Our Kickstarter Which Art In Heaven, Hallowed By Thy Games
A few years ago, gamers believed that the rise of Kickstarter heralded an end of the game publishing status quo. Gone were the days of the triple-A multi-million dollar games that survived only on prepurchase sales and marketing hype, at least so we thought. Instead, Kickstarter has found its place among the other avenues of game development funding as a great alternative to traditional publishing. The overwhelming response to games like Bloodstained, a spiritual successor to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Mighty Number 9, a sequel in all but name to the Megaman franchise, is good news for the gaming community, but the problem of developers either not being able to continue developing a game due to legal issues or having no intention of reviving an older franchise persists. This is where independent developers come in to save the day.
The Fighting Game Renaissance
An explosion of interest in the fighting game genre echoed in the wake of Street Fighter 2’s release. Everyone wanted a piece of the haduken-filled pie, but somewhere in the early 2000s, the world’s interest in fighting games waned. This created a drought in the fighting game community (FGC) that forced die-hard fans to rely on older classics like Marvel vs Capcom 2, Capcom Vs SNK 2 and Street Fighter 3: Third Strike to get their competitive fix. Obviously, playing MvC2, CvS2 or 3S is in no way a death sentence, as those games are pillars of the pre-2009 FGC, but gamers were thirsting for something fresh and new. It wasn’t until 2009 that Capcom released the fourth numbered sequel to Street Fighter, which brought with it a new wave of interest in fireballs and uppercuts. Other franchises rode the wave back into cultural relevance, such as Netherrealm Studios’ Mortal Kombat, Marvel vs Capcom 3 and tons of Japanese fighting games. Like its treatment of the beloved Megaman, however, Capcom hasn’t even acknowledged its popular arena fighter series, Power Stone, and is legally obliged to cease work on any games that are connected to Disney’s Marvel franchise. There is no Bloodstained equivalent to Marvel vs Capcom 3 or Power Stone. No old-school developers are crawling out of their cubicles to heed the gaming community’s cries for sequels. Thankfully, developers like Michael Zaimont and Micah Betts are taking a stand and doing what the triple-A developers of their favorite games either can’t or won’t do — taking the foundations left over by classic fighters and pushing them into the modern era of game design philosophy.
The Fall & Rise of Skullgirls
Mike Z’s Skullgirls may not be the perfect spiritual sequel to Marvel vs Capcom 2, but he made sure to take all the aspects of MvC2 that made it a great game and stripped away all of the infinite combos, character imbalances and archaic design choices. The game was initially funded in a more traditional way, created by Reverge Labs and published by Autumn Games and Konami, but the game still needed a lot of work after release. Tragedy struck the Skullgirls development team as their publisher was forced to lay off everyone after coming across legal issues. The core team reestablished itself as Lab Zero and turned to Kickstarter to finish funding the game, which was wildly successful, adding six new characters, tons of new stages and a myriad of extra features. Lab Zero showed that gamers wanted a fixed version of MvC2 and created something even better, but Skullgirls is not the only independent fighting game that deserves funding.
Combat Core’s Turn
Micah Betts’ Combat Core seems to be doing something similar for the Power Stone series, even though the game is still in very early development and is seeking Kickstarter funding to stay the course. The game is a non-traditional 3d arena-style fighter, meaning that players can move in all three dimensions and brawl with up to three other fighters, utilizing their martial arts skills, as well as the environment around them to defeat their opponents. If you’ve ever uttered the words “Damn, I wish Capcom made another Power Stone game,” then you have no excuse not to back Combat Core on Kickstarter. I’m not even a fan of Kickstarter, in general, but Betts is being very honest about where the money is going, i.e. to finish the development of the game, and has very reasonable stretch goals for the project. There’s even a playable demo for PC and Mac users to try out the most basic form of the game!
It’s true that Kickstarter does not have a perfect track record for housing projects that keep all of their promises, thanks, at least in small part, to triple-A developers transitioning over to the independent world (Thanks Peter.), but true independent developers like Mike Zaimont and Micah Betts are just as much of the gaming community as their fans. Unlike developers whose projects get millions of dollars in funding within twenty-four hours, smaller niche indy games need the support of their fans to stay afloat. Skullgirls was a great game on release, but without the Kickstarter project, it would have died off very quickly and sunk into a well of obscurity and irrelevance. Now Skullgirls is one of the biggest non-Capcom fighting games in the FGC and continues to grow as its Encore version nears completion. Combat Core, on the other hand, needs its Kickstarter campaign to even see the light of day, which is a damned shame considering how much the world needs a spiritual successor to Power Stone.