Loot, Pillage, Fund: The Banner Saga’s Kickstarter

By Adam Smith on March 19th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

Turn-based combat, a low-fantasy approach to vikings and a scenario that is more concerned with surviving a world’s end than preventing it. That’s what The Banner Saga promises, as well as beautiful animation, conversations with consequences and a changeable world that doesn’t revolve around the player. It’s the kind of shopping list I so often take to the supermarket, only to return with the ingredients for a tasty Thai curry having realised that while the constituent parts of food can be purchased, concepts cannot be bought until they are given form. But they can be funded. Yep, it’s Kickstarter time again.

The multiplayer component of the game will be released for free this summer, so the Kickstarter is aimed at people interested in the bulk of the experience, which will be single player. The team is made up of three ex-BioWare chaps with plenty of industry experience, and John Watson who is designing the game’s tech also worked at NASA. That probably makes him seventeen thousand times more intelligent than me.

There are, as is the case with Kickstarter projects, plenty of goodies on offer, many of which are artistic treats. Indeed, it’s probably the artwork that has helped the project to stand out; it wouldn’t look out of place in a fondly remembered cartoon of olden times.

Behind the art lurks the promise of yet another game that could be wish fulfillment for those making it and those who eventually play it alike. Judging by the $15,000 they’ve already raised, aiming for $100,000, it seems I’m not the only one who’s been clamouring for more turn-based tactics in my life.

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65 Comments »

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  1. Tuco says:

    More turn-based games would make the world a better place.

  2. StranaMente says:

    I ran into it just minutes ago and was wondering when it appeared, as I was pretty sure it wasn’t there yesterday, so I came here checking for infos. It took just the time to fill the search form to find out that you had just posted the news.
    So they’ve just begun!
    I hope for the best, the game looks lovely!

  3. JackShandy says:

    This is a very generous kickstarter. I think they’re selling themselves short; you can get the full special edition for a 25 dollar donation, that’s nuts.

    • andytizer says:

      Is the $10 version the full game?

    • Premium User Badge

      AmateurScience says:

      That’s the version I backed. From the wording of the pitch it sounds like we’re getting ‘Chapter 1′ as part of the package, but they’re no super clear as to exactly how much game that actually represents (and how much subsequent chapters will be).

      Still more than willing to throw money at this. Might put a few off though.

      • jaronimoe says:

        They definitely need to clarify the whole chapter thing. I think many people fund projects because they not only want to support the developers, they also want the full game once it’s finished. Backing and not receiving the full game might indeed put people off.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      from the comments on kickstarter:

      If someone gives you, oh say, $250, the least you can do is give them all three chapters, right? Right?

      We’re still fine tuning chapter one and are not ready to release the estimated time yet. Not trying to be elusive here, we just don’t want to release false information.
      Very interesting idea on adding a reward for all three chapters! We’ll be thinking about it.

      -Arnie

      So, yea… really unclear, about what exactly the “full game” is, and if any of the rewards actually contain it.

    • JackShandy says:

      Oh, so that’s why it’s so cheap, and they’re asking for so little. Wonder if they can get episodic games with a branching storyline right. That’d be something to see.

      • RatherDashing says:

        They’ve clarified a bit on the “Chapter 1″ thing, and there is an answer for it in the FAQ now. “Chapter 1″ is considered a full game in its own right, and it won’t be “a little 2 hour thing”. I’m not sure if it’s “episodic” so much as it is the indie version of a planned trilogy a la Mass Effect.

  4. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    I didn’t realise they were going down the Kickstarter route (just checked the previous RPS coverage and there’s no mention of it there).

    Slightly concerned at the steadily growing portfolio of projects in my Kickstarter account. Nevertheless I’m all over this. YES!

  5. sekullbe says:

    I get a strong ‘King of Dragon Pass’ vibe off this concept- if it’s anything like that, I’m sold.

  6. Echo Black says:

    Way too many interesting Kickstarter projects popping up. Anyone else worried about oversaturation? It’s bizarre how “fringe” game designs manage to attain funding, but stuff like the crowdsourced tactical shooter by the R6 dev doesn’t. Considering how big “arcade” tactical shooters have become in the past years, you’d figure his game would reach the goal easily, as it’s one of these genres whose older fans could most vividly observe decay as it went mainstream.

    I’m surprised with the amount of people willing to fund niche stuff. I hope all these projects become a reality, so Kickstarter/crowd-funding remains a respectable choice for aspiring developers.

