UCSC grads seeking funding for rhythmic, nonviolent video game

Santa Cruz Sentinel

sscs0315jpBunnyRunCrystalCaveScreenSANTA CRUZ — Team Krinoid, a video game design company launched by UC Santa Cruz grads, has posted a demo of its latest creation, “Bunny Run,” on Kickstarter.com in an effort to raise $10,000 to help them complete the project.

The colorful, quirky scenario in Bunny Run involves a rambunctious long-eared urchin-like creature that dodges obstacles to move through five distinct “worlds” to the rhythm of more than 50 original songs — all while trying to keep from being swallowed by a grumpy guard trying to get him back to the alien pet rabbit factory. It is purposefully non-bloody and kid-friendly, according to its creators.

“With ‘Bunny Run’ we’re looking to make a game that’s appealing to all ages with a colorful and engaging art style and a very catchy soundtrack,” said John Peters, 23, the lead programmer who also serves as chief executive officer of the three-man company.

A tight budget

If it’s successful, the fundraising campaign, (www.runwithbunnies.com) will help Team Krinoid, whose creative team is working out of bedrooms, paying licensing fees and marketing costs and working fewer hours at their side jobs.

“We’re on a tight budget,” Peters said.

Peters and his two partners, Peter Hunter, 24, the chief financial officer and one-person musical production team, and Max Weinberg, 23, the illustrator and Bunny Run originator, have been designing games since they were roommates in college. Their first game was “Syz: EG,” a galactic adventure game with more than 350 lines of character acting and new iPad touch technology released in the fall of 2011. Although they won UCSC’s first student game design competition for “Syz: EG.”

Since then they produced two titles for the PC platform: a zombie-bowling game called “28 Frames Later: Gutters of Blood,” and a game about the life cycle and the beat of the human heart, “Keep Going.” “Bunny Run,” originally created by Weinberg, has been in the works for several years.

Saving money

Hunter moved back to his parents’ home in Petaluma to save money, but they have continued to collaborate almost daily via Skype and file-sharing technology.

Weinberg is working at a Santa Cruz video game store while flushing out the illustrations with animal characters you won’t find on the Animal Channel. (The frogs are furry and the birds have hands.) Weinberg said he is inspired by the playful influence of early animations such as Betty Boop and Popeye the Sailor, which are the creations of Dave Fleischer, his grandfather who co-founded a famous animation studio in the early 1920s.

“I try to pull from light-hearted cartoon animation rather than gritty violent games that mostly happen here,” Weinberg said.

Meanwhile, Hunter is in Petaluma scoring the music to enhance each world with titles such as “Salsa De Conejo” and “Bucket O’ Rabbit Stew.” In the factory there are ragtime-like melodies reminiscent of the Nintendo music of the ’80s.

In the cave, there are xylophones, percussion, marimbas and the echo of someone hitting rocks. The forest is reflected in blue grass and country accompaniment with banjo, slide guitar and ukulele. The city has King Crimson- and Rush-like tempo with synthesizers and drum machines, and the Spaceport sound is dissonant to fit “dystopian” visuals. When the bunny hops over an obstacle or squishes through a cramped space it is in rhythm to one of his original songs.

Meaning in chase

The storyline is multilevel as well, although they won’t divulge the deeper meaning of the chase because it is revealed as the game progresses.

As of Friday, they had 89 supporters pledging a total of $3,528. For $5, donors get a copy of the game when it’s complete. Donors who pledge $40 get their name posted in the game as a bunny obstacle, $50 gets five hours of programming and $1,000 gets the trio on board for 48 hours of game design.

The game will be created for iOs, Mac, PC and Android platforms. Kickstarter projects, however, only get pledged funds if they reach their total goal. For Team Krinoid, that means they still need to raise almost $6,500 by Monday.

In the meantime, it’s a labor of love. They’re making the game because they like playing it, Weinberg said. “We think other people will want to play it too.”

For information and to download a demo of Bunny Run, go to runwithbunnies.com.


This article on crowd funding for a video game first appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel


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