Crowd-funding has been around for a while now, but gamers as a whole didn’t take notice until the one-two punch of Double Fine Adventure and Wasteland 2. As a big proponent of indie gaming and small publishers over the mega-corps currently dominating the industry, I had been happily funding projects via Kickstarter for roughly a year before the current trend. I love seeing so many gamers happily funding games directly and so many dev teams trying to use grass root campaigns to get their game out to the world instead of using companies like THQ and EA…who may have deep pockets, but also don’t have the best reputation for quality or ethical treatment of their workers. What I hope to do with this column each week is highlight new and interesting projects that you may find worthy of giving your hard earned cash to instead of yet another sequel. Crowd funding allows gamers to help give new IPs that extra chance at making it and who knows, one of the games you see here just may live or die based on whether or not you support it. This first column will look at things I’ve backed in the past, what I’m currently backing and things I’m on the fence about backing. Subsequent columns will look at what’s new and interesting on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo and whether or not they are worth backing.
Successful Projects I’ve Backed
I’ve funded sixty different projects on Kickstarter, sixteen of which didn’t make their funding goals. With Kickstarter and Indiegogo, it’s all or nothing. So if you miss the goal by only a few pennies, you don’t get any of the money. No one is charged until the deadline hits and only then if the project reaches its funding goal, so the money of backers is completely safe. So I’m a bit happy that projects I’ve felt were worthy ones have a 73% success rate. We’re going to quickly go through all the games I’ve backed in this one-off segment, but those are only a fraction of what I’ve helped fund. If you really want to see books, movies and the like that I’ve thrown money at, you can do that here.
Compact Heroes – This was a fun little tabletop RPG. It was the equivalent of a core rule book. DM guide and Monster Manual all in one deck of cards. The project has changed dramatically since the originally funding, which you can buy here. You can read my review of original version of the game here, but suffice it to say, Compact Heroes was awesome enough that it eventually won our “Best New Game Award” in our 2011 Tabletop Gaming Awards.
Ages Past – This was a core rulebook for an RPG made by a dude in Baltimore. I like supporting local projects and Baltimore is all but a sister city to Washington D.C. (Where I reside), so I wanted to help back it. I ended up joining seventy-four other people backing this project. It’s not out yet, but Jeff (The creator) gives backers constant updates and I’ve been very pleased by what I’ve seen so far. We’ll definitely have a review up on Diehard GameFAN once it is officially released.
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – a point and click adventure game for the PC. It’s probably no surprise to any long time readers that I backed this game. I love adventure games. I’ve enjoyed Phoenix Online Studios’ previous release (The Silver Lining) and the game looked awesome. I was so thrilled by what I saw, I even tried to drum up interest by doing an interview with POS on the site. The game should be coming out shortly and I was lucky enough to sit through a backers-only demo streaming. I was blown away by what I saw and this should be a HUGE hit with adventure game fans once it is released.
Miskatonic School for Girls. You might have read my review of this deck building board game. I love Lovecraftian things, especially comical parodies of the Cthulhu Mythos, so I really wanted to support this. I obviously wasn’t the only one as over eleven hundred people backed the game, giving 554% of its funding. Unfortunately the end result wasn’t as awesome as we had all hoped. The eventual game was cute and fun, but not great by any stretch of the imagination.
Double Fine Adventure – There’s not much that really needs to be said here. Pretty much every gamer on the planet knows this story. What’s worth noting is this is proof of how much people still love point and click adventure games despite what some terrible gaming publications and publishers might have you think. It’s also the first Kickstarter project that I funded where another DHGF staffer pitched in.
Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition Companion. This was probably my biggest disappointment so far when it comes to crowd-funding a game. You can read my full review here, but let’s just leave it at the fact nearly everyone who funded this is unhappy with the end product. Some are mildly disappointed while some are downright PISSED. Looks like White Wolf never learned the lessons they should have from the Revised era, eh?
