When the Lights Go Out
By now you’ve probably heard at least something about a Kickstarter game project gone wrong, called Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men. Though it failed to draw much money before its cancellation, it was a project that had started to get a bit of attention based in large part on some pretty art and the fact that it was coming from the “same team that left Activision/Blizzard in search of something better.” The demo video boasted of “3D Environments” and “3D Gameplay” while claiming, “Games Will Never Be the Same.” I’m not making that up. That was the pitch. Isn’t that rather like saying in 1990 that your television viewing experience will never be the same again because you’re going to broadcast in full color? In hindsight I suppose everything can look pretty obvious.
That’s not what landed the project in trouble, though. Rather it was a poster on the RPS Forums who noted god character art, backgrounds, posters, sword reward pictures, and even office photos all came from unrelated sources you can find on the Internet. It was a scam from top to bottom…
For the record, I could easily be replaced on this site by this enterprising investigator, but the less said about that the better. No need to give Bill any ideas.
That this happened at all is not particularly surprising. Kickstarter has been a massive attention-getter the past month and it’s seen some phenomenally interesting projects receive shocking amounts of funding. Without getting into motives, someone was bound to pull a stunt like this. It does, however, raise a question for people interested in throwing a few bucks at a project that looks interesting: How to avoid being taken? The warning signs for the Mythic game are all there if you read between the lines a bit, but if a concept grabs you it’s all too easy to believe what a project is selling. And that’s the real problem.
Ostensibly, the best part of Kickstarter’s potential in video games isn’t that a Double Fine game gets funded or that funding for a Wasteland sequel is crazy successful. It’s the idea that something that no one would otherwise have paid attention to could get made. FTL is a great example. Everybody loves Little Guy Success Story, but there’s a reason they’re so rare. These smaller projects don’t come from a place with a track record, like inXile. They come from people you’ve never heard of with a company name on the masthead that you’ve never heard of, and, very likely, not a whole lot of assets to show for a project that sounds awesome in theory, but could face all manner of problems in execution even if it is all on the up and up. How do you know you’re not just funding future vaporware or, worse, the next Battlecruiser 3000 AD?
You don’t. And, ultimately, that’s why the most successful Kickstarter game projects aren’t going to come from total unknowns in this business. They have to come from people or companies with track records for at least putting working product on shelves. Anything else is too risky for anyone that can’t afford to throw their money into a bottomless pit of weak return.
New Additions This Week: Ravaged, Starlight Inception
Projects Ended: The Banner Saga (Success!), Shadowrun Returns (Success!), and Valdis Story: Abyssal City (Success!)
As always, if you know of a project not listed here that you think deserves to be on the list, link to it in the comments and I’ll check it out!
Developer: 2 Dawn Games
About the Game: “The game is called Ravaged, a post-apocalyptic vehicular first-person shooter. Think Mad Max meets Battlefield where a group of resistance soldiers fight for humanity while scavengers look to control it all. The game features over 30 vehicles and weapons, amazing post-apocalyptic maps and 10 classes to choose from.”
Latest Update (4/25): The team has set up a new “ideas” page (Ideascale) where you can post suggestions for the game and have them voted in by the community.
Developer: Jane Jensen
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 (4/29): A new video talks in depth about the “design process for a scene or location in the game.”
Developer: Crate Entertainment
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 (5/1): A detailed look at where people who pledge are coming from. Prior to that there’s a new video about the game’s sound and music creation.
Developer: Steve Jackson Games
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 (4/30): Lots of details on international orders and shipping. There’s also some new funding goals since they’ve obliterated their target amount.
Starlight Inception (NEW!)
Developer: Escape Hatch Entertainment
About the Game: “Starlight Inception is the rebellious stepchild of Wing Commander, X-wing and Freespace2, taking a fresh approach to the classic space combat genre… Starlight Inception is a realistic and relevant 1st person (both with cockpit and without) 3rd person strategic and tactical space combat experience. It has a unique blend of action with an involving storyline. Features include ship based combat both in space and on planets and moons, interplanetary exploration, and multiplayer dogfighting.”
Latest Update (4/29): A new Q&A video with details on gameplay, additions to the design team, and concept art.
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 (4/30): Nekro has edged past it’s initial funding goal, so they’ve put up some new goals for the stretch run. If they hit $120k they’ll add in additional character customization that includes a gender option for your Nekro. They’re promising multiplayer (co-op) if they reach $150k.
Developer: Replay Games
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 (4/30): This one will likely have expired by the time you read this, with the project eeking its way past the finish line in the final week. Expect a new video update soon and there’s a new pledge tier at $750.
Shadowrun Returns; Funded at $1,836,447 / $400,000
Valdis Story: Abyssal City; $49,571 / $8,000
The Banner Saga; Funded at $723,886 / $100,000
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