Guns For Hire: Jagged Alliance – Flashback

By Adam Smith on May 21st, 2013 at 3:00 pm.

This is most perplexing. Occurrences in the real world have dragged me away from the internet for a couple of weeks and upon poking my head back inside the landscape of ones and zeroes, I can’t help but notice that the Jagged Alliance: Flashback Kickstarter has decided to approach its goal at a thematically appropriate turn-based pace. This could mean that it has conserved action points in preparation for a final push during these last hours but the more likely case is that help may be required.

My conversation with the team left me feeling positive about their knowledge and affection for the first two games, including 1.13, which we all agreed was the high mark to aim for. Discussion of mechanics before development has begun are inevitably loose but Full Control show a clear understanding of what made Jagged Alliance 2 tick. Tactical combat with a wealth of options and a strategic mode that offers depth and variety. The personality of the mercenaries is important too and the cold war setting should allow for some intriguing prequel/origin tales to emerge.

Unfortunately, the second half of the interview, where a great deal of the in depth discussion took place, is stuck on a computer miles away and the aforementioned real world occurrences have separated me from that place. This is the main problem with the real world as opposed to imaginary ones – it cannot be switched off when its distractions are unwanted.

The latest of many updates confirms that IMP’s personality test will be back, creating a mercenary based on responses to a series of bizarre questions:

We want to bring that test back. So yes, this is an official confirmation that Jagged Alliance: Flashback will have a personality test within the game to create your very own character.

The team have also been explaining what will happen should they fail to reach their goal.

We will probably NOT be doing another Kickstarter for JA:F! This one is it. Now or never. That has nothing to do that we don’t believe in the game. We do. There are other reasons.

It is a huge expense and stress factor for us. The JAF team has now worked more or less 8 weeks without a single day off – answering thousands of posts, making 23 updates, doing videos and dioramas, performing interviews, writing (mostly ignored) press releases, hitting every social media outlet we could, participated in forums all over the globe, etc.

And if all of the work doesn’t pay off?

The last option would be to go back to bitComposer and talk to them about this project. Tell them that there is still a community out there that wants this game to happen – and that are willing to help, push, pull, contribute – who have their heart at the right place. Maybe they will pull out a checkbook and still let us do the game as described. They once offered the funding, maybe they’ll offer again. The problem is that this would bring us far away from being independent. And that’s a thing we actually want to try to avoid. And if influences became too big, we’d stop negotiations. This might lead to us giving back the license and saying “thank you”.

Based on the effort that has gone into the Kickstarter campaign and the afternoon that I spent talking to the team, I feel that, for the first time in years, Jagged Alliance is in good hands. Of course, positive talk and feelings may lead to disappointment but sometimes I’d rather risk being disappointed by a thing than by its lack.

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45 Comments »

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  1. briangw says:

    Should have offered the game at the $15 tier. I know I would have jumped at that. A lot of other TBS games were funded with that available. Hopefully they’ll get this done as I would welcome another JA game in the future.

    • S Jay says:

      Yeah, $15 is the sweet spot for this one. I would have backed. Too bad they didn’t do their market research properly.

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        FhnuZoag says:

        Well, if you compare the Xenonauts kickstarter ( http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/69341191/xenonauts ), they only had about 3000 backers at their minimum sale level of $20, plus 1000 or so more at higher tiers. This tallies well with Flashback’s again 3000 at the minimum sale level of $25, plus 1000 or so at higher tiers.

        Of course Xenonauts had been taking orders previously, but there’s little dramatic evidence here that lowering the price would really help. It seems plausible that the sad fact is that there’s only about 4000 people on kickstarter interested in hardcore turn based tactics games, of whom 3000 would pay the minimum price.

        • sfury says:

          ahem… 5500 almost

          (although they were much less before Obsidian’s Project Eternity gave a shout-out)

          But yes, I think everyone expected much more backers on such project, I think that the relatively unknown studio and the recent bastardization by Back In Action, make people think Full Control will either not pull it off or back down to the publisher and make compromises (which is dumb because this is why there is such a Kickstarter in the first place – to make it without the publisher’s influence).

          Now if they will be able to pull it off – only time can tell, but I’ve decided to give them that chance – ain’t that huge investment on my part (though it’s the most money I’ve given for a game so far).

    • JFS says:

      The pledge tiers are overall the biggest Kickstarter tier mess I’ve ever seen.

    • sfury says:

      I had no problem backing them for $25 initially, and have upped that to $75 because I really want to play another (faithful) JA title, and it strikes me the team have their hearts in the right place for that.

