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Project Frontier

This Kickstarter Business

By Shamus
on Saturday Apr 14, 2012
Filed under:
Video Games



This post is probably going to be a little ramble-ific. This Kickstarter business has everyone talking, and I’m getting emails asking me what I think of it, if I’ll be joining in, and what it means for game development. So let’s talk about this.

It was almost exactly a year ago that I got home from PAX and began to get the itch to program a little something, which eventually became Project Frontier. Really, PAX should have the opposite effect. This is not a place to go to follow your dreams as an indie. This is a place to have cold, cruel truths pressed deep into your skull while eating the worst nine-dollar hamburger in existence.

At the indie booths, you’re looking at the super-rare 1% of indie developers who are lucky and tenacious enough to bring a product to market. For every indie showing off a game there are a hundred others who got bored and quit, encountered some insurmountable technology hurdle, realized the prototype wasn’t very fun, or ran out of time / money. A few were lucky enough to be able to see it through to completion, but there’s still quite a bit of culling to take place between this point and signpost labeled “success”. Many will languish and only sell a few units, resulting in a hefty net loss that sends them back to their day job. A few might do well, and sell enough units to pay the bills, although once they divide their profits by their hours worked they’ll end up making less than minimum wage. A couple of lucky ones – the 1% of the 1% – will bring in enough cash to enable them to self-finance another game.

That’s the way it goes. The same is true for a lot of other creative people. Musicians probably have it even worse. (Although thankfully the cost to write a song is a lot less than the cost to make a game.) Heck, I’m thrilled at how warmly my novel was received and I’d be a fool to complain, but nobody is calling me up and offering me $Rowling bucks for the thing. For every Neal Stephenson, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams in the world, there are ten thousand people like me, writing novels while we do something else to pay the bills. It’s tough all over, is what I’m saying.

The point is, when I go to PAX I become aware of just how badly the odds are stacked against anyone hoping to make games independently. But I also feel a bit energized by the enthusiasm of those other creative people. A lot of them are going broke, but they’re having a blast and it’s tempting to dream about the one awesome game idea you’ve got and how much fun it would be to develop. However, I’ve got financial realities keeping me from following these guys down the rabbit hole. I’m not a daring twenty-something like a lot of these kids. I’ve got a wife and kids and a minivan now. I’m about fifteen years past the, “Let’s just do it, we’ll figure out how to pay for it later” stage of life. (In fact, we kind of already did that back in 1995.)

Some people have been nudging me towards Kickstarter. Yes, there are a lot of success stories on Kickstarter these days. Brian Fargo has raised a big pile of money to make Wasteland 2. Tim Schafer is making an adventure game. Al Lowe is raising money to bring pop-culture satire and lowbrow penis jokes to a new generation of people who are probably not old enough to be playing his games. The whole thing is exciting and inspiring, and validates things I’ve been saying for years about how games are designed and funded. (It’s also interesting to go back and read my 2008 post on The PC Golden Age at this point. I have to say, this extra-long console generation has been the best thing to happen to PC games in a long time.)

As much as I appreciate the faith people have in me, I actually think it would be really inappropriate for me to try and do a Kickstarter campaign. In general, people asking for money should have one of two things:

  1. A famous name with a track record of shipping successful titles, or:
  2. A great prototype.

The worst pitch in the world is, “Hi, I’m internet-famous and I have a super-neat idea for a game!” There are a LOT of hurdles to bringing a piece of software to market, and “having a good idea” is about the most common thing in the world. Gaming colleges are churning out armies of people who have “great ideas”. Forums are full of ideas. Even on a single AAA design team you’ve probably got more ideas than anyone can put to use. The idea is the easy part. The real challenges are mastering technology, perfecting a game mechanic, maintaining focus, sticking with a project when it bogs down, and then handling all the business challenges once the game itself is complete.

Having said that, I’m really excited about how this might change the industry. As game budgets grew, games needed to change in order to appeal to a wider audience. I love that more people are playing games now, and the “murder simulator” talk has just about dried up. But in the process a lot of the experiences I enjoy were abandoned or “streamlined” to make them palatable to more people. Yes, some of these fifty million dollar games are really impressive, but I still miss those old two million dollar games. This Kickstarter craze might make it possible for us to have the best of both worlds.

Of course, all we’ve proven so far is that the interest is there. We’ll see how Schafer and the rest of them fare in trying to bring the gameplay of 1997 to the world of 2014. Maybe we’ll have a development renaissance. Maybe these teams will get mired in technology and logistical problems. You can’t brag until the game ships.

We won’t know how well it works for another eighteen months or so, but for now I’ve set aside my cynicism and indulged in a few minutes of foolish, unbridled optimism.

Comments (208)

  1. Malkara says:

    The Kickstarter Craze has been terrible on my wallet. :(

    Also, renascence should probably be renaissance.

  2. I think Kickstarter is a great idea, but I fear that it will quickly become abused and overused as many people will think it’s an easy way to fund a project without doing the hard work of developing a business plan and acquiring capital legitimately.

    • I agree Leslee. Though Kickstarter does have some rules in place that keep it from being as dangerous for the consumer (I have read quite a few stories of people not getting their money, mostly within the art section because those are the kids I hang with, because Kickstarter is very strict with their rules.) And very, very soon it will be hard for any of the smaller developers to even get their names out there unless they have an incredible pitch because of all the bigger names using it.

  3. JPH says:

    I’m very skeptical about the concept. Your continued employment depends on how well the game sells after release, right? And who’s going to buy Double Fine’s adventure game now that damn near all the oldbie adventure fans have already kickstarted it and therefore been guaranteed free copies of the game?

    The only game I’ve funded (or rather, slightly contributed to the funding of) so far is Wasteland 2. I figure that with the thrashing I gave Fallout 1 last year, talking about this new game will be obligatory.

    • Actually, what the klickstarter thing does is give a development budget.
      The budget covers the time and money needed to make the game (and release it).
      Now depending on the project itself the investors (aka individual kickstarters out there) may have either:
      A. Donated to the development of…
      B. Pre-paid for the development and copy of…
      C. Funded the development of and percentage return of profits of…
      D. Whatever I forgot to mention.

      Depending of the investor agreement between the developer(s) and the kickstarters. If a publisher publishes and sells the game, it will reach a way large audience.
      Any incoming will cover marketing costs and the rest is “pure profit”, as a kickstarted project is financially neutral when the game goes gold. (or at least should be)
      Something with hardly any AAA games ever are. (unless the AAA company has a budget account where they set aside money monthly for future projects, not so sure they all do that, it’s usually investor deals/loans instead)

      • Yep, so basically as long as they get the game done there’s no risk for them, even if they don’t sell much.

        In any case, I didn’t donate to Double Fine’s game, because I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I might well pick it up when it’s finished.

        • JPH says:

          Personally, I have absolutely no interest in point & click adventure games. I’ve tried several and I’ve never found them worth a damn.

          Wasteland 2, though? A traditional RPG made with modern-day sensibilities? Could be awesome if it’s done right.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            The only point and click adventures that I can enjoy are the humorous ones,like monkey island,discworld and sam & max.I dont really like finding convoluted ways to solve puzzles,but I do love good stories,and absurd solutions.

            • Sumanai says:

              It really alleviates the pain caused by an insane solution if the setting itself is insane.

              I wish that the Discworld games end up on Gog.com soon. It’s been a long time since I last played them and I’ve had great difficulty getting Noir running.

              • Sumanai says:

                Note: This doesn’t mean that a stupid world alleviates the pain caused by stupid puzzle solutions. Especially if not doing the right thing can result in getting stuck and either having to backtrack hours of play or start from the very beginning.

        • Mephane says:

          Just as a note, you should not put your email in the website field, PurePareidolia. It somehow makes my Firefox and/or Google I want to log in to your gmail account, and then warns me this could a some kind of fraud. I have never seen such a behaviour before but on the other hand I have never encountered a http://xyz@gmail.com/ link, either.

          • Peter H. Coffin says:

            It’s not the right way to use the mechanism anyway, and doesn’t do anything sensible for anyone OTHER than the original user, maybe.

            • Bryan says:

              It doesn’t even do anything for the original user. From the URL RFC (http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc1738.html — sections 2.1 and 3.1), if a URL’s scheme-specific-part begins with // (as http:// URLs do), then if it contains an “@” character, then the stuff after the @ is a host (and optional :port), and the stuff before the @ is a username (and optional password).

              So http://user@gmail.com/ is *never* valid as an email address. It *always* means “connect into gmail.com, automatically log in using whatever browser-based authentication the server asks for, using username “user”, and no password. (The browser-based authentications are *NOT* what gmail uses, either. It uses a web form and a cookie instead. Browser-based authentications are when the browser pops up a dialog asking you for a username and password, or it uses your Kerberos ticket to log you in, or any of the various other authentication mechanisms built into HTTP 1.1.)

              If you want to put an email address into a URL, so that when users click on it they get an email compose window, then you have to use the mailto: scheme, *not* the http: scheme.

              Oh, and as for why this is flagged as potential fraud — Several years ago a bunch of phishing email started flying around that had links to sites like http://www.paypal.com@evil-bad-site.trying-to-make-this-less-obviously-bad.tld/ — and lots of people (who didn’t know how to spot suspicious URLs) were clicking on them and giving up their paypal credentials. Eventually browsers started to warn people about this URL syntax.

              (Sometimes it’s legit; handing out URLs to FTP sites that require authorization to upload, for instance, is one case I’ve seen it used. But its legitimate usage is *far* more rare than its phishing usage.)

          • PurePareidolia says:

            Would you believe I have no recollection of how the hell that got there or that I even had anything in the website field in the first place?

            and yeah, it’s just adding http:// to my email in order to connect to it, this isn’t some newfangled web address or anything

      • Alan says:

        “C. Funded the development of and percentage return of profits of…”

        Note that Kickstarter clearly forbids this. You have to promise concrete deliverable, and shares in a company or a project are not allowed.

        I don’t know to what extent this is because Kickstarter doesn’t approve of the idea, but the SEC would come down hard on anyone mass-marketing investments in new companies. This may change with the JOBS act.

    • Infinitron says:

      Your continued employment depends on how well the game sells after release, right?

      No. If it doesn’t sell enough, just start another Kickstarter for a new game, and raise the money for your wages from your loyal fans. That’s assuming the original game satisfied them, of course…

      And who's going to buy Double Fine's adventure game now that damn near all the oldbie adventure fans have already kickstarted it and therefore been guaranteed free copies of the game?

      The hundreds of thousands of more casual fans who will hear of the game only when it comes out and shows up on Steam. People who don’t want to pay money for a product that doesn’t exist yet.

      • SteveDJ says:

        I’m a backer of the Double Fine project, so I’m seeing some discussions on the backers-only forum talking about opening up the forum to … let’s call them “late backers” (DF wants to open up PayPal to take the minimum $15 supporter payment, and let such payers into the forums). Basically, they have been hearing from a number of people that:

        1) Didn’t hear about it until too late
        2) Had problems (usually international) getting a payment through
        3) Didn’t have the money until after the deadline.

        So, what I’m saying is – even though Double Fine got all this money to develop the game using Kickstarter, there appears to be a great number of additional customers ready to buy the game once it is released.

    • lasslisa says:

      Your continued employment, as an employee of a game company, depends on whether they want to keep you around for the next game (or DLC, or whatever).

      I’ve known devs who got laid off as soon as their game was done – or as soon as their part of the game was done. There’s no point for the company continuing to pay your salary if you’re not making something worth-while for them, regardless of how much money they make from the last thing you did.

      As far as paying the company’s bills / Tim Schafer’s salary, sales would usually do that, but what Kickstarter does is move the “we hope 100,000 people will pay $15 for this” part of the project from the end to the beginning.

  4. Klay F. says:

    The only thing I wish is for all of the old established names (or formerly established before falling out of favor) to stop inundating the game buying public with these Kickstarters. People don’t have infinite money, and having to choose between like ten or so projects when you can only afford to donate to one or two, is ridiculous. What I’m saying is, I wish all these people would have waited a few months. I’m insanely interested in Shadowrun and FTL, but I already gave money to Brian Fargo, and by the time I get more money next month, the Kickstarter will be over. They need to learn how to time these things to when people get their paychecks, and not just put them all out at once.

    On another note, there are some (formerly famous) names that have absolutely no business resurrecting their former franchises *cough*Jane Jensen*cough*. If you’ve contributed heartily (I would say knowingly) to the death of a genre, you forfeit your right to make money off said genre’s resurrection.

    • Dragomok says:

      People don't have infinite money, and having to choose between like ten or so projects when you can only afford to donate to one or two, is ridiculous.

      It sounds nearly as if you were complaining about the capitalistic system itself or even the basic laws of the economy. This happens all the time during sales and store liquidations.

