Interview: Renegade Kid Discusses Its Cult County Kickstarter Adventure, With Wii U Included
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
We’re told why the 3DS version has been replaced
After Renegade Kid’s announcement last week that it would be launching a Kickstarter campaign for a home console project, it’s now lifted the lid on what that will be. It’s not an all-new previously unannounced title, nor is it the much anticipated Mutant Mudds 2, but actually Cult County for multiple systems. With a rather bold funding target of $580,000, the studio aims to bring the title to Wii U, Xbox One, PS4, PS3, PS Vita and PC.
That list is missing 3DS, of course, with the development via Unity making easy porting across other platforms a more viable option. As before when it was briefly announced on 3DS last year, this will be a survival horror FPS experience split over five episodes, with the studio going back to its roots of Dementium: The Ward and Dementium II on the DS.
Naturally there are plenty of talking points with this project from Renegade Kid, such as the move into crowdfunding, the evolution of Cult County onto home consoles and Vita, as well as the likelihood that this game may not reach 3DS. The studio’s co-founder Jools Watsham gave us an early look at the project’s Kickstarter page prior to its launch today, and we caught up to learn more about the project and questions that arose from its pitch.
Today's announcement of a Kickstarter campaign for Cult County on home consoles may have surprised some. Can you outline the process that brought you to this project, and why you've opted for crowdfunding?
We still love the 3DS and plan to continue making games for it with Moon Chronicles and Treasurenauts on the horizon and much more planned. Handheld gaming is my personal preferred choice for gaming, but I also really enjoy console gaming on my Wii U. Ever since we started Renegade Kid in 2007 we have loved pushing the boundaries of handheld platforms, but have always felt the allure of console development. We got close to developing a few console games in the past, but making the jump to console takes more people, more time, which requires more money to do it properly.
While we were developing the design and story for Cult County, our focus shifted from 3DS to console/computers. Cult County feels like a project that can really benefit from the extra graphical power that consoles/computers provide.
Kickstarter offers an opportunity to put our idea out there and see if the players want it. It can help us alleviate the financial burden of developing a game while also soliciting the fan's input to help craft the game.
Can you outline the plot for our readers?
I don't want to spoil the experience for anyone who might want to play the game, but the basic plot is about you, as Gavin Mellick, travelling back to a small town in west Texas to contact your sister and deliver the sad news about your mother who has fallen deathly ill. You have tried contacting her via phone,but no answer. Upon your arrival to the town, a savage dust storm consumed the town. When you reach your sisters house, she is not home. You talk to some of the local town folk, who do not offer much help, but do share their accounts of some strange events that occurred recently that involved a cultish group that moved to town and the unexpected suicide of Father Pearce! And, comedy ensues - just kidding. It's not a comedy.
To get a key point out of the way, this announcement has confirmed that the 3DS version is currently stopped, or may appear as an additional stretch goal should the campaign go particularly well. Was that a difficult decision to make, and when did you make that call?
Yes, it was a very difficult decision for us to move away from the 3DS with Cult County, but the development of Moon Chronicoles helps soften that blow for us. We are very excited about what consoles offer, and the opportunity to flex some extra polygonal muscle with the power that consoles and computers offer.
May we ask how far you got with the 3DS development? You had a brief playable build at PAX East 2013, and told us you were initially aiming for an early 2014 release before other projects naturally took over.
Production of game assets did not go beyond that of the demo. We have spent our time since focused on the story and game design.
So now that you're bringing Cult County to consoles such as the Wii U, what new avenues does that open up for the project's scope, size etc?
As far as the game itself, consoles offer a lot more freedom in how we construct the art assets and obviously provide a lot more potential for higher detailed environments and characters,which is really exciting for us as we've always been in the situation of optimizing everything to make it function on handheld. But,now we're in a position of making what we want based on how cool it will look rather than always worrying about whether it will work within the constraints.
We are using the Unity Engine to develop Cult County for consoles/computers, which is another huge area of excitement for us because it allows us to support many platforms and offer the game to many gamers at once.
The Kickstarter campaign sets a target of May 2015 — is that just for episode one or for the whole of the first 'series'?
That is for all of season one, which is all five episodes.
Do you have a rough idea of how frequently the five episodes will be released once the series is underway?