      Yes, the more you go up the tiers become a bit messed up, though if you have that much money to spend and you’re a fan of the game – probably won’t matter to you.

      But I really don’t understand why not being able to buy it for $15 is such a deal-breaker for you guys – $25 ain’t that big of a sum and Flashback won’t be that small game (even with minimal funding), especially considering all the mechanics and refinement that has to go into this so the JA fans don’t cry foul that this isn’t faithful enough too.

    • abandonhope says:

      Yeah, my imagination believes that for every person willing to spend $25 there were probably five willing to part with $15. Create enough momentum and people start pledging just so they don’t feel left out. At work here was either a poor understanding of Kickstarter or an overconfidence in the value of the JA name.

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      Johnny Go-Time says:

      I agree with much of what ppl have said already.

      What hubris to demand such a high minimum buy-in!

      Why should I fund this instead of 2-3 other cool-looking games for the same total cost?? Even the names of their payment-tiers annoyed me…

  2. Craig Stern says:

    I, too, am a bit perplexed that this isn’t on track to succeed; I thought Jagged Alliance had a big, loyal fan base. Perhaps people are still feeling a little burned by Jagged Alliance: Back in Action? (That only just came out last year, after all.)

    • Dariune says:

      I don’t really understand the backlash at BAI to be honest. I bought it last week and I think it is great fun!

      No it isn’t as good as JA but it’s far more similar to JA than the new X-Com was to the old one. Yes BAI is real time but the pause feature is needed to win battles and there is a lot more tactical and strategic thinking required than with the new X-Com.

      Bit of a shame really. I think BAI is far far better than any of it’s recent rivals.

      • S Jay says:

        But I heard it is not even turn-based. This makes JA:BiA a different genre than JA, no?

      • Zorn says:

        The way Xenonauts from Goldhawk Interactive is handled, that would
        give me assurance, they were doing a game that’s honouring it’s roots.
        I may not be doing Full Control justice, but they leave the impression
        on me that they -want- to make a Jagged Alliance game. It’s a question
        of trust and with every updated, it’s more flash than substance to me.

        It’s not enough that it’s a turn based game. That it’s better than another
        one. It should be a game, that’s good in itself. It should have the spirit,
        more than the name.

      • LoopyBalls says:

        BIA is not turned based. It as a real/pause time Plan N’ Go system which is infinitely superior to turn-based given it allows you to sync events between your mercs.

        Loyal fans of the original JA games (like myself) struggled with this concept given JA is SUPPOSED to be a turn based game. It took awhile to get used to, but ultimately Plan N’ Go not only updates the gameplay and strategy, it’s just simply better, and faster. I now find myself (again, a long time JA supporter) NOT wanting to support the kickstarter because a turn-based JA shooter is now obsolete.

        BIA did not get the love it deserved. It really is a nice game if you bothered to stick with it. HOWEVER, what did/does really REALLY suck about the game is the unfair advantage the AI has when gunning against your mercs. They can literally hit (and out gun in some situations) your prone merc that is in cover and full protective gear while shooting from the hip some 50+ meters away (if not more). It’s pretty absurd.

        • sinister agent says:

          Ih, I dunno about “infinitely superior”. It’s apples and oranges really – you’re absolutely right that pausable real time has some strong advantages over turn-based (assuming both are done well, of course – it’s entirely possible to do one or the other so badly that you squander that advantage), but sometimes it’s management of time units/number of turns/whatever equivalent is used that makes the game challenging and/or fun. Sometimes its the limitations of a structure that are precisely why it’s so effective.

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            FhnuZoag says:

            Right, exactly. I think all the different ways are valid and create different sorts of games. Being able to change plans whenever you want would, for instance, totally ruin the nail biting moments in XCOM where you know you’ve fucked up but are wondering how hard you’ll be punished for it.

          • LoopyBalls says:

            I know about it. Turn based is a limitation (you realize this after playing Plan n’ Go). I’ve never been one to consider a limitation as a feature.

            You may have a *preference* for turn-based. But in terms of options available for a strategy game, Plan n’ Go offers FAR more tactical options and is unquestionably superior and faster.

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            FhnuZoag says:

            I question your use of ‘unquestionably’.

            Ultimately, some options have to be removed to create an interesting game. If every piece in chess can go to any square, then the game would be pretty uninteresting, even though you have so many more ‘options’.

            I’ve generally not enjoyed pauseably realtime games all that much because I find them poorly paced and tuned to require too much uninteresting fine tuning instead of having the player risk broad, bold manuevres.

