the Arkh Project
On Twitter, and Tumblr, Gail Simone has called for attention to be paid to the Arkh Project. This turns out to be a Twitter account ( http://www.twitter.com/@thearkhproject
This game is not the game to watch if you would like to see a lot of cis straight white characters. This game isn’t the one to play if you want to see one or two queer people or one or two brown people to spice up the variety.
Those games exist already. For the latter, many companies are coming out with the resident token brown person, the resident token queer.
The point of this game is to show that we’re tired of being tokens. We want to be the main characters, the supporting characters, the focus. This story is about the marginalized, the fetishized, and the tokenized.
This got my attention. Because I know a lot of people who REALLY VERY MUCH WOULD WANT something like this, or at least would be very happy to know it was out there. I'd be very curious to see what the reception and sales of such a game would be like, and how such a game would affect the marketplace, but being a straight white guy who doesn't play much in the way of video games, I am not the target audience. Still, I know that hunger is there. So my first thought was of all the people I knew who would be happy about this.
My second thought was of DUDEBRO II.
I've posted about DUDEBRO II before. In December 2009, on the NeoGAF forums, one member confessed to having rented Imagine: Babyz Fashion, and finding it a really enjoyable gaming experience. Gaming forums being what they are, his masculinity and sexuality were immediately impugned, to which he replied, "So, I'm a pedophile because I don't want to play Dudebro, My Shit is Fucked Up So I Got to Shoot/Slice You II: It's Straight-Up Dawg Time?" Immediately, of course, everybody on the forum realized that what they wanted more than anything in life was *to actually play just such a game.*
And so it began: they photoshopped box art, wrote cut scenes, designed characters, started programming, and began to make it as a freeware top-down shooter.
I checked on the Dudebro folks intermittently for a while. They had a lot of talented people working on that project. Really talented. Great character design, appallingly sophomoric macho humor, and horrible, horrible puns, straightforward action concept.
And it's been vaporware since 2009.
So I thought, "Wait a minute. Can the Arkh Project people actually do this?"
And then I started Googling, and things began to get squirrelly.
Let me call your attention back to the IndieGoGo page for a minute. (Why IndieGoGo? Kickstarter doesn't let you keep the money if you fall short of your goal. IndieGoGo does. This is explicitly why the Arkh project chose IndieGoGo.)
Not an auspicious beginning. It becomes less so when you see that the Arkh Project is trying to raise one hundred thousand dollars. This sum is broken down into multiple subgoals: $3900 for 13 character concepts (this goal was met while I was writing this). $8200 for 39 environmental concepts. $5000 for 25 monster concepts. $4,000/month for 8-10 months of programming, so around $40,000 there. We're up to $57,100 now. Then there's $6900 for 3D main character modeling and $10,000 for 3D monster modeling. Animation is currently volunteer but is projected at some point to come to another $12,000 (no explanation as to details there). Total's up to $86,000 now. User interface design is $1000-2000, and environmental design (50 buildings, 27 wall/floor sets, 250 items) is $16,000, plus another 150-200 weapon/armor/healing items for an additional $8,000. This comes to $112,000. Or, as the Arkh Project folks put it:
"That would run this game approximately $100,000, accounting for the wonderful volunteers who are helping us create this. Depending on volunteer work, we may need as much as $250,000 to provide quality work."
Never mind that they can't add. That's… a bit *vague,* isn't it? "We could need X dollars. Or, y'know, it could be 2.5X dollars."
Which raises the question: do these folks know what they are doing?
When somebody is asking for that much money, I think it is only fair to know who these somebodies are -- which, in this instance, is the same as asking "what can they do?" I don't need to know the names they were born under, but at the very least I would like to see something they can point to and say, "We did *that.*" I asked about it on Twitter, and they said that they'd put all that on the wiki when it was up and running. Evidently they didn't think it was worth including in their project FAQ, but they do give you some links, and between those and some Googling, what I found struck me as odd.
This is the info IndieGoGo offers up:
The main head of this project is Riley, a trans* person of color who is working with the group Rosegold to complete this project, as well as other, extremely talented people.
Rosegold is a team headed by Kia and Erin, a Black queer woman and a Japanese woman. They both have extensive experience in writing, and mostly handle 2-D games.
The inspiration for the project came from Riley, a queer trans* person who has supported Rosegold by getting the word out.
Okay, points for identity politics, but can these people make a game? *Have* they made a game? What are Kia and Erin's extensive experiences in writing, exactly? What has Riley gotten the word out about? Which is Riley: a supporter, or the main head of the project? Has Rosegold actually done something that we can look at and decide if they have the chops to pull off a game worth a hundred-thousand-dollar investment?
