It all started with a half slug, half cat alien creature. Slugcat, as it's known, is the star of the upcoming Rain World, an intriguing survival game that just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund development. The game’s unique world and retro feel are part of its charm, but it’s the main character that is at the center of the experience. "I don't want to tell you if it's more slug or more cat," co-developer Joar Jakobsson says, "because that is better if left to interpretation."
Rain World takes place on a harsh, desolate alien planet where creatures are forced to hibernate to avoid the deadly torrents of rain that regularly pound the surface. When things finally dry up, those creatures head out for food. As the adorable, slithering slugcat — which gets its name from, of all places, a YouTube comment — you need to find enough to eat so that you can survive the next hibernation period. Of course, other creatures are out hunting as well, and for some of them slugcat is on the menu. Among those you'll need to avoid are dark, animal-like creatures that wouldn't feel out of place in a movie like British sci-fi horror flick Attack the Block. Staying alive will require a combination of quick reflexes to avoid enemies and careful use of the limited resources at your disposal. The team has also put much of its effort into creating a robust enemy AI, so that it will feel like you're actually tricking an intelligent creature when you sneak away.
The game has been in development by a team of two for close to three years, and it was sparked when Jakobsson had the idea for the slugcat character — everything else came after, from the 16 bit-inspired visuals to the dark, industrial setting. "I wanted it to have a bit of that retro look," Jakobsson says of the game's style, "but I also wanted it to be soft and dynamic." The alien setting of Rain World, meanwhile, went through multiple evolutions. It started out much more lighthearted, with a style that veered towards cartoonish, but eventually became the grim vision it is today.
"A tribute to the beauty of decay."
"The environment itself is a tribute to the beauty of decay, I guess," explains Jakobsson. "And a tribute to the beauty of the ugly. I love industrial environments for one reason or another." It's also a world without humans, and its design reflects this. You won't find doors or sidewalks in Rain World because, according to Jakobsson, it would destroy the illusion. "You shouldn't know exactly how tall the creatures are, that would ruin the magic,' he says. "So I've been drifting towards some kind of abstract / industrial style." Despite this, hints of the original cartoon style remain — when slugcat dies, for instance, its eyes will turn into Xs.
For the most part, Rain World will be a solitary experience, but there will also be both cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes so that you can enjoy the desolate landscape with up to four friends. Much like another Kickstarter darling, Hyper Light Drifter, Rain World was looking for a somewhat modest amount of crowdfunding cash, with the developers seeking $25,000. It has managed to raise nearly all of that amount with weeks still remaining in the campaign. That money will be paid to hire a new programmer and pay for things like playtesting and quality control, with the game expected to launch on Mac and Windows towards the end of the year. The ultimate goal is not just to create a challenging survival experience, but an alien world of a mystery.
"You should see vague resemblances to things you recognize," says Jakobsson, "and sense that there is some kind of purpose that is just out of your reach."