“One of my friends just linked me to this and I almost can’t believe it’s real. I saw that his kickstarter only went up today but he’s already up to 8 grand. Have you ever seen anything like this before?”
“This reads like a scam,” I said aloud to myself. Don’t you think, though? Why is the developer not contacting me about this, and why is someone random telling me how unreal it looks, playing on the novelty factor of what would seem to be a gimmick? Essentially, it was being touted as the ‘next big thing’ and I had my doubts about it all.
So I headed off to the Kickstarter page and started scanning, and found that everything seemed to check out, mostly. The idea of the game is that you use a NeuroSky MindWave headset that reads your brain waves, and when you’re focused enough, it then allows you to throw objects in the game. Throw Trucks With Your Mind is played as a first-person competitive multiplayer match in which players have to concentrate on objects and throw them at each other, with the aim being to kill. There’s other game modes planned too, and it’s the usual lineup consisting of Deathmatch, Capture The Fridge (just normal CTF), King of the Hill and Hunt the Hunters. That all seems fair enough. A bit dull, perhaps, considering what this tech is capable of, but it’s reasonable. It didn’t seem too far out – if anything, it didn’t seem crazy enough – you just want me to stand there, look at a truck and then fling it at someone? Seems like a novelty that won’t last more than an hour at most is what I was thinking.
Then I watched that video above. And what I’m seeing is people sat in a cafe with the headset on and laughing. And then in another screen there’s a game world showing trucks flying around. Nothing about this is adding up in my mind. I could go down to a local gathering with a headset, place it on people’s heads and make them laugh with a hand puppet. Then I could take that footage and splice in some other footage of myself throwing objects around in a game editor. Considering the email, the pitch of the game, the absence of a website or development blog and the total lack of evidence that this game even works at all, I was still thinking that this could be an elaborate scam. And yet the dollars were still rolling in, reaching over $10k now.
A day later and guess who sends me an email? Lat Ware – the developer of Throw Trucks With Your Mind. He’s also pitching the game to me with the subject line: “There’s an awesome Kickstarter you should know about.” There’s not much to the email; it just iterates that he created it, what the idea is and a link to the Kickstarter. There’s also the following line:
“I’m more than happy to provide screenshots, answer any questions, and even do a live tech demo, if you happen to be in the San Francisco area.”
Unfortunately, the south coast of England is nowhere near San Francisco; otherwise I would have taken up that offer to have a live demonstration of the game. But I wasn’t going to let it slip that easy. I needed evidence now. I needed convincing that people weren’t just throwing their money at a scammer. So I replied to Lat, explaining my thoughts and asking him to show me that this game does at least exist and work. I didn’t want camera cuts or overlays – I wanted to see someone in front of a screen wearing the headset and playing the game using it.
A few hours after sending the email, I received a reason as to why the Kickstarter video is as it is, as well a demonstration of the game in action in the way that I asked. Observe:
“The reason for the video in the Kickstarter was that it was actually collected from playtesting sessions at a local coffee shop. I would record people playing with my crappy cell phone camera, which can’t capture the screen well, and record them playing with FRAPS. After the playtesting, I would talk to them about what they liked, didn’t like, what they wanted from the game that wasn’t there, that sort of thing. Then I would combine the footage of their face with the footage of the game and review that footage. I was able to synchronize it because my phone and FRAPS both save videos with a timestamp.”
Does it satisfy me? Yes, I think so. I do believe that Lat has created a game in which you wear a headset and concentrate to throw objects around in the game world. But I still think the game could be designed better so that it’s more fun. But at least it doesn’t seem that the whole thing is a scam. Still, while the opportunity presented itself, I did have some questions about the game and how it worked, and what he hoped it would become. I’ll leave you with these answers, and it’s then up to you to decide whether or not you’re interested in helping to fund the game. At least it would seem that it’s not a scam – that’s the most important thing. Let this be a lesson to anyone pitching a game on a crowdfunding site, though: you need to convince people and show them that your product could exist or is something that could actually be developed into what you propose. To everyone backing Kickstarter projects, always throw caution to the wind, always.
Statik: Why did you decide to focus on the multiplayer game, rather than experimenting a little more with what could be done in single player with the tech?
Lat: I decided to focus on multiplayer because in all my playtesting, that was what people wanted most. I built a number of challenges to teach people new skills and then apply them to greater challenges. But people really liked having literal battles of will with their friends. I’ve worked at enough game studios to know that it’s better to focus on what players love than to insist that they play your vision.
Statik: How do players set up a match – is it LAN or online, perhaps both? And if online is involved (which I presume it is), then can you realistically expect there to be enough players online at the same time to form a match if such a specific tech is needed?
Lat: The game will be set up for both LAN and online play. As for how many people will be playing the game at once, the more successful the Kickstarter, the better. This is why I put official TTWYM servers as a stretch goal for twice the initial goal. Not so much because of costs, but it doesn’t seem like a worthwhile endeavor. As it isn’t a triple-A game, I can’t seriously expect that you can always find a game. Group of players and friends will probably have to coordinate events.
Statik: Given that you’ve only got a prototype at the moment, what do you want the game to become should you get the money? I ask this because throwing objects at characters ‘with your mind’ seems like a neat trick, but I can’t see it really enticing me to want to play for more than five minutes.
Lat: I tried to be pretty clear in the Kickstarter that it would be a multiplayer psychic brawler with deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the fridge and king of the hill. I want people to be having literal battles of will with other people online. But there’s more to the game than throwing things. You can lift and pull things with your calm. I made pull be powered by your calm, because I thought it would be hilarious if there was a power-up that was out of reach, but the more you needed it, the harder it was to pull towards you. But because of your own mental state, not because of artificially enforced restrictions.
You can hold things in place with your focus. You can super-jump with your focus. You can reduce your falling speed (and even hover, but never gain altitude) with your calm. You will be able to maintain a forcefield with your calm, so if you can keep your cool, that truck coming at you will bounce off. You’ll also be able to be invisible with your calm. Forcefield and invisible aren’t ready yet, so you don’t see them in the trailer. There are a lot of clever things that you can do by combining the powers and players discover new things to do nearly every play session. My favorite thing that a player figured out was that they could get up to a high place by standing on a vehicle and levitating it with their calm.