Obsidian On Project Eternity, Kickstarter’s Future

Kickstarter has been quite kind to Obsidian. Once upon a time, “Let’s make a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, but with no recognizable license and a truckload of old-school trappings” would’ve only gotten them as far as the giant-red-button activated trap door I imagine every major publisher secretly has in their meeting room. But now the band of Black Isle castaways is back on the map after some nasty post-Fallout layoffs and sailing quite smoothly. In recent times, however, Kickstarter’s started to get a bit cranky. High-profile washouts are piling up – Wildman the most visible among them – and the gold in them thar hills seems to be losing its sheen. So then, is it time to book it back to publishers? For his part, Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart thinks it’s all about balance. “These are enjoyable games to make,” he told RPS. “I think it would be great to keep on making them. It helps us build a brand. So that’s where it’s transformative. It’s going to change our business, absolutely. Is it going to change the entirety of our business? No.” Tons more on that, Project Eternity, and a possible South Park delay after the break.

RPS: How is development on Project Eternity going? Have you found yourself deviating from the original Kickstarter pitch at all? Are there any ideas that sounded great on paper, but just don’t work in practice?

Feargus Urquhart: You know, I don’t think so. I think what’s maybe different for us, compared to some Kickstarters – not all of them, I would say – we’ve defined what it is that we’re looking out to do. The gameplay of it is pretty defined. There’s going to be things that we’re going to want to change once we get up there. How exactly do we want the inventory to work? How is this going to work? How is that?

But generally, it’s well-defined. This is how you control the party. This is how area transitions work. How we’re rendering all that. Some stuff on the technology side is different, but it’s better. All the basic gameplay, we pretty much get it. Where we’re going to see differences, it’s in how we want to do dialogue. How do we want to present it? Infinity Engine games presented it this way. Other games have presented it this way. I guess in the end what it will be is there’s going to be a certain number of interface things we’ll iterate on a lot. They might be different from what we’re thinking right now. But general gameplay… It’s worked out. We had a very specific, “This is what we’re going to do.”

RPS: But, hypothetically, if you ever ended up in a situation where it came down to what you promised backers versus what was really right for the game, what would you do?

Feargus Urquhart: It would really depend. We’re all gamers. Everyone who makes games is. There are things I like about a game that other people don’t. There are things they like that I don’t. There’s always going to be different opinions, even personally, as to what works and what doesn’t work in a game.

If we came to a block, if we came to something that we promised, but in looking at it or trying it it just didn’t work out, we would just be really up front. We’d say, “Hey, we tried this. It didn’t work out. The direction we’re going is this.” Now, if the internet falls on us… [laughs] …and says, “How dare you go off on some different direction?” maybe there’s a conversation online about it. Then maybe we wouldn’t go with our gut.

But I think that’s it. The first thing is to say that there’s a problem. Generally, because we play the games that we make, we’re kind of our own target market in a lot of ways. I think a lot of times our gut is correct. But that’s how we’d handle it. I think you’ve probably seen that we’re pretty open about all the stuff we’re doing. We’re doing lots of updates. We were really worried about releasing temp art stuff. People would then think that it’s final even though it looks like crap. Our art director stamped all this funny stuff on the art so that people would recognize, “No, it’s not final at all, remotely, we just wanted to show you guys progress.”

But that’s how we would handle it. We’d do an update. Josh would probably get on a video and say, “This is what it is. This is why we’re changing this. See this on the whiteboard.” As an example, Josh has changed the armor system in the game in the last three or four weeks. He’s changed it three times. Some of that is based on conversations he’s had with people online, friends of his in the industry, or internally. That’s the other cool thing about the Kickstarter. We get to change stuff ourselves. That’s fun.

RPS: Plus, you’re not beholden to a publisher on this one, so you don’t have to deal with milestones and all that stuff. And, I mean, some of Obsidian’s previous efforts have been super glitchy, which suggests a breakdown in the release process for you. A goal publishers demanded that just didn’t mesh with your way of doing things.

Feargus Urquhart: Yeah. But I certainly don’t want to throw publishers under the bus. It’s a two-way street.

It’s tough. It’s a tough thing. You have to know enough to get to the nitty gritty of game development. But it’s a tough thing. You’re working on this game. Some things don’t go right. The budget you pitched two years ago is not working out. There are challenges in working with a publisher, to say that you need to keep more people on it for another month. They don’t want to spend any more money because we said it was going to cost this much. That doesn’t take into account external forces and other kinds of stuff. That’s the only unfortunate thing, I’d say.

It’s sometimes hard to have unemotional conversations, very matter-of-fact conversations about budgets and timelines and stuff like that. The example I use a lot of times is, if I were to hire a guy to come put in a pool. If the guy’s going to come put in a pool, he’s not going to hire some weird ground-scanner to say exactly what type of soil is there. They bid and then they come back and start digging the hole. Whoops, half the pool is on bedrock. We’re going to have to chisel that crap out. I can get mad at him, but it’s life. I think that’s the challenge a lot of times. Things come up in games and it’s hard sometimes to get through that stuff as planned.

But some of that’s stuff on us. So we’ve changed a little bit when we’re working with external [publishers]. We put a lot more buffer in now than we used to. We do that purposefully, because then we have that to draw upon when we can. If there’s a problem then the budget is already there to deal with it. You can skip the emotional part of it.

RPS: For comparison’s sake, what’s the actual scale of Project Eternity in terms of the number of people working on it right now?

Feargus Urquhart: It’s about… 12 or 13 people?

RPS: That’s what I was figuring. Somewhere around there. So I imagine it’s a lot easier to be connected in terms of goals and whatnot, when you have so many fewer people and no publisher whatsoever. What’s it been like going back to that smaller structure?

Feargus Urquhart: It’s interesting, because some of the things we’re now so used to doing, we just don’t do. It’s going to sound silly and probably scary to some people, but for instance, when we have a bigger project, we have a whole group of producers that are managing this huge schedule. Huge tasks and all that stuff. With Project Eternity, a lot of the guys on the game have done this stuff before. Steve Weatherly is the main gameplay programmer. He just implemented doors last week. We don’t need to have a meeting about doors.

To be honest, there’s like a… I’m not going to call it a game design document. It’s more like a bullet list, just so we don’t forget the things that need to be in it. But Steve’s implemented doors probably four other times in RPGs. He knows all the stuff. We’re using Unity, so the backend of putting something in the game is already all there. Steve goes around and talks to everybody. He says, “I’m thinking this, because we’ve done this in other games. Maybe we need these new things.” They all agree to it, get a quick writeup, and go.

RPS: So all this is going very much in your favor, but Kickstarter’s evolved into a far more demanding beast since wallets the world over ran away together with Project Eternity and got married. Do you think that’s a good thing, that consumers are getting more wary towards what they give their money to?

Feargus Urquhart: Yes? Yeah… Maybe coming at it the other way. It’s people that put projects up. I think that if you look at any digital cycle, you see the early adopters. Then you see the gold rush. Then you see the consumers being a little frustrated. Then you see the upturn in people that are focusing on quality. You can see it in almost any platform.

RPS: It all normalizes.

Feargus Urquhart: It all normalizes. But it normalizes where someone putting something up with two paragraphs and one screenshot, and that could make a lot of money however long ago [becomes the lowest common denominator]. When you get to this third phase, that’s not the reality of it anymore. I think the moral of it is that people who want to have something bigger funded need to go at it from [the perspective of] not just getting money.

It’s not that there are people out here who just want to give you money, and it’s your right to take that money. You need to be very responsible. It is their money. It’s a privilege that they’re giving it to you. You have to come at it from that viewpoint. I think maybe that’s what people are getting more savvy about.

People maybe are starting to see that some projects are just, to use a term, cash grabs. “I’ll put something up and say it’s wonderful and get some money.” It may be that right now that’s a really good weeding process, an inevitable weeding process. Having a ton of stuff go up there and having a ton of it not be successful… Right now, unfortunately, is not a great time to launch anything big. I know Chris Taylor’s tried and that’s not going the way he had hoped. But that’s how I would look at it.

