Fed Up With Pokémon? This Kickstarter Game Kindred Fates May Be For You

Ever heard of Kindred Fates? Well, let me spin you a yarn.

I’m about as old of a Pokémon fan as they get. Like many ‘90s kids, I was raised on a steady diet of Pokémon Red & Blue and was way too into the anime when it started. However, over the decades, I’ve started to grow jaded with the formula of the games. There have been improvements, for sure, but it’s difficult to shake the feeling that Game Freak has been spinning their wheels with the latest entries.

But many indie game devs out there have sought to fill the void. Temtem has sought to give us an MMORPG experience, but if I’m being honest, what I’m really wanting is a true open-world monster-fighting experience.

Enter Skymill Studios, an indie dev in the midst of their Kickstarter campaign for the monster-fighting game Kindred Fates. As of this writing, they have already reached their $50,000 goal, but with a hefty dose of stretch goals on the horizon, there’s plenty of reason to throw in your support. 

On the heels of this success, I had the privilege to speak with Skymill Studios founder and Kindred Fates project lead Rob Cravens, where we discussed the studio, the game, and its inspirations.

CLICK HERE to check out the Kickstarter and toss them your support!

RELATED – Pokémon Sword & Shield Have Sold Over 16 Million Units

LRM Online: Well, first of all, congratulations on Kindred Fates gettin gfunded. I know when I got in touch with you, you had just started the Kickstarter and we’re like, what, seven days into it and you’re already fully funded for your $50,000 goal. How does that feel?

Cravens: Honestly, I am just over the moon. We had hoped that this would be successful, obviously, and that we’d be able to make this a reality, but for it to happen so quickly and just the incredible outpouring of support that we’ve received from everyone has just been really humbling and touching.

LRM Online: So let’s start from the beginning. When did you realize you wanted to start developing video games?

Cravens: Well, I think like a lot of people, I’ve been playing video games since I was a kid, and I think for a long time, actually I felt like game development or just software and development was something that was beyond me. It’s something that I would never be skilled enough to really be able to do. But I got into software development around college. I was actually pursuing a degree in psychology for a while, and for a couple of different reasons I decided to leave that and to try software development, ultimately with the goal of pursuing game development. The idea there, I guess for me, was I was going to try to do more traditional software development, like website design, app design, and that sort of thing. And then, hopefully once I had gotten my skills good enough at that I could maybe transition into a role at a game dev company. And I was fortunate enough that my position allowed for me to try this out full-time and give it an honest go.

LRM Online: So where did the idea for Kindred Fates first come about? How long ago was it and what was the spark for you?

Cravens: I would say it was about two years ago. I was trying to think of a game … I think there’s been the concept for a long time of this open world Pokemon game that’s been in the cultural zeitgeist of gaming for a while now. People have been talking about combining Breath of the Wild with Pokemon and what that would be like. And so, I started thinking about what like my vision was for that game. And I think about two years ago, myself and my brother started talking about potentially developing something like that in Unity 3D or at least proof of concept for something like that. And so, that’s really where it came about was just we saw all this demand, all these fans that really wanted this idea. And we, of course, thought it was a really good idea, but no one was making it. And after consistently being sort of frustrated by a lot of the things that was happening in the genre at the time, we decided to give it a try.

LRM Online: How did you come up with the monster name of Kinfolk? It doesn’t feel like a typical monster name.

Cravens: We were trying to think … Okay, so originally we were just going to call them Monsters because I think a lot of times you try to come up with or other games will try to come up with a name for their Monsters and it feels a little bit forced or it may inevitably sound like you’re trying to do something like Pokemon or Digimon. And it just comes off as like awkward, I guess.

LRM Online: Yeah.

Cravens: And so we were thinking of just playing it safe and rather than coming up with some name that just sounded strange, we would just go with Monsters. And we were going to do that for a while, but we really wanted to convey that they’re sentient and that they are equivalent to people in that the people in the world treat them as equals and that it’s not a pet dynamic or something like that like in other games. We needed a word that would help to convey that. We mostly just drew inspiration from the title of the game being Kindred at the time. We hadn’t added the Fates to the title yet, and so Kinfolk seemed like a relatively good name for it.

LRM Online: Yeah, that’s really cool. Yeah, that makes perfect sense now that you said it like that. So what was the next step after you decided, “Okay, this is something we’re interested in.” How did you start? How did you decide that you would go the Kickstarter route for Kindred Fates, and how long did it take for you to sort of lay the groundwork for what eventually became your campaign?