          • LoopyBalls says:

            ^^^ Analogy fail.

          • Nick says:

            Its not a limitation its a different way of doing things. Real time with pause has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, your preferences may vary but stating its vastly superior and shitting on turn based is just fucking stupid, end of.

          • mwoody says:

            Real time is “unquestionably superior” to turn based?

            Get out.

          • LoopyBalls says:

            For a tactical game, regardless of your personal preference. A real/pause time Plan N’ Go system is vastly, unquestionably and infinitely superior to a turn-based system in terms of options available and recreating a tactical environment. Refer to any other pause/go based shooter/tactical war game simulations, then refer to any other turn-based shooter/tactical war game simulations and you will see which one people are playing in volume. This system is even present in games like Skyrim, which allow you to pause, conduct actions, and resume without the need to wait for your ‘turn’. Tactics = time management. Not turn management.

            Gimmie some more analogy fail. I feed on this stuff.

            mwoody – Don’t distort the conversation. If you can’t understand what’s being said, don’t comment. It is not a ‘which is better’ in terms of personal preference argument. The discussion at hand (it is not an argument, because there is not a reasonable counterargument) is that real/pause-time systems offer a higher level of tactical options than a turn based system…. and they do. Unquestionably.

          • Consumatopia says:

            The chess analogy was spot on, but even more than that, consider that we are all using “turn-based” digital computers, rather than continuous analog machines of some sort, to communicate here. And we do so for the same reasons that some players prefer games with fixed, discrete turns–continuous systems allow errors to accumulate, making analysis and planning harder.

            “unquestionably superior” is unquestionably wrong–the Turing machine is turn-based, but universal.

          • Consumatopia says:

            Actually, the “Plan and Go has more options” argument is even stupider than I first realized. Since the game gives you the option of pausing and issuing commands at any moment, that means that Plan and Go is reducible to Turn-based–every time the game ticks forward is a turn (and the game DOES “tick” forward, you’re playing it on a digital computer so something discrete is going on underneath the apparent continuity).

            This is objectively, inarguably true. It has nothing to do with anyone’s personal preference. There is no “analogy fail”, there is just you being wrong.

            What distinguishes a game we typically call “turn based” from one in which you can pause at any time (except you can’t literaly pause at any time, you’re bound by the computer’s event loop), is that “turn-based” games have more stuff happening during each turn. If you actually paused a Plan and Go game at every “tick” it would be incredibly boring. Plan and Go systems are designed so that time moves automatically most of the time, because in most game ticks nothing interesting is happening, so the player will do a “no-op” and keep watching the unfolding animation. In turn-based systems, each turn is assumed to be significant, something that the player will want to consider and make a decision over. Arguably this makes the Plan and Go system more organic, while the turn-based systems focus on logical complexity. But both systems are reducible to the other. Neither of these reductions will tend to result in particularly pleasant games–but their existence as possibilities refutes the idea that one inherently gives more options than the other. One system tends to have a great many trivial turns (60 turns per second or whatever the tick rate is), the other makes each turn deeper. (And neither is what you would want to be closest to real world tactics–that would be real-time, unpausable.)

          • sinister agent says:

            That’s not really accurate either. Real time with pause allows for simultaneous movement, both of your and the enemy’s pieces. Turn based just doesn’t do that, or does it only under strict limits. That is a definite advantage of real time with pause. But it’s not objectively better, just different. “more options!” doesn’t automatically mean “superior”.

            Plus turn based can in fact give you more options, simply by allowing you to exploit the fact that you take turns and can (usually) only move one unit at a time.

            E.g: In Blood Bowl, you can have one player attack an enemy then move to support a second player, then use the second player to attack another enemy. If the game were not turn based, this would not be an option.

            Oranges. Apples. It’s not complicated.

          • Consumatopia says:

            Tun-based systems have limits on simultaneous movement–but, from the point of view of reducibility, I can’t see how real-time with pause avoids imposing those limits on each tick of game state. Ultimately, the entities you manipulate in a game are digital, not real-valued, and they change state in discrete, not continuous steps. Those limits are less noticeable, but only because they’re more fine-grained )

            Of couse I’m not denying that both have their advantages, but they are in the same complexity class.

        • Discopanda says:

          Stop using hyperbole, you silly man.

          The biggest crime of BIA was that it was dull as dirt. It felt like the developers wanted to update the “dated” gameplay of JA 2, and thought they could get the personality of the game right by more or less photocopying the more personal bits.

