You want it all, but you can’t have it?
So a few years ago, I made the remark that I would pay upwards to $200 to see 90’s Alternative sensation Faith No More play in concert, for any seating, as long as it was Mike Patton “The Real Thing” -era (Yes,That’s $200 in real actual honest earth money). And that’s because it’s based on the assumption it’s not going to realistically happen. It’s all wishful thinking, and if this were to actually transpire, I would be living in crazy inflation land. By the end of the evening, I’m sure I would also have paid $75 for a shirt, and $12 for a Pepsi.
(And Mike Patton better be still wearing these goddamn 1500 color pants when he’s performing too, for that kinda money. Dammit.)
Anyway, that’s craziness, right? I mean, who would do that?
Well, hold on a second. Because i’m about to tell you, using my main basis for this article.
About this time a year ago, I’m at my desk at my grown-up job, being sly and nonproductive, and am reading a Kotaku article that has basically told me the greatest thing in the world – and also introduced me to something I’ve never heard of – something called Kickstarter.
And this “greatest thing in the world” was not conjecture. It was not rumormill. Someone in the world made the statement that I had been waiting since the 7th freakin’ grade to hear.
“Hey. Someone’s going to make a new, honest-to-god Shadowrun RPG, in the vein of the 16-bit era games, for consoles or something.”
Let me tell you why this is important.
Shadowrun is the GREATEST….just the GREATEST. Period. It doesn’t even need a follow up descriptor. It’s just the best. If you ever hear a particularly famous Cassius Clay soundbite proclaiming that “he is the…”, feel free to interject with it, and say “Hey, yo. I beg to differ, legendary boxer guy. You are pretty good. But some white guy on the internet who gets reflective about things told me that SHADOWRUN is the GREATEST.”
Shadowrun was my introduction to both the cyberpunk genre, as well as my gateway drug into the world of Pen and Paper roleplaying games. It brought a wonderful dystopian mishmash of things that shouldn’t exist, and yet, so compliment each other well. Mayan influenced turn of the world prophecy. Tolkien style fantasy races intermixing with our heavily Japanese-controlled post modern dystopian world. Cybertechnology. Mercenaries for hire. Guns. And Magic. Dragons. Megacorporations. I mean, I can go on, but do I have to? It’s fucking AWESOME.
It’s a game where it’s your job to be a cybered- or magicked-up retarded badass who commits questionably legal things for money. You get your friends over and have make believe with dice happen. Fake explosions occur, someone usually makes a stupid joke or an Evil Dead reference. And it’s just the best thing you can do for someone who hasn’t discovered or doesn’t have access to sex.
To say that I’m a fan of the series, now running on it’s 20th year of life, is an understatement. It’s one of the greatest ideas ever concocted. The console games (while neither were particularly accurate to the complexities and intricacies of the core system, still hold their own as incredibly fun experiences, for each their own strengths and weaknesses) still stand out in my top 5 games of all time.
And backing this claim that this new game is coming is a guy that should know something about it. Jordan Weisman. A.k.a. – the guy that originally wrote and came up with the entire goddamn thing, and his newly spearheaded game company, Harebrained Schemes. To paraphrase what he’s said on the subject.
“Yo. So we made this game twenty years ago that there’s six people on earth that are still really excited about, and we’ve decided to do another one. Not only is it going to be awesome, it’s going to have a map builder, so you can make your own missions that can be shared online, and it’s basically going to be the greatest goddamn thing you’ll ever play.”
By this point, I’m dancing in my goddamn seat, ready to celebrate like some unicorns just had sex, and thusly gave me my life’s greatest wish, and the only recourse that makes sense is to quit working, run out into the street, and do my best reenactment of the original end of Return of the Jedi.
Where do I send the check? Is it full retail? When is it coming out? How much is it? Why do I have so many questions? Just get me the goddamn game already!
Well, here’s the catch. The Kickstarter part.
