I’m a Backer: Underground Kingdom

Last week in ‘I’m a backer,’ we discussed the excellent project Viticulture. It continues to do well, reaching funded status last week, with three weeks left on the clock for those all important stretch goals. Keeping with our theme of games, however – we switch from board to electronic for a truly retro title: Underground Kingdom.

Did you like the “Choose your own Adventure” series as a kid? Wish there was an equivalent for today either for you or your children? Have an iPhone or iPad? Have I got a deal for you. Underground Kingdom is, in the words of the creators, “an interactive gamebook for iPad and iPhone, adapted from the classic Choose Your Own AdventureĀ®* book from Edward Packard.” They promise to “bring the experience to a new level, as it will include interactive features, amazing illustrations, animations and sounds.” Basically, they are taking the multi-choice stories of yore, and updating them with the best technology has to offer today.

This is a pretty brilliant idea if you ask me; though I am not sure the world really needs this, I am pretty sure it wants it. Want to know why I’m giving them my money? Read on.

The biggest reason that I am giving strangers my money is that, as always, what they are pitching a solid, desirable, and realistic product. I loved these books when I was kid – I must have owned two dozen of them, and I had read every one the library had to offer more than once (I was also kind of terrible at them and tended to cheat to get the endings I wanted). They were a wonderful introduction into all things RPG for me, a gateway drug if you will. According to Wikipedia, I am not alone: “Choose Your Own Adventure was one of the most popular children’s series during the 1980s and 1990s, selling more than 250 million copies between 1979 and 1998.” The site goes on to tell me that they made over 250 different choose your own adventure stories – I doubt I read many more than 50 of them.

If you look at them today, I think that they would be hopelessly dated in some ways, but at their core there is still a solid idea: to make the choices matter. So few games do that these days; branching story lines are cost prohibitive as each hour of game play requires hundreds of man hours spent tuning game mechanics and constructing art assets. But an illustrated story book that lets you read and decide on the lush screens of today’s tablets? That is a product who’s time has come.

I found the presentation on their project page to be very professional, with art assets and an introductory video in place, along with many details for exactly what they wanted to make, using beautiful info-graphics like those pictured above. This is a key consideration when I look at projects; if the creators share very specific information with you, I am much more comfortable than if they offer only broad strokes about what they would like to do if successful. To me it screams preparation and professionalism. Another thing I like about this project is how reasonable they made the early reward tiers for the game. For just five dollars you can get the app itself, which is very reasonable when you compare it to similar projects that might charge you $10 or $15 for the same service.

On the other hand, the project’s execution is hardly perfect. The middle tier rewards are a little lack luster; I would love to give this project more money, and may before the end, but there is nothing that calls to me in that range. Other than supporting an awesome idea, there is little reason not to wait until this product is available of the appstore. Another issue I have is there have been only 2 updates since this project has started. For a thirty day project, this is pretty quiet – I would like to see more calls to action and more efforts to make their fans excited.

After writing this review, I had a chance to ask the creators a couple of questions about this wonderful book/game:

Why this project, why “Choose your own Adventure?’

It started with nostalgia about the Choose Your Own Adventure series: We thought that these would be perfect to play on tablets and mobile devices. We looked for digital versions of the series, but didn’t find any quality apps that would deliver a great experience. We wanted something different, with contemporary artwork, interaction, a map to guide your path… The problem is that we needed the book licenses, which for a small indie team is difficult to obtain. So we contacted Edward Packard, creator of the gamebook concept, and explained the whole project to him. He was delighted with the idea and we started working together.

Do either of you have a favorite Choose your own Adventure from your childhood?

Our favorite books where Hyperspace, The Cave of Time and Underground Kingdom. It is an amazing experience to create a whole new project from a book you loved as a kid. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to make a digital version of The Cave of Time, since it can’t be licensed.

What are you doing, as the deadline closes in to ensure you get this funded?

We are contacting all the media venues we can, and thanks to these efforts we received attention from many sites regarding the project. This week we will focus in social media networking, project updates and recruiting every fan of the series to help us spread the voice!

How difficult is it to adapt your vision to both tablets and smartphones?

It has been quite a challenge. Together with the complexities related to an interactive book, we also had to work with a non linear story, so we had to re-do the “decisions tree” and program the app based on it.
Also we hade to create a new concept for the artwork, which ended in more than 50 illustrations that are animated and interactive.

Is Android out of luck, or will you broaden the reach of your project if it is well received?

We decided to create first the iOS version because we had more experience in the language, and we could develop the app in a more reasonable time, since our team is small. The idea is to launch an Android version if the iOS app is well received.

This entry was posted by David Winchester.

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