Kickstarter Kompilation: a selection of active retro-themed crowdfunding projects
Featuring digital actors, modern NES creations, and a look at gayming history
The video game market is a very crowded space right now, and that applies to video game Kickstarters as well. It turns out an information superhighway connecting people in ways never thought possible twenty years ago has opened the door to a lot of artists and programmers who want to make their own projects but need money from the masses to do so. We here at Retronauts are no strangers to crowdfunding (that Patreon link in the masthead isn't just for show!) so we decided to roundup a few current Kickstarter campaigns with themes related to retro video games. Please note these projects were not selected based on any insider information nor are we being compensated for this story; this is just a list of stuff we think looks good and we want our readers to share in that knowledge.
Campaign ends: October 5
Estimated delivery time: April/May 2019
Minimum pledge to receive the game: €8 (about $9 US)
Micro Mages is a multiplayer platformer designed for the NES starring a little hooded figure who jumps and fights their way to the top of Demon Fortress. Up to four players can climb the tower together. The developers, a two-man team in Berlin, say the game is finished and works on original hardware as well as many popular emulators (including the NES Classic). The crowdfunding campaign is to enable them to build and ship working NES cartridges around the world along with extras like boxes, dust covers, and instruction manuals. There are currently "no plans" to port the game to another platform; they made an 40-kilobyte NES game and that's what they're selling.
The project has already been fully funded and many of the original reward tiers have sold out, leading to a second batch of rewards that will ship "at a later date."
The Darkside Detective: Season 2
Platform: PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch
Campaign ends: October 12
Estimated delivery time: February 2020
Minimum pledge to receive the game: €12 (about $14 US)
As the title suggests, this is a campaign to fund a second season to The Darkside Detective, a point-and-click adventure game already available on PC on various platforms made by three developers in Ireland. With pixel art, a synthesizer soundtrack, and fake-VCR tracking effects on the campaign video, The Darkside Detective definitely looks like a game designed to remind you of decades past. It also looks like it's funny as well as spooky with encounters that range from meeting Nikola Tesla's ghost to climbing in the ring with a professional wrestler. While the campaign is only for Season 2, there are reward tiers that include a copy of the original game. Or you can just play Season 2 blind, as the developers say their game is "modelled off classic cartoons like The Simpsons" so players don't need foreknowledge of every previous case.
Campaign ends: October 12
Estimated delivery time: November 2018
Minimum pledge to receive the game: $10 US
Of all the games in this roundup, Log Jammers is the easiest and the hardest one to explain: it's a head-to-head Pong-like competitve game that resembles Windjammers except everyone's balancing on logs floating in water and they're throwing axes instead of frisbees. The cast of characters in Log Jammers is much more varied though, as it includes humans both living and undead (there is also a zombie bear called Zombear). The game is "nearly finished" and coming to Steam just weeks after the campaign ends, but developers Mega Cat Studios are looking for funds to port Log Jammers to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch which they hope to release in "Q1 2019." There's also an NES version of Log Jammers which backers can receive in either a translucent neon plastic or wooden cartridge. Take note that none of the reward tiers include a console version of the game; the campaign is exclusively for the PC version unless you opt for that custom NES cart.
Super Combat Fighter
Platform: PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One
Campaign ends: October 13
Estimated delivery time: October 2019
Minimum pledge to receive the game: $20 US
These kind of projects always make me smile because I absolutely wanted to make my own version of Mortal Kombat as soon as I was old enough to own my own computer and video camera. The men of Critical Depth Games are actually doing it though and they seek to deliver a product with "more gore," "more pandemonium," and "more giants" thanks to a mode where the digitized combatants are too big to fully fit onto the screen. At present, Super Combat Fighter is "approximately 40% done" with all of the characters portrayed by just two members of the team, so part of their crowdfunding budget is earmarked for hiring additional actors and actresses. The game is being made for PCs but console ports are promised and a Nintendo Switch version is being pursued.
Platform: PC, PS4
Campaign ends: October 26
Estimated delivery time: August 2020
Minimum pledge to receive the game: $20 US
Bushiden looks like the lost sequel to Strider that we should have gotten in 1999: a Metroidvania with a ninja and robots full of gorgeous pixel art and a smooth synthesizer soundtrack. The pitch video is wall-to-wall in-game action showing off how good the game already looks with the understanding that the finished product is still years away. In particular, the team wants to put time into "epic, over-the-top boss encounters" which are noticably missing from the current promotional materials. The campaign promises a release on Steam and PlayStation 4 but additional ports could follow, particularly a Nintendo Switch version which as of this writing "will have to be a stretch goal as we will have to pay for another team to port the game." Still, based solely on what's already on the table, Bushiden looks like the most promising indie Kickstarter of the bunch.
Platform: it's a catalog
Campaign ends: October 18
Estimated delivery time: March 2019
Minimum pledge to receive the book: €20 (about $23 US)
Last but certainly not least, we have a game-related project that seeks to document over thirty years of queer gaming history, allegedly the very first such publication. The catalog is designed to accompany the Rainbow Arcade exhibit at the Schwules Museum in Berlin which opens in December 2018, but it will serve as a standalone product. The exhibition is fully funded but in order to make the research and materials available to a worldwide audience, the curation team is using Kickstarter to cover the expenses of producing and shipping 1000 full-color catalogs (a digital version is also available).
Given that Retronauts exists to celebrate the history of video games, any complementary archival project would be worth promoting on these pages, but Rainbow Arcade is doing the extra service of shining a light on creators and creations underrepresented in the video game world. An archive such as this would be a welcome reminder that LGBTQIA* people have always been part of our collective history as well as gaming history specifically.