Yongyea Analyzes the System Shock Kickstarter

Yongyea gives us a 16 minute update on the troubled System Shock remaster Kickstarter project.

The always thorough Yongyea provides the litany of problems Nightdive brought on itself with this project. The 2015 Kickstarter brought in a phenomenal $1.3 million in funding, plus an additional $100,000 on Backerkit. You would expect this to be easy money for the devs. Here we are, almost three years later, and the thing is on indefinite hold.  Just a few red flags from Yongyea’s video:

  • Engine switch from Unity to Unreal
  • Art direction changes
  • Infrequent campaign updates
  • No hard delivery dates

A Troubled Kickstarter

Sounds like scope creep galore to me. Had I backed this project, the second they switched from Unity to Unreal I would have started wondering if I had wasted my money. From every game I’ve ever followed in the past, if there are problems during development or at the market, it can usually be traced back to the misguided decision to change engines mid development. The less-than-inspiring artwork shown afterward, as well as the musings about “modern design,” are enough to make me feel queasy. And I’m not even a backer. It’s like watching a car crash in motion.

I was surprised to see that CEO Steve Kick got his start as a character artist for SOE. Since 2012 he’s made a career off of giving old games facelifts on GOG and Steam. As a matter of fact, I own the updated versions of System Shock and System Shock 2 on GOG. So he has some business experience. Yongyea says Mr. Kick may have let the successful funding go to his head. It certainly sounds that way from his latest update, in which he admits things got away from him.

As some commentators observed, all Nightdive really had to do was update the controls and graphics, and give SHODAN new dialog. So why mess with the formula? Pride and ambition, perhaps. If, as Steve Kick’s bio claims, he really wanted to make his own games, he should have developed his own IP with modern design principles. I’m sure Nightdive will eventually get the game out there. But good will squandered is hard to recover. Just ask the Star Citizen guys.

What a shame.

Kickstarter Look 40 Winks

After all these years, the Nintendo 64 is getting a new game: 40 Winks. Piko Interactive blew the dust off this abandoned GT Interactive project and put it up on Kickstarter. At the time of this writing, 40 Winks reached its first goal of $20,000, so it’s going to happen. Here’s a video about the beta by Glenn Plant (6 and a half minutes long):


The Kickstarter description has a brief history of the game IP and GT Interactive’s woes, which I’ve come to be acquainted with during my journeys through game dev. But more on that in another entry. The press kit includes a Dreamcast stretch goal at $250,000, which I didn’t see on the Kickstarter page. The page says this is Piko’s first Kickstarter, but company head Eleazar Galindo Navarro has experience doing these. See the 4-in-1 SNES cart from 2014, for example. In any case, Piko is doing something right, since 40 Winks project already cleared +60% of its initial goal.

I have no idea what the costs will be for them to manufacture and distribute boxed N64 games. But they’ve been around for a while, so I’m assuming that they know what they’re doing. From a cost perspective, anyway. That said, I’m not overly enthused about going back to the n64 era in a 3D action platformer adventure. “Move over Mario…” is quite a high bar to clear. We shouldn’t discount the novelty of a brand new Nintendo 64 game though. Without knowing more about the dev team I can’t say if they’ll improve on the limitations of the system. Even if 40 Winks would have been a late stage release.

This New Year’s blog post lists an impressive array of abandoned catalogs, including Hasbro, Accolade, and Microprose. That’s quite a starter pack to get a niche publishing house going. I would love to see an updated Fields of Glory, if that IP is included in their acquisition.

Links to Piko Interactive and other stories are below, if you’re interested. Hat tip to NintendoLife for the original story.

Kickstarter Look: Out of the Woods

American McGee has a new Kickstarter out called Out of the Woods. It’s a card game that relies primarily on playing tricks and discarding out as the win condition. Here’s a pitch video for the project:

The full campaign is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/americanmcgee/out-of-the-woods-2

At the time of this writing, the campaign is 62% funded with 22 days to go. It probably will receive full funding; Its estimated delivery date is January 2018. From the Kickstarter write up:

If this project is a success, we hope to turn “Out of the Woods” into an ongoing series of games, books, and original art which will explore lessons for overcoming life’s challenges contained within classic fairy tales.

I’m going to be following this Kickstarter for the next few weeks to see how it goes. Just the other day we talked about James’ Plague Inc. overview. It looks like McGee is following many of the same principles for success. Not that I’m surprised by this. Anyway, good luck to him in this latest endeavor. Looking forward to the seeing the final product.

