Thaumistry is a comedy text adventure about a child prodigy named Eric who became a world-famous inventor at the age of 13, and has been unable to come up with a single new invention since. Now, ten years later, he feels like a failure. But with his research funding on the edge of being pulled, an encounter with a strange man named Jack reveals to him the truth about Bodgers, "people through whom magic flows into the world." Could he be a Bodger, too? It might explain a few things—but he doesn't have much time to find out.
The game is being developed by Bob Bates, a long-time developer whose credits stretch all the way back to Infocom in the late-'80s. He started working on the project 11 years ago, handling everything himself, and last month he took it to Kickstarter in search of funding that will help him finally get it out the door. Text adventures aren't exactly all the rage these days, and Thaumistry, apart from a few "modernizations" like seamless play between devices and customizable fonts and appearance, will be a straight-up old-school experience: reading, typing, and sitting quietly, pondering the mind and motivations of the designer. Even so, it easily surpassed its $25,000 goal, and there's still almost two weeks left in the campaign.
"Ron [Gilbert] and Tim [Schafer] have certainly had success with their new graphic adventures, so there seems to be good interest in adventure games in general—but theirs have graphics, so it’s hard to extrapolate," Bates said, pondering his campaign's success. "There has definitely been a resurgence of all-text or mostly-text games, as we’ve seen with Twine games and also the Choose Your Own Adventure games. Of course 80 days was Time Magazine’s GOTY two years ago, and Fallen London seems to be going strong. So we’ll see. Probably the biggest barrier to success for text games 20 years ago was that most people just plain didn’t type. That has totally changed, so that’s a good sign."
"Really, the question will be whether this generation finds open-ended inputs and the sense that you can 'try anything' interesting and fun. Puzzle-solving is as much of an activity in today’s action-adventures as ever, so I’m not worried about that. Comedy is timeless. Fantasy and casting spells is certainly as popular as ever. So will modern players get past the text-only interface?" he continued. "I think about kids who would never consider watching a black-and-white movie, but when you put on the Marx brothers or Casablanca, they forget that they’re watching something 'old-fashioned,' and simply enjoy it."
Thaumistry stretch goals include Steam enhancements like trading cards and achievements, Android and iOS versions, and music. But the real objective is simply to get it finished. "At the rate I’ve been going, it will take several more years to complete the game. But with a successful Kickstarter, I can devote more time to the game now and get it out the door within months, rather than years," Bates explained in the Kickstarter pitch. "And with stretch goal funding, I can hire technical help to port the game to more devices, and potentially even get music into the game."
The Thaumistry Kickstarter runs until February 21. Some screens, such as they are, are below.