Friday 28 September 2012

Red Eagle fail (again) to make a WHEEL OF TIME game

More than two years ago, it was reported that Red Eagle had signed a deal with Obsidian Entertainment to make a Wheel of Time computer roleplaying game for release on PC and console platforms. Chris Avellone, the well-respected creator of Planescape: Torment and a key writer on games like Fallout 2, New Vegas, Alpha Protocol, Icewind Dale and the forthcoming Wasteland 2 and Project: Eternity, was reported to be working on the initial ideas for the game. Fans and even gamers who had never heard of Wheel of Time were intrigued.

Then nothing. Obsidian moved onto several projects. There was excitement when they reported they were working on a major franchise tie-in game, but this turned out to be a South Park title (due out in spring 2013). More recent reports emerged explaining what had happened: Red Eagle's responsibility had been to find a publisher to fund development of the game. Despite signing a distribution agreement with Electronic Arts in 2009, they were unable to procure funding for the game itself. The last (unofficial) word from the Obsidian camp was that they are not working on the game now, and do not expect to be working on it any time soon.

Then, in a move so low-key that barely any Wheel of Time fan sites even mentioned it, Red Eagle announced they were partnering with Jet Set Games to make at least two WoT games for mobile devices such as phones and tablets. Since almost no-one gives a toss about mobile gaming, the lack of any interest whatsoever was unsurprising. Red Eagle then made the curious decision to put the first game, Banner of the Rising Sun, on Kickstarter, expecting Wheel of Time fans to flock to support the game. Unsurprisingly, they did not. After asking for $450,000 (for a mobile game, remember), Red Eagle had to withdraw the campaign after less than $3,000 was pledged (an unmitigated disaster, in Kickstarter terms).

There has been a sense that Red Eagle's expectations for their WoT projects have been 'unrealistic' (such as their continued, futile insistence on a film over a TV series adaptation), but this situation takes it to a whole new level. Mobile games should never cost $450,000 to produce, not unless it's a tie-in with a Mass Effect or Halo game or something (and even then that's a stretch). For their Kickstarter Obsidian asked for $1.1 million to make a massive, proper PC RPG taking tens of hours to complete and featuring hundreds of thousands of words of writing. Half that for a casual game to play whilst bored on the train is sheer lunacy. The fact alone that Red Eagle were also unable to raise funding for a proper game based on a series that has outsold (overall and - just - per-volume) A Song of Ice and Fire at a time when epic fantay is on fire is perplexing, but then following it up with a gambit that was never in a million years going to pay off is something that moves us into the realm of the truly baffling.


RobB said...

Hasn't Red Eagle's involvement been somewhat suspect all along?

Anonymous said...

No ones gives a toss about mobile games? Really? I think the hundreds of millions of smart phones users and growing would have something to say about that. Angry Birds Space alone has over 50 million downloads. The mobile market is huge it just needed an easy method of distribution which Apple showed how to do and others copied.

Adam Whitehead said...

Mobile games are fun things to while away your time with whilst waiting for an appointment or something, but people don't really get excited about them in the way they do about full-on strategy or roleplaying games on PC or the console.

You announce GTA5 and get millions of YouTube hits and people hanging on every bit of information that is released on the project. If you announce Angry Birds 2, you'd get people saying, "Hey, that might be worth checking out some time," and then forgetting about it.

Adam Whitehead said...

Note by 'mobile games' I mean 'mobile phone' games, not things like Nintendo DS where games are announced for it that people do get excited about in that way.

Ran said...

"... get millions of YouTube hits..."

Like this?

Mobile games are actually getting increasingly huge as a part of the industry, and there's increasingly high interest in them. Lots and lots of people have smartphones, and more and more have tablets. Ouya's Kickstarter didn't raise $8.6 million because of a "well, that looks okay, I might check it out" attitude.

And while RE's and Jet Streams plans did seem a bit social and light, that's not necessarily the case with all the games being made for iOs and Android, whether it's ports (Baldur's Gate Enhanced, GTA III) or original (Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, Rebuild)

I'm not saying that it's a shock that the proposed game raised little interest -- RE is not exactly a name filled with merit.

