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Wildman kickstarted by Supreme Commander dev

by John Keefer,, Jan 14, 2013 11:00AM PST

What do you get when you cross the action RPG elements of Dungeon Siege, the RTS mechanics of Supreme Commander, the MOBA feel of Demigod, and the flamboyant, devil-may-care craziness of developer Chris Taylor? You get Wildman, a new Kickstarter project from Taylor's team at Gas Powered Games.

"I had a feeling that the action RPG was getting a little long in the tooth." Taylor told us while explaining the multiple facets of the game. "Fight a battle, get some shoes. Fight another battle, get a potion. It was kinda like a one-cylinder engine, and I think it's time we go to a V8 with a turbocharger on it."

Wildman is, at its heart, an action RPG starring primitive man. You go on adventures, fight creatures, and try to conquer the world. "But here, you start out as early man and go out into the world and as he--or she--explores and wins battles, he comes across technology, and he takes and uses that and it becomes part of the tech tree."

The technology development isn't like your typical RPG where you find a better sword or a better shield. There is some of that, but the personal, character-driven adventure can shift into an RTS and MOBA-style play in the game's warzones.

"Let's say you go into a camp and defeat the enemies in the traditional action RPG style," Taylor said. "But now pissed off that faction, and they go to war, and all of their structures across the map start spawning units. Early in the game it will be just melee. But you have this fort you've taken over, and you have structures you can build, and they start spawning out units, too. Because this is an action RPG, these units spawn automatically. Your Wildman is your hero. When you defeat the other side and destroy their fortress, you get to steal some of their technology, and that technology may be something a simple as soap. That may not sound like much, but it increased the life expectancy of man because they could clean wounds and such."

And these fights are dynamic on destructible battlefields. If you find a weakness in your enemy's defenses, you can switch and ramp up other skills, such as archery. "You can select the type of units that are output from your structures, and that's a feature we did not have in Demigod," Taylor said. "It's a feature you only see in a real-time strategy game. We think the makeup of the units that head out onto that battlefield is a huge game feature and an exciting change in the way the warzone is going to feel."

And once the warzone is complete, the game shifts back to action-RPG mode. "When you emerge victorious, you go out and eventually find someone stronger. So you better go explore and find some new technology before you start your next war," Taylor said. But man will not be the only thing you are fighting. "There are sentient creatures out there that want the same thing you want, and you have to battle your way through them."

The game will also offer players a chance to join in with friends in warzone co-op. "You will be able to take your single-player wildman into this arena and when you are done, any upgrades and skills will be carried back over into the campaign, Taylor said. "It will be the impetus to play single-player to build technology so you are better in the warzones when playing with friends. You'll need to go out and get some armor or weapon or something to advance your character."

Taylor said that Kickstarter backers will play an important role in the game's development. "We want to tell the story of early man, but we don't stop there, we keep going," he said. "We will keep progressing. We'll ask our Kickstarter folks what they enjoy. Do they like the primitive end, or the middle ages where there is a lot of armor and siege weapons, or do they want to keep going and see their wildman go and finally grab a laser pistol." In fact, it's the desire to tap into the creative collective that spurred the team's desire to use crowdfunding in the first place.

"The beauty of Kickstarter specifically, and crowdfunding and crowdsourcing in general, is that we can tap into the creative power of our community to help us make the right choices," the project says. "You're not just backing a project; you're becoming an active participant in its creation and have a chance to shape its direction. Your support is vital, and we're excited to explore this new way of making games with you."

The project has a $1.1 million initial goal, but the team has already come up with a large list of stretch goals. "We know from watching Kickstarter that people are going to ask for things," Taylor said. "We want to be prepared to react after the first week--maybe even after the first day--to the requests. Depending on how the fundraising goes and how fast we release the stretch goals, we'll base them on the input we are getting from the people backing it."

At launch, $20 will secure a digital pre-order of the game. At $10,000, however, you can get the "Executive Edition," which gives you an Executive Producer credit for the title.

Taylor added that that funding level could limit what can be done with the RPG angle of the story. "We are well aware that we cannot build a Dungeon Siege level game for a fraction of the price. The adventure, exploration, finding better weapons--that's all pretty straight forward. When we start talking about character development systems, we get more advanced and need more time and more dollars to pull it off. This is uncharted territory for us, not knowing what your budget is going to be and knowing that sweat equity is going to play an enormous part in the process. There may not be enough dollars for what we want to get done and we'll have to make up for it with extra effort."

Taylor also acknowledges that Wildman is not an established property, and could face a bit of resistance that a Wasteland 2, Star Citizen or Shadowrun Returns did not. "I'm testing whether it is the company and individual people are betting on or whether they are betting on brand," he said. "We are seeing, though, an appetite for something fresh. It's good to do a sequel on a game that hasn't been done for a very long time, but there is a sentiment out there that says 'Hey, would you make us something new, please?' That's why we love a new platform launch, because that tends to invite some high-dollar risks. When Sony and Microsoft launch the next platform, it will be the chance to play some radical new exciting stuff. If you tell me I'm going to play something with an incremental number on it, my enthusiasm fades a little. I'm excited by Wildman being new and not an established property. If any group will embrace this, it's the Kickstarter group."