A Conversation With The Man Behind The Ambitious $200,000 Star Wars RPG Kickstarter
Earlier this week, social media exploded over a Kickstarter for an "open-world RPG 'like' Star Wars" game. The budget? $200,000. The project manager? Not EA or Disney. It's Devin Tripp.
When game industry personalities caught wind of the overly ambitious Kickstarter effort, it drew lighthearted joking and astonishment. No one seemed to expect the project to raise a single dollar. It now sits at more than $18,000.
@ChrisKagel I can't stop refreshing the Star Wars Open World Kickstarter pledge amounts— Chris Avellone (@ChrisAvellone) January 7, 2016
NeoGAF lit up, with commenters voicing amusement, incredulity, and shock. The Gamedev Subreddit also gathered around it, suggesting that it serves the purpose of highlighting widespread misconceptions about development.
At the heart of it is an affable young man. I had the chance to speak with 20-year-old Dallas convenience store employee and project manager Devin Tripp by phone. He tells me that the pitch text (since deleted, though the project is still open) was quickly typed out on his phone from which he submitted it for approval.
He had no cell service, but typed out his Kickstarter campaign a little bit at a time. "I wrote one paragraph and then two more later on, all on my phone, so of course there were grammatical mistakes," he tells me. "I couldn't check it and wrote it real fast in five minutes."
The results were, unfortunately, fraught with grammar and spelling errors. Those quickly became the highlight of conversation on Twitter and Facebook. Misspelled names like "obi one kinobi," claims of having the "graphics of Battlefront or better," and a risks and challenges section that included "pleasing all star wars fans," were targets for ribbing. (For the full text of the campaign, scroll to the bottom of this story.)
As you might expect, Tripp is a gaming industry outsider. He's never worked on a big-budget endeavor like what a Star Wars RPG entail. Though, he did tell me that he's published an Android app called Circle Dodge after taking computer science in high school. He considers himself largely "self-taught."
"I have no idea about games," he says. "I know nothing about the budget. So when I first made [the Kickstarter page], I figured $200,000 sounds like a good number. I didn't think things would blow up like they did. I figured some people would say that this needs to happen. Maybe Disney would contact me to do this."
Tripp is still optimistic that his efforts aren't in vain. And he hopes that he has Disney's attention.
"If I got permission from Disney, with the credibility of a Kickstarter that made $200,000, investors would be swarming in," he says. "If someone with no experience got $200,000, then obviously these people want it. People are going to buy this game."
This is clearly Tripp's first flirtation with high stakes game development. Even if he reaches his goal, the game he envisions to be similar to The Witcher 3 with graphics exceeding DICE's work on Star Wars Battlefront simply can't exist without significantly more capital.
His timeframe, with planned delivery in December 2017, is nigh impossible. There's no team signed on to actually make the game.
And as for the license, EA has that locked up. Intellectual property rights, asset approval, and all the things that go into making a licensed game (especially one in the Star Wars universe) come to life haven't been considerations for Tripp.
He knows that Visceral is working on a Star Wars game. He also knows about Star Wars: The Old Republic, but it didn't appeal to him when he watched YouTube videos. He told me that what he wants though, is an RPG on current-gen consoles.
We must wonder how a project clearly infringing on established intellectual property (and one that clearly states that rights haven't been obtained) made it through Kickstarter's review process. In nearly every way, this project fails to meet basic standards for viability.
Right now, Tripp has deleted everything from his Kickstarter page. The campaign is still open, and he plans on updating everyone soon. For now, he's reflecting on the lessons of the experience.
"Really proofread your crap before you send it out," he says. "That and just to take a step back and plan a bit more before you do something."
And exactly where did Tripp get the idea to take his chances on Kickstarter and set his dream into motion? He was inspired. "We were driving along and I was looking at [my friend's life] and looking at my life. And I was like, 'I'm getting nowhere. I'm gonna do something.' The first thing that came to mind was Star Wars, because I had just watched it in the theater the day before."
