Time is money
With the glut of Kickstarter projects vying for your attention, it can be awfully difficult to keep track of them all. Sure, update emails are great--but when you've backed multiple games, your eyes will start to glaze over upon seeing the word "Kickstarter" in your inbox. It's even likelier that, in an altruistic frenzy, you'll throw money at dozens of projects before promptly forgetting they even existed two months later. But regardless of how closely you follow the projects you've backed, developers are toiling away at the games that successfully hit funding.
The future of Kickstarter as a viable platform for game funding all rests in the hands of its theoretical first class: the indies that gained notoriety in 2012. Should they succeed, many prosperous projects will hopefully follow; if they fail, the faith currently placed in Kickstarter will falter. But if a Kickstarter mega-success story like Broken Age can run into trouble, what about all the other promising campaigns? With that in mind, we've checked in on the following projects, all of which were successfully funded last year. The question is, how far have they progressed since then?
Double Fine Adventure (Broken Age)
Money pledged: $3,336,371 (834% of original goal)
Date funded: March 13, 2012
Intended release: October 2012
The concept: Tim Schafer is one of the godfathers of adventure games, the auteur behind legendary point-and-clicks like Full Throttle and Day of the Tentacle. Problem is, the point-and-click genre isn't exactly the most profitable endeavor in today's gaming market. So why not shoot for the moon with crowdfunding, removing the restrictive nature of publishers to unleash Double Fine's infinite creativity?
What's the latest: In reaction to greatly surpassing its pledge goal, Double Fine developed the idea into Broken Age, a grand tale of a girl and a boy leading parallel lives across time and space. Unfortunately, the scope and scale of the project burned through money faster than anticipated. As a result, the project has been split into two parts, with the first half seeking extra revenue via Steam Early Access. Though Double Fine seems to have faltered with the best of intentions, some see it as a huge hit to the developer's (and Kickstarter's) good will.
Money pledged: $1,836,447 (459% of original goal)
Date funded: April 28, 2012
Intended release: January 2013
The concept: Tabletop RPG Shadowrun plunges the player into a Blade Runner-esque cyberpunk world that still uses some traditional fantasy elements, like Orks, dragons, and the existence of magic. The brand has had varying success in the video game world, from stellar highs (the isometric Shadowrun on SNES) to misguided lows (the 2007 FPS). Shadowrun Returns promised to bring the franchise back to its roots, as a tactical turn-based RPG filled with lore and futuristic shoot-outs aplenty.
What's the latest: Developer Harebrained Schemes had to dip into their own pockets to finish the game for a belated July 25th release date, but it looks like the extra time for polish and bug fixing will pay off. Judging from alpha gameplay footage, Shadowrun Returns will offer engaging, XCOM-style combat, with plenty of characters to meet and dialogue trees to navigate in between battles. There's an impressive amount of character customization, and an included level editor will let you concoct your own sci-fi stories. Personally, we're stoked to try out Returns.
Money pledged: $2,933,252 (325% of original goal)
Date funded: April 17, 2012
Intended release: October 2013
The concept: Fallout and Fallout 2 are held in high esteem, widely regarded as some of the best post-apocalyptic RPGs money can buy. DOS game Wasteland predates Fallout by nearly a decade, and laid the groundwork for many of the tropes we now know and love. The creative link between the two franchises is Brian Fargo, creator of Wasteland and founder of Interplay. Wasteland 2 is a throwback to the isometric desert wildernesses of old, with Fargo taking lead for the modernized sequel.
What's the latest: Unlike many games on this list, Wasteland 2 looks like it could actually be finished in time for the projected release window. According to the Kickstarter updates and screenshots, most maps have been fully built out. But looks can be deceiving--the team at Inxile Entertainment told backers that a beta version was months away back in April. In any case, what we have seen of Wasteland 2 is impressive, namely colorful, bombed-out landscapes teeming with giant robot scorpions and dilapidated buildings.
Money pledged: $555,662 (111% of original goal)
Date funded: May 11, 2012
Intended release: June 2013 (iOS), September 2013 (PC)
The concept: Remember when everyone on Twitter was using the "#KEEPHOPEALIVE" hashtag? This game is why. Republique stars Hope, a hooded heroine trapped inside a high-security tower. Playing as the Overseer, you must assist her escape from your remote vantage point, manipulating surveillance cameras and security systems to scout ahead. The developers billed it as stealth survival with tailor-made touch controls.