Well, sort of. Their indiegogo links to a DeviantArt page, ougaming.deviantart.com, and mentions another Rosegold game involving queer characters. More about that in a bit.
ougaming turns out to be short for (maybe changed from) Kinou Games. kinougames.com has a blank front page, now, but the rest of the site is still up, and you can find your way to it. There are some members listed in the sidebar therein. There have been some reshufflings since, and I don't know if any of these folks are with the group now, but this looks rather more like a fannish group than a professional one:
Seira: Fearless leader with a passion for Japanese language and the culture. Specializes in literary matters. The literary one with an eye for art that allows Sei to also do some great design work on the game itself. No matter what's said about anyone else, Seira is the meanest one in the group, no contest.
Shogun : A nickname for our fearless leader!lite; she programs and graces us with her amazing color skills, as well as heaping helpings of biting scruples. If it's ugly, Shogun will give it the smackdown, and is probably the largest hand in quality control you'll ever have.
Razu: Everything you've seen with lines so far has passed through the master hands of Razu. She's the artist you watch that makes you more and more jealous with every sketch she uploads.
Loreen: Rounding out the party, Loreen is also part of our art cell. Her color stylings are the top of the barrel, and she's serious with love for this project and her work. She brings quite a different and necessary style to the table.
Seira was interviewed in April 2011 by Gaming Angels and had some interesting things to say:
Spokesperson Seira of Kinou Games tells us that their group makes dual language releases, with voice actors in both Japanese and English as well as JP and English text Their goal is to encourage the inclusion of both languages in the original version of the game, and work with a Japanese doujin group called ZeroZigen who also supports including an English language version in Japanese games, and, ultimately, doing an exchange; having English-speaking game makers include a Japanese version. … Coming at the end of May will be a game reminiscent of Princess Maker; a raising sim where you bring a little kid to adulthood. It’s mostly a lighthearted fantasy game, and is an introduction to the world players will explore in subsequent games.
So, evidently the Arkh Project is not the group's first gaming project. Great! We have something to judge their ability by, then. Right?
Quick, Quick Update.
24 June 2011
YES, WE ARE SORRY, WE ARE LATE. D:
Some things went a little downhill and delayed us until the end of this month, however, we are going forward at AnimeExpo and JapanExpo as planned, and the game will be open for demo downloads and preorders at that time.
Oh. Okay, well, I'm sure we will --
The Really Long Update Post-O
6 August 2011
First off, we do apologize for the small disappearing act. Exhaustion + more work + errors = too much time. The last 1% of the game went sort of out of wack and we wanted to fix up some issues before putting it out there.
That said, we think the fixes will be worth the wait, and we will be at Comiket and Comitia this month in Japan. ￼ The demo is also coming~
AX was exhausting. Our group had a pretty substantial drive ahead of them with a bunch of hard copies of Papa Pirate, Baby Bandit and cosplay in tow. There was kissing and schmoozing and hanging out with Sayuri Studios and Sakevisual at the booth. The cosplays were light and airy, at least! Our Adela cosplayer unfortunately got ill on the last day, so we took a rest and headed back a bit earlier than scheduled. Unfortunately, the con wasn’t set up as well as we would have liked, and we will probably avoid it in the future because of those issues, but, we’ll likely hit Yaoicon instead. ￼
We ARE also underway on Mitsumata, with about 50% of sprites completed already, and 10% of the backgrounds done. The game is fairly long, with a script of about 80,000 words, not including minigames, puzzles, battles and extras of all kinds.
Okay, well, then --
Quick New Update~!
7 August 2011
The demo is completed 100% and will be coming out at the end of the week. We encourage you to download it and try it out. ￼ It runs you through the first three years of the game~ \o\ /o/ \o/
It’s been a long road, but we hope you enjoy it! We’ll be spending the rest of the week until then preparing for Comiket and revamping the sites to be nice and prettyful to prepare for mass downloading.
There are also some pretty large changes going on within the group structure itself, which we will give a posting about as soon as it’s finalized, but you might notice things vanishing and reappearing over the next couple of weeks as the team goes over what to do with them.
The rest is silence.
The short version is that there are two games that Kinou and Rosegold worked on, before the apparent split: 1) Mitsumata and 2) Papa Pirate, Baby Bandit. I can find no indication that either Papa Pirate, Baby Bandit or Mitsumata ever were released. I do know that "Papa Pirate, Baby Bandit" never made it to Japan Expo, because Razu says so on her DeviantArt page.
Let's look at the quality of the work. Here's some stuff from Papa Pirate, Baby Bandit. The drawings are fine, typical DeviantArt manga stuff, and then you get down to the video sprites and you go… "huh."
Did anything beyond character sketches get done? Well, RoseGold Games (that's Kia and Erin, remember) has a YouTube account, and there is some gameplay footage of Mitsumata:
Let me just reiterate something here: these people want you to give them a hundred thousand dollars.
