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Video game veterans Brenda Brathwaite and Tom Hall have launched a crowdfunding campaign today to raise $1 million to make one or two “old-school RPGs,” or fantasy role-playing games that bring back the days of yore for nostalgic fantasy fans.
The Kickstarter project is a throwback to the kind of classic hardcore fantasy RPGs that major publishers don’t fund anymore, said Brathwaite and Hall in an exclusive interview with GamesBeat. And when these guys mean old school, they’re really talking old school. Brathwaite worked on the Wizardry series of RPGs in the 1980s and then moved on to work on Dungeons & Dragons. Hall, meanwhile, worked on titles such as Commander Keen and Anachronox. They want to make an RPG that is worthy of 30 years of fandom.
The Kickstarter includes stretch goals that could make the project more ambitious (see graphic below). If they hit $1.9 million, then the pair will make two old school RPGs, one fully designed by Hall and the other fully designed by Brathwaite. They will tap their company, San Mateo, Calif.-based Loot Drop, to start making the game if the project is funding. They are targeting to begin preproduction in December and wrap up the game a year later.
The $1 million target is a big one for Kickstarter, where fans donate money in exchange for rewards such as a copy of the game (in which case the donation is a prepayment) or a free T-shirt. But seasoned game developers have such large followings that they can raise a lot more money. Tim Schafer and Double Fine Productions paved the road for crowdfunded games earlier this year by raising $3.3 million on Kickstarter. Brian Fargo and InXile raised nearly $3 million for a Kickstarter for Wasteland 2. ShadowRun Returns raised $1.8 million, and Leisure Suit Larry raised more than $600,000.
“This democratizes the process of making games,” Hall said. “We’ve been talking about making a game together that fans really like.”
Brathwaite said that fans have repeatedly asked her and Hall to remake classic games.
“It’s something we wanted to do, and the timing is good now,” she said, since Loot Drop is finishing work on some projects now.
Brathwaite said that RPGs are complex designs and they take longer to make. On top of that, making games is more expensive than it used to be. Upon completion, Brathwaite said the game will be released on the Mac and PC platforms. If they raise more money than expected, they will consider doing a mobile version.
The general features help define what an “old-school RPG” really is. In the game, players will be able to create a group of up to four characters from multiple races and professions. The skill levels of the characters will balance their strengths and weaknesses. Players can progress through levels and hone characters to their liking. They will be able to hire non-player characters and extend characters over time. The world will come with its own map and be richly detailed, with dangerous creatures. it will have treasures to loot from castles, caverns and dungeons. It will have quests, multiple endings, and turn-based combat. It will have a pen-and-paper companion game (for those who donate $60) and super hardcore mode.
One thing that the fans can help with is coming up with a better name for the game, which has a placeholder name now. Brathwaite said the name is growing on her, but it certainly doesn’t sound as grandiose as most RPGs.
John Romero, co-creator of Doom, is also a co-founder at Loot Drop, which was started to make social and mobile games in 2010. But Romero is currently working on another project.
Brathwaite said there is no way the company could afford to make the game any way other than via crowdfunding. About 8 percent of the budget goes to Kickstarter and Amazon for transaction fees. That’s a lot less than publishers typically take.
“It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time,” Brathwaite said.