Towering: Consortium Free Until Noon Tomorrow

Consortium [official site] is a fascinating game and I’ll go into a proper sulk if the sequel’s Kickstarter fails. Things aren’t looking good, with $310,000 left to raise and only a week of the campaign left. The original is an immersive sim that feels like a version of the ‘single city block’ game. One location and characters that seem to exist and act even when the player isn’t there to watch them. To raise awareness of the sequel and its potential qualities, the original is freely available from GOG until 1:59pm GMT tomorrow.

There are several fans of the game among RPS staff and regulars. RPG maestro Richard Cobbett was cautious about giving a full-on recommendation but is an admirer of the game, while Sin Vega has praised its finer qualities at length. I adore it, for what it attempts as much as for what it achieves.

Whether the sequel would achieve all that it attempted, I can’t say. But the world wouldn’t be quite as interesting if people weren’t exploring some of these ideas. And those ideas include the concept of an interactive story that has you roleplay as a version of yourself, playing a game. And NPCs with agency that goes beyond scheduling.

If none of that works for you, it’s also sci-fi Die Hard. So there’s that.

Download the original now – you’ve got nothing to lose except a couple of hours of your life, which is as much as it’ll take to decide whether this is the game for you. And if it is, you’ll probably wish there were more games like it. The Kickstarter is here. There have been plenty of updates since we first checked in with the campaign, including a huge post about “diplomacy and the spoken word”.

The most recent update covers character-building.

“As Bishop Six, you will constantly be pushed and pulled from all sides by characters with a wide range of motives and agendas. Due to the meta narrative present, there is no definitive “truth” to start off with, and so you’ll have to find your own truth through dealing with all of these people. Or not… as with Consortium before it, you can play the entire game without speaking a single word.

“Discover their motives to the best of your ability, but always remember that no character can ever truly be trusted within the Consortium universe. Not even Bishop Six himself, the man we control.”

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  1. Crimsoneer says:

    The lack of progress on the KS is really a shame…

    • Jp1138 says:

      I backed it as soon as I got the email, but it seems it reached 100K relatively fast but has stalled for the rest of the campaign… It seems it won´t make it :(

      • TheAngriestHobo says:

        They’ve stated that they’re committed to building the game regardless of the outcome of the Kickstarter. Given the obvious passion that these guys have for their project (half their website is an awesome multimedia detective metagame linked to the game’s story), I’m tempted to believe them.

      • jezcentral says:

        I think their fast start on KS underlines have a passionate fan-base who will pony up immediately, but have trouble reaching beyond that.

    • tomimt says:

      Not surprising though, as while the original was full of interesting ideas, it had a lot of technical aspects, like UI and controls, that are clunky at best and to my knowledge the dev did really nothing to adress those issues.

      Personally I never finsihed it because I thought the controls/UI were just ackward.

      • Alastor says:

        You are mistaken. The devs updated the game the best they could with some patches but they used the source engine and it was not designed to be dialogue-heavy and choice

  2. Sin Vega says:

    I’m not entirely surprised it’s not on track for that target, which struck me (as someone who is completely hopeless at Kickstarter prognoses, for what it’s worth) as pretty optimistic. But I am surprised by how far off they are. I really hope they can pull it out of the bag, this is pretty much the only game I’ve been looking forward to for 2016 (not that I expect it to come out this side of 2017 or even 18).

  3. Sunjammer says:

    A huge shame if that KS doesn’t make it, Consortium is a fascinating game. I absolutely adored it. The number of times it made me feel like a part of an actual ongoing scenario that would move with or without me was truly impressive.

  4. slerbal says:

    I really enjoyed the original game, and I highly recommend it as it is fascinating but I just don’t back Kickstarters, or Early Access any more. When I play a game these days I want to experience the full thing once. I’ve learned the hard way that I burn out on Kickstarters and Early Access games before release. Plus I have limited money these days for games so I opt for sure things rather than high risk ventures.

    I wish them every luck, but I always thought the goal was over optimistic. Consortium was very niche. Not that I’m complaining, mind, as I’m in that niche. But I can’t ask others to back something I myself won’t back.

    • Czrly says:

      Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what they’re offering our how good their pitch is, so many of us are simply no longer interested in kickstarters for games. I wonder if their niche isn’t dominated by gamers like me who have just adopted a policy of never backing a kickstarter. We have been burned too many times.

      It’s sad because i want what they’re proposing to make and their pitch is great. They clearly have started work and the amount is not unreasonable. I hope they realise that kickstarter is the problem, here, and find another way to bring the game to market.

      • Shazbut says:

        I worry that their chances may also be hurt by the high number of immersive sims currently being made. For more than a decade, games like this would have been gold dust. Now we even have System Shock 3 in production.

        Hopefully that means that even if the Kickstarter fails, publishers might be much more interested than they would have been a few years ago.

