Kickstart My Heart, Volume I, Issue III
by Alex Lucard on June 5, 2012

Welcome back to our third installment of Kickstart My Heart, Diehard GameFAN’s weekly look at what’s going on in the world of crowdfunding for video and tabletop games. Last week, we looked at some Kickstarter failures and why they didn’t meet their funding goals, along with the usual sections. This week we look at the Sam Suede controversy, why it happened, why it really wasn’t a controversy in the first place and how it shows the dangers of not thinking things through before you open your yap. Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at some crowd funding.


I. What I’ve Backed Since Last Week

No Security: Horror Scenarios in the Great Depression. I mentioned this campaign last week as one to watch, and I ended up backing it after talking to the project head, Caleb Stokes. For those unaware, No Security is a collection of four horror scenarios for multiple tabletop gaming formats. It originally started as three, but a stretch goal was made to add a fourth. If you pledge at the twenty dollar level, you’ll get a fifth, and if the total money raised hits $5,250, there will be yet another one added to bring it to a whopping six adventures. What’s worth noting here is that all of the scenarios will be released to the general public for free (except for the one you only get at the $20 level), so you’re actually pledging to help make these available to EVERYONE. That’s awesome. What you’re getting from pledging are nifty little extras like access to some art, a special miniature, a set of pre-generated characters and more. I can confirm that Call of Cthulhu is guaranteed to be one of the systems that No Security will use, and so I definitely backed it (I back any CoC Kickstarter), but the other systems are yet to be determined. It sounds like Savage Worlds is a strong possibility, and I mentioned I’d love to see Chill, as I miss Mayfair’s highly underrated game. Just pledging a buck nets you adventures set in one of the most interesting time periods in American history. I was a huge fan of Children of the Storm, a set of Call of Cthulhu adventures from the same time period, and so, with fingers crossed, I can combine that and No Security into an awesome campaign for friends.


II. The Sam Suede Controversy

So back on May 30th a new Kickstarter campaign appeared. It was called Al Lowe Presents Sam Suede in Undercover Exposure. It also had a very lofty goal of $500,000 – the same amount that Al Lowe’s other Kickstarter for a Leisure Suit Larry remake had. I saw it when it first went up, said, “Huh. Spreading himself a bit thin, don’t you think?” and then bookmarked it as a potential game to highlight in this column. Little did I know that this campaign would become a massive drama involving poor journalism and a lack of fact checking from various gaming websites (Big shocker there!), fake internet lawsuits being threatened by people who have nothing to do with the game, and other hilarity. As of right now, Sam Suede has only raised a little over five grand with forty-five days to go, and even though the controversy is all cleared up, this particular Kickstarter campaign has already surpassed Class of Heroes II as the biggest “How not to do a crowd funding campaign for a video game” yet. God knows I want to see as many quality point and click adventure games as I can, so I’m crossing my fingers that the game sees the light of day at some point, but I have a strong feeling it won’t happen via Kickstarter.

So what exactly happened? Well, the way Wisecrack Games wrote up their Kickstarter page made it sound like Al Lowe was still very much a part of Sam Suede‘s development and an integral part of the team. The page has since been edited to downplay his involvement and highlight Steve Ince, writer for Captain Morgane and the Golden Turtle, as the new person finishing off the game. However, if you go and read Wisecrack’s original press release for the game, it sounds like Al Lowe is still very hard at work on the game.

Now, if you are smart and read between the lines, you see that Wisecrack calls it an “Al Lowe game,” but never comes out and says he is directly working it on or is part of the dev team. Still, it’s easy to see why people jumped to that conclusion. What’s worse is that Paul Trowe, head of Replay Games and the guy behind the Leisure Suit Larry remake had an absolutely spectacular meltdown on Twitter when he saw the Kickstarter campaign and started threatening legal action and lawsuits through it. Trowe and his lawyer stated that Wisecrack was misrepresenting their game, lying to the public about Al’s involvement and misusing the name of Leisure Suit Larry without permission. It also didn’t help that sites like VentureBeat completely misreported what was actually going on by making comments and conjecture that Al Lowe was as mad as Trowe and that he was an active part of this potential lawsuit. This made a ton of people very angry when they felt the good name of Al Lowe was besmirched, and the comments page for the Kickstarter was flooded with trolling commentary from well-meaning but over-emotional gamers. Wisecrack shot back that they had permission from Al himself and clarified Al’s role with the game, which stretched back to 2006, and so the flames continued to fan

