The Formula is Wearing Thin

04 Oct
October 4, 2012

Another week, another Kickstarter project announced. This time, Brenda Brathwaite and Tom Hall are up to bat, with “An Old School RPG“.

Sorry, a what?

Oh right, an “Old School RPG”.

…no, I still don’t think I have it. What is it, exactly? “Old School RPG” is a category, not a specific description of a well-thought-out vision, guys.

There’s a formula that you can see emerging here, with Kickstarter projects from “name” devs. And unfortunately, it seems to have less and less substance with each new iteration. Stop me if you know this one :

1) Name Drop (Developer or Past Projects)
2) Invoke Nostalgia
3) Gimmick(s) to Amuse or Delight Audience
4) Vague Promise of Awesome
5) Appeal for Money, Pimp the Pledge Reward Tiers.

It’s wearing a little thin on me, if I’m perfectly honest.

The problem I have, if you look again at the list, is the lack of actual discussion of the details of the project itself. With Project Eternity I was pretty dubious, the video was almost 100% fluff, the only detail was “soul magic!”. Obsidian has since released enough information that I’m starting to come around, now, but my initial expression was this. I appear to have been in a minority there, though.

With this new project, the so-called “Old School RPG”, I just find it completely devoid of meaningful information. Even the name itself shouts “we only have a vague notion of the direction we want to go in”.

Now I know that, for some folk, the reputation of the developers involved is a valid substitute for the more in-depth project details that a lesser-known developer might need. I understand that point of view, but for me it’s not enough. It’s the difference between this :

1) George R.R. Martin announces that he wants to write a new book. And he wants people to give him money for it. Give George your money, you know how great George’s books are, right? Details? Oh, it’s a fantasy novel.

2) George R.R. Martin announces his new book, “Vampire Nights”, the first part of the “Fang Cycle”, a trilogy exploring the backbiting politics between Vampire houses in a Gothic Steampunk setting, exploring what it means to be ‘human’ in the context of being a dead guy wearing a cape and tuxedo. He’s planning on a 3-book story arc, which he has roughly planned out. And here is a sample chapter so you can get a feel for the story, though everyone should realize that it is the first draft and subject to radical change.

I’m sorry, but I expect #2. Even from a “big name”. I want to be excited for your project, not at the prospect of you starting a project.

Maybe it’s just a different opinion on how Kickstarter should work. I treat it as a platform where people with promising projects can put those projects in front of an audience and try drum up the financial support they need to see those projects to the finish line. It’s not, for me at least, a platform for people looking for funding in order to get started. Maybe that’s just me though.

I guess I expect the developers to have already invested, to a decent degree, before I’m willing to gamble on them. Name or no name. Show me your prototype, your design, a sample chapter or song track. Don’t just remind me of your reputation for past successes, please.

5 replies
  1. GhanBuriGhan says:

    I agree, on both counts. Still holding out on PE, and so far I have no interest in this new pitch.

  2. Rich Hudson says:

    I hear what you are saying, but the beauty of kick starter is you give as you wish. “Too vague for you – don’t give. Oh they are now adding more detail because the interest has been low – great you can give a little!”. Also it is like gambling a bit, in give an amount directly related to my interest in the project. If they do not give a lot of details, but I am interested in what they are proposing I can give a little and then increase my pledge later if applicable.

  3. Konrad Kiss says:

    I couldn’t agree more. In fact, when I saw the project page and played the video, I got fed up with not hearing anything about the game in the first minute, so I just closed the page.

    It’s as it it was meant as a parody. Some sick mockery to intellectually offend fans of past games. And it will probably succeed nonetheless. But this is a low blow either way.

    Even if Romero tweeted about it.. I’ve seen people make good games and then make terrible choices in their next one, so there’s that too.

    Classical abuse of a system that was not meant to be used for this.

  4. Daniel says:

    What personally got me on this was, the “Classic” formula… Elves, Dwarves, same bloody setting. I love Chis Avellone’s writing, but how much more can you squeeze from the old Tolkien\Norse\Celtic mythos. And Isometric, it’s not really my British cup’o’tea what.


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