Deep Wars – a tabletop miniatures game. Out of all the things that I’ve backed and still haven’t received the end product from, this is the one I’m most excited about. I showed it to Chuck Platt while it was still funding and we were both, “Holy crap, this is sweet.” I ended up throwing $175 dollars at this thing to get us the full experience. Anti-Matter Games has been giving constant updates and man, this thing looks amazing. When it hits, every tabletop miniature gamer worth their salt should get this, if only for the amazing sculpts and art.
Fleet – a multi-player deck building game about fishing. Sounds weird, right? However the premise was so weird and original, that I decided to back it. I mean, it was only twenty-five bucks and at worst, I could give it to my dad as a gift, who loves fishing. Pretty much every pre-release review of Fleet has been glowing so I can’t wait to review this for the site come September.
Wasteland 2. Again, this is another Kickstarter project you probably don’t need me to elaborate on. I was joined by over 60,000 other gamers in backing this, although none from DHGF oddly enough. I’m not sure how many of these backers actually played the original Wasteland, but I did and I loved it. I also like inXile and Brian Fargo enough to blindly support this thing. Here’s hoping it’ll be as awesome as everyone expects it to be.
Bumps in the Night. This is a set of adventures for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game put out by Pagan Publishing. I’m pretty much a guaranteed backer for any CoC RPG stuff and my hope is that once we get this, we’ll do a special version of the Diehard Podcast where I’ll run one the adventures for my staff and see how horribly they die. In-game, not in real life.
Adventures Dark and Deep. This is a OSR (Old School Renaissance) tabletop RPG rulebook which is meant to be what Gary Gygax wanted 2nd Edition AD&D to resemble rather than what TSR put out. I’m a big fan of 1st and 2nd ED AD&D, so I’m looking forward to when this comes out later this summer.
Myth & Magic Player’s Guide. Speaking of 2E AD&D, Myth & Magic is meant to be the OSR beginning for my favorite version of AD&D. Nearly everything has focused on 1st Edition, that I was ecstatic to see someone championing 2E. 400 other people loved the idea and although I was just in for the PDF (I try to go digital with publications rather than physical copies). I love the advance versions of the Player’s Guide (which you can download for free from DrivethruRPG.com) and I knew I wanted to back the final version. I can’t wait for this one.
Leisure Suit Larry. Considering how many people on staff here at DHGF love the Al Lowe made LSL games…I was shocked that no one else on staff backed this thing. This was another great success for adventure gaming and I can’t wait to reply Longue Lizards in high definition.
Shadowrun Returns. Is anyone really surprised I backed this. I’ve championed the SNES and Genesis versions of the game for as long as I’ve worked in this industry. I’m the best known and most read reviewer of the current Shadowrun tabletop game and I love everything there is about the franchise. Again, no one from DHGF backed this project, although two retired staff did! I was in for the $125 Deluxe Box Version which the shit-ton of goods like dog tags, a t-shirt, a hardcover book written by people I know and more. If this game even lives up to a tenth of the hype people have for it, this will be the 2013 GOTY hands down.
Jane Jensen’s Pinkerton Road. If you don’t know the name Jane Jensen, then you need to hand in your gamer card immediately and hang your head in shame. Jane’s arguably the biggest and most successful woman in the history of our industry (although Roberta Williams might be a close second). This is yet another triumph for the adventure game genre, which proves to be the most successful form of video gaming on Kickstarter. This project ended on 5/19, and I went in at the $50 mark, which netted me three video games. I really loved Jane’s last game, Gray Matter so I’m looking forward to Moebius and Mystery Game X which a lot of people seem to think is a new Gabriel Knight title. Three adventure games for $50 bucks, all by one of the biggest names in the industry? Yeah, shut up and take my money.
What I’m Currently Funding
As of when this column goes live on Monday, May 21st, I’ll be actively funding eight other Kickstarter campaigns, six of which are games. The other two are a documentary of Native American languages and a CD by my friends in the band Ego Likeness (Who still have my high-def video camera…). My hope is that if you’ve come this far, you’ll take a look at these six games and hopefully find one you want to fund.
