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Brathwaite and Hall kill off  Old-School  Kickstarter
Brathwaite and Hall kill off Old-School Kickstarter
October 22, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

October 22, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

Industry veterans Brenda Brathwaite and Tom Hall have halted their Kickstarter campaign for an "old school RPG" after admitting that their pitch for the project wasn't strong enough.

The two Loot Drop designers managed to reach nearly a quarter of their $1 million minimum pledge goal in two weeks from more than 7,500 backers, thanks to plenty of press attention and their history working on games modeled after classic RPGs, like Brathwaite's Wizardry 8 and Hall's Anachronox.

But the campaign also received a lot of criticitism for providing very few details on the proposed PC game initially. Though Hall and Brathwaite updated the Kickstarter page to provide more information on Shaker: An Old-School RPG, they eventually decided the pitch wasn't strong enough to get the traction they needed.

"Sure, it may have made [the pledge goal]. We could have fought our way to a possibly successful end. In reading your feedback and talking it over internally, however, we decided that it made more sense to kill it and come back with something stronger," the pair explained in a statement shared with backers.

Speaking with Gamasutra about their proposed collaboration weeks ago, Brathwaite and Hall were excited by the opportunity to crowdfund a title that would have been difficult to find a publisher for, and by the chance to return to their roots after working primarily on social games at Loot Drop.

But the designers now say that canceling the project is for the best: "In game design, mercy killing is the law. ... Not every idea flies. We've learned a lot from this effort, and we'll keep making games."

Several other veteran developers have found success funding classically-inspired RPG projects on Kickstarter in the past, such as Obsidian Entertainment, which raised nearly $4 million for Project Eternity, more than any other game project on the platform.

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Patrick Reding
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Technically they haven't actually cancelled it yet, they merely announced its cancellation. New pledges are still being accepted. Not that there's much point in doing so, of course.

Eric Caoili
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Patrick, while the campaign is technically still live, they have been trying unsuccessfully to close it for several days:

"We are and have been attempting to cancel it since we made the decision yesterday. However, there's a problem with Kickstarter. We've contacted them.

'We apologize, but it looks like something's gone wrong. We've been notified about this issue, and we're currently looking into it. Thanks for your patience, and sorry for the inconvenience. Please try again later.'"

Patrick Reding
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Thank you for the clarification, Eric. I was unaware there was a problem.

Maria Jayne
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Hopefully these guys can get some more focus and present more of a game contributors can get behind. It did feel a bit like they wanted money to come up with an idea, rather than to make that idea real.

David Marcum
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I disagree, and I think you are being a bit dismissive. They may have missed by treating it like a traditional pitch to investors (which was a mistake). But if you look at the updates it is clear that they had thought a great deal about the game prior to the campaign launch.

Maria Jayne
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Exactly David....they put the information in the was an afterthought to them asking for funding. Otherwise, why not put the information or at least some of it in the original pitch?

The updates were a response to the criticism. I didn't check the updates out, I saw the original pitch video and it didn't convince me they knew what they wanted to do. Especially the two games part.

Scott Woodbury
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I was a bit disappointed, I'm note sure if meeting the goal was enough or if they were trying to draw the eye of PE types. IMO KS should be used for the CF and not a hype machine to get noticed. If you don't plan on all your required funding from KS and you don't already have PE lined up then you shouldn't even start it.

I really think this had a good chance of reaching it's goal, I'm sorry they didn't just go for it. In the same respect I would rather a KS project be canceled rather than taking funds and never finishing the project to it's desired intent.

Cameron Christian
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They should figure that out before they start asking for money.

Eric McVinney
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Surprise, surprise. When you pitch an idea or GDD, it's best to have at least a few more concept artworks and/or a prototype to play with or show off. They had none of those and still asked for money. Also, you can't rely on your name alone to get anything done...

Felix Adam
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Yet that's what Obsidian did?

Ron Dippold
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And Double Fine. There are a very few people where name + genre alone is enough.

Realistically, though, you can't assume you're one of them any more than you can assume you'll hit the lottery. Have your ducks lined up at launch!

Edit: I'd have liked to see if 'Chris Roberts doing another space game' would have been enough, but he had a lot to show off already.

Eric McVinney
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Nice one, guys, but you kinda miss the point. Double Fine has had a lot more publicity and back up support in recent years, more so that Brathwaite and Hall (in general). Same goes for Obsidian... But what exactly did those two have in common? Wait for it... Oh, why they had something to show to prove that it would be a wise investment to put money towards the creation of their game! Holy crap! LOGIC!

Felix Adam
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Sorry, but the one big complaint I had about the Obsidian pitch is that they had nothing to show, only a name and a background... They did show screenshot and concepts of PREVIOUS games. All I'm saying is Obsidian's pitch didn't show a thing to tell me what I would be getting in the long run. A simple "give us money and we'll make a game, we promise!".

I didn't see Brathwaite/Hall's pitch though so I can't really compare the two.

