Nearly one year ago Stainless Games announced that it was reviving the vehicular-combat Carmageddon franchise it created back in the late 1990s with the Square Enix-published Carmageddon: Reincarnation. Then nothing happened for a while. Well, not publicly it didn’t, at least.

In reality, a lot was happening behind the scenes at the Isle of Wight-based developer. After dropping “well over a third of a million dollars getting the rights back,” Stainless began prototype and design work on the revival. The hundreds of thousands the dev spent on the investment reportedly “rerepresents all of [its] profits from our other work,” but the team thinks it’s “worth it.” Yet it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t nearly enough, actually. And so the studio has announced its intentions to have the public fund the remaining $400,000 USD or more through Kickstarter. As of this writing, over $135,000 USD has already been funneled into Stainless’ coffers by nearly 4,000 individuals who want to see the Reincarnation completed and released.

“We want to spend the money doing what we do best: making video games,” says Stainless Executive Director Neil Barnden in a new promotional video that could pass as a low-budget version of a late ’90s video-game commercial.

Speaking with Joystiq, CEO Patrick Buckland added that he at first tried pitching the game, a reboot of the original titles, to a number of different developers once Stainless had reacquired the rights. Several of them reportedly told the CEO that they had “great memories of Carmageddon,” and that they viewed it as “a great brand.” Yet no concrete publishing deals were forthcoming. Publishing houses either wanted to see a completed project before they would even consider getting on board, or insisted on having Stainless hand the rights to the IP over to them. After sinking so much time and money into retaking ownership of those rights, though, the developer wasn’t about to just give them up.

No, it had been down that road once already in the wake of sequel Carmageddon II: Carpocalypse Now not living up to the sales success of the first game, which Barnden says came 40 copies shy of beating out Grim Fandango as 1997’s best seller. The rights and large sums of money were repossessed by “EVIL” publisher SCI after the second game’s poor retail performance.

“Carmageddon was one of [SCI’s] biggest brands,” Buckland says, “so there was no way on God’s green earth they were going to part with that.” SCI would later buy up Eidos and gain control of the rights to several larger properties, but that didn’t mean it was about to loosen its grip on Carmageddon.

“Why sell your IP? Why do it? Better to have it just sat in a cupboard,” Buckland quipped. But the IP changed hands again back in 2009 when Eidos was gobbled up by Japanese publisher Square Enix. It was Stainless’ first real chance at getting back its baby, and the developer jumped at the opportunity. With the rights back in the creators’ hands, Stainless was free to proceed with development however it saw fit.

“We’re rebooting the brand by making Carmageddon: Reincarnation,” explains Barnden in the promotional video. “It will feature all the best bits from the original — and more. And we’ll make it shinier, HD, HiFi, WiFi, thigh-high and super-fly.

“If we meet our Kickstarter target of 400k, we’ll be able to afford the electricity to code even wackier power-ups. We’ll be able to make the blades on the cars sharper, fill the streets with pedestrians and fill the cows with even more stomachs. And if we get beyond that target, we’ll cram even more stuff into the game for you. Stuff beyond your wildest dreams, but not beyond ours.”

Barnden echoed that statement in his talk with Joystiq. “The idea is that with Carmageddon Reincarnation,” he said, “we are just going to be hi-rezzing the [excrement] out of everything. Everything can be smoother, shinier, filled with far more detailed giblets than there ever was before.”

More specifically, the studio says this reboot will stick closely to the first games but include new stuff like online multiplayer, rag-doll physics for pedestrians, power-ups based on physics and social integration on Facebook and Twitter. The classic Action Replay feature will return too, this time allowing players to upload videos to YouTube. As for the throwback stuff, expect no shortage of familiar environments, cars, drivers and power-ups. Of course, all of it is dependent on the Kickstarter fund hitting that $400,000 target over the next 28 days. Should that happen, Carmageddon: Reincarnation will see the light of day in February 2013.

Sources: Kickstarter and Joystiq