Do the milkshake the milkshake do the shake
Another month in crowdfunding has seen big names and big projects continue to appear, with a proposed remake of Leisure Suit Larry, a remake of Ogre which is already over 1000% funded, a new adventure game from Sierra Online veteran Jane Jensen, and a Modern Warfare/Counter-Strike hybrid named Police Warfare also proposed... And then mysteriously cancelled. It didn’t look like the game was likely to make its target - sitting at only $25,000 of its $325,000 target - but at this point, no explanation has been given as to why they gave up hope.
I’ve continued to trawl for hidden gems, trying to avoid these larger names, but increasingly I’m finding I don’t really need to leave Kickstarter to do so. While I found a number of projects on other sites in March, there was very little of interest this month. Instead I found bugs, projects pitched on multiple sites (all unfunded) and sites with projects that received funding months ago, still on the front page.
Thankfully, I had no trouble finding awesome stuff on Kickstarter - instead I had to decide which I was most interested in, how many I could afford to fund, and which ones I was most excited to share.
The first project I discovered this month isn’t actually a game. In fact, I think it might be more important. The idea of a PC Gaming Wiki, dedicated to cataloguing all the bizarre problems and arcane solutions that plague PC games and gamers is a brilliant idea. The hours I’ve spent in forums trying to find a fix for a random crash or broken audio still has me waking up in a cold sweat. I’m all for anything to make this easier.
What’s interesting is the amount of money being asked, and the fact that this isn’t really a for-profit venture. They’re looking for the entire costs of running the website for a year - in much the same way Wikipedia hosts regular funding drives. But as the project is never really “done”, does that mean if they’re successful this year, we’ll be seeing them appear again in the future?
It also means that the rewards are similarly lacking: Your most basic pledge gets you listed as a donor, and the next one up gives you a digital download of the wiki. Given wikis are most useful because of their continual updates, this doesn’t seem like an ideal reward. However, the goal is a noble one, and I hope they raise their full $60,000.
An Action-RPG described as a “spiritual successor to Titan Quest”, and developed by some of the original team members, including Arthur Bruno, formerly Lead Designer at Iron Lore, the game’s developer.
This didn’t initially grab me. I saw what looked like a Diablo clone, and wasn’t really interested. I like the idea of using Kickstarter to fund interesting or new ideas that may not otherwise see the light of day. But then I also like funding games that look awesome and that I’d love to play. The video pitch for Grim Dawn is filled with some stunning art and fantastic gameplay. It seems like the guys at Crate Entertainment already have most of the mechanics in game, and are a team who really knows what they’re doing. The notion of a more open-world style ARPG is also appealing, and I’ve not seen it done before.
The project does ask for a fairly hefty $280,000, but justifies its request, wanting to go into production with support from full-time artists, designers and animators. At $18 for a DRM-free copy of the game, I’m excited already.
A Las Barricadas
A game with a social conscience, A Las Barricadas is a two-player board game that simulates riots and demonstrations, with one player taking the role of the anti-authoritarian demonstrators and the other, the state. The developer, Black Flag Games Collective, say it's committed to creating games that have social impacts, and have also pledged to make A Las Barricadas Open Source - releasing all game materials under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License; giving the game back to its community.
Two player games with inherently imbalanced sides have always interested me - something of my love for Starcraft showing through, perhaps. Here the strength of the State is greater than the Demonstrators’; but in turn the State is less flexible and can be overwhelmed. Black Flag’s claim that the game should “aid in the honing of our collective tactical mind” seems a little extreme, but board games simple enough to learn quickly with significant depth to make mastery difficult appeal to me.
All but the lowest pledges receive a copy of the game, too, which is great. International donors will find themselves, as usual, paying extra for shipping, but that’s becoming par for the course. Higher pledges earn extra content, from map packs to expansions, and those with cash to burn can even buy themselves a Developer credit.
Magic The Gathering The Musical
This one isn’t strictly a game, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. What it does seem to be is simply awesome. A musical with puppets that tells the story of a boy and a Magic tournament! That should be all you need to know.
The people involved - Zombie Cat Productions - do have experience in this sort of thing, which I appreciate, and you can find a lot of their other work on YouTube. They’ve made stop-motion videos and short films, and have all worked in TV or theatre. The video they’ve included is genuinely funny, and had me convinced in the value of the project, even as a relatively recent convert to Magic: The Gathering.
The reward system is a little disappointing, with the actual musical not available until the $25 pledge mark, and even then only as a digital download ($75 is required for a physical DVD). This will no doubt cut costs, but it sets a high price point to actually receive what I consider the minimum reward for funding the project.
Boot Hill Heroes
I saw the words “retro-RPG”, “wild west” and “influence from Spaghetti Western film” and I knew this was a project for me. Boot Hill Heroes is a four-player co-op RPG, drawing inspiration from SNES classics like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 3 and Earthbound. Some of their screens even remind me of an earlier game (the first I ever played): Bank Panic. So there’s a heapin' helping of nostalgia here.
In development for Windows and Xbox Live Indie Games, it is being developed by two friends who’ve quit their jobs to work on the game fulltime. They’re looking for, and have already reached, $5000 to spend on a soundtrack and sound effects. They want an epic spaghetti western sound for the game, and I can’t help but agree with them, ‘Ecstasy of Gold’ from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly plays over their short trailer, and the effect is amazing. Any money they earn over the $5000 will go towards more art assets for the game.
Pledging $15 gets you a digital copy of the game for Windows, $30 gets you the soundtrack as well. If you live in the continental United States, $150 will earn you a cake and $900 will get you flown to the game’s launch party. Cue my crying bitter tears at missing out on wild west cake.
Last month saw all projects listed receive funding, though Nevermind only secured pledges of $1325 out of their $2000 goal. Lucky for them, they were a “Flexible Funding Campaign” hosted at IndieGoGo, and so still received everything they raised.
The most successful project was FTL, which was already 1000% funded when the article was published. It finished with $200,542 pledged of its $10,000 goal: More than 2000% funded!
I also received my first reward this month. Unfortunately it was only a postcard and some stickers from the fine folks at JammerUp, but hopefully I’ll receive my copy of the Roller Derby Board Game soon!
I design games and enjoy thinking about how they work. Shorter opinionated blatherings can be found on my twitter.