As lovers of video games, many of us have seen a lot of unique things in our day — but it’s hard to imagine anyone will argue that the “post-apocalyptic noir starring characters based on real-life pets” genre is fairly uncharted territory. Okay, okay, I’m being a bit silly, but there really is a game like that on the horizon, and it’s actually on Kickstarter right now.
Called Buck, with the titular canine protagonist based on a beloved pet of the developers, the dark and comic book-esque title will see players traversing a wasteland in search of a lost girl. With ammo-scarce gunplay, quests galore and a whole lot of grumpy talking animals, playing the demo of Buck gave me affectionate memories of time spent playing old adventure games on my clunky PC.
If you need evidence that this is a passion project, consider that the team at Wave Interactive have spent three years and thousands of dollars out-of-pocket simply to get the game to its pre-alpha state for crowdfunding purposes.
I recently had a chance to chat with Gal Kfir, the designer, who elaborated on just how much Wave has put into it. You can find our conversation below — and if you’re interested in funding the game, keep in mind that there’s about a week left on the Kickstarter as of this writing with under $5,000 to go.
WGTC: On the Kickstarter page, you mention that you worked on the game for three years and spent thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to get the game to its current state. What was that experience like? How often did you work, and would you say it was rewarding?
Gal Kfir, Wave Interactive: Up to this very day we try to maintain our part-time routine. We usually meet once a week, and work separately from our homes. The amount of work each of us delivered depended on funding.
We have managed to pull in some funding from start-up groups and trusts. When we did have cash flow, we’d meet more often in internet-cafes and work together as much as possible.
Since the progress of the game depends heavily on code and art, it was vital to keep both of them working with as much efficiency as possible. The experience is not something I’d recommend. While I was working part time selling camping gear, I’d sneak in my laptop to work on Buck when no one was watching!
This leads to very slow progress. Whilst we’ve made great progress and the game is finally playable, it took way longer than it should have.
We were going to get into an organized office space after acquiring some funds, but quite literally the day before Amir was hit by a car and was put out of commission for nearly 3 months. So that was a huge spanner in the works, as you can imagine.
At the end of the day, it is very rewarding. We’ve accomplished tremendous difficulties and have a functional playable game. Something we all just hoped for when we started out.
Was the intention always to go with crowdfunding, or were you originally planning to tackle the project as you started it (self-funded)?
GK: Crowdfunding was always on our radar. The plan was to progress as much as we could with development and go to Kickstarter with something tangible.
Buck is apparently based on a real dog. Could you explain in detail the story behind this? Have you snuck in little references to the real dog in the game?
GK; There are tiny bits in the story that relate to the real Buck’s personality, someone who’s a bit of a loner and small in stature. He’d bark at whatever dog would enter his “personal space” without caring how big and scary the other dog was. There are many more references in the game, he was quite character.
The idea came to me when I was 12 years old. The same year I decided I was going to making video games when I grow up. The game as I first wrote was very different from what Buck is today. But what matters to me is that there IS a game with Buck as a main character, which is all I really wanted back then. From here on out, it’s all about what our gamers like or dislike about the demo. We want to use that feedback and craft Buck into a truly unique experience.
There are a lot of indie games out there, which can make competing in the space a challenging proposition. What would you say are the big things that separate Buck from the crowd?
GK: At the end of the day we are all gamers here. We wanted to create a unique experience, one that we ourselves would enjoy. We wanted to see systems like player driven dialogues, unique weapon customization with tough and agile combat to be at the forefront of the experience.
Buck is a story-driven experience, but it doesn’t come at the cost of gameplay. Buck’s world is rich with detail and will allow the player to discover hidden areas and secrets. The weapon customization system will change the way Buck fights and will allow the player to mould to their own kind of play style.
The 2D action genre is known for spamming abilities and bouncing the enemies into oblivion. Buck has a different approach to combat.
You have a stamina bar that limits your escape window while you spend it on offensive melee attacks. Your dodge ability will provide a quick chance to avoid damage and reposition, but it also costs stamina. Spamming any attack will get you quickly overwhelmed.
You can also consume items to restore your health and boost your stamina regeneration and your weapons are very useful for dealing damage and crowd control. But be warned, ammunition is very scarce.
We believe that Buck can offer a truly unique single-player experience for anyone who’s even remotely interested in the related genres.
The project is a pretty diverse one, mixing anthropomorphism and the Metroidvania genre with a neo-noir aesthetic and the sort of weapon customization/dialogue trees you might see in a Bethesda game. How did all of these ideas come together? Did the game start out looking this way, or develop from something else entirely?
GK: These ideas came together fairly easily, because they can be found in games that both Amir and I love. A big example would be The Witcher series. We love difficult single-player experiences that are focused on planning and tight combat mechanics.
The concept of choice to allow the player express themselves through the gameplay mechanics of the game is the essence of Buck’s game design principle.
We also love 2D side scrollers like Shank and Dust and we wanted to take that 2D world design and turn it into something more atmospheric and cinematic.
How deep will the dialogue system be? Will you actually be able to befriend certain characters, or turn them into your enemies?
GK: This really depends on how far we’ll be able to take the story. We plan to implement changes in the game’s world to affect the NPCs’ relationship with Buck. This can block certain missions, miss out on an important upgrade or miss a very unique part of a characters story arc. But obviously, it all really does depend on IF we fund!
You recently announced that YouTuber Caddicarus will be voicing one of the game’s important characters. How did this partnership come about?
GK: I was always a big fan of Caddy’s work. I remember stumbling upon his channel while he was still starting out. We wanted to add a merchant character into the game and Caddy’s voice was the inspiration. I played an episode of Caddicarus in the background while asking our artist to design the merchant. We loved the design.
I contacted Caddy about lending us his voice for a character in the game. I only sent the script, I didn’t tell him that the character was based on him.
I was thrilled that Caddy agreed! Right before recording his lines, I sent him the in-game screenshot and concept art of his character.