After days of planning and hours of editing, I have finally completed my Kickstarter announcement video. Please pledge right now to help me reach my funding goal of 100 million dollars in 30 days. That may sound like a large sum, but when you hear this pitch and what I'm planning, I think you'll agree it's well worth taking out a second mortgage on your home.
Download here. More details about the game below.
As someone who has been to bat for several Kickstarter projects lately, I'm becoming concerned with what's going to happen on the other end. After all this community support, will it be back to business as usual when the products hit the shelves? Will all this "fan outreach" end when they start worrying about maximizing their sales?
How will I feel when the games that I've not only helped fund, but--like many of you, have also promoted heavily with every social media tool at my disposal--how will I feel if those games end up on the shelf with the same kind of closed-source, DRM-encrusted, shrinkwrap-licensed bullshit that plagues the rest of the industry?
After some preliminary research, I've found that while most of the big game projects at least promise a DRM free version (at least as a limited option to backers), there are few promises that they will *exclusively* offer DRM free versions.
Let's consider how some of the Kickstarters I've supported are handling these issues:
This week I'm back with Josh Sawyer to continue our chat about his history and game design philosophy. Josh started off as a web master at Interplay, but made such a positive impression on the management that he was soon designing his own games. Josh and I (and I suspect YOU!) have a lot of the same games that inspired us, like Pool of Radiance. Josh also talks about some cancelled projects, such as Project Jefferson (BG III) and the Aliens RPG.
You can download the video here.
Modern CRPGs are console shooters. And that pisses me off. But how did they get this way? Last week I wrote about some features I'd like to see in a classic-style CRPG. I've been thinking more along these lines, thinking carefully about all of my favorite CRPGs and attempting to isolate the elements that so endeared them to me. What I've discovered is that this exercise is futile. You cannot create a good game simply by taking out the best gameplay mechanics from different games--what's more important is how well a designer has been able to build an attractive and coherent homology. I don't much like the term, but I like how Barry Brummett defines "stylistic homology" as "the signifying system that is a style is held together by formal properties such that one could look at a new article of dress, for instance, newly designed, and identify it as Edwardian." I think we could easily do the same for individual games or even whole game franchises, assuming it's well-designed. For instance, World of Warcraft has such a coherent homology that I'm sure most players would be able to look at screenshots of a city they hadn't personally visited--such as the Undercity--and realize it was from WOW and not Guild Wars 2. If you bear with me a moment, you can also see that this concept extends beyond just artwork and into gameplay. Even before you ever played a monk in WOW, for instance, if you're familiar with the other classes then you already have a pretty good idea of how the talents, abilities, and so on will play out. I think it's the sign of a great game when you can introduce something as radical as an entirely new class and not have the rest of the game fall apart.
Unfortunately, the problem is that such coherence comes at a cost. The same factors that allow us to already have a pretty good idea of what the monk will be like are the same factors that lead to boredom and disinterest. And man oh man, am I bored with WOW and Skyrim.
By now, I'm sure everyone has heard about how Brathwaithe and Hall pulled the plug on their Shaker RPG Kickstarter. I had pledged $100 to this one, mostly because the rewards were great and I have a lot of respect for everyone involved in this project (though I've yet to interview either). The gist of it all is that they went into this with a plan to do something "old school," but didn't get into enough specifics about what their game would actually be like. Sure, we all remember how great the old days of Wizardry, Ultima, Pool of Radiance, and Bard's Tale were...but after whipping up everyone into a gonad frenzy, they ran out of the room before anybody got to cuddle.
They've promised to come back with a stronger pitch. I doubt that any of them give a rat's squeal what yours truly would like to see in that pitch, but what the hell. I know they (amongst others) have the talent and experience to make me a very happy gamer, so here's what I would like to see in the next big Kickstarter classic CRPG pitch.
One of my favorite all-time quotes from the much-maligned Karl Marx goes something like this: "mankind... inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation." When I first read this quotation back in the 90s, the internet was just beginning to evolve from a sort of "super BBS" inhabited almost entirely by academics, engineers, and plain ol' nerds. Everyone could see that something BIG was happening. Much BIGGER, even, than America OnLine--if you could possibly wrap your head around that! For most of this period, the internet was used by the common person mostly to send email and then go on to Yahoo to play some games or browse their extensive directories. Once money started to change hands, though, thanks mostly to eBay, there was an explosion of commercial interest. The web quickly evolved from the thousands of personal pages (dog, career, photos of gardens and some cute animated GIFs)...It soon became common, then expected, to see a URL even on your box of Mac & Cheese. "What are THEY doing on the internet?" we asked.
Here's the last installment of my interview with Sandy Petersen. We chat about his time on id, which includes a lengthy section on Sandy's philosophy of level design. Then we move on to Ensemble, with a discussion of team sizes and Microsoft's callous treatment of this hardworking and proven team. We wrap up with a chat about jobs and what Sandy likes to see on a resume.
Download the podcast.
I'm back this week with part 2 of my interview with Sandy Petersen. In this episode, the maestro of pen & paper games talks about how people like him are better qualified to make videogames than those who jump straight to pixels. In short, the answer is diversity--paper games have it, videogames don't. Sandy also talks about Elf Quest, which he considers a failure, and Ghostbusters, whose innovative system inspired the Star Wars RPG (though unacknowledged). We also chat about his early computer games for Microprose, including Lightspeed and Hyperspeed, and why Sandy turned to the dark side.
Download the MP4 here.
What do you think about Sandy's argument? Would you like to see as much variety in the videogame market as we see in pen & paper games? Sound off below!
Jeff McCord, developer behind the classic VIC-20/C-64 title Sword of Fargoal (reviewed here), has launched a Kickstarter program to fund development for a sequel. The sequel sounds FANTASTIC, featuring character classes, "action cards," and the ability to share dungeons, as well as huge amounts of great artwork and music. A $8 pledge gets you the game as well as a DRM-free version of the soundtrack. Go up to $50 for a T-shirt and $100 for a bunch of other goodies. Please, please, please, go right now and make your pledge. You will pay NO MONEY if this project doesn't make, and we really need to act NOW to make this happen. We've got two weeks left on the Kickstarter and over $32,000 left to go, so get your ass over there RIGHT NOW and donate. I'm going to be mad as hell if I'm not playing me some good ol' Sword of Fargoal 2 with all the bells and whistles Jeff and Paul P. have put together here. If you were one of the millions who played a pirated version of this game back in the day, Jeff has promised to absolve you of all your sins if you pledge even $1 to this.
Now, seriously, get over there and pledge. This is EXACTLY the kind of project we SHOULD be funding, not just the ones from famous people. If you don't know anything about the game, he's put the first one up for free so you can try it out. This is the updated release for the iOS, mind you, but it's still got all the classic gameplay we fell in love with back in the 80s.