I give you money, I influence your game

I was just reading the Wasteland 2 kickstarter page and I realized there’s a few themes in there that I see popping up over and over again for game projects, and it just seems a little off to me.

With your collective vision, the game that was the godfather to the popular Fallout series will become a reality. Not only will you fund the development, but you’ll have a voice in how the game goes together. We will have forums up for design discussion and soliciting your ideas for what will make Wasteland 2 rock.

This is your chance to influence the kind of game you want to see. With fan funding, you drive the direction of game design and development.

There is something about this that just feels wrong. I don’t want to be the game designer - I’m paying you to be the game designer! Don’t ask the fans what they want - is that really different from publishers trying to appeal to their audience?? Instead make the game so good with elements I didn’t even know I wanted!

Of course another way to read this is: “We don’t have a clue how we’re going to differentiate our game, please help us. (If you give us the ideas, you can’t turn around and then say the game sucks!)”

And then there’s the rewards. $1k gets you a character in a game, $5k a statue, $10k a shrine. Again, in terms of the game design, what if it turns out that having X amount of shrines affects the design in ways that are not just decorative?

I don’t like this bleeding of the funding process into the game itself. I don’t want to be walking around this game world, belief suspended, and see a character called “Robert Goldsteinowitz”, and be like “there goes another $1k funder”. I don’t want that at all.

I agree. I’ve backed a few games lately (FTL, Double Fine, Wasteland 2, NEO Scavanger). I want the designers of those games to ignore the bleating of the crowds and pursue their own uncompromising vision of the game. I’m hoping that the talk of community involvement is just lip service, and that the designer is ‘inspired’ by forum posts that just happen to match what they were coding anyway.

Tony

For the first part, I don’t think there’s much to worry about. I’m extrapolating and assuming most backers will be like me and I have no interest in suggesting things I’d like to see. I have faith in a developer’s vision. As for any suggestions they do receive, I am sure they will only seriously consider those that somewhat fit their original intention.

For the second, I think any characters based on backers will be minor NPCs. We don’t know if this is purely naming or character design, and either way, I’m sure any competent developer will make them fit into the game world as seamlessly as possible.

“forums for soliciting your ideas” does not mean “we don’t have a clue and we want you to tell us what to do.” It means they will have forums, in which they will solicit your ideas. It means that they recognize they are going to be publicly-funded, and will possibly pay more attention to the suggestions of that public than if they were beholden to a publisher. He says “you’ll have a voice” and that that voice will be heard. That is a good thing. If you think the designers are competent enough to separate the good suggestions from the chaff–and I do–then you have nothing to worry about.

I don’t think there will be a glut of people donating $1000+, so I think you can stop worrying about that.

I think a key example of what they’re talking about is the feedback they’ve received about voice acting for characters in the game. They have a lot of feedback indicating that the fans would generally prefer there be no voiceovers in the game if that means the time and funds can be redirected into more content for the game. Larger, more broad strokes that determine what the game becomes what the fans want, rather than being forced to adhere to the modern day AAA standard for games where voiceovers would be practically mandatory.

From RPS:

Brian Fargo: …we’ve been asking people what they like at certain tiers, and things we can do, and we talked about audio, and people said ‘don’t do any audio because we know you’re going to have to cut down on the gameplay if you start having to blow your budget’…. they’re telling us not to waste our money with recording actors’ voices… We’re going to have some audio, but I get their point that they don’t want to have us be hamstrung by having every encounter be audio so therefore they can’t get all those little quirky things like we were just talking about.