CMU students launch Kickstarter campaign

Cradle features innovative combat controls and detailed world to create an immersive experience

Angela Liu Feb 3, 2014

In the upcoming PC and Linux game Cradle, you are an outcast on the run. Black tendrils follow closely behind, covering the land in a blanket of shadows. Your journey has taken you to the Cradle, a forgotten realm associated with free will and creation. The god of this realm, Aderyn, has tasked you to return the Cradle to the known world. In return, your survival is ensured and humankind will once again experience free will — something that was stolen from them eons ago.

Mojo Game Studios, an independent game studio based in Pittsburgh and founded by Carnegie Mellon students, is weaving together an open-world fantasy action game with a focus on skill-based combat and self-driven exploration. Founder and lead designer Hank Zwally explained “[I] was getting tired of seeing the same games come out over and over. I wanted to be the change in the industry I wanted to see.” After creating a demo at Carnegie Mellon’s Game Creation Society, Zwally and a few other key members founded Mojo Game Studios to further develop Cradle.

Combat

If a player wishes to survive, nothing but a mastery of the combat and movement system will suffice in Cradle. Using the mouse, the player must aim the cursor to connect attacks. Left and right clicks influence the direction of melee swings. Additionally, Cradle uses a method of fluid movement that will allow 360˚ movement, similar to console controller analog movement, with conventional WASD and mouse controls. Animations are responsive to what actions were taken and where they occurred. A chop to the head will obviously play out differently than a hit to the groin. Such features are lacking in most mainstream games, and Cradle hopes to innovate combat by going the extra step.

Cradle aspires to reflect a player’s intent within the game. To enable that, Cradle gives the player many character choices and allows extensive interaction with the environment. There are five starting classes (arcanist, druid, ranger, paladin, and swordsman) with combat specializations that make every experience individualized. Different classes interact with the environment in unique ways. A ranger may climb trees for higher ground, while a paladin might smash through a tree to get a foe. A player can then pick and choose among an assortment of weapons to suit a unique play style. Do you like hitting hard? A heavy weapon may be your best friend. Are you a pyromaniac? A player can even augment a weapon so that it is always on fire. But the enemies found in Cradle are no pushovers, and resources are limited. Skill, along with smart decisions, lead to victory.

Exploration

Open-world games are popular because they allow players to take the game at their own pace. A player can rush through a game or decide to stop and smell the roses. The world of Cradle is crafted to evoke feelings of wonder and wanderlust. Five distinct environments, ranging from the overgrown Titanwood forest to the ruined Port Bayou city, give the player plenty of space.

“The Cradle itself is wild and forgotten,” lead VFX artist and current Carnegie Mellon senior fine arts major Nathan Trevino explained. “[The] architecture and environment has mixed up in a sometimes disgusting, sometimes gorgeous way. We have elements of our art direction that hint at the world before.”

But the world is not just eye candy. Plants can be picked and brewed. Environmental puzzles lay in the open, waiting to be solved. Inventory does not pause the game, healing items are carried on an avatar’s body, and even character selection has been built into the in-game world.

A common trend in open-world games is to have quests that reward the player for completing certain activities. However, these quests often feel like checklists done simply to get a piece of loot. Cradle aspires to have a world that inspires activity and interaction. Environmental clues, mysterious items, scrawled notes, and other objects are placed in the world of Cradle to lead players on their own paths. There are non-playable characters who may push the player toward certain directions, but Cradle promises that there won’t be any seemingly purposeless tasks.

The Future of Cradle

As Cradle has been in development for over a year, the foundation for the game has already been laid. The game is in a playable state, though several concepts stated above are being worked on. The goal is to have 10 to 15 hours of gameplay on a speedrun, though the game could be as long as 50 to 100 hours if the player chooses to explore, according to the game’s creators. Mojo Game Studios hopes to distribute the game via Steam and their website. Potentially risky goals include multiplayer co-op, extensive voice acting, and console support.

Mojo Game Studios hopes to launch Cradle in the summer of 2016. In order to build a community of players, as well as secure the necessary funds, Mojo Game Studios has chosen to use Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a crowd-funding website that allows backers to make payments via Amazon toward projects. Backers are not charged unless the project succeeds and are rewarded for certain amounts. The catch is that there’s a time limit — Cradle has 17 days to raise $350,000 or the project won’t be funded through Kickstarter.