[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]hile some might think that Mystic Searches is somehow a new game project (I certainly did at a glance) this is actually the second crowdfunding campaign for a singular project that began in September of 2014, The New 8-Bit Heroes. That campaign was successfully funded for a little over $54k, but Joe Granato and his team made clear they believed that the $36k funding goal alone would be enough to make a homebrew NES game that interacts with a modern PC version, a documentary on its creation, as well as tutorials to help teach others to make their own NES games. As we already pointed out, this sudden return seems unusual because this new campaign seems to suggest that this additional $36k is necessary for the completion of the modern PC version of Mystic Searches originally promised. But if this new campaign fails, what will become of the modern PC version? Will it be reduced to much less than what backers had anticipated? Furthermore, the devs post that previous backers of the original campaign need not participate again (though Joe Granato and his team state in the FAQs they are “conceptualizing” special backer rewards for returning supporters.)
After the initial rush on the campaign’s opening day, the support has significantly slowed down for the Mystic Searches campaign. After $10k raised on the first day, that number drops to about $1,200 the second day, then $359 the third, and $111 the fourth. Despite a strong start, these numbers show that it’s not impossible for this campaign to fail. So what’s Plan B look like?
I messaged Granato through Kickstarter, asking just that. He not only answered my question, but also clarified why his team went this route to begin with. He wrote:
Things certainly have escalated to a scope we didn’t quite anticipate, with all parts of the project. During the original campaign, we were uncertain of exactly what form the *modern* game would take, suffice it to say that it would run on PC and almost certainly Mac, and be able to communicate with the NES game. Originally, the game was going to be housed on flash memory inside of the cartridge, and as a result, was planned to be limited to the size constraints of that flash memory as well as bandwidth constraints…how fast the data transfer was over that unpowered USB port (think, thumb drive).
The plan has changed dramatically, however (and for the better as far as I’m concerned). The peripheral we have designed plugs into the controller 2 port of the NES and writes data to an external file, which can then be read by to modern game, and vice versa (as described in [sic] new video). This means we can build a game as involved and detailed as we’d like; it doesn’t have to be housed on flash memory and can be a downloadable game instead. We realized, this could even be used to make a series of games or the tech used and implemented by other developers to make other NES->modern device experiences (which we have been encouraging among our developer friends).
In addition, we have sort of fallen in with a team of great artists, have been in talks with Nintendo to bring it to the Wii-U (which has now become our target ‘modern game’ platform, though it will still also be able to run on PC and Mac – both of those, tested). Not to mention, the documentary has gotten a surprising boost and there are a few other things we want to do with that that were not involved in our original budget.
If this Kickstarter happens to fail, we’ll have to either find some private funding, or we’ll have to scale back the modern game to its original intended scope that was budgeted for, and likely not have the budget to bring it to any console. Considering the amazing team we have assembled and ready to go, that’d be a shame!
The Mystic Searches team found themselves introduced with new opportunities that resulted in their pursuing an expansion on their original software and hardware designs. Such ventures carry with them a certain risk, but as Granato tells it, the chance of failure (at least in terms of fulfilling their original promises from the first campaign) is very minimal. Personally what still concerns me is the larger staff. The more people working for you, the more people you have to pay, and many things can happen that could result in team members leaving a project before their work is even finished. I tend to have more faith in smaller teams–many of my favorite crowdfunded games were developed by four people or less–so you can take my views with a grain of salt if you feel you must.
If Joe Granato and his dev team can pull off getting Mystic Searches on the Wii U, then perhaps it will all be worth it. To achieve that far-reaching generational connection from next-gen console to first gen, it will surely produce a stronger emotional reaction from players. It takes a lot of work to get onto Nintendo’s platform, and while that has been changing for the last ten years, it’s clear that the company still values caution over edginess. So after hearing from Mr. Granato and thinking over the issue a little more, I think I better understand this return to Kickstarter, even if some still do not.