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Your (Kickstarter) experience


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#1 spek   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 993

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 03:10 PM

The question in short, what is your experience with Kickstarter (or similar funding)? Not in particular how much bucks you received, but did it help you achieving your goals? And how complex was it to manage the money (paying, keep everyone happy)? Or even more precise, someone in the Netherlands having experience with the legal side?

 

 

The question/story in long:

I've been working on a horror game (Tower22) for quite some years now. Mainly as a hobby, but with ambitious dreams. Although the project isn't super well known, the majority of reactions are very positive, and people suggested multiple times to get funding via Kickstarter or the likes. Very flattering of course, but modest as I am, I always felt it wouldn't be fair to ask for funding while I can't give any guarantee on a finished (&fun) game. But one Youtube responder said it wouldn't be fair to block their chances to "invest" into a game they like to see happening. Hmmm... never really thought about it that way.

 

He has a good point. In the current state, the game will never finish. Biggest problem? Lack of (3D)artists with sufficient time, talent and motivation. Unlike most Indie games, Tower22 is a "big" game with somewhat high-end graphics. Hearing the GTA V budgets, I know chasing superb quality will be a pitfall, but it just happened to be that most of the work we did so far just looks good for Indie standards, so I would hate to step back. But with those high demands, finding people is extremely hard. And keeping them seems to be even harder. Slow progress conflicts with motivation, and most of the talented guys are paid to do the same kind of work the whole day already. You can't expect them to put dozens of hours into a project.

 

 

 

I downgraded the targets from "making a game" to "make a small playable demo of the game". Which is more realistic, but still requires horsepower to get done. So, this is where Kickstarter might be helpful. But before plundering wallets, I still have concerns. Which is why I hope you can share your experience or thoughts on this.

 

 

Investors & Guarantees

Obviously you need some marketing and have a solid plan to begin with. IF I would "kick start", the goal would be to collect 40 or 50k. Less is nice as well, but honestly I don't think it will help the project much further. Which is my first concern. What if only a handful of people donates? There is no easy way to pay them back I suppose? In case we only collected a few thousand for example.

 

But moreover. See we reach our target. But we don't finish the game. Can't do it, lose my hands, no team, whatever. I would hate to let down those people. And let's say I couldn't spend all the money on the project because we quit... Doesn't that just make a thief in the end, with the remaining dollars? I'm sure donators are aware of risks, but well, just getting a bag of money and having no obligations sounds odd to me. Where is the catch?

 

 

50k.. what to do with it?

Say we manage to collect fifty thousand dollars. Which is quite a lot for a hobby project, absolutely nothing for a commercial project. I could hire 1 or 2 3D artists for a year for that budget, but I doubt they can get everything done. And you still need to be lucky to hire the right boy or girl. Doesn't sound like a good plan to me.

 

I thought about a "Pay-per-Asset" system. I make a list of stuff todo, and put a price on it. Like bounty hunting. Make me a cool barrel and you get 3 bucks. I think it stimulates, but we still need to keep the reward low. If I pay 100$ for a barrel, we run out of money soon as well, as the game just needs a lot of assets. So would it really motivate the talented-but-busy artist to do things?

 

 

Paycheck

Say we do this "Pay-per-Asset" system, or just pay people per month. Whatever. As I received a bag of money, I'm responsible for sending their "salaries". I'm anything except an accountant, so that sounds horrible. Apart from that, are their legal / law issues here? I know the Netherlands can be a bitch when it comes to stupid rules, paperwork, taxes, and whatsoever. I would hate to see 40% vaporize in tax, or receive penalties for having fun with a game.

 

Sounds like I need someone with a business or economic background here (I'm just a programmer who wants to stay far away from lawbooks). But I don't know any personally. I'm sure I can find one via internet, but... who the hell gives a bag of money to a stranger?

 

 

Geoge Washinton berserk

Probably not a good reason to avoid Kickstarter or money in general, but it's just true that people can get nasty once they see dollar signs. Audio composer works 6 hours on a song he thinks is awesome. I hate it. Should I pay him? Artist-X thinks Artist-Z gets the better-paid tasks and gets jealous. Drawer-D just copy-pastes an image from Google and wants 10 bucks for it. And... what about myself? So far, I worked a factor thousand times more than any other on this project. It would feel wrong to pay myself, but making others "rich" and getting nothing yourself while you are the heart of this project isn't fair either.