    • DaftPunk says:

      No wonder why he don’t get any money,he went all cocky claiming he worked on HALO game and Ghost Recon 2 ? I mean you don’t brag about those games,they are not even slighty tactical nor realistic..

    • Premium User Badge

      AmateurScience says:

      There was an interesting piece on Kotaku about that.

      http://kotaku.com/5893778/why-kickstarter-is-best-for-old-games–dead-genres

      Basically even if what was being proposed by R6 *was* manifestly different from what’s being churned out today. It didn’t *sound* that different.

      I’m inclined to agree, Schafer, Fargo et al have been successful with kickstarter primarily because gamers of a certain age still want these games, but as the ‘mainstream’ games industry (rightly) stayed focussed on the same 14 – 20 year old demographic that they always have, we kind of ‘grew out’ of it. Fundamentally it’s a sign of the increased diversity and (in particular) the broader (and ever broadening) age range of gamers.

      EDIT: I’m not suggesting for a minute that only ‘old’ farts (I’m barely 30!) want these games, but I would be interested to see some demographics from the people that have backed Double Fine or inXile

    • pkdawson says:

      It’s bizarre how “fringe” game designs manage to attain funding, but stuff like the crowdsourced tactical shooter by the R6 dev doesn’t.

      Not at all. When the market has no games like the one they’re planning, the motivation to contribute is obvious. Just because the supply is gone, doesn’t mean the demand has evaporated as well. A project that competes directly with current AAAs is much less interesting than reviving a genre that was previously successful but has gone mostly dormant.

      • Premium User Badge

        AmateurScience says:

        ‘Dormant’ is a *much* better word to use than ‘dead’ when describing the kinds of genres that are seeing a lot of kickstarter love. Thank you.

      • Echo Black says:

        An oldschool tactical shooter would not at all compete with the “AAA” console shooter fare of today. That’s like saying DCS A-10C Warthog shoots for Ace Combat’s player demographic. They share a theme (piloting aircraft in sorties) but that’s it. The appeal of a cinematic single-player FPS which attempts to make the player feel heroic differs greatly from the appeal of a squad-based one in which a single player will seldom manage to obtain any kind of success without meticulous team play.

        • Premium User Badge

          AmateurScience says:

          I think the issue is more about emphasising that difference rather than there not being much of one.

        • Gnarf says:

          Yeah, this. I wouldn’t say it competes directly against AAA games any more than Wasteland 2 is competing directly against things like Fallout 3.

          When I heard of it I just thought it sounded like something along the lines of (early) Rainbow Six. And I’m pretty sure tactical shooter used to mean something. but there was a lot of confusion about that because surely CoD and BF and whatever claimed to be tactical shooters and wasn’t “tactical shooter” just some kind of buzzwordy thing and so on.

          So what AmateurScience said, I guess. It did suprise me that that was going to be an issue though. At least a little.

    • asshibbitty says:

      There was an article with an interesting name, something like “crowdsourcing will only live until scams become common” in my feed reader. Didn’t read it since it’s too tendentious-sounding, but it got me thinking for a moment. Many of these teams have no experience managing a big project, and if too many of them start under-delivering people may get disillusioned.

    • caddyB says:

      Also we can probably afford to spend a lot more than the 14 year olds the industry seems to be targeting these days. I’ll pay 100$ to see Freespace III made, and another 100$ to see it made right.

    • Premium User Badge

      equatorian says:

      I think a lot of it is how people hear ‘tactical shooter’ these days and think of how it’s been used by CoD. Then they go ‘bleh’ and move on, even if they want an R6 game themselves. It’s described better in the article, but they wouldn’t just read it, they’d move on.

      Calling it ‘(realistic) squad-based tactical shooter’ would’ve been better than ‘hardcore tactical shooter’. The word ‘hardcore’ doesn’t conjure up the crowd it’s meant to conjure up these days, either. You don’t always think of the hardcore number-crunching crowd, you sometimes think of the HARDCORE FUCK YEAH SPACE MURINES crowd. There are also probably better descriptive terms to use than the one I’ve just said, but I’m not a fan of the genre (though I liked R6 when it came out) and I’m not sure what to use.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I’m not worried about oversaturation, but I do think there will be a boom and then a bust as it becomes crowded with overambitious devs with poorly thought out plans fail to deliver. Gaming sites will become more discriminating and either have a weekly kickstarter article or only pick out the best ideas that have actual progress demonstrated.