      That is not to say I don’t see your point. Due to my financial situation I can buy a piece of entertainment about once a year. Last year, I bought The Binding of Isaac (which turned out to be a wrong game for a wrong person) during December Steam sales and a few weeks later I failed to buy Plants vs. Zombies (a game which I tried to get for about a year) for ~5$ during a weekend sale on GameStop only because I was just a couple of units of my local currency short.
      You can say I got pretty irritated.

      • Klay F. says:

        All I’m saying is that starting so many Kickstarters at once all within a single month of each other is ridiculous in a number of ways.

        Number the First: You are risking people getting burnt out on Kickstarter projects before the idea even starts picking up steam.

        Number the Second: If the Shadowrun game (for example) had started its Kickstarter a month now instead of when it did, I would have more money to spare for it.

        Its about looking at when people are most likely to spend money and timing your announcements around that time. I’m willing to bet that the overlap between people who like Wasteland and people who like Shadowrun is fairly large (not huge, but still large enough for the purposes of my argument). It comes down to this. If I have $100 (or pick whichever amount more accurately depicts your level) of disposable income every month, I can either spend all of it on either Wasteland or Shadowrun, or I can divide it up between the two. Whereas, if one was a month after the other both projects would be getting all of my disposable income for their respective months. Both projects get the maximum amount of money from me.

        My point is mostly moot now that both projects easily cleared their goals, but still, its the principle of the thing.

        • Syal says:

          My point is mostly moot now that both projects easily cleared their goals, but still, its the principle of the thing.

          Well, if the demand is high enough that everyone has been successful the principle’s not really being violated.

  5. You forgot:
    3. A Solid design plan.

    So far all the big kickstart game projects has two out of three bullet points. And all of them has point 3.

    Wasn’t it one of those kickstart projects where the dev said that for xxx money (if it was reached) they could hire x more people and raise the bar even more. And for xx money beyond that they would be able to make a editor/creator tool to make your own levels without the work/cost impacting the game production.

    These guys has fully developed plans. I’m sure if you ask them that they say they created a plan and/and internal prototypes the same way as if they where approaching regular investors. These aren’t amateurs.

    Now if Shamus Inc. can do the same with Project Frontier I have no idea.
    I’m a story consumer, so unless there is a good story, and a good plot (and if there is voice acting then it has to be really good voice acting as well) then I’m not interested, but I’d still wish you good luck obviously!

  6. LobsterEntropy says:

    “The idea is the easy part. The real challenges are mastering technology, perfecting a game mechanic, maintaining focus, sticking with a project when it bogs down, and then handling all the business challenges once the game itself is complete.”

    Somewhere, Sean Howard is losing his shit.

    • Sumanai says:

      Do you mean Sean Howard of Squidi? And do you mean because someone is suggesting that ideas are easy?

      Because they are. Good ideas, or ability to recognise bad ideas before you’ve spent hours walking into a dead end, are difficult.

        • Sumanai says:

          Is that a passive-aggressive way of suggesting that what I’m saying is “I could’ve done that”?

          Because the last time I checked my post it said that ideas are easy, good ideas are hard. Which is pretty much what jokes like that highlight. Anyone can make a webcomic, but not everyone can make a good webcomic.

          If instead you’re saying that what Howard at Squidi is doing is basically saying that “he could’ve done that” ignoring that coming up with an idea is still missing the rather important part of actually making it happen, you’re not being very clear about it.

    • WWWebb says:

      No, if you’ve read any of Sean’s blog posts recently, I think he’d agree that “sticking with a project when it bogs down” really IS the hard part.

      And that’s kind of a shame, since I’d happily contribute to a Kickstarter to get AMD finished and/or printed.

  7. I love the idea of Kickstarter, but um…
    I’m not entirely comfortable with this. I do hope that they’re able to resolve this, and that crowdsourcing brings us a better selection of games.

  8. Hitch says:

    I don’t blame you for not being eager to jump on the Kickstarter bandwagon. It’s easy to get behind Brian Fargo, Tim Schafer, or Al Lowe wanting to make a game like they’ve done multiple times before but today’s narrow visioned publishers aren’t willing to back them. It’s quite another for an unknown with no track record to step forward and ask for a development budget for a video game without proof they’re capable of delivering. It’s only a matter of time before one of these projects crashes and burns spectacularly. On the one hand, it’ll be even harder after that happens. But until it does, you run the risk of being that project.

  9. HBOrrgg says:

    It’s surprising to me that there are so many people willing to donate to the slight chance of a game being made. I half expect the horror stories to start coming in any day now about kickstarter money disappearing into black holes.

    Edit: Just looked on wikipedia, “Kickstarter takes 5% of the funds raised; Amazon charges an additional 3-5%.”
    Ok, maybe I’m too stingy or maybe I just don’t trust this “internet” thing enough when it comes to money but does that seem right?

    • Sumanai says:

      Do you mean “right” as in “morally good” or “correct on a technical standpoint”. Because the latter sounds about right. That is, it sounds like what systems like these would take. If it’s the former, not really. The amount they take sounds a bit much and it basically encourages them to have “successful” funding for as many projects no matter if the project actually gets finished.

      I don’t have any suggestions for improvements however, so I’m just going to take it. Don’t know if Indiegogo is better, but there if the funding doesn’t reach the goal it can still get funded. Or always gets funded. I don’t know, I’ve only put money on one project there.

    • Strangeite says:

      I am surprised it is so little.

      Even in simple transactions between consumer and retailer at a brick and mortar store, if they involve a credit card, typically 1.5% to 3.5% of the total goes to the credit card companies. If the transaction is over the internet, the fees are higher, if the transaction is over the phone, even higher still.

      So, an 8% to 10% “fee” for using Kickstarter strikes me as fairly reasonable.

      p.s. As a small business owner, it is one of the reasons that I almost exclusively pay with either cash or checks to other small businesses. You must accept credit cards to survive, but it sucks paying the fees.

    • Blake says:

      I think everyone knows there’s a chance things will go wrong, but for example when I backed Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Adventure, I know this is a man who has been in the industry for a long time, I’m already a fan of his work, and I trust he wants to make more money off everyone in future.

      Indie projects I would trust far less, but if I only have to pay $5 for a chance to play a cool looking game in future (and to just have more cool games around, art for arts sake and such) then that’s not such a large investment that I have to care if it goes wrong.

      • PurePareidolia says:

        Yeah, and I’m backing Brian Fargo’s Wasteland 2 because this guy spent 20 years trying to get it made, and offered up $100,000 of his own money if we didn’t reach $1 million. He wants this game made more badly than we do, and he’s bringing in everyone awesome he can find to do it.

  10. Caffiene says:

    Im still not really sure what the reasoning is behind not using kickstarter…

    “People asking for money should have […]”

    Well, ok… but so what? If you dont have those things, and people are still willing to give you the money, is it really appropriate to tell them their opinion is wrong and they shouldnt give you money?

    I can understand an explanation along the lines of not liking the pressure to deliver or having doubts about being able to complete the project, but that doesnt seem to be what youre saying.

    This post kind of feels like it set out to give reasoning regarding not using kickstarter but that the main reasoning got left behind in an edit. It mentions some reasoning that large projects may not be successful in raising funding, but to me it doesnt seem to address choosing to try kickstarter or not.

    • Shamus says:

      “Well, ok… but so what? If you dont have those things, and people are still willing to give you the money, is it really appropriate to tell them their opinion is wrong and they shouldnt give you money?”

      No, but it’s a good reason why I shouldn’t ASK For it. :) I mean, I have a donate button already, but by going to Kickstarter I’d be entering into an agreement to do a thing, without being reasonably sure I could deliver on that promise. Of course, you can’t ever be 100% sure, but asking for money when all I have is an idea seems like a reckless and irresponsible thing to do. If I had a hot prototype, some engaged fans, and a plan for seeing the project through, I might consider Kickstarting it.

      And yes, the post is a bit rambling, as I said at the start. This was an attempt to round up all the things I’ve had to say about Kickstarter, it’s effects on the industry, what I think of it, and why it currently wouldn’t be right for me. Which made it a bit of a mess.

      • MichaelG says:

        So here you are talking about funding, and your twitter stream mentions an OpenGL project. Are you programming again?

        Is this the way it works for you? Start on a book, get stuck, do some programming, get stuck, go back to the book?

        • Shamus says:

          It seems to be how things ran last year. And the programming bug seems to bite at PAX.

          I’m not programming yet. Well, I was noodling around with old projects, getting them to compile, but I’m not PRODUCING anything. Thinking maybe I ought to take one of my dusty projects (the comic maker, or frontier) and get it presentable and make it open source.

          I really would like to get this book done in less than 9 months.

          • bigben says:

            “I really would like to get this book done in less than 9 months.”

            So happy right now! Loved your first one, and I think I loved the System Shock one even better (though that may be the setting speaking, which appeals to me).

            So yeah… can’t wait for the next one.

            • X2Eliah says:

              Yeah, completely agreed.. A 9 month ETA would be amazing. (I somehow secretly fear that Shamus will turn to G.R.R.Martin’s schedule of writing, making a series with several years inbetween the book releases.)

          • OldGrover says:

            Hey, Shamus.. I think a good part of the reason people are interested in Kickstartering Frontier is that a lot of the value we’ve been deriving from it we’re getting as part of the process – that is, the posts you’ve been making on the process and the progress. If, as part of the project, you commit to those, I think you could provide value, simply due to your Internet Famousness and your writing ability, even if the end game isn’t a glorious masterpiece. That is, you have a proven track record of WRITING that is at least as much the product you’re Kickstarting as the end game is. I’d be in, big time, as those posts are some of the best stuff on the Internet.

            • Destrustor says:

              Yeah, the project frontier posts were interesting enough in and of themselves that I wouldn’t actually care whether it becomes an actual real game or not. Just the narration of you working on it was great.
              I’d pay for more of that. The game would be nice, but getting there is half the fun.

          • Griffin says:

            I’m another person who’s very interested in Project Frontier. I love exploring beautiful procedurally-generated worlds (it’s the main part of Minecraft that I liked). If you don’t have any interest in working on it right now, obviously you shouldn’t push it — but if you do, well. I for one would joyfully pay $10-$20 (via Kickstarter or via whatever) just to be able to play around in the last stable-ish build of Project Frontier, regardless of how incomplete you may feel it is.

      • Caffiene says:

        Fair enough. The “being reasonably sure I could deliver on that promise” sounds like a good reason to me… It just wasnt quite the impression I got from the post.

        I figured it was just because of the rambling nature of the post (which I actually like, btw… I just wanted to figure out the bit I felt was missing).

        One suggestion, though: You dont necessarily have to deliver a “finished product” for your Kickstarter rewards. You could, for example, document the creation process like you were doing with Frontier and release that to donors as the reward – with the “final product” either being sold seperately afterwards, released for free, being given as an added bonus to donors if it gets finished, or whatever… You might not want to do it that way, but I thought it worth pointing out that “a finished product” is only the most common kickstarter reward – it doesnt have to be the only way to do it.

  11. X2Eliah says:

    Hm. Yeah, this kickstarter craze that’s been making the rounds lately is a bit ridiculous. “Hey, we’re making an old game based on outdated technology and ancient design ideas! We don’t have anything to show, but we have a big name on our team! Give us money for nostalgia’s sake! It totally will be great and in no way will it be what you would expect from any indie game with non-AAA budget!”

    In short, I am very sceptical on most of these big-projects actually delivering what people expect. Note that with all the insane namedroping that’s going on (Brian Fargo!! Wasteland!! LeisureSuitLarry!! Double Fine!!!!!!), I just can’t see all these groups producing what people expect, based on old nostalgian halfmemories. I suspect most folks somehow want these projects to bring back their fondest gaming moments of old, and we all know that’s not exactly possible.

    And that’s assuming that these projects actually even finish what they themselves promise in the small print.
    But. Imagine the backlash that will start when (and I’m fairly confident in saying “when” instead of “if”) one of these big-name projects completely bombs (maybe extreme delays.. maybe just plain crappy game.. Maybe some PR kerfluffle, failing to kiss the fans’ bottoms enough).

    And finally… Was kickstarter meant to be used by the heavyweights of the indie industry? Or was it meant to give promising smaller, newbie projects a start? I just find that selling an idea based off of namedropping is just not right with regard to both the customers and the competition.

    • zob says:

      I can’t speak for other examples but when it comes to Wasteland, what I did was pre-ordering an old school CRPG game that has Chris Avelonne and Brian Fargo behind for a measly 15$ DRM free. No matter how you try to package it that’s a good thing.

      • X2Eliah says:

        what I did was pre-ordering an old school CRPG game that has Chris Avelonne and Brian Fargo behind

        Exactly my point. You paid for the names.

        • Jabor says:

          Not for the names – for the proven talent behind those names.

          • Kylroy says:

            Proven talent and proven ability to get games made. They were producing games on a $2 million operating budget 15 years ago, guessing they can do so again is a pretty safe bet.

          • JPH says:

            This sounds like the argument Daikatana defenders were probably using before the game’s release. John Romero, guys! He was part of the creation of Doom!

