Something fishy going on with Kickstarter

Anyone with a fondness for adventures has probably heard of The Neverhood. Released on PC in 1996 by The Neverhood, Inc, it stood out from others at the time because it had a distinctive look: it was produced using claymation instead of pixels.

A crowdfunding campaign for its spiritual successor Armikrog was launched in May 2013 and a total of $974,578 from 18,126 backers was raised for the project. Unfortunately though, it just wasn’t that good. Its gameplay was buggy oversimplified, with repetitive puzzles and characters with limited personalities; and the game would have benefited from more time to polish up the clay-work so the end quality was the same standard as the beginning. I can imagine many of the Kickstarter backers came away disappointed.

Unfortunately, it’s ambitious projects like these which tend to come up against the most problems. Stop-motion animation titles aren’t cheap or easy to make and usually come with huge budgets, and that can be a daunting prospect for any independent developer. Perhaps the answer is to capture the feeling of stop-motion films while still benefiting from the possibilities of the digital world.

Well, lo and behold: there’s now a new campaign on Kickstarter for a project that does just that. Harold Halibut is an underwater adventure where everything seen in-game is built in a real-world workshop using classic sculpting, set-building, and clay and puppet fabrication techniques. Developer Slow Bros. took the decision to switch from stop-motion to 3D scanning all objects and animating them via motion-capturing technology for the most part.

The team are using a similar process to that being used for another Kickstarter campaign I’ve backed this year, Beautiful Desolation by The Brotherhood. Photogrammetry sees them taking ‘a bajillion pictures’ of the physical in-game items they’ve crafted by hand ‘from every conceivable angle’ in order to make a 3D model from it. They’re also using a material-scanning method developed by Apex Visual: their proprietary mains picks up even the tiniest details of handmade surfaces.

All of this sounds like a hell of a lot of time-consuming work, but so far the evidence displayed on the Kickstarter page for Harold Halibut shows that it’s worth it. Take a look at the promotional video from Slow Bros. to see what I mean – the game looks amazing. Players are able to zoom right in to get a closer look at the world in front of them, including the expressions on the puppets’ faces, and everything appears so tactile; that doesn’t mean this title is just a pretty face though.

The video also explains the project’s storyline but here’s a quick overview for you. Hundreds of years ago, a generation ship was sent out as humanity’s last chance to continue life elsewhere. But poor planning and silly fights in the cockpit resulted in a crash-landing on a planet made of water. Janitor Harold must help Professor Jeanne Mareaux find a way to relaunch the ship and enable communication within a society that has long been fixated on being the last outpost of humanity. Players should be prepared to make things around the station ‘bleep and bloop’ but be careful though: breaking the wrong item may cause someone to hold a long-time grudge with you.

There’s also a chance that you may be randomly challenged to a thumb-wrestling match – if that’s not a final reason to back this campaign, then I don’t know what is. The Kickstarter page remains open until 04 August 2017 and Slow Bros. if you’d like to show your support for Harold Halibut.

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