“Crystal Catacombs” Brings Players Back to (Old) School

Some of the most exciting projects in videogames these days are from extremely driven and talented amateur developers. For all of the bombast and spectacle of modern, big-budget games, the most interesting work is usually being done by small teams. This week’s featured Kickstarter project, Crystal Catacombs, shows just how a single, ambitious and determined developer can create a fascinating concept without having the backing (or bankroll) that comes with a huge studio.

Crystal Catacombs is a throwback to a bygone era of videogames, paying homage to past visual styles and modes of play while mixing in some of the better lessons learned in the medium over the years. While Catacombs sure looks like a lost, super-stylized NES cartridge from the late ’80s, it blends a reverence for classic action games, RPGs and platformers with the exploration of Super Nintendo-era titles with a grander scope (think Super Metroid). Its developer, Denver’s Levels or Lives (currently consisting of just artist/designer Maxwell Jensen), has also refused to stay within a single genre, combining randomized areas and experience point accumulation with platform jumping and combat. The game is planned for PC release and, if successful, could be ported to PSN, XBLA, iOS and Mac platforms.

It’s a bold and hugely ambitious project for one person to get through. Creating the sheer amount of artwork and code that is required for making so many (beautifully rendered) randomized environments takes a whole lot of time. Probably too much time for a single developer to get through! And so, Kickstarter.

Jensen has completed about twenty percent of his magnum opus to date but needs help in order to finish the rest of the work. The bulk of any revenue drummed up through Kickstarter will be directed toward getting a few more hands on deck to ease the workload. Jensen plans to hire at least one additional programmer, another artist, a musician to create the game’s soundtrack and a web developer. Money is also needed for creating instruction manuals and, most importantly, for giving Levels or Lives the ability to keep putting in the hours necessary for completing the game.

Contributors will receive some pretty nifty rewards for their generousity. Smaller pledges receive discounted copies of the game or their name in the “Special Thanks” section of Crystal Catacombs‘ credits. Warm hearts with deep pockets will get to play early builds of the game (and submit their feedback for consideration), be turned into a pixelated character (with those who make big donations being immortalized as an in-game god) and much more. Jensen’s rewards are all unique and well worth considering for those interested in involving themselves in game creation.

To learn more about Crystal Catacombs and Maxwell Jensen/Levels or Lives head over to Jensen’s blog or check out screens, videos and further information at the Kickstarter page. The project will be funded on Sunday, October 9th at 3.29pm EST if its $11,000 funding goal is met on time. That’s not a lot of time so I’d suggest putting a hurry on if you’re planning to donate.