RPS: Chris Taylor’s situation was interesting, too, because a lot of people who have past notoriety have leveraged it a whole lot. Even you guys. Project Eternity was very much rooted in a similar mentality to Baldur’s Gate and Planescape and stuff like that. But tried a new world and a new-ish approach to the genre. Would you, speaking personally, be more hesitant to launch something risky on Kickstarter like that?

Feargus Urquhart: Would I put something risky on Kickstarter? I wouldn’t put something risky up on Kickstarter and try to get $2 million dollars for it. I would try something risky, but I would have to have very reasonable expectations.

The other thing is, it goes hand in hand. In general, games with big, big budgets are risky because they have big, big budgets. They’re not risky necessarily because the ideas are very new. That leads to a thing where, when you’re making something smaller, the risk can’t be the money. In some ways then the risk is that it’s new and different. That’s why you see a lot of new and risky things from indies and on the downloadable platforms and things like that.

I personally would not try to come up with some entirely new thing [for Kickstarter]. You’ve set yourself up. You’re trying to solve two problems at once. You first need to spend a ton of time explaining to them what it is, so that they can then hopefully desire it. Then hopefully that desire turns into backing. In essence, you’re adding a whole stage to your pitch. I think that’s a challenge. You look at the lady who got $130,000 dollars for marshmallows. The pictures of her marshmallows… Wow. Those looked really good [laughs]. And she had the whole spiel on there about why her marshmallows were awesome. But we’re all candy-ingesting gamers, right? “Ooh, marshmallows!” There’s nothing selling them other than the fact that they look pretty.

RPS: At that point, what does Kickstarter become for companies in your position, then? Is it just some kind of nostalgia farm? The biggest successes have definitely hinged on nostalgia, but I think for a while a lot of people looked at it and said, “Maybe this is a truly viable alternative form of funding that could get more innovation into the industry.” Now it’s shifted back towards, “Well, it’s difficult to get real innovation going now unless your budget is $20,000 dollars.”

Feargus Urquhart: Yeah, definitely. It goes back to what we were talking about before. First of all, there’s this haze of just the gold rush. There’s a lot of chaff. It has to resolve itself. Once it resolves itself, Kickstarter will be there to fund things that people want to back. It’s stupid, right? You can look today at what people look to back.

You can look at the card and board game industry. If you have something of a track record and you put a good Kickstarter on, you put up a $15,000, $20,000, $25,000 dollar goal, you’ve done some stuff with Board Game Geek, you have your rules to read, you look like you have it, it’s an interesting board game, and there’s not 30 of them up at the time, you’ll probably be successful. I don’t think that will change meaningfully. It may never change. This may be the way that a lot of board games get funded now. But now, look at more indie games. Indie games in the $50,000 to $200,000 dollar level, they can be innovative. You don’t need all the backers in the world. I think Kickstarter could be a good platform for that.

Things like what we did with Eternity, those might go away. Or maybe they don’t go away, but only so many can be done. A few a year. Four or five a year can get funded that way. But for the other things, we could see a ton of them. At that point, when your goal is down to a certain point, it’s more about people. One, they feel the goal is achievable. Think about it this way: When you have a goal of $2 million dollars, my $10 dollars moves it this much. When I have a goal of $20,000 dollars, my $10 dollars moves it this much. It’s not just that I’m getting something. It’s my feeling that I’m helping out. I’m giving to the industry. I’m letting someone do it. When it feels like my impact on that is meaningful, rather than $10 dollars moving it .00001 percent towards the goal, that’s what helps.

RPS: So where does that leave crowdfunding for Obsidian as a company? Is it ultimately more of a sidestep – after which you’ll go back to publishing more traditionally for your projects? Or has it been a transformative experience for all of you?

Feargus Urquhart: These are enjoyable games to make. I think it would be great to keep on making them. It helps us build a brand. So that’s where it’s transformative. It’s going to change our business, absolutely. Is it going to change the entirety of our business? No. I would still love to make Fallout: New Vegas 2, or whatever. Or even take Eternity at some point and have Eternity the [Infinity Engine] games and then Eternity the big open-world CRPG. I think that would be really cool.

Nothing stops us from being able to do those two different things. It’s going to make us look at Eternity as a brand. What else can we do with it? I want to hook up with the Pathfinder guys and see about doing a Pathfinder Eternity world book thing. It sounds a little weird, but… A card game. A board game. I’ve already been chatting with Cryptozoic Entertainment. We have nothing going on specifically, but they have a lot of experience in board games and card games. That’s what’s going to be transformative.

But overall, we still love making those big games. I don’t think we have to say we have to do one or the other.

RPS: On the other side of that, you’ve got South Park going. THQ’s down for the count, so now Ubisoft’s publishing. Beyond that, is everything proceeding apace? Has anything changed aside from a name on the cover?

Feargus Urquhart: No, it’s going great. Matt and Trey are totally engaged right now. They’re doing great work. They happened to be in London this week, but our writer is out there working with them on stuff at their request. We meet with them all the time. It’s great.

It’s going to be the most horrible game I ship in my career [laughs]. If there were anything that could get me on the watch list of the religious right, it’s going to be the South Park game.

RPS: Truly, the sort of thing we can all aspire to. Has it been delayed, though? It certainly seemed that way in Ubisoft’s initial announcement.

Feargus Urquhart: Ubi hasn’t really gone into the release date stuff. It’s so new to them, from the standpoint of moving it over. It’s still something getting worked out as to when it’s going to ship.

RPS: But is it fairly close to being done overall?

Feargus Urquhart: There’s a lot of it, the game. It’s going to be a pretty big game. We’ve done a huge amount of art on it and things like that. It’s definitely coming along. That’s the developer “I can’t answer the question” answer [laughs].

RPS: I’m somewhat familiar with those.

Feargus Urquhart: But we still have to act like we answered you [laughs].

RPS: Ooo, I’ve always wanted to end an interview with a self-aware critique of Everything That’s Wrong With Games Journalism! Thank you for your time.

You can read part one of this monstrous interview here


  1. TooNu says:

    The missus and I bought into Project Eternity because of our love for Baldurs Gate. We dropped $100 into the kickstarter and that was our game budget for this year used right up. That is how much faith we have in the developers, we’re not even worried that our faith will not go to waste. They are awesome and the game will be awesome, right guys? right?

    • Alexander says:

      Yes, it will be. I think it’s best to expect “tech difficulties” , as always, but I”m sure it will leave us with a world, stories and characters that we’ll want more of.

      • zain3000 says:

        To be fair, Obsidian’s games have always been glitchy nightmares (I’m looking at you, KotOR 2) but that could have been due to publisher pressure to release at a certain time rather than “when it’s done”. With Obsidian having full control over the development and release of PE perhaps the technical glitches won’t be as pervasive as they have been in Obsidian’s previous releases.

        • Xardas Kane says:

          In the case of KOTOR 2 it was entirely because of the publisher. They actually forced them into making the game in about an year. Few studios would’ve delivered a product as good as KOTOR 2 in that time frame, which is further example of just how good Obsidian are at their craft.

          • cue kalamos says:

            they only had 9 months to make new Vegas, image what they could have done with the 5 years that lazy ass todd Howard gets at Bethesda?

    • AliceMaddenWhelan says:

      just as Christine said I didnt even know that people can get paid $5564 in 1 month on the internet. have you seen this web site link to youtube.com.pie21.com

    • TormDK says:

      “We dropped $100 into the kickstarter and that was our game budget for this year used right up.” – Ouch, tight budget. I hope your luck turns!

    • jrodman says:

      I’ve started to have this weird habit of wanting to buy games for other people. I think it’s because I still like the idea of games and partaking in them, but don’t seem to have the energy or time anymore.

      Anything on steam or gog or some other giftable service catch your eye lately?

      • Alexander says:

        Random acts of kindness FTW!
        GOG is having an RPG sale + SS 2, so give someone the great gift of the RPG.

        • jrodman says:

          Yeah I’ve kind of burned out on giving away games to people at random. I have to find a place to run an entry qualifier. Then wait, then pick them, then buy and send it. Blah.

