Understanding the Unsung Story Kickstarter

Unsung Story popped up on Kickstarter last month to a fairly decent start, but ultimately it begun to fizzle quickly. Right now it sits at roughly $100,000 short of the $600,000 goal that Playdek set up for itself after it began with $280,000 in the first two days. While most games get a last minute surge, there have been quite a few retractions. For example, one cost them $1,263 on January 26th according to Kicktraq. With a little more than two days left, I wanted to take a quick look and see why this project has struggled and if their updates have been able to change my mind and potentially yours.

Unsung Story Battle

I want to start this off by making it clear that Unsung Story had a terrible pitch. Their video offered little information and they were riding off of Yasumi Matsuno’s name entirely while presenting nothing more than some generic fantasy art. Since this time, they’ve updated their goals and focused on informing the investors. Let’s see if they’ve righted the ship and fixed the biggest issues they had in the beginning by answering my biggest concerns.

Who is Playdek?

Playdek is a development company that has done a number of iOS games. These are generally adapted from licensed properties like Dungeons & Dragons and Penny Arcade. For the most part they have developed card games. The game I feel represents their vision best is probably Summoner Wars.

What is Yasumi Matsuno’s role exactly?

“Just so there’s no confusion: I won’t be doing the day-to-day directing, but I will be involved throughout development of Unsung Story. I am the visionary of the game, from mechanics to story. Playdek is realizing this vision with me.”

This was Matsuno on January 17th clarifying his position. Mr. Matsuno is the world builder, not the game’s director. For those who don’t know who Yasumi Matsuno is, he directed Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre and most of Final Fantasy XII. He can be credited as the man who’s work defined the Tactical RPG genre.

What Happens if Unsung Story doesn’t make it to $600,000?

“We are working on the Unsung Story tactics game regardless of the outcome of the Kickstarter. What the Kickstarter will help determine is the platforms the game will be developed for. So no – the game will not be cancelled if the Kickstarter is not successful.”

This quote came from Briana Covill, Senior Product Manager of Playdek during the game’s Reddit AMA. This game is shooting to hit multiple consoles and expand itself with the $600,000. That is what the Kickstarter is for, not to make sure the game gets made. It should also be followed with Chief Technical Officer Gary Weiss’ comment that “a project with larger scope requires solid tools, so we’ll have to include some licensed technology in order to give our design and art staff the freedom to turn the vision for Unsung Story into reality.”

Unsung Story Ally

Is this game really going to be like Final Fantasy Tactics?

Somewhat. I think we can throw out the idea that this will be an isometric SRPG. I say this because the recently revealed images show off a hex grid system more in line with games like Daisenryaku. So no, it isn’t going to look exactly like Tactics. The game will also have roughly 25 missions, which is smaller than many of the other Final Fantasy Tactics games and there are no side quests or random battles. There are plans to expand this out post release.

The focus will be on scaling the difficulty of battles to reward players. “As the central story concept of this game is to ‘replay’ battles that took place in the history of the world, there won’t be truly random events during battle. Though the story of each stage will remain the same on subsequent plays, enemies will be both stronger, and in some cases, entirely different, requiring new strategies of the player. Higher difficulty stages will also give more powerful items as rewards.”

Unsung Story has no lead character and is focused on interconnected episodes similar to the 4 in Final Fantasy Tactics. “Players will assume control of a group of common warriors and take part in battles from episodes spanning the course of the war,” said Mr. Matsuno. So this is a tale of armies. It does have a job system which you can find out more about here.

Can Playdek even make a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy Tactics?

Theoretically. They have Yasumi Matsuno helping to form the characters, system and story. Final Fantasy Tactics artist Akihiko Yoshida and composer Hitoshi Sakimoto are working on assets. They have the guys at Playdek doing what they do best in recreating established systems for mobile. So it should look, sound and feel a lot like what a Final Fantasy Tactics should. As far as I’ve seen, Yasumi Matsuno hasn’t placed his name on an inferior product in his 15 years of the industry which makes this pretty compelling.

Does Unsung Story even need Kickstarter?

If you want to make this a bigger game, yes. However as has been revealed, the game is getting a digital card game in 2014 on the side, so it does have a future without Kickstarter. This project is going through and this Kickstarter will not stop it, only improve it.  This may be why they are charging $20 for a digital copy, which is higher than what most people are willing to spend on an Android or iOS game.

Unsung Story Art

Will it be successful?

According to Kicktraq it won’t.  There are always last minute pushes, but that’s where we’ll see if fans of Yasumi Matsuno will be able to generate that momentum to get it over the top. The way the Kickstarter has evolved has been a solid effort to get the message across for the game. Something the original pitch left plenty of questions about.

What is my final concern?

Much like most of you, it is transparency. For me, $600,000 to port a game to PC seems a bit much especially when Mr. Weiss went on to say that  “all of our code is cross platform capable, so the majority of the work I do won’t be much different whether we’re targeting PC, a console, a handheld gaming device, or a mobile phone.” Throw together his statement that “most of the foundational code that turned into our Playdek engine was a personal project of mine for many years, so that’s almost entirely homegrown,” and I’m sitting here wondering why they went with trying to pitch this as a Kickstarter to go multiplatform.

They obviously entered this Kickstarter too early, as I would guess that they want an early influx of cash to fall back on while they are still in planning so they can budget Unsung Story properly and conserve their own assets. This is fine, but that horrible early pitch meant that they are selling a port, not a game that’s only in concept stage right now.  This is a game being developed between very well known artists in Japan and lesser known developers in America. Transparency is and always will be crucial with odd projects like this.

Unsung Story Wastelands

This Kickstarter is an attempt to expand Unsung Story into something more. That more means potentially more content and more platforms to publish on. This is not a Kickstarter to get the game made, and people should understand that before they donate. If you want to help a Yasumi Matsuno project along, this is the first time you will be able to do so.

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