On July 15th, a day before its Kickstarter campaign would have closed with $191,429 pledged (over double its asked-for funding), GTA Online-like sandbox game RAW's campaign was suspended.
RAW had broken Kickstarter's 'honesty and transparency' requirements by writing in a project FAQ that the game could not be completed with the money asked for during the campaign and would require additional funds later. The developers are now headed to IndieGoGo, a funding platform with fewer restrictions, to raise the $300,000 they think it will take to release RAW in early access.
Killerwhale, the studio of two, insists that RAW does have the features promised in the sleek announcer voice over from its trailer. "RAW has been in development for 2.5 years and most systems are already finished," the devs said in an email to PC Gamer. Here are some of those features:
- Buy land and build your own house
- Purchase whole islands
- Buildings and stores constructed by players cost resources and run out of supplies over time
- A real-life based work and contract system to help you gain a stable income
- Service equipment and work vehicles with work privileges
- Make private contracts with other players or execute high-risk state contracts
- Become major and expand or improve infrastructure
That's just the highlights from the first two minutes of RAW's five minute trailer.
RAW, from the extensive list of features the developers have planned, sounds like the sandbox playground of Grand Theft Auto with the detailed simulation elements of Truck Simulator and the macro-level economy simulation of Sim City, where you are the Sims. Given that all of those games are made by larger teams with more money, it's fair to be skeptical that a team of two (plus more, if they're able to hire additional developers with crowdsourced funds) would be able to complete a project that combines them all.
"Unfortunately the majority of streamers and commentators have no experience in game development," Killerwhale says of everyone who has doubted that they can pull it off.
Commenters have also pointed out that RAW looks like it's constructed of bought and repurposed Unity Store assets, though there's nothing inherently wrong with that in my view, so long as all the assets look cohesive together. A small team will need to take some shortcuts for a project this size, and pre-made 3D environment assets and character models are one place to cut time and costs.
But we have yet to see RAW's gameplay in any meaningful way. There is a vehicle demonstration showing a truck and big-rig being driven, but considering the scope of RAW's planned features, that's not nearly a comprehensive enough preview to judge it on.
RAW's official trailer looks a lot like a GTA 5 machinima video, which is exactly what you can find in one of the developers' YouTube uploads years prior to RAW's announcement. Whether there's any actual game under the hood is still unclear to potential backers.
This is the biggest sticking point for RAW right now: showing proof of concept. On the RAW Official Discord server, both the earliest message in the "game-news" channel (July 4) and the most recent (July 16) mention a gameplay video that the developers promise will be released. Backers and skeptics all want to see something more concrete than RAW's slick cinematic trailer.
"We do work right now on new demonstration videos, which we're planning to share before launching our campaign on IndieGoGo," Killerwhale told PC Gamer, "so all potential backers will have a chance to get a better look before supporting our project."
Videos or gifs of RAW's systems in action are likely what will make or break its IndieGoGo campaign—anything at all to show that RAW is more than a sophisticated machinima project. Dry-looking videos of game engine editors showing animated walk cycles or an inventory system are welcome elements on any crowdfunding page, and because of its ambition, RAW needs to show off even more than that. Backers need to be convinced that the developers have a rough draft of a complete game and just need help building it out.
As for getting booted from Kickstarter, RAW's developers say that "it was very unprofessional from Kickstarter to close our entire campaign without any warnings."
Given that RAW had already hit its funding goal and was only a day from a successful campaign, perhaps Killerwhale did deserve some communication. But it did clearly violate Kickstarter's rules, which state that campaigns must ask for the amount of money they need to complete the project. RAW's developers said explicitly that they would need money outside of Kickstarter.
Killerwhale believes that Kickstarter's mandate that projects be funded entirely on its platform is "just another barrier for creators." Kickstarter's all-or-nothing funding model can put creators who nearly miss their funding goal in the unfortunate position of having spent time and money on running a campaign that they get no return from, but it also protects backers by ensuring they aren't charged if the creators don't raise the funds they say they need to deliver what's promised.
This time, Killerwhale will run a campaign on IndieGoGo, which allows for "flexible funding" for projects that want to keep any money that was pledged. Unlike Kickstarter, IndieGoGo charges backers for contributions immediately, not after a project's campaign successfully ends.
We'll be looking out for the gameplay videos Killerwhale says will precede the campaign. They've called their critics know-nothings, so now it's time to put their unedited gameplay demonstrations where their mouths are.