          I’m much more interested in people who seem specifically worth giving stuff to: “We blew our 100 dollar gaming budget for the year” for example.

          Maybe I should just figure out how to give gift certificates. If you can do that on steam. (You cannot on gog.com. Dum.)

          • Martel says:

            I don’t think you technically can on Steam (for $), but you can buy gift cards and send that person the code which they can then use to add money to their Steam wallet.

      • stiffkittin says:

        I’m in precisely the same situation. Due to external influences and responsibilities, I have very little time or energy to actually play much anymore. I’m still fascinated by the medium, the technology and the industry. Also, it’s larger context and influence within society. To wit I’m finding myself more and more drawn to share my discoveries of new gaming experiences with people I know will profit most from them.

        I just had an hour long conversation with my Aunt about how awesome the old LucasArts adventure games were and also The Longest Journey, and what an incredibly imaginative and immersive experience that was. She was tickled to hear that there would probably be a sequel in the next year or so. Now, she’s pushing 60 years old. It was such a great conversation that upon arriving home I was compelled to buy her in at the $50 tier on their kickstarter.

        Best (most satisfying) gaming purchase of the year, hands down.

    • ZX k1cka55 48K says:

      It certainly will be………just a few years and few fan patches later.
      A true Black Isle/Obsidian game ;)

  2. Lemming says:

    “High-profile washouts are piling up – Wildman the most visible among them – and the gold in them thar hills seems to be losing its sheen. “

    I dont think it’s a sign of the end-times. It’s a sign that gamers who look to Kickstarter projects are a lot more discerning and critical than the bandwagon jumpers given them credit for.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      And there are loads of successful ones still. Even bigger ones. Dreamfall: Chapters is about to hit their goal.

      • RedViv says:

        Eyup. Solid pitches seem to do just fine. Solid and a bit weird, like Unwritten, does usually work too. If you want to get weird with the game and only have very basic stuff and a rather lacking background, well…

      • derella says:

        Dreamfall Chapters just hit it’s goal!

    • sharkh20 says:

      Not to mention that to date, Star Citizen has raised $8,154,058. It’s made almost 2 million since the original crowdfunding campaign ended (ended at 6.2 million). If people really like what is pitched, they will fund it.

      • Arglebargle says:

        Whether that’s a good thing or not. I still predict that Star Citizen will be one of the biggest let downs of that Kickstarter era. It may be a decent pew pew space shooter, but I expect the world set up will be a great disappointment. I believe in Roberts’ PR foofarah about as far as I could throw him.

        • jrodman says:

          I disbelieve the hype so hard on this one I am actually sad that it received this much money. It just seems like proof that the collective “us” are a bunch of easily fooled dupes.

          Would like to be proven wrong here.

        • Arglebargle says:

          The smart thing about it was Roberts targetting a very under-served field of gaming, one that he has some (rather undeserved) credit for working on. But he’s a Hollywood producer, so he knows how to pitch.

          The people that thought this was going to be some sort of “twitch flight combat in an Eve style open world’ are going to be sorely disappointed.

          • Bhazor says:

            “Roberts has some (rather undeserved) credit for working on.”

            If the lead designer of frickin’ Wing Commander doesn’t deserve credit then who does?

            “The people that thought this was going to be some sort of “twitch flight combat in an Eve style open world’ are going to be sorely disappointed ”
            Why? The pledge made a big point of stressing realism and simulation in the flight model and physics link to robertsspaceindustries.com.

            As for the open world, well his tech is already hugely impressive and he’s even showing off the more notoriously tricky parts like AI. Adding commercial/trade simulation on that is comparatively easy, it’s just moving numbers.

            As far as Kickstarter campaigns go it is the gold standard, tonnes of updates, frank discussion with fans, lot’s of ingame footage and plenty of chest beating confidence. It certainly put Obsidian’s kickstarter to shame.

          • stiffkittin says:

            I actually consider Obsidian’s Kickstarter to be one of the best run projects, if not THE best run project I’ve seen all year. They didn’t miss a beat; updated almost daily; tons of art and neat ‘gamey’ ideas to get people more invested and bringing others on board; omnipresence in the chat to keep it trending; no major ‘PR’ mishaps or confusion with tiers/rewards.

            Their updates since funding have been exemplary, frank and super regular and with loads of info/video blogs etc. I can’t think of another of the successful ‘big’ kickstarters that was so well organised from the start.

          • Bhazor says:

            It was well organised but there were no concrete details at all. If you paid attention you could find all kinds of conflicts, one guy saying there would be “idiot dialog” then another saying there wasn’t, one guy claimed you could do a pacisfist run and Avellone saying you couldn’t. Even during the final countdown stream of the Kickstarter it felt like they were still just spit balling with Josh coming out with things that hadn’t been mentioned anywhere else.

            After they released that one screenshot (October 10th) the daily pledges tripled for the next three days. If they’d held back a month or two, built up a few more screenshots, got a WIP trailer, some fully fleshed out lore and maybe a pre rendered concept trailer they could have doubled their total.
            I have every confidence they’ll make a great game but I was expecting them to bring in much more money. They aren’t like most retro themed kickstarters, they haven’t been MIA for 15 years, they’ve been making a game every year, hell their last big game sold over 5 million copies, they have a big fan base across multiple audiences from the Infinity era right through to the Fallout NV fanbase.

            It was a Kickstarter that really was just Chris and Josh talking about how much they want to make a new Infinity game.

            For me Star Citizen was much stronger all around and it showed in their final total of $8million.

          • Arglebargle says:

            Be wary of these associations of designer and game. Their actual role may be vastly different from what you think it is. As in Stan Lee may be an ‘Executive Producer’ on The Avengers, but he probably had precious little to do with the movie. Sid Meiers name gets attached to products, but he hasn’t done deep work on any of those games in a long time. Etc. Do you know what Roberts did in the Wing Commander series? Actually did? Other than his tale of it? Or is it just his name on the box? He also gets a lot of credit for Privateer and Freelancer, despite peripheral input on them. Everyone seems to forget Strike Commander, which he did helm, and which took an extra couple of years to release, including over a million hours of work, much of which was unuseable. It was considered a major bit of vaporware for those years.

            Stephen Beeman did most of the major programming for the first WC. On WCIII, Roberts mostly shot cut scenes, preparatory work for his move to Hollywood. That sure didn’t pan out. Forgive me if I think poorly of someone who suddenly finds the return of their love of gaming after a decade of producing commercial film failures in Hollywood. Also, the link you listed had a whole lot of ‘It’s not realistic, but we did it anyway because it looked cool’ in it.

            There’s a difference between Obsidian and Roberts. Obsidian has stayed in the games industry all this time, has a much greater body of modern work, and has produced something very good in the last couple of years. Frankly, the Star Citizen fundraiser and Kickstarter campaign started with large, fairly vague promises, and as some of the details came out, it became apparant that the game was not quite what early supporters thought it might be. I expect the pew pew piloting part to be reasonable, but the economy, the open world, the ability to mesh the single player campaign with the MMOish one? Better cross your fingers and hope….

    • El_MUERkO says:

      I’d add that I have a gaming budget and a lot of good games landing in Kickstarter in quick succession makes for hard choices.

      Also big failures often have pretty obvious issues, GPG sacking all their staff didn’t help their Kickstarter for example.

    • Teovald says:

      I am not that sure. Some of the projects that got founded for more than half a million were more than shady.

      If Taylor had published the planetary annihilation pitch video without anything else, he would probably have gotten the 2.2 millions this project got and maybe even more, since for many people Chris Taylor = Total Annihilation (even if that’s not totally true, a big part of TA and SupCom creators are working on PA.

      All the very successful game industry veterans Kickstarters are pitching revivals, Wildman was the first new concept (not that I have something against these revivals, I have backed many of them)

      • drewski says:

        I think the biggest problem with Wildman is that it just didn’t grab people.

        • Teovald says:

          Well, that as well. I don’t think the concept in itself is weak, but introducing it would have needed a concept video akin to the one for Planetary Annihilation. And the fact that it is kind of a new concept (ok, it is reminiscent of moba, but in the same way that DOTA is reminiscent of warcraft 3) is a problem in itself, introducing new ideas is always hard.