Anonymous said...

Even if it was a mobile game, and they were asking for an incredible amount, why the hell wasn't the kickstarter program publicized in major WoT sites? Even 450,000 should have been easy to raise given the breadth of the WoT fanbase. What about advertising in JordanCon and DragonCon? As far as I know, they did none of these things. Is it any wonder this failed massively?

By the way, do you know when Red Eagle's option on WoT ends? I really hope its soon, and then the option could be sold to someone who actually wants to create a successful project.

Brandon Smith said...

I second Adam's opinion on mobile games. But is it just me or does anyone find red eagle's attempts to adapt WOT to any other media other than television hilarious. and again, moblie games? Kickstarter? As if they could not sink any lower than they already have. While there is no doubt that ANGRY BIRDS has caught fire in a way that other mobile games haven't, I personally would get excited for the next piece of news regarding AC3 or DISHOUNERED than the next angry birds.

Xen said...

In my opinion, there was no enthusiasm for the projects because let's face it, most people go into a fiction franchise game with the expectation of getting disappointed. Even if the project was not for a mobile game, $450K is still unrealistic because nobody has any idea what a WOT RPG will or should look like. If a developer really wants community support for such a project, it needs to offer some specifics on how WOT themes will fit into game mechanics. Personally, I can't think of anything that can get me excited, games being the inadequate story-telling medium that they are.

Anonymous said...

I feel like things must be different in the UK. Mobile games are HUGE in the US now, since basically everyone has an Iphone or Android. Console games still get a ton of hype, but no one really cares about PC games (unless it's by Blizzard).

Adam Whitehead said...

"Mobile games are actually getting increasingly huge as a part of the industry, and there's increasingly high interest in them. Lots and lots of people have smartphones, and more and more have tablets. Ouya's Kickstarter didn't raise $8.6 million because of a "well, that looks okay, I might check it out" attitude."

They're huge in a swarming sense. Lots and lots of lots of games selling relatively small numbers of copies (but profitable, due to low budgets and high production rates) and a few outliers selling massively. One of the main areas of interest - and where mobile gaming could become much more of a postive force in the future - is the encouragement of indie gaming. Alongside Ouya, Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight, that's a positive step forwards.

Many of the games themselves are fun, but are people going to be talking about ANGRY BIRDS in fifteen years' time as they still do about BALDUR'S GATE? I'd be shocked if that was so.

"Even if it was a mobile game, and they were asking for an incredible amount, why the hell wasn't the kickstarter program publicized in major WoT sites?"

Because RE know they've burned their bridges there. Several high-profile fans (Ran's equivalent from Dragonmount and I believe a couple of other sites) got to read the proposed movie script and said it was horrifically awful. One of Robert Jordan's very last blog posts before his death was critical of them. We know now about their failures with both the comic books and the computer games. They have repeatedly failed to explain why they are continuing to pursue a movie option rather than a TV version, in contravention of Robert Jordan's wishes and overall common sense. Red Eagle's name is mud on every major WoT fansite.

Their hope was to appeal to the less-dedicated fans or people who really love the books but have no need to go online and talk about them, and hope there was enough of them out there to support the project. Evidently this was not the case.

"By the way, do you know when Red Eagle's option on WoT ends?"

Not for a long, long time apparently. The movie rights appear to have been sold in perpetuity (though fortunately they are now with Universal directly rather than Red Eagle, with Red Eagle only having a consulting role), and if the game rights have as well then we can write off a project, or at least a good project, ever happening.

"Mobile games are HUGE in the US now, since basically everyone has an Iphone or Android."

As I said before they are huge in number and their low development times and relatively low budgets mean they can be successful with relatively few sales. However, interface limitations prevent the type of games being made from being anything more than casual time-passers rather than anything of long-term interest, at least whilst phones are driving the market. If more people switch to tablets, where you can have more involved games like the one Ran mentioned earlier, that would be a more positive development.

"Console games still get a ton of hype, but no one really cares about PC games (unless it's by Blizzard)."

