that, we’d prefer to hold back the details of what else comes with you (your dental fillings? your glasses? the bag lunch you had in your backpack?) But we will mention that this unique mode of transportation will have some rather interesting effects on the world around you.”
The stretch goal after OCulus Rift support at $1.3 million is a genuinely neat idea. For $1.7 million Cyan will add a fourth world to the game’s hub and also a Roadtrip Mode. This is a co-op game mode that harks back to friends sitting around a computer and solving puzzles together. “One player would be the “driver” - moving and interacting, while the other player would be a “passenger” - following where the “driver” goes, but able to freely look around on their own computer,” write Cyan. “They will be able to talk with each other, offering advice or pointing out highlights. And the players can switch the “driver” and “passenger” whenever they want.”
I’m always wary of Kickstarters that hold back on details. These projects are inviting people to invest without treating backers as investors. If Cyan took Obduction to a publisher asking for $1.1 million in development funds they’d have to take a good deal more than a teaser trailer and concept art. It gives the project the hint of a cash grab. It’s as though the developers are trying their luck based on their reputation and will only come up with a game idea after they’ve been paid. For that same reason I was dismissive of Elite: Dangerous’ Kickstarter campaign. And as that example has shown I can be completely wrong. That game is shaping up to be everything I want in a space sim. Maybe Obduction will be everything I want in an adventure game.