Ruffian Games, the developers behind Crackdown 2, have finally revealed what they've been working on over the last few months.
Imagine Crackdown 3. Picture it in your mind. There we go. Lovely, isn't it? Now... imagine pretty much the exact opposite of that.
Ruffian's new project is in fact Game of Glens, a colourful collection of highland-themed minigames underpinned by resource collection and strategy mechanics. It's actually an intriguing pitch... and "pitch" is very much the appropriate term because it's being crowd-funded by an odd new venture from publisher Square Enix. A strange situation to be sure, which we'll explore below.
First of all: Game Of Glens. Ruffian describes the project as "fun and frantic game of skill and tactics that provides a genuinely new and unique blend of action and strategy," wherein players manage a clan, build their infrastructure and then build teetering structures to participate in several events. Tower-building, "Hoof The Haggis in the Hole" and "Help Ma Coo" have all been confirmed, alongside other minigames. It's clear that the Scottish studio have plenty of inspiration to draw on.
You can read more details on Square's Collective website, where interested gamers can vote on whether Game Of Glens should receive a crowd-funding campaign on IndieGoGo, whereupon Square will take 5% of all pledges if successful...
Okay, let's take a closer look at this. Square's new "Collective" scheme is one of the most bizarre new ventures I've seen from a major games publisher in some time. Rather than agreeing to publish the game themselves with a tight budget, they'll instead use their marketing clout to advertise... a voting portal... that might lead to the company setting up an IndieGoGo crowd funding campaign. If successful, Square lifts 5% off the top, and takes 10% if they act as distributor. Developers can apparently choose any publisher they want once the game is funded, though, or distribute it themselves.
Publisher-led crowd funding? How deliciously macabre. It's genius from Square's perspective since it allows them to gauge interest in potentially interesting indie games without any risk to themselves, while the extra exposure for promising indie titles can't be a bad thing. Steam saturation means that every bit of extra publicity will be useful - useful enough to be worth paying 5% for, perhaps. After all, many Kickstarted titles pay for freelance PR companies to help with their campaigns.
But, frankly, it's hard to shake the feeling that Square are effectively just a middle man, and could perhaps use their war chest to fund a few of these games outright to bolster their insanely expensive AAA titles? Just a thought.