Ed, you said:
"In the end, we have to decide what is best for the game."
If the Kickstarter is successful, I hope that the backers will be included in that "we". It is your game and your vision, but we will be the ones giving you money so we can get the game in return. As Draikin said, we are not publishers giving you money as an investment. Ultimately the decisions are yours, but we are here because we legitimately care. Here's a short story about part of why I'm here:
Kenji Eno was my favourite video game director. When he died earlier this year, I felt incredibly sad for a few days, I didn't want to believe it. It actually took a whole week for it to sink in that he had actually died. In recent years he had been talking about how he wanted to make a big return to gaming by making another adventure game, the genre he was famous for. D2 for the Dreamcast in 1999 was his last major game. All of his fans wanted him to make another game, and I always held out hope that he would and looked forward it, always looking for new interviews and possible snippets of information. But then he died. He ended his career making casual games for the Wii and mobile devices, unable to make the big return to gaming he wanted to; he could not go back to Sony, a serious game by him would not fit in on a Nintendo console and the Xbox has zero audience in Japan.
Thinking about his death convinced me to rethink and give you a second chance with The Big Blue. You did make an honest effort with the Kickstarter, but it was not at the right phase nor was it in a shape the fans wanted. I never checked out Kenji Eno's post-Dreamcast games. Why? Because even if they were made by my favourite director, they did not interest me and neither did The Big Blue the way it was shown in the KS. The Little Blue is a game I am legitimately interested in. Ed, I want The Little Blue to be your triumphant return to gaming, I don't want your career to end like Eno's did. When the majority of people hear your name they don't think"Slice HD", they think "Ecco the Dolphin". You are my new favourite director, and you were always one of the only directors whose name I actually knew: when fans really like a game, they will want to learn about the people who made them and actually know their names. The Little Blue has to be amazing as possible and its own game, not just a free demo for The Big Blue. People will want to love and talk about LB as its own game, not as "that demo for something else".
"I'm just not smart enough to have it all figured out by day one."
I understand where you are coming from, but forgive my ignorance as I'm not a game developer, but from the view of the consumer, I think at least the basic (or a temporary) model should be figured out before you start asking people for money. Then again, I have no clue how this process works in the game industry. I understand how complicated it is getting servers set up and all the paper work involved, but you should at least try to figure out some of the things the consumer will be asking about. Dealing with KS is different from publishers in this regard. We can not just say "Cool, a dolphin game. Here's 3 million dollars and we will issue our demands later." We have far less power than a publisher, but the other side is that you have a lot more people to convince. I agree with Draikin in that with KS you have to mold the game to please the consumer rather than the publisher who is in it for the cash. So even if the community has strong or harsh demands, understand that we are making those demands because we actually care about The Little Blue itself and how the product turns out, we are not in it to make money, we are here because we want a game and some cool rewards. If we did not care about The Little Blue we would not be here or prepared to give you money.
One of the KS comments said we should not expect to see results at such an early stage or expect you to have everything figured out, and that is fair. But you should try your best to assure people so they will get on board with this project. The consumer's mood in the game industry has changed. People have their "BS radar" on constantly and will read between the lines to look for the worst possible scenario. I'm not accusing you of lying to us, you come off as honourable and with good intentions, but I can only remain skeptical and cautiously optimistic until we hear about the issues we care about.
For now Little Blue will be FREE to all. Backers (if I use KS to fund LB) will get extra stuff.
I respect and agree with your decision. I think ultimately it's best for LB since the goal is to get people interested. Now that we know the game is free, we can have more focused discussion.
@Ed: I hope you are not reconsidering going to KS with LB because of the opinions I expressed around here and other negative reactions from members in the community.
I just read through some of the KS comments again and I realize that the stuff I have said is far more negative than anything that was posted there. I believe that honesty is the best policy and when it comes to video games, I am brutally honest.