Eric McVinney
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Brathwaite and Hall had nothing to show for their game, as well. Not one single thing except for the cover art and a character concept piece. As for Obsidian, I thought they had more... Oh wells :/

Bernardo Del Castillo
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Brathwaite and Hall's pitch was just as weak as the ones previously mentioned.
DoubleFine's "Classic point and click game". And Obsidian's "we dont want a publisher RPG" both had absolutely nothing defined.

Eric is right about one thing, with this AA kickstarters it comes down to Publicity, not the pitch. Smaller kickstarter project live and die on their ability to portray a well thought, realistic, completable idea. But in cases like this the completability is assumed.

It so happens that both Tim Schaefer and Obsidian (and others like Brian Fargo) have been cult figures for the game industry constantly. They have a certain ubicuity in the medium. Which supplies them with hordes of faithful followers. And while this is perfectly justifiable since they have made great games in the past, it is slightly unfair competition when comparing to designers that made fantastic games such as Wizardry, Jagged alliance or Anachronox, that never recieved such a wide cult following.

Its a shame, but Kickstarter is a Fame-centric space too.
And whats new? famous people sell moar stuff.

Holy crap, the world is not fair.

Maurício Gomes
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The difference is:

Obisidian pitched a RPG like Baldur's Gate and Planescape... What they are most famous for? Oh wait, Baldur's Gate and Planescape!

So they were just promising to sell more of the same.

Double Fine people were famous for doing Full Throttle... So what they were selling? More of what they are famous for.

Chris Roberts famous for doing space sim, wants to sell space sim...

And then Hall, famous for FPS wants to sell RPG... In that case it is obvious he need a better pitch.

I had to choose between Obsidian or Loot Drop. I went with Obsidian, because I knew exactly what to expect from Obsidian, I knew exactly what game I would get without they explaining it, because I know they will do what they already did in the past but with prettier graphics.

Loot Drop otherwise have people mixed from several backgrounds, and that are famous for FPS (specially Hall and Romero), so they need to explain what they want to do.

Ron Dippold
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By the time they cancelled it they had quite the pitch and a lot of info that wasn't there when they launched. Concept art, the concept itself (a sci-fi/medieval mix, which is not unique - think Star Ocean, but at least isn't orcselvesdwarves), and, uh, a name for the game.

I also agree that if they'd had all that there when they launched they could have hit it - I'd back what I see there now. Just too generic out of the gate. So come back and try again. And don't overlap with another big RPG kickstarter.

Matthew Mouras
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Well I was sold based on what I saw and made a contribution a week before they sent the kill message.

Frankly I was getting a little annoyed at all the "update" emails I was receiving from this project. There was at least one a day.

Bernardo Del Castillo
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Hmm to be honest I think the only reason why it didn't succeed instantly as double fine/ Obsidian kickstarters is because they are not famous enough.
Double fine and Obsidian projects had next to no information on what the game actually was, but they still succeeded tremendously.

I chipped in solely for Anachronox, it has to be one of the funnyest most underappreciated games in history. So I'm a bit disappointed, but I can't say I didn't expect this to happen.

Lets face it, big kickstarters like this are about popularity.. Tim Schaefer could have filmed himself for 2 minutes saying "beavers, beavers, beavers, give me money now" and would have made a million.

Eric McVinney
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You sure that those two companies had nothing to show for? :| Not that I'm on the extreme of disagreeing, but it would be rather unprofessional of them to do so...

Bernardo Del Castillo
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No I'm not saying they had nothing to show, they all do, but you have to agree that none of their projects were on the very informative side of things.
So it came down to media presence, and less people know of Brathwaite and Hall's previous developments.

Michael DeFazio
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i am an irrational consumer, and i did not contribute to this kickstarter. i cannot tell you why other people did not contribute to this otherwise interesting project, but here is my honest opinion (train of thought as I watched the Kickstarter pitch and look over the page):

1) who is Loot Drop?
2) old school RPGs you say...
3) and possibly 2, (2 What?)
4) Wizardry, Ultima,... OK you have my attention
5) What do you mean by old school RPG ? (as far as gameplay) are we talking turn based, real time? first person? 3rd person? isometric? (not just "What's in the box"...much as I loved the cloth map from Ultima 3)
6) Ok you've said Old School Rpg 6 times now, what do you mean?
7) Brenda you seem nice and I like the games you've worked on
8) Tom you seem nice and I like the games you've worked on
9) So you want to make 2 RPGs, why? can't I just get Brenda's RPG and Tom's RPG as separate kickstarter projects?...
10) I'm not sure why we are talking "Stretch goals" at this point I still don't know what you mean by Old School RPG and I'm not sure what you are delivering (Kart before horse). What happens if you DON'T hit your stretch goals... you gonna "half ass it in"?
11) Epic Story, Character Creation, etc. sounds good, permadeath OK I'm interested
12) Rewards...well aren't you pitching a video game, doesn't that come first? At this point I'm not sure about anything of the game world, perspective, skill systems, Lets talk more details, and less Red Humvee in my driveway...
13) The ONLY way an old school rpg get published?... come on.

