Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Brenda Brathwaite and Tom Hall to Make an Old-School RPG (or Two)?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 3, 2012

I love that “Old School RPG” is such a marketing thing now that it’s being used as the working title of this project. Worries about shark-jumping notwithstanding…

An Old-School RPG by Brenda Brathwaite and Tom Hall!

As have many other fans, I’ve told Brenda that I would be absolutely thrilled if she were to helm another RPG in the future. It’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is. Which I will do gladly, in spite of lingering Kickstarter fatigue.

Once again, the Kickstarter thing baffles me. Am I, too, more willing to spend money on a promise than on a deliverable? I don’t think so, but I don’t know for sure.

Another thing that makes me scratch my head. A lot of these mainstream / former mainstream game developers are doing Kickstarters for budgets that are nowhere near the kinds of budgets they are used to. Okay, maybe these guys (Loot Drop – Romero, Hall, Brathwaite, etc.) have been in the lower-budget realm for a while, and (hopefully) know how to handle it. And I guess InXile and DoubleFine have been starting to live in that realm as well. But Obsidian? And it’s quite the range – though the seven-figure budgets are getting all the attention, there are some pretty high-profile titles by industry vets out there working with less than that.  Supporting a real meat-space office with actual employees instead of partners & contractors raises the burn rate pretty fast.

I think the line between “indie” and “non-indie” just keeps getting smeared. I do consider a project fully funded by Kickstarter or something along those lines to be indie, as backers have contractual say in the project.  I think the spectrum of indie production quality will be broadened considerably in the near future. Many years ago at the IGF is was considered somewhat scandalous that a finalist (Savage) had an actual $2 million budget. In 2013, that won’t be common, but it will hardly be unheard of.

That was a AAA budget when I first entered the games biz. Not adjusted for inflation, but still… things are getting very interesting.  We’re getting to the point where we’re just looking at a continuum of games, from games made with nothing but spare time in a 16-year-old’s bedroom, to the biggest 8-digit budget blockbusters.  This has always technically been the case, of course (at least since blockbusters started costing 8 digits), but this is becoming the new normal. I think I’m down with that. But the landscape is definitely nothing like it was ten years ago.

Filed Under: Indie Evangelism - Comments: 11 Comments to Read

  • Thaliak said,

    For what it’s worth, I’m willing to spend money on a promise because it gives me feelings that buying a game doesn’t. When I’m contributing to Kickstarter, I can say to myself, “I’m going to help this game happen, so I’ll play a small role in the happiness of the developer and all of the people who eventually enjoy it.” When I buy a game, I can only say, “I bought a game for my own entertainment, but maybe my payment will encourage the developer to make another game.” That still feels good, but not to the same degree.

  • Greg Squire said,

    Wow there are already up to $77,600 which is 3/4 of their goal, and the Kickstarter just opened today. Looks like they are going to rake a lot in. It just shows you what the power of a name and a reputation can do.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Not quite, Greg. Their goal is a million, not 100,000. TBH, I wish they had a stronger presentation – I pledged based purely on their reps (and my own encouragement to Brenda to DO IT!). I imagine they’ll surpass their goal, but I think they could have done far better with a stronger presentation.

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    Finding it hard to justify backing this one. It’s just so light on information!

    They don’t really give any details about what their idea of an “old school” RPG is, nor what sort of setting/style the RPG will have.

    They mention the Ultima and Wizardry series, and also Anachronox, but those three games/series are quite different…

    I guess I really want some more info, and if they want to raise all that money I’d suggest they better show us what they’re really going to make!

  • WhineAboutGames said,

    FWIW I’m the odd one out who keeps not contributing to Kickstarters, even for projects that sound like something I would definitely buy in the future, unless there’s a crazy deal involved.

    Why? Well… I’ve just hung around too many game development forums. I’ve heard all the dreams and all the promises, and I’ve seen 90% of them turn to ashes. Game after game after game never completed. Even people with a track record, I don’t necessarily buy are going to fulfill their promises.

    Heck, if someone gave me a million dollars and told me to make an RPG with it, do I know what would actually happen? NO! There’s so many things between here and there! Even with all the money, I can’t see how the end of the road would turn out. I’d try. I’d make a game of some sort. But you don’t know what it would be like and neither do I.

    I am far more likely to pitch in for people who have small, concrete goals. Like people who want to do something that has physical production costs, and have their planning in place and just need an infusion of cash. I *know* why they need startup money.

