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.
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!
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 was 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.