That is an area we are still working on, and the results of the Kickstarter campaign may affect that if we're lucky enough to reach stretch goals, as that may require more assets, and more time to complete.
Are you confident of implementing a "season pass" on Wii U, as it's not really been used as yet on the system's eShop?
It is something we are already in talks with Nintendo about, regarding Moon Chronicles. Nintendo is very forward thinking, and they are excited by the prospect of supporting a season pass system. It is a logistical challenge that we'll learn more about soon hopefully.
Setting up a credible threat that doesn't always attack you, but threatens to do so can be terrifying. Subtle audio cues, and areas that suggest a threat is nearby can create tremendous tension.
As a studio you're clearly investing in the episodic approach. What makes it so attractive to you and the team?
Gregg and I are big fans of how the episodic format works with TV shows, such as Lost and The Walking Dead - it is exciting. It is our goal, our dream to bring that to some of our games. If the players like it, it means we will be able to continue supporting that story/game for a long time, which we think is exciting for the players, and us!
With your previous first-person games being on DS and 3DS (counting Moon Chronicles), are you at all intimidated by the idea of entering the home console space with this genre?
We have worked on consoles/computers in the past at Acclaim, and also with Mutant Mudds Deluxe on Wii U, PlayStation 3, and Steam. We have also done some top secret "ninja development" recently that utilized the Unity Engine on Wii U, and really enjoyed the experience.
Your video makes a point to reference Dementium, and to emphasize that this new title will provide a true survival horror experience. Can you explain some of the design choices that will emphasize that genre and provoke dread in the player?
Something that we find important with scary games is quiet tension. Scary games can't be all blood and guts in your face. Setting up a credible threat that doesn't always attack you, but threatens to do so can be terrifying. Subtle audio cues, and areas that suggest a threat is nearby can create tremendous tension. It is those elements that we pay special attention to, as well as combat moments where you are fighting for your life with limited weaponry.
Will there be multiple melee and firearm weapons, and will the former disintegrate and break down? In other words, will keeping yourself armed be a stiff challenge in this game?
I don't want to give away too much yet, but yes, keeping yourself armed will be a key element of the game. You will not be an overpowered "action star".
Can Wii U owners expect any unique features utilising the system or the GamePad, or are you aiming for parity across all consoles?
We will utilize unique features of consoles where it is a natural extension of the game, but generally speaking, we are aiming for parity across all platforms.
Now that you're utilising Unity, is it an engine you expect to use more in future projects, and will that mean more home console projects from Renegade Kid?
Yes, we would love to continue making games with the Unity engine alongside our 3DS development.
Should Unity make it to 3DS, is that something you'd hope to use? Are you perhaps disappointed that it's taken three years for Nintendo to come out in public to confirm it's exploring the engine for the handheld?
Honestly, I would be very surprised if Unity could run as efficiently as our own 3DS engine in terms of maintaining 60 frames per second with a first-person shooter. But, I would be happy to be proven wrong.
Your funding target is relatively high, greater than WayForward's Shantae: Half-Genie Hero campaign, for example. Are you confident that you'll hit this target, or nervous?
Nervous? No, terrified! This is the first time we're putting ourselves out there like this, and even though I am very excited about the project and what the fans and Kickstarter can provide, I have no idea what level of interest this project will generate. I hope for the best and try to prepare myself for the worst.
The minimum goal amount is something we have wrestled with a lot. It seems as though $400K is becoming the accepted standard for a video-game Kickstarter projects, but we want to ensure that if we are lucky enough to reach our minimum goal we are able to deliver what we promise and not rely on hitting stretch goals to do that. $580K is the lowest amount that we can deliver a top notch survival horror experience on consoles/computers with confidence. Any lower would compromise our vision and our ability to meet the player's expectations.
Finally, do you have a message for our readers regarding this Cult County campaign?
If you have read this whole interview down to this question, you might already be a fan of the game, or you might be considering backing the project. First of all - thank you! Our goal - our dream - is to develop a unique and special survival horror experience for the Wii U, and other platforms, that gets back to the scares and tension that established this genre with Silent Hill and Resident Evil, and we need your help to make it happen. Not only financially, but we also need your input throughout the development process to make Cult County the wretched reality it is destined to be!
We’d like to thank Jools Watsham for his time. The project’s pitch video is below and you can view its official page for information of funding tiers and more, right here.