        • Cinek says:

          What did you expect from “yet another DOTA clone”? Even though they did everything to pretend it’s something different – video said it all.

  3. Meat Circus says:

    GPG trying to blame Kickstarter for their lame-ass pitch? Eh, no.

    • Bhazor says:

      Yeah I think
      “So our companies probably going to be bankrupt in 3 months, fancy giving us some money to make a game in two years from now?”

      May of had an effect on the campaign’s failure.

      • Teovald says:

        In all fairness, the “GPG will close drama” happened only after the failure of the campaign. 3 days in, it was already apparent that Wildman was far behind the veteran kickstarter wave.

  4. SuperNashwanPower says:

    I love RPS. Its meta-ness has now rubbed off on its interviewees.
    Also, when will we see an animated version of that waterfall scene? It promises so much but at the moment its just a painting. I want to know if I can go for a swim in it :)

  5. caddyB says:

    I love Obsidian. I really, really do. Their hearts are in the right place, even if their games are flawed gems.

    • RedViv says:

      Can’t say it better than that. Beautiful games, partially broken but wonderful experiments, and absolutely lovely people.

  6. Xardas Kane says:

    By far the most anticipated Kickstarter project for me so far (then come DF: Chapters, Wasteland 2 and Double Fine).

    I cannot stress how happy I am to see things actually work out Obsidian. When was the last time that happened? Has it ever happened before? These guys have their hearts in the right place and it was just painful to see them get blamed for their games being buggy and unfinished while getting struck by wave after wave of layoffs. What a wonderful change of pace.

    And I do hope they get to make KOTOR 3. Oh, how much I do…

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      If only New Vegas had scored 1% higher on Metacritic …

  7. DarkFarmer says:

    Dude… this guys name is Feargus Urquheart. That is like the name of somebody’s D&D character. somebody *good* at naming D&D characters.

    • f69 says:

      What a great name indeed.

      • int says:

        He is NPCs in some of Black Isle’s games like Fallout and Baldur’s Gate I believe.

    • RedViv says:

      Celtic names rule, aye. Though one can be a bit desensitised growing up in the middle of a huge lot of them. Then again, that just means that I am having an easier time finding nice hobbit or gnome names, taking them from the folks that poured in and claimed dominance over the islands where people spoke the closest thing to Elvish this planet has seen.

      Names, huh.

      • 2lab says:

        That a Scottish name not a celtic one, the Celtoi were germanic. The Scottish people are older than that, they just used the Celtic language for trading, like many use English these days.

        • twincast says:

          Erm, sorry to have to tell you, but every single part of your comment is completely false.

    • Crosmando says:

      He was born in Scotland.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

  8. int says:

    “You look at the lady who got $130,000 dollars for marshmallows.”

    Please be a joke. Please be a joke.

  9. WebFusion says:

    The “shine” hasn’t gone off of kickstarter, it’s simply many of the prospective creators approach it the wrong way.

    Without exception, the [gaming-related] kickstarter projects that failed all had one major thing in common: Their creators approached it with an attitude of “Here’s the game that I want to make, now give me money to make it.”

    In reality – the approach each and every one should take it “Here is the game I KNOW that the fans are clamoring for, here’s how I want to deliver that game, now give me money to make it.”

    Wildman failed because no one really wants or needs another damn MOBA game, no matter what the unique “twist” is they think they’e going to put on it.

    If, instead, Chris has stuck to his roots and said “I’m going to make a 64-bit, mutli-core, graphical monster of an RTS the likes of which has never been seen before”, I guarantee you people would have showered him with money.

    • Christo4 says:

      Yep. I for one would have liked to see a game where i play as Wildman and I’m in command of a legion of dinosaurs and control them like in Mount&Blade vs an army of chimpanzes throwing feces at me(and probably at eachother). All that fecal matter flying through the air and Wildman resisting ferociously to not give in to his primal instincts and throw with feces instead of axes…

      • GameCat says:

        Conquer the tribe of feces-throwing monkeys!
        Mash X to resist the urge of throwing feces instead of axes!
        Breed T-Rexes, Stegosaurus and Brontoaurus and command them to victory!
        100% historicaly accurate!

        Would totally back on Kickstarter.

    • soldant says:

      Wildman failed not only because of the game pitch but because Chris Taylor effectively said “We’re going out of business, if you won’t fund the game at least save GPG or they’re all going out on the street. Actually, I might shut up anyway. Now, deliver unto me your wallets!” And GPG wasn’t worth saving either.

      That said I disagree that Kickstarter is all about making games that gamers want. The entire point of it is “Here’s my game idea, if you like it, back it.” Kickstarter is part funding, part advertising, and part market research in some ways. Any variation of “You have to make what the people want” starts sounding like the publisher treadmill of “Make it because kids buy it!” which nets us six hundred Call of Duty titles and clones. Making something that people want will get you more money but if it’s not what you wanted to make, then don’t make it.

  10. amateurviking says:

    The regular updates from Josh et al on Project Eternity have been really great. Exactly the kind of ‘behind the scenes’ stuff that being funded by kickstarter allows. They all seem to be thoroughly lovely peeps too, which is nice :)

  11. ZX k1cka55 48K says:

    Wildman didn’t get me interested from the beginning and I also remember thinking that 1.1Mio goal was a bit unrealistic for that kind of game.

    IMHO this gaming gen is so full with action games, its just not what majority of mature gamers look for on kickstarter.
    Most games are now about action and most AAA games are about “getting the Call of Duty Audience”. Many gamers miss depth in their games, good writing, unique/believable characters,choices that matter and interesting stories that for a change make sense.
    Give me something like one of those: Fallout 2/Planescape:Torment/Monkey island/Full throttle/Another world/Demon souls/System Shock2/Thief/Amnesia/Limbo/Shadow of the colossus/Gothic2/Baldur’s Gate/The Longest Journey1 and ill be glad to back up your project on KS.

    • jrodman says:

      Let’s say I’m conversing and not nitpicking because it sounds better, and anyway I’m actually interested in your reply.

      I feel a strong correspondance with a desire for depth and not twitch, and a lot of those games are.. more or lessin that direction. (Though I think you’re cheating a bit by listing greatest hits over several decades.)

      But does Another World, or Shadow of the Collossus, or even to a lesser extent Monkey Island really offer depth? I love them to bits, but I wouldn’t think to describe them that way.

      • GameCat says:

        I would say that Shadow of Colossus is one of the greatest game ever created and It definitely have depth. It may have simple story but the way it’s told… It wouldn’t be so impactful as a, for example, Baldur Gates like RPG or even Witcher like RPG with different choices or something like that, not counting other genres or remaking it as a movie. Sometimes less is more.

        BTW, there were some news lately about The Last Guardian, a Fumito Ueda next game. It will be probably a PS4 exclusive. I can’t wait.

        • jrodman says:

          I think Shadow of the Colossus is fantastic, but to look at the gameplay I would say it’s not very deep. You have a series of encounters that you have to figure out and defeat, mostly similarly one to the next. The encounters are well crafted and require you to think and try things, but they’re for the most part linear and people have trial and error experiences. I don’t say they’re not well made, it’s one of my favourite games. But I wouldn’t describe that as depth.

          As for the story, I disagree there as well, but that’s another debate. It certainly had poignancy, and gravity, and those are enough to turn my crank despite the rather successful deconstructions I’ve read of its narrative that we don’t have to get into here.

      • ZX k1cka55 48K says:

        I named “depth” as one of the factors that i value in games, but i also named quite a few others like good story/writing, interesting characters & etc.
        The reason I like Another World and Shadow of the Colossus is because both games have very special atmosphere. In both games you were thrown into an alien world with little explanation what to do and had to figure out many things on your own. Both games also have unique and believable companions who you REALLY cared about. Plot of the Shadow of the Colossus was also quite complex and had depth (sacrifice, betrayal, resurrection, gods & etc.).
        About Monkey Island…Well I just love Monkey Island’s humor, writing and pirates ;)

        (I don’t think i cheated by listing greatest hits over several decades. IMHO those are the games that should inspire developers, yet unfortunately not many are interested in creating similar experiences…)

        Yep, the wait is unbearably long.
        Also my expectations for the game dropped quite low after Fumito Ueda left sony and not supervising the project anymore…

        • jrodman says:

          I guess it’s just a parse error. When you said gamers value depth in their games (comma) I thought the rest was just you describing what depth means to you. But you meant all those things are valued in their games.

