Why?

Why is Waking the Glares even here? Why is it on Kickstarter? Why is it on Greenlight? There is almost nothing there. You might as well start a crowdfunding campaign to turn a puff of hydrogen into a star. It’s like chucking flour, raw egg and baking powder in a pile on a plate and trying to sell it to people as sponge cake.

I’ve played something that could be described as a demo. You wander round a suburban street in first person, solving very basic puzzles and… not much more. You collect folders with book chapters in them. They cause you to watch (or walk through) some seemingly unconnected vignettes. For example, you are on a boat on the Seine. It sails along. It goes into a tunnel. You get off the boat. You climb a ladder. Now you’re back on the street. Wasn’t that invigorating?

We'll always have Paris, at least until this sequence ends

We’ll always have Paris, at least until this sequence ends

There is a little medallion that will spin faster the closer you are to an important object. In practice this serves to eliminate the exploration aspect to the game as you just hold the medallion in front of you and let it guide you to the next MacGuffin.

Graphically, it looks alright. The environment design is generally pretty and well put together. The sound is nice. Waking the Glares is not bad, but that’s the best I can say: not bad. If I wanted to be especially negative I would say it’s forgettable.

And yet the developers, Wisefool Studios, are on Kickstarter asking for €30,000. I’ve never heard of them before. Waking the Glares appears to be their first game. I’m sure they are lovely people. They are probably really cool and ambitious indie devs. I wish them success in the industry, but why should I give them money based on this bare outline of a concept from an untested company?

I keep expecting a plastic bag to float by evocatively

I keep expecting a plastic bag to float by evocatively

It’s not that I’m against these first person exploration games. I found Dear Esther to a fascinating and evocative tale, akin to a well written short story. However, imagine if Dear Esther had no narrative voice, no consistent setting and no real atmosphere beyond a vague surrealism. In Dear Esther it felt like everything you saw and heard tied together. I don’t think Waking the Glares has anything like that. It is not the genre I have a problem with, it is the poor implementation.

Similarly, I am unsure how it is supposed to work as advertising. That’s essentially what releasing a demo to support a kickstarter is supposed to do, in my opinion. Yet the demo here does little more than establish the game’s existence. Where is the intrigue? Where are the cool new mechanics? Where is the all-important hook?

There are so many indie games out there in Greenlight and on crowdfunding platforms competing for attention. You need something really special to stand out. What does your game do that no other game has ever done? No, being Oculus Rift compatible does not count. In the past year and a half, I have seen countless games that screamed “OCULUS RIFT!!!!!!” but were unable to offer anything else of substance.

What every indie dev I know will say is that making it in this industry is a marathon. You will most likely work long and hard for a few scraps of your respective currency and barely go anywhere. In the future you might hit that break. You might have that genius concept that grabs the public by whatever genitalia they happen to have. You might build up that reputation as this new and upcoming studio, as exciting go-getters.

Right now though, I can’t see anything here that deserves €30,000. There is potential for the future, definitely. Waking the Glares might be a hit game of 2015, or 2016, or later. It could evolve into something wondrous. But at the moment it’s just another tadpole in a swamp teeming with larger and more developed beasts.

It turned out Old Mr Harris had a sex dungeon below his house. Whodathunkit?

It turned out Old Mr Harris had a sex dungeon below his house. Whodathunkit?

I suppose that in many ways I am criticising the game most harshly as an advertisement for the kickstarter. As a demo it is merely undistinguished, as marketing it does not work. There is talent behind it, but I wish they had taken more time to develop their game before submitting it to the public.

This is all my personal opinion. Others may play it and enjoy themselves. They may be intrigued by the mystery, charmed by the aesthetic and soothed by the music.  This is a perfectly understandable point of view and if Waking the Glares pleases you, then good for you. I, on the other hand, am a curmudgeon who found myself bored by the entire experience.

  • I wish indie game enthusiasts would be half as invested in the TOOLS side of indie game development as they are KickStarter. The reality is the tools aren’t there yet, so it’s almost hopeless to fund games on KickStarter, why not fund tools instead so the games will get better? But for me the problem I have with KickStarter is it’s an indicator that the people hosting it don’t really believe in their game, and may well be more interested in getting rich quick with social-media; because if you really believe in your game, you don’t have time to fool with something like KickStarter and you’re going to work on it regardless of whether you have money or not, and if you have to choose between having money or not, then you probably are not in the best position to be making a game.

    Money doesn’t make a game. The same goes for tools. I say it would be nice to see funding of tool development, but as a tool developer I don’t want money, I’d really just like moral support, interested and engaged parties, and other developers to get involved. Games and tools and artwork shouldn’t be funded up front, they should be funded after the game has been played, or while it is being played, by donations and automated micro-donations to everyone involved knowingly or not each time the player encounters the things that they were involved in making.

    • Generally, I think, the money comes in long after the moral support and engagement and involvement. Establishing a decent reputation is one of the first steps to having a successful kickstarter or whatever – trying to skip a step and hope hundreds of strangers decide to send money based on very little is… not going to work. Besides, it’s much nicer to have network of friends, colleagues, whatever to learn from.

      • I think it’s actually the other way around. Before you have a nearly finished product you have nothing that will interest anyone in their right mind. Communities that form before that point, before you go live to 7B people so-to-speak, I am suspect of; because it’s just been my experience that up to that point you won’t meet any realistic people, everyone will say one thing, when they are really just lonely people looking for a place to belong, and ultimately if you try to work with or interact with these people they will just rob you of all your time and creative energies and a lot of them will be really difficult because they inevitably come from sheltered subcultures like we’ve seen with “GamerGate” and things just won’t end well…

        If journos could bestow legitimacy somehow earlier on than after the “live” moment, call it investigative journalism into what tools and resources are being developed literally everywhere that no one knows about with the same enthusiasm that they cover all of the games that are being cobbled together with inadequate tools (being an expensive/inevitably generalized tool doesn’t necessarily make it a tool that will guarantee a certain level of success) then I think we’d see a marked improvement in both the games and the tools. If we can get to that point I just worry that everyone will be dismayed by the fact that there will be so many amazing games appearing everyday that the bar will be raised so high that you have to be some kind of literary genius to be seen by more than your close friends and relatives (or we could all work collaboratively and iteratively together on projects in the commons instead)

        P.S. While it’s nice to have friends to learn from, if you are developing the tools of tomorrow or even a high quality game, you’re probably well past the pupal stage, and it’s just still really difficult to find an appropriate audience. Outlets need to cover indie tools more.