Romero’s Blackroom Kickstarter Cancelled Until Demo Finished

John Romero and Adrian Carmack have cancelled their Kickstarter for Blackroom [official site], four days after launching it, but will return once they’ve finished a gameplay demo. The pair of former id Software Doomlords and Quakers had pitched Blackroom as an FPS filled with all the good old stuff – circle-strafing, rocketjumping, secret rooms, a metal soundtrack, and all that – but only showed ideas and concept art. Which, yeah, isn’t much for potential backers to go on. They’re hopeful Blackroom will fare a lot better once people can see it a bit.

They were looking for $700,000 to make Blackroom, but at the time of cancellation had only $131,052 pledged. Night Work Games explain in an update to the Kickstarter:

“The team is at work on a demo which demonstrates the kind of gameplay, look and innovative, cool features that make BLACKROOM truly unique — the things we’ve waited years to put into an FPS and which make us incredibly excited about this game.

“There’s a hitch here, a hitch that’s making us do something that’s right for the game, the team, and the community: we’re pressing ‘PAUSE’ on the fundraising campaign for BLACKROOM to complete this gameplay demo. Simply put, this will take more time than the Kickstarter has left, so we’ve decided to suspend the campaign and launch a new one when the gameplay demo is ready. We believe, however, it is the right choice. We know you do, too. Thanks to your feedback, we know we should have included it at launch.

“To all of our backers: your support has been incredible and valuable. We will, of course, honor backer achievements in the next campaign (and an extra something for those of you who continue to support us in the next campaign).”

Blackroom is to be a singleplayer and multiplayer FPS with the conceit of a holodeck-type doodad simulating a whole range of worlds and monsters. Night Work Games call it “a visceral, varied and violent shooter that harkens back to classic FPS play with a mixture of exploration, speed, and intense, weaponized combat.”

Romero told Develop that they expect to finish the demo within a month or two, then will launch a new Kickstarter with the same goal. Romero this week released a new Doom level to prove he can still make cracking levels, but evidently that’s not enough to make enough people part with their money. A gameplay demo is a very sensible idea; I am quite keen to see it.


  1. Luciferous says:

    Good, sorry but after the clusterfuck that was Unsung I don’t touch a kickstarter unless it has actual gameplay that looks somewhat polished.

  2. c-Row says:

    They were looking for $700,000 to make Blackroom, but at the time of cancellation had only $131,052 pledged.

    Within four days only, mind you. I know it’s mentioned in the opening paragraph but on their own those figures sound a lot worse than they actually were.

    • DrollRemark says:

      Yes, this has confused me too. Saying they only got $130k out of $700k makes it sound like they had no chance of making the total, but that’s clearly not the case.

    • qrter says:

      I’d say that 131k in four days is pretty great – looks like they expected there’d be some kind of run on their project, I’m guessing? But these aren’t the “golden days” of Kickstarter anymore, most projects actually need to run a campaign for the duration of their Kickstarter now (although, as I’ve already said, there’s nothing wrong with the amount people had pledged..).

    • tigerfort says:

      Most kickstarter campaigns can be divided into three periods: the first 72hrs, the last 48hrs, and the bit in between. You generally expect to get about a third of your final total in each of those three periods unless you’re going to massively exceed your target (and even then, it’s often closer than you’d expect). So if you’ve only got 1/5th of your target after four days, you are, in fact, looking likely to fail.

  3. baseless_drivel says:

    I’m glad they did this, and it sure isn’t something Romero would’ve done back at id, or even Ion Storm. Then again, maybe he’s not really in a position to be too egotistic anymore.

    But I, for one, really wanted to see what they’d come up with, even if out of morbid curiosity — and there was no way that was going to happen with a 700k Kickstarter and a few concept pics.

    But $130k for some sketches and a Doom WAD is fairly promising; if they can slap together a halfway decent proof of concept, I’d say it’s as good as funded.

    But of course, funding is nothing but a horse to take you through the Swamp of Sadness. Will they make it through game development hell alive and well, or simply barely alive?

  4. Lintire says:

    It was nothing but sadness on the initial reveal with the old “figure from ages past comes back with promises and concept art” but a demo? Now we’re talking.

    And honestly, the Kickstarter bubble burst a while ago.

  5. Slazer says:

    If you haven’t shown any proof of competence in more than 20 years, your life is gonna be hard.

    They probably hoped to be showered with money like the guys from Obsidian or inXile, and I am sure they calculate with reaching much more than the 700k.

    Also, I really don’t think that the target audience for oldschool shooter is that huge. Shadow Warrior was a decent indie hit and Wolfenstein is great, that type of gaming is not nearly as dead as classic RPGs, SpaceSims or TBS had been some years ago.