        • GameCat says:

          He left Sony, but he STILL have some control over the game development.

          And I could compare SoC to Blade Runner movie. In short plot summary both are like sci-fi/fantasy B movie, but if you look closely you will see something that is above it all.

          Blade Runner – movie about cop guy chasing and killing replicants -> have awesome mood, music, scenography, well crafted world and it asks some questions about humanity, what makes us human or if we can make a persons from our DNA and refuse to call them “humans”. Last question isn’t possible yet, but this is the one of reason we invented sci-fi genre.

          Shadow of Colossus – game about young guy killing huge, ancient beasts to ressurect his love -> have awesome mood, music, scenography, well crafted world and it comes with probably even more complex questions and themes. Would you kill some innocent people if it was the only way to save your loving one? Sure, you’re not killing humans in SoC. But look at these Colossus. They are ancient, majestic creatures and they even didn’t harm anyone. They are living in forgotten world. And then cames you and you destroys that all . When you’re killing Colossus you probably even erases all traces of their existence, look at all that statues that are crumbling just right after next fallen one. Hell, if it all doesn’t have depth…

  12. Mirqy says:

    ‘…This is how area transitions work…’
    I assume this means we will be hearing ‘you must gather your party…’

  13. Greg_Robinson says:

    like Bradley responded I didn’t know that a single mom can get paid $9372 in one month on the internet. did you see this link… http://www.snag4.com

  14. Lacero says:

    They really need to release an updated map picture for people to use. The river on that first pass makes me twitch every time I see it.

    • jrodman says:

      Are you calling the hydrodynamics implausible? (A bit.)

      • Lacero says:

        My mind flips between the obvious way it’s supposed to be seen, a scale change so it’s a small river delta, and then to the ocean draining into the mountains.

        They’ve already said it’ll change I just wish they’d release it :D

  15. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I don’t feel nostalgia is the correct word to define the apparent popularity of “old games” in Kickstarter. What I think people are after is a sort of architectural revivalism of games.

    We all love our modern games, we’ve been having loads of fun with them. But they are architecturally vastly different from the seminal games that defined their genre. What Kickstarter is telling the industry is that we don’t want to see those old game designs disappear. The focus of the industry has been on evolution of all aspects of gaming. But the old designs are still valid today. We want modern technologies and modern gameplay applied to those designs. Call it neoclassicism.

    The feeling of nostalgia makes a few assumptions that I don’t feel are significant on Kickstarter. While there is some demand for remakes of old classics, this is not significant. It’s about only an extremely small number of games and all of them being cult classics. The demand and the really successful projects have been exactly those that are trying to revive old game design principles wrapped around modern technology and gameplay ideas.

    • Strangerator says:

      Excellent comparison, I think you’ve hit the heart of the matter.

      When people arrogantly discount Kickstarter backers as merely nostalgic, they are presuming that all changes in game design over the years have been universally positive. I’ll give them mostly positive, but some perfectly good ideas have been left behind and are clearly still desired by many people.

    • P.Funk says:

      I honestly don’t see the difference between wanting to revive seminal game design machanics and nostalgia?

      When I recall the games of the past its not just the warm fuzzy feeling I get when you see the cast offs of Kharak finally warp into the Higaaran system for the first time, its also a recollection of game mechanics, of the way games were built and how you played them.

      To me the nostalgia is as much a factor of design as emotional memory and the two are intertwined.

      Nostalgia is a good word for much of this in my opinion. I don’t think nostalgia need be considered such a narrow term, one often it seems written off as being simplistic and uncomplicated in nature. To me nostalgia speaks to the preservation of a whole culture of game design principles.

      Take Uber’s PA and how they insist that for instance it must have mod support and that it will certainly contain strong support for LAN play. These are two very mechanical aspects of the design which also speak to an older generation of game that subsisted on these much more social aspects of their use. LAN parties and mod communities are indicative to me of PC gaming 15 years ago, and to me thats as much nostalgia as anything, just practical nostalgia but something that also works into the ability to allow unique communities to form around the design aspects of games ie. dedicated server support, mod support with tools, and of course LAN party support (the closest you get to the DnD atmosphere in gaming really).

      So, I have no problem using the term nostalgia, but I also see no problem with your summary either. I think the two work together well.

      • Prime says:

        The problem with the word ‘Nostalgia’, particularly when it’s ‘rose-tinted’, is that’s it’s become loaded with negative connotation, almost a short-hand for “A purely emotional response that ignores the cold hard realities of the thing in question”. It’s been used far too often as a dismissive bludgeon by people who don’t understand the underlying reasons for the affection, or who don’t believe there even IS a reason.

        What you’re describing is great but Mario is also brilliantly correct in wanting to make the distinction between reasoned love of things we’ve lost and the knee-jerk emotional warmth response that can be purely emotional, and therefore open to criticism/mockery. Nostalgia is certainly a part of it but the point needs to made clearer that there are genuine benefits to bringing these old systems and play styles back, that they’ve been unjustly forgotten, that gaming will be richer for their return and continued development.

  16. D3xter says:

    Chris Taylors Kickstarter was just unappealing to a lot of people and that is all, there’s no great evil “Kickstarter decline” going on, it also didn’t exactly put confidence in his ability when he fired his entire staff a few days after its launch.
    Dreamfall Chapters recently launched, a lot of people really want that and it’s nearing its first million after a week, likely to reach at least $1.5 million if not even 2.

    As soon as as the Numenera: Planescape KickStarter is up (provided they don’t screw up Wasteland 2), InXile are likely going to get a whole load of money too. I’m sure they’ll reach the first million in the first few days.

    I’m also getting somewhat of a hostile “vibe” from this interview (and last part), talking about “nostalgia” as if there haven’t been a shitload of people out there begging for a Fallout 3 or something like Baldur’s Gate for the past decade and as if the publishers weren’t the ones blocking that path because they didn’t think it “would be profitable”…
    It also sounds like Nathan isn’t exactly a great friend of good RPGs, since he doesn’t seem to exactly know what one is and I get the feeling that he rather Obsidian would do an Adventure or Interactive movie game or something, “what was really right for the game” my behind…

    • ffordesoon says:

      You do know interviews are generally more interesting reads when the questions aren’t “Exactly how awesome is your game,” right?

      This idea you have that Nathan is trying to plant poisonous ideas in Feargus’ head by asking him questions that aren’t exclusively focused on painting things you approve of in a positive light is just stunning in its paranoia. Even for a Codexer, it’s kind of insane.

      • D3xter says:

        He spent about half of the first part of the Interview trying to persuade Obsidian to rather do a game like “The Walking Dead”, since it’s obviously such a great “RPG”. The first two questions in this one harken back to that too, obviously good old RPG mechanics couldn’t be “right for the game”?.

        Then he goes on retreading old sentiments: link to rockpapershotgun.com that all of this is based on “nostalgia” and it’s “dennovation/stagnation”, because obviously all the dumbed-down mass-market-appeal games have improved the RPG genre soooo much in the past decade (by removing almost everything that made them an RPG in the first place and starting to call TPShooters and Interactive movies that, apparently).
        It’s rather insulting too, since a lot of people put a bunch of their money (some even hundreds or thousands of dollars) into these projects exactly because of that and since these types of games are just worth that much to them, they don’t want them to make a “Walking Dead” or “Mass Effect” game because they’re such a great evolution.

        It’s not about hard-hitting questions, but about asking stupid things.

        • Xardas Kane says:

          1. That was a rather hypocritical comment. Who are you to define what a RPG is? Does a certain idea ever dawn upon you, that maybe YOUR definition is just that, yours? That, as The Witcher clearly showed, complicated character progression systems, parties and TBS combat are not essential to the genre? In other words, that maybe not everyone shares your opinion?