Shadowrun Returns is being made in house by it’s own game studio, which is advantageous for everybody, because you don’t have a large developer sitting over your programmers, demanding a quick turn around, producing a half-completed game you don’t want, consumers don’t want, and the developer makes the decision to save face and terminate the entire staff for the product not raking in the proverbial phat cash like they envisioned. (*See EA, Activision, etc.)
This is great news. But here’s where it’s interesting. When it comes to the price tag of what the game will cost you, Kickstarter does something different. Someone comes to you with this amazing idea, and then says not what it will cost you for a final product, but what you will have to give them, in the hopes of GETTING a final product, in which they can send it to you.
Pay us what you want, and we’ll give you the game you want. And some extra perks based on the amount you’ve donated to us.
It’s a bizarre concept that is alien in this industry, that has survived for nearly 40 years off the concept of “Give us this amount of money at a store, you’ll get a game, and you’ll like it, or you won’t. Either way, too fucking bad. We have your money” economic model.
Because now someone is now introducing a permutation of the “Look. We haven’t made it yet. But we have an idea, and we’re pretty sure you want it. Give us this money, You’ll get a game (MAYBE. TRUST US.), and you’ll like it, or you won’t. Too fucking bad. We have your money.”
(Note: Supposedly Kickstarter DOES have contingencies on someone doing exactly what I predict to be the worst case scenario – someone taking all of your money and giving you absolutely NOTHING in return, but I haven’t seen that in effect first hand to judge.)
By the by, after all is said and done, I had made several comments over the years that I would pay an extraordinary amount of money JUST to see a follow-up to this amazing series show up on a system I can play in the modern day. I’ve been hopeful with other games to take on that spiritual succession of the game environment (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, for instance), but honestly nothing’s come close. THIS is exactly what I want.
That’s why I had no problem sending them $150. Plus, they’re telling me I’m getting a shirt. And a game soundtrack by the composers of the original 16 bit games. Easily things that could get stuffed in a retail box special edition for much less, but…it’s all going to a good cause.
Shadowrun Returns needed $400,000 to establish it’s production goal, and closed out making nearly 2 MILLION dollars in 30 days, promising an increase in features based on the overwhelming support it received. Hell, it’s not even the highest grossing Kickstarter game project out there.
A year later, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t notice other independent studios and game developers taking the alternate route of pitching ideas for new games on Kickstarter first, and finding greater success in dealing with the fan community (sometimes fueled on nostalgia alone, others wanting just a change of pace from buying whatever Honor of Code Medal Hero: Modern Gunfight Iraq Fighter 4: Fireteam bravo new-and-relevant-for-a-month FPS that’s out this week), than a game publisher that is more interested in raking it in with a triple-A quality title that can be be forced out under stringent deadlines at the expense of the production value, does. (and what you can’t fix, you can do with DLC later. Again. Another story, for another time.)
There’s games that I never thought i’d hear anybody wanting to play again finding a second life through this thing. Someone out there wants to make a new Shadowgate! Or a ‘I can’t believe it’s not Planescape: Torment!” – All of which are amazing ideas, because these are independent ideas that a smaller group would be willing to take a risk on that bigger companies wouldn’t. It’s an exciting time for the industry, right?
…Well, sort of. Again, sometimes the rewards outshine the risks. Case and point – a reference to shit gone wrong, even packaged as a game that ‘looks so right.’
Look, I do trust Harebrained Schemes. I trust Jordan Weisman and everything he’s promised his fans for giving him a fucking small boat full of cash. I trust the Game Informer article I read about this game after it got kicked, and the awesome alpha footage that was released not too long ago to demonstrate that the game is real, has animations, sound, AI, and everything.
And as of yet, I haven’t received my shirt, game, and other SWAG for kickstarting it a year later, but…i’m hopeful that it’ll arrive per the game’s projected Summer 2013 release.
I just never thought it’d be possible to upsell Hyperbole electronically.
–Excuse me. I’ve got Nintendo to play.