I had a draft post pre-written earlier this year lamenting the decline of the SRPG game genre. In brief, I used to import these types of games all the time from America for my PS2. I assumed that this would continue for the PS3 and really enjoyed Valkyria Chronicles, but after that the genre has pretty much disappeared for the mainstream consoles. Even on PSN and Xbox live, there has been very little released (Vandal Hearts excepted). Modern games seemed to be limited more and more to mass market genres such as the 3D first person shooter.
However in the past month a surprising new development in game development has kind of invalidated my draft post. Veteran game designers have started to use Kickstarter to seek funding for niche game genres with some amazing results. The first big success on Kickstarter was Tim Schafer, Ron Gilbert and Double Fine raising over three million to make a new adventure game. I love the Monkey Island games so I backed this - it was actually the first thing I’d ever supported on Kickstarter. I have no idea if the game will be any good but given the caliber of the people involved, I think it’s in safe hands. To be honest, the videos they’ve made for the project have been worth the cash already.
Following on from that Brian Fargo launched a Wasteland 2 project. This is an attempt to revive the party based CRPGs. This was another genre that I really enjoyed and which stagnated recently. Today’s publishers aren’t willing to put up the cash for these games. I’ve started to contribute to more of these gaming projects on Kickstarter (including a space based game - FTL and a Norse SRPG - The Banner Saga). Hopefully this will show that there is a sizable market for these games and they will be more likely to be funded in future. It’s really interesting how much more invested in the games you feel once you back them on Kickstarter. For example, I’m really enjoying reading the updates from the game developers. If I was an indie developer I would definitely go down this route. The community that the Kickstarter project creates for your game might be as important as the funding itself.
Another other thing this has made me realize is how much reputation and track record matters. I had never heard of Wasteland 2 before backing it. However once Brian Fargo reeled off the list of games that he’d worked on, i.e. Fallout, Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale (all of which still sit proudly on my shelf), I had no hesitation in subscribing. I would much rather see people like him develop games instead of leaving it in the hands of companies like Zynga. Trying to learn from this, I think that having a portfolio would be really valuable for a software engineer. Imagine the kind of CV/resume you’d have if you developed one app, website or side project per year and hosted these online. Given the frameworks and services that are out there e.g. Rails, Parse.com, Heroku for the web, iOS and Android for mobile, I think it’s never been easier to create quality small scale projects. To be honest I wish I had started something like that years ago. If I was coming out of college now, one of the first things I’d do would be to register my name as a url and start hosting projects there. It’s something small but would really pay off down the line.