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vrijdag, mei 18, 2012

Organic Farming Inspires Gaming's Latest Kickstarter Success

Jane Jensen at home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Image: Pinkerton Road

When she launched her new game studio, Jane Jensen had to look no further for inspiration than her own doorstep.

?My husband and I have been into organics for a few years,? she said to Wired earlier this month. ?When we lived in California, we belonged to a CSA,? community-supported agriculture. ?You subscribe to a small organic farm and get a basket of their latest produce every week.? CSAs cut out the middleman and put consumers directly in touch with their local food growers.

When Jensen and her husband Robert Holmes lived in California in the 1990?s, they worked for Sierra, the birthplace of the point-and-click adventure game. Jensen co-designed the fondly-remembered King?s Quest VI in 1992 before creating the Gabriel Knight trilogy, a unique series of dark M-rated adventures that gave Jensen her own loyal fan base.

Jensen continued to develop adventure games after the fall of Sierra, but finding the funds to create these author-driven games, considered niche in the post-King?s Quest market, is difficult. Reading an article in an issue of Entrepreneur magazine, Jensen and Holmes found that other businesses were adopting the CSA model: artisanal sheep?s wool, gourmet ice cream.

Why not videogames?

In April, Jensen and Holmes launched their new studio Pinkerton Road, dedicated to the ?community-supported gaming? model. A Kickstarter soon followed. Unlike most crowdfunding drives, Jensen?s isn?t asking supporters to back one particular game. She?s asking them to become members of the first year of the CSG?s life, during which they will receive benefits in accordance with their donation levels.

Concept art from Moebius, the first game from Jane Jensen's studio Pinkerton Road.
Image: Pinkerton Road

Pinkerton Road will release at least one game during this ?season.? Fans voted on which of three PC game designs they?d like to see realized by the master storyteller, choosing a game called Moebius. It?s a Gabriel Knighty game about an antiquities dealer drawn into a globe-spanning, deadly conspiracy.

Just what the fans have been clamoring for. But can adventure games grow beyond that?

?There?s a certain new audience that we want to reach that probably would not be very tolerant of some of the classic adventure game mechanisms,? Jensen said. So she?ll create a ?casual? difficulty setting that features more ?hand-holding.? The objectives will be more clearly stated, spots on the screen that you can interact with will be highlighted.

?At the same time, people are nostalgic for these classic games, and as a designer I?m nostalgic for them,? she said. So the ?unabridged? version of Moebius should be the sort of challenge that adventure game die-hards crave. ?I don?t believe in making puzzles pointlessly hard,? she says, but adds that ?it?s kind of like ?no child left behind? ? if you always have to go for the lowest common denominator, things can be so obvious that a relatively intelligent person finds no challenge in it whatsoever.?

Fans who donate to the Kickstarter or become a CSG member later via PayPal will get ?a virtual seat in the studio,? Jensen says, although she adds that ?what that means to them and what that means to me might be different.? They will elicit feedback from fans, letting them beta-test the game and choose between different character design concepts. But ultimately, Jensen says, she and her team will decide whether or not to address fans? comments and ideas.

Pinkerton Road isn?t funded entirely by Kickstarter; Jensen said that she hopes to get more funding from angel investors and that a second game has been funded by an outside publisher. Going to Kickstarter, though, has put Pinkerton on the fast track to finishing games sooner and with more artistic freedom.

The Kickstarter campaign ends Saturday; nearly $400,000 has been pledged thus far. Two excited fans have pledged $10,000 each for a personalized studio tour of the Pinkerton Road farm and an audience with Jensen.

?It is kind of strange if you think about it,? said Jensen of the top tier donations. ?I probably wouldn?t spend that kind of money for something like that.?

Source: http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/P_c52Aku4zU/

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