By morecowbell24 6 Comments
Over the past week, big things have happened in the industry, and if anything is to be learned from it, it is that we should never say never.
First, it was learned that Tim Schafer of Double Fine Studios had pitched a sequel to the cult-hit platformer Psychonauts to several publishers, but none would take him up on it.
Regarding a Psychonauts sequel, Tim Schafer said, "I'd love to do that game, but I'd have to convince someone to just give me a few million dollars, that's all."
A short while after the Digital Spy article circulated, Markus "Notch" Persson of Mojang shot Tim Schafer a tweet, saying "Let's make Psychonauts 2 happen." Notch later added ... "I'm serious"
What does this prove? Besides Notch being awesome, it shows that just because the big publishers say that our deepest desires aren't Tim Schafer giving us Psychonauts 2, doesn't mean that no one is going to be willing to make it happen. It also very well may have led to the next big thing of the week.
Tim Schafer wants to return to his roots and make a new game in the genre that put him on the map; the adventure genre. Tim Schafer cut his teeth working for LucasArts making adventure games like The Secret of Monkey Island series and Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle. His last major adventure game strayed a bit from the standard point-click format in the form of Grim Fandango, a game considered by many to be a swan song of the genre. The problem then comes from the genre generally being considered to be dead. Publishers wouldn't take the risk on a Tim Schafer game busting, especially in a dead genre, which really, given his track record isn't surprising.
However, Tim Schafer came up with a plan. This plan might have been inspired by Notch's actions; it might not have, but it looks more likely that it was. Tim Schafer decided to do a kickstarter for his new adventure game. Basically this means the new adventure game will be public funded by anyone willing to contribute. Double Fine initially asked for $400,000 and hoped to acquire that over the course of 33 days. In the first 24 hours, the kickstarter raised over 1 million.
This is huge, and means a lot for the industry. First it means we're getting a new adventure game from Tim Schafer, YAY! Will it point-click like Monkey Island, or will it be 3D like Grim Fandango? Does it matter? We're getting a new adventure game from Tim Schafer! Secondly, it means people are more willing to give up money than publishers realize. Piracy is a big issue in the gaming world, and it is almost assumed everyone does it. When something like this happens, it shows that people are willing to pay for what they want, and even pay top dollar to get it. Tim and Company have opened the door for a whole world of possibilities, one being we can fund the games we want and bring back genres that have many have thought to be long dead. It's also dangerous for the middle man, the publishers. Publishers probably aren't going to be completely cut out in the foreseeable future, but things like this could change the way they do business. They just might take the backseat role they're supposed to.
The effects are already being felt, and developers are inspired by Double Fine's success. Developer, Obsidian looking into kickstarter now.
Chris Avellone of Obsidian likes the idea of player-supported funding and said, "The idea of player-supported funding is… well, it’s proof certain genres aren’t dead and sequels may have more legs than they seem. And the idea of not having to argue that with a publisher is appealing." Avellone also added, "Out of curiosity, if Obsidian did Kickstart a project, what would you want to see funded?"
It's amazing to think of the possibilities that could come from what happened last week. I think Avellone said it perfectly. Genres aren't dead, and there's always a chance for a sequel.
The first thing that comes to mind is what's basically happened now. We're reviving "dead" genres and games that didn't receive the sequel treatment they deserved. It's strange to think that WE, the gamers are doing this, but it's the truth. So what genres could be revived? With Double Fine bring back adventure games, and Obsidian looking into bringing back the isometric WRPG, I'd say the possibilities are pretty open. Space sims is a genre that comes to mind. Maybe we could propel sequels to Freespace or TIE Fighter forward, or more sandbox style games like Freelancer, and if not maybe spiritual successors to these games. Maybe genres that are considered to be in decline like JRPGs could be saved before ever reaching the point of declared death.
What if instead of looking to get sequels, we look to get rights of games out of hands that aren't going to use them? Star Insurance owns half of the System Shock rights, and EA owns the other half. What if we raised enough money to bring the rights together again, not necessarily to get a sequel made, but at least to allow for rereleases of the System Shock 1 and 2 on something like GOG.
What if we looked at localization? Xenoblade coming over to America was a victory in and of itself, but more could be done. We could show Nintendo that we truly do want localized versions of their games, without them feeling like they have to gamble. Do you want localized versions of Mother/Earthbound, The Last Story, and the Fire Emblem and Shining Force games that never made it stateside to make it stateside? Maybe we could make it happen.
What if we looked at server funding? We could keep games like Demon's Souls' servers running for longer, and we could even bring back long-dead servers for games like Chromehounds (something my friend would no doubt lose his shit over).
It's not easy to figure out how exactly to go about kickstarting these kickstarter ideas, but there is a whole range of possibilities. I probably can't even think of them all. Are there any of these games or genres you think deserve another chance?
"If there's one thing I've learned it's this; nobody knows what's gonna happen at the end of the line, so you might as well enjoy the trip" - Manny Calavera