I am not here to force my will on you or the board, so I apologize if any of my posts came off as forceful or threatening. When I post, I take into account not just my views, but those of how other gamers and potential backers will think about these issues and how they relate to The Little Blue. I am trying to help you get this game made, you need to be able to see it from our perspective as consumers and gamers. That is my goal with those posts. If you do not know how to please your audience, then LB will not get funded. Some of my posts may come off as rants or be shockingly negative to the reader, but that is my reality and how I have seen it for years and I do not believe I will be helpful by holding back because that would be lying. I make all those posts because I am trying to show you how we honestly think as gamers about the modern video game industry and what is important to us, which you absolutely must understand if The Little Blue has any hope of getting funded.
I realize I may come off as going overboard talking about the game ownership issues. For now I have pretty much said everything I need to about them until we get a response from you. My intention is not to use you or your company as a strawman in those posts. I think I have said everything I need to say so far, so I will lay off the issue and be patient waiting for your response, unless you want to hear more about it.
I have actually been saving up money so that I can back LB and BB when the time comes. Are there things I'd rather by spending my money on at the moment? Yes. But I am putting my faith in you for now. But know that it is not blind faith and I will not forget about the issues that are important to me. I am not here to raise a stink. I am here to help you get these games made. I have great respect for you, and if the games business models and situations become unacceptable to me, I will quietly leave.
My point is that I have good intentions. If I bring up the same issues repeatedly, it is because they need to be addressed. In the Kickstarter, people talked about how the prototype was too primitive and didn't do anything and you basically said "Sorry it's supposed to be for touch but you can click on stuff if you want". That did not address the issue at hand and it came off as you ignoring the issue. That is not helpful.
I have spent many hours researching things and thinking of ways and ideas to help you make these games because I am passionate about this project. If you think I am being unhelpful, then let me know. All the negative feedback you got about the BB was not because people didn't like you or didn't want BB to exist, it was because that is the kind of stuff people did not want featured in the game.
If you truly are having second thoughts about using KS to fund The Little Blue, then at least try a KS campaign and see how it works out, but do not abandon the fans at this point. If LB does not work out on KS, then you can consider talking to a publisher again. I apologize if this whole post has been me reading into something that is not there, but I needed to say it. As I said before, if you do not share your frustrations with us then we can not help you. If I say something that you think is a terrible idea, then you are free to say so. I won't get offended. Sugarcoating and running from problems does not help anyone. I'm not saying that's what you're doing, but it's something to keep in mind.
@Silver: I can not picture a side scrolling game even having a first person perspective. From a gameplay perspective, I can not picture it working out well at all. Back in the day games with 2D controls that had first person views were either dungeon crawlers (Tunnel Runner, Megami Tensei), shooters (Doom, Wolfenstein 3D) or flight sims/cockpit shooters (Afterburner). I do not picture it working out well in an action game. I just can't picture a camera, staring down the beak of a dolphin, working out well while trying to play the game. The original Ecco games did not have a first person view and I do not see how they would have benefited from it at all.
@Ed: Any chance of The Little Blue supporting standard definition resolutions (640x480)? If possible, I'd like to be able to hook the computer up to a CRT television or monitor to play it on. Preferably I'd like to be able to hook it up to a TV through RF or composite video. I realize that is a long stretch, but even some PS3 games support SD resolutions. The input lag and delayed draw speeds on LCD drives me crazy and I find 2D action games unplayable on them.
I've been an Ecco fan since the beginning and have been looking forward to another game since DOTF in 2000. Ed does not own the rights to the Ecco franchise, Sega does. That has been the major pain in the butt for the fans and Ed himself. So now Ed creates the LB as a stepping stone.
My question to Ed is: do you plan to get the Ecco rights from Sega or have you given up hope on that and will you make the LB your replacement franchise for Ecco instead?
I really do not understand why Sega doesn't sell you the rights since they are not interested in making any more Ecco games.
