For our The Next Hit (TNH) column, we scour the Web searching for games we believe have the potential to become hits, as the title suggests, and let the developers tell you what we can expect. This week we have Stacy Davidson, lead designer at Warbird Games talking about Jack Houston and the Necronauts, a project currently on Kickstarter that’s well on its way to reaching its goal.
Davidson: Jack Houston and the Necronauts is a pulp sci-fi inspired, point and click adventure game where you portray Captain Jack Houston on his deadliest mission. The setting should be familiar to anyone who’s seen early Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers illustrations, or Tom Corbett: Space Cadet, rockets ‘n ray guns galore.
The story begins In an alternate universe year 1999. This is the world of space adventure imagined and glorified in sci-fi magazines and novels of the 40’s and 50’s. You play Jack Houston, a retired test pilot recruited by the Venture Aeronautics and Space Transportation (VAST) corporation for one last mission: to man the first rocket to Venus. En route, something goes terribly wrong and Jack’s rocket crash lands in an alien ocean, where he rests in cryogenic sleep for 1,000 years. The world he wakes up to is one of savage beast men who worship a devil god with the power to control the dead. These entities are able to inhabit the remains of any creature after death, fortifying and building upon their skeletal structures until they are virtually indestructible war machines.
Basically, Jack is hosed. It’s not the mission he signed up for, and even if he finds a way off the planet, the Earth he knew is long gone. But now he’s in this crazy world where space travel is common place and aliens are everywhere. Which could lead to some really amazing adventure if he can just manage to make it off Venus alive.
TechZwn: What makes your game unique?
Davidson: My team and I will be creating all the visuals using stop motion animated figures and photographed miniature environments. I wanted to create the look of a Ray Harryhausen film, and it’s that unique look that I believe will set Jack Houston apart from other adventure games.
TechZwn: Where did the inspiration come from?
Davidson: Growing up watching science fiction TV and films like Forbidden Planet, Buck Rogers, Star Wars (of course), Star Trek, etc. I wanted to take all the elements from 50’s sci-fi illustrations, Edgar Rice Burroughs adventure novels and Ray Harryhausen monster movies, elements that never quite all came together the way I would have liked, and place them into a game environment that allows the player to fully explore that world of bubble helmets and savage alien beasts. Playing adventure games like Full Throttle and The Dig, I knew that would be my optimum environment in which to create that world.
TechZwn: Is there anything you saw in modern gaming that you’d like to change or build on with your game?
Davidson: I’m a fan of streamlined interfaces and intuitive save/load features, so that will be a consideration. I want the imagery to appear photorealistic. I don’t want the player to feel like they’re looking at computer graphics at any point. This means high resolution and lighting effects that surpass the old adventure games. But I also feel like classic adventure games offer a kind of depth of play modern players often miss out on, and I definitely want to bring those sensibilities back.
TechZwn: Is there anything else you’d like to say or talk about regarding your game (or gaming in general)?
Davidson: I’d like to say that I think Kickstarter is the greatest thing to happen to games since VGA cards and hard drives. Not only is it an opportunity for the creator to reach out to the players and make a direct connection, but for the first time it actually gives players a voice. I know that people want my game in French and German, that people want to play Jack Houston on a Mac, iPad, and in Ubuntu, I know people want to see the same exact game go to every player regardless of what they paid and without any DRM or DLC cropping up, ever. I know these things because my future players are in constant contact with me, and they all have a voice and a direct way to let me know how they feel about it, and that lets me make a game that meets player expectations right off the bat.
Also, I’d like to point out that since the graphics are all created using physical models, we’re actually giving away those models, and even the actual stop motion animation figures that will be used to make the game, as backer rewards. I might have to make a second Jack Houston figure later just so I can have one for my desk. 🙂