Kickstart This! Escape from Pleasure Planet

This month, Kickstarter faced one of its biggest challenges in the form of Keiji Inafune’s Mighty No. 9, his long-gestating Mega Man clone that raised just shy of $4 million back in 2013. Three years later, the massive amount money hurled at the game seems excessive, as it was poorly received by both critics and players alike. Were backers naive to think that the final game would look and play as gorgeously as the original concept? While companies like Nintendo manage to successfully trade on nostalgia, it seems this homage to Inafune’s beloved character has forgotten to add anything new into the mix, leaving players with a bland, uninspiring journey. The reception was not surprising, but the reaction made me look at Kickstarter with a more critical eye.

I had found a great game called Ikenfell to feature, but it managed to achieve its funding days before I posted, and has now achieved double its initial target. This left me to trawl through a myriad of projects whose campaigns were either dull, confusing, or tragically launched in a premature state. Rather than single one out, I’ll go through a handful to underline exactly what I mean.

Take Rise of the Infection: it has no video; its poster is a stock image of a city; and upon reading the project entry, I found it had no game whatsoever. The developer, Joseph Rottet, teases a promise of a game “that starts as the world ends… with fully destructible environments, creature decay, and RPG elements.” And yet, there are no assets here at all… there’s just a pitch. It is a Kickstarter project in the purest form, as he is asking the world to invest $100,000 in an idea, and to give college graduates an opportunity to show their skills. He is not looking for funding for a game, as is promised; he is looking to fund a company that will then make this game in five years.

Five years.

This one project depressed me on a whole other level, because it is essentially someone asking for money in exchange for literally nothing. No work has been put into this idea, no assets have been created, no pitch has been recorded… absolutely nothing. The world seems to be rewarding the effort in kind, with zero donations thus far.

Is it a con? Who knows. Kickstarter has had its fair share of controversial projects, both funded and cancelled, which were later found to be the poorly conceived abominations spawned from less than reputable individuals. Yet there are other projects in a similar state to this one. Indigo Park has no video, and its handful of screenshots look fake, with the protagonist Laura placed in environments that do not match the style of the character.

At this point, I stopped looking at Kickstarter. It was becoming an irritation, a sea of badly run campaigns that may or may not be funding someone’s lavish lifestyle, while the rewards I would receive may later prove to be inferior, if I received anything at all.

And yet, I still believe in the notion of crowdfunding. I guess we have to take the good with the bad, and trust our own judgement, but if we cannot rely on industry veterans like Inafune to deliver what they promised, who can we trust?

The answer, it seems, is an Australian bloke named Luke Miller.

Project: Escape from Pleasure Planet
Genre:Gay Sci-Fi Point-and-Click
Platforms: PC (Win/Mac/Linux)
Funding Target: $5,000 AUD

What Is It?
Escape from Pleasure Planet is a bright, gay-themed, point-and-click adventure from the man who brought us My Ex-Boyfriend the Space Tyrant. You play as Captain Tycho Minogue (a future descendant of Kylie), whose mission is to hunt down a handsome criminal named Brutus. Tycho’s investigation takes him to Arcadia, a planet-sized tourist resort where all your desires can come true. As Tycho tries to find Brutus amongst the holiday-goers and pleasure seekers, he begins to unravel dark secrets about the planet itself.

Why Fund It?
The first thing that grabs you is the art style of the game, which is psychedelically bright, like a smorgasbord of 70s sci-fi movies on acid that just pops off your screen. The characters drawn by Joe Phillips are of a similar style to FX’s Archer, which is smart, because the games shares that show’s adult humour. The animation is some of the smoothest I have seen in a point-and-click adventure, while the backdrops take their cues from bold, retro sci-fi films and games, with weird aliens and strange landscapes. The sci-fi aspect also allows Miller to explore themes linked to the LGBT community in a very open, direct way, which is commendable in this day and age.

If you are not yet convinced, you can always go and try Captain Tycho’s first game, My Ex-Boyfriend the Space Tyrant, for $15.

Best Rewards?

  • Digital copy of the game – $20 AUD
  • Digital copy of the game, plus a copy of the previous game, and an exclusive 15-minute director’s commentary – $30 AUD
  • Previous rewards, plus early access to the game, a digital zine, and your name in the credits – $47 AUD
  • Previous rewards, plus name a planet in the game – $67 AUD
  • Previous rewards, plus your name and very own fantasy in the game – $107 AUD
  • Previous rewards, plus a Collector’s Edition of the game – $201 AUD
  • Previous rewards, plus be a character in the game – $536 AUD

Until Next Time…
As I work through my feelings on the future of crowdfunding, I am edging towards a state where there needs to be more oversight. The scene is now entering the stage where the novelty has worn off, and if it is to continue, it must evolve or slowly become irrelevant. If you believe in backing other people’s work through crowdfunding platforms, then there is much discussion to be had, so have it here, have it on Twitter, or Facebook, have it somewhere. Engage, voice your opinion, and collectively steer this industry in the right direction.

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In addition to being Warp Zoned's UK Correspondent, Andrew Rainnie is a screenwriter and filmmaker. You can email him at andrew AT warpzoned DOT com or you can, if you're inclined, visit his personal website.

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