Ever since game designer Gal Kfir got his dog Buck 17 years ago, he knew he wanted to make a videogame about his canine. Kfir always wanted to be a game designer, so the idea of creating an experience centered on a little mixed breed that had a lot of fight for his size seemed like a no brainer.
He started interning at Microsoft Studios where he won an internal award for a game design, and then he left to start Wave Interactive. At the moment it’s his side project, he edits promo videos to get by. But Buck is something he’s constantly worked on. His original idea was to create a big 3D game.
“Back then before I had any idea how freaking hard it was to make videogames, I imagined it being 3D, like Crash Bandicoot with guns,” says Kfir. “But then to work in a real company with a real staff on a real game… I realized I had no idea what I was talking about.”
So when the time came to start the project, he decided to go for 2D, metroidvania style instead. It’s more budget friendly and a little easier to put together. So, he started working on concepts with his brother. It was around this time he met fellow game designer Amir Barak. Barak liked what he saw and started working on a prototype without talking to Kfir first. Kfir loved this and they’ve been working together ever since. The team has since grown, but they don’t work from an office. Instead, each individual works from home and they communicate through Skype. For Kfir, that’s one of the biggest challenges with this game. “The artist wants to have every bit of pixel and quality inside, while the programmer wants to make it run and work on as many platforms as possible,” says Kfir, “managing that through a Skype call can be very challenging.”
What was easy for the team was the decision of how it plays. They loved the non linear progression and dialogue options of The Witcher, and the customization of weapons from games like Ghost Recon, so they meshed them together into something they’re pretty proud of.
The story follows Buck, who recently lost his girlfriend and goes on a quest to get her back. Aside from appearances, they tried to base the Buck character’s personality off of Buck the dog’s. “He was always a bit of an outsider, he couldn’t stand other animals,” says Kfir, “he was really aggressive toward bigger dogs.” As a tribute to Buck, they made the enemies bigger than him.
They also built a world where he’s an outsider, everything is new and sort of hostile towards him. Many of the locals have pre-conceived notions of him too. This is where the dialogue option comes into play. They are still tinkering with how it will actually function, but Kfir thinks it would be a good idea to have it function as a tool to how people will react to Buck. Players can either stick with the prejudices of the townsfolk or they can win them over and play their own way. It’s something that is still being worked on though.An example conversation from the game.
With all the progress, there was a break period for a short time following the death of Buck. Saddened by the loss of his friend, Kfir didn’t want to continue developing the game. “When the real Buck passed away, I went on a small hiatus. I didn’t feel like working on it anymore,” says Kfir, “But what really got us back was that we had a really small community… that sent us a lot of support and talked about us on websites.”
That inspiration kept the team working toward their goal—get the game to Kickstarter. And they have. The deadline is set for May 28, 2014 to reach it’s goal of $75 000. But it is looking like they will fall short. Kfir notes that they spent too much time developing and not enough time marketing, something they’re working on now. One thing they’ve done to get some attention was to add an incentive to get other animals added into the game. Certain backer’s pets will now appear as characters because their owners pledged $200 dollars or they will appear as enemies because owners pledged $250.
This idea generated some interest in the game, but it’s still not where they want it to be in terms of funding. For now, the team is going to work on publicity and adding the fun factor into the game. If this Kickstarter fails, they will probably go back after generating some hype.
For Kfir, this is a chance to live a dream he’s had since childhood--to make a game about his dog. While Buck isn’t around to see it come together completely, it’s a tribute to him and pets worldwide.
Check out the Buck Kickstarter!