The truth was, Al Lowe wasn’t upset, he gave his permission to Wisecrack Games to use his name and mention his involvement. It’s just that Wisecrack overemphasized Lowe’s role to the point of miscommunication. Finally Al Lowe, being caught in the epicenter of all this drama, had to issue a statement about how he gave permission to Wisecrack to use his name and relationship to the game, and that he is in no way currently involved with it, but also that he has no plans to take legal action against Wisecrack. However, the damage has been done. Wisecrack is almost assured not to get the full funding for Sam Suede, Paul Trowe’s public display of insanity has disappointed a significant number of backers of the LSL Kickstarter to the point where they are publicly commenting about not only their displeasure with Trowe personally, but also with pessimism as to the quality of the Lounge Lizards remake, along with how the six hundred thousand plus dollars that the campaign raised will be used. All in all, this has become a lose-lose scenario for two potentially awesome point and click adventure games, and really highlights one of the big problems with the current state of gaming journalism today: making posts and statements without fact-checking or talking to sources. However, that’s a topic for another time in another column.

So what have we learned? All of this could have been avoided if everyone thought before they wrote. If Wisecrack Games has thought before they wrote, perhaps their original Kickstarter page would have been more clear as to the history of the game and Al’s involvement. If Paul Trowe had thought before he wrote, he could have emailed or called Al and asked him about his involvement. Hell, he could have contacted Wisecrack directly and said, “Dude, these statements come off as misleading to me. Could you edit them for clarity?” instead of making a public display of anger via social media. If various gaming “news sites” had thought before they wrote, they could have emailed Al, Paul, and Wisecrack directly and put the pieces together before writing their erroneous news pieces, thus creating more drama and headaches for everyone remotely involved with either game. If Al had thought to speak up right away when the controversy first aired, perhaps Trowe wouldn’t have gone as ballistic and perhaps Wisecrack’s Kickstarter could have been saved all this drama. Instead, we now have the reputation of two small companies tarnished, Al Lowe caught in the middle between them both and a lot of confused and angry gamers whose trust in a few companies and gaming journalism have been further eroded. Awesome job everyone. Give yourselves a hand. Now, let’s hopefully never have to speak of this again.


III. Ten Games You Might Want To Back

Every week I like to showcase ten games that you, the Diehard GameFAN reader, might be interested in throwing your hard earned money at. Five are tabletop games (RPGs, board games, etc) and the other five are video games. I won’t be repeating any of these from week to week, although some of these might be projects I back down the road, or I might highlight a project I’ve already backed in this section to keep giving it some attention. Now then, let’s see what I found interesting this week.

Traveller 5th Edition. We cover a lot of Traveller games here at Diehard GameFAN, mainly because staffer Robert Packer is such a huge fan of the system. It’s not really my thing (I’m not into Sci-Fi), but since we cover the system so much I wanted to make all of you aware that T5 is becoming a reality. What’s interesting is that Traveller 5th Edition is going to be one giant ass hardcover book instead of a lot of small books and PDFs. I was a bit shocked that supporters will have to pledge $100 to get a copy of the book, but then I remembered that companies like White Wolf not only charged that for Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition, but also charged a whopping $60 for the underwhelming V20 Companion. With that in mind, $100 for a 600 page hardcover version of Traveller isn’t that bad a deal at all. Hell, they were past the 50% mark less than twenty-four hours after it went live and it reached its goal when I awoke Saturday morning, so not only will people be getting a copy of Traveller that you can easily murder someone with, but there will probably be some very nice stretch goals included by the time July 1st (the end date for the campaign) rolls around.

Deadlands Noir. Okay, here’s the thing. I don’t know anyone that plays Savage Worlds personally. I know people that own it and have dabbled in it, but no one that has ever run a campaign. I just recently picked up Savage Worlds Deluxe and the Horror Companion myself. That said, HOLY HELL DOES DEADLANDS NOIR LOOK AMAZING. I think I’d start a campaign JUST to play this thing. Even though I’ll probably get a reviewer’s copy of the PDF come November, the stretch goal rewards and hardcover copy of this has me drooling. For only $20, you get a copy of the game and a novel. Everything on up nets you more and more cool stuff. Then there are the aforementioned stretch rewards. EVERY backer gets an audio drama, digital copy of the soundtrack, a PDF of character sheets, full colour figure flats, double sided poster maps, AND a full length adventure for play. Hell just ONE DOLLAR gets you all those. Everyone at $50 gets a physical copy of the soundtrack added to their goodies. Everyone at $75 gets a pretty set of frosted dice. Everyone at $125 gets a hardboard DM’s screen. Everyone at $150 gets five miniatures for play. Hell, there’s even an optional companion (the component of which are determined by the money raised) for those that want even more stuff. This is a pretty awesome deal for a pretty awesome setting.

