A new game-related Kickstarter is not really news any more, but when one gets halfway to a $1.1 million target just a few hours after launching, that’s a clear signal that the public is very much interested in the proposed project.
The project in question this time around is Obsidian Entertainment’s Project Eternity, a new title that promises to resurrect the isometric-perspective, real-time-with-pause combat, incredibly well-written RPG genre as exemplified by the Infinity Engine games of the late ’90s and early ’00s. Many of the key team members behind the quite astonishingly good Planescape: Torment now work at Obsidian, so the prospect of a new game from these creative minds is a very exciting one.
Very few details on the new game are available right now, but what I feel is interesting is the fact that such a huge amount of support has already been pledged to this project. Obsidian’s justification for starting the Kickstarter in the first place was that it was difficult to get funding from major publishers for what they wanted to do — the Men In Suits believe that late ’90s-style isometric-perspective RPGs won’t sell, so the developers don’t get to make them.
Except… “won’t sell”. Is that really true? As I write this, Project Eternity’s Kickstarter page has pledges of $560,885. A few hours ago when I posted a news story on Games Are Evil on the subject, the figure was $238,296. According to Kicktraq, the project, assuming it continues at the current rate (which it probably won’t), will finish at over 1,500% of its original target. Naturally the initial flurry of people will die down and the final total will probably be a little more modest than the currently-predicted $17.1 million, but it’s certainly going to beat its $1.1 million goal comfortably.
This makes me ponder whether the big publishers, constantly chasing the megabucks, are really going about things the right way. Sure, the blockbuster titles most certainly are selling and making astonishing amounts of money, but they also cost a huge amount of money and time to make. Perhaps more importantly, the increasing “annualisation” trend that publishers are inflicting on popular franchises is starting to make longtime gamers resentful of these series. The regular appearance of Call of Duty has become a running joke, regardless of whether or not the latest entry in the series is any good or not. People still buy it, yes, and the games are unquestionably highly-polished experiences with well thought-out user retention and monetisation strategies but, well, is what you really want from a game something that has a well thought-out user retention and monetisation strategy? Or do you want something that is a memorable experience?
The two aren’t mutually exclusive, of course. But practically speaking, at some point during the development cycle, an important decision has to be made. What is going to be the priority: business, or creativity? Do you make something that will sell, or do something risky that has never been done before? Do you make a shit-ton of people feel satisfied, or do you make a smaller number of people ecstatically happy?
There’s no easy answer, of course. But whatever you may feel about the sudden rise to prominence that Kickstarter has seen over the last year or so, I’m certainly grateful that it gives developers who want to prioritise the risky, creative side of development the opportunity to make something that they want to make — and that their fans want them to make — rather than what a marketing plan put together by someone who quite possibly has never played a game before says they should make.
So yeah. You should go back Project Eternity. (It’s up to $585,632 now, incidentally.)