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Grimoire (2013, PC) - will it be most overlooked cRPG ever?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Update: 20.2.2013: Free-to-play demo is out now. Read more info about it (as well as link) in the article.

Those things can be defined by several different ways. Depends of the viewer.

Grimoire is game by Cleve M. Blakemore, running.. not so well in terms of reaching funding goal in it's website. At this rate online sales are going to "flop". But the game will come out despite the end-result of funding at May 2013.

Originally hugely ambitious one-man-project which has been in development for seventeen years. More recently accompanied with Michael Shamgar. They both were set to make Wizardry 7 seques "Stones of Arnhem" back then before it got cancelled.

Grimoire has seen several betas over the year, if I recall correctly, there was one released even back to 1998. This game has everything for old-school rpg fanatic looking for massive cRPG: 3D step-engine, turn-based combat, full expansive party-creation, tons of maps and dungeons (~250 combined). It even has numerous puzzles.

Grimoire is developed in veins of classic era cRPGs like Might & Magic, Wizardry, Dungeon Master. Compares to and golden era cRPG in size of any aspect: skills, world, gameplay hours (which Grimoire promises around 600 hours possible). See presentation video below:

But how will "the ultimate classic retro old school fantasy role-playing game" be remembered as. Failure? Success?

The game already is so close to the finish that I'm certain we can expect it to come out, and several people have already played beta to know pretty much what to expect for real. I think that when Grimoire is finished and ready to be delivered it will prove two things:

1) Blakemore will prove that one man can success in making massive cRPG alone (well almost!) if he's totally insane -- and will write computer gaming history with one of the longest development cycles of computer games, when his massive almost totally one-man-made role-playing game is released as final product (yet probably only few will ever remember this).

2) Mainstream and most of the gaming world won't care. Mainstream media wouldn't care about old school cRPG anyway, but how about computer role-playing community generally? At the moment campaign for Grimoire has ran for 33 days achieving only $6,528 out of $250,000 goal.

That's pretty badly in terms of sales, well, at least comparing to other "old school" category cRPGs that were running crowdfunding campaigns lately. Or should we say "flop" -- unless something happens to the pace and gamers start pledging with much more rapid pace than so far. Right now it seems unlikely. The pace of funding has slowed down recently, and it wasn't very good to begin with.

Recent crowdfunded games aimed for computer role-playing audience such as: Wasteland 2, Project Eternity, and Shadowrun Returns each raised millions. It may make some difference that they used instead of, which may be bit more popular service. Of course they had popular faces working behind projects, certainly more known to the public than Blakemore, who yet has his own merits. But the Grimoire's indiegogo campaign has showed a lot potential, and it has everything on the table - almost ready product certain to please the audience, yet it's not getting much pledges (read: Pre-orders)?

(Chart by Blakemore showing Grimoire's merits in comparison to few other classic cRPGs)

Tom Hall and Brenda Brathwaite's "old school rpg" project with terrible presentation FAILED and was cancelled with $244,932 budged reached out of $1,000,000.

That's almost Grimoire's whole budget, with poor campaign. It sort of pains to see that almost ready game with great concept and seventeen years of one man's work is running bad with funding, while campaign that only repeats the word "old school" without much information about the actual upcoming game and it's mechanics acquires almost $250,000 ("down the toilet").

Grimoire's current funding have been $6,528 in 33 days. But has slowed down recently with only $928 funded within past 16 days! At this rate it will most likely reach only about 5-8% of it's goal of $250,000. I would call it a flop in sales.

Nevertheless the game WILL come out in May 2013, so cRPG veterans who actually bothered to try the game will most likely appreciate Blakemore's efforts. Will Grimoire be "Grim Fandango" of the indie-cRPGs? Loved by the audience who played it, praised as classic amongst computer role-playing games by hard-core role-players, but be overlooked by mainstream and less hardcore cRPG audience?

Will golden baby's flight be overlooked by everyone except few chosen ones?


  1. You seem to be overlooking something pretty obvious:

    The reason this game will be unsuccessful has very little to do with the game itself.

    The author is one of the biggest jackasses in the history of the internet. You can't spend 20 years behaving like that and expect to run a successful crowdfunding campaign. As I write this, Cleve is still insulting people on both RPGWatch and RPGCodex. He deserves all the failure he has enjoyed.

  2. Well, someone being "a jackass" has a lot to do about running a successful crowdfunding campaign, I agree. Then again, developer's personal image and relations to fans is only one side of a coin when thinking about running a successful campaign. Sure it hasn't probably helped overall, but people might pay for a quality product, even if they disliked it's author. I mean, how many arrogant and jackass music artists are there, and you still might enjoy their songs, for example?

    Then, of course, you could fully refuse playing a good solid game if it was against your principles to play it while disliking the developer. I've read some of Cleve's comments too, but I tend to keep it separate of how good the actual product will be.

