Considering that we had a realization yesterday that not only games, but (some) movies can also raise capital through Kickstarter, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the development of some projects that got this whole thing started in the first place. It’s been a little over a year since Double Fine had their revolutionary Kickstarter campaign, legitimizing crowdfunding as a way for game developers to raise large sums of money without having to go through a publisher. With that being said, the companies who have raised cash through Kickstarter haven’t released anything yet, so I figured given yesterday’s Veronica Mars campaign I would find out how far along some of those game projects are to actually being completed.
As it turns out, some of these projects are looking pretty good for only being in development for less than a year. It’s not proof that Kickstarter will always work, but at least these first few trendsetting titles seem to be off to a great start.
Every project that makes its goal through Kickstarter promises to be open and forthright about development, keeping those who donated in the loop as to each step of the process. While each of the following companies has done it in their own way, all of them have kept their promise of keeping backers in the loop.
Double Fine’s Adventure Game
Sorry, one leaked image is all you’re getting.
If you’re a backer of this project then you’re probably well aware of all the awesome work their doing with your Kickstarter dollars, if you’re not then you are like me and completely in the dark. The link above gives a rundown of the updates Double Fine has posted about regarding their project, each organized by department for easy viewing access… for backers. If you’re not then you can only look at the list, like standing outside in the rain while looking on at an awesome party you decided not to attend.
It makes sense to give those who donated an exclusive look into the game’s development process, it is part of what they paid for after all, but still I would like to be able to see at least a little of what is going on. They have announced a trailer, which will be coming “soon,” for everyone, including non-backers to see and they’ve also promised the Ouya an exclusive console release.
Harebrained Schemes – Shadowrun Returns
Now this is what I’m talking about; 20 minutes of alpha gameplay footage, even for someone who didn’t back the project. Harebrained Schemes wasn’t kidding when they said they that would be sharing their development with everyone and what better way to prove it than to show-off an alpha build. We’re all used to seeing videos like this, but normally they’re reserved for a beta, not an alpha.
The game is looking pretty good for an alpha build; there are no real bugs or visual glitches to speak of, the game transitions from free-move to turn-based quite smoothly, and most of the art doesn’t really appear to be placeholder art. I’m sure the rest of the game isn’t as polished, but for a project launched less than a year ago it’s looking really good.
They’ve also granted full access to their backer updates so freeloaders like me can take a look at where they are in their development cycle. I have to say I like this better than Double Fine’s approach as I’m more likely to invest in a title I can scrutinize than one I can’t, but that’s just me.
inXile Entertainment – Wasteland 2
Though not nearly as clean and polished as Shadowrun Returns, inXile’s Wasteland 2 also released a gameplay video showing off their alpha build as well. It sounds to me that they’ve put a bit more work into the theme than Shadowrun, as even though some of the combat looks like it needs some work, the sounds and ambient music give a pretty good indication as to what we can expect from the final product.
This is exactly what I look for from a developer who wants to showcase their product. It’s not a series of contrived and misleading screenshots; it’s just a simple playthrough of their working levels with some developer commentary. It’s not overly hyped or promoted to oblivion, and yet I’m more interested in playing this than most of the game’s I’m told to like.
I’m glad to see that after also less than a year of production the inXile team has produced a very stable and fun looking build. I expect nothing less from the minds who helped give us the Fallout series and I’m looking forward to seeing more of this title in the future.
Stoic – Banner Saga
Banner Saga’s production cycle post-Kickstarter has been both good and bad depending on how you look at it. On the one hand the game’s release has been pushed back from this November to February 2014, not something the backers of the project had expected. On the other hand they have released a free-to-play title called Banner Saga Factions which showcases the game’s customization and combat system before the main game’s release.
They posted an update on their Kickstarter page after some backers felt they spent too much time on the F2P version of the game, causing the release of the main game to be pushed back. Their explanation is pretty simple; they are using the F2P version to test the combat system before the game’s main release in 2014. It’s a smart move if you ask me and a great way to show-off their game without betraying their promises to the Kickstarter crowd. It’s also nice to see a company actually take the time to explain things like these to normal people with regular concerns.
I think they had put some work in the title before going to Kickstarter which explains why it looks so pretty already, still, having played a few games of Factions I’m impressed with how original the gameplay and art style are. It’s free on Steam if you want to give it a shot, think Battle Chess but with Vikings.
Subutai Corporation – Clang
This was the game I worried about the most as it’s the most ambitious and tech heavy of all the games we saw supported by Kickstarter last year. To recap, Clang hopes to reinvent swordplay in games by giving it the same attention to detail as other games do to firearms. As you can see by the video above, they’re not as far along as the other crowd funded titles, but it does look like they have a handle on the tech their trying to get working. They do admit that it too them longer to release a build than it should have, but they were a bit nervous showing off unfinished tech.
I think it’s a good start, but they still have a long way to go. Like I said it’s an ambitious project, so there’s some leeway to be given, but that being said I doubt the game will be released before 2014. Still, I appreciate the honesty and I’m glad to see that they are in fact created what they said they would.
Although all of these titles are at varying stages of completion, I do think the openness in their development is good for the game industry. So far most of the games published through Kickstarter all share a responsibility to their backers to be honest and open; to some extent they are all following through with that promise. So far I like what I see, not just in the games but in the business models as well. It may not be the end of publishers, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.