      Honestly, I think that Kickstarter will eventually be a better route for experienced developers looking to win independence from publishers than first timers. But we’ll see.

  7. Bhazor says:

    I have a little theory that these recent indie TBS games are a direct result of the Xcom uproar. As in “You crying out for TBS? Then hows this!”. If so Xcom has bizarely become my game of the year for very wierd reasons.

    • Echo Black says:

      Which uproar? The XCOM fps one? It’s all but died down since Firaxis’ TBS XCOM was confirmed. And considering the whole “release a spiritual successor to XCOM” thing has been going on since before any of these was even announced, I doubt their conception has kindled any flames at all.

      • Bhazor says:

        IMO theres definitely been a surge in the past year. This month alone we’ve had three major turn based rpgs announced (Banner, Wasteland 2, Wasteland Scavenger).

        To me it’s as if developers are realising that just because they stopped making turn based games doesn’t mean people don’t want them. It’s that bizarre corporate mentality where “Turn based games don’t sell so we won’t release any turnbased games to sell” repeats year on year until it’s a self fulfilling prophecy.

        • Wizardry says:

          Wasteland had phase-based half-blob combat. It wasn’t a tactical turn-based game. Wasteland 2 on the other hand? Who knows.

        • deathshead says:

          What is wasteland scavanger? I have not yet heard of that. Google didnt help me much. Thanks

          • InternetBatman says:

            I think he means Neoscavenger, there’s an RPS article on it if you search for wasteland.

          • Bhazor says:

            ‘atta one! Neoscavanger.

            Why did I get it wrong? For I am as a fool.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I think it’s just the natural evolution of the indie scene. The easily made genres like platformers and shooters are getting a bit crowded, so some developers are going to bigger and more complex genres. Also, the success of a few indie devs has probably spurred people into trying larger efforts.

      It also could be that with Dragon Age 2 the last remaining link to a very good genre went away.

      It’s also important to note that NeoScavenger and Banner are made by ex-Bioware devs, and Bioware just launched two major games. Gamasutra just had an interview with another experienced Bioware developer who went indie (sadly making iOS games that aren’t selling). He said that Bioware has gotten too huge and its lost the small team feeling that a lot of their creative talent thrived on. Now they’re throwing money at their talent to keep them in-place, but that will only work so long. I think we’ll see a lot more former Bioware people go indie making turnbased games in the future.

  8. asshibbitty says:

    I’ve seen better animation produced by people on their first attempt of animating anything. I wouldn’t be saying this if they weren’t trying to sell it as “painstakingly hand-animated”.

    vvv token “you so picky” reply goes here vvv

    • JackShandy says:

      Sure, let’s see it.

    • Echo Black says:

      It’s kind of got that flash-animation vibe, where they’ll tween/warp something that has been drawn in order to effortlessly illustrate it moving, then add some hand-drawn details to mask the usage of the technique. It’s not used for every single thing in the trailer, but whenever it is, it shows. Never ends up looking quite as good as hand-drawing every single frame, and obviously falls short of even beginning to look like Disney-style classic animation.

    • asshibbitty says:

      @JackShandy
      Sure, let me just hack into the university network. Anyone with basic artistic background who has paid any attention to how things move will do better than that, just because they know hair doesn’t move in segments. And that banner.

    • Sinderlin says:

      This will have to be finished on a budget and in a reasonable time. Since hand-drawing every single frame most certainly would not fit into either, compromises in the quality of animation are to be expected.

      While that may give room to criticize the artwork, it also makes this a viable enterprise. Disregarding budget and developing time is what ruined many ambitious projects like the infamous Daikatana.

      Should they not advertise it at “painstakingly hand-animated” then? Well, even the current amount of hand-made animation may well be painful for the poor sods working the animagic and hyperbole is the salt of marketing. Give them some credit for what they’re trying to do in the current state of the industry.

  9. Adynod says:

    I liked the look and sound of this project when it was first featured here so I have no qualms in backing this.

    I’d say I’m a fairly discerning backer on kickstarter but the number of tempting projects are coming thick and fast of late!

  10. Trashcanman says:

    The devs mentioned King of Dragon Pass and FFtactics as some of their biggest influences. That, the solid artstyle and the recent dev interview on the rpgcodex really sold me.

    http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/rpg-codex-interview-the-banner-saga-2d-turn-based-strategy-rpg.70392/page-3

  11. wodin says:

    I will back on Thursday when I have some money. I promised myself not to back any more kickstarters aswell!

