2012 is shaping up to be the year that developers finally pushed back. For many years past both content creators and content consumers have bemoaned the pandering of the lowest common denominator. Why can’t anybody make something original for once? Why do we need yet another modern shooter set in the Middle East? Of course we get these games because people buy them, but many of us knew that if somebody ever made that classic turn-based, squad-based RPG they remembered so dearly, they’d buy it too. Well along came Kickstarter and the people responded with money in hand.
But Kickstarter hasn’t been without its criticisms. Though the platform has helped fund numerous big game projects this year, starting largely with Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Adventure, its come to light that many of these games are essentially rehashes of the days of old. A leisurely walk down nostalgia park if you will. For all of its ability to fund developers outside of publisher’s control, it doesn’t quite seem to be able to fund things we’ve never seen before.
Consider all of the top video game Kickstarter projects so far this year:
- Double Fine Adventure: a return to point-and-click adventure games,
- Planetary Annihilation: a spiritual successor to Total Annihilation,
- Shadowrun Returns: a recreation of the Shadowrun games of the 8-bit days.
- Even Wasteland 2, with its very notable producer Brian Fargo, is a sequel to the Wasteland title that inspired Fallout.
All sequels, re-imaginings or reboots of the games we grew up on (or maybe missed) years ago.
Does this trend make sense? Absolutely. I get excited when I remember some of my favorite games of the past. Many of the games I’ve jumped on so readily were fueled by a nostalgic desire to revisit the old. Projects like Grim Dawn definitely have me excited, but I’ll admit that its just a desire to get back the glory of Titan Quest. Hell, I went bat-shit insane when a possible Banjo-Kazooie spirtual successor was merely hinted at. We like to live in memory lane at times and yearn for the days of old. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Those games were really, really good after all. But we might be missing a little bit of the point of getting these companies away from publishers. We want these guys to be more creative and take more risks, not just tug at those heartstrings directly tied to childhood nostalgia.
To their credit, many of these projects have shown some incredible clarity that maybe games have grown up in the 10 or 20 years since we’ve visited them. Planetary Annihilation doesn’t just want you to conquer the planet, it wants you to blow whole damn thing up! Grim Dawn aims to create many destructible buildings, far different than the many ARPGs I’ve played in the past.
And there’s a lot of credit to be given to the antithesis of this trend, like with FTL: Faster Than Light, which was also a Kickstarter project. Although it may be working with a rouge-like backbone, its anything but. A new universe to explore, many unused gameplay ideas, plus a few gameplay ideas all to its own credit. Its completely original as far as I’m concerned. Although I see some of the classic gameplay tropes in it, FTL is essentially what I want to see Kickstarter funding more of. Octodad also comes to mind, with its wonky control scheme and zany idea for a story. Give me more new.
So while I definitely am still excited over the prospect of directly funding developers instead of boardroom directors, I still think we need to step back as consumers and start asking for more. Like, way more. Show us what you can do when you think way, way, way outside of the box. I want to see more new, more Guns of Icarus, more Banner Saga, more Diamond Trust of London. Maybe Peter Molyneux is onto something after all, but the point is we should never be satisfied with just a sequel.