What's the latest: In their backer's-only update from June, the folks at Camouflaj stated that "Were still committed to delivering the game this year, were just not sure what month itll be." Part of the Kickstarter experience is gaining insight into how studios budget time for concept development versus the polish and iteration of existing features. Work on Republique has shifted from the former to the latter, meaning that a finished product can't be too far off. But it's intriguing to see developers like Camouflaj having to reluctantly reign their new ideas, in the efforts of delivering to their benefactors on time.
Money pledged: $2,485,506 (355% of original goal)
Date funded: October 4, 2012
Intended release: June 2014
The concept: If you don't know what Homestuck or MSPaint Adventures are, you should watch the Kickstarter video. You still won't have any idea what's going on, but we can guarantee you'll be entertained by a barrage of intense imagery. Homestuck is the adventure game interpretation of the choose-your-own-adventure webcomic by the same name, created by Andrew Hussie. It's a story of four teens who bond in an online video game, where their actions have reality-shifting, apocalyptic consequences.
What's the latest: Homestuck has quite the loyal fanbase, judging from the fact that it garnered $2,000,000 in a mere two days. But those ardent fans will have to wait patiently for the game to materialize, with relatively few updates on the development progress as of late (the most recent update was back in January). Hussie's projected release date seems a lot more realistic than most Kickstarters, given the team's small size. But as to Homestuck's content, the developers are taking a just-wait-and-see approach. At this point, only time will tell how Homestuck's doing.
Money pledged: $2,229,344 (247% of original goal)
Date funded: September 14, 2012
Intended release: July 2013
The concept: Most real-time strategy games limit the action to a single continent, or at most, an entire planet. Planetary Annihilation ups to ante to full-on interstellar combat, letting you amass armies and crush your enemies across multiple celestial bodies, all within the same game. This isn't a 4X game, mind you--you'll still build bases and individual units like any RTS. It's the kind of insane scope that hasn't really been done before, made by people who've worked on games like Supreme Commander, Command & Conquer, and Total Annihilation.
What's the latest: We can't think of a better way to show your backers how your project is coming along than actually putting the game in their hands. Uber Entertainment has put the alpha build of Planetary Annihilation into the wild, provided you contributed at least $90 or bought Steam Early Access for the same price. Currently, Uber has pushed PA back to a December 15th retail release--though, like so many of these Kickstarter dates, that estimate is subject to change.
Money pledged: $537,515 (191% of original goal)
Date funded: May 18, 2012
Intended release: August 2013
The concept: Action RPGs are a dime-a-dozen these days, with plenty of great Diablo alternatives (like Path of Exile or Akaneiro) on the market. But when the lead designer of Titan Quest starts work on a new project, it's probably worth your attention. Grim Dawn's distinguishing trait is its Victorian era setting, with otherworldly creatures reminiscent of Lovecraftian horror.
What's the latest: This is one of those projects that was already in development long before the Kickstarter page was created--two years prior, in the case of Grim Dawn. Like Planetary Annihilation, developer Crate Entertainment lets backers experience Grim Dawn's alpha build, providing Steam keys to the early version this past May. So far, it looks like it'll have all the trappings of an addictive action RPG, with multiple classes, rare loot, and plenty of abilities. We're a wee bit skeptical of whether or not it can stand out from the pack when it's finally released, but we'll reserve judgment until then.
The Banner Saga
Money pledged: $723,886 (723% of original goal)
Date funded: April 20, 2012
Intended release: November 2012
The concept: Take the strategic greatness of Final Fantasy Tactics, then replace the anime knights with hand-drawn Vikings done in the style of classic Disney or Don Bluth. That's the Banner Saga in a nutshell. Characters live or die based on your battlefield and conversation choices, and a multiplayer component lets you challenge your buddies. Developer Stoic billed it as Chapter 1 in a grandiose trilogy.
What's the latest: Stoic actually released the multiplayer portion, titled The Banner Saga: Factions, on February 25th, meaning you can try it for free right now. Opening the game to the public in an early, microtransaction-fueled state might've put a dent in The Banner Saga's reputation, as enthusiasm for the finished product seems to have waned somewhat. But, like Grim Dawn, it wouldn't be right to pass judgment before the project is complete, with the single-player content slated to come out sometime this year.
Money pledged: $435,316 (145% of original goal)
Date funded: May 19, 2012
Intended release: March 2013
The concept: Jane Jensen made a name for herself with the Gabriel Knight franchise, a series of point-and-click adventures that blends real-world history with supernatural themes. Though Moebius is its own self-contained story, you can consider it to be Knight's spiritual successor, with Jensen back in the helm as director and lead designer for the first time since Gabriel Knight 3. It follows the exploits of Malachi Rector, a Sherlock Holmes-like supergenius who starts to unravel the cyclical patterns that link the present to the past.
