The democratization of game development has long been touted as a fresh, original idea, each and every time a developer does it. From releasing daily public builds to frequently updated Early Access editions, it’s been done many times for many years. The difference with Dr “Herschel Beahm IV” Disrespect’s upcoming FPS project, a battle royale-cum-extraction shooter from his Midnight Society studio? You have to buy a fucking NFT to play it.
Midnight Society’s goal—currently titled “Project Moon”—is to create “the next AAA competitive PvPvE first-person shooter,” which they say they will do “openly and transparently,” via releasing what they’re calling “Snapshots.”
These are effectively vertical slice builds of a game, which would more usually be created by a developer in pre-alpha to try to secure a publishing deal, or to show off during events like E3. Such samples of what a game will offer give an idea of the developer’s ambitions, but in this case will apparently be used so backers—sorry, “Founders Action Pass holders”—can give feedback, and vote for features they’d like to see removed or included. Which is otherwise called “playtesting,” a position developers or publishers pay people to perform, often poorly.
Midnight Society describes itself as a team made up of “ambitious game industry veterans,” with its leadership team built from Robert Bowling, original member of Infinity Ward and executive producer of Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche, money-man Sumit Gupta, and Beahm himself, a former community manager at Call of Duty studio Sledgehammer Games. It also boasts Quinn Delhoyo, sandbox design lead on Halo: Infinite, who has also worked on multiplayer for previous Halo games and Gears Of War III, and previously had the honor of being a level designer for Duke Nukem Forever.
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They’ve already put together a further team of 10 experienced developers, plus a further 12 non-development crew, amongst whom a few have the word “crypto” written through their CVs.
It’s a pretty small team to try to put together what appears to be a battle royale-meets-extraction shooter (think Hunt: Showdown meets Plunkbat), the genres via which Beahm first gained streaming fame. Yet, it’ll be very simple to see how they’re doing, given that every six weeks they intend to release a playable build to those who’ve invested in the project.
“Our high-level gameplay goals are to capture the essence of arena shooter level design,” says Midnight Society’s latest blog, “with the scale and scope of battle royale player counts, and the session-to-session gameplay mechanics of extraction-based shooters.”
The development studio previously attempted to garner attention a couple of weeks back by paying for a pricey Times Square billboard. On it was teased the name of the studio, and little else, beyond a suggestion that some sort of announcement is due July 29. This, it seems, is to be the first “Founders Event,” where those who bought in before the game existed will get to meet up in Los Angeles to, er, “discuss the first Snapshot of the game.” What a time.
Back in March, Beahm and company sold off 10,000 NFTs that represent these Founders Active Passes, for the not-inconsiderable sum of $50 each. Midnight Society claims it received 400,000 applications, and clearly further rounds of selling off such passes will be an intended revenue stream. Half a million bucks for that first round won’t cover the salaries of the current team.
It’s interesting to note that in all the vague descriptions of what Project Moon will actually be, there’s no mention of further cryptoshit. Whether that’s canny marketing, to try to avoid the vast amount of negativity the topic rightly generates, is unclear. But given the hiring of crypto types, it’d not be a surprise to start to see some “Web3" BS getting mentioned eventually.
Of course, given the promises of transparency, and that backers are allowed to make public video content from the six-weekly builds, we’ll get a fascinating perspective on the project as it goes along. Thanks to those making the odd choice to pay to perform a usually paid development role.