 

Well, plenty of things people can get mad or jealous about. In the end, doing this project is a hobby and it should keep feeling like that. So maybe you have some quacksalver hints to avoid heat.

 

 

 

Pfew, too long, but it feels good to write about it :)



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#2 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8667

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 04:05 PM


Pfew, too long, but it feels good to write about it

 

Have you written a business plan? That'll feel good too.


-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#3 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 18853

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 04:11 PM

I personally dislike kickstarter for software projects.

I love it for certain art projects and mass-production projects. When the people can demonstrate up front that they have a finished product that simply needs a minimum order for manufacturing, those I can easily get behind. A beautifully themed deck of cards that needs a minimum order to be printed by the professionals with their high quality finish, yeah I can spend $0.30 more than I would at the store. High strength magnetic hooks that I can use on my front and back door (both are metal) to hang coats on, but they need a minimum order? Sure, I'll take four when you get enough orders. Assorted geek toys like programmable ultra bright LED flashlights that are looking for a minimum run of 1000 and will sell them almost at cost? Sure, they are often cheaper that ThinkGeek and make great toys or gifts.



For software I generally don't like it. You described it as guarantees, and that is my major gotcha.

Software is expensive. I've worked on a lot of AAA projects. I have seen first hand the difference between a half million dollar project, a one million dollar project, a 3 million dollar project, and a 5 million dollar project. When I see someone asking for $50,000 I know how quickly that money gets spent and what results can be expected.


$50,000 is about five people for one month. By the time you put QA and iteration and other costs into the equation, $50K buys almost nothing, and has very little by way of guarantees.


For some software I am skeptical, but understanding. A mostly complete game looking for professional audio or professional artwork to replace the development placeholders or other additions to a mostly complete product I can understand, and if the game is pretty fun already I might pay for it. Games like Minecraft followed this pattern successfully, but he waited until the game was fully playable and no matter what happened with the money you were guaranteed at least the current quality of the product. Quite notably, these games are not vapor-ware. They are already complete, playable, entertaining games; the money is for polishing into something shiny.

For incomplete software, I don't like it. It is too much prospecting, too much hoping that it gets completed, too much hoping that it turns out to be a fun game. It is a whole lot of speculation, and too many projects are run by inexperienced developers who have no clue how expensive software really is. If the money were being given to industry veterans who had a track record of accurate budgeting of software projects that would be something better, but too often there isn't enough assurance that it will get done to a satisfactory quality level.
Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.

#4 spek   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 993

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 04:19 PM

@Tom Sloper

What exactly defines a Business plan? Sorry if the question is dumb, but as said, I'm just a programmer. This hobby project grew a bit further than sharing stories on a blog and showing pictures, so that is why I'm trying to figure out (Kickstarter) stories from people who took a step further.

 

But to answer the question, the answer is no. Those who follow the project know roughly what it's all about, but it's not in an official paper. If we do get serious about funding, I know such documents must be written. A clear target & how-to, and I suppose a plan that tells how the money is exactly spend. It will be quite some paperwork I suspect, so before starting on it, I just want to read other ones experiences first.

 

 

@Frob

Not a very encouraging answer, but yeah, you pretty much describe my concerns hehe. My original answer to "you thought about Kickstarter?" was that I wanted the game in a much more advanced stadium first. Having a solid team and produced a decent amount of the game content already so that it gets easy to plan forward. However the problem is that we likely never reach that stadium to begin with because the nature of this project requires a lot of energy to even get it in its shoes.

 

I can pretty much control the programming part, but the artistic effort needed seems to be the Achilles Heel here. As you said, 50k is monkey peanuts. But then again, if a small reward per asset stimulates to keep the artists going rather than watching football, drink beer or spend time with their girls, it might be a key to actually achieve something. Don't know if others tried a similar system?

 

 

Thanks for the replies, keep them coming !



#5 Rorakin   Members   -  Reputation: 618

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 05:30 PM

I doubt many of us here have actually run a successful kick starter campaign. Might help to do research on the "successful" game project kick starter projects that have already happened, maybe even email them with questions.



#6 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8667

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 06:12 PM


@Tom Sloper
What exactly defines a Business plan?

 

You can Google it. The reason I said that is that you are seeking business investment on Kickstarter, and the first thing any investor wants to see is a business plan. You also said it felt good to write about the project's needs, and your thinking on its expansion. As I said, it'll feel REALLY good to actually write a real business plan. Writing a plan is not just for your investors.  It's also for you. You'll know in much better detail what you're getting into.