I'm sure you realize that a new Ecco game is what your fans are really dreaming about. Especially a sequel to 'The tides of time'. But since that doesn't seem an immediate possibility with Sega still blocking things I guess LB can keep us happy in the mean time and hopefully get the fans back to the underwater aquatic Ecco style adventuring you learned us to love.
I am however a bit worried about your choice for a 2D perspective. Retro gamers like me and others here might love that, but if you want a broad user-base for LB it will be hard to attract the gaming audience that grew up with Playstations and Xboxes and 3D gameplay.
Nevertheless, I really hope you can make LB shine through and bring us that aquatic magic once again.
As for DRM and all that crap; for me it is simple. What I cannot own I do not want. I grew up with C64, MegaDrive and SNES. I'm used to be able to still play the games I bought many years afterwards. Any kind of verification system, DRM or DLC that prevents that will make me lose interest. Even one of my favorite franchises of all time like Ecco wont change how I feel about that.
@Sith: Ed pitched a new Ecco game to Sega earlier this year and they turned him down. He's been trying to get a new game going since 1995. Sega and many other companies like to squat on their dead retro franchises so they can make quick (emulated) re-releases on the cheap and sell them to a nostalgia audience on modern platforms. Personally I doubt those re-releases even sell. I doubt the tech savvy youngsters of today with Steam or Xbox Live accounts would actually pay for roms of Ecco off download services when they can emulate it on a computer for free. That aside, the purists who really care about the game will buy it for and play it on the original hardware.
Besides my preference for 2D games, I think 2D is the best way to make LB stand out. There's really nothing special about 3D games anymore and I think Ed's fans would prefer to see him make another solid 2D game. Young people today don't play 2D games anyway. Sad to say, but the DS is the last place anyone will ever see 2D pixel games, and as far as I know that system is dead now.
A lot of KS projects with an original team coming back to make a new game, are targeted at their original audience, the older crowd in their 20s and 30s. Armikrog is a recent example. I doubt young people would be interested in that. I think LB's best shot is to appeal to the Ecco niche instead of trying to appease everyone. That was part of the appeal of the Ecco games.
It's nice to see someone finally agrees with me on the game ownership issues. I agree with you about the Ecco bit at the end; when it was announced that someone in Sega's mobile division had gotten Ed a meeting to pitch his game, I cringed. Ecco 3 could get made but I wouldn't go anywhere near it if it was a digital-only or a mobile game.
Your argument about 2D vs 3D is interesting. I feel that you are correct in saying a 2D game would perhaps be more innovative, but I disagree with the nothing special about 3D games. I still stand by that DOTF was an amazing 3D game. I don't want 3D to be ruled out just because the "general public" would not find it as interesting or special.
DOTF had some 2D bits in there as well. Maybe LB could offer both types of game-play and when it is up, see what appeals to the fan-base most. Idk, it's just an idea. As for DOTF itself; yes that was a great game and I loved it to death just as much as the original MD games.
As I mentioned to Ed before on YT, he should get Attila Héger back on board, also Tim Follin would have been nice, but that composer quit the industry. Those guys rule at the type of music that this kind of game needs. I'm not sure about Spencer Nilsen. His tracks mostly don't give me the goosebumps that the other two did in the Ecco games before. LB and Ecco really need those dark, atmospheric, tense and sometimes sad tracks to set the proper mood. My favorites include: Crystal Springs, Fault Zone, Moray Abyss, Fin to Feather, Mutaclone, Caverns of Hope, Vents of Medusa, Asterite Cave and Welcome to the Machine.
I personally prefer first and third person games, because you feel more int he game world. But i don't know, if this would destroy the unique impression of Ecco. Haven't played DOTF how told already, because of the lack of a fitting platform so i can't judge about it. Only way would be to play a 3D and a 2D version of the game. But think it will stay 2D, because its already designed this way. And making 2 versions of the game would be a bit over the top. Possible as some Big Blue 2 or 3D Blue. ;)
And yes i have seen a DOTF let's play and it gave me the impression of a very fluffy shiny game. And yes, the dark creepy atmosphere you get by the old Ecco games was one of the best trademarks of the series. Should be in the big blue aswell. So if you dive very deep, you should get the "what creepy and crazy thing could be down there?" feeling. In a game 1 million years in the future it would be perfect to set some stuff in the deep, what could be really creepy where you get a eeeek OoO feeling.