Tahiti. Our own Matt Faul should be back from Origins by the time this article goes live and he’ll have had firsthand experience playing this game there. Until his piece on Minion Games goes live, you’ll have to make do with this Kickstarter and the videos therein. This looks like a cute, easy to learn, family friendly game. All the little wooden pieces and tiles mean it wouldn’t last very long in our bunny filled household, but it looks quite charming, and it’s yours for a pledge of only $35, or even as low as $1 if you want to do the print and play version. The big reason to back this Kickstarter, however, is the $90 pledge. Here you get Tahiti and FOUR OTHER GAMES that Minion has put out. Five games for $90? That’s eighteen bucks a game! That’s a pretty sweet deal, and if you play a lot of board games, this is probably the campaign for you.

Cityographer. At first, because this is a computer program, one might think this should be in with the video games to back for this week. Actually, Cityographer is tabletop through and through. This is because it’s a program designed to create towns, villages, hamlets and full scale cities. You can meticulously craft your own, or have the program randomly generate one. You can use the maps as reference materials or print them out and use them with miniatures. I actually still have a similar program that came with my Core Rules 2.0 2nd Edition AD&D disc that I use when I need something like this, but for the rest of you, this is a more up to date and FAR cheaper way of making maps. I’m really impressed by the screenshots and updates so far, and if you’re the type of person that likes to run your own adventures and wants to really define your locales, Cityographer should help you do just that.

Tammany Hall. I’ll be honest. I’m not really a fan of games that highlight the dark side of capitalism and/or American politics and reward you for engaging in illicit behavior. Tammany Hall is just such a game, but it’s such an exceptionally well done one that I can easily overlook my distaste. It’s a neat mix of Euro-game style play with the more rules light and fast pace style of American games. The original is pretty hard to find (only 500 copies were made) and I’ve yet to hear a single negative thing about theme from anyone who has played it. Pandasaurus Games has successfully brought about a re-release of the game via Kickstarter and it appears that this print run will be at least triple the original. Even better, this new version of Tammany Hall is going to come with little wooden boss and street gang figures in addition to several other extras, thanks to the campaign meeting a few stretch goals along the way. If you’re interested in a game that rewards you for corruption and backstabbing, Tammany Hall is yours for the price of only fifty-five bucks.

Alright. Tabletop games are done for this week. Now let’s look at video games.

Tex Murphy: Project Fedora. With well over $100,000 to go and less than two weeks to get it, the latest Tex Murphy game has a bit of an uphill battle. Luckily for Big Finish Games, they have amassed nearly four thousand extremely devout backers trying to spread the word however and wherever they can. I’ll admit, the goal of $450K is a bit high, especially compared to other point and click goals (Pinkerton Road had a goal of only 300K, POS only wanted 25K for Cognition and Double Fine Games was only trying for $400K with their massive hit). As such, Project Fedora seems a bit high goal wise, but never underestimate the passion of FMV fans… or the amount of people that want some sort of resolution to Overseer. I’ve been on the fence with this one for a while, and truth be told, I’ll probably back it before the end of the campaign if it needs the push. I know point and click adventure games are huge with our readers, so if you still have some money left after all the ones I’ve pushed on you for the past few months, Tex Murphy is so close to his goal, and yet so far away. If you can spare fifteen dollars, Big Finish will be that much closer to their goal, and you’ll get a new game out of the deal.

Lily Looking Through. Speaking of point and click adventure games, here’s another one for you. Although it’s not a big name franchise looking to capitalize on the Kickstarter craze, it is a first time game by Geeta Games. It also has a much lower campaign goal of only $18,000. For only ten bucks, you’re helping fund a brand new IP, a brand new gaming company and giving the world a very cute looking point and click adventure game. You can even download a demo for the game right from the Kickstarter page for Mac, PC and even Linux systems! That’s pretty sweet. This game looks adorable and like something any adventure game fan will enjoy, regardless of their age. The world looks great, the animation is fluid and this is definitely a game that deserves a shot at finding an audience.

The Curse of Shadow House. This is one game I really want to see make it. Hell, I was the first backer on Mr. Shofe’s project. What can I say? I want the game, the journal and the necklace. I think my wife would get a kick out of all three. It reminds me a lot of cross between Myst and The 7th Guest and I think Shadow House is going to be a sleeper hit. You can see screenshots, video footage and even listen to a track from the game’s score. All are excellent. The Curse of Shadow House only needs eight grand to get funded and they are halfway there. Out of all the projects, this is the one I want to see funded most, as it reminds me of the horror games I played and fell in love with as a child. Fund this thing already!

