Since 2005, webcomic The Adventures of Dr. McNinja
has been regaling readers with tales of a ninja who is also a doctor, fighting evil mimes, space dinosaurs, lobster men, and of course ninjas' natural enemies, pirates.
Local start-up game studio Fat Cat GameWorks
has taken to Kickstarter to turn the Dr. McNinja universe into a video game. This excites many members of the WW
editorial team more than it reasonably should, so we called Fat Cat's lead producer Hunter Thomas and demanded to know more.
WW: How did the game come about?
Hunter Thomas: We started developing games, brainstorming ideas, and we came up with one with a wacky ninja. And we looked at each other and thought: we all love Dr. McNinja
; it's a wacky ninja comic, with a bunch of jokes we wanted to work with. [Creator Christopher Hastings] is an independent artist; I just contacted him out of the blue, gave him demo art, the first playable level, and he was enthusiastic. Tell me more about the game itself.
It's a platform game, like Mario or Sonic or that genre. We're especially trying to explore the single button platform space... especially because mobile games are becoming bigger, but controls on mobile games suck. And when you get into a game that's action-oriented at all, you have to tap all over the screen, covering up part of game you're watching. So we liked that idea of single button platform, especially for mobile.
What characters can we expect?
Obviously Dr. McNinja—it would be hard to make a game without him. For the Kickstarter rewards, one of the most recent characters Chris introduced, Dr. McLuchador—he's going to be exclusive for people who donate to Kickstarter.
We're doing King Radical, who's sort of this weird amalgam of Burger King and every skateboard movie character, where his aim is to have the most radical things happen all the time. So he's always riding places on a skateboard or dirt bike, and we're building that in the game... We've got the zombie of Benjamin Franklin, dressed up in a very iconic and recognizable red dance suit and dancing his way through levels as well.
We'd also like to do the primary protagonists for the story: Gordito and his raptor Yoshi—Gordito's sort of Dr. McNinjas' Robin. Then the rest of the doctor's family—his mom and dad and brothers have been primary protagonists throughout the stories. And the doctor's receptionist-slash-gorilla, Judy.
So you're releasing the game for free. How will you make money?
It's being given away for free in the sense that it's an extended demo, it's an eternal demo you can play as long as you want, but if you like it, well, we wanna make games. We're not in this to make obscene profits, we're indie developers and we wanna make games for the community. So as you play the game, you can unlock power-ups through collecting shamrocks, or you can chip in a few bucks and get your shamrocks back. The basic goal is if you're playing our game long enough, you probably want to throw a few bucks at us to build the game and make it better.
Your goal is $15,000. That's a lot of money. What's it for?
Pretty much living expenses. We've already sunk money of our own into the development tools we need, so what we're doing is just trying to finance the next couple months of development properly. The more success we get, the more content we're going to be able to promise up-front.
When do you hope to release it?
Right now, we have a fully playable beta, and we're actually hoping to have new stuff out this week. What we consider to be the final, ready-to-play version, we're hoping to have out in a couple of months. But we'll continue to update it with content.
Our other goal as a company—we do plan to build this out as a company however we manage it—and we want to bring in other developers, bring in other people, so every single game has its own fellowship of people and developers. We want to build a community here in Portland. We've seen a lot of people who want to build games, but not a lot who are willing to make that jump. Our mission is to do more than just us making a living; we want to see the whole creative force that exists in the area grow.