Sunday, 26 August 2012

We did kickstart the fire

Now that Kickstarter's no longer this Shiny New Thing, and is increasingly becoming a standard part of gaming culture, it's interesting to see how the crowdsourcing concept is progressing. The sheen hasn't dulled, if a couple of recent titles are anything to go by; Reaper Miniatures' Bones closed today and became the third highest grossing Kickstarter project ever (and achieved the highest ever funding percentage over its original target), while the much-hyped Oculus Rift is doing pretty well for itself - almost a week to go, and it's on target to make 1000% of its initial target. Neither of them were ever in danger of knocking off Pebble (which seems inherently superfluous to me, but I'm not a gadgety person, so what do I know?), but they're still both runaway successes.

Friends of mine, even skint ones, have pledged hundreds of dollars to Bones. A few have hyped it to me, too, despite the fact they know I'm not a wargamer. I suppose you could use the figures for D&D 4th Edition too; sadly, I know about two roleplayers within gaming distance of me currently, and neither would touch D&D with a ten foot bargepole. Also I still prefer 3.5 (I accept 4th is the better game, but 3.5 is geared more towards my personal preferences). All that aside, I know that for those who would make use of the miniatures, the deals Reaper are offering are outstanding value, and they seem to be good sculpts. And hey, one of the low-tier rewards is a naked succubus on a motorbike... they obviously know their audience.

Personally, I'm more interested in Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse. The first two Broken Swords were excellent, and the third was good. I never played the fourth, sadly. The new game will be returning to the 2D, hand-drawn style of the first two instalments; it's broken the halfway mark on its target after less than two days live, further proof - after the success of Double Fine Adventure - that traditional adventure gaming still has a commercial market.

Of course, like previous Kickstarter successes Shadowrun, Wasteland and Carmageddon, Broken Sword is a fondly remembered cult classic with legions of fans to this day. The Great Giana Sisters? That's, well, the videogame equivalent of pub quiz trivia. Oh, sure it has its fans (some of whom hilariously believe that it's better than Super Mario Bros.), and it had a fairly low-key DS remake, but do enough people care about a Giana comeback for it to hit its target? With just under a week to pull in $35,000, probably, but I bet a fair chunk of Project Giana's backers are in it more for irony value than for a genuine love of the original.

As for the new game, it too looks like a close, ahem, "homage" of a popular title, although not Mario this time. The visual design, the physics puzzles, and the instant switching between multiple characters with different skills - the whole thing screams, to me at least, 'Trine clone.' Now Trine was a fine game, and in its defence Project Giana looks like a mixture of Trine and the kind of traditional, old-school platformer which doesn't really get made anymore, so there may be something worthwhile there. I think I'm interested enough in Project Giana to get it when it comes out, but not enough to back it.

Perhaps I'm picky about the things I back - or perhaps more people than I thought see Kickstarter as way of pre-ordering a game for cheap. Carmageddon's campaign closed two months ago, and some fans are up in arms about what they perceive to be a lack of updates since then, never mind the fact the game was still in pre-alpha when the Kickstarter closed. They already released gameplay footage far earlier than almost any developer has ever done, and surprise surprise, a portion of the backers complained about it looking ugly. Um, it's pre-alpha build, so yeah. Every game looks ugly at that point in its development! That the modern gamer's sense of entitlement is present on Kickstarter is straightforward; that crowdsourcing feeds said sense of entitlement so strongly is both inevitable and sad. I still believe that crowdsourcing is a good thing overall, it's just that some people need learn to to STFU, for totes.

It's easy to forget that Kickstarter isn't all smashed targets and commercial success. There's one project I saw which had only a single backer after almost a week live. The pitch was awkward all round, trading on the fame of a name I for one had never heard of, and poorly written both syntactically and informationally. How many people are going to back a creative project when the blurb is full of grammar and punctuation errors? As an intersection of venture capitalism and web 2.0, it seems inevitable that Kickstarter would come with a significant volume of projects which are nowhere near ready for presentation, and it's surprising that said volume isn't much, much higher than it currently stands at. I know there's a lot of legal tape involved in a Kickstarter project, but that doesn't usually stop people.

And the blurb CAN make a difference. It's the main reason I didn't back the OUYA. As interesting as the concept is, the pitch came off as condescending and elitist. No indie creativity in the traditional console market? XBLA's waving hello. If Braid, Limbo and Super Meat Boy aren't your idea of success stories, your standards must be bloody high.

Finally, I'm sure Planetary Annihilation is very good, for those weird people who care about real-time strategy. You know who you are... freaks. Nah, seriously, I dig what they're trying to do and if I was into the genre I'd probably be backing it. But I'm not, so I'm not.

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