            The short version is, you can’t always rely on the “proven talent” of names.

        • zob says:

          No, I paid for 4 reasons:
          1. It’s an old school isometric crpg. I want to play an old school isometric crpg.
          2. It’s 15$ even if it proves to be worse then I expected it’s still cheap enough.
          3. It got experienced devs behind. That means even in a worst case scenario it’ll still have some redeeming qualities (goes with reason 2).
          4. It’s DRM free.

        • Neery says:

          I also “pay for the names” when I order the latest Terry Pratchett or Lois McMaster Bujold book from amazon – because these people have a proven track record of creating entertainment I enjoy, and so I’m happy to risk a smallish sum on getting to see their newest offering. It’s not a strategy I usually go very wrong with.

        • John Lopez says:

          “You paid for the names.”

          I paid for a promise of something I enjoy. I have done the same with AAA titles with good reviews and been disappointed. Thus, a failure to deliver won’t make me cry. If they do deliver I get products that otherwise were not being produced because of the smug “there is no market for that” attitudes of the majors blocked them.

          If anything, maybe it will knock some sense into the majors, proving that there is a viable market for good games with a different sensibility than “I click on your face to make you dead.”

    • Infinitron says:

      I find your lack of faith di – well, you know.

      outdated technology and ancient design ideas

      Wine, not milk.

      in no way will it be what you would expect from any indie game with non-AAA budget!”

      Indie games do not have budgets of 3 million dollars.

      • X2Eliah says:

        Wine, not milk.

        Horse, not car. Cave, not house. 64K RAM, not 4GB RAM. What’s your point? Not all things are better with age, and just because an idea is old – especially technology – doesn’t mean it is any good NOW. I’ll take my laptop any day over a snes or apple I. Back then, the snes and apple I were among the best of their time. Now, they aren’t. Just because they are old, you would say they are better?

        Indie games do not have budgets of 3 million dollars

        Well, yes, fair point. So.. you will, in fact, expect a lot more out of this game than your average steam-available indie game? Well, one more + for my point about some of these superprojects failing to meet expectations.

        • Infinitron says:

          Just because they are old, you would say they are better?

          It’s not their age that makes them good. They’re just old things that happen to be better.
          So yes, my analogy breaks down – but you’re the one who threw out the words ‘ancient’ and ‘outdated’ in a pejorative sense.

          Well, one more + for my point about some of these superprojects failing to meet expectations.

          Well, I’m not a prophet, so we’ll just have to wait and see. I just hope you won’t accuse a perfectly good game of being a failure because it doesn’t appeal to you personally.

          Here’s the deal: I pay 15 bucks for the Kickstarter game. An AAA game of equal quality (in terms of enjoyment derived) costs 60 bucks. So even if the game turns out bad, I’m still ahead. It’s a risk that’s worth taking.

          • Eric says:

            I’m fine with putting $15 or $20 towards a project on the hopes that it scratches a gaming itch that I haven’t had scratched in a long time. I’ve spent more money on clothing that I don’t wear. One of the projects I’ve funded (Wasteland 2, Banner Saga, Shadowrun Returns; didn’t find out about Double Fine until it was over) may crash and burn, but I’m okay with that. I agree with Shamus; I’m burned out on the AAA game industry. I want to engage in some carefree optimism. It may be reckless, but it feels good to act recklessly every once in a while.

        • PurePareidolia says:

          Just because ideas are tenacious doesn’t mean that they’re worthy. On the other hand, I played Fallout recently, some of it was a chore but I really enjoyed a lot of other parts. I should like to experience more of those other parts that are enjoyable, and hopefully the unenjoyable stuff can be minimized, as it isn’t limited by technology anymore. On Principle, RPGs are my favourite genre, and this looks to hit all the right spots regarding things I like about RPGs, and I believe the people behind it like those same things as much as I do, so I’m not worried about it being too disappointing in any area other than gameplay.

          Also I’m damn curious about how this turns out, and the stuff I get along side the game will be consolation if I don’t enjoy it.

    • Infinitron says:

      I suspect most folks somehow want these projects to bring back their fondest gaming moments of old, and we all know that's not exactly possible.

      Also a fallacy. Ultima V: Lazarus, a free game released in 2005, managed to perfectly recreate the feel of the classic single-player Ultima games. The last one of which was released over a decade beforehand.

    • Klay F. says:

      Honestly, sometime I think you are being deliberately obtuse.

      Ancient design ideas? I’m assuming you’re are talking about the genre dying here because anyone with the gall to criticize game mechanics from 1988 based on modern standards is either a tremendous troll or monumentally ignorant. You do know that these old genres got abandoned, not because they were bad, but because they weren’t marketable right? I mean, all you have to do is look at how many people are playing Legend of Grimrock RIGHT THIS MOMENT on Steam to know that people are aching for a return quality over bullshit, and that publishers are refusing to provide.

      People are not giving these big names (you know why these names are big in the first place right?) money for nostalgia’s sake, people are giving them money because they want to play quality games again, not metrics driven shit that is dominating everything. As for what players expect, the players expect nothing more than what was promised on each projects respective Kickstarter page, thats all. I can guarantee you that you won’t ever hear the phrase “When you push a button something awesome has to happen” on these Kickstarter pages.

      Also, backlash from delays? What, are the people giving money to these projects five years old? And again, so what if the game bombs? You’re out $15. I can guarantee that you have spent more money for less worthwhile things. We all have. The whole idea behind Kickstarter is that if you like the project, the amount of risk you take on is entirely up to you. Anyone who has more than $100 to spend on a project will understand this, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have access to that money in the first place because they’d be riding the short bus to school.

      Finally, take a look at the current state of the industry. The animosity between the game buying public, and the publishers(and the media arm of the publishers: game journalists) is at a level higher than its ever been before. This whole Kickstarter campaign wouldn’t have succeeded at all had the publishers been doing their jobs properly. Ask yourself this: These publishers are scoffing at the trifle amounts these Kickstarters have made, yet why are they still unwilling to put forth this same trifling amount to make these games that gamers have proven they want?

      In closing, the state of the industry is an almost perfect mirror of the state of the industry leading to the crash of ’83. The major publishers are giants that on the surface seem invincible. The industry is already saturated with terrible games that are all alike, more developers than ever are striking out on their own, all armed with their own horror stories of what is basically publisher extortion. We’ve already had our first high profile disaster, it’ll only take a few more for the cycle to complete. The Kickstarter model is more than just a bunch of people making old games to cash in on nostalgia, although it can be easily abused, its a way of keeping the industry alive once the crash happens, and for that reason alone, I support it.

      • X2Eliah says:

        I'm assuming you're are talking about the genre dying here because anyone with the gall to criticize game mechanics from 1988 based on modern standards is either a tremendous troll or monumentally ignorant.

        Genre dieing? Not really. I meant more something along the lines of technology-imposed design restrictions that do not actually benefit the core concept and can be avoided currently. For example, a perfectly flat map design. Modern devices have plenty of memory and computing power to deal with non-flat levels. To stick to a completely flat (or maybe square) level design only because “it was like that in the original” is what I call outdated and ancient.
        How about control mechanics? Such as moving only in four directions, at “turn-based” method? Yes, I know Legend of Grimrock uses that, and yes, I still think that it was an unnecessary callback to old game design with no true reason beyond nostalgia value behind it. Gasp shock horror, I disagree with you on that game’s that mechanic! I must be trolling tremendously now, eh?

        metrics driven shit that is dominating everything

        Matter of opinion, as it happens. I will concede that the people paying for these kickstarter projects very likely share that kind of opinion. However, you should also admit that quality is variable depending on a person’s perspective. What you see as high-quality oldschool stuff I see as bad, technically compromised and unnecessarily limited. And vice-versa on other things (I suspect you care little about world design fidelity, or graphical and audio asset variety and quality on modern standards – and yes, before you say it, I know that Legend of Grimrock loks pretty spiffy).

        As for what players expect, the players expect nothing more than what was promised on each projects respective Kickstarter page, thats all.

        … Right. As if. Are we even on the same Internet, I wonder. I don’t see how you can look back at the games industry of last, what, few years, at the general topics and behaviours of players of all kinds of games, and say that they aren’t acting overly entitled, or overhyping and then bashing for failed expectations.. Additionally, consider what a person may see in that kickstarter advertisement/promise page. Where you may read “a new post-apocalyptic story-driven isometric rpg from the developers of Wasteland, which was the inspiration for Fallout games”, others may interpret that as “a new wasteland/fallout rpg with all the good bits you selectively remember through rosetinted glasses.”.
        Same argument extended to your cost point. Yeah, 15$ is not much. To be honest, 60$ isn’t all that much either for, what, 30+ hours of fun per playthrough? And yet there was even an FTC complaint about ME3. Even if it just was based on the ending, which was, what, 1 hour out of everything? So that’s an FTC complaint for 60$/30hours = 2$. And yes, whilst regular kickstarter users might have enough brain to realize things, a lot of the backers, I bet, are from the gaming-outlet article-spam that took place not long ago, essentially providing these few superprojects with massive hype and publicity, drawing in people on, well, hype.

        Finally, take a look at the current state of the industry. The animosity between the game buying public, and the publishers(and the media arm of the publishers: game journalists) is at a level higher than its ever been before.

        I fully agree with this bit. The current industry standard, it seems, is Publishers&Developers VS. Players. Now ask yourself this – in an environment where for years on end, it has been commonly acceptable to bitch, whine and cause a fuss (along with, let’s say, metacritic/amazon review bombing, dramatized “0/10 worst game ever” blog/forum posts, creating goddamn campaigns about changing one little thing someone didn’t like [cupcakes, anyone?]), what would you logically expect to happen when a project, hyped by these same journalists as the next big gaming revolution (yay indies, suck it publishers, these guys will make the games YOU WANT TO PLAY not the ones EBIL EA IS SHOWING DOWN YER GOB), turns out to be just “meh”? Yeah, you won’t have a problem with it. Can you say the same about everyone who paid for it? Given your rather scathing comments about me a bit before in your post, could you say the same about me?

        The Kickstarter model is more than just a bunch of people making old games to cash in on nostalgia, although it can be easily abused, its a way of keeping the industry alive once the crash happens, and for that reason alone, I support it.

        Yes and no… I’m of the opinion that this Kickstarter thing, as it is, IS being abused in a sense by pidgeonholing the publicity it gets, and respectively the moneyflow, into a select few projects that are NOT by upcoming new fresh minds, are NOT by people who don’t have a massive handle in the industry’s door and need any help to “make it in”, and are NOT so limited in terms of exposure as to need a third-party company to handle the things Kickstarter does.
        With the fan-base, exposure, industry contacts, game backlog, why couldn’t Fargo&Co set up their own new-game-website, completely unrelated to kickstarter, send a few emails to their business and journalist contacts?
        And finally.. if saving the industry means going from very few, big-budget publisher houses to very few, big-budget big-name pseudo-indie projects, how is it saving the industry at all, I wonder? The original idea of publishers was that they’d risk their money on new and unknown dev teams with good ideas, before it went to what it is now – via increasing budget sizes, taking fewer and fewer risks, and reiterating instead of inventing. So what’s happening in this situation? We have a new-indie-dev helper-tool, and it’s being taken over by few teams, reaching very exaggerated budgets compared to the rest, taking fewer risks (I know Fargo! I know Wasteland! I pretty much know what to expect!), and reiterating instead of inventing (new ideas? Nonono, this is going to be OLDSCHOOL, just like the games you and I know you liked way back when!). Spot the big difference? ‘Cause I actually don’t…

        To put a bottom line clarification before a law-binding complaint is filed against me or something, I do like the idea of Kickstarter. I like what it can produce (FTL, anyone?). I don’t like seeing the good stuff that *needs* Kickstarter drowned out by these few behemots that already have a long, well-used industry hook.
        And no, I am not related nor affiliated with any project on Kickstarter, I’m not endorsing anyone there, nor am I invilved with anything that’s bombed, or anything like that. All of this is just my viewer-from-side stance. Perhaps a bit coloured by the fact that I haven’t played Monkey Island or Wasteland and do not give a damn about what Fargo/Schafer have done more than a decade ago. I don’t have nostalgia for them nor their products.

        • Infinitron says:

          Haha, it always come down to the same thing in the end.
          All of your fancy words are just a facade for indie hipster envy.

          • X2Eliah says:

            To put it blunt, no.

            • Infinitron says:

              Then what are you trying to say, Eliah?
              Here’s what I’ve been able to parse.

              1) “I don’t actually like oldschool games. Why are you nerds so excited about this outdated junk?”
              2) “These Kickstarter projects are totally gonna fail. You’ll all be disappointed. You’ll see! YOU’LL SEE!”
              3) “These assholes couldn’t make it in the AAA industry, and now they’re stealing the limelight from the innovative indie games!”

              Do you understand what kind of impression you’re giving here?

