Catalyst and Kickstarter
So, we had some very unexpected news on the Book of Faces yesterday.
This is… very complex news. First the good. HOLY SHIT LEVIATHANS IS COMING BACK! For those unfamiliar with it, Leviathans was an amazing game with miniature flying warships taking place just pre-WWI that combined some very fun and innovative systems to make gameplay very deep and strategic even with very few units on the board. The miniatures were gorgeous, the rules quick, fun, and deep, the aesthetic was perfect and everything just seemed to work. However, the game had a very short lifespan due to some things we’ll go into below, and there has been very little news of it for the last 7 years.
The reasons the game failed had practically nothing to do with Leviathans, and practically everything to do with Catalyst Game Labs. The initial release was drawn out and delayed for long periods of time as CGL struggled to get their product. Something they still struggle with today I might add. The buzz and hype about the game could not be maintained over such a long delay, however the initial run did sell out eventually and then… well getting new stock took over a year. While new ships were developed, new miniatures never were and the only real updates were a couple of fleet boxes that were just the same miniatures with variant rules.
Then the flow stopped completely. Catalyst contracted a producer in China that completely screwed them over to the point I don’t believe they even have the CGI renders of the ships. They had irregular and often useless communication with their suppliers, and they eventually just stopped responding to anything, even from the fans.
So now we get to the part that is worrisome. The kickstarter. Now I’ve backed some kickstarters, and I’ve followed plenty more. Some have been very good. The History of EvE, Weird War I and Leon Johnson were all fantastic successes. Some have not. Star Citizen being on ongoing mess that still hasn’t left beta more than 5 years after the delivery date. Robotech tactics got so badly handled that there was a suicide attempt inside the dev team.
Now we come to Catalyst kickstarters. Shadowrun: Sprawl Ops was estimated to go out Oct 2018 and there are people today, August 2019 who have still not received some or all of what they were promised on Kickstarter. The product that has been received is error-filled and in some places simply missing information or pieces. Now they are running a huge Kickstarter for Battletech: Clan Invasion. It LOOKS great, it LOOKS flashy, it LOOKS amazing. But I question the wisdom of investing money on a company that has repeatedly demonstrated it has no ability to control its supply chain, and refuses to make changes that would enable them to do so. They appear as committed as ever to continue to use Chinese suppliers, they lack the resources necessary to keep them in line, and they use 1 supplier for everything leaving them frequently held hostage by 1 company.
And of course the “exciting” news is that Leviathans is coming by kickstarter next year. We are expected to fund the final steps of development, all of production, and then wait and hope that history does not repeat itself. For a company that controls Battletech, Shadowrun, and has produced games for other IPs including D&D and Masters of Orion. I think I’m within reason to say “What the HELL are they doing with their money that this is the answer?” I think a company that cannot fund itself, provide a stream of product that enables them to deal with manufacturers and handle distribution does not deserve the quality of IPs that they have, nor the cheerful support of customers who have repeatedly been burned.
I hope the game designers bring more new features to the game, that we get all-new ships and designs that the already excellent rules are iterated and expanded on. Mostly I hope the game gets ongoing support. That there’s plans to ship new product and keep it in stock. That they have taken the piles of money thrown at them and their IPs for years now and used them to build some relationships or capabilities to ensure that those of us providing the money get our value for it.