Cravens: Yeah, so we knew that we were going to have to go with the crowdfunding route from the very beginning. With an open world game, especially one filled with dozens and dozens of monsters, and just the sort of things that you expect from an open world game, like side quests and main story quests, just a giant open world full of places to go, all these assets. It’s obviously very, very expensive and we knew that ultimately we wouldn’t be able to afford to develop the entire thing on our own. So, I guess I’m not sure if I’m answering your question here. I’m sorry, but …

LRM Online: Oh, the question. What was your next step in getting the campaign going for Kindred Fates?

Cravens: Ahh, yeah.

LRM Online: Because you created a lot of assets already, before you even did the campaign. You have a lot of art, you have a video of the action, and the characters running around, and all of that. So how do you decide what you’re going to start with and yeah, how did you lay that all out?

Cravens: Sure, sure. So, that really all came from that proof of concept. So, you start with everything, being placeholder art, just a bunch of untextured cubes or cylinders that run around and you get them to behave the way that you are expecting. Like you might start with a cylinder that represents your character, and they can spawn in another cylinder that represents the monster. You lay out all the key bindings and start to get your physics system working, and your health, and that sort of thing. And then after you have basic mechanics in place, that’s when we started looking for artists to really make this something that people would recognize and feel attached to. So, we scoured the internet for artists on Artstation, on Instagram, that we thought would do a really good job of, bringing what we wanted to life.

And we were really fortunate to find a lot of incredibly talented artists who are also excited about what we were doing. So, once we had that like proof of concept and we had the art for it, we had really taken the idea as far as we were able to on our budget, and that’s when we decided to go with Kickstarter. I guess the only other step to that is trying to consistently build a community and get the word out there that we are developing this, and that eventually there’s going to come a time where we need to do a crowdfunding campaign. And so, we were lucky enough to that we had an awesome community that was supportive for us as we were going into that.

LRM Online: Right. How did you go about building that? Like what kick started that? How did you get all the … because obviously, there was a good number of people who already knew about Kindred Fates because how quickly you funded.

Cravens: Yeah, a couple different ways. One of the ways was just kind of posting to Reddit. Occasionally, we made a subreddit, we would post to r/games, r/indiegames. We, of course, had our YouTube channel that we would put updates out on. I think absolutely one of the biggest factors in growing our community was a YouTuber named RuffledRowlit. He was, I mean absolutely critical in the growth of our discord channel, and just the number of people that were aware of us. It’s really getting the word out about us. He was phenomenal for that.

LRM Online: Right. So I’m looking at, I know you … basically, the battle system is interesting because it looks to be sort of a realtime battle system, and then you have a branching evolutionary aspect. How did you know about those from the get-go that that’s how you would be playing this game compared to maybe something that’s a linear evolution in addition to turn-based combat, which we see a lot of. What made you decide to go that route?

Cravens: Oh sure. So we knew from the beginning that, I mentioned before, we didn’t just want to make this open-world-like Pokemon game. We could have taken just Breath of the Wild and Pokemon and mash the two together. I think it still would have been a very fun game, but we knew that we want to do that and we wanted to like push the genre forward with some new ideas. So, early on in pre-production, we started thinking about what are the things that we really enjoy about those concepts and let’s keep those. And then, what are some things that we don’t enjoy, or that we think could be pushed forward further, and what does that look like? And so, one of the things that we thought had been the same regardless of whether it was it really much of anything in the genre was the evolution.

We felt like for the most part, it was fairly linear. And then, the examples where it wasn’t linear, it was still fairly confusing. And so, we tried to think of a system that was a little more interesting and that’s where we got the branching evolutions, giving you a basically a choice every time of which path you’re going to go down, and how that’ll have long-standing consequences that you have to continue to deal with. The battle system was mostly just a result of the genre being turn-based for so long, and hearing that there was a big demand for action combat, we thought it would be a good way to mix things up and it would keep things pretty entertaining, too.

LRM Online: Right. That makes sense. So what, what’s next now that you have been funded and I guess, obviously, we have a bunch of other potential perks that you have for those stretch goals. You want to talk about those Kindred Fates stretch goals first before we delve further?

Cravens: Yeah, so I guess the first one on the list is this breeding mechanic, which we actually only really call it that on the page, because it’s something that we know people in the genre are familiar with. In reality, the mechanic is called recruitment, and we actually need to add this to our page still, but it is a neat way of sidestepping the awkwardness and a lot of the problems that a breeding mechanic specifically involves, and giving you a lot more options for how you want to get new team members and change their stats, the same way that breeding lets you do. So, I’m personally fairly excited for that one.

LRM Online: Cool. Cool. And then, I see down the line you have Switch version, Nintendo Switch version, which personally, I’m hoping it hits that because that’s what I want to do. As great as PC gaming can be, I like console gaming and all that. I’m all about that, so fingers crossed that you hit that you hit that milestone.