              • X2Eliah says:

                On those points you “parsed”:
                1) That maybe innovation and new ideas would be more beneficial than repeating the old and safe? After all, isn’t that the big issue with the AAA game industry that people whine about – that there’s nothing new and everything’s safe, rehashed and sequelized?
                2) Yes, some (not all. not many. S.O.M.E.) projects will be met with a publick backlash for “failing”. I don’t like that, I certainly don’t hope for that. I don’t think it will even be justified, I just can’t help but draw parallels between, you know, GAMERS and THEIR ACTIONS over the recent months/years, with these projects.
                3) Assholes? No. Couldn’t make it? Idk.. I’d say that their public image, past record of apparently popular games, and the network of industry connections they have – I can’t say they “failed”, nor am I saying that. Are they “stealing limelight from innovative indie games”? Well, yes. Obviously. Look at most gaming websites, search for tags with kickstarter – you’ll get the big bunch nearly all the time. And, sorry, but the things they are making – sequels and reimaginings of old familiar games – I cannot call that innovative. And I was under the mistaken assumption that kickstarter was for the projects who, you know, actually NEED the help.

                • Infinitron says:

                  The problem people have with AAA publishers is that they’re repeating the old and safe while also dumbing it down for the mass market.

                  The objective of this emerging PC gaming renaissance is to remove the ‘dumbing down’ factor. Once we’ve successfully done that, then maybe we can think about innovation.

                  • Shamus says:

                    I agree, although I have to say I’m really disappointed that Al Lowe is just re-making Leisure Suit Larry 1. I mean, that game was ALREADY remade back in the 90’s.

                    For me the “real” gameplay of Larry isn’t really the puzzle-solving, but the message finding. It’s in pulling up the zipper icon and attempting to use it on every object in the room, just to see what ridiculous messages the writers thought to put in. (I am obviously a man of sophisticated wit.) I hope that at the bare minimum, Lowe & Co are going to re-write, replace, or add to the established list of jokes and gags. I’d much prefer they simply took the original premise and elements (Larry, Lost Wages, etc) and made a different game out of them.

                    • Infinitron says:

                      I agree 100%.

                      Adventure games are a bit of a different beast.

                    • Mayhem says:

                      To be fair, you did make a good point about him remaking the game for a generation that probably never played the original.
                      If it sells well, then he has a nice new market to target a new game at, instead of just those nostalgic for the old one.

                  • JPH says:

                    “The problem people have with AAA publishers is that they're repeating the old and safe while also dumbing it down for the mass market.”

                    I couldn’t disagree more. Improving the accessibility and conveyance of a product does not equal “dumbing it down.” Many “traditional” CRPGs of old had some serious problems with conveyance, pacing and overall presentation, and in the past decade or so games have very much improved in those areas. If Brian Fargo’s aim is to bring those problems back then he doesn’t deserve anyone’s support.

                    • Infinitron says:


                      I don’t know what “accessibility” means. All I know is that it took some brains to succeed at Baldur’s Gate, but any idiot can pop moles in Mass Effect.

                      Yes, I am an elitist. Deal with it.

                    • JPH says:

                      It’s possible to present opinions without being a dick, you know.

                      I don’t have to “deal with it;” it’s far easier to simply disregard it, and take solace in the fact that most gamers aren’t of the same opinion as you.

                    • krellen says:

                      You’re still sore about Fallout, aren’t you?

                    • JPH says:

                      @krellen: I’m not bothered by the fact that I didn’t like it. I’m bothered by this implication that not liking those games makes me an idiot, and that it’s somehow my fault that you guys don’t like the current state of the games industry anymore.

                • Klay F. says:

                  On your point number three. You seem to be operating under the assumption that just having “connections” as you call it is all you need to get a game funded. That might have been true in the 90s, it is patently untrue now. Just ask John Romero. Or Carmack.

                • Blake says:

                  “Are they “stealing limelight from innovative indie games”? Well, yes. Obviously.”

                  I dunno, to me they’re casting a limelight over Kickstarter in general.
                  I’d never heard of Kickstarter before the Double Fine Adventure stuff, now I’ve looked at a number of things there.

                  And if Kickstarter is a way Tim Schafer can make a new adventure game, or hopefully one day a sequel to Brutal Legend, I’ll be there in a heartbeat. These are games a section of the public wants, a developer wants to make them, but the publishers would not back as their predict profit margins wouldn’t be as high as they’d like.

        • Klay F. says:

          Such as moving only in four directions, at “turn-based” method? Yes, I know Legend of Grimrock uses that, and yes, I still think that it was an unnecessary callback to old game design with no true reason beyond nostalgia value behind it.

          By this logic you can discount all first person shooters because they feature a central mechanic that is decades old. You can discount all stealth games because stealth is similarly dated. You said earlier that just because something is old, that doesn’t necessarily make it better. By the same vein, just because something is old doesn’t make it worse. To use your example, why would something like completely flat level design for a dungeon need to be changed? If your answer is “because its old and therefore sucks”, then you and I are done talking about videogame design.

          I will concede that the people paying for these kickstarter projects very likely share that kind of opinion. However, you should also admit that quality is variable depending on a person’s perspective.

          Yes, its my opinion that most games today are utter garbage. I have no problem that it exists, my problem is that it exists to the exclusion of everything else. There exists a very large subset of gamers who have proved with Kickstarter, that their niches aren’t being filled, and still the publishers do nothing.

          I don't see how you can look back at the games industry of last, what, few years, at the general topics and behaviours of players of all kinds of games, and say that they aren't acting overly entitled, or overhyping and then bashing for failed expectations.

          Excuse me while I act facetious for a moment, then I’ll answer. *cough*turianvoice*cough* “Ah yes, the entitled gamer, the so-called entity expecting free blowjobs and cake with every purchase. Eh, we have dismissed that claim.”

          Yes “entitled” seems to be the favorite word of the gaming media these days. Every time gamers get mad at anything, the word is thrown out to deflect all criticism, never questioning the true cause behind such anger. I can already predict that if the games industry gets its wish and used game sales are extinguished this next console generation, gamer entitlement will be the next scapegoat for industry-wide failures. Gamer entitlement hasn’t got anything to do with the situation the industry is in, and it never has.

          And yes, whilst regular kickstarter users might have enough brain to realize things, a lot of the backers, I bet, are from the gaming-outlet article-spam that took place not long ago, essentially providing these few superprojects with massive hype and publicity, drawing in people on, well, hype.

          Actually with the exception of maybe Rock, Paper, Shotgun, what I saw was jadedness and cynicism within the media. It was setting in even before Double Fine kickstarter had ended. What it ended up being was anti-hype. I clearly remember phrases like, (paraphrasing) “I’ll be glad when this dies down.” and, “Can I stop talking about this now?” being trotted out. Also, the vast majority of gamers I’ve seen were just as cynical as the media. The kickstarted succeed despite this.

          The current industry standard, it seems, is Publishers&Developers VS. Players.

          Actually, it not that. Its more like. Publishers/The Media(really just the Publishers again) vs. Developers/Players. One of the biggest sentiments behind this kickstarter movement is the desire to see publishers burn while not putting the people who actually do the work out of a job. Its what I’ve been searching for for years. The publishers can get caught in a cancer tornado for all I care, but I want the developers to stick around. After all which two of these three are crucial to the survival of the industry? Publishers, Developers, or Customers? It sure as hell isn’t the publishers.

          in an environment where for years on end, it has been commonly acceptable to bitch, whine and cause a fuss…what would you logically expect to happen when a project, hyped by these same journalists as the next big gaming revolution…turns out to be just “meh”?

          I already said that no so-called journalists were ever hyping it as a revolution. If anything I heard every single so-called journalist talking about how the funds raised weren’t even a drop in the bucket to the publishers. After all, who enabled this environment you speak of? Who nurtured it and allowed it to grow? Its certainly wasn’t the gamers.

          I'm of the opinion that this Kickstarter thing, as it is, IS being abused in a sense by pidgeonholing the publicity it gets, and respectively the moneyflow, into a select few projects that are NOT by upcoming new fresh minds, are NOT by people who don't have a massive handle in the industry's door and need any help to “make it in”, and are NOT so limited in terms of exposure as to need a third-party company to handle the things Kickstarter does.

          I don’t really get where this came from. You are speaking like all the people who came to help Schafer and Fargo get their games funded somehow forced out the people who were there before and who already knew kickstarter even existed and were funding projects before Schafer ever came along. Games were using Kickstarter for funding before Schafer and Fargo, the success of Schafer and Fargo does not make the true indie projects magically fail.

          if saving the industry means going from very few, big-budget publisher houses to very few, big-budget big-name pseudo-indie projects, how is it saving the industry at all, I wonder?

          I’m still wondering if you are being intentionally narrow minded here. Of course every project isn’t going to be helmed by big names. When the crash happens the indies are going to be the few left who still have jobs, simply by virtue of their projects require relatively small amounts of money. I’m loath to use a metaphor here because I’m afraid you’ll just twist it around until it no longer has meaning, you know, the way people do. But just like the emerging mammals survived the extinction of the dinosaurs, the studios that can work with microscopic budgets will survive the crash. Eventually the industry will recover, and (hopefully) be smarter for it.

          We have a new-indie-dev helper-tool, and it's being taken over by few teams, reaching very exaggerated budgets compared to the rest, taking fewer risks…

          Oh for chrissakes, you are starting to sound like one of those “All these damn immigrants are comin’ to steal our jobs and women” people.

          As for the rest of your comments, this post is already ungodly long enough, so I’ll leave with this. You seem to be basing your argument around the assumption that the likes of Schafer and Fargo could have funded their projects by themselves, or that they didn’t really try to seek out funding from publishers before going to kickstarter. While we only have their word for it, and I’m willing to believe them, you may not, they have already stated that no matter how many publishers they went to, nobody wanted to fund their games. I’d say that if you can’t get funded, you are perfectly within your rights to pursue alternate methods such as kickstarter, no matter if you are a big name or a nobody. As for not caring about what Schafer or Fargo did a decade ago, thats fine you don’t have to. While Fargo doesn’t have a stellar recent record, Schafer sure as hell does. You don’t have to go back a decade to find Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, Stacking, or Costume Quest, all of which are brilliant.

          • JPH says:

            For the record, I don’t want publishers to die away because publishers are still an important part of a lot of the games I like to play.

            $3 million might be enough to fund Double Fine’s little adventure game, but it wouldn’t be nearly enough to fund (say) Borderlands 2, a game I’m very much looking forward to. The truth is that while avenues like Kickstarter can provide funding for some projects, they can’t provide funding for the big ones, and a lot of us like having those big games.

        • Shamus says:

          “Yes, I know Legend of Grimrock uses that, and yes, I still think that it was an unnecessary callback to old game design with no true reason beyond nostalgia value behind it. ”

          I actually think that the turn-based nature of Grimrock is a core part of the gameplay. If this was aa game where I could circle-strafe around foes in realtime it would be a very, very different game.

          This is exactly the sort of thing we lost as technology advanced. Yes, 3D and free-moving cameras gave us a lot of freedom, but those design choices led naturally to different gameplay experiences. Grimrock is a wonderfull fusion of new and old: Shiny new graphics and shadowing effects (that have real gameplay attached, things like seeing light through cracks in a wall) along with the rigid, turn-based combat and puzzle solving.

          I don’t want ALL RPG’s to go back to turn-based gameplay, but I’m glad to see we’re playing around with some of those ideas.

          • HBOrrgg says:

            I don’t think Legend of Grimrock’s combat is turn-based is it?

            • Shamus says:

              It’s turn-based kind of in the same way that the Final Fantasy VII is “turn based”. There are turns going on, but they’re slightly asynchronous. And the movement in Grimrock is clearly turn-driven.

              I suppose you could haggle over where you draw the line with regards to “turn based”, but it’s clearly more similar to tabletop D&D than it is to (say) Wolfenstein.

          • MrPyro says:

            “If this was a game where I could circle-strafe around foes in realtime it would be a very, very different game.”

            Hah, that reminds me of the time I completed Eye of the Beholder by circle-strafing the beholder. Good times.

        • Blake says:

          “The current industry standard, it seems, is Publishers&Developers VS. Players.”

          I’m actually a bit offended by this (developer for a medium sized company here).
          We’re all gamers ourselves, we want to make the best game we can, we don’t want to keep making sequels and games like all the rest around, none of us want DRM, nor Games For Windows Live.
          But these are publisher decisions, we make things this way, because it’s either that or not have a job.

          I’d rather make sub-par games than go into general application programming. Doesn’t mean I don’t side with players on most decisions.
          We fight the publishers too, but in the end we have to deal with them, otherwise we don’t get to make any games.

      • Eric says:

        I should have read this before making my comment.

        I agree with everything said.

      • arron says:

        I’m very suspicious of Kickstarter as there aren’t many metrics to whether these projects are viable, whether the money asked for will cover the cost of development, whether the people who you’re giving to will deliver and if these things were going to make the money/revenue claimed and risks were that low, then why didn’t they make the money from more conventional outlets/banks/investors? If it is almost certain to make a loss then I can’t see why people should fund it.

