Monday, 14 October 2013

The Long Dark gets funded (just not by me.)

The Long Dark, a Canadian video game Kickstarter project started by Hinterland, finally met it's $200k goal, with 2 days to spare.

No matter what my current opinion is in this posting, I wish it well.

Normally, I'm all for Canadian game developers of notable experience and talent behind them. And I'm sure they are talented: heck, I gave money to Project Eternity on Obsidian's notorious roster alone (Chris Avellone, Tim Cain, Adam Brennecke, Josh Sawyer.) Whatever those people do, I'm sure it will be worthwhile; The same enthusiasm (though skeptical and highly questioned) for Torment: Tides of Numenera made me throw my money at the screen; who wouldn't want a spiritual successor to one of the greatest Infinity Engine games ever? As a donor, these are no-brainers for game enthusiasts who enjoy detailed, story focused interactive experiences with a somewhat streamlined flavor of D&D.

The Long Dark is trying to tell a snowy apocalyptic survival story (with voice talent from Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale) in the Canadian wilderness. The first thing that came to my mind was: Why can't Fallout do that?

We may be spoiled by our 90s Fallout and Fallout 2 RPG experiences: A colorful, gritty nuclear holocaust survival story, on a quest to find a GECK or waterchip, and save our clan. Or the Fallout 3 & New Vegas iterations of finding our father, or go on a rampaging quest for revenge and discovery. The quirky Vault Boy icons, radiated characters and enemies, a massive assortment of items and equipment, even a series of entertaining radio stations (Erik Todd Dellums's "Three Dog" still tops Wayne Newton's "Mr. New Vegas") to discover and listen in on a frozen retro-futuristic 40s-60s Cold War era-destroyed-American-jingles-and-gab, all add to the experience, as we determine whether Odo (René Auberjonois's "Mr. House") is truly what the wasteland needs (after Ron Perlman's paradigmatic catch phrase reminds us of the futility of man's descent.) Clans bent on preserving old technology at any cost, the militaristic remnants of America struggling to be relevant, and a handful of other factions all trying to survive as you choose who to befriend or destroy. An open-brownish-world sandbox, yet (at least in New Vegas' iteration) with an essential plot to follow *glares at Skyrim*, that's simply jam packed with lore and details that I can keep coming back to it year after year. Throw in a huge modding community and it's crying out for a sequel, side games, an MMOG, side stories, books, web comics, you name it. This franchise is fantastic.

The Lone Dark has snow and wolves. "Morally challenging", "mature scenarios" of...snow and wolves.

I've had hypothermia 3 times. I've camped in summer and winter conditions as a child. Walked through mud, flooded city and wilderness landscapes for hours. Trying to survive in a northern Canadian climate does not sound fun, at least as The Lone Dark describes it. The reason why I live in the city is to escape such things.

Of course, how things are fun is largely the craft of the game developer; anything can be made fun. I simply don't see it. Nor do I find the world they're crafting interesting. At least, not from the descriptions given. Should they have waited a bit before Kickstarting? From a sound clip on the Kickstarter page, I heard Shepard trying to shake off a wolf hunting him down. There was ambient noises and 0 music. I don't know what to feel except emptiness and confusion as to what this thing is; these are not premises born to produce great writing.

I could be completely wrong.

So while I don't see the big deal, others with more experience might:

“The Long Dark caught my eye with intriguing visuals and a great premise, and as a fan of survival open-world games, I’m eager to see what perspective Hinterland brings to the quiet apocalypse.”
- Chris Avellone, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Obsidian Entertainment, developers of Project Eternity, Fallout: New Vegas, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II

We expect Chris to be more open to Kickstater projects on themes and concepts he's worked on; that's where he's getting his paycheck. But even if he wasn't: he's Chris. He's a nice, humble guy.

I saw no intriguing characters or plots, settings, enemies or conflicts, music, sounds, ideas, etc. The demo had a somewhat cell-shaded style...and had a counter for calories. Maybe Hinterland wasn't ready. Maybe it's one giant secret and then they'll bomb us with characters and plots and lore a month later, keeping a Paypal donate button up. Maybe they'll show us something that has some character aside from "Canadian wilderness survival with Mark Meer and wolves."

If Hinterland pitched Fallout as a game where you "risk the daily hazards of wilderness survival", and stated that we'll face "morally demanding scenarios", "a beautiful but savage Northern Wilderness", and "experience a mature storyline", well, I'd just check out nexusmods, and wait for Wasteland 2.


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