    • Baines says:

      20 years in the industry doesn’t guarantee competence.

      Maybe you always relied on the rest of your team(s). Maybe you needed a publisher riding your back to make sure schedules and budgets were more than just lies that you told investors in order to get money. Maybe you’ve lost your mojo. Maybe you never had mojo, and just managed to be lucky a few times in a row.

      A few years of shaky Kickstarters have hammered that realization into at least a few consumers.

  6. vorador says:

    Good idea. Coming from a man whose last FPS is known as THE definition for commercial failure, it’s better to have something to show other than a hopeful pitch.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Fair. But I’d say he’s known more for Doom than for Daikatana. I don’t think that changes the fact that you cannot operate a crowdfunding campaign on a few pieces of concept art and a name, though. They were quite right to delay it.

  7. melnificent says:

    After all the other “old-time devs” have been on kickstarter and shown how poor they manage projects Romero was too late. Working out the added time on previous kickstarter projects would have turned that Dec 2018 release into a 2020/2021 release too.

  8. derbefrier says:

    Probably a smart move.

  9. Faults says:

    I think this is a pretty decent move. I’m intrigued to see what comes of this, but I’m as wary as anybody that the concept pitch seems awfully like Daikatana 2.

  10. dungeoncrawl says:

    Even though it was early in the campaign, $130k isn’t great. We’ve been at this kickstarter thing long enough to have great data on how much a kickstarter will pull in based on the first few days of pledges. The numbers weren’t going to be impressive. Also, you have to take into consideration that NOBODY asks for the amount of money that it will really take to make the game. They purposefully set a low number and often pray that it will go well above it so they can get somewhere near a reasonable number. Asking for what they actually need will scare away many.

    Finally, I was somewhat interested in this until I saw the minimum pledge to get the game was $29. I’ve kickstarted a good many successful games from past superstar game devs and ultimately kicked in over $100 to get extra goodies. But never have I had to pay more than $15 or $20 for the actual game. I passed due to it being so high. I’ve never required a “demo” or “gameplay footage” to back those. For me, the demo isn’t going to help…it’s the initial, minimum ask.

    • MaHi says:

      I’m pretty sure if you played the most amazing demo of your life you’d kick in the extra $10 to get the minimum ask. That said, this was prob. another reason the campaign was looking like it wasn’t going to make it…that and Romero’s huge ego.

  11. ddaymace says:

    Probably should have finished the demo before the kickstarter, but maybe that’s what the $131,052 is for…

    I would think Romero would be in the financial situation to spend a month on a demo, though.

    • icecreamjones says:

      They don’t get to keep the $131k, kickstarters only charge the cards when they are past their funding goal + the final date has ended

    • MaHi says:

      He’s always had a huge ego, as you might recall. And why should he spend time on a demo unless he has to? Well, now the mother fucker has to! Everyone is afraid of Daikatana 2 John, show us some real stuff and come back.

  12. nootrac4571 says:

    My (entirely speculative) theory is: they rushed out the kickstarter earlier than they should have in order to capitalise on the hype for the new Doom game, then realised from the first few days’ figures that it was a mistake.

    • Hex says:

      Reasonable theory. But hey, mission accomplished — they got themselves on the map.

  13. tonicer says:

    Before i back this game i need guarantee that it will never even get close to those gaming ruining stupid fucking consoles. The risk is always there that publishers want more money and want the devs to turn a PC franchise into a console craptastic POS franchise.

  14. Scandalon says:

    A gameplay demo is a very sensible idea; I am quite keen to see it.

    I hope the project isn’t doomed. I’m sure some are quaking in anticipation.

  15. MaHi says:

    With Romero’s reputation and a more recent “Kickstarter-phobic” public mindset, I’m not surprised it didn’t hit goal in 48 hrs. I think they were planning to can it if their Kickstarter didn’t catch fire right off the bat. Now they actually have to put some more work into it first. I bet they’ll hit it though.

  16. shauneyboy68 says:

    Really pulling for Mr. Romero on this one. Sounds like an interesting premise, though I would ask that they spend a little bit of that money on letting a professional writer take a crack at some of the prose. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night had a huge influx of cash w/o demo, so don’t think it was out of line for the old Id boys to take a swing at it here. Glad to see them changing tactics.

    I don’t get the “huge ego = Romero” comments. Perhaps he was a bit rockstar in the 90s, but all that came to an end in April of 2000. In every interview I have seen him in during the ensuing decade and a half, he has been an absolute gentleman, going out of his way to give credit where credit is due, even going so far as to champion the original Castle Wolfenstein designer by name with an almost reverent tone. John has done a lot of this industry and seems like a genuine good person who slipped up 20 years ago. I am rooting for his comeback and he has my support when the Kickstarter goes live again.