Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Old-School CRPGs: Smells Like Victory

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 26, 2015

PoE2Part of the surprise here is that it’s not such a surprise.

Obsidian Games just announced that Pillars of Eternity surpassed a half-million units sold worldwide. This is a game that was originally a nostalgia project… a game like Baldur’s Gate. They created it on a fairly low budget (by their usual, more AAA-focused measurements – it was still a TON of money by indie standards).

This tracks with the success of what was in many ways a reboot of the Dungeon Master / Eye of the Beholder games, Legend of Grimrock, which also enjoyed phenomenal success for a smaller-budget (but not shoestring budget) project – nearing a million copies sold as of a year ago.

When I embarked on the Frayed Knights project originally, there was few games embracing the old-school western computer RPG styles. You had Spiderweb’s games, and a few games like Eschalon Book 1 on the horizon and some other titles that seemed to be much further in development than they really were (The Broken Hourglass – a Baldur’s Gate style game itself – which was canceled, and Age of Decadence, which released just a couple of weeks ago).

My story that I maintained back then was that these games were still fun… with some modern updates, they could prove to be popular still. Of course, before the indie revolution, what publisher would take a chance on that? Especially since the numbers wouldn’t be “AAA” numbers selling into the millions. But with a modest budget, I maintained these things could still be viable and successful. But no, we were stuck in the desert of games that were mainly jRPGs console ports, Diablo clones, or Elder Scrolls wannabes. Not that those were bad, but there wasn’t enough out there to really scratch all the RPG itches.

pe-drake-640x400Now we’re living in a world with games like Wasteland 2, Divinity: Original Sin (with a sequel forthcoming), and with sequels to Ultima Underworld and The Bard’s Tale in development, three successful turn-based Shadowrun games (based on a dice & paper RPG)… and a spiritual sequel to Planescape: Torment. And more. No, it’s not all super-rosy or anything, but I think with this latest announcement, the proof is that yes, there’s still a substantial market for these kinds of games. While they may not enjoy the “mass appeal” of some games, I have a tough time saying that 500k+ sales is a “niche” interest.

Not only that, but all of these games could be labeled “old-school” yet they are all very, very different. That’s the thing: “Old school” is not some monolithic, boring formula, but rather a wide field of possibilities that were discarded in pursuit of last year’s hit game. And we’re poised to strike out in some new, interesting directions from here, with what really amounts to a larger toolbox that embraces both old and new ideas.

So yeah. As an RPG fan, this smells like… victory.

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