By Andrew Dodson on October 19, 2013 at 2:27am
I've become rather wary with my funding on Kickstarter. As much as I like supporting new upstart projects and ideas, too often I feel like my money isn't used wisely or simply disappears, and I never see anything for it. Yes, that is the risk of the website, but it is still frustrating. Nonetheless, I still find myself browsing new Kickstarter projects every other day. I've gotten good at not dropping my money at every single thing that looks remotely cool, but occasionally something comes along that seems so unique and fantastic that it grabs my attention right away.
"Knite and the Ghost Lights" was definitely one of those projects.
In just a glance, the game looks beautiful. Utilizing hand-painted models and stop-motion animation and blending them wonderfully with modern day computer technology, "Knite & the Ghost Lights" is like something out of an old dream. Then you read or watch the video accompanying the Kickstarter, and you realize the amount of work that the tiny crew has already put into this project - and not just the visuals, either. They're crafting an unique story inside a fascinating world. While most of the game is still under wraps or in development, it seems that the game itself will follow Knite, a ghost-piper, as he journeys this fantastical world helping lost spirits be reborn.
I had the opportunity to chat with Jon Williams of Mobot Studios and ask him a few questions about their latest project.
PT:Before we jump into it, can you introduce yourself and tell us about your part in Mobot Studios? How did you originally get involved?
JW: I’m Jon Williams, producer/project manger for Mobot Studios. I’ve been good friends with James (the founder of Mobot) since way back in grade school when we used to log hundreds of hours playing the Japanese imported version of "Super Mario World!" We also used to play in bands in high school and college, and in fact, it turns out that pretty much everyone at Mobot are also musicians. Funny coincidence I guess. I’ve only become involved with the company in the last year or so, because I’ve also got a huge passion for video games, and I was super impressed with the first Mobot title, "Paper Monsters".
PT: The thing that grabbed me first about "Knite & the Ghost Lights" was the style that it's using. It's just gorgeous. Was the decision to do the game with super-detailed, stop-motion something that was set from the start? How involved was the process before a set style for "Knite" was figured out?
JW: Well, Lex (our lead artist) has been working on the world of Mistland and many of the characters for a long time. And when we were doing some brainstorming talking about new projects a while ago, we kept coming back to some of the original photos that he’d taken of these Mistland characters, because they were just so unique and beautiful looking. Based on that, we started doing some more sets and working on digitizing the characters/backgrounds to see if we could really make a game out of it. And well, here we are.
PT: Aside from the beautiful art, it looks like story behind Knite and Mistland is going to have a really fascinating story and mythos. How did the story for game originally start to take shape? Was it a collaborative effort, or is there a writer behind it?
JW: Our lead artist Lex is really the mastermind behind the world of Mistland. We’ve all come to know and love the characters of course, but it’s really all come from him. There’s so much depth behind the whole world that if you’re really curious, I recommend you check out our official Mistland wiki!
PT: Kind of tagging along with the the last two questions question that I asked, what are some of the major influences that the Mobot Studios team are drawing from during development for the game?
JW: Hard to pin point exactly, but we’ve all been really impressed with the beautiful art style, music, and classic 2D game play of the new "Rayman" games – they are so good! So we’re borrowing some elements from that, but our world will be a lot more photo realistic, of course. And then naturally it’s hard to be a fan of stop-motion animation and not love all of the Tim Burton films…
PT: There is a mention in the Kickstarter video that the team feels that the animation and style of the game comes second to the characters that you're developing. How do you feel about that? Is there any character that's been introduced so far that you particularly enjoy?
JW: The depth and variety of the cast of Mistland characters is definitely one of the biggest things that got us excited about doing this project at first. Of course, the graphics and visual art style of a game are super important, but I’m sure we’ve all played games before that look beautiful but just don’t have any real substance. So with "Knite & The Ghost Lights," we’re really shooting for an incredibly unique looking game that also has a lot of detail, and that all starts with the characters. Wilhelm is one of my favorites - what’s not to love about a cranky, old oak stump?
PT: Can you tell us a little bit about the gameplay of "Knite & the Ghost Lights?"
JW: We’re really still building and experimenting with the game play experience, and getting funded through our Kickstarter campaign is going to be essential for us to actually build out the full game. We’ve got enough proof of concepts completed now, and we’re confident in our programming skills that we know we can make a great game. So there will be some nice platforming elements, exploration through the world of Mistland, and some cool music and light-based puzzles with Knite. One game we’re using as a comparison is the latest "Rayman" game, so we’re shooting for some of that type of game play feel but will definitely have more going on in terms of story to in the vein of titles like "Castlevania." We would also encourage you to check out other games that we’ve built, such as "Paper Monsters," if you want to see the type of finished product that we’re capable of producing.
PT: How has your experience been using Kickstarter for this project so far? Is there anything you've learned since starting with Kickstarter that you wish you knew at the beginning?
JW: The experience with Kickstarter has been pretty fascinating so far, such a cool site/concept, and it’s so great to see all of these interesting indie projects getting funded that wouldn’t make it otherwise. We looked at a lot of other video game projects that seemed to be successful and tried to borrow good ideas (making a compelling video, having a good selection of rewards, etc.), but I have found that it’s still tough to get noticed amongst the sea of $5k smaller projects. Nonetheless, we’ve already got over 800 passionate backers, the momentum is building, and I’ve been continually amazed by the power of our growing community to keep spreading the word about our project.
PT: "Knite & the Ghost Lights" is just shy of 50 percent funding at the time of this interview. If the Kickstarter doesn't reach its goal, what will that mean for the game?
JW: Honestly, that’s something we haven’t talked a lot about yet, but due to the substantial amount of models and sets that we have to create for the game, if it’s not funded we’ll likely have to put the project on hold. We’re staying optimistic, though!
PT: I know you guys are in the middle of creating "Knite & the Ghost Lights" right now, but are there any plans for Mobot Studios' next project?
JW: Along with Knite, we’re simultaneously working on a brand new version of "Paper Monsters," which will debut on the Wii U this holiday season called "Paper Monsters Recut."
The Kickstarter for "Knite & the Ghost Lights" has less than a week to reach its goal. Even as a wary Kickstarter user, the unique and fantastical style of "Knite & the Ghost Lights" mixed with its awesome potential makes this game something not to miss out on. Provided they meet their goal, the estimated delivery time for this game is in Spring 2014.
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