The Doom That Came to Atlantic City!. This is a board game that is a lovely paraody of not only Monopoly, but the Cthulhu Mythos itself. I love Cthulhu based board games. I own Cults Across America, The Hills Rise Wild and Betrayal at the House on the Hill, so this looked like a perfect addition to my collection. It also helped that Keith Baker was involved. The real kicker though was the amazing pewter miniatures that come with the game. Holy crap, just click through to the Kickstarter page and look at these. They are gorgeous. Well, as gorgeous as inter-dimenensional godlike horrors can be. Hell, I’d get the miniatures just to use in a Call of Cthulhu game or with Akrham Horror.
Haunts: The Manse Macabre This PC/Mac/Linux game just oozes style. It’s like a Edward Gorey painting turned into a video game. I’m a sucker for a good horror game and Haunts promises to be a tribute to horror movies throughout the ages and yet you flip between Investigators and monsters. With the game only costing five bucks a shot, I have to wonder who WOULDN’T back this? It’s only about halfway to its goal of $20,000, but it has over a month and a half to get there. If you’re new to crowd-funding, this is a perfect title to get started with. After all, it’s only a five dollar investment and the game looks amazing.
Redux. Redux is a sequel to Dux, of the best games of 2009 and one of the few remaining titles to be published on the venerable Sega Dreamcast. You can read my review of Duxhere, but just know that I love that game and would recommend it to anyone with a Dreamcast. Pledging $65 not only gets you the sequel, but a remixed version of Dux as well. That’s two Dreamcast games, NEW Dreamcast games, mind you, for sixty-five smackeroos. The game is definitely being funded, so if you love Sega, Retrogaming or the Dreamcast at all, why not join the 390 of us who happily are forking over money for yet another new Dreamcast title? Best of all, the campaign’s money goes towards making a version of Redux for PSN, Xbox Live and Steam!
Diamond Trust of London. This is a multi-player turn based strategy game for the Nintendo DS. It’s ever so close to being funded and it will be the first successful handheld game on Kickstarter (Class of Heroes II tried, but failed spectacularly). Like with the Dreamcast, I love seeing old systems still getting new, high quality titles released for it. Now while Diamond Trust probably won’t win any awards for graphics, it’s such an intriguing concept that I want to see it succeed. No doubt I’ll be reviewing it on the site as well.
Children of the Revolution. This is another Vampire: The Masquerade book. I decided to fund it before the V20 Companion was released to us, but now that I have it in my hands and am quite displeased with the end product, I’m unsure if I’m going to keep my pledge on this product. I love V:TM and White Wolf and I’m happy to have contributed to the World of Darkness in my younger years, but I’m not sure if I want to support this after what I saw what White Wolf did with 100,000 dollars of their fan’s money. I’m not the only one to feel this way as they raised 50% of the funding in three days, but then after the V20 Companion was released, funding not only dried up to a trickle, but people lowered their pledge or removed them entirely. I’m still on the fence myself, but for now the money is still there.
The Curse of Shadow House.The last project that I am currently backing is this little game for iOS and Android devices. I liked the tech demo they have on the Kickstarter page and I’m a sucker for anything that is an homage to Shadowgate and/or the 7th Guest. Truthfully though, I am more interested in the rewards of the necklace and journal you get at the $25and $50 levels respectively as they look amazing and I thought they would make fine gifts for the wife. The game still has three weeks to go and so far only twenty-one people have backed it. It still needs about 95% of its funding to be successful, so here’s hoping the game beats the odds and becomes successful. Also, the first twenty-five backers get the game for free even if the Kickstarter campaign fails, so there’s still time to get in there with that special reward.
What I’m Thinking About Funding
There are five projects that I’m currently on the fence about funding. Either they are asking for a lot of money above and beyond what I think they should be, the rewards aren’t that interesting or something else. Although I’m not sure if I’m going to back these, they have caught my attention and so I mention them here in case they happen to be of interest to you, the reader.
