Post Mortem: Scrooge McDuck’s Jungle Adventure

I blame Wasteland 2. I blame Shadowrun Returns. In fact, I just blame all game developers from the 80’s.

Unlike some people, the above two projects knew their audience: people who played their games over 20 years ago, and now have the means to fund their nostalgia trip. David Crane wanted some of that sweet internet nostalgia money for himself, so he started David Crane’s Jungle Adventure.

Let’s be real here for a minute: Crane’s biggest mistake with this Kickstarter was not calling it Pitfall! 3. GET WITH THE I.P. BRANDING, DAVID! Of course, I’m partly joking about that biggest mistake. The real biggest mistake was asking for $900,000. I know that’s what Wasteland 2 asked for, but that only makes your goal seem all the more arbitrary. After all, what are the chances that your game will require the exact same funding as Wasteland 2? It’s so obvious that you saw someone else make a boat load of money by resurrecting their old I.P. and you figured why the fuck not do the same thing.

So, since there’s such a perfect comparison in Wasteland 2, let’s just contrast the projects.

There’s currently no video for David Crane’s project, but I did find this. I can only guess they took the video down when it failed, though I can’t imagine why. Go ahead and watch that and compare it to Wasteland 2. David’s video looks (and especially sounds) like something you watched in high school in the 90’s; from the cheesy techno music, to the overlaying images of computer wizardy (aka source code). And most importantly, gives you no fucking clue what the hell they’re planning on doing with the game. I guess the hope was someone going “Gee, David, I loved your games over 20 years ago, and I can’t wait to play your generic platforming adventure game set in a jungle!” And the attempts at humor.. well I’ve already made the 90’s high school video comparison.. it’s like that.

Wasteland 2 also uses humor (though in their case, mostly successfully), but does it with a purpose: they tell you why they’re using Kickstarter. They’ve tried the publisher route, and it wasn’t working. They actually tell you why they need to be crowd-funded to make the game that they want to make – and more importantly, the game that everyone else wants them to make. Here’s a quote from their Kickstarter page:

“Not a month goes by when an email doesn’t come in asking if we’ve ever considered doing a sequel.”

They actually have good reason to believe that people want this game. They didn’t just pull an idea out of their ass so they could take your money before starting to create it. And they do a passable job of explaining what they want to do with the game. It’s a direct sequel, and they want to stick close to the source material. You can have a pretty good idea of what to expect from that if you’ve ever played the original game, or bother to look it up. David Crane just wants you to guess that his game will be like Pitfall! and leaves it at that – it’s a side-scrolling platformer.. adventure.. in a jungle. The description you do get is full of the same vague nonsense we’ve seen before:

“Our stalwart explorer enters the scene, a traditional side-scrolling view.”

Okay, that’s a start…

“It’s immediately familiar and accessible. But it will only take a few steps into the Jungle to see we’re in unexplored territory. The environment is a lush, vibrant 3D space, not simply a backdrop. The camera moves with us and helps us see what we need to see, from whatever angle necessary, to keep the experience smooth and action-packed, varied in perspective but always simple and true to its platform game roots.”

“Whatever angle necessary”? You just said it was side-scrolling. So it’s side-scrolling, but with a camera that changes angles; it’s familiar yet in unexplored territory; it’s varied, but sticks to its roots. It’s probably also green and yet blue. Whatever contradiction you have to make to please everybody, just run with it, David. Ass.

Crane also did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit, and decided to give a bunch of non-answers and be a dick to my favourite indie game YouTuber. Poor form, David. He even internet-shouts

“EVERY CONSOLE GAME I HAVE EVER MADE HAS SOLD MORE THAN 50,000 COPIES.”

for no apparent reason. Crane has issues, and apparently needs nearly a million dollars to solve them.

And therein lies my problem with AAA developers using Kickstarter: they’re used to bloated budgets, and assume that lowering that budget means lowering the quality of the result. But as Josh (IndieStatik) points out:

“I know devs who have made brilliant games on nights and weekends while working day jobs. Its 2012 and the technology and resources are more available than ever before to make incredible games for MUCH less than $900k.”

Gee, that sounds familiar.

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3 thoughts on “Post Mortem: Scrooge McDuck’s Jungle Adventure

  1. That is hilarious that they took down the video for this. They must’ve realized how terrible it is.

    It is interesting which game projects fail and which ones don’t. This feels like a very similar pitch to Wings – not enough work was done on the game yet. Project Eternity, however, had the benefit of a better genre to start with and more leg work already done.

    And damn, that reddit post is also funny.

    Here’s something I’ve been pondering – how much do you think Doublefine could raise if they did their campaign again? As far as I can remember they didn’t really take advantage of stretch goals or anything. I bet they could push $4 million if not more if they fine-tuned their approach.

    Great post as usual.

    • davidgaames says:

      Maybe I’m projecting here, but I don’t think Doublefine would even do as well as they did if they attempted a Kickstarter now. They started a wave of bigger, more expensive projects, but I think that, in turn, raised the bar for what developers need for a successful Kickstarter campaign. The Kickstarter crowd used to be about donating to a worthy cause, but now the masses are here, and they’re not here for charity – they’re here for pre-orders. And you only pre-order a game that you’re sure is going to be great. Gone are the days of “we’ll get started on this project if it gets funded”. Now you need concept art, stills of your 3D models, storyline details, and maybe even “pre-alpha” gameplay footage to get a good chunk of change out of Kickstarter.

      Doublefine went solely on faith; everyone simply had to believe that they could make a great game. And everyone was so caught up in the possibilities that they didn’t bother to see the reality – there wasn’t the first clue what this game was going to be. And I think people want to see that reality now. Even Obsidian has given way more information than Doublefine did. And I may be REALLY projecting with this, but I’m not sure stretch goals actually do anything. If you think about it, most of the time they don’t even make sense. But that aside, people are going to pledge for the reward they want – I don’t see them raising that pledge in the hopes that a stretch goal will be achieved, because if it’s not, then you added money did nothing.

      But I don’t know, maybe that’s just me.

      • I think part of the conceit of the Doublefine project was that they *didn’t* know what would happen or what the game was about, which would make the documentary aspect of the project all the more interesting. I pledged at the $30 and wish now that I’d pledged higher – the documentary alone has been for me a tremendous value at $30, no matter how the game turns out to be.

        Interesting point about stretch goals. Maybe they don’t matter as much as introducing new rewards/reward levels? Have you followed the Homestuck project at all? It’s pretty impressive what they’ve done…if you check out the Kicktraq, the funding really jumps up during the typical plateau in the middle, and I’m pretty sure that each jump corresponds to the announcements of new “PAKs” of Homestuck reward schwag. I just wonder if Doublefine (or even Obsidian for that matter) could have done things like that to pump up contributions. Although more reward schwag means more costs toward fulfillment.

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