Tom Hall is Kickstarting a spiritual successor to Commander Keen, and something else

Commander Keen

Tom Hall, designer of Anachronox, Rise of the Triads and the very best levels in Doom, is returning to where it all started. Namely Commander Keen – the revered platformer from id’s pre-history.

Secret Spaceship Club is a spiritual sequel to Keen, but it’s not exactly what Hall is Kickstarting. If anything, SSC is but an advert for Hall’s real pitch – a development tool for 2D platformers that “empowers people to make their own games”.

I’ll let him explain.

“The first game we did was Commander Keen, and it’s strangely dear to my heart because Commander Keen was basically me. I was that character,” explains Hall in the video. “So it kind of hurt to leave him behind. But now I’d like to return to that personal kind of game and create another character.”

And then there’s Worlds of Wander – the beginner’s tool that Secret Spaceship Club comes wrapped in. It’s designed to neaten up user designs and remove much of the “drudgery” of platformer level design, allowing for the easy placement of enemies, NPCs, items and whatnot in a ‘Place ‘n’ Fiddle’ interface. It will also let users to visualise and link up simple scripts – say, between a lift and a switch – without delving into code. Once they’re done, games can be released into the Worlds of Wander community, where they’ll be rated, discussed and, hopefully, played.

“Everybody should be able to make at least a rudimentary game and have fun with it,” said Hall. “Somebody’s creativity is out there just waiting for somebody to enable it, and that’s what I want to do.

“I want to play what you make.”

In the day since its launch – and at the time of writing – the Kickstarter project has funded $31,451 of its $400,000 goal. At present, you’ll have to pledge to Worlds of Wander to get at Secret Spaceship Club, but Hall is considering a lower tier for “folks that just want the game”.

The project is developed by an outfit called Pieces of Fun, apparently unaffiliated with Loot Drop, the developer Hall has run with John and Brenda Romero for the past few years. Their own Kickstarter project, Old School RPG, was cancelled last year when it became clear that the pitch “wasn’t strong enough to get the traction we felt it needed to thrive”. Loot Drop’s Facebook game, Ghost Recon Commander, was shut down soon afterwards, and a large proportion of the company’s staff were laid off.

And yep, there’s a dopefish in the pitch video. Did you spot it?