          2. QUOTE where Nathan said he wanted them to make a game like The Walking Dead, please do. He was provoking him, because according to the answers Urquhart gave (focus on story, characters and choices) TWD was dangerously close to being a RPG by definition. It’s called having a discussion. It’s what good interviewers do.

          I love the old Infinity games, I backed both Wasteland 2 and Eternity and I would love to see these kinds of games make a return, don’t get me wrong. But god, I keep forgetting how hypocritical codexers can be. I still have a certain codex thread bookmarked, where everyone bashes and hates on Morrowind like crazy, right before a second one, where the exact same people praise MW and hate on Oblivion. What a constructive and fun community, following the wonderful creed “Make the games I want and nothing else or you suck”.

          • D3xter says:

            Things don’t work that way you know, you can’t just take a term and make up your own meaning and go all “oh it’s my opinion, thus it is true”. Just because you like fruits, and also like onions but don’t like any other vegetables you can’t redefine it to be a fruit. That can well be your opinion, but your opinion would be wrong.

            The Walking Dead was an “Interactive movie”, subset of the “Adventure game” genre.
            Mass Effect 2 and 3 both had their entire gameplay resemble Gears of War, you had a specific amount of predefined weapons and ran around from cover to cover aiming and shooting, thus they were Third Person Shooters (with a few “RPG elements” like talky bits and minor stats).
            Nobody asserted that Bioshock or Dead Space were “RPGs” for instance, despite them also having similar item and upgrade systems.
            Thus I find articles like these inane: link to gamasutra.com

            That doesn’t mean you don’t have to like them, pesonally I kinda liked Walking Dead and Mass Effect 2, in fact they were among the top games I played their respective years, but they’re not “RPGs” by any stretch. Nobody but a few lone gaming journalists even claimed such for Walking Dead, and EA and some other companies seem to be using the term “RPG” for the purpose of marketing nowadays trying to reach that audience even if the games don’t resemble it at all.

            As for the other part, questions #6,7,8 of Part One kinda seemed like leading questions to me trying to poke him and say “Hey, hey, wouldn’t you just love to make your games more like The Walking Dead?”

            Regarding Bethesda, personally I don’t like their games period, no matter if Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout 3 or Skyrim. They all seem so devoid of meaningful things to do and instead filled with repetitious procedurally generated patterns, broken game systems, blank soulless NPCs and quests+story that are barely worth mentioning. And that is an opinion.
            I’ve always claimed that Piranha Bytes did the better “Open World” games with Gothic 1+2 and even Risen and can’t wait to see what CDProjekt comes up with. :P

          • Xardas Kane says:

            Except that’s not the case, I never even mentioned whether I like the games you argue are not RPGs or not. What you are doing is you don’t like when people call pears fruits. Or so it seemed at least. I never said that BioShock or TWD are RPGs, mind you, and I don’t know if ME 2 and 3 can be considered a part of the genre either. But the way at least I understood your last comment it seemed that you dismissed anychanges the RPG genre has endured in the last 10 years, basically any game that wasn’t made in the Infinity engine. I guess I misunderstood you there, I’m sorry for jumping to conclusions so quickly.

            The questions you mentioned weren’t him poking Urquhart to make a TWD game. It was him asking him if RPG games are all about characters, story and choices and TWD is all about characters, story and choices, why isn’t TWD a RPG. I think that’s rather obvious. It might have been somewhat pointless, but he never wanted to urge him to make a TWD game, but rather define why TWD is NOT a role-playing game, which it clearly isn’t.

          • GameCat says:

            Silly one, you realy doesn’t know that RPGs are made only and only of character stats tables and dice-rolling? /sarcasm
            For me, The Walking Dead is more RPGish than any The Elder Scrolls game, for example.
            What’s the point of “making a character”* where it doesn’t change the way how your character is seen by NPCs?
            Many people wuld say something like this: “TES is RPG, because I can choose between beign sneaky archer and tough berserk.” So CoD is a RPG too, because you can choose between silenced sniper rifle and heavy machine gun.

            I want RPGs (Role. Playing. Games.) where NPCs can hate me or love me based on my avatar characterisation. I want they fear me a little when I’m tough, muscular guy and there are rumors that maybe I slaughtered some villages in a past. Or when I’m playing as a some cat-thing (hello again, TES) I want be not welcome too much in human cities, because they think that ALL cat-thing are thieves.
            Like in TWD where some characters (Kenny!) may like you or not, based on your actions etc.

            *Exping on rats and orcs and becoming a god by pumping strength to 15, endurance to 20 and manshooting skill to 50.

  17. crinkles esq. says:

    Here’s what I think exemplifies the difficulty in trying to pinpoint what Kickstarter is good for: Project Eternity was put up on KS with no game. No alpha, no pre-alpha, not even a whiff of an actual game. Just some concept art and vague gameplay details. Yet they were wildly successful, based I guess on the promise of what Obsidian could deliver. On creating some sort of Jesus RPG. On the other side, you have Wildman, which had a running game engine and examples of gameplay, and it gasped and wheezed before reaching the finish. People didn’t like what they saw.

    Is this fair? My personal feeling is that studios should not be allowed to run a Kickstarter like Project Eternity with opaque ideas and no example of gameplay. There’s too much potential for both failure and disappointment. While Wildman failed, the system itself succeeded.

    • jrodman says:

      I rather disagree about Eternity. They had no running code, but the vague suggestion got fleshed out in lines with people’s expectations rather quickly.

      Still yes it was a game concept being fleshed out, but basically that seems sufficient when everyone’s pretty clear about how that concept has worked in the past.

    • hitnrun says:

      I have two responses.

      First, four months (those between the start of Project Eternity and the start of Project Wildman) make a pretty big difference in the Year of Kickstarter. There were only so much hyperdisposable funds available for Stuff That Might Come Out One Day within Kickstarter’s limited userbase and it looks like the early bird got the worms. Basically, what it comes down to is that Wildman would have passed with flying colors had it launched its KS in July 2012 and become an internet legend on par with Double Fine’s game had it come out in January 2012. I only fund physical products on Kickstarter myself because my electronic Pile of Shame is of truly epic proportions, but I have PC-game-supporting friends who swore off Kickstarter in the latter half of 2012 in terms usually reserved for tragic cases of alcoholism. As the projects start coming in over the next year and the userbase grows, the potential for success might rebound, but for now the potential for Kickstarting any project no longer extends past the horizon.

      Second, as cheap and (I agree with you) ridiculous as it sounds, the fate of these two projects proves a slightly ludicrous situation: that invoking Planescape:Torment for an inspiration for a dream-fart non project is worth much more attention, enthusiasm, and dollars than an actual more-or-less finished project.

      I think an outfit like Obsidian will deliver on much of their promise to their backers, more or less, but it’s clear that there are some suckers out there who can be parted from their money if some person or marketing department is unscrupulous enough to take advantage of them. Or at least, that was the case back before everyone had pledged all their money.

      • jrodman says:

        I think the project eternity will eventually ship much closer to the promises it made than project Star Citizen which more or less promised several entirely different difficult play experiences.

        But even still, I happily will chip in 100 bucks for a Obsidian dream-fart that sounds like a game I want over some kind of dogfighting competitive online thing so much like stuff that’s come out for years that I’ve never enjoyed.

        I think you’ll find that’s why people contributed, and not because they’re stupid.

        Of course it’s not exclusionary. I’m sure there are many people who contributed to both.

        • hitnrun says:

          “I think you’ll find that’s why people contributed, and not because they’re stupid.”

          Well, as I said, it’s Obsidian, so we probably won’t have to find out :)

    • Xardas Kane says:

      I will keep this short and sweet:

      1. Eternity was anything but vague, it was the best example of how to run a Kickstarter campaign. Let the numbers talk: 42 updates, almost all of which filled with information, along with 25 videos, some of which as long as 10 minutes. If you call that vague, I’ll do that thing with my face where I go like this: 0_0. In fact I know more about Eternity than many games that are just a couple of months away from shipping.

