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Kickstart My Heart – 4/18/2012


On Nekro, Grim Dawn, and the Importance of a Good Sell:

One of the things I’ve been grappling with in fleshing out the idea for this weekly beast is where to draw the line on what I want to add from week to week. There’s no way to put every high-potential Kickstarter project in here, but more importantly, how do you recognize when such a project even is high-potential? With that in mind, let’s talk about Nekro and Grim Dawn…

As much as I get excited for projects based on an existing name, such as Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun Returns, the more interesting discussion lies in calling attention to lesser-known projects that don’t have big names or legacies behind them, but could still be genuinely very good. It wasn’t until I started looking at the page for Nekro that I came to appreciate just how critical it is for these projects to raise their game with regards to presentation skills. Go ahead, watch this video:

Bad lighting. Bad sound. Game footage that is not immediately compelling or distinctive. At the risk of being a superficial, judgmental prick, it’s hard to watch that and get excited for this project. Given that they’re intent on making a game that ought to get someone like me excited (it’s a PC game that claims classics like Dungeon Keeper and Myth as inspirations), I am the sort of gamer they need to appeal to and that’s hard to do if you watch an intro video or read a description and think, “Eh.”

I’ve watched the video a couple of times, but I’m still not entirely sure what the game is. Yes, you’re some sort of necromancer risen, seeking revenge on some corrupt king by obliterating randomly generated towns loaded with corrupt people. You’ll summon minions that do grotesque things, and there’s a pooping pig, and … well, I’m not really all that sure. There’s a much more detailed Q&A you can read that fills in a lot of blanks, but how many people will take the time? darkForge doesn’t even seem to have a website set up for itself or the game yet. (If they do, it’s not linked from the Kickstarter page as is the case for every other project I’ve looked at.)

None of this is meant to imply there’s not a solid game here. It’s just rather hard to see at this point and if the audience you’re selling to can’t see it, what are the odds they fund you?

Compare that to the recent launch of the Grim Dawn Kickstarter from a pair of Titan Quest veterans who went on to form Crate Entertainment.

These are similar projects in the sense that they don’t have the resources of a company like inXile behind them, but there’s no question that the footage we see behind Grim Dawn looks worlds more interesting. Likewise, the presentation from Arthur Bruno, without being a showman’s work, makes a much more compelling case for the game. He very efficiently provides a detailed background on himself and his team, where the game tools have come from, what kind of game they’re building, etc. Yes, it’s true, Crave likely gets a headstart here because they’ve licensed and updated the very same engine they used to help make Titan Quest for Iron Lore, but even that is all part and parcel of the fact that they’ve built a more compelling case for the project.

Lest you think I’m trying to slap around the folks building Nekro, trust me, if I didn’t think the project were worth looking at, I wouldn’t put it in this list. I think it deserves a look in. I also think it would be a shame if a lesser than stellar sales job prevents them from hitting their goal.

New Additions This Week: Grim Dawn, Nekro, Ogre, Pinkerton Road (Moebius)

Projects Ended: Wasteland 2 (Funded!)


Pinkerton Road (NEW!)

Developer: Jane Jensen
Goal: $300,000
Status: $184,750
Deadline: 5/19/2012
About the Game: “Pinkerton Road is the new game studio started by game veterans Jane Jensen and Robert Holmes. Our focus is 3rd person adventure games for PC and tablet with rich stories, gorgeous art and seamlessly fun play.  The studio will use a new model, “Community Supported Gaming” (CSG) to fund and develop their games.”
Latest Update (4/16): The Pinkerton team conducted a poll to see what game idea was most compelling to the fans funding the Kickstarter project. The results are out and Moebius came out on top by a wide margin, taking 61% of the vote, with Gray Matter II coming in a distant second at 21.9%.

Grim Dawn (NEW!)

DeveloperCrate Entertainment
Goal: $280,000
Status: $10,885
Deadline: 5/18/2012
About the Game: “Grim Dawn is an action role-playing game for PC and a spiritual successor to Titan Quest.  For the past two years a small team of former Iron Lore veterans at Crate Entertainment have been developing Grim Dawn with their own, improved version of the Iron Lore engine and tools; the same technology used to create Titan Quest.”
Latest Update: n/a

Ogre Designer’s Edition (NEW!)

DeveloperSteve Jackson Games
Goal: $20,000
Status: $194,463
Deadline: 5/18/2012
About the Game: “Ogre was the first game I ever designed. It came out in 1977! It’s been out of print for years, except for the miniatures rules. I’m constantly getting requests to bring it back, and in 2008 we started working on a new edition . . . a “designer’s edition” that would be as big and beautiful as any wargame you’ve ever seen.”
Latest Update (4/16): With nearly $200k in support, Steve Jackson Games now claims this as the new record holder for a Kickstarter-funded boardgame (topping D-Day Dice). The additional funding beyond $175,000 will bring the game acrylic, oversized dice and enhanced PDFs (not sure what the latter is all about).

Nekro (NEW!)

Developer: darkForge
Goal: $100,000
Status: $20,340
Deadline: 5/4/2012
About the Game: “Nekro is an overhead, randomly generated action game about summoning evil forces of darkness to do your bidding! Hailing from the era of great classics such as Myth: The Fallen Lords, Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Dungeon Keeper and more, we are creating a game rooted deep in PC gaming’s history, but with all the flourishes you’ve come to expect from a modern experience.”
Latest Update (4/12): The project has a long way to go to hit its funding target and the latest update is something of a plea from the devs for the game’s fans to take to the web to help draw attention to the project. In the meantime, they promise further updates will talk more in depth about game mechanics and offer some new artwork.

