Game development is difficult. Most modern-day AAA games require hundreds of developers working for years (sometimes close to a decade) on a single project. Sometimes though, it’s the little independent games we love the most. When a few people set out to make a great game with no backing, it makes for a great success story. But SkyRider, though a great game, is not a success story. And you should play it anyway.
Before you play SkyRider’s five-level demo, you owe to yourself to read its history. Over on IGN, Adrian Novell describes a harrowing tale of four years spent working on what sounded like a guaranteed success.
The idea was simple, create a platformer game that would require two people working together to complete it. It sounds somewhat like Portal 2’s multiplayer mode—the puzzles can’t be completed with a single character.
The storyline is basic, Noki and his Robot want to travel to the AirCitadel. Why? I’m not really sure. What’s so special about the AirCitadel? It’s not clear. But you have a goal, and it’s only possible if you work together. One player controls Noki, who can run, jump, and fight. The other player controls the robot, who can hover, fire, and create platforms. Constant communication is necessary to move forward.
Sounds simple enough, right? The artwork is beautiful; the controls work well enough, so what went wrong? A lot of things. The crew wanted to try a Kickstarter but couldn’t overcome barriers. They attended conferences to find backers but didn’t have the capacity or the knowhow to make contacts and show off working demos. And they ignored advice to build an online multiplayer option. That last decision proved to be their downfall.
Just when they needed crucial funding to continue development, the publisher backed out, citing a lack of multiplayer as the reason for the decision. SkyRider never recovered.
That’s the short version, but the details are worth reading because it’s filled with lessons in game development and project management.
And in the meantime, the development team managed to put together a game demo. You’ll find five levels to play. Just make sure to read the instructions on the download site, because they don’t exist in the game. Neither does sound or music or any general directions. But once you figure out how to play, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. Most confusingly, the start of the game requires you to walk from one end of the screen to the other. But then the real fun begins.
Fair warning though, it’s possible to play the game on your own. But you’ll have a much better time playing with a friend. You can download SkyRider’s demo for free today.