First Wonder – Spiritual Successor To Giants: Citizen Kabuto – Is Abandoned

It’s so very hard to know the cash value of fond memories. For games developers, it seems it’s not until they test the idea in the cruel harsh winter of the real world before they can find out. So it is that Rogue Rocket Games have reportedly emailed backers of their spiritual sequel to Giants: Citizen Kabuto, First Wonder [official site], to say development is being abandoned and the studio put on ice.

Third-person action Giants never did well on its original release, either on PC or its later console version. It was only over time that it gained a following, and notoriety, and presumably some profits. While clearly that’s the story of a number of games that have then gone on to be successful in their attempts to revive themselves – most recently with Double Fine’s promise to make a sequel to Psychonauts – I think it can also be indicative of at the very least a warning sign. And Rogue Rocket didn’t have the luxury of the IP to catch attention. (Presumably sensible people warned them away from risking a “Giants: First Wonder” or similar, although they’d likely have had a strong case for the right to the word.)

It’s also worth noting that while obsessively wrong people like Kieron Gillen loved Giants, it was a really flawed game that would randomly kill you with absolutely no possible warning (always a rocket fired at you from behind) and had no save system to make that anything other than tedious. Still, my being right about the game not being so great – even though it looked amazing – didn’t stop a lot of other people really adoring it. (Oh, and the new game had a race called “MONSTRO” – it was like they were just trying to get Gillen and Gillen alone to play it.)

However, those people didn’t come together in force during an abandoned Kickstarter, that pulled the plug before it was even a tenth of the way to its half million goal. They pursued development anyway, apparently relying on 95% self-funding, and simply didn’t have the resources or staff to be able to get it off the ground. Quite how they attempted to raise money is something of a mystery to me, since they appeared to just disappear after the Kickstarter cancellation. That happened on the 17th October last year, a full month after they last updated their site’s blog, and a week after co-developer Nick Bruty posted to his Twitter. The company’s own Twitter has only posted once since the KS, and that was to link to a Red Bull article (?) about how they planned to continue despite the setback. Not exactly how I’d run a fundraising drive.

It’s a real shame, as First Wonder was looking like it could have been beautiful, with asymmetric play, giant creatures, and the gorgeous landscapes that drew people to Giants. Combined with their MDK-creating chops, there was good reason to want to see this one happen. But according to the email posted to Reddit (that we have yet to verify elsewhere, thanks to the four months of silence from all of their outlets), not only is the game abandoned, but Rogue Rocket is “going dormant” – quite a surprise bearing in mind they also have a casual gaming side. Bruty promises he still intends to make a game in the style of MDK and Giants, but intends to start from a much smaller scale, and recognises he needs to develop a new audience. And for those who’ve given them money, they’re offering full refunds.

It must be brutal, watching other contemporary games with similarly nostalgic audiences, for some reason having the secret, magic or luck that allows a revival to happen.

27 Comments

  1. Tiax says:

    Nooooooooo !

    “Oh, hello grandfather !”

  2. Joe Clark says:

    “Oh no, I forgot me wife!”

  3. MelbourneFL says:

    I can confirm the email. Got it myself.

  4. Joe Clark says:

    The Mecc campaign was amazing. The Reaper campaign was sort of OK. The Kabuto campign was awful.

    Multiplayer was a laff, although it was hard work iirc

  5. Rao Dao Zao says:

    Yeah, Giants is narratively hilarious and brilliant (well, except the Kabuto campaign where there is no dialogue) but the game is really really wobbly. Apparently it is actual fun in multiplayer, but I never had the chance to try that out. Which is a shame because, yes, hilarious.

    Maybe one that should be remade as a film/TV series rather than a game…

  6. keefybabe says:

    My name is Ahmed but you can call me Timmy.

  7. karnak says:

    A couple of years ago I bought the game on GOG and gave it a try.
    I really loved it and thought it was brilliant.

    Until I reached the final level of the Mecc campaign (where you have to build a base and defend it).
    Unfortunately, the lack of a “save” option during the game prevented me from finishing the level.

    Being on my late thirties I no longer have the time to spend 3 or 4 hours in front of the pc trying to beat a game. And I lack the patience to deal with the frustration of spending a couple of hours building a solid gameplay, until all of a sudden “I get an arrow to the knee” and it’s game over. Restart.

    Shame. I was really enjoying the experience.

    • Butts says:

      You think that was bad? Bah. I can assure you it gets worse.

      I bought the game at release, at a time when I was indeed young enough to throw hours into beating a single level in a game. And yes, the base building was shit, though not just because of the lack of ability to save, but also the sense that you had very little control over the outcome of those mission. And as fun as the movement and shooting could be, the game was full of decisions that basically wasted your time and made the game unfun throughout the course of the three campaigns. However, none of that compares to the completely awful shitshow that was the final level.

      You basically have to take on Kabuto yourself as a lone Mec without the benefit of your full squad. And not only are you massively underpowered, but you also have to do some precision jetpack flying that the game wasn’t set up to deliver. It was a huge pain in the ass, I couldn’t be bothered to finish it, and never picked up the game again. Thinking back to the end of the game, I was surprised they thought there would be enough goodwill to crowdfund the game.

      • Thurgret says:

        My memory, although fuzzy, tells me that the way to beat that was to hide in the dips in the ground, and relocate intermittently. Kabuto couldn’t hit you properly in those or something. I’m not certain.

    • bill says:

      Interesting… I’m also in the late 30s no time and patience for replays club, but I played Giants for the first time about 3 years ago and I don’t remember it being particularly frustrating…

      And these days I hate games with no quicksave that make me waste my time by replaying the same thing over and over again.
      But I don’t remember Giants being frustrating at all. I wonder why.. ?

