Worlds of Wander seeks to continue Keen

Commander Keen creator wants you to make a platformer like his.

Tom Hall designed Commander Keen for id Games  nearly 25 years ago, and he misses working on platformer style games, and he misses the zany sci-fi universe he created for it. To that end, he’s established a new studio, Pieces of Fun. Their first project is Worlds of Wander, a customizable platform game engine, which allows players to construct platform games in Hall’s story-world.

To fund the project, he’s turned to popular crowd-funding source, Kickstarter. The goal of the campaign is to raise 400k, at least, to pay for the development of World of Wander. If successful, the engine will also come with a game designed by Hall as the “spiritual successor” to the Commander Keen franchise, Secret Spaceship Club.

This is not a game which comes with a level-editor, it’s a game-maker which comes with a game which was built using the tool. This is seemingly a narrow distinction, but one which is important to understanding the project. The primary goal of Worlds of Wander is to allow people a tool with which to create their own games, which they can then freely share with the world, hopefully leading to a global community of gamemakers, all sharing their creations and stories with one another.

The gamemaking tools will allow for creation by novice and advanced game designers. The ‘simple’ mode will allow users to ‘draw’ the levels themselves, and use easy tools to create simple puzzle elements like keys coded to particular doors, and switches tied to certain moving platforms, etc. The ‘advanced’ mode will allow users to code their levels in a scripting language developed for the engine. Going advanced will even allow users to create cut-scenes for their levels, all using the art assets that ship with the engine.

One of the most unique features of the editor is the internal evaluation. The engine has the ability to gague the elements of each level a user creates, assigning it a ‘Fun Points’ value, which tries to estimate how enjoyable the level will be to complete. It also checks to see if it’s possible to complete the level before allowing it to be published. This process ensures that the collection of games submitted by users doesn’t get filled with half-finished, unsolvable levels.

If funded, the engine will be released simultaneously of PC, iOS, Android, and Linux, so users can create, share, and play levels on any device they chose.

“MP3s made it so anyone can make and share music easily. Digital cameras took an arcane art and made it so anyone can make and share images easily,” says the Kickstarter page regarding the project’s mission. “It’s time to do that for games… Everyone should be able to make a little game they can call their own and share with friends. You shouldn’t have to worry about all the drudgery. It should be as simple as possible! “

No word on how intellectual property rights for things made with the engine will be handled. One guesses that users will not be able to charge for their creations.

Worlds of Wander and Secret Spaceship Club are both planned for a February 2014 release, but only if the project is fully funded by the crowdsourcing drive.