        You can’t have a open ended project that cannot be quantified properly, but I would expect a proper project plan and perhaps a proof of concept to which this money is will be employed on.

        Exposure to personal loss may only be £20, but it’s still a lot overall with the fund as a whole. It’s the sort of thinking that thought that sub-prime was a good idea. The individual losses are not large, but by mixing it with better risk investments, the perceived value would not be affected. The problem I see, is a lot of the people giving their money is that they’ve no idea about the project and the risks. And being a “big name” is not good enough for me unless I can track your project and have a good idea about how you handled the last two. Project management involves a lot of variables, scheduling, intelligent guesswork, monitoring and contingencies that require robust planning. Most indie developers haven’t got that level of management.

        I think there’s also scope for plausible but ineffective people with novel ideas to take a lot of naive people for a ride as their projects cannot be effectively realised. At this point in the Kickstarter concept, it’s a gold rush, and that’s bad for getting solid results out.

        You don’t have a lot of control over the project like you might if you were a proper investor. It does feel very much like a political process. You give your assent at the requested time, and then you hope they won’t mess it up in the next few years as you don’t have any other say after that.

        • Klay F. says:

          if these things were going to make the money/revenue claimed and risks were that low, then why didn't they make the money from more conventional outlets/banks/investors?

          Nobody ever said the risks were low, or that they were guaranteed sellers. This whole campaign’s success proves irrevocably that an untapped market exists. The risks will always be there, no matter what market you go after. Its obvious that this market is not as big as the triple-A market, so the fact that your profits won’t be as large is a given. Now most logical people would respond to this situation by saying, “Well if the profits aren’t as big, then these projects obviously need to cost less, so at to maximize profits” But the publisher avoids the market altogether. Profit is profit, no matter how you look at it. But its not enough to just make a profit for a publisher, they want to make blockbuster profits. They’d rather make a huge gamble, with the possibility of either total ruin, or breaking records, than make a smaller safer gamble. Even if the games cost a trifle to make, if it won’t break records, or if it requires more work from said publisher then your project won’t get funded.

          It's the sort of thinking that thought that sub-prime was a good idea.

          The fallacy here is in equating a mortgage (something with a very long lifespan) to videogames (a disposable luxury product).

          Also another problem you have is in equating the goals of a publisher (to maximise profits (a goal which they aren’t very good at)) with the goals of some guy giving $20 to a guy who has a proven track record (to get a fun game for his $20).

          • arron says:

            But its not enough to just make a profit for a publisher, they want to make blockbuster profits. They'd rather make a huge gamble, with the possibility of either total ruin, or breaking records, than make a smaller safer gamble.

            And it’s only going to get worse. Bigger, better graphics, same old tired product covering the same genre they’ve been pushing for a decade or more. If you’re chucking more money in to get HD or better graphics so you can count the individual hairs on a person, then you’re going to pay increasing development costs. It’s unsustainable, and all factors that might decrease profits (i.e resale games) will be removed to get as many new games sales as possible. It’s going to break the games industry and we’re going to have a big crash at some point. Hopefully, self-funded and responsible crowd funding will allow the mammals to take over once the dinosaurs have all died out..

            The fallacy here is in equating a mortgage (something with a very long lifespan) to videogames (a disposable luxury product).

            It would be a fallacy if you were comparing products, but I was using it from an investment angle. If I had a low paying job and I went into a local bank for a mortgage that I couldn’t really afford..then quite rightly they’d turn me down. But because the market desperately needed credit debt to sell in the lucrative securities market, they basically forgot common sense and decided take this irresponsible step by mixing it with good debt. It’s still bad debt, but it looks OK though various ratings/accreditation voodoo to make investors buy it. And all because they wanted something that was a short term product, compared to a long term mortgage lasting decades.

            These games are the same. I don’t think you can go into a bank and get a half-million to develop a computer game. I remember reading interviews in the 90s showing how hard it was to get investment from anywhere except from publishers – who had the muscle to get your game in the shops anyway. Banks weren’t interested so you were trapped in that publisher-controlled system. Games are notoriously risky and independent productions have a higher rate of failure compared to ones with industry support. No wonder consoles took off as they did. It was a natural development of that closed publisher-developer system.

            Kickstarter is the same – the risk hasn’t gone away in developing a game, but the money is more easily obtained because the perception of loss is different. One guy (or bank) losing a half million will notice such a large loss. 25,000 people losing a twenty will not.

            Also another problem you have is in equating the goals of a publisher (to maximise profits (a goal which they aren't very good at)) with the goals of some guy giving $20 to a guy who has a proven track record (to get a fun game for his $20).

            Good point. Not having a publisher is good from the point of view that they’re responsible for the huge costs of development and marketing – projects can have much more modest end goals. According to various games development publications I have – cost of marketing can be 3-5 times of development.

            Publishers can still get involved in Kickstarter in that they could put up a lot of the money and own the end product. Expecially if it looks like another Portal or Tag: The Power of Paint. If you’re seeking investment, then it’s hard to turn away money..it all comes down to what you have to give away to get it.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      The problem I have with kickstarter isn’t so much with the thing itself but rather with people. See, I agree that eventually some big, promising project will crash and burn and the money will disappear into a black hole and my problem is I’m sure there will be a very strong backlash against kickstarter itself and I already have cold shivers in the anticipation of this and just hope that media don’t jump on this bandwagon.

      That said, for people who are reasonably aware of the risks and catches that this form of funding includes this is a great way to vote with their wallets. Even if they are actually driven by nostalgia this doesn’t differ much from grabbing the game of the shelf, or steam, because of it. This is also one of the few ways to override the big corps “playing it safe”. I mean, even if some project or other ultimately fails to deliver the fact that there’s a lot of people interested in a given idea could probably disprove several market studies out there.

      I honestly fail to see the grounds for your “pay for the names” argument. People are willing to put money forward because these guys delivered in the past, sure they may be up for a disappointment but to me it’s like saying “you shouldn’t go to the restaurant you’ve been to before just because the food and service was good, you’re just paying in hopes that your experience will be the same and you have no guarantee of that, I mean, they’re still serving the same menu and the waiter is still that same guy who served you last month”. If you’re sceptical about the project (which you are perfectly entitled to be, I know there is plenty of stuff on kickstarter that I just take a brief glance and and think “oh sure, because we definitely need more of THAT of all things”) you just don’t fund it and not discard the idea of funding altogether.

      • X2Eliah says:

        The “pay for the names” argument mainly comes from the way these megaprojects have been handled by the game journalist media – which, I should say, is the first and main way that regular people have actually found out about this kickstarter thing. I have no issue with a good idea being backed by an assurance of quality. I do have an issue with pojects being sold on namedropping first and foremost. And frankly, I don’t think any newsarticle about these projects focused on anything else that wasn’t namedropping.

        For example, this article: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/02/16/brian-fargo-turning-to-kickstarter-for-wasteland-2/#more-94678

        Or how about this one: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/02/09/squee-schafer-gilberts-kickstarter-fund-for-adventure/
        What is it going to be about? Who knows! Have some industry-famous names instead! Mention an old loved project they did a long time ago! Give them money because you know them!

        That is my issue. Projects being sold on names instead of their own details. Just having a few guys who made something you liked does not guarantee that their new thing will be as good… For example, consider Carmack/idtech and the recent “RAGE” game. So much for a stamp of technical quality, unfortunately. I have a more comprehensive reply posted in response to Klay’s post above yours, but it’s in moderation.


        The problem I have with kickstarter isn't so much with the thing itself but rather with people. See, I agree that eventually some big, promising project will crash and burn and the money will disappear into a black hole and my problem is I'm sure there will be a very strong backlash against kickstarter itself and I already have cold shivers in the anticipation of this and just hope that media don't jump on this bandwagon.

        Exactly. My suspicion is that the people are what they are, a project will bomb somehow, the backlash will be real, and the media will do exactly what you’d expect them to do :| I’m not happy about it.. I don’t want it to happen, for God’s sakes. But I can’t help but think that it is inevitable, and we’re seeing the set-up of something potentially very harmful to the industry. It’s a process with no single, or definable, “baddie”.. It’s just happening, and heading for an iceberg.

        • Klay F. says:

          Because I can’t see your response yet, I’ll comment here instead. After re-reading my post I realize I came across as overly hostile, I didn’t mean to do that and I apologize. When on the Internet I tend to post first and think about my tone second (or not at all). Funny that.

          • X2Eliah says:

            See, now by saying this you are making me feel a bit bad in responding to your post’s tone. For what it is worth, I don’t take the posts personally, and mainly value them on a per-post basis.. I.E. a hostile-seeming post is hostile, even if by Mumbles/Rutskarn/Santaclaus, a polite one is polite.. Well, you get the idea. (Heh.. You might say I don’t mind the old names and history of the poster as much as the idea and delivery of the post itself – now there’s an analogy if I’ve ever made one).

            I wasn’t insulting or swearing you out, if that’s what you’re thinking.. The moderation-queue might have just been triggered by the length, or perhaps of one particular bit I quoted… Who knows.

            • Destrustor says:

              I must commend you both for your civility, even in the midst of a (somewhat) heated argument. The Internet needs more of you.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                To the cloning laboratory!

              • Klay F. says:

                Its one of the main reasons this is my favorite place to hang out (cool people still say “hang out” right?) on the Internet.

                In fact it just occurred to me. If this community ruled all governments, politics would be a lot more civil…

                …Or it might just descend back into early 1800s type politics when duels were the accepted form of conflict resolution. I can’t decide whether that would be a good or bad thing. ;P

          • Infinitron says:

            You wuss. He totally deserved it.

        • krellen says:

          To echo others above – of course people are paying for the name. I was paying for Shamus’s name when I bought the Witch Watch; I reasonably expected him to turn out some work that I would enjoy, so I invested in his new work. I would likely do so again, as I was not disappointed.

          This is the main reason I bought Mass Effect 2. I had been satisfied by Mass Effect 1 and excited for the prospect of more. Mass Effect 2 sorely disappointed me, such that I have no plans on buying Mass Effect 3. Sometimes you buy something you don’t like. You get to complain about it, but otherwise there’s not a lot more to it.

          • Sumanai says:

            At least with these Kickstarter projects you’re actually paying for the name of a person, not the name of a company, so there’s a higher chance that you get what you expect.

            • krellen says:

              I will admit that I almost pulled my money out when I realised that Brian Fargo’s inXile is the same company that has this guy working there.

              • Infinitron says:

                I’m sure that guy has been ordered by Brian to disappear off the Internet for the next two years.

              • Blake says:

                I must be missing something, that interview seemed pretty fine to me and I’ve just been playing through Hunted: The Demon’s Forge with my mate over the past few weeks and have had quite a bit of fun with it.

                Does he otherwise have a habit of saying stupid things or something?

                • krellen says:

                  I think these games always wanted to be action games at their heart. I think all those old turn-based games, it’s just that’s all the technology would allow.

                  That’s the troublesome quote.

                  • Blake says:

                    Ah I see.
                    I would say that probably would apply to some of them, and I could certainly imagine heaps of designers in those times jumping at the opportunity to make them real time with all the bells and whistles we have these days, but I can see why some people could get scared by that knowing he’ll be working on a turn based game now.

                  • Sumanai says:

                    He could’ve meant that back then most designers were dreaming of real-time gameplay and that turn-based stuff was born almost accidentally from necessity, not because it was what they wanted to do in the first place. And he didn’t intend to imply that turn-based gameplay was invalid or out-dated, but just that it was born out of necessity.

                    That said, it’s not something you want to hear from a designer taking part in making a turn-based game.

                  • Tizzy says:

                    I do remember some games from the late 80’s and early 90’s that were RPG-themed (usually in some DnD IP or other) but very action-based, as much as was possible with the technology of the day. And I can’t say I cared much for them back then either, I felt like they were trying to put in the wrong gameplay and just luring me in with the setting.

                    I’m not surprised to learn that more action is what was on the developers of those games. Different strokes and all that, I like my turn-based gaming for RPGs. If I want pure action, I’d rather go straight-up shooter.

    • Alan says:

      Based on my experience with Kickstarter over about 2 years, successful projects tend to have “well known” people running them. Not necessarily famous people, but well known within the communities they are targeting. These are people with a history of shipping something successfully, be it previous products, or at least a solid 3 web comics a week. You might not have heard of Andrew Plotkin, but if you’re involved in modern interactive fiction (text adventures), you almost certainly know who he is and have played games he’s made. That these people are well known, at least to their funders, is the primary defense against a failing project; these people are literally trading on their reputations. That seems appropriate to me.

  12. HiEv says:

    Keep in mind that fan-sourcing your funding to create a game existed before Kickstarter.

