In 1983, Electronic Arts published a four-player, turn-based strategy game developed by a little company called Ozark Softscape. The game itself didn't necessarily sell very well, but it left its indelible mark on a generation of players — and, perhaps more importantly, a generation of designers who would, in time, themselves become legends. That game was M.U.L.E.
Despite being nearly 30 years old, M.U.L.E. remains a frequent entrant on nearly every list of the most influential or important video games ever made. It inspired later games from figures like Will Wright (The Sims) and Sid Meier (Civilization). And the turn-based, strategic resource management play is still considered to have been ahead of its time.
Now, three decades later, MULE returns, this time as a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices. It's funadmentally the same M.U.L.E., just given a shiny new skin to look nice on your shiny new pocket device. Of course, it also features modern social media integration, because this is 2012. And, if the slick 21st century interface just doesn't work out for you, the team promises "downloadable 8-bit skins" you can throw on there to make it look like the M.U.L.E. you may remember from oh so long ago.
M.U.L.E. Returns is a faithful special edition, a new skin on an old game, and it will be released this summer. For a brand new game, taking the original ideas and running with them, there's Alpha Colony.
Alpha Colony, billed as a "tribute" to the original, is being planned for PC and Mac as well as for mobile platforms. It's a 3D resource management world, inspired by the setting of M.U.L.E. but taking advantage of nearly 30 intervening years' worth of changes in game design and philosophy, not to mention evolved technology. The project is being run by DreamQuest Games, a small studio that specialises in mobile titles.
What's the catch? Kickstarter. Alpha Colony needs $US500,000 in funding to happen.
The Kickstarter page is slightly unclear about one final point: M.U.L.E. Returns is already fully funded and in progress, and will be released this summer regardless of the outcome of the Kickstarter campaign. Alpha Colony, as an all-new game, needs the funding. But as they are so closely related, M.U.L.E. Returns is one of the potential rewards for certain pledge levels. Which means, in turn, that by pitching in for one game, you can get both.
Alpha Colony: A Tribute to M.U.L.E. [Kickstarter]