Christian Allen Wants To Make An Old-School Shooter That Publishers Don’t Think You Want

Christian Allen Wants To Make An Old-School Shooter That Publishers Don’t Think You Want

Christian Allen has a video game Kickstarter, too. And he hopes he isn’t doing it wrong. Tim Schafer did it right. That guy just raised a few million for an old-school adventure game on Kickstarter. But Christian Allen knows he is no Tim Schafer, no big-name game developer with legions of fans who love him.

Brian Fargo has made half a million dollars in a day, but Brian Fargo is talking about bringing back a classic called Wasteland and making a sequel to it. Christian Allen isn’t doing that either.

But he’s not some lotto winner who has never made a game before. He’s the real deal. And the game he wants to make — the game he hopes you’ll kick in some money for — is the real deal.

Allen wants to make a shooter. An old-school tactical shooter (first person or third) like he used to develop at Red Storm. A game like the old Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon. (Here’s his Kickstarter entry for it: Crowdsourced Hardcore Tactical Shooter.)

This is what it would feel like to play his game, as he described it to me in San Francisco last week:

“The biggest thing is tension. You’ve been given a scenario. It’s non-linear. You’ve made decisions on where to go, where to place your guys, getting ready to go in. You don’t know what’s in there. A real [hostage rescue] team doesn’t always know where everything is. There’s only a few enemies, but you don’t know where they are. If they get the drop on you, they’re going to kill you. There is an element of reflex to it, but a lot of it is just proper planning and observation and figuring out your situation. But even if you do everything right, it doesn’t mean you are going to succeed. “

And what happened when he pitched his tactical shooter to publishers? Mind you, he was one of the top designers on Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and Halo Reach.

The pitch hasn’t gone so well. “It’s like pitching a flight sim,” Allen says. And the publishers rattle off the excuses: “‘It’s a super-vocal audience.’ ‘They don’t buy a lot of games.’ ‘They buy one game a year.’ ‘Console gamers are too impatient; they won’t play this kind of game.’ Console gamers literally are too dumb to play this kind of game.'”

Wait… did you catch that one?

“‘Console gamers literally are too dumb to play this kind of game.'”


Really, Allen said. “I won’t say which publisher, but, yes, literally, ‘console gamers are not as smart as PC gamers’. The logic is that, well PC gamers can install drivers and video cards. Console gamers are just 15-year-olds who sit in front of their couch and press a button.”

Allen had been a game designer at Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment. That ended in November. He had a second child right around that time.

Trying to figure out what to do next, he decided to take a risk, spend his saving, test his wife’s patience and try to make this kind of game. He started thinking about Kickstarter, started talking to friends from Bungie, Microsoft, Monolith and Red Storm, all of whom agreed to work on this game. He rented a studio to shoot a video for his Kickstarter, which is when his wife called him, and said, “‘Double Fine just raised $US600,000, like in a day.’ I was like, ‘holy shit!'”

All gaming Kickstarters don’t get great funding right away, though, and so here Allen is, with a Kickstarter that’s not quite bursting with money and just might prove those publishers who rejected Allen right.

He’s at $US33,000 now from nearly 800 backers, many of them old-school fans of games like Rainbow Six and SWAT 4. His goal is $US200,000. A week ago, he was at $US20,000. (Which was about the amount of money Tim Schafer made during my interview with him last month.)

“I never thought I was Tim Schafer,” Allen says, laughing. “He’s got way more fans than I do. I’ve got like five, and then my mum.”

But he might be more like Schafer than he realised. Schafer went to Kickstarter because he didn’t think publishers would help him revive the old-school adventure game. Allen is trying to revive a throwback genre, too.

He does like modern shooters. It’s just not what he wants to make. “They’ve all gone cinematic, with regenerating health, and that’s cool. But that feeling that you’re going down a corridor, you’ve made all these careful plans and you’ve got to pull it off just right [isn’t there].” He doesn’t see much out there that offers that experience. ArmA, maybe? But its battlefields are too large-scale compared to what he wants to make.

“Gamers have Call of Duty. They have UnchartedM/em>. And those games do the cinematic experience extremely well. So my theory is that there is this need and this campaign is going to bear it out.”

During our brief interview, Allen checked his Kickstarter funding. “Oh, we just made another $US100,” he remarked. “Cool.”

He’s not going to get there with so few drops in the bucket like that. There are 18 days to go on Christian Allen’s Kickstarter. He just needs to hit 200K to make an Alpha, to convince publishers that people want this. He’s release the Alpha when he hits the mark. If his Kickstarter fails, he’ll be fine. He’ll go work for a big game company. He can wait it out. His wife makes Microsoft “big-shot” money, for goodness’ sake.

“Shooter fans are cynical,” Allen told me today. “They feel that they have been burned by games publishers promising things like “tactical” and “hardcore” before, and then been delivered games that didn’t meet their standards, and they are wary of the same thing here.”

He wants them to believe. He’s serious. Hell, he’s leading on PC with consoles to follow. He’s not making a simplified shooter. And he’s assembling a strong, veteran team.

But if he doesn’t make that funding, he’ll know what that might mean: maybe it was him; maybe he needed to be Tim Schafer; or maybe the kind of shooter he wants to make — hardcore, tactical, every-shot-counts — just doesn’t do it for gamers anymore.

