Ryan Payton on Republique’s Kickstarter success
Republique, the ambitious iOS stealth game headed up by Metal Gear Solid and Halo veteran Ryan Payton, passed its $500,000 target late on Friday with just hours left on the clock.
Widely viewed as one of the most ambitious Kickstarter projects to date – a stealth action game for mobile devices with a million-dollar budget and voice work from Solid Snake actor David Hayter, and Jennifer Hale, voice of Mass Effect's FemShep – Republique came perilously close to being the highest-profile videogame failure on Kickstarter.
It was a risky proposition from the outset, a big-budget, ambitious game for iOS, a platform to which developers are primarily drawn precisely because of its inherently low risk. In the end, Payton's Camouflaj studio asked for $500,000 – half the game's estimated budget – and as Payton explains, even that was a stretch.
"We got to that million-dollar figure by cutting as much as we could, because we're small," he tells us. "We would love to be able to make this game for $250,000, but that's not a reality.
"If you're making a puzzle platformer with two or three guys in a room, that's a different story. We're trying to make a game that rivals Resident Evil or the original Metal Gear Solid. We're trying to do that in half the time, with a small team, and a fraction of those budgets."
Payton was a producer on Metal Gear Solid 4, and later joined Microsoft's 343 Industries where he was creative director on Halo 4 until his departure last September. He reveals a psychological aspect to Kickstarter funding that we hadn't considered: people told him he'd be better off asking for a lower amount at the outset, saying that if he asked for $200,000 to fund Republique, he'd probably get $500,000.
"I think it's disingenuous to ask for the amount of money that you don't need," he explains. "We're being really honest. We don't need $200,000. We need $500,000; we need to bring half the budget to the table so we can retain creative control and ownership of the IP. That's just the facts, the realities of business.
"There are other projects out there that clearly need more money than they're asking for, and it makes me feel, as a game developer, how realistic is this? What are the chances of this game ever coming out?"
With the goal passed, work begins on what could well be a landmark moment in the evolution of mobile games: a 4-6 hour campaign, 'Metroidvania' exploration, and a fully voiced, branching narrative.
"People have a lot of confidence in this game," Payton says. "They see it as a big game, they see it as a big moment in history in our current console generation.
"That tells me we're doing something right."
We spoke to Payton as part of a in-depth profile of his Camouflaj studio. The full version will be in our next issue, E242, which goes on sale on June 6. Keep an eye on the site this week for more on the Kickstarter phenomenon.