    Cleve's opinions are colourful and striking. I'm sure he's not here to make friends, and says what he thinks -- I may not agree everything he says, but I can respect his opinion and live with it, and still play the game. It's not like us players are "marrying the guy", anyway.

    Then again, if Cleve was befriending everyone instead of being "Cleve", it would had probably helped the campaign.. but by how big margin? I'm rather unsure that pledges would be many times more than they are now. Afterall, I believe it's also about a long lost genre and the gametype. This game would never appeal to masses anyway when taking in consideration what kind of games are popular these days.

  3. I think Grimoire is a product that should sell by it's game content, because it was advertised purely by it. Other factors should be minor.

    Lets think it this way. Coca-Cola is a brand that relies heavily on image created by it's advertising. The image comes from values expanded way beyond the actual content of the liquid. It's fun, friendly, cool, social drink, and you jump through the roof when you get one from the store.. at least if you believe the ads, that is. Advertising relies heavily on being "cool" product and appealing to kids and young adults.

    Now what if Coca-Cola brand's public image would rot down totally (big scandal), what they got left? The bottle's actual content? Several people would probably realize: "hey, this isn't actually very healthy, it isn't nutritious at all, and all it has is loads of sugars. It destroys my teeth and makes me fat so the hell with this". Sales would sink.

    Now, what if Grimoire's image was rotten beyond the actual game content? Not-so-well-liked developer? Grimoire's core values of it's image are not some imaginary stuff beyond the actual product, THEY ARE THE PRODUCT ITSELF (at least that's how I see it)! The very content of it. It doesn't make you jump through the roof and grow wings when you buy it, or it probably doesn't make you cool and popular in your school when you present the game box to everyone. It doesn't bring Santa to your house with a red truck. However, only way that Grimoire can be rotten is if the game itself is rotten, because it's honest and offers just that (the game content). It was never advertised as such, that if you buy it, Cleve will fly to your house at evening while you play it and turn into your best friend. Grimoire advertises of it's very game content, and it looks great to me, so why isn't it appealing wider cRPG audience than it currently seems?

    I don't think it's that much about the developer reputation, since several potential customers probably don't even know the developer by name. They might have checked out the game and thought: too complicated, too bad graphics (modern gamers), too different for me (played only Dragon Age and so forth). Or it might be that there's just not enough buzz to spread the word beyond us who like old cRPGs anyway, or the non-Old school cRPG gamers don't care because they never tried a game similar to this.

    Maybe that does make sense, maybe it doesn't. I don't know, 'cause it's late and I'm rather tired. Afterall, opinions are just... :-)

  4. Forget about him befriending me, I would settle for him acting like something resembling a mature, sane human being...

    Legend of Grimrock's sales (600,000 units sold) figures prove that there is still a market for old school games. Furthermore, there have been a few high-profile, successful Kickstarter campaigns harkening back to old school game concepts:

    Wasteland 2
    Shadowrun Returns
    Dead State
    The Banner Saga

    I'm sure that a lot of the people who backed these campaigns would have at least a passing interest in Grimoire. The probably played the old Wizardry games, so this would be right up their alley.

    However, due to his "colourful and striking opinions" (as you so diplomatically put it), Cleve has spent the past 20 years building up such enmity from people (and massive distrust from years of broken promises) that he has become a huge joke. If you want to sell a product, then you simply can't act this way.

    Are you aware of how egregiously he managed his "first" Indiegogo campaign?

    (1) Set an absurd and unreachable funding objective
    (2) Launched an egregious personal attack salvo on the Shaker Kickstarter campaign
    (3) Missed several self-imposed deadlines for the demo release, despite having an insane 120 day campaign
    (4) Had large gaps between updates

    Couple this with his prior infamy, and you have a recipe for abject failure, which just so happens to be precisely the end result. I expect nothing different from his "second", "third", "fourth", and so on, attempts.

    If the game were already released, then I might agree with you, but this is a pre-order campaign. People are more likely to research the developer. Googling "Cleveland Mark Blakemore" produces some very incriminating results...

  5. "Wasteland 2
    Shadowrun Returns
    Dead State
    The Banner Saga"

    Correct, I'm looking forward to those, with Project Eternity added. Shadowrun Returns so far looks my favorite.

    A game closest in comparison to Grimoire, would be Grimrock, which sold over 600,000 units. That alone makes me think that Grimoire should sell way more than now.

    Afterall, Grimrock did not have much name and reputation backing them when they came out with the game. They had no famous developers such as Fargo or Weisman. Still they did quite well.