-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#7 spek   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 993

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Posted 14 November 2013 - 10:50 AM

Should be plenty of examples and guidelines on Google indeed. And you're right, it probably is just good to write one, reminding yourself of the goals, or as a somewhat professional start when approaching others. With the limited free hours, I never really took time for such a thing though. Lot's of snippets and ideas, but not a consistent "Masterplan".

 

Then again it's hard to make such Masterplan if essential components such as having a team or funds are unsure. Writing about taking path A is a waste of time if we take (or forced to take) path B, which is common for hobby projects. At least, the project never went as smooth as wished so far, regardless initiatives such as plannings or giving more structure to the few volunteers that help. That's why I'm curious about the experiences with Kickstarter, and if it really helped to assemble a team for somewhat bigger projects, having a small budget. If it isn't, I won't bother Kickstarter and so it would affect the needs and contents of a Business Plan (for now).



#8 spek   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 993

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Posted 14 November 2013 - 05:08 PM

Just doing some -almost to good to be true- math. Just for fun... and I had some questions about that.

 

Whatever we could manage to get via Kickstarter or something, obviously we can't make a full game with that. Not even close. But, what we could do is make a playable demo. Nothing big, it's probably ~15 minutes of gameplay. I'm not sure if people are even willing to donate on such a thing, but anyhow, let's say we collect 10.000$. That doesn't sound too impossible.

 

I figured there are about 200 assets (textures, props, sounds, animations, etc etc) to make for one demo I had in mind. But let's double the number because things always blow up. In theory, it would mean that the average asset would be worth 10k / 400 = 25$. Hopefully about 10 persons would work consistently on this demo, so on average each person would get a reward of 1.000$ in the end. Can't pay the bills with that, but at this point noone is getting a single penny so it's an attractive bonus to introduce, and it could seriously improve productivity. Earning 1k with some night hour hobbying isn't a bad thing.

 

 

But... 

* Is it possible on sites like Kickstarter to make a target?

If the calculations are a bit correct, we wouldn't need a lot more money than 10k. It's nice to get more, but what if we don't want? And vice-versa, is it possible to refund if we didn't reach the target?

 

* Does that calculation make any sense?

Not meaning the asset-count, but more like tax related things. I believe in Holland you can't just throw with money like Santa Claus (unless you give it to yours truly government). And of course, hosting this demo somewhere probably will cost something as well, and probably I forget some other common expenses as well, so maybe half of that 10k is required for something else.

 

 

Well, slap me out of my dream, or isn't this such weird talk after all? Because if it isn't, I should start writing that Business Plan I think :P



#9 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 17223

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 05:12 AM


And vice-versa, is it possible to refund if we didn't reach the target?

Kickstarter funding is all-or-nothing -- if you don't reach or exceed your target the pledges aren't collected and you don't receive any money -- so there's no need for a refund.



#10 spek   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 993

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 09:21 AM

Ah, that's good to know. Having half of the desired funds wouldn't be very helpful, neither do we have to swim in money. The latter might be a bit unlikely, but a demo as described above simply doesn't need ten-thousands of dollars. The goal is to make that demo, not to get rich. Not yet at least hehe.



#11 Unduli   Members   -  Reputation: 749

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Posted 07 December 2013 - 08:11 PM

First of all just for the records, Unlike Kickstarter , IndieGoGo allows flexible funding if you choose so. Actually "theoretically" you can't have a KS campaign from Netherlands.

 

Then regarding your questions,

 

A successful software campaign needs hype before starting (own network, social network etc) , then needs sizable progress (either in form of proven track record or something acceptable to put on) and a clear goal. Peter Molyneux can get half a million pound for (terrible imo) GODUS relying on his track record.

 

The obvious reason behind games are funded generously is that they actually offer something solid , game itself. But in your situation, crowdfunding $50K to get a playable demo isn't attractive. What's your next move? Finding investors based on this demo? Finishing it sometime? or start another campaign?



#12 spek   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 993

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Posted 08 December 2013 - 02:06 PM

Hey Unduli,

 

Indeed I remember that KS is for America only, or at least can't be used in Europe. Although I'm pretty sure people found workarounds for this (anyone?). Didn't read about IndieGoGo yet, as people told me KS is the most well known location for fund raising, thus in theory the biggest chance on success.

