A First Look at Broken Age: Episode 1 by gremlinWhat have we here?
Kickstarter is a new way of raising finance for all sorts of projects, physical, electronic or in software. It means that the old way of selling games via publishers who put the money up front to fund development is no longer the only way to get things done. People and companies that do crowd-funding well (for this is what this new way is known as) can get their project out in front of a buying public long before the game is made. But reputation is a fantastically important part of the gig. If you have a good one, raising funds from the public is relatively easy; they know they can trust the project to deliver, more often than not. But if you don't have a good reputation, funding is harder to achieve.
Some really big companies (in terms of reputation, if not necessarily size) have done this well: Cyan's next game, Obduction
, is Kickstarter funded for example (disclaimer: I backed this one), as well as the next stories in the Longest Journey
series. (the second is a Darkside game that is well known on that board, but less well known amongst 'Boomers in general).
So, who's next? Tim Schafer, of various Monkey Island
games, Full Throttle
, Grim Fandango
, and Psychonauts
fame, that's who. Double Fine (the company run by Schafer) have run a Kickstarter project to raise $400,000 for an untitled 'adventure game' and obtained over £3.3 MILLION as a result... no pressure then, though it's clear what people think of Schafer, et al, as a bet in terms of game development!
The upshot of this is that we now have Broken Age
; the aforementioned 'adventure game'. Act 1 is currently available on Steam, with a free update for Act 2 when it's released later in 2014.Notes from a short journey
Being an adventure game means certain tropes are almost inevitable: point and click interface, puzzles, an inventory and plenty of dialogue. Broken Age
has all these. What it also has is two story lines. One for a boy named Shay, and one for a girl named Vella. They live in very different worlds, that you can switch between at any time via a button in the bottom right corner of the screen. I took the simple route of playing as far as possible through Shay's story before switching to Vella. In retrospect, I would probably benefit from trying again, but switching between the lines at different points. I'm not sure if there will be any difference, but the experiment should be carried out. (No small animals will be harmed during this experiment)
Vella and Shay both live animated lives in pre-rendered scenes, but with plenty going on in them. Shay lives on a space ship where he is completely molly-coddled by the automated systems, where Vella is much more free to roam in a world blessed or threatened (opinions appear to differ on this subject) by Mog Chothra.
Puzzles revolve around inventory items (as we've come to expect in adventure games) and devices. There's a teleported puzzle for Shay, and a inventory weight management puzzle for Vella - she's walking in the clouds, believe me, it makes sense in the circumstances. Really! It does.Jumping to conclusions?
Tim Schafer's ability to create two contrasting worlds with compelling stories and leading characters is clearly undiminished since the time of Grim Fandango
(considered by many, including me, to be something of a magnum opus
in gaming), etc. I enjoyed Act 1 of Broken Age
, and I'm certainly looking forward to Act 2, later this year. My only note of disappointment is that Act 1 only took about four hours to play, and I don't think I'm the world's fastest puzzler.