I shouldn't be, of course, as Tides is a promising-sounding project, a story-driven isometric (but still 3D) RPG that will attempt to be a worthy sequel to Planescape: Torment, and which is indeed being developed by a number of the people who worked on that game. It features a fascinating-sounding setting in Monte Cook's Numenera, will feature a Mark Morgan score, and some of the gameplay features it will incorporate (the "Tides" feature, or the "Legacies" system) sound both innovative and fun.
And yet...in spite of all that, Tides of Numenera will be an isometric RPG that, to a significant degree, caters to particular tastes in gameplay and design.
The same, of course, is true of Obsidian's recently-Kickstarted Project Eternity: it's an isometric (but still 3D) RPG that will boast a brand new fantasy setting, a rich and well-thought-out deity infrastructure that is relevant to the plot, lots of character classes and customization, and a massive world to explore. And yet, in the end, it's an isometric RPG that will cater to particular tastes in gameplay and design.
And, granted, these are tastes I happen to share, more or less.
But I'm beginning to worry that Kickstarter is becoming something that some of its proponents decry. It's not uncommon to hear the charge leveled that big-name, big-budget game publishers stifle innovation in their drive to satisfy shareholders and appeal to the widest market possible (which necessarily means appealing to the lowest common denominators in gameplay and narrative design). Exceptions exist, of course -- e.g. the rampant, unexpected success of Skyrim -- but one can think of enough examples where, arguably, this assertion can be shown to be true.
And Kickstarter is -- was? -- supposed to be something different than that, a place where independent developers could innovate and find success. But, at least as far as RPGs are concerned, it seems to me that Kickstarter is becoming a place where only certain kinds of projects, carefully crafted to appeal to specific markets and tastes in design and gameplay, can succeed. Wasteland 2, an isometric RPG that resurrects the Wasteland franchise (which inspired the Fallout series) easily reached its funding goal. Tides of Numenera -- again, an isometric RPG -- was fully funded in just six hours. Project Eternity -- yet another isometric RPG, mind -- set a Kickstarter record with its funding. And so we'll all march into 2014 with three solid, older-school-style isometric RPGs to look forward to and anticipate.
So we know that older-school-style isometric RPGs can raise money on Kickstarter like nobody's business. But a slightly more innovative project, like Chris Taylor's Wildman, can't. And yeah, maybe Wildman was presented as an action-RPG primarily...but if you actually listened to what its developers were saying and looked at what they were presenting, there was more to it. It would have incorporated RTS elements, would have tried to make evolution (of sorts) into a gameplay element...and the tools, oh, the tools. Gas Powered Games had some awesome tools at their disposal when building the game's prototypes, and those would have been released along with it.
But it couldn't raise funds. And even Richard Garriott's Shroud of the Avatar, which is trying to do some new and interesting things around the area of multiplayer experience, and which is trying to inject a high level of world interactivity back into RPGs, isn't racking up funds as quickly as some of these other projects did...and a lot of people are complaining about its dual-scale world and lack of isometric perspective.
I don't know...maybe I'm imagining things, but it seems to me that here are a few examples of where innovation is being stifled, and then on this platform that ostensibly exists to help creators break away from the innovation-stifling route of seeking a big name publisher for a work. Maybe that's just natural forces at work; what succeeds is what the most people demand (or at least are willing to pay for), and what fails are the things that give people financial pause (even if the actual product is damned interesting, conceptually).