Ballpoint Universe

Ballpoint Boss
Ballpoint Boss

Back when this was called College-Ruled Universe, it was one of the first games I helped fund through Kickstarter. It was a pleasant little R-Type-style shooter, written in Flash by an art student, Leo “Zigzag” Dasso, who had built an entire world, in Flash, out of the casual doodles he drew during classes. He had a friend compose an atmospheric soundtrack and put it on Kickstarter.

I thought it was an amazing game, not so much for the mechanics, but for the pure expression of art. The funding goal was low, so I put in a few bucks, and the project was successfully funded.

Dasso was then looking for a programmer to help convert the game to Flash 3. He then went on extended vacation, came back to put the game on Unity. I honestly had forgotten about the game when he next said he’d put it on Steam Greenlight.

Just a few days ago, I got a link to the actual game. I’ve been playing it since.

The Doodle Village
The Doodle Village

The game is split roughly into three parts; a village portion, where your avatar, a doodle named Doodle, runs, jumps and explores in a 2D platformer. Though it’s 2D, you can move your character, via bridges, to deeper or nearer planes. Exploration nets you new missions, ship parts, and “golden sketches” that are required to enter the more advanced levels of the game. In the Doodle Village, you’ll meet fanciful doodles like a TV Cowboy, a Boot Soldier, and so on. These will be judging your progress in the shooter levels. Run through a turnstile to save the game.

Once you’ve accepted a mission, your doodle jumps into the sky and is swept away into the ship construction portion of the game.

Building your ship
Building your ship

The doodle who gives the mission often has some clue as to what sort of weapons you’ll need on your ship. Exploration and completing earlier missions gets you options to use in this stage. Choose a wing style (for speed and maneuverability), a nose style (for the “overload” weapon), and upper and lower weapons, which include not only guns, but shields and swords as well.

Continuing from here brings you to the shooter bit. Floating ruins spin lazily in the far background, while enemies announce themselves in the near background before suddenly swooping in from the front, sides, and back… Sometimes the ruins themselves are your enemy, turning and gnashing together as you try not to be crushed.

Sometimes you get everything all at once.

Kinda reminded me of Radiant Silvergun. My son and I used to spend hours mastering the game, co-op, on our Sega Saturn. RS was a very different game (and much, much harder), but the whimsical weapons and bosses of Ballpoint Universe brings back a lot of memories of Saturday afternoons killing things and wondering what the plot to the game was (the game being entirely in Japanese, we weren’t quite sure. The anime portions looked cool, though.)

If you like gorgeous, whimsical shooters, can’t go wrong with Ballpoint Universe. It’s available for a look on Steam Greenlight.

Kickstarter focus: College-Ruled Universe

College-Ruled Universe

I used to doodle a lot as a kid. I’d draw up adventures where, typically, bad things would happen to my kid sister. If those drawings had come to life… well, I would have a very angry sister today (sorry, Val. At least I am comforted knowing you will never read my blog).

Artist Leo Dasso had a different vision. While doodling in class one day, he was inspired to turn his doodles into space ships, cities and extremely weird bosses and wire them up in Flash to make an abstract and visually striking side-scrolling shooter in the vein of R-Type and the old Treasure bulletstorms. He tapped a friend of his to do the music and called the game College-Ruled Universe.

He’s got the prototype coded up in Action Script 2.0 and is looking for funding to hire a programmer to port the game to AS 3.0 tuned to run best on Android (though the artist is now considering releasing it first for iOS). There’s a playable demo available. The rewards feature copies of the game once released and artwork based on the game (or even used IN the game), and a chance to get your own artwork into the game if you want to pledge that much.

As of this writing, the game has 49 hours left to go and has already raised $7,333 of the $6,000 goal, so it’s going to happen.

College-Ruled Universe is the perfect storm of indie game development that can reliably succeed on Kickstarter. It’s a game with a good “elevator pitch” — retro side-scrolling shooter with a distinctive art style and music. There’s a playable demo. The goals are reasonable and the funding target is low. We’ve seen these sorts of games succeed on other platforms again and again — flOw, Everyday Shooter, Castle Crashers and so on.

College-Ruled Universe might do well on Kongregate even without Kickstarter funding… but with the funding, it will be better and on more platforms.