    If the vast majority of these kickstarter folk walked into a game development forum and said “GUys, guys, I have an idea for the BEST GAME EVER, I just need about fifty people to volunteer to work for free to make it for me and we’ll all share in the profits”, we’d laugh them out of town. Because we’ve seen it all before.

    Somehow that same approach to game development is now being rewarded with fistfuls of cash. I find this upsetting.

  • OttoMoBiehl said,

    I don’t know if there has ever been a good definition as to what an old-school RPG is. I think it has to do with perception.

    I’m supporting this project because I’m a big fan of both Tom Hall and Brenda Brathwaite and their work.

    The video made me giggle but I thought it was put together poorly. Probably should have hired a professional production company to come in and tighten it up.

  • Davzz said,

    WhineAboutGames: As part of that scene once, I sort of see what you are saying.

    But I think there’s a lot more legitimacy by the fact that these are being done by people with track records, who put their real names up on front and the fact that Kickstarter funding is a contract.

    Compared to the average “RPGMaker forum guy” who don’t use their real name, have no games in their “resume”, and have no obligation to pull through to the end.

    But I’m certain if someone has been a long time contributor of the community and has had a couple of well-developed fun games could probably reliably get SOME form of interest if he asked for it.

    Now I’m not saying that contracts are infallible or anything and I’m sure eventually the bubble will burst (just like the early days of the internet!)

    But I’m thinking right now, it’s just the perfect mix of disdain for big publishers and their “compromises” to make games marketing and the optimism that some high-profile game designers will finally be free of such oppression to create THE dream game and bring about the rebirth of the genre.

    It kind of feels like patronizing Art, except that instead of just 1 super rich dude giving all his money, it’s “lots of people who share the same dream.”

    No “dumbing down”, no “well, we MUST market to the Call of Duty crowd or we won’t make a profit!”, just a direct transfer between artist and patron.

  • jwmeep said,

    I definitely agree that their presentation needs work. All we really know at this point is it’s an RPG, and has turn based combat. That’s it. It seems even weaker, and less defined than Obsidian’s pitch was. At least with that one we knew from the outset it was an isometric game, with realtime with pause combat, and was based off of infinity engine games. With this one, not so much. I also wish they had waited until after the obsidian kickstarter had ended. There stretch goal of two games was probably announced too early as well. As much as I would love to see Brenda working on a Wizardry-Esque game and Tom Hall work on an Anachronox-Esque game, first they have to sell the single game, before mudding the waters. Right now I’m holding off, but I’ll might go in once there is more details. I’d really, really like another Game in the vein of Wizardy 8.

    As for your thoughts, I kind am just going echo something from Brian Fargo. Kickstarter makes options available for medium sized developers.

    Of course the catch is, how do you build up the reputation to earn enough money for your medium sized development team? So far the answer seems to be 1. Be former big time devoloper that has built up a lot of trust 2. Make a spiritual successor to Total Annihilation 3. Be the guy who makes Home stuck.

    Another interesting thing to note that of the 6 game kickstarters I can think of that have cracked a million bucks or higher, 3 of them have been PC RPGs (wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns, and Project Eternity) Not bad for a dead genre.

  • WhineAboutGames said,

    Davzz: I know it’s not the same thing when it’s a big name coming in, but there have been some pretty crazy ‘games’ on kickstarter by people who clearly had no idea what they were doing and still got handed cash to play with. *Less* cash. But still.

    I’m not going to object to anyone else putting in to Kickstarters, except very slightly to the point where I feel like some people’s entire disposable income is being sucked up by games that don’t exist, preventing them from buying ones that do, which I’m not sure is a good tradeoff. 🙂

    On the other hand, in the (very) long run it may actually be the case that it’s better to have kickstarted games which will eventually become free to all than to fight the fight over piracy. I mean, if you paid me a million up front to make an RPG, I don’t think I’d obejct to people helping themselves to it later…

  • McTeddy said,

    I think what’s worrying me on this Kickstarter is that they are giving me very little concrete information about what I’m paying for… and yet they expect me to pay 2 million dollars?

    Besides, The old school that they seem to be promising seems far too niche for that price-tag. If you are worried that your game can’t profit through traditional funding… do you really think you’ll get that kind of money up front?

    @WhineaboutGames: I actually agree with you… or at least fully understand your position. I’ve supported a few kick starters, but it does feel awkward to pay for a game that may never exist… and may suck terribly when it does.

  • Lots of Press for Old School RPG! | Loot Drop said,

    […] Rampant Games: Brenda Brathwaite and Tom Hall to Make an Old-School RPG (or Two)? […]