Why I won’t give up

This piece was recently published in Bloomberg. Now, Bloomberg isn’t exactly a video games publication, although the piece itself is nevertheless very instructive: It covers a game under the working title Project Copernicus created by 38 Studios, which is now defunct.

In fact, you could clearly tell Project Copernicus was going to be a blockbuster for the sake of being blockbuster. However, if a former baseball pitcher, with no game development background can raise millions of investment for his company, what’s to stop us, that is, the people involved in Total Rendition’s production?

For Total Rendition, I had a certain vision in mind, featuring detailed worlds and plenty of characters who show each a distinctive personality. It may be the game some don’t want you to play, yet it’s also the game I want to make. Obviously, the debacle of Project Copernicus forces makers of narrative-driven games to be more efficient, especially as E-Sports appear to be eating away investment from game plays, that is, the narrative-driven single-player game format.

Now, I don’t see games as a way to escape from the real-world, there is no such thing. The best game plays inspire us to see certain possibilities in the real-world, that you would not have otherwise. That’s what stage plays, movies and books of quality do as well. Often, this is accomplished by permitting you to do things you may not do real-life. It opens you up to new perspectives how to deal with the real world and how to empathise with others.

Total Rendition is a game play that I have chosen to be bound by the design principles of the immersive sim, with the groundwork laid down by titles such as System Shock and Deus Ex, gameplay-wise at least. So, it follows that Total Rendition is going to be a very expensive game, not the least in terms of effort. Luckily, I do not have to work on Total Rendition alone, although in the absence of funding, this is only true to a limited extent.

The most ambitious indie game developments fail due to the most banal of reasons: Royalty payment agreements simply do not cover the fact people need to a place to live and need to eat to be able to do their job, not just as a reward of the same. So, when an crowdfunding campaign fails, it often causes a indie game development project to collapse from the ensuing psychological trauma.

Yet, what makes “Late Capitalism” a thing is that attention is its most valuable commodity. Indeed, the only crowdfunding campaigns that seem to succeed aren’t exactly triumphs of participatory economics. Often, these have received significant amounts of venture capital before engaging in crowdfunding, the venture capital being used to raise attention for er… the crowdfunding.

Instead of crowdfunding campaign where we ask players like you to become cushions to investors, Schizotypy Games plainly asks for venture capital, for Total Rendition to be made to its logical end-result, that is, how I intend Total Rendition to be like in the end; when Total Rendition goes gold.

Yet, no investor I am to be beholden to, would ever back the Total Rendition I envision, if it has no prospect of becoming a blockbuster. At the same time, selling out still is a massive problem in the games “industry”. In fact, the usage of the word “industry” proves that selling out is endemic.

Thus, it should be clear that Total Rendition was never intended to become a blockbuster, nor am I in it because of such bullshit phrases like “entrepreneurship” or for money. I don’t really have a careerist mindset at all and indeed, I shun the mindset that many would call “neoliberal” or “psychopathic”.

If I have to make money to survive, I insist doing so by making the vaccine against social media, that Total Rendition is to become. A world that is so engrossing, will draw you away from social media and when you feel satisfied playing a good game play, you are dropped back into the real world with new ideas and points of reference. And if your vaccine against social media was called Deus Ex, I hope from my boldest dreams Total Rendition will become something of a booster shot.

So, Total Rendition is going to be a blockbuster by necessity: My artistic goals of creating an expansive and detailed immersive sim happen to align with the profit-motivated interests of investors, which is actually very rare. Extremely rare indeed: I do not have to sell out, yet I have reasonable odds that I can make a living by executing exactly my vision. Yet, perhaps it’s almost too good to be true, given the obstacles I currently face…

If you really want to make something like Total Rendition happen, you will look for ways to make it feasible in terms of obtaining the required allocation of resources. This requires some legal and financial know-how that is very much outside the mindset of most game developers. Especially for a game as controversial as Total Rendition, which has already attracted so much hostility as to result in a bogus criminal accusation that has been ongoing for 2 years.

One erstwhile prospective investor had been trash-talking about “market penetration”, which clearly demonstrated his ignorance about game development. After all, that’s not how players tend to think about gaming: No doubt, some Fortnite players will like Total Rendition, yet for very different reasons than for which they like Fortnite. Total Rendition will not kick Fortnite out of the market nor will Fortnite block Total Rendition’s access to it.

At the time this piece was written, Total Rendition itself still has yet to appear in major gaming publications, even as it has been pilloried, however indirectly, by Trumpian-themed publications such as the Evening Telegraph and the Daily Reckoning, while potential investors fear litigious contemporary arts karens. The makers of Rendition: Guantanamo appeared to have given up over less, although at least their work got covered, albeit in a very unfair fashion.

That is not to say I have considered giving up, because I have considered giving up. Indeed, I have received all sorts of discouragements and I’ve heard them all by now: “It’s unlikely you are going to succeed”, “too niche”, “market penetration will be a problem”, “the main characters aren’t likeable”, “not gainful and effective”, “insane” or even “not feasible”. Not to mention the McStalking case.

Thus, I have decided: I will NOT give up! Total Rendition going gold – and its aftermath – will be my best revenge!

-Mordechai