    Just take a look at the recent donation figures for the development of Dwarf Fortress. Bay 12 Games, a two-man operation, got $12,586.51 in February after a long-awaited release, and then another $6777.02 the month after that. This post shows their yearly totals from donations. That’s over $200,000 in donations in around 5 years. And this is a game with low-end graphics and a rather meager UI.

    This just goes to show that if you have an interesting concept and build up a core audience, you can fund a small-team project on donations alone.

    And, Shamus, for a guy who likes procedurally generated stuff, you really need to try out Dwarf Fortress. I’m sure it will only eat a few months of your life. ;-D

    • X2Eliah says:

      There is a difference, though. For DwarfFort, it is more an ongoing funding, along with released public updates and builds.
      Kickstarter is basically up-front bulk payment purely on promise and trust, a long time before any tangible result is even made.

    • Ragnar says:

      Yes, I would love to see Shamus play and write about DF.

      Overall I very much miss him writing about games that are not AAA-titles (the PAX reports are a step up I guess). I would love Shamus’ opinion on games like Frayed Knights and Avernum: Escape from the pit. Or even the middle sized projects like Larian Studios’ Divinity games.

    • GTB says:

      If Shamus starts playing DF that will be the last we see of him for months. It’s exactly the worst game for somebody with his special brand of OCD to pick up, because it will consume all of his waking hours until his wife throws the computer out the window in a hilarious animated gif-like reality.

      • I would say, given what I know of Dwarf Fortress and Shamus’ personal game playing habits that this is the worst type of game for him though not because of addiction. Rather he passionately hates “rocks fall you die” in games. He wants games to have good solid reasons for death, or none at all, and gets cranky when games are deliberately hard instead of challenging. I may be wrong (haven’t played it nor have I watched it– all I know is about it is by heresay) but from what I understand the challenge of Dwarf Fortress is like that of Call of Cthulu– how long can you survive? Not his thing, not his thing at all.

        • Destrustor says:

          Besides, Rutskarn has already started and shelved a written let’s play of it on his blog. Maybe someday he’ll come back to it. No need for competition among the Spoiler Warning crew.

          • MintSkittle says:

            Maybe Josh will do a Let’s Play when he’s done with Shogun 2? Maybe we can get the Spoiler Warning crew to do a lineage game, trading off every in game year? There’s got to be someway of getting a DF playthrough featured on Twenty Sided.

        • cerapa says:

          If someone dies then its because you screwed up at some point. There arent any “rocks fall you die”, unless you mean filling your fortress entrance with so many rock-fall traps that the goblins cant even reach anyone.

          Its not actually very hard to survive indefinately, you can just set up a farm underground and wall yourself off from the outside world(literally). The challenge comes when you try to do something fancy like not use traps, or embark in an evil biome.

          There are two ways for a fortress to end. The first is that you set up a stable fortress and eventually get bored with it. The second is that it burns away in a wave of blood and glory after you breach hell itself.(of course people have colonized hell and made a dining room down there, just so they could make a “Tonight we dine in hell!” joke) You might have just heard of people attempting to do the second.

        • Ragnar says:

          But that is not at all the correct mindset for DF. Instead of trying to survive as long as possible, the goal is to mess up your fortress in as interesting ways as possible. Losing is fun!

          Also remember that there is an adventure mode to DF. It is more of a traditional roguelike but with tons of story-related generated content such as quests where towns need rescuing from vampires, etc. Also ties in with fortress mode (you can go and visit your abandoned fortress!).

  13. Melf_Himself says:

    “In general, people asking for money should have one of two things:

    A famous name with a track record of shipping successful titles, or:
    A great prototype.”

    The onus is not on the person asking for money. The people who are being asked have to decide whether the askee is worthy.

    Shamus, if your audience think that you are worth their money, who are you to stand in their way? Who are you to insult them and say, “no my people, your judgement is flawed”.

    Take the damn money. You’re not doing it for you man, it’s your livelihood, think of it as for your family and their future.

    • MichaelG says:

      There is a cost — to your reputation. If you take money and fail to deliver, what about your next project? It’s going to be a lot harder to raise money then. Especially with everything public this way.

      Shamus shouldn’t take money unless he’s got a serious project with a plan and at least some kind of prototype.

      The way I’d use Kickstarter is to get the concept down, then ask for money to pay artists, voice talent, or whatever it takes to make the game look professional. Do as much as possible yourself first.

      • Michael– you have it right on the money. It is an integrity thing. One of the reasons Shamus doesn’t talk about current projects as often as people would like is that he knows he tends to move from one thing to the next and is always afraid of leaving people disappointed (why haven’t you finished “Project Frontier”? What happened to “Stolen Pixels”?) We are both that way, both of us are the creative sorts that work on inspiration basis and both of us really struggle when we HAVE to finish something that we are NOT inspired to do– makes it hard to give a time frame for a project and we both hate saying we will do something and then not. If we were going to go the Kickstarter route we would want to know 100% that the project COULD be completed in a timely manner and WOULD be completed in a timely manner, barring death and flood.

    • Raygereio says:

      The onus is on the person asking for money. Once he has your money, he has to go and do what he promised to deliver. He has to take his “great idea” and turn it into reality. If I’m reading Shamus’ rambling right, it’s the commitment of starting and the risk of failure he’s balking at.

      Shamus, if your audience think that you are worth their money, who are you to stand in their way?
      May I direct your attention to the super special kickstarter project: Fund-Shamus’-Kid’s-Sandwiches-Project. You can fund it via the paypall donation button Shamus has sitting on this site for a while now.

    • ehlijen says:

      The onus not to waste people’s time (including your own) is on everyone. If you have nothing going for your project other than ‘I have an idea’, don’t waste time and effort until you have more.

    • MatthewH says:

      In the case of investing, I’d think the judgment of the population at large is questionable. I have no idea what a good project looks like, I have no idea how to judge the risk that a project might crash and burn, and I have no idea what the return I should expect for my money is. I rely on actual venture capitalists and the program development department at EA for those skills.

      So if we’re going to skip the investment specialists, I really do rely on the project directors to honestly tell me whether their project is going to work. And when the developer says “I have no idea” I’ll take him at his word.

  14. Kdansky says:

    As usual, Keith Burgun[1] has a very interesting take on it, especially since he can show that not all Kickstarters succeed, even if his game idea seems really solid, they have a track record (100 rogues) and a prototype.

    There’s also the issue of what do you do when the project seems to be failing hard, such as Zion Eyez [2] which was funded a year ago, but is still far from ever getting out a real product.

    Kickstarter isn’t as easy as it seems.



    • Ragnar says:

      As usual, Keith Burgun[1] has a very interesting take on it,

      Regardless of what he claims to mean, he does come across as “look, these guys got lots of money, but we got nothing”. And he is really defensive. Instead of talking about the cool stuff they do with the game, they rant about their failed KS. It seem to be a prime example on how not to do PR.

      especially since he can show that not all Kickstarters succeed
      Of course not. Only the projects that are seen to be interesting by the public gets funded. That is as it should be.

      , even if his game idea seems really solid
      From what I read, that didn’t at all come across in their KS project.

      , they have a track record (100 rogues) and a prototype.
      Which from what I read in the comments seem to be an iphone game with mediocre reviews and a history of lots of bugs. Not directly inspiring high confidence?

      If you want people to give you money to produce something that might take a year to make you need to inspire confidence. It’s all about presentation, goodwill and creating trust that you can actually deliver what you promise.

      • Kdansky says:

        And there I hoped that at least on this blog, people would not completely miss the point of that article. Apparently you just can’t talk about your own failed Kickstarter without everyone shouting “YOU FUCKING NEEDY ASSHOLE GET OUT”. If you think my cursing is bad, go read the comments they got… I’m just being realistic.

        His points are:

        – People have no idea how game development works, and are outraged when you tell them that the money you get from Kickstarter will be used to pay for food and lodgings while you work on the game full-time. You know, like proper wages, except really low and without benefits.

        – If you can’t cash in on a memory from childhood, you have it rough.

        – On the other hand, if you can, you apparently easily get millions.

        – The video will make or break you. Promise whatever makes people pay. Don’t focus on reality.

        • Ragnar says:

          Apparently you just can't talk about your own failed Kickstarter without everyone shouting “YOU FUCKING NEEDY ASSHOLE GET OUT”.

          Of course you can. If you are capable of being analytical of your own failure. Keith Burgun however, is not one of them. What I wrote was how he comes across. If he had – instead of ranting about the bigger KS projects and his potential donators – analyzed what he did compared to other projects (both bigger and same size) and tried to see what they did different as to be successful, then he might have a point. Now he comes across as someone who failed and is very bitter about it.

          There are plenty of small and midsized projects on KS that has succeded, so his points are pretty much invalid.

        • Ragnar says:

          And for what it’s worth, I quickly looked over his game “Auro” to see what it was all about and it does look to have some interesting ideas about it.

        • krellen says:

          There is the counter-example of that tactical shooter Takedown, which had a horrible video and was floundering for funding, then redid their video (it was much better, giving actual information about the game and the project) and crossed their threshold in time. It wasn’t millions, which makes it an example of a “big name” – a developer with actual experience at putting out an actual product – succeeding but not over-succeeding the way Double Fine and Wasteland 2 are.

  15. Museli says:

    Between Kickstarter and pre-ordering games to fund their development like Xenonauts, I’ve paid for about ten games which should probably be released at some point, hopefully. I’m willing to take the risk on something going wrong and a project collapsing. After spending years saying things like ‘I would KILL for a new (game-X)-style game’, backing them when they do appear is the least I feel I could do.

    It’s nice to be able to feel like my opinion matters, and to know that I helped in some way to bring someone’s creative ideas to life. If Shamus does decide to put up a project at any point, I will Kickstart the heck out of it.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I’m in the same boat, with several pre-orders and kickstarters which I might only get to play in a year or three (so long as they actually get finished!).

      The risk doesn’t feel too big really, since some of them (Grim Dawn, Xenonauts) are pretty close to completion and others (Shadowrun, Double Fine, Larry, Wasteland 2) appear to have good plans and good people behind them. Kinda scary how much money I’ve put down for all these things though, especially since I often get tempted by to pledge extra.

      As a footnote, in other adventure gaming news there’s a new website for the Two Guys from Andromeda (Space Quest series creators Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe): http://guysfromandromeda.com/

      And another project that I reckon might be worth backing is Mage’s Initiation, being made by Himalaya Studios (which has some of the same people as AGD Interactive, who made the King’s Quest 1-3 remakes and the Quest for Glory 2 remake). http://www.himalayastudios.com/games/mages/#about-the-game

  16. Amarsir says:

    Kickstarter’s got a bit of a romance, which inevitably will fade. It’s sort-of 1/3 private equity, 1/3 advanced presales, and 1/3 premium content. Now for me, I’d be fine with any of those anyway. But it appears to me that, without getting too specific, there are people who claim to hate each of the three and yet think Kickstarter is the greatest thing. I’m quietly watching for the day that cognitive dissonance sets in.

    • zob says:

      You are missing the most important point here. When I give money to a kickstarter project my money goes to developers not publishers.

      • Amarsir says:

        Well first I fear you underestimate the work and expense of being a middleman. If you prefer not to pay publishers who pay developers, and instead to pay developers who fund packaging, advertising, distributing etc themselves, then that’s fine. Either way the money ends up in different places. But that’s not even my point. People give money to developers all the time – just not in this format.

        The reason being a Kickstarter feels different from being a traditional (publisher-paying) customer is that it is different: it’s investing. But the role isn’t new, just the presentation. Kickstarter markets investing to customers. It’s a great market because everyone’s been a customer but precious few will ever do venture capital. So it feels like something new to those people. And they enjoy it, as they should: investing is fun. The money goes directly to developers, which you say is “the important point.” But that’s not new. That’s what investing always does. The difference is that here, the terms are pretty bad.

        If I give $2000 to someone to help them open a restaurant, I want them to send me a small portion of their profits so that over time I get the $2000 back, plus some more, with which I can fund future projects. If I then want to spend my proceeds eating at the restaurant then there may be several reasons that makes sense. But there’s no reason the two transactions have to be tied together (and good reasons why they shouldn’t be). What Kickstarter does is ask for $2000 in return for 10 meals.

        Viewed as an investor, this is a terrible deal: you don’t get money back to reinvest like backers usually do. Viewed as a customer it’s a terrible deal: you don’t know exactly what you’re getting or when it will be available. Viewed as a premium product it’s reasonable ($5000 for an OOTS walk-on is a once-in-a-lifetime deal), but those sparkle ponies and DLC hats historically attract hate from 3rd parties. On direct comparison of any of these terms, Kickstarter projects through traditional channels would be hated/ignored. But mashed up, the idea is sexy and people can’t wait to kick in.

        Best wishes while it lasts. But I predict that as projects start coming up short, backers will realize why investors usually demand the terms that they get. Once that happens the rose is going to lose a lot of bloom.