Kickstarter Analysis: Plague Inc.

James Vaughn of Ndemic posted a lengthy break down of his experience with Kickstarter for his Plague Inc boardgame. You can read it all here at BoardGameGeek.

As some of you know I’ve followed a few successful kickstarters on the blog and one not so successful. I’ve been trying to divine what separates the successful kickstarters from the duds. Beyond the basic wisdom of actually doing your homework before launching one. The market always has its whims. Which is to say luck certainly plays a role (along with the age old discoverability problem).

Kickstarter Breakdown

Here’s a tidbit I found interesting:

Be prepared to spend time and money on your Kickstarter campaign
A Kickstarter campaign is a significant time/cost commitment and it’s important to plan it properly. At Ndemic, we spent around three man-months on the text, graphics and planning of the Kickstarter before it went live (this could have probably been reduced 😛 ). We then spent one man-month during the Kickstarter campaign itself and two man-months post Kickstarter (on updates, processing backer orders, dealing with any other issues, etc). The Kickstarter video cost ~$7,000 (filming, editing and visual and sound assets but not our own time).

Assuming we can break down man-months into 160 man-hours, this means Ndemic spent 480 man-hours on prepartion, 160 hours on updates, and 320 hours post campaign. So 960 hours total spent on the campaign. That’s half a year’s work on a project. I have no idea what their salary requirements look like, and while James says time and again this was a passion project; it should give you an idea of the numbers involved. The additional 7 grand on a video sounds reasonable.

Here’s another interesting bit:

Lock down manufacturing and delivery costs beforehand
You have to have a clear view of costs in order for you to properly set your pledge tiers and shipping costs otherwise you’re exposing yourself and your backers to significant risk. We asked our manufacturer and fulfilment partners for multiple quotes covering different scenarios (including potential stretch goals) and then applied a significant margin of error to our calculations. This meant that when various hidden costs popped up we were able to deal with them without issue (e.g. increased container ship rates due to shipping company bankruptcy, spare parts international postage costs, delivery issues to Russia / Brazil).

Common sense approach. Years ago, Tasty Minstrel Games posted about their design and production process. The article is long gone from their website, but here’s an archive link. When Ndemic posts the follow up, we’ll see if things have changed since TMG wrote about it.

Anyway, read the whole thing over at BGG and congrats to James and Ndemic on their huge success.

Kickstarter Look: Forged Realms

Forged Realms is a two-player card game with a fantasy warfare theme. The game has some smart branding: it’s “Tactical Expandable Card Game” rather than a CCG. The Kickstarter is already funded and still has 25 days to go. So there’s a good chance at unlocking more stretch goals. See the brief pitch video below.

Project Overview

Calvin Nelson of Lone Knight Games started this project. According to his bio, he’s been designing games for years. As he owns a gaming store, I’m sure he’s reverse engineered a few games too. The promised delivery date is October 2017. There are no other pledge options besides Kickstarter. But there’s a minimalist website in place at forgedrealms.com. I’m assuming the site will have a sale link in the future.

The Question Asked

Now, I know it’s impolite but it’s nagging at me. Do we need another card game? There’s a glut of CCGs squeezed between Magic and Hearthstone. As Board Game Authority points out in his preview, many dueling games are, in a word, crap. I’ll take his word for it as I don’t play that many and haven’t tested this game. Still, let’s consider the thing for a moment.

I appreciate that Nelson is focusing on gaps in the market rather than building a better mousetrap. The emphasis on the tactics rather than strategy or Meta is a nice change. Small battles are thematically appropriate as the game simulates small skirmishes between factions. The five-turn limit is attractive to me as I’ve grown accustomed to long Commander games. Few things are worse than getting into a match against a deck with little interactivity. It looks like in Forged Realms, everybody has to play more or less in the same fashion. Playing cards face down is a nice touch and simulates Fog of War well. BGA put Forged Realms onto his short list of “worth it” games and I tend to agree.