Sales of PC games have gone through the roof recently as people have gotten fed up of waiting for the next gen and gone to the PC to get it right now, and at likely a cheaper cost than the new consoles. You can see this through the sudden return of simultaneous releases for console and PC games (as opposed to a few years back, when if we got a PC version it was usually months later and un-optimised). However, most of this renewed success has been through Steam and other online portals. The store model has been left behind as painfully outdated (and if physical shops survive the next generation at all, I'll be surprised).

Alex said...

Angry birds is this generations Worms/Lemmings. it's a massive success story but not really indicative of the mobile market. Flash based/style games are still the most popular games on mobiles, despite the grunt of Tegra 3 etc based systems.

Ian M. Beymer said...

It is very dissapointing, but I would rather someone cancel plans to make a sub par game on the greatest fantasy series in the history of the human race.

If someone makes a Wheel of Time game, it must be very detailed. There must be tons of crafting options and it better not be another first person shooter. Real WOT fans like myself would expect the world to be totally emersible with way more options to go anywhere and do anything. You shouldnt be limited to a train track style of traveling like WOW or many other online RPGs. It should indeed be a wide open sand box style.

They should indeed make a single player version, (like Skyrim and other ES games) so one can enjoy the whole world without getting taunted and kicked around by the PVPrs.

I agree that a phone version of the game would not live up to the novel series potential. The best games are on the high powered PCs with the wide screens, or the Playstation/Xbox consoles. If one makes a game that truly matches the greatness of Jordan's Wheel of Time series, it must have all the bells and whistles possible. This means it must have the best possible graphics and smooth frame rates possible for our current time.

I want to see Saidar's beautiful weaves of Fire, Earth, and Spirit come together in magnificent animations as my Accepted trains in the White Tower.

I want my male character to be a traveling merchant who has a gleeman companion. He has just discovered he can sense and channel Saiden and has told nobody yet. The traveling merchant would be an interesting new crafting or profession ability.

Yes more details and options than simply being a blacksmith, or a tailor. Like Skyrim, I want hundreds and hundreds of side quest that may not have anything to do with the epic saga.

I could go on and on, but everyone gets my drift. Basically if you create a Wheel of Time game, YOU BETTER DO IT RIGHT, OR DO NOT DO IT AT ALL!

The same goes for a WOT movie or TV series. IT would be best to make the WOT series an HBO style series similar to GAME OF THRONES.

Mahalo nui loa for your time,
Ian Beymer

Anonymous said...

as ian said i would also like a world that i can be involved in but i disagree with what he said about first person shooter having a massive world like that unless it will become the next great mmo will most likely have to have a game engine simular to that of oblivion. this would allow it to have a large world with different cities and landscapes huge variety of weapons armor and spells.

Ian M. Beymer said...

I believe Anonymous didnt understand me, or perhaps I didnt explain very well. My (First Person Shooter) remark was for the weak game released in 1999. The style I like is the 3rd person. I really need to see my character moving and performing actions. I need to see all around him or her. You never really have good perifial vision with first person.

A Wheel of Time game would indeed need a massive number crunching game engine similar to Oblivion and Skyrim, but it must yet be very different and more advanced than those engines. The Elder Scroll games only cover one small providence at a time. A proper Wheel of Time game would cover thousands of leagues. From the Blight to the Sea of Storms, from the Aiel Waste to the Aryth Ocean past Aile Somera, Aile Dashar, and Tremalking. Of course this would require much more number crunching and processor power, but computers advance every year in jumps. It can be done.

I know we reference to the Skyrim game alot, but it must be way better. In my opinion the AI in Skyrim sucks. Every NPC is simply trapped in the same routine day in and day out.... they do exactly the same things every dayum day. The crafting system sucks... I mean.. I can collect ore and then with a hit of a button,,, instantly poof out a greatsword. It should take some time to craft armor and weapons.

Basically, a WOT engine should be similar to Skyrim, but not like Skyrim at all.... it must be much improved. I got bored of Skyrim... didnt even finish it.