  8. keefybabe says:

    First game I actually full on completed.

  9. Yachmenev says:

    Well, it’s a problem for those wanting their kickstarters to succeed. How do you find an audience for it, if you don’t already have one?

    If you don’t have a well known name, a well known company or a well known IP (Giants really isn’t), then you’re pitch must be the best, and you create a buzz among either (or both) gamining sites or social media.

    • Ur-Quan says:

      To be fair most Kickstarters seems to consist of only an idea and some concept art. Sorry but to me that is just not enough anymore. If a developer is asking for money I think a proper prototype should be the bare minimum.

      • vorador says:

        It might be just my opinion, but i think the “honeymoon phase” of crowdfunding is over. Plenty of kickstarters have not delivered on promises or simply failed to produce anything, so people hesitate much more in backing stuff.

        The latest example i’ve seen is the spiritual sequel to Descent, Overload. With a bit over two weeks left it has just 1/3 of the asking money. Doesn’t look like it’s gonna make it.

  10. drewski says:

    Played it a few years ago. Thought it was a little overrated, the humour fell pretty flat for me. But I did rather like the style.

  11. malkav11 says:

    I liked the little I played of Giants but this sort of thing is why I always look askance at people who pitch a Kickstarter and then cancel/fail to fund and promise “we’ll make it anyway”. You’re demonstrably not getting enough people excited about it to make it a good investment of other people’s money, let alone your own.

    • Baines says:

      To be fair, being able to show more significant progress could be what it takes to generate more interest.

      While being *too* complete can trigger thoughts of “Why are they asking for money?” in potential donators, just having some concept art and character models will trigger thoughts of “Why should I believe this project will ever see favorable completion?” in potential donators.

      Not, I think, that this game was ever going to see a significant fanbase. They could have had a finished game and still not generated much support, because the audience for a Giants spiritual sequel is pretty small. It is one of those games that is more nostalgia and reputation, praised and remembered because a small group will mention it and others who never played it spread the word.

      • malkav11 says:

        It’s sometimes worth going back for a second crack at crowdfunding with a bit of additional thought/work put in on your spare time, but I wouldn’t recommend just pushing on under your own steam, myself.

  12. Faults says:

    Their Kickstarter pitch looked incredibly shaky. I would have killed for a Giants sequel, but considering what they were offering was heavily multiplayer-focused, lacking any kind of Sea Reaper analogue, and honestly, graphically not much better than its 16-year-old predecessor, they did a really, poor job of pitching the game to an audience that should have lapped it up.

    I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but if you’re going to be directly pitching a spiritual successor, then the last thing you want is for your game to not really measure up to what it’s emulating, especially if any old schmuck can buy said game for a tenner off GOG.

    Really though, I hope Bruty comes back with something as batshit insane and original as his old games. The guy is a mad genius, and Kickstarter nostalgia is IMO totally beneath him.

    • islipaway says:

      I totally agree, the kickstarter was seriously ropey. The value of nostalgia isn’t infinite! I’d have been more inclined to back it if they hadn’t shown any gameplay just said who they where and what they wanted to make but what they showed looked so amateurish I gave it a wide bearth.

      After the kickstarter had ended I listed to a podcast with one of the developers and the game they had in mind sounded really good and not at all the half arsed nostalgia grab presented in the pitch video.

  13. Urthman says:

    A lot of what made Giants special to me was the movement mechanics (the Reaper’s turbo jump and the jetpacks of the Mecs), the verticality, and the beautiful, open outdoor levels. It’s a lot easier to find games with stuff like that now than it was in 2001.

    Just Cause 2 & 3 have a lot of what I liked about Giants. Grow Home is probably the game that reminds me of Giants the most.

  14. Chaoslord AJ says:

    I’m with Walker on this.
    Instability + no quicksave made this unenjoyable for me. Can see how it was interesting design back then with the different characters to control and jetpacks and stuff.

  15. TechnicalBen says:

    “Looks like” is a thing we are going to have to forget in this day and age. Well, I guess it was true in the past. In the past it was easy to rip graphics, and pass off. Now, it’s getting easier and easier for the art to be made. Don’t get me wrong, the art can be fantastic. But alone it will not make a game or a product.

    The business side of things and the coding is still as hard as ever if not harder. Which is why, I guess, games like Minecraft get off to a better star with coders behind it. Provided it hits some good investment (pre-orders/alphas or kickstarter etc) and the business/team does not burn out.

  16. Geebs says:

    I enjoyed the heck out of Giants back in the day. That might partly because it was one of the very few games with that sort of height-mapped open landscape available on the Mac at the time, so I found it kind of mind-blowing.

  17. 321 says:

    “It’s also worth noting that while obsessively wrong people like Kieron Gillen loved Giants, it was a really flawed game that would randomly kill you with absolutely no possible warning (always a rocket fired at you from behind) and had no save system to make that anything other than tedious.”

    Come on, a really flawed game? Because ot has no save system? It’s an exceptional game, blending different gameplay styles and loops, different systems and functions and different GENRES. First person shooting on the turrets and rts base building. And the humour. Plus the artistic work, the world, the colours. A game that could only come out in the late 90’s/2000. Like Sacrifice. MDK 2. Outcast. Alice.

    That damn save system. There was a string of games in 2000 that for some reason only by them known, they shipped with no save feature. Vampire Redemption got much flack and they were forced to release a patch that added a quick save feature. Project IGI was supposed to have smaller, shorter levels, but it ended up with giant levels. They promissed quick save in a patch, but they never added it. Hitman Codename 47 also. Ground Control. Starship Troopers – Terran Ascendancy. And Giants, which they also promised to add a quick save feature in a patch, but never got to it. Thats the games biggest fault, but otherwise, a fantastic achievement and game