Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 23, 2013
This crap happens all the time, really. Games get canceled, for many reasons. But in this case – with the failure of the Kickstarter and the episodic alternative – the reason is kind of depressing:
Not enough people were interested in this kind of game to commit to providing the funding in advance.
This was, sadly, the kind of game I want to play. It was based on the same kinds of games that inspired Frayed Knights. I mean, sheesh, Guido created some of the games that inspired Frayed Knights, at least indirectly.
This really disappoints and worries me. Is there just not enough potential audience large enough to support mid-budget game development (pretty much from $100k – $1m, in my book) for this style of RPG? Is it dead, Jim? After all, we’re talking about a game style (first-person perspective, party-based, cardinal-direction movement, turn-based combat RPG) that had largely exhausted itself by the mid-90s. The audience was getting tired of the parade of low-quality, low-tech dungeon crawlers in that era, and even the giants like SSI were having serious problems. The audience was dwindling then, and I don’t suppose 20 years has done much to improve on that.
So… where does that leave us?
By one interpretation, a little bit up the creek. If the potential audience is small, static, and declining, then it’s game over. There’s nowhere to go but down.
Another interpretation is simply that the audience needs to be regrown. Maybe not quite from scratch, but definitely beyond the bounds of the faithful elite. This might suck for the faithful elite, because that means that games with higher production values will not be able to cater quite so directly to them. The games must serve two audiences. It’ll take a lot of work, luck, and marketing… and at least one moderate hit game.
I’m thinking about the success of The Legend of Grimrock. I know they didn’t get there exclusively by catering to the old Dungeon Master / Eye of the Beholder fans. If anything, we old-school fans were a little disappointed, as it was a little bit of a rehash of what we’d played before. I suspect it was a new experience to most players, however, and while extremely limited in scope, it had decent screenshot appeal, and was a nice, polished experience. It’s a good game, and while it has its roots in late 80s / early 90s RPGs, only the old vets might notice.
The bottom line seems to be that devs cannot focus exclusively on the old-school faithful. That part shouldn’t be too surprising. So while a Kickstarter campaign can say the right things to get us old-school fans excited, these days (now that KS fatigue has set in), there needs to be more there. Matt Barton talked about this a few weeks ago, in his article, “Matt’s Guide to Kickstarter Success.” Non-genre fans need to have a reason to get excited. When you say, “Thrilling turn-based combat” to me, I get excited. I think about tactics RPGs and X-Com and some great dice-and-paper combat sessions where our group worked like a team and complimented each others actions with our own. Somebody else, however, might think, “Slow and boring.” And yeah, I’ve had those too.
This goes beyond the fundraising pitch, and should include the design and marketing. This is a pain in the butt as a developer, because not only does it require a lot more work to appeal to two different audiences, but it also requires uncomfortable compromises. It also requires a unique selling point – a reason why someone should get excited about this one game instead of the flood of high-quality games (sometimes emulating a more recent “old-school” vintage) coming in the near future.
But for right now, I mourn. I really feel for Guido and his team right now – I know they poured their hearts into this. Guido talked about the obsession he had with this game at the beginning of the year, and I know how that is. I loved the ideas they had, and was really looking forward to seeing it all come together. I’m sad for what could have and should have been.
Filed Under: Biz, Production - Comments: 13 Comments to Read