The latest wrinkle has to do with the Arkh Project going viral. It seems to have happened on the 24th of January. Here's Arkh's post about that:
Yesterday, notice was received from Kate at Indiegogo that part of #Arkh’s pitch on indiegogo was “unlawful”. Namely, that the lines about using the money to hire queer people and PoC artists were “breaking anti-discrimination laws”. Now Arkh’s goal is to not only make this game, but to use the money to support the community at the end of its goals, the queer community and the PoC community. Therefore, it seeks to pay either queer developers or developers of color, because those communities are notoriously left out of the gaming industry, to the point where if they do manage to get a job at all, they are ridiculed and harassed until they quit.
I changed the pitch immediately and mentioned to Kate that I was upset about it. Kate responded with this:
* * * * * * * * * *
Thank you, I appreciate that!
Just to give you some context, we had someone threaten us with legal action because of that clause on your campaign. We’re having our legal advisors take a look at whether or not those two sentences violate any “law, statute or regulation”. I’m hoping that the answer is ‘no’ so that you can return your pitch to the way it was, but I need confirmation from our lawyers first.
Thanks for your understanding,
* * * * * * * *
All I have to say to the obviously cis straight white jerk who is angry that you can’t, once again, make money from queer people and people of color? To someone so upset at not being able to have everything in the world you made that ridiculous attempt at us, that even Kate at Indiegogo made sure to thwart?
Thanks. Really. :) You’re so selfish that you cannot bear to see something that doesn’t include you, something made for someone that isn’t you. You could spend your time playing any one of a million other video games just for you, but you attack what is, for so many, the one chance they will EVER be able to see themselves in a fantasy game of a high level.
But it’s okay. Things like this are exactly what the community needs to be pushed into going farther than they could have ever gone before. The fact that you went that far to try to stop us only guarantees that we’ll succeed. We’ll succeed and I’ll make sure to leave a SPECIAL message in the game JUST FOR YOU. :)
Your racism and queerphobia only served to further my agenda.
To all supporters of the Arkh Project and its philosophies:
Spread the word, folk. There are cis straight white people actively making attempts to shut us down because they hate us having anything for ourselves just that much.
Arkh is going to be Indiegogo’s Campaign of the day tomorrow, 1/25/12.
Now is the time, queer folks and non-white folks. Spread the word. Tweet #Arkh. Tweet everyone you know. Tweet writers, tweet artists, tweet famous people and tweet your cousin’s aunt’s sister. Blow it up. Blow it up so that we’re unstoppable.
Do not let the oppressors beat us. We are here, and we aren’t going away because they don’t like having to share.
Edit: To anyone complaining about the title of this post? The SPECIFIC individuals trying to shut down Arkh are ACTUALLY cis, straight and white. It is a fact, not a generalization.
The resultant signal-boosting has led to Gail Simone mentioning and supporting the Arkh Project on Twitter and Tumblr, and to the Arkh Project gaining wider notice, even becoming an apparent crusade. They've made more than $4,000 so far, and people are looking to set up the Arkh Project as a champion.
The problem with making the Arkh Project a champion is that, as seen above, it has *one hell of a glass jaw.*
Here's another thing -- maybe complete coincidence, might not be related at all, but the chance it is alarms me a little. Remember when the Arkh folks said they would put all the info about in the wiki when it went up? Turns out it kind of sort of is up. And they list a bunch of people involved: no Seira, but Ash, Dr_Rent, Riley, and of course Rosegold. Ash has a tumblr, and one of his posts on the 24th was a reblog of the Arkh Project's "Cis Straight White People Are Trying to Shut Arkh Down." Another was a signal boost for somebody who needs $30,000 dollars for surgery this weekend.
Two big signal boosts, both of them involving donations of large dollar figures, starting on the same day?
This is where I get out of the pool.
Somebody who knows SPN fandom and Tumblr needs to jump in, I guess, because I don't know who might be for real or not. The person reportedly needing surgery for endometriosis is Sashi, "yourdarlinglittlesammy" on Tumblr. Mooselikejagger is also talking it up. I don't know the players here, and when people start asking for large amounts of money, *you need to know the players.* And I'm not in SPN fandom, I'm not on tumblr, I don't know anything, folks.
Even if this other sudden need for $30,000 is not a scam, or is entirely unrelated, I would be very reluctant to give any money to the Arkh Project. I know how badly folks would like to see a kick-ass game with queer characters of color, but at the very best the Arkh Project folks are quixotics who have yet to successfully release a single one of their projects, and who have decided the next appropriate step is to ask for $100,000 to $250,000 (they're not sure yet!), to get freelancers to design and program their next project for them. I am not in software, but *I do not see that working.* Even assuming the best case scenario and the motives of angels for all involved, I would not expect people who have failed to administer two small-scale, low-money projects to then turn around and successfully administer a six-figure project.
The worst case scenario is obvious.
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