        • zob says:

          You are still missing the point. Customer wants a product, Investor wants more money. I want product, I am a customer. I preordered a copy of wasteland 2, nothing more. This business model gives me chance to do so without the middleman.

        • Blake says:

          Viewed as a customer the Double Fine adventure is an amazing deal.
          $15 in Australia gets me a bargain bin game if I’m lucky.
          At retail (if the game went through the normal publisher process) it’d cost me probably $80 or $90.

          This means I’m investing a bit under $15 ($15US = $14.53AU) for $80 worth of value 2 years for now, giving me a return on investment of like 240% per year.

          And that’s before the extra value included in access to the developer forums and whatnot.

          And as for not knowing exactly what I’ll be getting, that’s true of every game ever, at least Tim Schafer has a stellar record, so chances are it’ll beat most games I buy hands down.

        • Alan says:

          By that definition Gamestop is offering me investment opportunities every time they ask me if I’d like to pre-order Call of Recon War Gears VII.

  17. Joss says:

    Shameless plug:

    Jordan Weisman (the guy who created the first edition of the Shadowrun tabletop game) is making a new Shadowrun computer game. It will be 2D, turn-based and set in the 2050s and a lot of the Shadowrun guys from the old days are on the writing team. It’s called “Shadowrun Returns”, look it up!

    Also, I think I would blindly throw my money at anything Shamus puts on Kickstarter. :D

  18. Kdansky says:


    Shamus: Charless Stross has a very interesting take on DRM in the eBook business. He talks about how the insistence on DRM by the publishers has not just not worked (as usual), but rather how it has backfired horribly, and the publishers are now completely at the mercy of Amazon, because Amazon controls a completely locked down Kindle-market. But he’s much better at words than I am:


    • MichaelG says:

      I didn’t agree with this at all. Book publishers are dying because they don’t do enough for authors to justify the share they take. Just ask Shamus — he looked at conventional publishing and said “no, thanks.”

      If you read Stross’s own writeup of the publishing process, it has to be torture for a first time author. Even when everything goes right, it takes a year before your book hits the shelves.

      Stross is a self-described leftie and just doesn’t trust any business anywhere to do the right thing, especially when it gets big. He forgets that plenty of big businesses who do the wrong thing get disciplined by the market. I was just reading a piece on Sony, on whether the company can even be saved at this point. Back 15 years ago, they were considered unbeatable.

      From what I’ve read, back when Amazon was offering everything for $9.99, they were buying wholesale and then selling at a loss. They were paying publishers their asking price, not forcing them lower. They did that to push Kindles, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

      We’ll see more authors migrate to self-publishing, but Amazon still takes a huge cut. However, a Kindle will display non-DRM formats, so if another distributor wanted to release books for Kindle, it can do so. If large numbers of authors find a better deal somewhere else, they can move. Shamus offered his book through several services.

      So unlike Stross, I’m not worried about monopoly at all. The interesting thing about a software-based internet economy is that lock-in is very, very hard. And without existing customer lock-in or barriers to entry for new businesses, you won’t find it easy to maintain a monopoly.

      In other words: as soon as Amazon slips up, it will get killed by upstarts.

      • Klay F. says:

        Yeah, it all sounded pretty suspicious to me, but I was willing to take what he said at face value, simply because I don’t really know anything about the relationship between book publishers and Amazon, but as soon as he likened Libertarians as someone who’d willingly sell their mother for a buck, I knew I needn’t read further.

        • LunaticFringe says:

          A leftist portraying libertarians as money grubbing and sociopathic? That never happens. /must avoid getting into political debate.

          Stross is largely just pushing for a knee-jerk reaction, as someone already mentioned it’s the ‘businesses are evil’ mentality that backs up his viewpoint more than actual reality.

      • Sumanai says:

        Can’t really say anything about the topic itself, but I noted that you said “15 years ago”. That’s a long time for a company like Sony to be harmful to the market. And they’ve done several mistakes that would’ve killed smaller companies or at least forced them to improve themselves in order to survive. But they just trucked on by with their inertia.

        I have a friend who insists on buying Sony and will most likely need a really good reason to stop. I imagine that he is not alone.

        So no, when a large company makes a mistake they’re not as easily humbled by the experience that a small or middling one. This is especially true if they hold patents on things that basically ensure that no matter how much consumers hate them other companies are forced to deal with them.

        • krellen says:

          Could any company but Microsoft have survived a release like Windows Vista?

          • Sumanai says:

            Vista was a solid OS that was unfairly reviled by luddites and totally worth the money, even if it just meant paying more once Win7 came out.

            Totally didn’t turn a HP printer useless because HP claimed that MS provided drivers with Vista and MS claiming you needed to download drivers from the manufacturer. It did not take months for it to get fixed by MS enough that it didn’t elicit constant cries for vengeance or at least for another operating system.

            Never heard even a whisper of a complaint from my mother or my sister in all the time they’ve been using it. None whatsoever. Both were perfectly happy with all the bullshit Vista put them through whenever they wanted to do something simple.

            Yes, a completely valid OS that is in no way a pox upon the land.

            • LunaticFringe says:

              In the case of OS there is a sort of internal knowledge that comes from being a computer ‘nerd’ as well. I see a lot of sarcasm here, but you do actually show why Vista was successful to an extent. To an average PC user (such as my mom) I can go on and on about my issues with Vista, but she doesn’t care because it provides the basic functions of an OS that she needs and that’s it. She’s completely willing to jump through the hoops Vista throws at her and doesn’t really blame the OS, but instead says ‘that’s what computers are like’. I see that mentality crop up somewhat in ‘older’ demographics and I think that’s one of the reasons that bad software can remain so successful. When your market is primarily made up of people like that an OS that ‘nerds’ will treat as terrible due to their experience and needs is still seen as acceptable to most, who have substantially less needs.

              Hell, I’ve offered to install Windows 7 on my parents’ computer but they still go with Vista because they’re ‘used to it’.

              • Klay F. says:

                Which explains the success of Apple! *flameshield*

                Oh don’t look at me like that you walked right into that one! :D

              • Sumanai says:

                My whole post is sarcastic. My mother and sister hated Vista. My sister is better with computers than the average person, but she’s still not exactly nerdy and my mother is, well, she’s smart normally but was almost completely computer illiterate when she got the Vista machine. She’s been getting better.

                When my sister’s computer broke down, she got a new one from our brother with Ubuntu installed (Gnome, not the buggy nightmare they released last year) and was considerably happier with the OS.

                The only reason I didn’t substitute Vista with Linux for my mother was because I didn’t want to rock the boat and risk being forced to teach her how to use it for the next year. Which is one of the reasons why people stick with stuff like Vista.

                It should be noted that I consider that “the best OS is the one that’s the least worst for you”. For me that used to be Linux, before Ubuntu 11.10. I’ve yet to spend any real time with BSD or MacOS, so can’t comment on those.

                • LunaticFringe says:

                  Well I’m not necessarily saying that my theory is upheld throughout the ranks of average PC users, but it can typically be seen as the case. Microsoft has also been able to create a brand identity associated with computers which has allowed them to remain a constant majority OS which helps as well (i.e. people will just use a Windows OS regardless of its quality due to its accessibility and role as the “common OS”).

                  • Sumanai says:

                    I meant to convey that Vista is not really a “nerd problem” and that there’s something genuinely wrong when non-technically minded people want to change back into XP or Win2k or instantly like Linux more.

                    The same thing happened with Iphone. Because the people pointing out abilities it lacked had experience with technology, other people claimed that “it was for normal people, not nerds” so it was supposedly okay to not have copy-paste or whatever.

  19. Deadyawn says:

    I think a great amount of skepticism at this stage is warranted. The whole thing looks great on paper but it has yet to be proven that it will work. There are many potential stumbling blocks along this path and the risk of a wasted investment is high.
    However, I’m still personally optimistic. From what we have seen, this could be a major turning point in the industry as a whole and the worst case scenario it would have it as at least a worthwhile experiment. I was excited by the prospect of wasteland 2 and I decided to put my money where my mouth was. I’m hopeful that we’ll get a quality game out of this and possibly many more to come.

  20. We have given a few bucks to a few of the indie developers we actually met, though I don’t think we have given to any we haven’t met irl.

    I think the one reason Kickstarter and Indiegogo (similar, around before Kickstarter)are working for games is that big name games are too expensive and are missing a lot of the niche markets. Thanks to KS and the like the freemarket is basically telling game publishers and developers two things:

    1. We want cheaper games and we are willing to help fund cheaper games (I would love to compare presales to kickstarter funding of games. I am sure presales of big names would be higher just because all the Halo and other fanboys buy presale, however I think there would be some interesting patterns.)

    2. We want games in our favorite niches. There are several old games I would still love and which I would happily pay to see updated and ported to my favorite devices. I would say most gamers are the same.

    I am hoping that publishers will notice this and recognize it, however I am guessing that if the trend continues instead we will see AAA publishers like EA whining and complaining about KS games taking their sales just like they do about Gamespot reselling their games.

    • Hitch says:

      I think the niche market is more important than the cheaper games part. Although, that becomes an issue when you factor in the big publishers’ “one price fits all” philosophy. Creators, and the public, keep trying to say that everything doesn’t need to be a $60 triple-A title. But the publishers refuse to believe they can make money with anything else. The fact that so many thousands of people are willing to pony up $15 (and a few much much more than that) for a game that doesn’t exist yet, just because it represents a genre that major publishers refuse to fund, to the point that several of these projects have ended up way over-funded, should tell the publishers that whoever is offering up advice in their boardrooms is a bit out of touch. (Okay, maybe not a bit out of touch. Woefully ignorant might be closer to the mark.) Gaming has become big. Really big. So big that there’s big money to be made in niches.

  21. Irridium says:

    I’m glad about this kickstarter thing.

    Those of us who want these games can give money to get them made, those who don’t don’t have to, and the makers don’t have to bow to any publisher demands or worry about having to “appeal to the mainstream” or anything stupid like that.

    Plus, new Shadowrun. Oh lawd new Shadowrun.

    Oh, and Shamus, you might be able to play The Old Repulbic, since Bioware’s giving registered members without an active subscription free playtime up until the 20th of this month. I remember you tried to get in a while ago, and it didn’t work. So maybe this time it’ll work. Just thought I’d let you know.

    • Shamus says:

      I tried TOR again this weekend, and the game still doesn’t let me in. It really is shocking how comically inept EA is at this. When I tried a few weeks ago I sent them an email and explained, “I can’t get in because of [your stupid policy]. Can this be fixed?”

      It took them ages, but they eventually got back to me with, “You weren’t able to get into the game because of [stupid policy]. Thanks for emailing us. May the force be with you!”

      • krellen says:

        Back in the Beta, I reported an issue of one of the classes missing a basic part of the “tutorial” of the game. This would have been in September or October of last year.

        They just patched a fix in on Thursday.

        • Sumanai says:

          Have they fixed the Trooper class mission? It wasn’t broken as such, but it was bloody stupid. In the final stage of the tutorial planet you get into this enemy stronghold. At one point there’s the area for the class quest, which is level 10. The rest of the area ahead are level 9.

          Since I had quests in the lower level areas, and I got my ass handed over in the class mission, I decided to do those first. After doing them, and cursing because the area is such a large and boring slog to go through, I went to do the class mission. And then was sent back into the 9 level area.

          Going through it again the game rewarded me with a predictable, groan worthy, twist. Since I had friends online at the time I did one group quest, quit, and haven’t played again.

  22. David W says:

    I’ve been wondering something totally different – maybe Kickstarter could be extended to more traditional public goods? Roads, bridges, that sort of thing. It was one thing when Kickstarter could reach $1000 for an art project to buy materials. Now that we’re talking $millions, and still generally only early-adopters contributing – well, imagine a Kickstarter to repave a notoriously bad road in a big city. Very predictable cost, timescale, benefit. If anything, I think the main limit would be getting permission from the city to do their job for them; no one wants to admit failure.

    • bucaneer says:

      Are you describing the mode and function of taxes, or is my not being an American messing with my perception of things?

      • David W says:

        I’m describing what taxes are supposed to do, but often fail to perform due to corruption, information problems, hubris, and so on. And I’m wondering if Kickstarter could fill some of that role with voluntary contributions rather than everything having to be mandatory.

        After all – the traditional reason for taxes is that it was too hard for people to coordinate to make public goods without free riders. Only Kickstarter seems to be proving that wrong, at least partially.

        • Bubble181 says:

          There’d still be decisions to be made, though.
          To take an example, the city of Antwerp is trying to build a second part to the highway surrounding the city. The south side is saturated, so they want more highway on the north, to channel traffic around the city.
          We’ve already been debating whether it should be a tunnel or a bridge, or some combination, for…6 years? 7? I dunno. Anyway, it’s politics. One pressions group says A, a lobby group says B, agroup of people living there say C, studies show D is better but E is cheaper, F is faster to build, G would be more architecturally interesting… It’s not just a matter of repaving a road – it’s redesigning.
          Now, either you get a Kickstarter for each idea, which means you can suddenly have funding for both a bridge *and* a tunnel – and then what? Or you have what amounts to voting with your wallet (the one that can raise the money the fastest wins), which boils down to the richest people deciding. Do you really want to go back to a world where the rich control the world (in so far as this isn’t the case at the moment)?

