A Kick for Kickstarters: Zodiarcs Overload

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It’s been a while since my last “A Kick for Kickstarters” entry, but for good reason. I’ve explained in previous entries that crowdfunding campaigns tend to die down during the fall holiday season, as gaming types who pledge to them tend to be more occupied with other matters. Lab Zero Games was the only brave soul willing to do that with Indivisible through IndieGoGo, though in fairness, it was originally intended to end before Thanksgiving until being granted an extension. Thankfully it did well, and broke the service’s record in the process.

But you’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t think part of the reason why they slowed down was due to the sheer number of projects that went off the rails following their campaigns. Though video game crowdfunding rebounded last year in terms of the total amount of money made (nearly double 2014’s amount), they mainly came from high profile campaigns like Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Yooka-Laylee, and Shenmue 3, campaigns from trustworthy organizations. It’s been tough for smaller campaigns for a while, especially with unfortunate news regarding post-Kickstarter projects like Midora and recently Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians. It’s a pity this perception started, since many projects funded through crowdfunding have released and reviewed well.

Upon searching for recently launched gaming projects, I stumbled upon a small batch of ongoing campaigns with low chance of failure. Though I can’t cover them all, I can highlight the most appealing examples.

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Take Children of Zodiarcs, for instance, a single-player strategy RPG inspired by greats like Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, and Shining Force — which makes this especially topical considering the Unsung Story debacle. At least these guys have something to show.

It’s is coming from Cardboard Utopia, a small outfit consisting of veterans from various AAA studios. The game will use 3D models, and is promised to have a story with deep characters and drama. The fact that one of their highlighted characters is dark-skinned is a good start for making their tale unique; in fact, the overall art style is great for an indie effort.

Upon seeing the game, you might wonder how they plan on making this for a paltry $34,422 ($50,000 CAD — the developers are in Montreal) initial goal. They actually received a good portion of their funding from the Canadian government, but are looking for more money to make a better product and add more features. Though they’re also part of the “Square Enix Collective,” they’re not receiving any money from Square Enix themselves. Instead, they’re simply providing them exposure. Given that it’s mostly inspired by some of their best games, it’s the least they could do.

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While this campaign reached its initial goal a while ago, the stretch goals make it worth posting about here, though many of those have also been reached. In addition to a PS4 version, we’ll also receive features like non-story battles on the world map and new environments thanks to them. It shouldn’t take long to reach the Hard Mode goal, but I’m dying to know who this special contributor could be. If it’s someone incredibly well-known, it would be best if they revealed that person now, for the last-minute pledging rush. Given how they haven’t already, I’ll assume that’s not the case. Since this will be funded, hopefully the remainder of the development process goes smoothly, even if it doesn’t make their August 2016 release timeframe.

Overload’s campaign launched a couple of days ago, one for a tunnel shooter which will allow for six degrees of freedom. It’s coming from developers previously responsible for Descent at Parallax Software, an early 3D first-person tunnel shooter released in the mid-90s, whose biggest feature was how it allowed for — hey! — six degrees of freedom. This was a big deal in the 90s.

Many developers from that team have reformed as Revival Productions, and want to make a spiritual successor with modern technology. Concepts and gifs have been posted on the campaign’s page, and its pledge video contains gameplay footage, to prove how they’re actually working on something. And given the type of game it is, they’re understandably considering VR support. Anyone who missed games like this could help make this project a reality.

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Of course, the big question is whether that audience is big enough. In all the discussions I’ve read around the internet, I’ve never seen many begging for a Descent spiritual successor. This campaign also isn’t being widely covered or discussed. While there’s potential for it being good, they may not attract enough fans to raise the $300,000 they need, despite the campaign’s ostensible legitimacy. Thus far, it’s made around $49,000, so it’s not a hopeless cause. Given how campaigns slow down after a few days, they could have a tough road ahead for them, but hopefully they make it. If they’re able to finish the project, they plan on releasing it in March 2017.

Whenever I post a new A Kick for Kickstarters entry these days, I hope more than usual that these projects won’t be too large a money sink for the developers involved, lest the backers could be out of money they could have used elsewhere. Just keep in mind that crowdfunding campaigns are essentially donations you’re giving to a developer, to help them finish something without the need for corporate overhead. You’ll occasionally get some duds, but remember, there are less of them than many cynics would have you believe.

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