Last Monday we helped our friends and Combine Games launch a Kickstarter for their game, Rails and Riches. Combine describe it as a spiritual successor to Railroad Tycoon in the same way Cities Skylines is a spiritual successor to Sim City. Meaning better than the original.

Ambitious? Yes. So is the $800,000 goal.

“You know most people start with a lower goal,” I told Franz, Combine’s Lead Designer. “Why don’t you set the goal at $300,000 and see what happens?”

“I already know what happens,” he said. “We develop a third of the game. What do we do with a third of a game?”

It’s this kind of matter of fact line of thinking that I love about Combine. They are no-nonsense. They are professionals. Both Franz and Darrin have been making games for longer than many of their players have been on earth. They know how to make games.

More specifically, they know how to make this game.

Franz was a key developer on two Railroad Tycoon games. He told me he has been thinking about this game for twelve years, and that the time is finally ripe. That the technology and the landscape are perfectly aligned for a new railroad RTS. Features like live events, player-generated content, and a shared economy – key components in his vision – can finally be realized to their full potential. Several games have touched on it in the last twelve years but every single one of them have come up short. It’s obvious that Franz has been thinking about this for quite a while.

“Cities Skylines is the best example of what we want to accomplish,” he said, during one of our early conversations. I’m interpreting that to mean dominating a genre so hard that the gold standard is not only replaced, but completely and definitively crushed.

We’re going to Cities Skyline them. It’s verb now.

Because of my particular line of work, I see Combine’s ambitious game to be a potential visual gold standard for the genre. This is what excites me and the rest of the team at SuperGenius. We see an opportunity to define what the ultimate railroad RTS should look like. To be a part of a team that redefines a genre? That’s what gets an Art Director out of bed in the morning.
I know how that sounds. I’ve been doing this long enough to be semi-immune to the kind of ambitious overdreaming game developers love to indulge in after hours over a few beers. I know the line between a pipedream and an actual shot at doing something huge. An $800,000 Kickstarter goal straddles that line. No question. It’s a high goal not easily reached by non-celebrities. It’s not impossible though. I’ve seen it done. I know there are a lot of people out there who loved the Railroad Tycoon series and would love to see a game like Rails and Riches made. But collecting $800,000 from a bunch of strangers is not in my realm of experience. It may be possible but it’s far from guaranteed.

Thankfully in this case, it is the only part that can’t be guaranteed. The part about making the ultimate railroad RTS? Guaranteed. As long as it gets funded. We have absolute faith in Combine’s ability to make this game, and do it better than anyone else. We’ve been working with them for over seven years now. We know what they are capable of. That is why we are personally funding half of the art budget ourselves. We don’t consider it a risk. Even if no one buys the game, which is highly unlikely, and we don’t even make our money back, we will have shipped a high quality game. That’s all we really care about in the end.

That is because our brand depends on us working with the best and most proven developers in the world. And while it’s easy to overlook Combine in a list with studios like Double Fine and Telltale Games, they are most definitely on that list.

If I can give you one thing to walk away with, it’s this: If you loved Railroad Tycoon, or love RTS games in general, and want to play a Cities Skylines-level RTS game based on trains, your only option is to back the one capable developer making it happen, right now on Kickstarter. It’s either that or wait another five years till a big publisher decides to rush one out the door to meet a demand they read about in a $20,000 industry report.

We are going with the former. It’s just more our style.

And besides, don’t you want to see SuperGenius redefine the look of a genre?

-Paul Culp

RAILS & RICHES KICKSTARTER: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/combinegames/rails-and-riches/description

RAILS & RICHES WEBSITE: http://www.railsandriches.com/