The hopeful developers of the Apocalypse Now video game are now asking for about four years and $5 million to create a AAA experience based on the film, and they've opened up a second crowdfunding channel to help pull in that money.
The original $900,000 Kickstarter, currently hovering at just under $175,000, will remain active. If it is successful, the team will honor all backers, but if it isn't, the team plans to see about moving those backers over to the Apocalypse Now website where the longer-running campaign will live, game director Montgomery Markland tells Polygon.
Markland added that this was always the plan for the game, which he thinks will be years, likely four, in the making.
“We can not make a video game that is authentic to the motion picture without the sufficient budget for a AAA title,” he said in an interview earlier this week. “So that requires a long-time crowdfunding platform.”
Also key to the opening of the website as a crowdfunding platform is the team's desire to make sure that the journey is as interesting as the destination, much like both the film and its creation.
“We also want to entertain the community,” he said. “We are going back to telling stories around the campfire.”
The goal of the website is to not just raise money for the longterm development of a big game, but also to connect with the community in a way that allows them to guide and influence the development, Markland said.
“I think it's fundamental that the community and the entertainment begins from day one,” he said. “And the best way we can best do that is on our own site.”
Markland points to how Star Citizen approached funding as an example of the sort of approach the Apocalypse Now team wants to use.
In that case, the game started with a successful Kickstarter and then segued into a still-live crowdfunding system on the Star Citizen website. The website also offered frequent video and text updates and the game itself was rolled out, and continued to be rolled out, in smaller chunks. The response by fans has been contentious at times.
“For example, Star Citizen," he said, “they put out the hangar and ship relatively early in the process. We are planning on doing things like that. And we also like to be logical and coherent about it.”
The team already has plans to release to backers a playable prototype of a very early section of the game, allowing players to take on the roll of Captain Benjamin Willard, who in the game and the movie is later sent into the jungle to find and kill Colonel Walter Kurtz, who has gone rogue and is commanding a unit of Montagnard soldiers who see him as a god.
The prototype will drop players into Willard's hotel room. In the movie, Willard has a hallucinatory freakout just before being drafted for this new mission.
Another way the team will maintain interest is by shipping some rewards early. Montgomery said the team hopes to make shipments of rewards at least four times a year. He added that while backers won't be charged until the team hits its funding goal, items also won't be shipped until credit cards are charged.
The key point Montgomery wanted to make is that this game's development will be thoroughly planned out and realistic, meaning that while it may seem like a long time, he expects it will hit its promised launch date.
“Think about this as a marathon, not a sprint,” he said.
He pointed out that the creation of the film, a famously problem-wrought endeavor, took 550 days to shoot and years to edit.
The screenplay was written in 1969, he said, but the movie didn't come out until 1979.
“That's a 10-year process to go from pen to screen,” Montgomery said. “We're equally committed to whatever it takes to bring the Apocalypse Now experience to the digital campfire.”
The key reason the game is seeking crowdfunding, Montgomery reiterated, is so they can avoid making a “movie game” and instead create something that is true to the experience of the film.
The goal is to create a game that is more stealth-based journey then a 10-hour shooter. Montgomery describes the game as: “Fallout: New Vegas on acid in Vietnam.”
“As the director of the game I think it’s incumbent upon us to create each scenario that occurs in the motion picture, but with player choice, engagement and immersion," Montgomery said. “That means it will include everything you see in the theatrical cut, everything in the redux cut, but you don't have to do it all.”
The team will also dig into some of the experiences that made neither cut and can be found in what Montgomery called a “working print.” The team will also go back to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which inspired the film, and perhaps even to Odysseus, which in some ways inspired the novella.
For instance, Montgomery said, the game may include options for both endings of the tale. Kurtz dies in different ways in the movie and the book.
I asked if the team had considered releasing content regularly to backers to maintain their interest over the course of development.
He said it would be interesting to roll out the game in pieces, sort of like an episodic title or television show, with each new update allowing the player to journey further down the river.
“Predicting things over the course of four years is tricky,” he added.
While development of the game sounds like it will be a timely process, Montgomery didn't give me a specific release window. Instead, he said that he hoped the game could be released by the 40th anniversary of the movie in 2019, but that he doesn't think they have the time to accomplish that.
When I questioned whether the long time frame might scare away potential backers, Montgomery said he feels it's the most honest approach.
“That’s how long like this usually takes,” he said. “Torment: Tides of Numenera is coming out in a couple of weeks here. It was backed in 2013 — that’s four years.
“I think we’re being judicious about what we’re promising, that’s fair, that's good, that's right.”
In the case of Torment, the game raised $4.1 million in 31 days back in March 2013 with a promised release date of December 2014. It's now due for a release this month.
“We want to be as transparent as humanly possible in everything we do because when you crowdfund something the fans are the boss,” he said. “And you shouldn't lie to your boss.”