published Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Kickstarter a success for Chattanooga game developer

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Visit www.retrogamecrunch.com to learn more about the project and try out the games in development.

Since the dawn of video games, the point almost always has been to stay alive. However, with his upcoming title, "End of Line," local game developer Shaun Inman is turning convention on its head.

Inman, 34, is one of three co-founders of Retro Game Crunch, a development project that challenged its creators to design six fully functional games in as many months. Through a monthlong Kickstarter campaign that ended Nov. 12, more than 1,600 backers pledged $66,694 to the project, about 11 percent more than Inman's team requested.

Like many Kickstarter campaigns, the project received a flood of early support that dwindled in the middle of the campaign. With four days left before the deadline, the project was only 75 percent funded and, in the last 48 hours, the team was still 10 percent short. But in the final hours, a rush of last-minute pledges pushed them over the top.

That moment, Inman says, was hugely vindicating.

"I remember thinking, 'I'm not going to be sleeping a lot for the next six months,'" he laughs. "It was like, 'Wow. This is real. This is really going to happen.'"

On Friday, Inman and out-of-town partners Rusty Moyher, 29, and Matt Grimm, 28, were polishing the Crunch's first title, "End of Line," which they started working on earlier this month and expect to release on Feb. 5.

The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which humans have died. Fortunately, mankind planned ahead, entrusting databanks full of human DNA into the hands of robots so humanity could be resurrected in the event of a calamity.

One robot decides the world would be better off as it is, however, and orders the robot named EOL (End of Line) to destroy the databanks, thereby preventing mankind's return. EOL decides he must destroy himself to stop this from happening, but being a robot, he is effectively immortal. Any attempt to disable himself will only result in a repair bot whizzing over to bring him back.

As with all games in the Retro Game Crunch, "End of Line" is designed with a visual style similar to that of early Nintendo Entertainment System releases. From a top-down perspective, players must figure out the proper series of actions to take on each level to allow EOL to destroy himself.

Inman says the whole point of Retro Game Crunch was to encourage community involvement. Backers of the program on Kickstarter -- as well as those who bought into the program via a $25 option added after the campaign -- can vote on each game's theme before the start of the 30-day development "crunch." They also can communicate with the developers and give feedback on early designs of the titles.

About 650 themes were suggested prior to the first development crunch cycle for the Retro team. That list was culled down to 24, including "time travel," "protagonist is antagonist" and "short-term memory loss." The winning theme that forms the foundation of "End of Line" was "immortal, learn to die."

Just because work on "End of Line" is coming to a close doesn't mean the team is finished. On Feb. 8, less than a week after the proposed release date for "End of Line," the development cycle for the second game will begin.

"It's a daunting project, but our past experience with other game jams has prepared us well for it," he says. "I have no regrets whatsoever."

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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