The Pinball Arcade: The Twilight Zone. I mentioned in last week’s column that I had backed this. I love The Pinball Arcade and I love The Twilight Zone table, so to have it forever in video game format is too awesome for words. It appears we’re getting the table, as it hit funding Friday night. The Pinball Arcade is one of my favorite releases of 2012 and I’m happy to have it on my PS3, my Vita and my Kindle Fire. So, since it’s funded, you’re probably wondering why I put it here. Well, two big reasons. FINALLY Farsight was able to convince Microsoft to let them have Xbox Live codes for backers. Microsoft is notorious for holding out on codes for publishers and developers, but Farsight managed to do the improbable, and so, now every system that The Pinball Arcade supports can get a code of Twilight Zone by backing this Kickstarter. The other is the new stretch goal of $110,000. What do you get if you hit that? A copy of Star Trek: The Next Generation. As I said earlier, I’m not a fan of sci-fi, but this is one awesome game of pinball. For a mere ten bucks, you’ll get both tables for one system. The sweet spot, however, is the $100 mark, as you get a copy of both tables for every system The Pinball Arcade is out for. As I have it for three systems, it would cost me sixty dollars to buy them both for all three. At the $100 mark, I not only get them for all systems, but two special pinballs for use in all tables Farsight puts out, some wallpaper, entry into an exclusive pinball tournament and operator menu access. That’s pretty sweet. Obviously, not too many people can afford the $100 level, but ten bucks for two of the best pinball games ever made – now in digital form? How could you not want to back that?

Haunts: The Manse Macabre. This is a really odd Kickstarter, mainly because while the deal is so good, the people behind it have a massive uphill battle to get funding for it. With a month left, Mob Rules Games still needs to get fifty percent of its funding, yet it has nearly 700 backers. For a game that only needs $25,000, one would think they’d be there already, right? Well, not when you’re giving away the game for five bucks a copy, you’re not! At that pricing structure, they’d need another 2,400 pledges to back the game at five dollars to make their goal. The irony is that if they had charged between ten and twenty bucks for the game, like most video game Kickstarters, they might be there by now. The fact that MRG is practically giving away this atmospheric black and white horror game for only five dollars is not only insane, it’s all the more reason to back them. The game looks like an Edmund Gorey painting come to life, and if it even lives up to a tenth of its potential, it’s going to be one hell of a game.

So there you go, another week, another ten auctions that you may want to back. Remember to view a Kickstarter campaign as a preorder. If the campaign doesn’t reach its goal, you don’t pay anything and if it does reach the goal, you’ll get the items from your pledge down the line.


IV. Closing

That’s it for this time. Join us next week to see if I’ve backed anything new and for ten more interesting Kickstarter campaigns. See you then!



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Alex Lucard

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  • Steve_Ince

    Thanks for a level-headed summary of the Sam Suede issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexanderlucard Alexander Lucard

    Thanks. I’m a fan of Al’s game, your games (Captain Morgane is my favorite of the So Blonde titles so far) and everyone else involved. I just can’t believe so much drama erupted over something that could have been rectified/clarified by a civil five minute phone call.

  • Steve_Ince

    I agree. One of the things I like best about developing adventures is the general sense of solid community I get from so many gamers and developers alike. This “storm” is so contrary to that feeling it really took me by surprise.

    Thanks for the kind words about Morgane – not everyone gets what I was trying to do with this one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexanderlucard Alexander Lucard

    Oh I agree. The adventure game community is general so civil, friendly and ready to engage in mature discourse. This little affair felt like I was over at a fighting game community forum watching a thread called “SNK>Capcom!”

  • MetalDog

    Tex Murphy is well worth backing. Future noir with a sense of humour, good writing, good puzzles and an excellent hint system if you’re more into story than solving.
    Give Tex some love and he’ll love you back hard =D

  • MichaelH

    Tex Murphy, Lilly Looking Through and especially The Curse of Shadow House are all worth backing.

    But The Two Guys From Andromeda’s SpaceVenture could have used a mention, too. They are in their final week and it will be a close call for them. Would be a shame if the creator’s of SpaceQuest were the only old-school adventure legends not reaching their goal.

    Regarding Sam Suede: That was a pretty good article. But I think it is worth mentioning that Paul Trowe and Al Lowe were together in Tel Aviv (working on LSL) when the insanity started. So an email or call from Paul to Al wasn’t necessary. I’m fairly certain they did talk. Also, I don’t think Sam Suede is a Point & Click adventure. The gameplay footage looks more like an action-adventure.