Basic Impressions
From what I saw in the demo video, Forged Realms is a rank based game. It’s vaguely reminiscent of Reiner Knizia’s Battle Line. I’m hesitant about micromanaging the cards. It suggests the learning curve will be steep. The website says that there are six factions, but in the video and other sources there are only four. Are these stretch goals? The core set also provides everything you need for a two-player game, which is nice. Using PreCon decks instead of a pool does have disadvantages. But the emphasis is on card tricks from what you get dealt from your deck. Such in-the-moment gameplay mitigates the Rock-Paper-Scissors Meta found in Magic formats. The cards have some nice artwork, but design strikes me as a little busy. That’s a small quibble though, and I’ll be watching this Kickstarter for the rest of the month as more news comes out.

There’s a lot more information about the game and how it’s played available here. I encourage you to take a look at that if you’re curious and have room for another game on your shelves.

Kickstarter Look: Super Plexis

Super Plexis is a three-match puzzler that’s a tribute to the old puzzle games like Tetris Attack, Dr. Mario, and Meteos. This Kickstarter is raising the funds to port the game to Nintendo Switch and Android. It’s already available for free (freemium model) on iOS. See the pitch video below.

The developers are Andrew Gundlach (programmer) and Gabe Basham (artist). They are Medley Studio, and they’ve developed this title over a two year period “full time.” So I assume they’ve been working on this exclusively. It shows too, with great artwork and a nice feel to the gameplay. The music is also catchy; I found myself humming the tune after just a couple of minutes. Kudos to them for the production values.

Medley Studio launched their Kickstarter at the beginning of April 2017. At the time of this writing, they’re about one-third of the way funded. Their estimated delivery date for the project is December of 2017.

As I mentioned, the game is already available for iPhones so if you have that platform you can play it now. The purpose for the Kickstarter is to provide the team with the funds to port the game to Android and update the experience for Nintendo Switch. It looks like the Switch version will get traditional button controls and local multiplayer as key features. They’ve promised content updates too.

In the pitch video, they mention that Super Plexis started life as an RPG. The world map aesthetics reflect that origin as do some of the mechanics. I wonder if they had a game like Puzzle Quest in mind when they started this project; though I haven’t seen them say that anywhere in their materials. They are right though when they say there’s a glut of puzzlers out there, filled with cheap mechanics and pay traps. Super Plexis is refreshing in that regard.

If you want to back the Kickstarter, it’s open until the end of April 2017. They have an option to pledge via PayPal which I’ll consider using in the future. You can follow Medley Studio on Twitter and YouTube.

Kickstarter Look: SNES/Super Famicom visual compendium

Bitmap Books brings us the 5th entry into its unofficial visual compendium series. This time the subject is the SNES, and it looks quite beautiful. Estimated delivery is November 2017. See the pitch video below.

Project Overview

Already funded and at $108k at the time of this writing, backing it now includes several stretch goals. The goals are more pages and artwork, basically. The compendium is a coffee table book filled with representative 16-bit artwork. To round it out there’s some promising written content included. Bitmap Books reached an agreement with John Szczepaniak to include his developer interviews. Recall that he produced the excellent Untold History of Japanese Game Developers books. Damien McFerraen of Nintendo Life is writing relevant company profiles. Steve Mayles of Rare/Donkey Kong Country fame is penning the forward. Gary J. Lucken (Army of Trolls) created a custom map for the layout of the book. Check out that website and his clientele list to get an idea of why that’s a cool thing indeed.

In the pitch you can see a ton of old favorites. I’m curious about what else is going to make the cut. Given that the SNES has over 700 games in its library, including them all would be too much. Not to mention, there are several games that should never be in. I’m also intrigued by the canceled games section and the home brew section.

I admit I’m a sucker for these kinds of books. I have a few bookshelves filled with game art books. Recently I’ve gotten into collecting titles that cover old school systems. The SNES is becoming the epicenter of a nostalgia craze. The same craze that the NES and other 80s consoles enjoyed a few years ago. Kudos to Sam Dyer and his team for filling this particular niche so well.

Kickstarter Look: Tangledeep

Though it’s already been funded, today we take a look at Tangledeep, a retro action-RPG in the 16-bit variety.  Creator Andrew “zircon” Aversa has worked on several projects in the past, including successful kickstarters. He’s a composer by trade but is handling all of the design and programming for this project by himself. The pitch video is below.

He has the right inspiration (Secret of Mana, Chronotrigger, Lufia) and the right idea (playable demo!). It’s already been funded to the tune of $18K at the time of this writing, so here’s crossing fingers that he’s able to get to the 20k+ tier and Hiroki Kikuta can write a guest track.