It's been five years since the creators of cult favorite free RPG Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a sequel. The team at Tales of Game's (note: that is not a typo) raised $120,000 at the end of 2012, got right to work, and… apparently never stopped, blowing past a planned 2013 release date and continuing on for another four years. What happened?
If you're not familiar with the original game, a quick primer: In the year 2041, Charles Barkley performs a powerful Chaos Dunk in front of a packed crowd. The dunk's explosive waves of awesomeness kills almost everyone in the stands, and basketball is outlawed. The game follows Charles Barkley in 2053 after he's blamed for another Chaos Dunk that results in more deaths, and Michael Jordan is dispatched to bring Barkley to justice.
It's utter nonsense, obviously, but it's fun nonsense. It's like playing an RPG based on a dril tweet, except weirder. The sequel, fully titled The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa, promised to be stranger, bigger, and deeper.
Five years is a long time in videogames, but it's a damn eternity in the Kickstarter world. In 2012, Double Fine launched the campaign for Broken Age and planted the idea in the minds of indie developers everywhere: hey, we could crowdfund this thing. That was the year we saw a rush of indie Kickstarter campaigns. Heck, 2012 was the year when the Ouya console got funded. We were all so very young.
Here in 2018, though, we're sadly familiar with the basic outline of what happened next. The campaign was too successful, stretch goals promised a dramatic expansion in the game's features, and the team ran out of money before the game was finished.
$120,000 may be a lot of money, but it's nothing if you're trying to pay a team of developer salaries to make a game full-time. After five years, that money is long gone—according to an update in 2016, the team is "essentially working for free." But it doesn't seem like Barkley's story is over. A Chaos Dunk may ring out once again. Tales of Game's didn't respond to our requests for comment for this article, but unlike some other exhausted campaigns, this one is still grinding forward.
Tales of Game's never completely disappeared, even though updates to backers have slowly dwindled. And yet, the absurdist humor, the joy of this game, seems undimished. "You all might remember Laz, the Wyld Finn, and his disturbing cavalcade of horrible game ideas. Well, we've given him a bigger role in the project, so Barkley is starting to veer off course and into a realm where gam3r pride and g4mer self-loathing painfully crisscross," says the October 2017 update. Also in the same update: a heading that simply reads "OH YEAH WE ADDED FISHING" and the self-aware sign-off "Remember: you can't rush quantity."
Reading back through the years of updates, it looks like the only thing that has really changed is that Tales of Game's got tired of promising a release date and then having to push it back over and over.
Since 2015, updates have a distinct flavor of "it will be done when it's done." In August of that year, Tales of Game's released a Final Fantasy 7 Remake-parody trailer teasing a release date of 11/11/2023. It was clearly a joke. Maybe a joke. It could have been a joke. At this point, it's anyone's guess whether Barkley 2 or the Final Fantasy 7 remake will release first.
Recent updates feature more art and animation than early updates, and more and more the team's progress reports focus on things like menus, balancing, and new mini-games. They recently posted a GIF of a run-and-gun battle with 'Peno Stags, ostensibly an abbreviation of jalapeno but we know in our hearts this one's a dick joke. In March 2017, they announced that the game now includes "upgradeable swears," encouraging players to "level up that sass." And you know what? The important thing is that they're having fun.
We have no concrete reason to think this will really be the year, but we still included Barkley 2 in our guide to the games of 2018 with blind faith in the Power of the Dunk. It didn't go unnoticed.
How about that? Looks like some people still have the audacity of Hope. We, hope to just not completely disappoint.January 1, 2018