I feel like I’ve been here before recently. And I still feel uneasy about it.
The Oliver twins are important figures in the history of UK games development and I sincerely wish them the best in their new Dizzy Returns Kickstarter.
They’re after a total of £350k for a reboot of their popular ‘80s platforming IP. In its first few hours it has raised £1,072 from 37 backers.
So what’s that horrible taste lingering in my mouth?
I’ll tell you what it is. Firstly, some might argue that Dizzy was great in its heyday. Personally, I disagree with them. I like it for its iconic status but, if I’m being honest. I never enjoyed it and never thought it wasn’t particularly good. I found it frustrating.
Many disagree, which is fine.
But far more importantly, what is it exactly that one would expect from a modern Dizzy reboot? Really, what is it you’re funding? Because for £350k I can’t say I realistically have any hope that the end result will be anything of particular note.
Look at the list of game features – classic Dizzy gameplay, a brand new epic story, choice of play style, non-linear puzzles, new mechanics, a beautiful world, meet friends new and old, exploration, dynamic help system, retro mode. The truth is there’s not a single thing there I haven’t read dozen times or more this year in the million or so press releases issued by those evil, big-money publishers we all seem to be rising against.
So if I pledge, what am I putting my financial faith in? The ability of the Oliver twins and Blitz to produce an iOS platformer that far exceeds what I’ve already seen on iOS? Well I’ll tell you this – there are shit loads of brilliant platformers on iOS. And most of them are free or 69p.
Don’t get me wrong – I think the fundamental idea behind Kickstarter is brilliant. Bypassing risk-averse publishers and letting consumers choose to directly fund projects that specifically appeal to them? Bravo.
But I’ve not once read a Kickstarter pitch that has moved me to pledge. Not once have I seen anything that genuinely I think will be notably better than what the ‘mainstream’ industry produces today and not once have I read anything that’s made me put my money down before the final product is real and the developers have proved that they can deliver on their promises.
If I were to pledge on Kickstarter it would be for new ideas. Creative thinking and “outside of the box” design that genuinely wouldn’t be funded or facilitated by the mainstream industry.
A reboot of Dizzy doesn’t tick that box.
I love David Braben but he’s supposedly been working on a new Elite on and off for years. Why would I feel moved to pledge to it when A) David himself has failed to get the project off the ground for a significant period and B) in the years that have passed since Elite the formula has been expanded upon considerably. The X series, Space Rangers, Freelancer, EVE Online, Galaxy on Fire and Darkstar One to name but a few.
What David Braben did with a BBC Micro and 22k of memory in the ‘80s was truly phenomenal and he’ll always have my respect for that. Do I, hand on heart, think that he’s the man to make a next-gen re-imagining of the series on a budget of £1.25m?
Broken Sword, Shadowrun, Carmageddon – it’s all the same. This isn’t what Kickstarter was designed for, surely?
All of which makes my concluding statement a little hollow, I realise – but I wish all of them well. Braben, the Olivers, all of them. Even Molyneux’s at it now. Great people who have played an important part in the history of gaming. But the thing is I’d like them to play a big part in its future, too, and I’m not convinced that what I’m seeing now will be it.