    I don’t know what Wisecrack Games were thinking. They were either willfully misleading their potential backers or incredibly naive. Whatever it was, they sabotaged their own project. And they seem to be totally paralyzed now. There was one update clarifying Al’s involvement with the game and a complete overhaul of the project description and then total silence for days. If they want to have at least chance of getting the game funded, they need to do something. Ideally something with Steve Ince, who gained a lot of respect for his admirable behavior, front and center of the campaign.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexanderlucard Alexander Lucard

    Mike – I’m not really a Sci-FI person. I was pretty neutral of Space Quest and so Space Venture hasn’t really interested me. I agree there’s a good chance it (and Tex Murphy) won’t make their funding goals.

    Sam Suede is definitely a P&C adventure game from the people I talked to. It’s similar to the stuff like the So Blonde and The Next Big Thing footage/animation style.

    I mean a call from Paul to Wisecrack or someone from Wisecrack calling either of them. Not Paul to Al. Although Paul could have easily walked over to Al since they were probably in the same hotel and say, “Dude, what’s up?” It’s just a massive mess on all sides that could have easily been prevented.

    I don’t think Wisecrack has a chance in hell of getting the game funded via Kickstarter, but WizardBox has picked it up so I’m sure it will see the light of day at some point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexanderlucard Alexander Lucard

    Here’s hoping it gets the full funding it needs!

  • MichaelH

    Ah, good to know that it will be P&C. The gameplay footage and the Beyond Good and Evil references led me to believe otherwise.

    Regarding the email, I was referring to this part of your article: “If Paul Trowe had thought before he wrote, he could have emailed or called Al and asked him about his involvement.”

    And I don’t think Tex Murphy is in any danger of not reaching its goal. They are missing less than 85k with 10 days to go. It’s almost impossible not to make it. There is an awful lot of worrying going on in their comments section, though. The only thing that could prove problematic is the very high pledge average. That could mean that the existing backers don’t have much room to up their pledges. I certainly intend to raise my pledge during the final push. By then I will know how much money I need to throw to the Two Guys and how much is left for Tex.

  • Frogacuda

    Sam Suede is not a point-and-click adventure game. It’s more of a 3D action-adventure like Zelda or Beyond Good and Evil.

    Tex Murphy is likewise not a point and click game, although it is an adventure. It’s a fully 3D first-person game, with modern 3D graphics, which is why the budget is quite a bit higher than the goal of those other projects. In fact, Big Finish is putting in $300,000 of their own money as well, for a minimum budget of $750,000.

  • Frogacuda

    And it’s Big Finish, not Big Finnish. There are no Scandinavians involved.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexanderlucard Alexander Lucard

    Frogacuda –

    All I’ve heard from the people involved with SS is that it’s a point and click adventure. If it’s something akin to a LoZ or BG&E game, they need to make that abundantly clear, because that’s not what they are telling people.

    Also, I don’t refer to Project Fedora as a P&C anywhere, so I don’t know where you are getting that from. However considering all the other Tex Murphy have been first person point and click games, if this one deviates from that gameplay, there will be a lot of pissed off backers. Remember being a FP game doesn’t preclude it from still being a point and click title. Games like Microids’ Dracula series are a fine example of games that are P&C adventure games with a first person viewpoint.

    550K from crowd funding and 300K of BFGs own money IS an incredible amount for a game in this genre these days. If you look at games like Relics: Dark Hours, Casebook, Hysteria Project, Raincliff and other FMV games released in the past few years with a fraction of that budget, TM:PF is asking for a LOT more money than its contemporaries. Of course all those games have been very short and not especially good. :-) I’m imagining that with the asking price for the TM crowdfunding, that the eventual project will be more akin to something like Darkstar in terms of production values and name actors.

  • Kieflermba

    Lily looking through looks awesome. Thanks for making that one visible. Backed.

  • Peter Nielsen

    Truly great projects, am supporting the “Haunts: The Manse Macabre” campaign, I probably wouldn’t have found this game gem project if not for this article. Now I’m excitingly hoping that it will reach it’s goal.
    Anyway an update on the “Tex Murphy: Project Fedora”, which I’m also supporting, just reached $423,153. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexanderlucard Alexander Lucard

    Petere – great to hear. Haunts looks awesome but they are giving the game away at only five bucks, so it’s going to be a tough goal to meet The funny thing is that if they had charged only ten dollars per copy, they’d be there by now.

    I’m impressed with how much Tex Murphy has soard in the past 48 hours. It was looking iffy on Tuesday and now it’s a shore thing. It’s just too bad I have all the Three Cards to and old Tex games or I’d be higher than the $15 level myself.

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