What's the latest: We saw the game firsthand--in fact, you can read our full Moebius preview now--but in short, it seems to be coming along nicely. The metaphysical mystery is chock full of historical details, which you must match up with the suspects and murder victims you encounter in Moebius' exotic locales. Fans of Jensen's previous works will definitely appreciate this episodic adventure.
Money pledged: $3,986,929 (362% of original goal)
Date funded: October 16, 2012
Intended release: April 2014
The concept: Turns out, Obsidian Entertainment holds the record over Double Fine for most money raised for a Kickstarter. You may know Obsidian from its work on Fallout: New Vegas and Dungeon Siege III, but Project Eternity is a return to the roots of PC RPGs. Like Baldur's Gate or Planescape: Torment before it, Eternity is a party-based, isometric quest filled with complex characters, treacherous dungeons, and lush environments.
What's the latest: Given the much more realistic timeframe for Eternity's completion, the project seems to be moving at a pretty good clip. As of June, Obsidian reports that Project Eternity is nearing the "feature complete" phase, meaning that all work from then on moves from conceptual design to actual content creation. Obsidian isn't shy about their progress either, with a plethora of lengthy updates on how their work is going, all available to the public. Not every Kickstarter can boast over 50 backer updates to date.
Money pledged: $2,134,374 (426% of original goal)
Date funded: November 19, 2012
Intended release: November 2014
The concept: Chris Roberts (not to be confused with Supreme Commander creator Chris Taylor) is the mind behind some of the most influential space combat sims in gaming history. The Wing Commander series, Starlancer, Freelancer--Roberts had a hand in all of them. So his fans were stoked when Roberts unveiled Star Citizen, which promised an immersive space pilot experience, as well as vast multiplayer universe and exploration outside of the cockpit.
What's the latest: $2 million is nothing to sneeze at--but it turns out Star Citizen raised a combined total of over $13,000,000 if you include developer Cloud Imperium Games' own crowdfunding, which isn't limited to a month like Kickstarter. All that moolah seems to be put to good use, as CIG has been providing backers and the public with near-daily updates since the project first launched. You can catch up on the absurd number of ship designs, developer chats, and concept you might've missed at the Star Citizen website.
Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded
Money pledged: $655,182 (131% of original goal)
Date funded: May 2, 2012
Intended release: October 2012
The concept: Leisure Suit Larry is something of an adventure game icon, as he pioneered the sub-genre niche of perverted, titillating point-and-clicks. His first escapade in 1987's The Land of the Lounge Lizards was a cult classic, infusing inventory puzzles and dialogue trees with some raunchy humor. Reloaded promised to upgrade the original game with voice acting and updated visuals in the style of Larry's 1996 adventure Love for Sail.
What's the latest: Reloaded ended up releasing on June 27th, 2013, and the results were... underwhelming. As you can see from our full Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded review, all the visual and audio upgrades in the world can't mask the original game's dated gameplay and frustrating puzzle design, and the humor doesn't quite hold up after 26 years. It's a strange case of a Kickstarter fully delivering on its promised premise, with a result that was disappointing to all but the most hardcore Al Lowe devotees.
So, what have we learned?
If you back a game on Kickstarter, don't expect it to arrive on the projected date. In truth, it's not quite fair to hold developers to delivering right on time, given that the release windows are just estimates before the money comes in and the work really begins. And just because a Kickstarter obliterates its original monetary goal doesn't mean it'll be completed any quicker. In fact, extra funds make developers more likely to expand their project far beyond their original limitations, which can add unforeseen complications to the timetable and design process. In other words, don't hold your breath for games you've backed.
That said, all of these companies are committed to delivering a complete, polished, finished product to their supporters. Prospective backers shouldn't be afraid that these are cheap cash-grabs or exploitation of crowdfunding--in almost all instances, these are creative, passionate people doing everything they can to see their idea come to fruition, and the majority are incredibly grateful to their benefactors. Even if they stumble on the way to delivering on their initial promises, it seems like all these studios have the gamers' best interests at heart.
Kickin' it old school
So, any other big name Kickstarter projects (like Barkley 2, above) you've backed that you're currently waiting on? Never heard of some of the aforementioned games, but wish you had jumped onboard with the other backers when you had the chance? Let us know in the comments!