      • mouton says:

        A question of approach, really. I see kickstarter as a way to throw money at an idea that I like to see fulfilled. Problem is, too many people saw it as a pre-order or, god forbid, production vote.

      • slerbal says:

        I agree with you. It’s a tricky one for a small developer, but Kickstarter just doesn’t appeal to me in that way any more. The last KS I backed was for a reissue of the 1975 NASA Design Standards Manual and only because the team had a track record and it was really a pre-order with a fixed and realistic delivery date.

  5. Shazbut says:

    These guys are really fighting the good fight.

  6. dare says:

    I was going to say something about them just requiring Canadian dollars instead of real money but then realised that would be stupid, so I went and pledged instead. I want these kinds of games, therefore I should support them.

    (I still haven’t played more than 5 minutes of Consortium, but will get around to it one of these days.)

  7. jellydonut says:

    I’ve been trying, trying, and trying to play Consortium, but it crashes when I try to start a new game. Every god damn fucking time.

    I’ve even backed The Tower despite not even being able to play the first game. Maybe I should retract my pledge if I can’t get this fucking game to run.

    • Minglefingler says:

      From what I remember Consortium takes so long to load when you’re starting a new game that it looks like it’s crashed. I killed the process a few times before realising this. Of course this may not be your issue at all, I thought it was worth mentioning though.

      • jellydonut says:

        Well, the app quite literally freezes. No other game I have played freezes while loading, no matter how long the loading time is.

        • Minglefingler says:

          It was a long time ago that I played it but that does sound familiar. Of course my memory could be playing tricks on me but I think I had to leave it to do its thing for a very long time on that first load and after that it ran well.

        • greatbird says:

          If it’s saying “Windows not responding” during the first load, please just let it sit, it WILL eventually load after which it will never take that long again while the game is running. For some hard-drives it takes much longer than others…

    • Saarlaender39 says:

      “I’ve been trying, trying, and trying to play Consortium, but it crashes when I try to start a new game. Every god damn fucking time.”

      ^^ This…when I tried the demo on Steam, the damn thing couldn’t get started…I had to ctrl+alt+del, to get out again.

  8. ChairmanYang says:

    I hope the Kickstarter succeeds, and I think Kickstarter in general is an amazing thing that revitalized the industry, but I’m not going to back this.

    Not because I’ve been burned by KS (all of the 6 projects I’ve backed have delivered), or because I’m not interested in the game, but because there is an absolute flood of incredible games, some of which are very cheap. It’s at the point where game writers/Youtubers can’t come close to keeping up with everything worthwhile; how can an ordinary person even scratch the surface? Hell, you could confine yourself to RPGs alone and still not keep up with everything good.

    As a consumer, video gaming is in an absolute golden age. But for game creators? The situation looks grim.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      The last great videogame crash was caused, in part, by a flood of rubbish games. The thought of one caused by a flood of good stuff is interesting…

      • Premium User Badge

        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        We are living in an art* surplus. This is good for consumers but bad for creators. Nobody wants to pay for art anymore. A friend of mine went to Emily Carr, which is one of Canada’s top art schools, and she told me that there were many classes spent just discussing how to actually get people to buy your work.

        *Sorry, I mean content.

    • mouton says:

      Yeah, couple it with Arcen having major layoffs, the current video game market is brutal to many talented indies.

    • Emeraude says:

      I’d say one reason to still support new things being made is that the drought is coming back. I don’t thank it’s an if, it’s a when.

      Better to stock up before it hits us.

      Still, even though I’m done with Kickstarter myself, sad to see this might not get funded.
      First one was really rough but showed promise.

  9. nottorp says:

    It would be good to mention in the article that they’re taking Canadian dollars and the prices are actually what you’d expect off your average indie kickstarter, not slightly inflated as they look at a first glance.

  10. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I gave this a try maybe a year ago and couldn’t really get along with it. I think it may have been over-hyped as it was Sin’s article that drew me to it. I have this problem with short games where I want to be able to finish them in one sitting and if I can’t get sucked in for the entire length then I likely won’t go back.

    When I had to go talk to the ship Captain (or something like that) and an NPC was blocking the doorway and would not move so I could not progress that was pretty much the nail in the coffin.

  11. April March says:

    I got it, even though I already had it from being a KS backer, because I like redundancy, and I also didn’t know if I had the ‘master edition’.

  12. Joe Schmoe says:

    It’s a an odd little game. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea, I’ll admit. The rank system was nonsensical (couldn’t see it as more efficient than calling people by their name), the dialogue was a bit ham-fisted at times and the combat was wonky. I did one playthrough, and got bored after not being able to (after repeated tries) execute a non-lethal response to the ship being boarded. Maybe I’ll try it again after this, but it’s going to be one of those guilt-ridden attempts at liking a game because it was made by a couple of guys in a basement.

  13. ooshp says:

    Forgot about this – backed.