“U55: End of the Line,” he Berlin-set survival horror title, promises to meld Lovecraft with claustrophobia of being trapped in a darkened subway tunnel on the PC with the potential for Oculus Rift support. As a sucker for first-person horror, I’m intrigued, but specifics laid out in the campaign leave me wondering if this project will survive.
First, the basics: the Kickstarter campaign, which started on August 20, is seeking $115,000 to tell the first-person, choice-based, tale of survivor horror set in the realistically-recreated subway tunnels of modern Berlin. The “U55” or U-Bahn line is where your character, American student David, is trapped following a train crash. To escape, David will have to use his phone as his light source, navigating what I presume will be Lovecraftian horrors lurking beneath the city and in the darkness.
Developer Effective Evolutions’ ambitions with “U55: End of the Line” are ambitious: with stretch goals, they want to bring the game to the Oculus Rift while using binaural audio to increase the horror of the game which will be optimized for headphones. On top of that, there’s the effort to recreate real sites from the German capitol over a 20-22 month development cycle (the rewards section promises a December 2014 release for “U55.”)
Where things get a little tricky is in the “Risks” section, where the developer essentially says that it’s likely this won’t be the last time they’re coming to fans with hat in hand to complete the project:
Kickstarter might not be enough for a project as large as U55 – END OF THE LINE, so there may come a future point where we might need additional funding. Depending on how much we raise here, we might need to go to a publisher. Shall this day ever come, we will stay faithful to the things we have promised and take the leverage when it comes to negotiations.
This gives me pause because it speaks to a project that’s not being developed within the scope of what the developer can plausibly raise. Instead, it’s being developed to woo publishers so that they can get more money to complete development. In and of itself, saying that you’re potentially building a prototype or a demo isn’t a bad thing–the “Goon” film campaign is one example where the creators said upfront that this wasn’t for a finished project, but instead a proof of concept to gain the attention of studios. While we can debate the merits of that approach, it was direct, versus this which says that the developers are taking a “build first, budget later approach.”
Conceptually, “U55” is exciting: as a fan of first-person horror, I can get behind the idea of being trapped in the dark with specialized audio ramping up the terror crossed with a bit of Lovecraft. But I’d also like to know that this is being approached as a project with a plan instead of simple ambition.
I’ve reached out to Effective Evolutions for some clarification here so we can better understand how they’re handling funding of this project.
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