      2. Wildman WAS vague. Also, it was pitched by a studio that hasn’t made a good game in half a decade, while Obsidian has earned a lot of goodwill, especially with KOTOR 2 and FO: New Vegas. And let’s not forget how the Wildman Kickstarter mutated from “support us to make this cool game” to Chris Taylor giving us lectures about crying and how he didn’t sell his soul to the devil (a week before he sold the studio, no less).

      So yeah, Eternity deserved more money than Wildman.

      • Lacero says:

        I think Eternity started very vague, and got down to mechanics design very, very quickly in updates. It’s really the best Kickstarter campaign ever for me, though there’s a lot of room for improvement with explaining budgets and estimating team size. Although I need the detail I think there’s a danger of overwhelming people in the first pitch if you go into all that.

        Wildman was an dota game, which I’m totally uninterested in. My lesson from Wildman is not to pitch a dota game on kickstarter. Someone may prove this wrong at some point, but if you’re looking to make one for lots of money you’re unlikely to get it.

        If I were being cynical I’d say old style games (not nostalgia!) have fans with more money due to their age. dota is new genre and more players are younger, and also much less likely to play multiple dota games. I’ll play 3-4 rpgs a year no problem. From some time playing rts games online I’d say moving between dotas is not going to work.

        It’s late and I’m rambling a bit. opinion away!

        • drewski says:

          I think the difference is that there are a lot of MOBAs. If you want to KS a MOBA, it better be pretty amazing.

          Infinity engine style RPGs are, however, ridiculously thin on the ground. Ditto big budget adventure games, ditto space sims (Eve doesn’t count) – most of the hugely successful KS campaigns have been for games to fill niches that are completely empty.

          Wildman might have had the best MOBA twist ever, but it’s running facefirst into a 3 headed juggernaut, and that’s *before* Blizzard get around to releasing theirs. There’s just not the rabid demand for a game which, ultimately, will be pretty similar to games everyone can play already for free.

      • crinkles esq. says:

        1. Fair enough, I didn’t follow Project Eternity after the initial announcement, because the “we have no game, but give us money” pitch turned me off so much. I fall for a game based on what the gameplay looks like, the way it expresses itself as a thing. How it feels. Not on a design document.

        Look at it this way: a KS with only concept art is taking no risk. If the developers have no skin in the game, why should I put my faith and cash in their hands?

        2. I don’t remember what point I was trying to reply to here, due to WordPress comment system reasons. I think you were saying something about Eternity being more ‘worthy’ of money than Wildman. I disagree; it really depends on what kind of game excites you. I don’t blame Chris for taking the buyout option — he knew the KS wasn’t going to happen, so he pushed the red button. Maybe it wasn’t red. Light blue, perhaps.

        • MondSemmel says:

          “If the developers have no skin in the game, why should I put my faith and cash in their hands?”
          Known developers might have no skin in the game in the form of a game/prototype/whatever, but they have reputations to lose. I think that’s more than good enough.

    • El_MUERkO says:

      GPG’s kickstarter got off to a slow start but then so did Elites. What really crippled it was the layoffs and financial instability of the company. Had there not been so much bad news at the start of the kickstarter it probably would have had a late surge like some many others have and gotten over the finish line.

  18. hitnrun says:

    The unpleasant reality is that 2012 really was, as they proclaimed, the Year of the Kickstarter – that is, it was a finite period of time. It was a gold rush, or more appropriately a bubble in the economic sense, that burst as soon as the appetite for Cool Stuff That Someone Should Make and for Stuff From Those Guys That Always Make Cool Stuff ran up against the ability of the enthusiast base to comfortably function as financiers out of their checking accounts. As per the usual, the biggest returns went to those who were in position beforehand, saw an opportunity, and pounced.

    Kickstarter may have plateaued, but all is not lost. It can still grow and thrive as a business model, but it has to do just that: grow. For all the attention devoted to the projects, the engine of Kickstarter has been the funders. If the funding base grows, the potential for projects will. It’s just that it has reached the point where, like any other market, you can tell where the walls and limits are by the bodies of the failures.

    • Xardas Kane says:

      Your entire comment is based around the idea that Kickstarter has deadlined, yet Dreamfall: Chapters made 866 000 dollars in a week. Which makes your point sound rather ridiculous.

      Calling 2012 the year of Kickstarter does not imply everyone thinks this is the last year of Kickstarter, but rather that it’s the first, please don’t put words in people’s mouths. By your logic 1992 was the year of the FPS and the bubble has since burst, taking the whole genre with it. Uhuh.

      Instead of prophetizing doom and gloom, how’s about waiting a little until the first batch (FTL aside) of Kickstarter projects hits us, eh? That’s the one that’s going to make or break Kickstarter.

    • InternetBatman says:

      That’s far too pessimistic. There was pent up demand, and now it has reached equilibrium. Some projects like Sui Generis, Star Citizen, Project Godus, and Dreamfall Chapters have succeeded, others like Wildman or Shaker have failed.

      I have yet to see the calamitous bubble collapse that people keep mentioning.

    • D3xter says:

      No, not it doesn’t, there’s no “bubble” since it simply is a new way of funding instead of a specific *thing*. People were propagating that during the entirety of last year. “Oh, Double Fine Adventure is a phenomenon, nobody could repeat that.”, “Oh, I guess Wasteland 2 did alright, but the amount was lesser and the KickStarter craze is ending, totally!”. Then near the end of the year Planetary Annihilation, Project: Eternity and Star Citizen proved themselves and broke new records. “Oh, but that was the *year of the Kickstarter*, it’s not gonna happen again…, just look at this Wildman thing… I’ll NEVER consider that the failure of that was just because there was no interest.”
      Well, link to kickstarter.com, Numenera: Planescape will also do rather well I can already wager, and whatever interesting project that comes along and inspires people to dig into their electronic wallets will do the same.

    • hitnrun says:

      I’ll respond to the comments in general by noting that just because a bubble has burst, as I charge, does not mean the model is over. What was accurately described as the Internet Bubble burst more than a decade ago, and yet here we are funding the lavish lifestyle of a bunch of layabout writers with our eyeballs.

      However, despite how tech has thrived, one would have much rather started or bought, and then later sold ownership in, a tech company or stock the 1990s than in the 2000s. Hence my use of the word “plateaued.” (Edit: to the inevitable grasping at Facebook or Apple, that confirms my point rather than counters it. That kind of return was available in the margins, rather than just among iconic leaders, during the tech boom.)

      • D3xter says:

        Crowdfunding is just a new way/concept to finance things, the term “bubble” doesn’t even apply in that context, it’s like talking about the stock market as a “bubble”, just because people aren’t interested in specific new stocks.
        That aside, what you are saying isn’t even true if it applied, the overall funding on games has done nothing but go up, throughout the entirety of last year: link to gamasutra.com and I’m sure it looks very similar for the first month and a half of 2013. Just because a project like Wildman doesn’t do good, doesn’t mean anything other than that Wildman didn’t do good.
        There’ll be some bigger projects during the course of the year guaranteed. I only expect this to pick up and increase once more of the previous “big” projects hopefully prove successful.

      • InternetBatman says:

        A burst describes a sudden and precipitous collapse, which we haven’t really seen. I think people are noticing that growth has slowed, which is a natural and health phenomenon.

    • jrodman says:

      The term “bubble” implies that a thing is increasing in popularity solely based on its popularity. That is, there’s nothing inducing partitipation save other people participating, which is clearly unstable as it’s supported by nothing but air.

      That .. is kind of irrelevant to kickstarter. It could suffer a collapse of faith with gamers if some heavily kickstarted games turn out to be crap, but that still wouldn’t be a bubble dynamic.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      It’s just not possible to extrapolate at this point, hitnrun. 2013 hardly started and 2012 still has to be measured against it.

      On the other hand, you are looking at a service that will no doubt keep changing in the way it is used. People and companies are good at bringing in new ideas and innovating. February last year would you ever dream that a company like Obsidian would be pushing a project like Kickstarter? Did you ever thought that It would be possible for someone to come up with a project asking for nearly 2 million USD and actually get it (Frontier Developments)?