Geez at this point I'm interested, but perhaps a little leary, "Loot Drop" aren't they a company who does Mobile and F2P games?"... Lemme scroll down and browse the details... Hey, wait a minute, above they had a picture of a wizard and a warrior fighting a Demon/Dragon, wuzzup with this avatar commando lookin guy wearing cargo pants?. I like some of the things they are saying, but the whole project seems like a nebulous design of ideas that you think people might want rather than a cohesive world that I might be interested in... Tell me about the world you are going to create and why it is interesting and how i am going to interact with it, and why i'd want to be part of it, otherwise, i'll pass.

Kevin Fishburne
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That's a good summary of what -should- be done when marketing your game. Nail on the head.

Saul Gonzalez
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I think this would have been successful if they had included the content from the updates into the original video. Reading the story and background for the game actually made me excited, but only a minority got to read as far.

Regarding the comparisons to DFA, I think it's not only a matter of star-power, but that Tim's video was really funny and full of charisma. The Loot Drop video had its moments, but Brenda and Tom aren't natural entertainers and the video didn't really call me to root for them.

Jeremy Reaban
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I think the real problem is that Wizardry is just too old. These games, people just don't seem to grasp what it is. A game like Baldur's Gate is "old school", even though it's not even 15 years old (and amusingly enough, newer than the Elder Scrolls series)

People apparently never had heard of Might & Magic the CRPG, which clearly the 2 games was trying to copy, how you had Dark Side of Xeen and Clouds of Xeen that were separate games, but used the same engine and would connect

And of course, the fantasy-SF crossover. Today they are completely separate genres, but in the old days, they were just one genre

Kevin Fishburne
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Interesting point. Every time the current generation comes of age the next-eldest generation of games is experienced only in emulation, if even that. By the moment fewer people remember mall arcades, pool hall machines or early IBM-PC (or Apple ][) CRPGs. The Bard's Tale, Ultima, Might & Magic, Wizardry, Adventure Construction Set...

I remember reading a computer magazine advertisement for Might & Magic (the first one). The blurb was that it was more adult and advanced; a serious RPG. The store-bought game came with a full-color paper map and nice instruction booklet with a convenient spell chart in green and red. Wizardry I didn't play, although I remember the cool subtitle made me want to: "Heart of the Maelstrom".

The term "old school" is relative to just what games you're familiar with. The recent high-profile Kickstarter campaigns are just the oil slick on the exterior of what's being pursued as the new "gravy train" of irresponsible fund raising. I'll take your money, but Buyer Beware.

Duncan X
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It's respectable that they're being transparent about the real reasons instead of complaining about something out of their control such as the economy or whatever. I hope they come back with a stronger pitch.

david canela
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Some key differences to double fine adventure and project eternity and some other points:

What's in a name:
Making the effort to actually think of a name for your project/game, even a lame working title, conveys the impression you have a specific idea. Double fine got away without doing that, because they were among the first kickstarter projects (in public awareness) and the first to play the nostalgia card. After that card has been played over and over (not that I mind the resurection of genres), calling a ks "an old-school rpg" makes a really lazy first impression.

2-for-1 vs. THE passion project:
This is closely tied to bothering to give your game a name; as a potential backer it strengthens my confidence in your commitment to the project if you tell me this is the one project you always wanted to make. Offering two for one really devaluates it, you can sell socks that way, but not make me care about a project. If it's the engine and game rules that it's about, that's fine (E.g. That sword-fighting KS), just make it clear.

It's true that double fine and obsidian might not have offered much more specific information, but they managed to convey a feeling of having a very specific idea.

The video:
Videos are more interesting than text. They're what most people are going to take in first (after the title and maybe a headline). My personal impression was that it was a sub-par video, focusing on the wrong things (in the box? When many people might just want a digital download, e.g. people overseas who don't want to pay for shipping?). You don't have to be super funny, just play to your strengths. A bedroom developer might actually benefit from low video production values, it's endearing, but famous developers have to offer something different, make use of their connections so somebody writes a more compelling video script or something.

Updates are great. They're also too late. While they seem to have improved their initial pitch quite a bit in their updates, I believe that additional info mostly only reached people who were already commited, anyway, the backers. Unfortunately, probably a large majority of people with some interest in the project checked it out at the beginning, and if they came to the page later, their main attention focus was on the video and the starting project info.

Social proof:
Don't overdo it, or it might actually become a turn off. Also, while it strengthens confidence in the project, hoping for it to be the main drive for people to become interested in your project seems like a long shot. That was unfortunately the impression that I got when I saw the KS and had to scroll through lot's of blurbs. I also wonder if they just might have a different kind of fame, more amongst developers and less among current gamers, compared to tim schaefer and chris avellone.

I think cancelling was the right choice and hope they can come back, strengthened by the knowledge and experience they've gained, I'm sure it could be a very succesful KS campaign.

Roger Tober
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There are two articles on Gamasutra at present about Kickstarter projects going sour. Maybe it's kind of a passing fad and people are getting tapped out.