By Harold Goldberg
Some time ago, the New York Videogame Critics Circle was treated to a demo of the work of New York’s What Pumpkin Studios. Hiveswap, their upcoming point-and-click adventure game, is based on the popular yet underground web comic, Homestruck. In essence, HiveSwap’s a prequel with all-new characters that sets up the world of the popular web comic.
In the casual atmosphere of a Grand Street restaurant, Jess Haskins, the team’s creative director, said told the group how it all began. She said the Hiveswap Kickstarter raised nearly $2.5 million in September, 2012. The campaign met its original goal in less than two days. That’s what happens with a good Kickstarter. If the idea is hot, it moves unbelievably quickly. (I know that from personal experience with my League of Legends Experience effort.)
The game first went to The Odd Gentlemen (King’s Quest) for development. But, according to Haskins, it became clear to Homestruck creator Andrew Hussie that fuller control by a team he’d help to choose would make the most sense.
Hiveswap is set in the 1990s, and it’s nostalgic for that time. That doesn’t mean Joey Claire, the hero of the game, likes Nirvana and all things grunge. That’s perhaps too typical for the time. Rather, she likes everything from Lite Bright to Final Fantasy. You’ll even see a Metroid poster on her wall. It’s noted that the TV in her room isn’t for programs. It’s only turned on for games.
The thing about Hiveswap is that it will help to fill a niche that’s been somewhat neglected. Tween girls love games — there’s no doubt about that. But as avid players, they haven’t been served with the same cornucopia of games that boys have. Even Nintendo, which is the family friendliest of game publishers, doesn’t offer enough dedicated games for the tween girl market.
But things are slowly changing. Witness the case of NixHyrda’s EggBaby, which has nearly 200,000 five star reviews on Google Play. As you raise eggs into over 100 animals, the virtual pet is app which many users call “adorable” offers everything its market needs, including a variety of mini-games. The app was so impressive to Silicon Valley that co-founder Lina Chen raised $5 million in venture capital to make more games. Egg!, NixHydra’s new game, is imminent.
While Hiveswap is a different genre completely, the classic point and click adventure has seen a resurgence in recent years. With monsters, mysteries, and the right amount of attitude, it seems like Hiveswap will be the right game at the right time for the tween girl audience. And the fact that it’s been gestating for some time may well mean it’ll be a game that’s been worth the wait.
–Harold Goldberg, the Circle’s founder, is the author of All Your Base Are Belong to Us (How 50 Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture).