Crowdfunding of video games is a volatile market. In particular, with Kickstarter, there’s never a guarantee that a game that reaches its funding goal will ever get made. In the last few years, we’ve seen a few high profile cases where backers received very little even after their funds were taken and used. Author Neil Stephenson’s sword fighting game Clang was put down in September of last year with only a few refunds provided. Another, the Yogscast-based Yogventures!, stirred controversy when it was cancelled after over half a million dollars of backers’ money was spent.
Nonetheless, as a number of games have proved, Kickstarter campaigns can lead to developer success, not to mention them becoming critically acclaimed. Games like Divinity: Original Sin and Wasteland 2 were fully-funded, produced, and well-received by both audiences and critics.
As the funding model continues to evolve into what many would consider mainstream, we take a look at a few campaigns that have showcased assets that make the projects seem very promising. Here are what our top five Kickstarted PC games that we fully expect to see available for purchase in 2015 and beyond.
1. Star Citizen
Star Citizen, the ambitious massively-multiplayer online space simulator in development from Cloud Imperium Games, was named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most funded crowdfunding project anywhere”. Having raised more than $$69-million, Star Citizen is head and shoulders above any other crowdfunding project in history. While only a small percentage of that amount (2.1 million) was raised through Kickstarter -with the rest coming from donations made through developer Cloud Imperium’s own donation pages- Kickstarter proved pivotal in the initial funding round of the game.
With so much money raised, there’s clearly something in Star Citizen that has captured the imaginations and wallets of gamers around the world.
A large part of this appeal undoubtedly comes from Chris Roberts’ impressive résumé in space simulators. His prior projects include such popular titles as the Wing Commander series, Starlancer and Freelancer games. While younger gamers may not be familiar with these, or the ill-advised Wing Commander movie, these games were widely popular in the early days of PC gaming, and many would consider these the staples of the genre. Indeed, the genre has largely disappeared over the past decade.
Fortunately, Star Citizen looks poised to reignite the space-sim in a big way through its unique mix of combat, exploration and trade in a persistent online world. Indeed, the scope of Star Citizen is enormous. Around a hundred star systems will be available for exploration at launch, each with a number of landing zones.
Players will pilot, customize and manage their own spacefaring ships, from single-person craft, all the way up to giant multi-person capital ships. The ability embark on a salvage vessel with a group of friends as you cavort about the stars will undoubtedly kindle a flame in the hearts of Firefly fans. Who wouldn’t want to blast off at lightspeed with your closest buds?
While Cloud Imperium is clearly putting a huge emphasis on the ability to deeply customize each ship and simulating realistic ship physics, the gameplay doesn’t end in the cockpit. Players can also travel on foot across planets, through space stations, and even engage in first-person shooter combat. As a new twist, the first person combat may not include the presence of gravity.
Importantly, to make these instances plausible, a fully-realized player economy will be a cornerstone of the game. Players can then choose a career path and develop their role, further delving into the deep world of the game. Freelancers, pirates, salvagers, bounty hunters, merchants, and pilots will all have a home in the universe–if everything goes as planned. Star Citizen remains in development, although backers gain early access to various “modules” on release. Currently, the player hanger module and various space-flight combat modules have been released and are available for play to those who have contributed.
Currently, a the full release of Star Citizen is planned for 2016
2. Pillars of Eternity
The next game on our list comes from Obsidian Entertainment, a developer with roots in Interplay’s storied Black Isle Studios (Fallout, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale). While Obsidian is best known for creating games within existing franchises, such as Neverwinter Nights 2 and Fallout: New Vegas, the studio has now been tasked with creating an entirely new IP from the ground up. Pillars of Eternity will be an isometric role-playing game (RPG), that recalls the days of Baldur’s Gate and the early Fallout titles.
Staying true to the games in its genes, Pillars of Eternity is pitted in the style of table-top adventures, but with a brand new rule set and world. Having raised almost $4-million through Kickstarter, it’s clear that gamers still hunger for the days of deep storytelling and dialogue trees not limited by the expense of voice-over work.
Players can expect complex character customization options, including the ability to recruit up to five other characters to join the party as they adventure in an epic quest of world-shaking proportions. Naturally, dungeon-diving, party combat, and deep NPC interaction will be pitted at the game’s core.
There’s little doubt Pillars of Eternity will see the light of day, as it already has a release date set for March 26, 2015. While it’s now too late to be a backer, contributors can expect a number of additional rewards, including an RPG themed cookbook.
If you loved the heroic fantasy adventures of Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale, Pillars of Eternity may the game for you.
