Monday, December 1, 2014

Trees don't Grow on Money

I haven't talked much about crowd funded video games on this blog, mostly because the process is ongoing.  So far we've got a few noteworthy titles such as the Banner Saga, FTL, and that Double Fine adventure game that's only half released.  Then there's a bunch of interesting games that were successfully funded and look promising, but are not quite ready for launch yet; Darkest Dungeons, Massive Chalice and Hyper Light Drifter.  For now though, I want to focus on some of the failures of Kickstarter.

The reasons projects fail are numerous and often discussed around the internet.  Perhaps the most common is an unexciting pitch, either because it's yet another entry in an oversaturated area of gaming.  Case in point; Impact Winter, a failed project that had a cool (pun!) isometric prospective and art style, but was awfully similar to a number of other wilderness survival games that had come out not long before.  Alternatively, sequels/remakes of a title that wasn't particularly well received the first time around also typically flop.  Case in point Night Trap Remastered, Nexus 2 and Shadow of the Eternals.  On rare occasions there are (now finished) projects that were, in a manner of speaking, too successful.  Dive Kick got all the money it wanted on Kickstarter and then some, but before the halfway point in its campaign the project was cancelled and all the money refunded to backers because the developer secured an alternate source of funding.  On the other hand, Alpha Colonies' second attempt at a 30 day fund raising campaign ended a demoralizing $28 short of the $50,000 goal.  Due to Kickstarter's all-or-nothing system this meant no money, which in turn led to the abandonment of the project entirely.  In my opinion though the most intriguing Kickstarter failures are the ones that have a cool idea, but are hamstrung by poor planning.

Human Resources, aside from sounding like a department in some vast corporate office, had a lot going for it.  A real-time strategy game wherein players take the role of an apocalyptic force battling with other such entities while simultaneously trying to harvest helpless humans in order to keep the doomsday war machines well supplied.  The pitch had some nice videos and screenshots, but lacked a single player mode and, when you get down to it, simply had bad timing (Tip: Never kickstart a video game project during the fall crunch of new releases because people will be too busy playing games that are already out to care about something a year or two from now).

Blackmore was the dream project of Jeremy Baustein, an industry veteran who has overseen the localization efforts of various Japanese games, most notably Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill.  His pitch was to essentially make a steampunk version of the Snatcher, an adventure game he worked on ages ago that was basically "Blade Runner" meets "Terminator."  Not terribly original, but it did have support from the multi-talented David Hayter.  Sadly, there wasn't a whole lot to show aside from a few pieces of uninspiring concept art and a couple of crude pre-alpha screenshots.  Even the plot specifics were a bit thin.  Still, the concept hasn't been ditched entirely.  In fact, it might even make a return under the slightly different title Blackmore's Bane.

Another steampunk genre failure is Golem.  Brainchild of the developers over at Moonbot Studios, players were supposed to take the role of a giant automaton tasked with the defense of its homeland from an invading army.  There were some interesting concepts regarding upgrades to the golem's abilities over the course of the game, in addition to a second act revolving around the golem acquiring a soul.  However, the team behind the project was first and foremost an animation studio rather than a game developer (a problem which support from the well known movie director Guillermo del Toro failed to alleviate).  Couple that with the pre-visualizations in the pitch video, which failed to convey any sense of scale or mass, and you got another serious hangup for potential backers.  A shame really, since Golem was looking to be the next Giant Citizen least in terms of getting to directly control a colossal monster.

Anyway, those are just a few Kickstarter failures I thought were worth mentioning.  I should also say that I've never actually backed a Kickstarter project (although I have bought some crowd funded games after they were completed).  My reasoning being pretty much any Kickstarter video game project that looks interesting to me has no trouble securing the necessary cash, and all the most exciting stretch goals, long before the end of its fund raiser.  A bit selfish of me, I know, but I trust the prudence of more experienced Kickstarter backers when it comes to these matters.

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