Forget levels, everyone wants to do level up in numbers like they are all robots. Im sick of games feeling like the tedious level up style from WOW. How about a very diverse and massive skill tree with hundreds of slots. The fighters and such would of course accel in the melee and Bow/Crossbow categories, but the Channelers would have access to the Five Powers tree as well. There could be many levels for each one.. Spirit, Fire, Air, Earth, Water... I think those are it...... Lets say there would be 30 total levels for each, and one could use combinations from any level and combine them with levels of the other powers to make a very vast amount of different weaves. Of course the higher levels would be difficult to reach and every channeler would have better ability with one or two than the rest.

The companion system in Skyrim is very weak. You only get one at a time and the idiots cant even mount a horse. You should have a cohort system where you could gather up to 30 or so followers. A related skill tree sets would be levels of leadership, charm, charisma... so on. In the books, camps or travelers get ambushed or attacked by a wave of Mydrill lead trollocs. It would be interesting to experience that with a group of companions.

Like Skyrim, the WOT game should run on a real flowing calendar system, but much better and more accurate. The Calendar system should span thousands of years. You should be able to live and die as a character durring the war of power, or durring Hawkwing's time, or during Rand's time. Of course Aes Sedai could live for hundreds of years, but all characters should die of old age if they survive that long.

You should be able to skip though time if need be... For Example.
A female novice starts training in the White Tower. Some dont reach accepted for 10 years, but some take a few months. Some females stay in the tower even past reaching Aes Sedai status. I would like to experience from white dress novice to reaching full Aes Sedai. A character would follow the daily routine, scheduled classes, eating time in the cafiteria, pennance, Accepted get free time to explore or practice what ever they choose. You could manually train in classes and with companions in the tower practicing weaves for so many times a month, or for a year, then you could skip to the next year.

The whole point is... I swear if some rich company like EA comes out with a pitiful weak attempt at a WOT game and it sucks or does not live up to our standards... I will be extremely pissed off.


Ian M. Beymer said...

And Tel Aran Rhiod. My goodness, you could start a character early on in history and possibly become on of the heros of legend.... being called back the the Horn of Valere.

A character like that could drift through time and experience the whole saga. AMAZING!

How about a hundter for the horn late in the history. What if your character found the horn and the banner bevore Morriene and her party? In character creation, you could have an option of selecting whether to be the dragon reborn, or create a regular character... You could have a joice of being Taveren or to choose down to a lower normal character.

Think of a perfected long scale calendar system weaved with Tel Aran Rhiod and perhaps the cloudy one and a few other worlds accessable from the Travel Stones with the symbols on them. The possibilities are almost endless with an engine like this.

You could have a separate but similar engine in Tel Aran Rhiod, because Channeling would be much less affective, and the ability to change, mold, and do as you wish in the Wolf dream much more important.......Guess what...thats another skill set tree with many many slots. Of course a high level in Spirit and other powers would be required to create a traveling portal........

The readers know what I am getting at. We are providing Obsidian and Red Eagle with the blue prints to make the greatest RPG game to match the greatest novel series ever. What are you waiting for?

Lets politely ask them to get to work, and if funding is an issue.... just ask EA to barrow some high end cash...> They are billionares and half of their damned games dont even work correctly.


Ian M. Beymer said...

The Way Gates should be a very important piece of the game. They should make it bright, pleasant and safe early on in the history, from the Breaking of the World, to oil dark air everywhere later in the history, that seems to close in hard on every scrap of light, much like gravity does stars.

I want to hear the distant black wind and hear it grow ever closer as the current begins to ruffle the cloak on my character. We should hear the chilling shrieks', laughs', and fearful cries for the taste of sweet sweet blood. The characters sprint for the nearest Way Gate, and it would be interesting to experience the characters' that make it to the liquid wavy pools that lead to the outside, and the characters' that don't survive Machin Shin.

If done correctly, the player should experience adrenaline rush and perhaps a bit of fear as well. You know that many way gates are swallowed by the Blight, so confrontations with a group of Mydrille and Trollocs would be fairly likely, but not every time.

The Black Wind could swallow them all whole if both do not pay close attention during the battle.