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Monkey Island

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Last week I found myself in two conversations about resurrecting dead games. One was about Homeworld: I’d made a flippant comment about pressuring Relic to do a Kickstarter to make a sequel, and other people agreed. If Double Fine can raise millions for a point ‘n click, then why not millions for our lost and beloved space RTS? The other was about Syndicate. Wouldn’t it be great if we got a Syndicate sequel, finally, in the way we got a “proper” X-Com remake? No right-minded gamer would disagree. Hell, Paradox even seem to be planning to do so.

But I got to thinking about how this turn to “how games used to be” shouldn’t be about nostalgia, or the past at all, really. It should be about the future. The point of looking back must be to identify, rescue and save the futures we were promised.

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I attended an exclusive presentation and Q&A with Tim Schafer at the Double Fine studio. I listened to Tim candidly discuss the Adventure Kickstarter project and the special ingredient to its success, the pitch. Here are some critical take aways...

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bednarz writes "The Smithsonian's 'Art of Video Games' exhibition opens today. To kick it off, they're holding a three-day festival with panel discussions, live action gaming, and crafting activities. 'Video games allow us as human beings to explore our dreams, our fears, our thoughts, our morals, and engage with each other in a way that no other medium allows us to. I find that inspiring and beautiful, and I am so happy to be alive during this time. We are going to experience, I think, one of the greatest surges of artistic intent in human history, and I believe that the majority of it will come through video games,' said Chris Melissinos, former Sun exec and guest curator of the new exhibition."


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For decades, there was one really successful financial model for making big, profitable games: a publisher providing project funding to a developer in exchange for a large share of any eventual profits. It's a model that's seen its share of disruptions in recent years, with direct game downloads and free-to-play, micro-transaction fueled games often succeeding without the need for a publishing middleman.

But the traditional model saw one of its biggest disruptions earlier this month, when developer Double Fine, sporting talent behind classic point-and-click adventure titles like Grim Fandango and The Secret of Monkey Island, managed to raise over $1 million of funding for a new adventure game project in under 24 hours, directly from tens of thousands of eager fans on Kickstarter.

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It's going to be half a million by the time I post this.

Tim Schafer says he wants to make an old-school graphic adventure. He also says it’s impossible to get publisher funding for such a project. So he turns to the audience, and asks if they want to pay to fund such a thing directly. Via Kickstarter he sets the target at $400,000, probably feeling a little bit guilty about how high a number he’s put down, but also aware that it’s a very small budget for a game these days. That’s at 2am GMT. But 10.15am, barely eight hours later, the goal is reached, and the number still climbing. People found $400,000 they wanted to spend on a game – and in this case, just the idea of a game – purely because of who is making it. And that asks some big questions of the current position of the majority of publishers.

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"I've got hands to kiss, and babies to shake."

I absolutely, categorically do not understand what everyone has against Escape From Monkey Island. While I admit I had been horribly wrong about The Curse Of Monkey Island, everyone else is entirely wrong about the fourth game in the series, and it's time for this mad prejudice to come to an end.

And there's no better time to do this than now, because this 11-year-old game is in fact currently incredibly topical. I know of no other game thats central motif is openly mocking Rupert Murdoch and his attempts to buy everything in the world. Well, I guess we can't say that for sure. Perhaps they were spoofing some other rich Australian grump who tries to take over everything he encounters.

It is unjust - simply awful - that this game is so weirdly dismissed, even hated, by fans of Monkey Island. Because despite (and even with) the 3D this is an absolutely stunning adventure game. It's one of the funniest, most involved, and downright strange in all of LucasArts' collection, and you - yes YOU - are a fool for the way you've been pretending you don't like it for all these years.


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