Cravens: Yeah. Well, you are not alone in that. There’s a large number of people that are hoping that we’ll hit that one. And so far, actually, the projections are saying that that’s definitely within reach.

LRM Online: So, one I’m interested in as well is the $125,000 option goal, is the turn-based combat option. So, that seems pretty ambitious. Would it be a situation where you could either choose to be realtime combat or turn-based?

Cravens: Absolutely. I’m actually glad you asked about this. This is something that we get a lot of questions about. Some people think that if we hit this, then we’re suddenly going to switch the combat to turn-based from action combat, and that’s not the case at all. Yeah, you’ll absolutely have the option to choose. There’s a lot of people that are excited about action combat, but there’s a lot of people that really still prefer that turn-based option. So, if we hit this goal, then it’ll just be an option in the settings, or as soon as you start the game, where you can choose between one of the two. And there’s a couple of different ways that we can go about handling the actual turn-based combat. We’ve seen a couple of different suggestions and we’ve had a solution in mind as well. Something kind of similar to Kuni, if you’ve ever played the first Ni no Kuni.

LRM Online: Yes.

Cravens: So, that’s one way that we could go with it, but it’s really an option that’s there for people. We’re including it because we know that turn-based combat is something that a large amount of people want, so we want to do it the way that those people would like to see it done. We’ll be taking a lot of suggestions and a lot of feedback on exactly how they would like to see that, rather than just trying to make assumptions about it I guess.

LRM Online: Yeah, that makes sense. So what is next for you guys now that you are funded? How long do you guys project it’s going to take for Kindred Fates to come out and how are you guys handling staff? Do you have an office or is it all remote or how does that all work? I’m just curious about your … because indie set up, how that works, because every one company’s different.

Cravens: Sure, sure. So we’re based out of Columbus, Ohio. That means that about four of us, we have one team member who actually travels a lot, but four of us are here in Columbus, and the rest of the team is all over the world. We’ll probably remain remote unless something really crazy happens with the funding. And then, we may end up getting a very small office, but I don’t really foresee that happening. In terms of the release date or when it can come out, it’s very difficult to say. Obviously, it’s like really early in production still, we’re still in pre-alpha, so nailing down a window for that is pretty tricky, especially considering all of these stretch goals that we’ve still yet to hit or could hit. Just adding the Switch release or a turn-based combat, 50 more Kinfolk, all of these different things, advanced environmental interactions, these could all add a lot of time onto what the date could be. So it’s very, very difficult to say right now, even what year.

Kickstarter really forces you to pick a date that you’re going to say like, “Oh, approximately …” this time. We tried to be somewhat conservative with that estimate by listing 2023. In reality though, I don’t think any game developer would be able to look at this list of potential features, and give an accurate year for when they think the base game, plus any one of these or none of these, what the result of that is. It’s really just too hard to say until we at least have a list of these stretch goals that we know for sure are going to be in or not.

LRM Online: And speaking of stretch goals, money and time aside, what is a feature that you would love to bring into Kindred Spirits if sky’s the limit, type of thing?

Cravens: Oh man. If the sky was the limit, I think it would be really cool to have a more of a shared world, where you could drop in and drop out of other people’s game sessions. Not quite an MMO, but something where you could, you could interact with other players. Kind of like Destiny, I guess.

LRM Online: Yeah, that could be cool. Now a random question, have you had a chance to play that other monster game, Temtem, which I know is in early stages right now.

Cravens: Sure. I have not had the chance to play it yet. I would really like to. I’ve been very busy lately, but yeah, it looks fantastic. I think what those guys are doing is really cool and I’ve been following them obviously for a while now. But yeah, I haven’t had the chance to play yet, but hopefully soon.

LRM Online: Anything else that you want any readers out there to know about Kindred Fates or just any aspect of it?

Cravens: I would say … I’m just really grateful that they’ve been willing to give it a chance. I know that already we have made some creative choices, like making the story a bit darker, making the monsters a bit darker, and that sort of thing, that go contrary to what a lot of people sort of expect from the genre. And I guess, I would just want people to know that we plan to deliver on that and, and I’m really excited that that’s the game that we get to make.

LRM Online: Awesome. Well, congratulations again on hitting this amazing goal, and like you said, it looks like you’re going to be able to hit some pretty significant stretch goals, and that’s fantastic. As someone who has been falling this genre for, since forever, and have also been frustrated, especially more recently, I’m just like waiting for something different to come out of it, and I think Kindred Fates is a great step forward and looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Cravens: Well, thank you so much.

Kindred Fates has already been funded, but you can help them reach some of their killer stretch goals HERE!

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Joseph Jammer Medina

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and contributor at LRM Online. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.

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