Son of Nor started off as a dream and now it needs crowdsourcing in order to become a game.
SoN needs a Kickstarter to see completion. The developers at StillAlive Studios pooled much of their own money to get this far, but they need $150,000 from funders by May 30, to finish the game.
Ricardo Valenzuela , a game designer on SoN, said the idea started as a dream, by fellow developer Julian Mautner. StillAlive Studios refined the idea into innovative game mechanics, woven into a desert world called Noshrack.
“StillAlive refined the three powers that are central to the game play,” Valenzuela said. “Son of Nor at first was a game that was almost only about the modification of the terrain which was actually considered part of telekinesis (grain of sand being moved in mass by telekinesis), we ended up calling it terraforming to explain it more easily.”
The team settled on three powers — telekenesis, teraforming and elemental magic — after taking into account the pace of game play and funding. Valenzuela said there was a time in development where there were over 30 distinct spells, but they reduced the scope.
It might be better that they sacrificed variety in spells. The freedom to mix and match these three powers breathes life into this game. “With time, testing and iteration more things came into being, like elemental powers,” Valenzuela said. “These powers used to be first casted into the environment and then picked up and thrown, which led to cool mechanics like stealing spells. The idea was super cool, but it didn’t really work with fast paced action gameplay.”
Terraforming is the most unique of the three. It takes advantage of the desert world, by allowing players to manipulate the sand. Avoid enemy patrols by raising a huge mound of sand to hide behind, or simply create a sink hole underneath them.
“Terraforming for now only works with sand due to the fact that most of the story takes place in the desert world of Noshrac,” Valenzuela said. “There will be other diverse environments that are quite different from what we have presented. There may be other types of sand and there has been talk about snow.”
The developers trust these three powers so much, that weapon play is limited. Valenzuela said that you can only pick up weapons and armor from dead enemies. Even then, the only option is to throw the item. Level design will be key for SoN to succeed because there is such a heavy emphasis on magic.
“I think designing levels for Son of Nor is quite fun and can even get to be a little bit challenging. Since the environment is your weapon (element sources, terrain, objects lying in it) we have to carefully play with what we put in the levels and what is our intention,” Valenzuela said. “For example, what happens if you don’t have sand, objects or elements around? You are completely defenseless.”
Multiplayer could be a delightfully chaotic experience or simply chaotic. Imagine working with friends to create cool combined spells. “For example, one player levitates a bunch of objects close together, while another one uses mass telekinesis to throw them,” Valenzuela said. “There will be added content like enemy behaviours, and hidden secrets that are only discoverable with the help of friends.”
The endless possibilities do have a potential downside. Imagine playing four player co op with all that magic being thrown around. It could be difficult to tell what is happening and there could be a problem coordinating, with four other players to solve a puzzle. There is also the question of PvP, which isn’t guaranteed to make it into the game because it’s a stretch goal on Kickstarter.
“We want to add PvP definitely, that’s why we have added it as stretch-goal,” Valenzuela said. “If we reach it, rest assured that combat will not be the only modes in there, we are trying to do quite some crazy things in competitive multiplayer that revolve around puzzles.
Contrary to possible belief, the powers in this game aren’t inspired by Star Wars. Games that inspire the SoN team are as varied as their countries of origin . Valenzuela is from Ecuador while the others hail from Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Italy and the U.S.
“Many people believe that this was inspired by Star Wars, Avatar or even Journey, and of course we have played those games, but those franchises never came to mind,” Valenzuela said. “We are from different parts of the world and we have different tastes in games, for example Julian loves RTS games, (Chris Polus) really likes Western RPGs which he plays with his wife, (Daniel Sluschney) likes MOBAS and I personally like action-adventure games and puzzle games like Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light, Zack & Wiki, Professor Layton, Resident Evil 4.”
There is a lot riding on this Kickstarter. Valenzuela said that SoN might not see the light of day if it fails. The developers have done their part in marketing the game. Developers chronicle their progress with a TwitchTV feed (http://www.twitch.tv/directory/), a lot of game play footage on YouTube and developer diaries.
SoN differs from other Kickstarters in the sense that they really show exactly what backers are investing in. Their Kickstarter page is detailed and paints a clear picture of what the team wants this game to look like. While concepts don’t sell a game, the team at StillAlive has done a good job of selling their vision. Whether that is enough to fund this game remains to be seen.