  12. csuzw says:

    I’m still slightly skeptical about the whole Kickstarter concept but I’ve already backed FTL, Double Fine, Wasteland and now this, which to me is the most exciting of the lot. Trying to hard to prevent myself from doing something silly like becoming a viking god as I need to save money for when Chris Avellone decides to kickstart something!

    • RatherDashing says:

      There really is no reason to be skeptical. I’ve been using Kickstarter for over a year now. Hell, I started way back in April, with a video game Kickstarter that I backed based on name recognition(Steve Grand, the guy behind Creatures, funded his artificial life sim through Kickstarter). Of those, none have yet to deliver in some way or another. Steve Grand’s life sim is by no means DONE, but his production blog and notes are fascinating and I feel my money was well spent.

  13. JauntyAngle says:

    If their kickstarter fails, they will be forced to eat Sir Robin’s minstrels.

  14. DrZhark says:

    I don’t know if I’m alone, but I’ve waited enough for an X-wing / Tie fighter space shooter for a long time. The same thing with a dungeon keeper sequel. I will gladly fund kickstarters for projects like those. I don’t care about the IP, as lucas arts seems uninterested in doing a sequel and Bullfrog has dissapeared, I would settle for similar games. am I the only one?

  15. Premium User Badge

    equatorian says:

    King of Dragon Pass + FFTactics + Low-fantasy Vikings + Surviving Ragnarok and not saving the world, god forbid = SOLD.

    I wish Obsidian would get their Kickstarter going already (hopefully they still intend to do so and the cries of ‘Planescape 2 is what I’m interested in buying’ didn’t deter them), I’m going to run out of my Kickstarter-funding budget at this rate. I mean, I’ve put aside a good amount of money for them, but—wonderful games! Wonderful-looking games of genres that I miss so much!

    • InternetBatman says:

      Me too. I think they need to strike while the iron is hot, especially give the cancellation of their latest flagship game. They might be afraid of locking up key talent on an admittedly small scale project while the rest of the studio suffers.

  16. Miltrivd says:

    And here I was thinking Steam was going to be the end of me… Damn it Kickstarter, DAMN YOU TO HELL!

  17. JackDandy says:

    Now this is what I was afraid of.
    I had no qualms about pitching in for DoubleFine and Wasteland 2, but I’m afraid I’ll just keep seeing nice projects like this popping up one after the other.

    I’d love to pitch in for all of them, but my simple common sense tells me I shouldn’t overspend so much on games I know so little about.

  18. InternetBatman says:

    I’m not supporting this project. I’m not saying that supporting it is a bad choice, but there’s too many elements in it I don’t like. One is the episodic part. I generally want to play a whole game at a time, so I’ll wait for the collection to come out. If it does.

    Another is the dialog wheel. They said they’re seriously considering changing that, but it’s not a good indicator of well thought out design. I think they have half or three quarters of an idea and are hoping they can go agile and it’ll work itself out.

    Finally, all they’ve show of it looks like it will be battle, branching cutscene, battle. I’m pretty sure that the games they talk about emulating, like Shining force, work that way as well. It’s not really my style, so I can wait. My favorite parts of RPGs are exploring towns and cities, and the only game footage we’ve seen has been the tactical field and cutscenes.

    I think that if you support the game you’ll basically get a small recent Bioware game. Heavy narrative / Cinematic focus, a decent story that focuses on narrative moments rather than plot, well done graphics, and adequate combat.

    • malkav11 says:

      Except recent Bioware games have focused heavily on action-driven combat, whereas this is emphasizing turn-based tactical combat. I like the story part of Bioware games, but the combat is increasingly moving away from my preference for RPG combat. The Banner Saga, on the other hand, has my preferences squarely in their sights.

  19. Premium User Badge

    golem09 says:

    funded

    I live in exciting times

  20. Premium User Badge

    airknots says:

    “We intend to release each subsequent chapter as a complete game. We don’t yet have a timeline for the full trilogy, as our first priority is to complete Chapter 1 of The Banner Saga and see where that takes us!”

    I wonder if they’d go to Kickstarter for each chapter of the game as it would really suck if only the first chapter gets successful funding.

  21. Angel Dust says:

    They’ve got some really cool rewards for the higher pledges there; wish I had $5000 so I could get rotoscoped into the game! :)