There were too many of us, we had access to too much equipment, too much money, and little by little we went insane.
Francis Ford Coppola, not at all describing Star Citizen
There is, even as I write this, a Kickstarer campaign running for a video game based on the movie Apocalypse Now.
I have no real opinion when it comes to the game itself. It might be the best game ever or allow one unique depth and perspective into the movie. It might be all they promise and more. I just know that it looks pretty sure that the campaign is not going to make its $900,000 funding goal.
Wilhelm’s Rule of Kickstarter campaigns is that if you don’t make 20% of your funding goal in the first 24 hours, you might as well go home. You haven’t rallied your base or given enough notice or come up with the right pitch or simply just don’t have the draw to get there.
The campaign sits at 18% and is at day 14 of 30. The prospects look grim. They even have a backer in at the $10,000 mark, but not nearly enough backers in at the sane funding levels.
I didn’t even hear about the title through the gaming news media. I stumbled on it by mistake on the Kickstarter site, and I was only there because I saw Bob Cringley had time to do another post on his blog so was wondering if he might have also found time to update people on when the hell their Mineservers might be showing up.
Still, when I found the campaign I had to laugh.
I wasn’t laughing at the campaign or what it was trying to accomplish. Like I said, the intent there might be pure.
Rather, I was laughing at what a perfect metaphor the movie was for the big ticket, grandiose plans, uncontrolled feature creeping, perennially behind schedule, and always over budget crowdfunded MMORPG market.
And lets face it, the grand champion poster child for all of that is Star Citizen. You could make this it several others, but Star Citizen is the big fish, so let’s just go straight for the jugular on that one.
How can you have this thought… this mixing of media minds… and not put Chris Roberts up there in the role of Colonel Kurtz? Surrounded by loyal followers who continue to give him money to driving a project that seems to have gone beyond being a viable venture.
I suppose if he could keep his posts a little more terse I might have to cast Derek Smart as Captain Willard.
They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.
-Capt. Willard, on meeting Col. Kurtz
That is a fun mental image to play with, but it is too much. The movie is too large, too dramatic, too bloody, too wrought with peril to really be a metaphor for Star Citizen. The real metaphor requires you to pull back a level, to consider the making of Apocalypse Now.
There is a great documentary about the making of the movie, Hearts of Darkness. It illustrates the parallel between the theme of the movie and the reality of making the movie, with Coppola himself taking on the Kurtzian role, out in the jungle, making a movie that nearly grew beyond his ability to shape.
I can picture Chris Roberts in that situation as well. He had a vision, but the scope may well have grown beyond his ability to shape and bring to fruition. Some of the problem is letting things grow because the wider scope is what he really wants. But not every problem is of his making. Coppola in the jungle face expensive problems with sets, actors unprepared (Brando) or ill (Sheen had a heart attack) and a range of studio execs back in the states wondering what he was doing with all the money and reminding him that he was past his deadline.
For Chris Roberts you can substitute in technology not up to his vision, the need to build some things from scratch, the need to change engines, and of course a whole range of people wondering what he is doing with the money and pointing out that the promised November 2014 ship date disappeared in the rear view mirror quite a ways back.
Coppola got an enduring classic for all his problems, explosions, and a million feet of film. We are still waiting to see what Chris Roberts will deliver.
And the irony is that the game that inspired this metaphor in my head, it isn’t going anywhere if it is depending on its crowdfunding run. But it has been a down time for video game crowdfunding, so they might have to go back to more traditional methods.