Tex Murphy: Project Fedora. This is another point and click adventure game. The Tex Murphy series is a pretty famous one in the genre, although it’s one that I’ve never had any real connection with. I have all the games, but they’ve never WOWED me like say, Sam and Max Hit the Road. The game is halfway funded, and as much as I want to support Project Fedora I think the asking price of $450,000 is a bit insane. Jane Jansen was doing THREE games for fifty bucks with a goal of $300K. $450K for a sequel…leaves me a bit cold. They have some neat pledge levels too. The $15 one nets you the game. The $45 level pledge nets you a bunch of hidden object/adventure game hybrids. I can personally attest to the quality of both 3 Cards to games. Higher tiers net you older Tex Murphy titles, but you can get those for about five bucks each on gog.com, so I wouldn’t bother with them. Man, it’s a hard call. I’m a sucker for FMV games, but as I was never a big fan of the Tex Murphy games, I’m not sure if this is going to get my money.
Castles & Crusades, 5th Edition. Long-time readers know I really like the Castles & Crusades tabletop game. I’ve reviewed a bunch of products for the game in the tabletop section of the site and it’s always fun to see what they’re making next. So why am I on the fence with this one? Well, two reasons. The first is that I already own a first edition hardcover of the Player’s Guide and I have a copy of the Fourth Edition on my Kindle. So I don’t really need another. Sure this version is going to be in FULL COLOUR, but so what? I don’t need a third copy of the game. So I’m torn between supporting a product I like and saving my money because the world really doesn’t need a fifth printing of this game.
Tahiti. This is a weird little board game. I like the idea of it, but I’m not sure if I want to pay $35 dollars for it. I’m actually more interested in the $90 level, which gets your four other board games in addition to Tahiti. That’s an amazing deal. However, we don’t play a lot of board games in my house and I don’t really need another one, much less five more.
Star Castle for the Atari 2600. Okay, you have about forty-eight hours to get in on this funding project if you want to. I love funding old console titles and this will be the first successful one when it ends. On one hand, I think the idea of finally making a 2600 version of Star Castle is amazing and I love the idea of a new 2600 cart being made, especially one with glowing blinky lights! One the other, I don’t have a 2600 anymore and so I wouldn’t be able to play it even if I purchased it. Sure there’s a level for a ROM version that you can play on your PC, but that’s just not the same.
Defenders of the Realms: Battlefields. I’ll be honest – the only reason I’m interested in this is the Larry Elmore art. What can I say, just hearing his name makes me want to go read Snarkquest again. I’m not a big fan of card games though and so I’m pretty meh on the actual game itself, especially since I haven’t played the original game. It does look like something the wife would enjoy though… It’s definitely getting funded at least, which is good and actually makes me less likely to fund it because it doesn’t NEED my money, you know?
So there we go. A look at the games I’ve funded, am currently funding and am on the fence about funding. Next week, we’ll look at games I backed that didn’t reach their funding goals along with some new and interesting indie games that need your money far more than a large international publisher does. Remember that crowd-funding isn’t for everyone as you’re paying for something long before the product is finished and you might not like what you get when it finally comes out. Think of it as an investment that may or may not pay off. Out of the sixty projects I’ve backed in the last year or so, I’ve only been unhappy with three of them (V20 Companion, a salsa maker and a vanilla maker). That’s not too shabby all things considered. Hopefully as we look at various indie gaming projects together, you’ll not only find something you become passionate about, but you’ll see why sometimes the best games aren’t those that have millions of dollars to spend on ad campaigns, but those that are made by a small group of professionals who have a vision and a love for the industry.
Alexander Lucard was the Editor-in-Chief of Diehard GameFAN and Director of Operations for the InsidePulse network. He has since retired from writing, but clearly shows up now and again. He has worked in video game journalism since 2002 and is also a paid consultant for Konami and The Pokemon Company. Alex has previously written for Tips N Tricks, Gamespot, White Wolf, TSR, Wizards of the Coast, Eden Studios, 411mania, Not a True Ending and more. His writing could also be found in the monthly periodicals Massive Online Gamer and Pokemon Collector Magazine.