3. Torment: Tides of Numenera
Another game that harkens back to the isometric games of yore is the forthcoming Torment: Tides of Numenera from developer inXile Entertainment. The spiritual successor to Black Isle’s universally acclaimed RPG Planescape: Torment, Tides of Numenera surpassed Pillars of Eternity as the most funded video game project on Kickstarter with a total of almost 4.2 million dollars.
Torment: Tides of Numenera will be a story-driven game in the style of the original Planescape: Torment, with less of a focus on combat, which will often avoidable altogether. Deep conversation options and complex characters will instead underpin the gameplay. The setting uses former Dungeons & Dragons designer Monte Cook’s Numenera tabletop setting and rules, with some modification.
The Numenera setting brings players into Earth’s distant future, after at least eight great star-spanning civilizations have risen and fallen. The world is in a near-medieval state, but every aspect of the world has been touched by technology so advanced that it cannot be understood, and often appears magical.
Players will navigate this world as a partially pre-defined character, and can recruit a party of colourful NPC’s to assist in answering the core question of the game: what does one life matter? Players will also be able to join one of the many factions in the world, and can influence it through the game’s “Legacy” system, which is a more complex expansion on the simple morality systems found in other RPGs.
It’s perhaps not surprising that two isometric RPGs (Pillars of Eternity and Torment), both spiritual successors to well-remembered games from the defunct Interplay and Black Isle Studios, are currently being produced as Kickstarter projects. Both inXile Entertainment and Obsidian Entertainment are staffed by many developers who previously worked at Black Isle or Interplay during the days of games such as Baldur’s Gate, Fallout, and Planescape: Torment. inXile’s own Wasteland series is largely a spiritual successor to Fallout, after the rights to Fallout were bought by Bethesda Softworks (who went on to develop Fallout 3).
With large publishers having turned their backs on the isometric RPG (and even Baldur’s Gate developer BioWare having moved away from it in Dragon Age: Inquisition), Kickstarter has proved to be a viable alternative for Obsidian and inXile as enough gamers apparently still want these experiences to part with their coin.
The two studios remain close, with reports indicating that they are sharing resources. The co-founder of Obsidian, Chris Avellone, is even working on inXile’s Torment. It’s hard for that not to make anyone whose played a Black Isle game not feel just a little warm and fuzzy.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is expected to be released late this year.
4. Mighty No. 9
Perhaps you’ve heard of Mega Man? If so, you probably know that the Blue-Bomber has featured in countless games from Japanese development studio, Capcom. Since coming into existence as a 2D side-scroller, the Mega Man franchise has included everything from 3D story-driven adventures to fighting games. In fact, it’s been years since Mega Man has appeared in anything resembling the original action games.
Keiji Inafune, one of Mega Man’s original creators, wants to bring that gameplay back to the masses. After leaving Capcom in 2010, Inafune created developer Comcept Inc., which began a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 for a spiritual successor to Mega Man, called Mighty No. 9.
The game reached its $900,000 target within two days, and has since reached more than $3.8-million in contributions. Originally to be developed for Windows, stretch goals have brought the game to ten different platforms, including most consoles, OS X and Linux.
Mighty No. 9 will bring back the core side-scrolling gameplay of the early Mega Man games. Players will control the character Beck, a powerful battle robot, as he shoots his way through enemies in his quest to defeat other rogue virus-infected robots. Like Mega Man, Beck will acquire special powers from bosses that can assist him in his adventures. Further, Beck will be able to transform parts of his body to give him new skills and abilities.
According to the game’s Kickstarter page, these abilities may include the ability to change his hands into magnets, allowing him to climb walls or disable enemy shields, or to become a tank, and able to cross otherwise impossible terrain. Fans of Mega Man, and anyone who loves side-scrolling action, will definitely want to check out Mighty No. 9 when it’s released sometime later this year.
Perhaps the dark horse on our list, Hiveswap is an adventure game based on the popular interactive web-comic Homestuck. The huge fan support for the web-comic pushed the Kickstarter campaign for Hiveswap to reach its $700,000 goal in just over a day, before finally reaching a total of almost $2.5-million.
The game will only loosely relate to the complex and dimension-spanning story of the Homestuck web-comic, instead telling the story of Joey, a human girl who gets swapped with a “troll” boy from the planet Alternia. The game will be released in episodes, telling the story of Joey as she tries to get home. A second planned game (with a different name) will follow the troll boy’s adventures on Earth.
Very little is known about the game at present, but players can expect classic adventure game storytelling with some new twists. Fans of Homestuck and anyone looking for an off-beat adventure game with frequent pop-culture references will want to check out Hiveswap.
Hiveswap was originally planned for 2014, but gamers can now expect it sometime in 2015.