      Heck, my answer to both of those is a big “no”. I only started to realize the full potential of Kickstarter way in the middle of 2012. And I bet it will still surprise me. Project Ouya was more or less the time I understood there’s a huge potential to kickstarter and a huge number of people looking at it.

  19. Crosmando says:

    The idea that successful RPG Kickstarters like Wasteland 2 or Project Eternity are purely about “nostalgah!” is a load of rubbish and old Nathan ought to drop it before he really begins embarrassing himself.

    If he researched the topic even slightly (which he obviously hasn’t) he would realize that it’s more about traditional RPG fans, with traditional ideas on what makes a good RPG, dismayed about the growing orientation of modern “RPGs” to action/shooter and “cinematic” elements prominent on consoles, instead of complex skill and character systems, stats, and tactical party-based combat, which favor mouse and keyboard-driven controls.

    Games like Fallout 3, Dragon Age, Oblivion, Skyrim, have set the RPG back years by removing entire features in the quest to dumb-down gameplay and make the games more appealing to console-based audiences.

    So really, Kickstarters like WL2 or PE are more about getting RPG’s back to where they were say 2002, before the decline really set in.

    If you don’t agree with this, if you think the quest markers in Skyrim and Oblivion were good because you didn’t want to have to read anything about a quest, if you thought FPS shooter combat in Fallout 3 was good because you just had to blast away to win, no thinking required. Well you aren’t audience of these Kickstarters, you can think “nostalgia” all you like.

    Progress of anything doesn’t follow a straight-line through the years, there are great steps forward and great steps backwards. And just because a game was realized in 1997 that doesn’t automatically mean another game from 2013 is better.

    • Nick says:

      Yeah, its not about nostalgia its about serving a demand that has been ignored for many, many years. Much like space combat games were left by the wayside (oh and looks like they had a successful funding drive for some of those too).

    • DiamondDog says:

      “So really, Kickstarters like WL2 or PE are more about getting RPG’s back to where they were say 2002, before the decline really set in.”

      Almost nostalgic, in a way? That word fits perfectly, when you actually think about what it means, rather than inferring some negative connotation. You are nostalgic for a time when RPGs focused on the elements you love about the genre. Both WL2 an PE were partly sold on the idea of going back to a previous time. It doesn’t mean you’re an idiot for buying into that nostalgia. It means you’re disillusioned with the way things are and long for the chance to go back to the way things were.

      And trying to imply that Nathan has some kind of agenda is a bit pathetic. Come on. Unless I’ve missed an article Nathan has done on this very subject, then I’m not sure what why he has to drop something he hasn’t started. It was one question.

      • Entitled says:

        Nostalgia would imply that you want these things back specifically BECAUSE they are old, for the sake of having old things, not because the old things were actually better.

        Wanting to reduce CO2 emmission back to 1950 levels, is not “nostalgia”. It’s a rational desire that happens to have a good old example that demonstrated it in the past.

      • jrodman says:

        It’s easy to deconstruct this as “nostalgia” because the same issue and desire occurred within a year or two of such RPGs losing their popularity. In fact there was a similar gap before Baldur’s Gate came out and then the Black Isle games, where “RPG” became a bit of spice to dash across completely unrelated game styles.

        It’s only that this modern slice of time where the RPG has become meaninglessly stretched out of shape / underserviced has gone on longer.

  20. Demiath says:

    I find it hilarious that journos and gamers alike have been repeating this completely unfounded “Kickstarter is failing” narrative since literally the day after Double Fine reached its funding goals (i.e. since Kickstarter became a mainstream phenomena in the first place).

    The reality of the situation is that there’s no discernable change in Kickstarter game funding and even the dreaded high-profile cases such as Dreamfall are doing exceptionally well. The inherent conservatism of this funding model means that something like Wildman (=not the kind of game fans expected Chris Taylor to want to make) would have had as difficult a time meeting its goal a year ago as it did this month.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Well, that are KINDA right, but for different reason than they write.

      Kickstarter was meant to be a kick for NEW UNKNOWNS. And KS “failure” (at least in gaming section, I don’t really know what happens in other sections) comes from fact that biggest successes were from OLD KNOWNS.

      So, it’s a fail of idea. Doesn’t change the fact it’s something good for us, since we can get games we want, not ones that shareholders want to sell.

      • Entitled says:

        Wrong. Kickstarter was meant to “fund creative projects”.

        All this hype about how without needing publishers, Kickstarted games will bring forth an unlimited innovation of gaming, with absolutely no connection to any established style or genre, was already coming from the gamer community’s hopes, rather than from any specific mission goal.

        The kickstarter system *is* more open than the established publisher model. It allows the creation of new games that would otherwise be too risky, and the support of genres that would otherwse be ignored. It’s ridiculous to say that it failed just because it didn’t live up to some crazy person’s *even wilder* expectations of innovation.

  21. Alexius says:

    Am I the only one who is a bit alarmed by the “Nah, without a publisher we don’t really need all these milestones, planning and management stuff” notion? Certainly, without the need to report to publisher they could axe some of it, but the idea of developing a multiyear multimillion project just by a checklist seems … risky.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Not really. The point of that was that weren’t building stretch room in their contracts with publishers. Now they are. They have a hell of a lot of stretch room in Project Eternity, their stretch space is three times the size of the initial plan, while I doubt stretch goals made three times the work.

  22. Jason Moyer says:

    I don’t think Obsidian’s success with Project Eternity was due to the Kickstarter gold rush. In my opinion, it had a lot more to do with having a large, incredibly loyal fanbase.

  23. ffordesoon says:

    Wildman was never going to make it, for three reasons:

    1) MOBAs aren’t in short supply. There are only a few that are doing very well, and the people who are playing them are going to keep playing them. Going after LoL or Dota 2 is like going after CoD or WOW at this point. Taylor’s last effort in the genre – Demigod – didn’t exactly pan out, either, and scorned gamers have long memories.

    2) GPG hasn’t made much of interest since the original SupCom, and Chris Taylor’s name is only associated with one great game prior to SupCom – Total Annihilation. He couldn’t trade on that, because he’d already gotten scooped by Planetary Annihilation. SupCom also showed a downward trend in quality from TA (that’s my opinion, admittedly, but I doubt I’m alone), and SupCom 2 from SupCom 1. And what was GPG’s last game? The widely panned Age of Empires Online. Their game library is remarkably hit-or-miss – and mostly miss, from a critical standpoint.

    They don’t have Obsidian’s passionate fan base to offset it, either.

    3) The layoffs. The layoffs, the layoffs, the layoffs. When people don’t know if your company is even a company anymore, why should they trust you’ll get the game you promised out on time? Wildman was doing bad before the layoffs, it’s true, but it could’ve turned around. The whole pitch reeked of flop sweat anyway, but once the layoffs happened and it turned into the Chris Taylor Nervous Breakdown Hour, there was simply no reason to buy into it.

    It’s a shame; the concept had potential. The mechanics just weren’t a good fit for it.

    • Entitled says:

      Actually, the layoffs were a big boost in the Kickstarter, if you look at kicktraq:

      link to kicktraq.com

      You can see the boost from them on day 6, and then later spikes at later news and articles about their dire situation. Compare that to other kicktraqs that stay entirely flat between the first and the last days.

      No, the layoffs were a good publicity stunt, it just wasn’t good enough, as it was already so weak, that not even that could fully save it.

  24. cervor says:

    I actually think Kickstarter is the right place for risky things. Or more importantly it’s a place for potentially interesting things. A generic game might succeed but I think chances are less good that it draws out any enthusiasm. I funded Project Eternity in the expectation that it won’t be mediocre or generic, not just because I like isometric or the gameplay. One needs to have a clear conception about the game and it needs to be worth the whole fuss. Nostalgia can do the trick but there are limits to that, and any project purely relying on nostalgia seemed to have been very slow-going. “Risky” can mean a lot of things, but if only it is interesting, it seems the right kind of project for Kickstarter.