Christian Allen’s Kickstarter ends on April 1. What’s it going to be?


  • Yes. This is brilliant, showing the world that people DO want to play games reminiscent of the PC games of the 90’s. They want to play challenging games, they want to play smart games.

  • So you want me to play a game where I do everything right and still have a chance to fail?

    Seems doomed from the start if you ask me. Realism in graphics and immersion are one thing. Realism in outcomes and kill shots are another.

    Usually for the sake of fun skewing certain aspects of tactical or realism are required to keep gamers interested.

    Of course the publisher will go the larger audience and easier guaranteed money. I just hope the audience is there for this guy and his team.

    Personally I don’t play COD or slow tactical shooters and prefer the ability to turn the tide with anticipation, skill and reflex of games like Halo. They’re just more engaging for me.

    • Can’t help but think that the devs were referring to someone of your demographic when they said “‘Console gamers literally are too dumb to play this kind of game.’”

      • Just wow, I’m surprised you could assimilate the information and formulate a reply. At any rate you’ve missed the mark and incorrectly labelled someone you know nothing about.

        I’ve been gaming for over 25 years and enjoy a large variety of platforms, games and genres. What do you contribute? Not even an opinion…you’re basically a troll. Now. Go. Away.

        • Hey, fuck you. No need to be an asshole. He’s just expressing his opinion.
          At any rate you’ve missed the mark and incorrectly labelled someone you know nothing about.
          I mean, I’ve been gaming for over 13 years and enjoy a large variety of platforms, games and genres. What do you contribute? Not even an opinion…you’re basically a troll. Now. Go. Away.

    • Rainbow six Ravenshield, going into the final room of the abbatoir mission. 4-6 tangoes covering every inch of the room, bomb in the middle of the room, 2 entry points. almost no intel on the room layout. Quickly scan the room with the heartbeat sensor to get approximate positions of the enemy. deploy flash, rush in, trust your instincts and training.

      That was gaming. Every minute meant something, every mission complete a sigh of relief. And if you want to test reflex and anticipation. That was the game to do it.

  • I’m donating and I hate those kind of games. It’s more about wanting to see variety in what developers do!

  • The problem with this one, as I understand it, is that this is only going to fund an alpha build of the game, which they’re then going to take to publishers to finish.
    This means there’s no guarantee that the game will really be released, or that it won’t be made “accessible” by the publishers at a later stage anyway.

    I’d like to see such a game, but if the publishers won’t support it, then they need to go all the way with the fan funding or not at all.

    • Depends on the funding really. This guy want’s $200K, DoubleFine made $3mil.
      $200K seems likely for an Alpha. If he ends up getting $3mil then he might not need publishers at all.

  • Wow im a console gamer and i can say it. Most console gamers are idiots i play games and i.sit yelling at my screen from the sheer incompetence of my teammates sometimes. But the logic that pc gamers are smarter isnt exactly correct i think pc gamers are older.
    I built my current pc and i come from a Wo

  • shut up and take my money.

    TBH I love “hardcore” shoooters. I wish a game came along that played like America’s Army but looked better and the the support of a large studio and a large community. That would be awesome.

  • Good luck for this guy, I say, but I hope Kickstarter campaigns don’t keep happening because donator interest is going to dry up very quickly.
    Especially with that millionaire guy.

    • If only there were some way where you had total control over your money and you could pick and choose which projects that you could donate to…

  • Something the guys tentatively following Schafer are going to run into issues with is

    We get a call out to all these genres that older gamers hold dear – possibly out of nostalgia alone – and get told, “If you don’t support this specific representative of the genre, the idiot masses WIN.”

    (Slight detour first up: The idiot masses always win. It’s a given. They’re in a perpetual state of win; they have more money. The rest of us who don’t share their tastes can win too… Just not as often. And the others guys will still be right there, happily winning alongside. It’s OK for multiple parties to win. You’re not going to CHANGE anything… you’re just going to provide a small offering to a niche market.)

    Expectations suitably reduced? Good. Now we need to be careful because all of a sudden, someone with eclectic tastes and a strong nostalgia for 80s-90s gaming is going to start spending hundreds of dollars on donations to not just revivals of their cherished memories, but half-promises of revivals. They’ll get burned at least once or twice, resentment/distrust will set in, money will be lost or wasted, future kickstarters will fall short and thus carry a taint of failure that they might not have had, if they’d gone directly to a publisher.

    When you work for a big publisher and your deadline has blown out, you’ve got bugs crawling out the wazoo, you won’t make your release date without overtime++ and more contractors (who you then have to lay off a month or two after the first post-release patches/DLC), at least you can go to them with your hat in hand and say, “We need more money.”
    Go to the Internet with hat in hand, saying, “We’re sorry, it was harder than we thought… we need more money?”
    I predict it will be both more AND less forgiving.

    Just like any other charity, try to think of these Kickstarter projects as just that – charities for a worthy (in our minds) cause. Don’t assume you’re getting anything out of it. And try to limit it to what you’d spend on charity.

  • Take my money kind sir… so long as your not planning on sharing it with onion head to make his MMO based on the Pizza store he’s running 🙂

  • “Console gamers are just 15-year-olds who sit in front of their couch and press a button.”

    Well done, Activision. We all know who your target audience is and how you cater to them.

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