    "(1) Set an absurd and unreachable funding objective
    (2) Launched an egregious personal attack salvo on the Shaker Kickstarter campaign
    (3) Missed several self-imposed deadlines for the demo release, despite having an insane 120 day campaign
    (4) Had large gaps between updates"

    (1) I fail to see why $250,000 is totally absurd and unreachable objective. The game was quite close to be finished when campaign started which is probably why you say it's absurd? I think at this point it was more about money going for pre-orders, rather than asking it for development budget. Why would $250,000 be too big sum for pre-orders and some development money for a game with a large scale?

    Afterall, Grimoire is large game, and even Grimrock did sell over 600,000 units (without previous fame). Most of the even moderately complex game projects have asked at least over $100,000 in kickstarter ranging from $100,000 to something like $1,200,000. "Yes, I'm aware that some have asked less than $100,000, and still have interesting concept.)

    Even Shaker asked for grand $1 Million with a faceless kickstarter pitch, and they still managed to get $248,000 despite being lackluster.

    (2) Leaving the attack aside, I think that Shaker campaign was just purely bad. They had no real concept or anything to show about the game. All they had to tell about it was that it was to be "old-school" cRPG x 10, and with what games have the developers worked with previously. It's only my opinion, but I think that Shaker kickstarter was just purely bad and got what was coming for it. Sure it could had turned out to be a great game after finished. But pre-development info they were trying to provide was way too scarce. It didn't sound like they had planned it at all.

    Well, I agree with the rest (3) and (4). And while it's no excuse, it seems that several kickstarter campaign games cannot hold their deadlines. Especially grand projects. For example: Shadowrun, Carmageddon which development periods have been prolonged. Reasons for Shadowrun are respectable though. Talking about updates, Dead State has been quite lackluster with their them for some time, for example: "In the next few weeks, we’re going to try to show you all the first post-KS footage of the game so you can take a look at our combat, AI, and one of the near-final areas in the game. (Jan 13th 2013)". Where is it?

  6. I didn't mention Project Eternity, because it is a not turn-based game, much to my chagrin. I don't really consider real-time with pause to be old-school design. I am a backer of that project, though. I have faith that Obsidian will create a great game.

    As far as $250,000 is concerned, it is a pretty ridiculous sum for someone like Cleve to ask for. He has no street cred whatsoever. Worse than that, he has earned a well-deserved reputation as a lunatic. If he were an established developer with a positive reputation, then that would be a different matter.

    The Shaker project was horribly managed. I'll grant you that one. I'm still waiting for a spiritual successor to Wizardry 8, and I was hoping that would be it. Oh well...

    I do believe that Grimoire would be successful if the campaign were managed by someone other Cleve. He has no concept of human interaction, so he should be left in the basement to code.

    I've been a programmer (non-gaming) for 14 years, and, while I've met my share of arrogant jerks, Cleve is in a category all his own. He's one of the most disturbed people in the industry.

    1. Talking about Project Eternity, it's true that that game uses real-time with pause (at least for what I've read of it). RTwP. I think it's all about how we define "old-school", whether Project Eternity will have old-school values or not.

      Baldur's Gate was released about 15 years ago and used quite similar combat system than Project Eternity (will most likely use). Is 15 years enough to be considered as "old-school" these days? Or do we only count games released late 80s and early to mid 90s into that category?

      Fallout was released 1997 and by many it's considered to be "old-school" enough to be called as such. Taking out turn-based vs. RTwP combat and different story/setting, don't you think the very core of the game shares some similarities with Baldur's Gate? At least enough to easily tell that they are quite approximately from the same gaming era. Shouldn't they both then be called either old-school or non-old-school?

      What defines old-school, that's the problem. Is it release year alone, or is the game allowed to be few years newer if it was made with the same style than pre mid 90s games? Take Daggerfall for example, it's released in 1996 but it's whole system is very close to it's predecessor Arena, Is Daggerfall old-school?

      Perhaps we'd better define the games better than just word "old-school", because personally I think that game older than 15 years is old-school, but bit different way than game that's 20-25 years old. They feel like coming out from totally different eras, due their game engine and system. "This game honors early 90s old-school cRPGs like Might & Magic III and Eye of The Beholder" or "This game is spiritual successor to late 90s old-school games like Fallout and Planescape: Torment" sounds better already.

      Then again, for some people only earliest PC games will be allowed to be called old-school, and Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Mega Drive are only true old-school consoles.

      It's purely about definition, and I think that there isn't true solution to it. Of course it makes me laugh when someone says Mass Effect 3 is successor to old-school game called Mass Effect 1. Their game engines and mechanics don't differ that much.

      I personally like to consider old-school being the pre-2000s era all together, when games looked totally different and used much of 2D (at minimum in sprites).

  7. "Then again, for some people only earliest PC games will be allowed to be called old-school, and Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Mega Drive are only true old-school consoles."

    Whoops, I ment Sega Master System obviously.. :-)