Sorry, but I don’t want to have a dance off with Darth Vader

Update: It’s amazing the difference a day makes, huh? Today, Tim Schafer announced that if he can raise $400.000 through the Kickstarter fundraising programme by March 13 he’ll make a “brand new downloadable point and click graphic adventure for the modern age”.

Well, he’s going to have no problem raising that amount: as of 8.15pm tonight, almost $US270,000 had been raised – after less than one day of making the announcement. That’s crazy.

Why did Schafer decide to go down the Kickstarter route? “Big games cost big money,” he says.”  Even something as “simple” as an Xbox LIVE Arcade title can cost upwards of two or three million dollars.  For disc-based games, it can be over ten times that amount.  To finance the production, promotion, and distribution of these massive undertakings, companies like Double Fine have to rely on external sources like publishers, investment firms, or loans.  And while they fulfill an important role in the process, their involvement also comes with significant strings attached that can pull the game in the wrong directions or even cancel its production altogether.”

“Crowd-sourced fundraising sites like Kickstarter have been an incredible boon to the independent development community.  They democratize the process by allowing consumers to support the games they want to see developed and give the developers the freedom to experiment, take risks, and design without anyone else compromising their vision.”

Schafer has made a number of donation options available, which you can find here, but as an example if you donate $15 you get a free copy of the game when it’s available (estimated in October this year); if you donate $30 you get an HD download of the documentary being made of the project, a digital copy of the soundtrack and a copy of the game; if you pledge $1000 or more you get a mini portrait of yourself drawn by a Double Fine artist plus the other rewards. 

I’m seriously thinking about donating $15 to the project  but it’s amazing seeing thousands of people pledging money to a person they don’t even know: I guess that shows just how much faith people have in Tim Schafer and what he’s doing. Good luck to him and I’m looking forward to the final game. 

In my eyes, Lucasarts used to be a great game developer, back when it made games like Grim Fandango, Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle,  X-wing vs Tie Fighter, Dark Forces  and the Jedi Knight series.

I couldn’t tell you how many hours I lost pretending I was Kyle Katarn in Jedi Knight or Manny Calavera in Grim Fandango, but it was a lot. In fact, I like Grim Fandango so much that I’m replaying it now on my Windows 7 PC – and you know what? The humour is just as witty now as it was then. It was a gaming masterpiece from a gaming genius, Tim Schafer.

Incidentally, talking about Grim Fandango, I read today that Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Perrson has offered, on Twitter to Grim Fandango creator Tim Schafer to fund development of  Psychonauts 2, which would be a sequel to one of the greatest games of all time,  Psychonauts (which I still have for the original Xbox console). Word is that Schafer has been trying to pitch Psychonauts 2 for some time but has had no luck but I think the time is right: he’s been making more casual titles such as Trenched, Stacked, Costume Quest and Once Upon a Monster (for Kinect).  I hope it happens.

Actually, Tim, if you’re reading this, I’d really like you to do a remake of Grim Fandango. Not Grim Fandango 2 as I’m not sure a sequel could capture the magic of the original but a reimagining, like how The Secret of Monkey Island was handled on Xbox Live Arcade. I loved that at the press of a button the modern graphics reverted to how things were in the original game. Of course, Grim Fandango’s graphics were a lot more impressive than Monkey Island’s but still, a remake of Grim Fandango would just be plain awesome. I’d buy if for sure. What do you think, Tim? Is it doable?

OK, back to Lucasarts.

You’ll probably have noticed how I said that Lucasarts used to be a great game developer. It saddens me to say that I don’t think it’s a great developer any more. The company faced its toughest times in 2010 when the company laid off a third of its staff and its creative director on The Force Unleashed unexpectedly quit and personally, I think the company has lost its way (in fact, I think the whole Star Wars series has lost its way, but that’s another story) – and it’s down to games like Kinect Star Wars and its Galactic Dance Off mode.

Yes, you heard that: Galactic Dance Off mode where you’ll be able to (and I’m quoting an official press release here) “battle Darth Vader on the dance floor or bust a move ‘Solo’ style”. I swear I did not make that up.

Galactic Dance Off mode will be  “loaded with Star Wars-themed pop tunes”. I don’t know about you but I couldn’t imagine anything worse. In fact, yes I could:  seeing Darth Vader on-screen pulling some break dancing moves. Sorry but I just don’t think Darth Vader, the man who can choke people using just the power of his mind, would hit a dance floor in a dancing game.

I’ve seen Kinect Star Wars in action and while it looks entertaining it’s not blowing my socks off. In fact, the last trailer I saw for it didn’t show any game play at all. It had some American comedian re-enacting the Darth Vader/Ben Kenobi lightsabre battle in Star Wars. Not having game play footage in a trailer doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm.

For Lucasarts to become a great company again it needs to return to making the types of games that made it great all those years ago. Games like X-wing vs Tie Fighter and the Jedi Knight series. Games like Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. Those are the games that captured the imaginations of gamers the world over.

For Lucasarts to capture the hearts of gamers again it needs to stop making games like Kinect Star Wars and The Force Unleashed and start making quality games again. Games that people want to play.

Perhaps they could hook up with Tim Schafer and start with a remake of Grim Fandango. It’s a start, right?

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