A Kick (?) for Kickstarters: Apocalypse Now

In the past couple of days, I’ve posted about good examples of recent crowdfunding campaigns. With those, you’d think nearly every organization looking to create a gaming project using crowdfunding would know how to present a welcoming campaign, and do their best to get their project funded. And that’s mostly true! But like any situation, there are always exceptions, and Apocalypse Now is the latest example.

Yes, that Apocalypse Now. A group of veteran developers at a new establishment called “Erebus LLC,” collaborating with a number of other organizations, wants to create a video game adaptation of the popular 1979 film. Developers from popular well-known titles are involved, including various Obsidian Entertainment titles, Gears of War, Battlefield, and Fallout: New Vegas. The most notable name among the team is Francis Ford Coppola, who directed the original film, but you have to read the fine print to find out he’s not that involved with the project. Coppola felt the movie would make a good game adaptation, but it’s the Coppola Family and consultant group American Zoetrope that are primarily advising them.

The very idea of wanting to make an Apocalypse Now game is enough to raise an eyebrow. The movie is well known for being an excellent depiction of the physical and psychological horrors that occurred during the Vietnam War, and how the transgressions affected the soldiers and populace involved. It’s tough to envision a video game about such a movie, despite the number of titles (mostly indie projects) over the last few years which have depicted psychological and tragic stories well. There’s nothing stopping this team from making a similar attempt, and they might have the talent to pull it off. But this project has enough warning signs to make plenty of onlookers hesitant to pledge.

The plan is to make a first-person game inspired by other western RPGs, including the Fallout games. It would miss the point of Apocalypse Now if this was a shooter, which they openly acknowledge. At the very least, their ideas are sound, but that’s not to say they can realize them.

For one, the pitch on the Kickstarter page is written poorly, and far too laden with random capitalizations and sentence structure issues. It tends to be a hallmark of amateurishly-assembled crowdfunding campaigns that don’t result in anything good, despite some game industry writers being on board for this project. One of them should have seriously considered proofreading it before it went live, and that they didn’t suggests a lack of care. Cringeworthily saying the game will be “like Fallout: New Vegas on acid in the middle of the Vietnam War” doesn’t help matters, either. Fortunately, the writing in the updates they’ve provided thus far is an improvement.

But the biggest issue is the lack of gameplay footage, or even concept artwork detailing how the game will work, even though that’s partly understandable. Certain development teams who approach crowdfunding to kick-start their projects often don’t have the money and resources to assemble something to present. But backers need good assurance that their money will be used for a worthwhile cause, especially these days. There’s still plenty of distrust in crowdfunding due to projects that either didn’t turn out as well as promised, or those that were outright scams. This one may not qualify as either of those, but it already has a lot in common with those that do.

Some prototype screenshots were shared in an update, which confirmed that it will run on Unreal Engine 4. Unfortunately, they only show the backdrops, but at least they appear to be slightly faithful recreations of the Vietnam War’s environments.

Of course, none of this is convincing many to pledge. Asking $900,000 for a project without gameplay footage is a tall order, and is usually enough for them to steer clear and save their money. It also doesn’t help when the base digital game costs $35, a lot to give up at once. The name recognition and light involvement of Coppola convinced some to pledge, but given how it’s only made $144,846 as of this writing with 24 days left in the campaign, it’s not on a good pace. Following the campaign, the developers planned on raising the remaining $5 million (!!) through their own website, but they’ll be lucky to hit the initial goal here.

Assuming they’re capable, I recommend they assemble an intriguing prototype and try again after this doesn’t reach the goal, unless it’s suddenly discovered by a number of ardent Apocalypse Now fans. They also don’t plan on delivering the game until October 2020, so there’s a long wait involved. We’ll see what they do from here.

If they can’t do it, though, feel free to check out Spec Ops: The Line and Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne to play games that partially use Apocalypse Now as inspiration.

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