If there's one thing we can take away from Tripp's eagerness, it's that Star Wars remains front of mind for fans. They are keen to extend the excitement they felt while watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Board games, toys, and of course, video games like Disney Infinity and Star Wars: The Old Republic continue to draw attention from across the enthusiast community. Star Wars fever is real, and Devin Tripp has a solid case of it.
Tripp is just one individual, and his Kickstarter will likely result in nothing more than a cease and desist letter from Disney. "I just wanted to show that anyone can make a difference," he told me. And it's hard not to find his enthusiasm infectious.
Full text of Kickstarter pitch:
Like many of us when we were kids we wanted to be like Luke skywalker or obi one kinobi, but like all of us, we do not live in a galaxy far far away. There might be another way though. With all the open world RPGs out there how is there not a good one for Star Wars? I have decided to take matters into my own hands and write a story in the star wars universe that will fit inside a RPG video game. I am currently looking into talking with Disney if I am able to do this. If not then there might have to be a compromise on the name or some other parts. I need your help. I am not a very good programmer, and I'm an even worst artist. I want to put this project into the hands of professionals, but in order to do that I need money to hire them. This was my dream as a kid I hope you can share my same compassion, thank you.
There are many people out there that have the wrong image when they think about this game so I will go into deep detail as much as i can to get people more excited about this. As I know there are other "very good" games over Star Wars, but within the bounds of good taste, I believe that these RPG's over Star Wars have not reached their full potential. I do not feel immersed in these games. I am not talking about a 1995/2005 game that could be created in a month or two. I am talking about a Star Wars RPG that will completely blow people away; like "Fallout 4", or "The Witcher 3" did. These RPG's set the benchmark of how the future of RPG's should look, and they are a good blueprint to go on. I want to make something that is like this in some respects, but goes even further. It will have the graphics of "Battlefront" or better with the feel of "The Witcher 3".
The game and story will also have a lot of choice. You will be able to choose which side you would like to be on. You can be evil and reside on the Darkside and rule the galaxy as you wish, or you could also bring peace about the galaxy. Both in their own respects have their perks. Speaking of perks: Like "Fallout 4" there might or might not be perks in the game. At least not the same as they are in "Fallout". I do not want to give away much about the story, but I will give away that you do not start out as a Jedi, but later become one. As you progress your skills get better as your ability to use the force. It is very exciting that I have already gotten backers. I will be providing updates every couple of days, and answering any questions that you might have. I am still answering others so please be patient.
Also no promises, but the backers that give for the $60 reward will get the game a day or two before original release.
Update: The Kickstarter campaign has been canceled, though not because Disney reached out with its long legal arm. Project manager Devin Tripp posted a final goodbye on the campaign page.
I'd like to start off by saying I'm sorry to Disney for using their logo and name. Having said that, I find it very disturbing that you want to report me to them. As if they didn't already know. You truly want to see some be in debt for the wrest of their life because they had a dream for a video game that they never created. Very selfish, and very ironic. Disney was created because Walt Disney had a dream, was it not? I find it ironic because on a lot of the news and the forums there was a quote from something I said. It read " I have talked to Disney, and they have informed me to contact Lucas arts". I believe most of you said quote " that's like a father telling the kid to go ask their mother because they do not want to deal with them." Yet I recieved emails from random people basically telling their dad to send me to timeout because they don't like me.
Secondly, I am taking this kick starter down myself. Disney has not contacted me to tell me to shut it down for those of you who think you own Disney. I am taking this kick starter down, because I very much respect Disney, and I do not want this to get to big. I love all their pirates of the Caribbean movies. I always wanted to be captain jack, but I think Mr. Depp is to good to be replaced. I have faith that somewhere in the future, a game like the one I described, will be made by Disney/EA/LucasFilms/Bioware or whoever is going to do it.
Thirdly I know my spelling and grammar sucks, but all you need is the force and you will do ok in life. I wrote the entire thing on my phone while in Childress Texas with a JUAN bar. So I did not care for spelling mistakes, because of that and I really didn't think I'd actually be doing this. As many of you pointed out I am highly unqualified. The point of this whole Kickstarter is to not let your dreams be dreams. Don't say tomorrow just do it.
Thanks for all the backers. It made this whole thing extra funny