I think this had aswell something to do with the 2D gamestyle. You swim around and the stuff came directly in the picture in front of you. Not like in 3D, where you see it already wide way.
@James: 3D games date back to the early 1980s so they're really not that much older than 2D games which started in the early 1970s. In terms of the home market, we've had roughly 20 years of 2D games followed by 20 years of 3D games. So it could really go either way. I don't think that the game needs to be 3D simply because it's 2013. The game is using 3D graphics anyway so I don't see how it being 2.5D is a problem. It's not like it's a pixel art game, so the younger generation won't be turned off by the graphics. As much as I love pixel art, I've never seen it work well beyond standard definition resolutions.
@Sith: You have the composers mixed up. Spencer Nilsen composed the original Ecco soundtracks: both the chiptune and CD versions for Ecco and Tides of Time. Heger and Follin were the ones who did the music for DOTF. Personally I hated the music in DOTF. It was ambient fluff that added nothing to the game.
As for digital fog, if it is to be used it should only be used to make the underwater world look natural - not be used as a lazy way to conserve resources: this is a modern PC game, not Turok for N64. I want to play Ecco, not Silent Hill.
Ed, I don't think it would be a problem with this game, but what do you think about video game censorship? You wouldn't have to think of it so early, and indeed I'm not sure how the distribution and classification process works with independently produced games like this, but have you thought about what you might do if some rating system demands you remove something from the game that another rating system is perfectly fine with? Most rating systems aren't legally enforceable, but I know it is legally required in places like Australia and Germany.
In recent years there's been an ongoing trend of increasing censorship in video games, almost reverting to childish pre-ESRB levels of censorship in some games. Of course it's totally hypocritical that it's perfectly ok to market trash like Grand Theft Auto to teenagers, but alcohol is replaced with "grape juice" in Phoenix Wright, but it's a trend nonetheless. Even Japan is going through some bizarre censorship phase, when 20 years ago they could pretty much put anything they wanted to in their games.
@Icedolphin: Then there must be contradicting sources on the internet. I am solely talking about 'The Tides of Time'.
I am not saying you are wrong and these links I posted are right. I really hope Ed can shed some light on things on who actually composed the cartridge version music for 'The Tides of Time'.
There are no doubts about Spencer Nilsen composing the CD music for both games.
I'm pretty sure the article Sith linked to is correct. Getting Attila Heger on board, if only for a few tracks, would be awesome. There's nothing like the soundtrack for Tube of Medusa on the Genesis/MegaDrive version of ToT. If I had to make list of the most epic moments in video games I've played, that stage and its audio track would definitely be on it.
I am helping Ed out as he is pretty busy with a variety of projects.
So I will be monitoring the forums from time to time to make sure that everyone's posts get the attention that they deserve.
Ed will still be dropping in and out, but once things calm down, his activity in the forums will pick up.
Thank you all for your support.
I've seen many online games die because they technologically 'age'. Of course some also die because there is nothing new to do (= there is no new content added) or people get tired of 'grinding' the same stuff over and over for too long. If some game mechanic is drastically changed which people don't like it might also be fatal. That's where forums come in; listen to feedback of your audience.
Finding a good balance between what 'backing players' get vs free players is also important. If the game is only going to attract the 'wallet warriors' then it won't be successful either. Most importantly, don't forget to treat the real Ecco fans out there, they will be the primary backbone to keep your project going.
I hope Ed will design LB with some sort of 'plug-in' system in mind to upgrade various components of the project. Updating the gfx engine for example is essential if you want it to keep going with the times. Learn from the mistakes of other online games and make it better.