That’s a mighty 900k…

I’ve recently been following a project on Kickstarter, of particular interest to me.

For those who don’t know Kickstarter, it’s a crowdfunding platform, where producers can get monetary assistance from their audience to fund a project. Common projects include books, comics, movies and of course video games. Usually, a reward is given for people who back the project (for example, a copy of the product-to-be when it is completed, a signed copy or sketch, etc.)

The project I am referring to is Mighty no. 9, an initiative by Keiji Inafune’s new company Comcept. What makes this project so interesting is that Inafune is the “father” of Mega Man, one of my all-time favorite game franchises. He’s been involved in the creation of all mainstream Mega Man titles to date, but has now decided to develop an awesome platform title independently of Capcom. Problem is: even though Inafune is Mega Man’s creator, Capcom holds the copyrights. Therefore, Inafune has decided to create a new hero character: Beck.

Beck

Anyone who has played a Mega Man game will immediately see the resemblance, but apparently the likeness is assumed to be loose enough to avoid legal issues with Capcom. I actually find this quite interesting and wonder if Inafune being Mega Man’s creator, and his relationship with Capcom have anything to do with it. Would that make Capcom more, or less likely to raise a fuss?

Speaking of former Capcom employees, the Mighty no. 9 project involves many other Mega Man veterans, working on character concept, game design and music soundtrack. I have very high hopes for the project and am proud to be one of its (modest) backers. Furthermore, following the progress on Kickstarter has been a very interesting look into the world of crowdsourcing.

The project started with an original goal of $900.000, which was a minimum budget to undertake game development. Kickstarter projects that don’t meet their goal are cancelled, and backers are not billed. This is part of what makes it a comfortable system to enter into. In contrast, this particular project did more than just meet its goal. After running for one month, the project netted a total of $3,845,170 on Kickstarter, plus an additional $186,380 via Paypal. That’s some mighty support from the fans! I have to admit that the team did a great job to not only leverage their big names, but also provide the fans with some awesome PR material.

Also interesting to see, was how the so-called Stretch Goals came into the mix. As the budget kept rising, new features for the game became feasible. This includes for example extra stages, different platforms (from Linux to PS3 and Nintendo 3DS), and challenging new modes of play. As soon as a new stretch goal came close to being realized, this gave an extra incentive for people to back the project. During the final day and even minutes of the funding period, the craze reached unseen heights, with the counter shooting up by several hundred thousand dollars in mere hours. This means that Comcept managed to realize all of its previously announced stretch goals, and even got to reveal two undisclosed ones (a retro soundtrack and online battle race mode). I assume this must have been a very pleasant way for Comcept to decide on the scope of their project as well. Develop some suggestions, put them in order of importance, put a price tag on their developments and release them into the world. Then, simply see how eager fans are to back that specific sub-goal. If no one were interested in a version for handheld systems, this would likely have become apparent during the funding stage, and any efforts spent to port the game to the 3DS and PS Vita would have clearly been a waste. I imagine that this is normally a far more dodgy decision, trying to figure out which features to aim for and prioritize. Will additional features lead to more profit, or simply more development costs?

Comcept recently released this teaser video, showing a successful little test run of the Unreal engine — the team’s engine of choice for the project. I must say, for a quick mockup with placeholder assets, it already strikes the right feel for me. I have a feeling that this game will be the same step up that Mega Man X was from the older NES titles.

I experienced the past month on Kickstarter as a strange but wonderful mix between a pre-order and being involved in the creation of the game. An initial time frame for expected delivery is set to April 2015, but in the mean time, Comcept will be asking for input from its backers for the game’s design. People already got to vote on their favorite design for Beck’s support character, Call.  There’s also plans for a contest to design an enemy (by the looks of it, the equivalent of Dr. Wily). Some elite backers who laid down a little more cash, will even get to help develop in-game challenges for the achievement system, or even help design an enemy. Hopefully, this level of fan-involvement will make the game the true fan-favorite that Inafune intends it to become.

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