Video game Kickstarter campaigns have had a lot of success over the last few years, helping to bring the visions of smaller studios to fruition. The runaway success of Tim Schafer and Double Fine Production’s Broken Age and the continued financial exploits of Cloud Imperium Games’ Star Citizen have proved how effective crowd funding can be.
Another significant Kickstarter game is What Pumpkin’s Hiveswap, an adventure game based on the highly popular webcomic Homestuck. Since the game’s Kickstarter raised over $2.4 million USD in 2012, the project has evolved significantly and a flood of information has been released by the project’s lead Andrew Hussie. With this in mind, we intend to collect all the information known thus far and send it straight to you.
For those unfortunate–or fortunate, depending on how you look at it, to be completely unaware of the internet phenomenon that is Homestuck, well…
Homestuck is a multimedia webcomic written and drawn by Andrew Hussie. Since its start in 2009, the comic has spanned several thousand pages and has made use of music, flash animations, and interactive segments. The story is told in a pseudo choose-you-own-adventure format and follows a group of friends that play an online video game called Sburb, which eventually brings about the end of the world.
The plot itself is very involved and convoluted, but the unique writing style, quirky and memorable characters, and interesting meta-humor set this ambitious comic apart from others around the internet. In terms of Homestuck‘s complexity and intense reader investment, the PBS Idea Channel has even gone as far as to compare it to James Joyce’s modernist novel Ulysses. The comic is still ongoing and currently in its sixth act, set to conclude after its seventh.
In 2012, Hussie announced his plan to develop an adventure game partially based on his comic, “involving a new story based within the Homestuck universe.” Hussie’s intent is to build a “serious independent game project, with higher production values, many puzzles and challenges, and a fully developed, self-contained story.” Understandably, the game will not be direct adaptation of the comic, as the story is far too large to be contained in a single independent game. The game will rather serve as a spinoff, “something that draws from the elements already established in the vast Homestuck universe, applied more selectively to a shorter, self-contained story.”
A Kickstarter campaign was then started for the game with a $700,000 USD goal. Not as surprisingly as one would think, the massive Homestuck fanbase answered the Kickstarter call and the goal was met in less than two days. Every dollar beyond the initial $700,000 would be used to improve the game and make it open for more platforms. In the month that followed as the campaign continued to run, project funds exceeded certain stretch goals securing both Mac and Linux support for the game, as well as support for multiple languages.
At the conclusion of the campaign, the game had raised over $2.48 million USD. The project was the “fifth game on Kickstarter to pull in a full seven figures” and was at the time Kickstarter’s third highest funded game. With additional PayPal based payments, the overall money raised for the game was over two and half million dollars. With all the necessary funds safely secured, Hussie officially began developing the Homestuck adventure game.
On New Year’s Eve 2013, Hussie released a hefty update on the game’s progress, which was in heavy planning stages at the time. While he was hesitant to give away too many specifics, Hussie did explain some definite mechanics within the game. The story will include a set cast of characters (no customizable characters), the game would not involve Homestuck‘s complicated online game Sburb, it will not feature multiplayer, and no voice acting will be used. In case these announcements disappointed fans, he then went on to say the game would feature a fresh story, new characters, and Homestuck staple Trolls (aliens from the planet Alternia). He even shared some cool concept art.
Hussie’s next update came in June of 2014. He announced that pretty much all of the writing and design work had been finished, with the help of Dinosaur Comics author Ryan North. With the design work done, Hussie explained that the game’s completion would now be the responsibility of the developer, who was announced to be The Odd Gentlemen (The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom). With the developer in place, the Homestuck adventure game was set to steadily move toward release. Hussie also used the update to release “a few really vague samples of concept art,” which understandably is “not necessarily indicative of final game graphics.”
On October 30th, Hussie spoke up again for another update. The first order of business was to announce that the team was “shifting the development operation from the previous studio over to What Pumpkin.” This may have disappointed fans hoping to see The Odd Gentlemen’s involvement in the final project, but with this team working on the upcoming King’s Quest title, their departure seemed appropriate. Hussie assured fans that development was running smoothly and testing would most like begin in 2015. He also finally revealed the game’s title, Hiveswap.
Hiveswap is to act the first of two games that tell separate, but parallel stories. They will “be loosely related to each other with one device in particular that ties them together: a flipping of the two protagonists.” With that idea in mind, the two protagonists would be female human and male troll. By some circumstance, the characters would switch places; “a human girl will have an adventure on Alternia (the troll planet), and a troll boy will have an adventure on Earth.” Hiveswap will follow the female protagonist Joey, whereas the second game will follow the male protagonist. Each will move toward the ultimate goal: “to get home.”
But how will the games fit into Homestuck canon? Well in addition to only being loosely related to Homestck‘s story, the games will be set at some points before the events of the comic. Hussie was quick to say that the games are however not “intended to be prequels.” They will instead act as “good games that speak for themselves and everyone can enjoy, not… the absolute perfect complements to a huge existing storyline.” But that doesn’t mean players won’t find elements from the comic, as “fans of the comic will probably find it rewarding to see how it fits into canon and observe the various connections.”
Hussie also announced that both games will be released episodically, with most likely four episodes each. His reasoning for this decision was that “much of the fun for Homestuck readers was in following an ongoing story, getting together with other readers and discussing new developments.” Episodic releases for these games would thus preserve this element of Homestuck‘s storytelling. As was now custom, Hussie also used the update to dump some more concept art, showing off the game’s depiction of Alternia and character animations of female protagonist Joey. How adorable.
The most recent update for Hiveswap came a few weeks ago on February 18th. Hussie announced an official site for the game, along with some amazing screenshots of gameplay. The game’s setting looks beautifully stylized and perfectly in line with the Homestuck aesthetic. Hussie assures fans that the game will be out soon and it will “probably” be good. Don’t worry; that’s just his trademark sarcasm.
In addition, Hussie gave a more detailed rundown of the game’s plot. Hiveswap will follow protagonist Joey and her brother, who are kids growing up in the 1990’s. As he stated before, the game will tangentially relate and lead into events from the comic, “so its relation to Homestuck canon is something readers can piece together from clues in the game.” Joey would then, by some shenanigans, end up stranded on the Troll planet Alternia. Hussie even revealed what could be the game’s antagonist, the ruling heiress of Alternia.
Pumpkin has given a press release, announcing that the first of four episodes will be released on PC, Mac, and Linux this spring, with the remaining episodes to be released throughout 2015. The game is currently being shown at this week’s Game Developer’s Conference, and public demos will be available at Emerald City Comic Con, Denver Comic Con, and other conventions throughout the year.
You might want to start on Homestuck now if you want to be caught up by the time the game drops. Well, maybe reading 7,000 pages is not entirely necessary. Those interested can visit the game’s website, Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr for more updates as they become available.