          You can’t nail the feeling of JA 2 by just putting the mercs on the ground and having them recite their old lines. I mean, they changed Hamous from a 38 Wisdom character with a hilarious Short-Round accent into an 84 wisdom character that sounds like George Lopez. And Ira has a Spanish accent now? EVERYBODY LOVED HER OLD VOICE, BRING IT BACK BITCOMPOSER.

          As for the “infinitely better gameplay,” I think the stop and go system is okay. It’s fine. It works. But the best part of JA 2 for me was the charm and personality, which felt totally bastardized in BIA. The game feels, perhaps appropriately, like a mercenary affair. Why should I get attached to a merc when buying him is a one-time cost? When his skills level up 7 points at a time with no passive gain, why shouldn’t I just ditch him later on when I can afford the more expensive top-tier guys? And why did the MERC guys get removed?! They were my favorite. I hate the world. :(

          Personally, I think the plan ‘n go system would have been better in a more linear game, rather than an open-world RPG-type affair like Jagged Alliance. It feels like a game that is uncomfortable in its own skin.

          “Thanksgiving’s here. TIME TO CARVE SOME TURKEYS!”
          -Bill “Razor” Lamont. Was in JA 2, missing and presumed dead in JA 2 BIA. I hope there’s lots of turkeys in Heaven for you to carve, buddy.

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      FhnuZoag says:

      It’s worth pointing out that Xenonauts only managed 150k on Kickstarter (vs 220k here, with a target of 350k), and that was on a $20 minimum sale price. This is despite XCOM being, I think, a much bigger audience than Jagged Alliance. It’s possible that there just isn’t that many people that are that interested in a Jagged Alliance reboot, and these guys aren’t making any compromises aimed at widening the audience.

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      Colonel J says:

      That list is pretty much spot on, for me it was basically a combination of all those things, plus a case of Kickstarter fatigue having backed nearly a dozen other games in the last year. And what felt like another long wait for a game, a Nov 2014 delivery date (which yes I know is probably an entirely reasonable development time, or even too optimistic, for a game of this scope) from a developer I knew nothing of.

      All of that made me think “I’ll wait and see, probably buy it when it comes out. And for just $350K it’s bound to make it anyway…right?”

      err..but maybe not it seems. So I went in for $25 yesterday, and might pledge a bit more tomorrow. It was reading their KS updates that impressed me enough to tip me over the fence to pledge . And for the same reasons Adam said:
      “….but sometimes I’d rather risk being disappointed by a thing than by its lack”. Yeah.

  3. squareking says:

    It would have been incredibly beneficial for FC to have completed the recent diorama and commentary video within a few days of launching the KS. On the other hand, they’ve busted their asses answering questions (including mine) about JAF and their hearts are squarely in the right place. I’ll be really miffed if this one doesn’t pull through.

  4. dongsweep says:

    Elliot! You idiot!

  5. luckydoky says:

    FC has been leading an outstanding KS campaign imo. If you haven’t checked it out yet I strongly recommend you to.

  6. BobbyDylan says:

    I hope this pulls it off. More TBS games is alwasys a good thing.

  7. daemonofdecay says:

    I may be a bit thick, but… What is keeping them from putting their own money forward to fill the gap so they get the rest of it themselves?

    • mwoody says:

      Presumably because that means they don’t have the funds to make the game, then. On top of, of course, it no doubt being against the rules, and the fact that Kickstarter and the credit card companies take a not-insignificant chunk of donated funds.

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    Bluerps says:

    Yay, Adam Smith is back! :D

  9. Strutter says:

    I’d back this but Kickstarter is only taking creditcards and those aren’t used by everyone here like in the U.S.

    • BTAxis says:

      The credit card requirement is why I don’t back kickstarters unless they set up an alternative system that takes paypal.

      • ch4cooh says:

        Well, they do have an option for paypal, its on the KS page, you just have to scroll down a bit…

    • Nidokoenig says:

      The payment’s are through Amazon, which takes (some?) debit cards, and even if that doesn’t work, it will accept pre-paid credit cards. Double Fine made the following video during their Kickstarter, which explains this a bit more and is pretty funny:

    • Winstons says:

      I paid with a debit card.

      /\/\ – what this guy said.

  10. MeestaNob says:

    I think if they go away and finish Space Hulk to a high standard, then were to return in 12 months with another kickstarter campaign for this it would do MUCH better.

    At the moment these guys are unknowns, no one knows what they will get for their money.