          • David W says:

            Well – if the rich were to pay for everything, then I suppose I would be fine with them making the decisions. The politics now mostly comes in when everyone has to pay, so everyone gets a say. Give me a free bridge, and I can accept it being not quite perfect.

            But in any event, I certainly wouldn’t want to go there overnight! I’d want to start with Kickstartering the small, straightforward stuff. Maybe try one big project and see how it turns out. Maybe you’re right that the politics are the result of the project being big, rather than how it’s funded.

            That’s where I think the real value is in this idea – that it’s not all or nothing. If it works, then it can expand, and if it doesn’t, then you can stop while the problems are still small.

      • LunaticFringe says:

        Well the difference fundamentally is the use of coercive force vs. voluntary association. Taxes aren’t really voluntary actions, they’re a societal contract backed by the state’s legitimate use of force (Max Weber’s term, not mine), i.e. pay your taxes or we put you in jail. A kickstarter project directed towards a public service would be more of a voluntary association, because it lacks this coercive nature, i.e. people donate willingly for various reasons, not because they have to to function in society (see the kickstarter project for the Robocop statue in Detroit as an example. Not something that the local government was willing to spend taxpayer dollars on, but it got a big response from the kickstarter community). Other people have also mentioned the infrastructural and bureaucratic issues with standard development as well, but really it comes down to standard statecraft or collective voluntary development. It’s an interesting idea and it makes me wonder if anarcho-capitalist/socialist/whatevers could use a Kickstarter-like model to help ‘prove their point’. But then again I’m a fan of weird social/political experiments.

        Wow, it’s totally not obvious that I took political science in university.

    • Eric says:

      I’m failing to see how infrastructure maintenance falls under the “creative project” requirement.

    • MatthewH says:

      Until the last 50 years this is exactly how local infrastructure was funded. There are pictures from the 1950s of local communities repairing their own roads with the mayor and city manager out there slinging shovels.

      This is still the way roads are repaired in parts of Kenya outside Nairobi (and presumably the rest of subsaharan Africa, but I haven’t looked into it).

      The reasons we don’t do it this way anymore are many and varied. Modern roads are more complicated (lot of engineering goes into making a proper road -even on level terrain) than slapping down concrete and asphalt. This requires more engineers and designers at earlier stages in the project. With the additional complications comes higher costs. The financing of these roads is now typically done in conjunction with the state and national governments (for a variety of reasons this is usually cheaper because states -being larger political bodies -usually get nicer rates on the loans). There are jurisdictional issues as well, even if it doesn’t cross a border -and if it does cross a city or county border or deviate off public land there will be even more negotiations required. And we have a lot more regulation restricting where and how infrastructure can be placed, ranging from environmental impact statements to occupational safety reports, et cetera. Even a FONSI (Finding Of No Significant Impact, the joke in the field is that everybody wants a “FONSI, yeah” because if you have a FONZI everything is cool and you’re done) can take a year or more.

      So, maybe it could help. But it’s not just the money.

  23. Itse says:

    Kickstarter is about people asking money and it works exactly the way people asking money always works.

    Some people will use it for shenanigans.

    Some people will ask money for their grand but unrealistic plans.

    Some people will have a realistic chance, but will fail to deliver anyway for reasons partly beyond their control.

    Some people will get you what you asked for.

    Some people will get you what you actually wanted.

    In the end it all comes down to similar judgment calls as always when people are asking for money.

    C’est la vie. It’s nice that Kickstarter is giving this crowdfunding thing a boost.

    I did support Wasteland 2, Shadowrun and even Jane Jensen, because I really, really liked Gabriel Knight 3.

    I also took part in the Order of the Stick fundraising because I’ve been reading his stuff for free for years and felt good about giving something back in a way that doesn’t require me to buy physical stuff I don’t want. I like digital.

    And yeah, Banner Saga. They give the air of a good combination of realism and bold ideas, and if the game has at all tolerable gameplay I will play it because it looks so beautiful.

    • arron says:

      The idea of private funding is quite a good one – after all most small businesses start off hungry with funds from personal savings / family and friends. I do think that if you’re going to seek private funding (and that is what you are doing here) you need to have more of a project proposal/planning/management process in place.

      If (for example) Shamus wanted to write something that was a different “spiritual successor” to System Shock II, then I’d be interested. I’d look and see he’s got a track record of doing a good job on small ambitious projects, so he’s good for my money. He’s got a project proposal and a plan, and I can see he’s spending most of the money on food, rent, project-related costs and hiring in effort for programming/graphics/sound. It all seems entirely reasonable in what he plans to spend the money on. The plan looks reasonable given comparable projects and he has ideas on how to sell it that are supported with evidence.

      So it’s worth a punt given past track record, a good appraisal of the project and I know it’s the sort of project he’d stop at nothing to complete. So I’d be happy to pony up the dough to see it happen.

      As for the argument that you’re paying for “living costs” then to me that’s acceptable. I don’t mind investing in a business plan which is realistic in its approach including costings. Developers have to eat after all. There’s no point in costing a incredibly cheap project if it has no chance of being completed. The developers might as well stuff the money in their pockets and then flee the country.

      I’d also like to see milestones and “decision points” where solid objectives are achieved and progress evaluated. It might be that the project isn’t viable for some reason. I’m much more sympathetic of a developer who realises it isn’t going to work and returns part of the money having given it a good go, and perhaps Open Sources the project – than someone who vanishes from view without any explanation. It might also pay off in their favour if they need more funding but the results so far have basically been better than expected.

      If you’re asking for money than I can’t control what people spend it on. However if I’m invested in your project, then there’s a responsibility to keep me informed of that project. And if you need me to support you further, then this investor-developer information relationship needs to be very close indeed.

  24. Strangeite says:

    Replied in wrong spot. Sorry.

  25. Greg says:

    I’ve seen a lot of these discussions in the board game world- it seems like there’s another thread on BoardGameGeek about Kickstarter every week or two. Basically, there were a few high-profile projects in 2010, and since then the floodgates have opened. The big difference between producing a board game and a video game is that most of the financial cost comes at the publishing step, when you’re actually sending the game to the printers in China or wherever. So most of the time when you’re at the Kickstarter step you’ve done most of the design work, which costs a lot of time but not a lot of money, and you can show people a close to finished game. At least one notable reviewer actually charges to do a preview of a Kickstarter game because of the glut.

    Since more of the money is going into the cost of producing the physical product, and there haven’t been huge names, the projects haven’t gotten as big as the super-big-name video game ones. The current record’s about $170K, though the current one for Ogre has a good shot of overtaking it. Steve Jackson’s probably the closest we’ve gotten to a big name in the board game Kickstarter world- the project’s something of a labor of love to his earlier design work that’s partially funded by the Munchkin cash cow.

    And in terms of horror stories, I haven’t heard of any projects that took people’s money and never got them product. Many projects didn’t make their initial estimates of when they’d ship, and there were a few notable ones that just turned out to be bad games, but so far it seems like the biggest risk for backers has been quality. (And I’ve learned a little bit about what goes into the printing process by listening to the reasons for delays from the projects I’ve funded.)

  26. Fang says:

    My big hope from these “Kickstarter success” stories, is that Big-name Publishers/Developers will be like “Dang, those Indie guys raise so much money so fast on Kickstarter… maybe we could start an Indie Branch?”. Win-win on both sides really, Indies then get reliable budgets, wages, and cred while the Developer gets money from the Indie games to fund the big name games.

    [/Extra Creditz Idea]

    • Shamus says:

      I like this idea too. I mean, for the price on ONE $50 million game you could fund twenty-five indie projects. (I don’t actually think twenty-five projects would be useful. I’m just sayin’.) I like the idea of risking a bit of money on a small stable of skunkworks projects. Some will barely break even, or fail. But occasionally a success can knock one out of the park and pay for the others. In fact, I’ve heard that Left 4 Dead began with some devs messing around in counter-strike, making a few dozen AI foes armed with knives and letting them rush the players. They discovered this mechanic was fun, and it became a really successful AAA game.

    • Bubble181 says:

      Hmmm….But *do* you want that? We’ve seen what big publishers owning small developers can do – wether you want to look at Westwood, or Bullfrog, or whoever else – after 10 years, the small developer is gone and what was once a promising new IP is now just another big franchise with grey-brown corridor shooters (or the equivalent in another genre).
      Indies are interesting *because* they are free to experiment and basically d*ck around. Some bigger names manage to stay innovative and young, but that’s a pretty small group.
      Besides, most big money houses already *have* a part devoted to low-cost games. It’s what people call “shovelware”, or “barbieware”, or “casualware” or whatever you want. My Little Pony Dress-Up and games like that. Small and cheap to make, but, apparently, a better return on investment than experimenting on something like, say, Meatboy.
      Also: a small company can make a provocative and/or taboo-breaking game. A big house can not. A game like Carmageddon is already pretty much impossible these days; imagine it being from EA (and throw in an EA-style marketing campaign)… Wouldn’t fly – too much controversy. Controversy is the number one thing avoided by ALL managers everywhere.

  27. Hitch says:

    Today’s Checkpoint is relevant to this discussion.

  28. Daktylo says:

    I think kickstarter is a good concept. I’ve dropped some bills on Zpocalypse, mainly because it’s a boardgame that’s pretty far along in concept and playtest, and sounds like a blast to play.

    I also dropped some bills on Wasteland 2. I believe in it.

  29. MadTinkerer says:

    From what I’ve seen of the successful and unsuccessful efforts, there is a third option:

    3) Ask for very little money. “Very little” varies, but it seems like people will give you a few hundred bucks for a video with decent concept art and otherwise neat presentation, and a few thousand for a video of a good working demo.

    If you’re needing money in the tens of thousands plus you need a working demo OR a website of stuff you’ve done that people already like.

    I’ve also noticed a few trends that are absolute killers:

    1) If your game is Free To Play, that isn’t good enough incentive for anyone.

    2) You NEED A GOOD FIRST VIDEO. By “good”, this does not mean “try your best at comedy” unless you are okay with comedy. Comedy worked for Tim Shaefer and Al Lowe and the Yogscast guys because they have the experience. It did work for a few other teams that didn’t try too hard. But it can be a very bad idea, so make sure to get a neutral opinion before betting your project on your horrible amateur performance.

    Have a look at Wasteland 2 for the tone of what you* should do for your video.

    3) You need to post updates frequently. At minimum once a week, but less than once every other day unless there’s actual news to write about. Having another “main” webpage that you’re also updating a lot helps. If you’re not sure what to post, you can at least do “Woo! 20% in the first week! Let’s keep going!” but “Here’s even more info / concept art / stuff” is even better.

    Most projects don’t make this mistake, but I’ve noticed that a lot of projects that don’t are also the failed ones.

    4) Asking for WAY TOO MUCH money. Yeah, $500,000 is not a lot to ask for an MMO or a AAA FPS or a FPS/MMO hybrid. But you are not getting more than 100,000 for your first project, period. Unless you are the Code Hero guys, and even then it was a very close call that was saved by a few people with deep pockets. And they had a good playable alpha.

    In short, you can succeed if you’re a nobody whose first project is optimistically put on Kickstarter instead of trying to just make something on a shoestring budget. But there are very, very strict rules for getting people to part with their hard-earned dollars, and even projects that seem to do everything right still fail for reasons I’m not sure about.

    *”You” in the general sense, not “you Shamus”. Shamus does have the experience to pull off a comedy video. “You” probably don’t.

  30. Jeff says:

    Regarding your novel versus the novels from Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, I have a bit of a criticism that may not be entirely helpful. Your foreshadowing for the big reveal at the end (about the copper wiring) actually made me very frustrated, because you gave enough that I figured it out the moment the kid paid attention to the lights. I was basically mentally cussing out the characters for being idiots. I’ve never had that sort of issue with the mystery-heavy books from PTerry, or other novels in that genre that I’ve read.

    This isn’t really helpful because I can’t even begin to suggest a solution – the fact that they didn’t figure it out seems in character, due to either a lack of relevant knowledge, context, intelligence, or just paying attention.

    I basically really enjoyed your novel up till they noticed that not every lamp was electric, which instantly suggested the placement was intentional, thus the wiring was intentional, which immediately connected with the strangely drawn spell circle. After that I was basically screaming at the characters for being idiots. Perhaps part of it was that the way the clues were revealed were too obviously dropped? If it was just in the narrative that not every lamp was electric and was irregular, then the information would have been passed to the reader without giving any sort of prominence. Readers would dismiss it as background detail, only to go “OH YEAH!” at the reveal. Having a character explicitly pay attention to it and comment on it made it too obvious a clue.

    I do like your novel, though.

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