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Games to Get Excited About: April 2018

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April is a short month for video game releases, but there are a couple of good titles in the mix, and a couple that I think people are going to be pretty excited about.  We also have some of the Nintendo Labo kits coming out, which aren’t games, but I’m sure there are some young gamers out there looking forward to these.

When the original Pillars of Eternity released, it was a great day for fans of classic RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale.  Those games are remembered fondly for their style, scope, and scale.  They set the foundation for the RPGs we have today.  Newer RPGs may be prettier, and have more bells and whistles, but people still consider those old school games to be the best.  Pillars of Eternity was a true callback to those games that created so much of what’s used in RPGs today.

Why I’m Excited

I haven’t played the original game yet, there’s just too many games and not enough time.  It is on my list to get around to and I’m glad to know that this type of RPG is still viable in the market.  These are the types of games I devoured in the mid 90s and I still love them.  This release just means I have more to look forward to when my schedule and budget allow.

I’m also excited because the developer, Obsidian, is basically made up of the people who gave us those classic RPGs we love.  They came from Interplay, which was part of Black Isle.  They helped bring us Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, Knight of the Old Republic II and quite a few other great RPGs.  They know their stuff, so it’s no wonder the original Pillars turned out to be so well received.  They have also chosen the crowd funding path with this one, which will allow them the creative freedom to deliver the game they want.

Pillars of Eternity II is set to release for PC on the 3rd, and consoles later in the year.  The developer notes that they are addressing some criticism of the first game and making some changes that should make fans happy.  This will be set in a new part of the game’s world so that players will see new landscapes and people.  They also say that the player’s actions in the first game will have an impact on this one, so that makes me think there will be some sort of saved game transfer like we saw with those older games.

In the story for Deadfire, the player will chase down Eothas, the God that you faced down in the first one.  Eothas escaped and the player travels to Deadfire Archipelago to find out what’s going on.  It will feature the usual conversation complexity and companion interaction we’ve come to expect.  This one, however, also adds a seafaring element.  A customizable ship/base from which to launch your adventure and use as a headquarters.  Sounds like a lot of fun.

Other Notable Releases for April

Extinction – Coming early in the month is a game from Iron Galaxy that will pit players, as a human warrior defending humanity from an invasion of 150ft tall monsters called “Ogres”.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life – The next installment of this action adventure series drops on the 17th for PS4.  The release will include other games in the package like Virtual Fighter 5 and Puyo Puyo.

God of War – Unofficially God of War 4; this game will take our hero to the frigid north to fight monsters of Norse legend along with his son Atreus.  It will hit PS4 on the 20th.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II – The second installment of this JRPG title comes out at the end of the month on PS4.  It was released for PC back in February.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Crowdfunding

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Crowdfunding

Disclosure:  I bought into the base crowdfunding for Star Citizen, and a couple of other non-gaming projects that are not mentioned in this piece.

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Crowdfunding has become a wildly popular means for artists, designers, writers and film makers to get their projects off the ground in lieu of traditional investment funding.  With the rise in the number of funding projects, there’s also a rise in scams, failed projects, and teams that don’t come through with their promises.  As every year passes the list of failed ideas grows longer and it’s making gamers more and more skeptical of funding new independent projects.

Mighty No. 9,  though it has been released, has been a long chain of concerns and disappointments for the last year or more.  Community management issues, communication problems and finally a delayed and troublesome release have left a bad taste in people’s mouths.  Some backers were able to get refunds before release, but many stuck it out in hopes they would get the spiritual successor to Mega Man, but by all reports Mighty No. 9 isn’t so mighty.  Often the best way for an indie game to get made now is with crowdfunding, but when backers get burned by a bad project it will make them think twice before backing another, which could turn out to be a great game.

Then we have projects that have been funded, have been updating, but have not released yet.  Star Citizen is a huge undertaking, that has grown larger over the years as it has managed to raise more money than any crowdfunded game yet.  Over the course of the funding the developer has expanded the size and scope of the game, but there doesn’t appear to be a release date in sight.  They have updated backers regularly with videos, alpha releases of small portions of the game, and email newsletters.  The delay has left people wondering if they’ll ever see the game, and some have even gotten a refund on their investment.

Worse, in my opinion, are the funded ideas that never deliver, even a bad quality product, and don’t update the backers at all.  A Feminist Deck was funded completely in June of 2015, and, according to comments on the page, went radio silent in February of this year.  By all appearances, the organizer has taken the money and run, which may or may not be true, but in the case of asking people to trust you with their money, appearances are all you have.

That’s essentially what crowdfunding is.  Asking people for money for a product that isn’t yet created, and asking them to trust you to deliver that product as promised.  The bigger issue here is faceless project organizers and anonymous artists are the bulk of the people asking for money, and the more trust that’s broken with consumers, the less they’ll trust the next one.  A few people burned by a couple of failed games tell their friends, who also become more skeptical.  A creator might have a great idea and be able to deliver, but they might not be able to find enough backers to trust them to get it off the ground.  Messes like Double Fine’s Broken Age debacle just make it harder for the next team with a great idea.

Despite the large number of incomplete game projects there have been some great successes with games getting funded.  Pillars of Eternity, for example, got great reviews from both players and critics.  In its time, it was the highest funded Kickstarter game on the site.  Along with Pillars, we’ve seen a couple of Shadowrun games, Superhot, and Darkest Dungeon, just to name a few of the more popular ones.  We’ve gotten some great titles, unique concepts, and quality product out of crowdfunding, and it is a great way for independent developers to get their projects out there, but it’s certainly become a minefield of risk and disappointment.