Leisure Suit Larry

DeveloperReplay Games
Goal: $500,000
Status: $364,250
Deadline: 5/2/2012
About the Game: “The team that created Leisure Suit Larry 1 has been reassembled to create a 2012 “Reloaded” version.  Al Lowe, Josh Mandel, Sabine Duvall, and Leslie Balfour have teamed up with Replay Games to form what we call “The Dream Team” of adventure games. ”
Latest Update (4/13): Al Lowe went on Reddit to do an AMA. Good luck digesting that one.

Shadowrun Returns

DeveloperHarebrained Schemes
Goal: $400,000
Status: $1,189,229
Deadline: 4/29/2012
About the Game: “Jordan Weisman, the creator of Shadowrun, is back and Shadowrun Returns (for Apple & Android tablets and PCs) is the game that Shadowrun fans have been waiting for a long time. A graphically rich 2D turn-based single player game with deep story interaction, meaningful character development, and highly-contextual tactical combat, Shadowrun Returns is not only going to make some old geeks (like us) very happy but it will introduce new players to a dynamic gaming universe that is beloved around the world.”
Latest Update (4/14): Another new video from Jordan Weisman shares his excitement over getting the funding necessary to add a second city to the world. He also reveals they’re not going to seek more funding in the name of more features, but rather use any additional funding to add more depth and a “backer’s only” exclusive mission.

The Banner Saga

DeveloperStoic Studio
Goal: $100,000
Status: $570,300
Deadline: 4/20/2012
About the Game: “The Banner Saga is a role-playing game merged with turn-based strategy, wrapped into an adventure mini-series about vikings.”
Latest Update (4/16): With the clock ticking down on a wildly successful funding drive, the team has added new prizes and some clarifications to the existing ones. Check out the full details here.


Wasteland 2; Funded at $2,933,252 / $900,000

FTL: Faster Than Light; Funded at $200,542 / $10,000

“Double Fine Adventure”; Funded at $3,336,371 / $400,000

Todd Brakke

Todd was born in Ann Arbor with a Michigan helmet in one hand and a mouse in the other. (Never you mind the logistics of this.) He grew, vertically anyway, and proceeded to spend over 16 years as a development editor for Pearson Education, publishing books, videos, and digital learning products under the Que and Sams Publishing imprints. Because that wasn't enough of a challenge, Todd has also been a 20-year part-time snob about video games, writing reviews, features, and more for multiple outlets. Follow him on Twitter @ubrakto or check it out his website at

10 thoughts on “Kickstart My Heart – 4/18/2012

  1. Maybe it’s an irrational reaction on my part, but these games that have been in development for years now trying to get funding turn me off. Grim Dawn was hyped to the moon (well, as much as was possible) by the former Titan’s Quest guys when it was announced. Now, two years later, they need funding?

    It’s a red flag to me that they can’t find any investors two years into the project.

    1. According to their Kickstarter, they’re perfectly fine to finish the game without any further funding, but they want to offer fans the chance to fund a few more full-time guys than the two currently working on it to advance the timetable drastically. It’s hardly “Oops, we had the financials figured out wrong, give us money”.

      If you haven’t you should really watch that video. It’s an object lesson in community-oriented design and humility that even Brian Fargo could take a page from.

  2. I voted for Moebius hands down. I would love to see Gray Matter get a sequel to fix all its myriad issues, but the concept for Moebius was too good to pass on.

  3. As I just discovered with Miskatonic School for Girls just because a kick starter gets funded it doesn’t mean the end result is going to be good. Now that’s just a tiny board game. Imagine after waiting 18 months for Wasteland 2 if it sucks, or better yet it gets pushed to 24 months then 32 months.

    I have not backed one project that has stuck to it’s initial dates and I wonder how these PC games are going to do with that and more importantly how the fans will react.

      1. I’ve backed exactly one Kickstarter project- the updated Glory to Rome- and it’s now six months past due. They apparently can’t afford to ship the games from China to their warehouse, citing “logistical” issues. And this is a game made by a small but established company that has at least some experience with manufacturing and distribution.

        As far as quality goes, I guess consumer caution- try before you buy, read a couple of reviews first- goes out the window when you’re offered a chance to “back” a creative project. I’m not interested in preordering games from unknown, untested designers, let alone individuals who may or may not have a duke of an idea about how to get a game made and distributed.

        FTR, I do _not_ like Kickstarter. Suprised?

  4. You know, I was just thinking about the Tim Schafer deal…isn’t it funny that people will jump on the Kickstarter bandwagon to loan him money to make a game…but they apparently weren’t as eager to buy Brutal Legend or his last several games, all of which were considered disappointing in terms of sales and in some quarters, gameplay?

    Eznark has a great point…people tend to have this mentality that if a project gets passed off by a larger publisher then it is somehow something great that is being supressed. But in reality, it could mean that there are issues of quality, content, saleability, or other things that make it undesirable for anyone to invest any money in.

    Except for people who think they’re “backing” projects as some kind of proxy investor…

    1. That’s a false dichotomy though.

      Tim Schafer is asking for money to make an adventure game, not an RTS.

      I agree Kickstarter is getting a bit crazy, but in DF’s case they had no real choice but to go that route because everybody believed adventure games were dead (well, everybody publishing who wasn’t German).

      The Kickstarter thing was just as much a vote of ‘we want adventure games’ as it was for Double Fine or Tim Schaefer

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