I’ve always been scared of the sea; not enough to avoid going on it, or swimming close by the shore (although in Australia there’s the relatively minimal danger of sharks), but swimming out in it. Again, in the shallows it’s fine, but as soon as you get deep enough so that you can look down and see nothing but darkness, my imagination takes over. There is *always* a beastie barrelling towards the surface with me as the starter. It’s enough to start the risings of panic and I start swimming faster, breaths coming in short gasps. I kid you not. It’s awful. And irrational. But there you go.
So whilst adventurers of time past were probably made of sterner stuff when it comes to the unknown, there have always been terrifying tales brought back by weather beaten sailors, who it must be said, used to be a suspicious lot. Chief amongst chiefs, the Kraken, Man’s most terrible oceanic foe, have long been part of our culture. From as soon as we starting striking out across the sea, there have been rumours of huge creatures from the deep taking our delicate craft. Grizzled Norwegian adventurers returned with horrifying stories of these leviathans emerging from the waves to pull our ships to the bottom with the loss of all hands.
Thus were the seeds of Keel Haul planted.
The game started life as a course collaboration between the University of Toronto and OCAD – the Ontario College of Art & Design for the Level Up Showcase in Toronto. Last April, a team of students from both colleges submitted a project called Plunder. Headed by Abhijeeth Swaminathan, the team consists of William Parks (art director), Nathan Pilla (technical artist), Vignesh Ravi and Murali Komaravolu (programmers), delivered the game to the exhibition, one of around 80 other teams. The game won the ‘People’s Choice’ award, as well as nominated for ‘Best Art’ and Best Game’. It was the positive reception that cemented the students’ decision to continue developing it. They formed a company called Summa Games.
That was 9 months ago. Today, an open beta is due around springtime. You may note that there’s not been much discussion around the actual game, just a load of old flannel about my lack of swimming ability. Without further delay… It’s an asymmetrical multiplayer (that is, one player can be The Kraken) action game for PC that pits the greatest pirate captains from across the seven seas against deadly sea monsters, in a battle for gold and glory and features two main modes at the moment:
Plunder: Pirates attempting to steal treasure from The Kraken and bring the booty back to their pirate caverns (or huts, forts, whatever they may be) while The Kraken has to defend his phat lewts from the filthy brethren and sink their ships.
Death Match: Regular ol’ Pirate vs Pirate combat from two to four players and four pirate captains to choose from.
It does look a lot of fun, it has to be said. Particularly playing as The Kraken, crushing those puny human hulls into splinters. Oh yes.
The most important thing I guess is how The Kraken is disguised under the water, whether there is a submergence timer or the bubbles give the player away just before they break cover. That could induce some heart stopping terror – maybe The Kraken can release bubbles at a location to ‘fake’ an emergence, just to mix things up a bit. I guess we will find out!
Local multiplayer is supported as well as online, as well as allowing the use of variety of controllers and the more traditional mouse + keyboard. We’ll bring you more about Keel Haul pretty soon, so if you’re interested then keep your eyes on TGR.