Dungeon Siege and Total Annihilation designer Chris Taylor has revealed his latest project. The developer today announced Wild Man, an RPG/RTS hybrid for the PC (and possibly other platforms) whose success will determine the life and livelihood of Taylor and his team at developer Gas Powered Games.
"Everything I have ever worked for in my entire career--in my entire life--it culminates in this one event. I am absolutely all in. That's it," Taylor said. "What victory is worth achieving if there's no consequence of failure?"
Taylor is asking for $1.1 million through Kickstarter to get Wild Man off the ground. If successful, the game is planned to be delivered to consumers in six months to a year (July 2013-January 2014). The developer said he was attracted to Kickstarter because the platform offers a level of consumer engagement that is just not possible through other means. Opportunities like crowd-sourcing feature ideas or daily video updates could not be achieved without Kickstarter, Taylor said.
"It's a revolution," Taylor said, describing Kickstarter. "When we saw that, we thought this is so much bigger than Tim Schafer raising money to make an adventure game. That was just the tip of the iceberg. That was only a fraction of the total thing that is happening here. And I really want to get the word out about that."
Another reason Taylor chose to seek funding for Wild Man on Kickstarter is that he believes traditional publishers, like Microsoft or Sony, would not have jumped at the idea.
"When I talk about traditional publishers, you can guess who they are, and the reality is they are just not interested," he said. "And they are so heads down right now; there is so much concern over the console business, when the next generation [of consoles] will come about, how that's gonna go, what's happening at retail. Their head is just a million miles away from saying, 'Oh yeah, let's jump in and explore some cool sh*t on the PC.'"
Taylor admitted he did not shop Wild Man around to many publishers, noting it's possible some company may have picked it up. But it wouldn't have mattered, because Taylor always had his eye on Kickstarter.
"Someone might have said, 'We'll publish it.' But here's the secret: I don't want them to. There's a will inside me that's pushing this towards the direct relationship to customer. Because I know crossing this somewhat scary desert will get us to an oasis," he said.
Taylor and Gas Powered Games began work on Wild Man last year, but the idea for the game has been stewing in his mind for years. The designer explained that Dungeon Siege had been originally planned as an RPG/RTS hybrid, but this never came to be.
"I wanted to take real-time strategy and add fantasy role-playing. But what I realized when I got into it is that it's got to be the other way around," he said.
Fast-forward to today, and Taylor believes Wild Man is a well-blended formula of both genres and one that fans will spring to because it's something that has not been done before.
"How many games can you play that are virtually identical inside of the same genre where you have to raise your hand and say, 'Hey, can I get something new over here?'"
"We see the strengths and the weakness of both and what we see here is an opportunity...we're looking for something new," Taylor said. "If you're subtle about it you can say we're doing something new with existing genres. If you want to be more dramatic, you can say we're creating a brand new genre. It's a hybrid. We're not doing it for a prize, saying, 'We want to create a whole new genre.' How many games can you play that are virtually identical inside of the same genre where you have to raise your hand and say, 'Hey, can I get something new over here?'"
Another feature of Wild Man is its destructible environments. Taylor explained that the battlefield will begin as a pristine place, but once the war ravages on, it will fall apart and break down.
"The grass gets trampled into mud and the trees catch fire from random flaming arrows. Maybe a forest fire rages on," he said. "You've got bodies strewn about and you've got skulls and all this wreckage and ruin."
Modded content will also be a part of Wild Man. Taylor said users will be able to build content and use a tool suite on the Web to import the content they create into their games.
"We are really out there; out there on the frontlines trying to do something that is we think going to be the future," he said. "There's no question that downloading and installing a brittle, complex set of tools locally to your machine is just not economical or a functional model for doing certain jobs."
Wild Man is currently in development for the PC only, but Taylor said he is open to the idea of porting the game to other platforms, including Mac, Linux, and mobile devices. Similarly, Taylor has not made a decision yet about what future expansions could sell for, or even if Wild Man could become a free-to-play game.
"So we've built the first game; there's X number of hours of gameplay. Now, there's a junction or an inflection point where we can say going forward, 'Should we sell this next chunk for $10 or $20, or should we throw a switch and go into a different model?' So that's something we'll explore," he said.
The benefit of Kickstarter in this situation is that the customer is there to ask, Taylor said.
"We don't have to guess what they want. And that's fantastic."
Wild Man will be a single-player game at launch, but much in the same way that Taylor is seeking feedback for pricing models, he will also ask for fan input regarding new game modes. Right now, the game's single-player experience is in place and plans for a PVE mode with a friend against a computer opponent are "solid." But Taylor is thinking bigger. He said he's mulling a PVP mode for Wild Man, but this will be determined by the amount of interest fans show.
"I have taken everything in the company; I have taken all the resources, and I have got it all on this game."
Thirty days from today, Taylor's efforts to raise $1.1 million for Wild Man will be judged either with success or failure. Whatever the case, though, Taylor said he thrives on the risk of it all.
"Even if we fail, it's still fantastic. It's still a wonderful adventure to go on," he said. "You look at people climbing the face of a rock cliff, and you say, 'Why the hell would they do that? They could fall.' And usually someone does and they die. But that's the thrill. I have taken everything in the company; I have taken all the resources, and I have got it all on this game."