In a rather surprising move, Brenda Brathwaite and Tom Hall have announced they're cancelling their Kickstarter for SHAKER, formerly Old-School RPG. Despite their having already raised a quarter of a million dollars, and the realistic possibility that they'll see that quadruple in the next two weeks, they've chosen to retreat in the face of criticism that their pitch just wasn't strong enough.
And it wasn't. As I said at the time of launch, their pitch video consisted of trying to invoke nostalgia like a wizard trying to get a spell out of a broken wand. "REMEMBER?!" they pleaded, taking the rather peculiar thesis that all games from the past were necessarily good, and games today just aren't. Since neither is true, I do wonder if gamers looked at the wealth of RPGs available now, remembered some of the hefty duds of the past, and just wondered why exactly they weren't explaining what their game was going to be.
It seems they've started wondering the same. Explaining in an update on (the still live, oddly) Kickstarter page, they say that they have listened to feedback, and despite the possibility that they could still meet their goal, they're retreating anyway.
"Ultimately, our pitch just wasn't strong enough to get the traction we felt it needed to thrive. Sure, it may have made it. We could have fought our way to a possibly successful end. In reading your feedback and talking it over internally, however, we decided that it made more sense to kill it and come back with something stronger."
I've just watched the pitch video again, and am trying my best not to get cross all over again. Despite renaming their project from the farcical "Old-School RPG" to SHAKER, this was rather undermined by their pitch video still beginning by saying they want to make a game... or maybe two. And then not saying what either game would be, other than possibly containing a cloth map. They literally didn't describe a single feature, beyond that it wouldn't be bad like new things, but good like old things. Oh, with permadeath.
I like their grace about this now, however. They point out the reality that games get pitched all the time, and few ever go on to be developed. They're counting their pitch among the larger number, and going back to establish something more concrete. Or in this case, hopefully something at all.
We all want to see a new RPG from these two fine developers, and I'm really enthused that they plan to come back and do this again. I really hope that in doing so, rather than sneering at modern games, they instead aim to create something that embraces the best features of RPGs from the 70s through to the 2010s.