First of all – this. A man has set up a Kickstarter pledge to fund his own Kickstarter pledge! This is just the sort of thing I love about geek fandom. (The pledge of £4,500 will essentially buy him a licence to write a piece of fiction based in David Braben’s Elite universe and claim all royalties on it, alongside a promotional tie-in when the game is released. For £500 more he could instead meet and have a meal with Braben himself and try to get him drunk enough to sign a release. That’s what I’d do.)
Since Kickstarter UK got off to a spooky start on Halloween, potential crowd-sourcers have seen a hell of a lot of actual notable names dragging their giant empty buckets to the well. While more worthy and notable projects (like my mate who designs t-shirts, Inkitout) struggle to get the word out and get people excited about the fine work they produce, the well has suddenly been seized upon by people who, though not necessarily flush, certainly should think twice before asking their fans for some spare cash to back their new products. It’s particularly evident in the amount of video game developers who wish to test the waters of nostalgia; unfortunately it might all be a bit too much for some.
Degrees of shamelessness vary; the Oliver twins want cash for a new Dizzy game; David Braben wishes for another game-changing chapter in his Elite universe; and perhaps most heinously, Peter Molyneux wants the coppers from under your couch cushions to develop what’s not really a follow-up to the game that made his name.
Don’t get me wrong; all three of these projects come from respectable backgrounds. Molyneux is a huge name in the business; I played and loved a great many Bullfrog properties back in the day – in fact my good lady still enjoys booting up the odd game of Theme Hospital. At a young age I was in awe of Braben’s lavishly and lovingly crafted Elite II: Frontier universe (although I got equally frustrated at being attacked seemingly every time I dropped out of hyperspace); and I was absolutely hooked on the Dizzy games my dad would bring home on Saturday afternoons with some Thurston’s sausage rolls (or Gregg’s as they are known now).
My issue is – particularly in Molyneux’s case – is there really nobody else they could have got the funding from? Some private investment? To what degree are they trading on past glories in order to get fans of those past glories to stump up? And if there is a business-related reason that we genuinely haven’t properly heard from the guys behind Dizzy and Elite since their heyday, why is it only now that they’ve come out of the woodwork?
I have huge respect for these people – video games just wouldn’t be video games without them – but I think it’s unfair just to trade on their previous stuff to convince fans to part with hard-earned cash on a website that’s trying to encourage new ideas and propositions.