 

I'm well aware that people won't just give money to a project that they A: don't know, and B: can't give any guarantees. I have no clue how "famous" Tower22 is. My guess is "not much", although the project has been around for three years, and the attention comes with ups and downs. When we released two movies before, there was a big spike of traffic, talks about the project, emails, Youtube views, and in a positive way. But you know, people forget quickly, especially on the Internet.

 

 

So obviously, before starting a campaign, we first release another movie and try to contact some local games magazines here. Second, the target won't be sky-high. I've estimated that ~12k would be enough to reach the goal. 7.5k would be for asset production, 2k for the fundraising website, and the other 2.5k for God knows what.

 

And most important, the goal is to deliver something solid indeed; a (free) playable demo. No full game or anything close to it though. But about 15 minutes. A sneak preview of what the actual game could become. How the project continues from that point, is a mystery. Really depends on how people received the demo. Of course the goal is to amaze the players, so that starting a next campaign -on a bigger scake-, or even walking into investors would become more realistic.

 

 

Accepting donations or starting a campaign was never really in my planning, but after these years I've come to the conclusion that there simply is no other way to get things done. At least not for a game with the scale and ambitions T22 has. I know that is a common pitfall far hobby projects, but then again, you'll never win if you don't dare to play :) Either way, if/when doing a campaign, I won't lie and give false expectations. Of course, that will likely lower the income, but it's not my intention to steal another's money for a silly dream project.



#13 Unduli   Members   -  Reputation: 749

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Posted 08 December 2013 - 02:44 PM

o/ ,

 

It was why I said "theoretically" in double quotes smile.png Not sure of credibility but even there are people giving this service but also afaik you have advantage of being EU Citizen ie chance of having a company at UK. ( I am non-EU enough not to know details, this may be quite wrong smile.png )

 

And yes, KS is definitely far better than IndieGoGo apart from this restriction.

 

But, pity I still keep my reservations regarding public response for funding something less than a playable "game". Actually, once again "theoretically" , you could reach investors with few minutes demo (not really needed to be with high Q assets) instead of going crowdfunding. Or going for few millions for full game but it is quite unrealistic.

 

Sorry to say but I think it is destined to fail with your plan. Didn't have much chance to check details but if Tower22 has no to very low replay value ( story spoiler ) , it is even worse.

 

But still, if I were you, I'd both ask more funding and lower my costs (compromising assets to certain extent if needed) to increase playing time and publish as "Tower22 - Episode I : Towel in the Tower / Whatever" and then involve upcoming episodes to KS campaign. ( Like Broken Sword 5 did) This way people will know that they'll get something more than demo and there is more.


Edited by Unduli, 08 December 2013 - 02:46 PM.


#14 spek   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 993

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Posted 09 December 2013 - 01:50 AM

Having a high replay value would be definitely a booster to success. The most popular Flash-games aren't known for their complexity or lenghty chapters. Only problem is, we're making a horror game. Horror games in general (think about Silent Hill for example) don't have a high replay value. Hence, often they're not even fun to play at all! You watch a movie or play the game to learn the story, wet your pants, and then put the box back in Hell. All in all, not the typical recipe for making the next Angry Birds. The audience will be relative small. Then again, there aren't much truly scary horror games out there, and Amnesia/Penumbra, being underdog Indie games, have become standards when people speak about scary games.
 
 
Horror is all about the experience, and -unless you go for scripted shockers-, it's extremely hard to suck someone in a "uncomfortable-mood" within just a few minutes, or having a minimum amount of environment. That's why I figured the play-time should at least be around 15 minutes (it could be 45 minutes if the game isn't too easy, putting the player on a linear path to the finish-marker).
 
More would be even better, and chopping the game into Episodes as you say was one of the initial plans. I still think we should head that way, but the truth is that creating content for even a single episide (think about ~2 hours gameplay), would take too long. At least, in the current state of our team. I wish it was different, but there are just a few 3D artists that put their scarse time almost randomly on the project. That's not a solid basis for promising (and asking money) for a complete Episode of course. 
 
That sucks, but I can't force people into making things without giving some in return ($ & satisfying results). Looking for more artists is an obvious first step, and we'll do that again as soon as the next movie is finished (should be within some months). But since the quality bar is quite high for T22 -probably a bit too high- finding good artists with time and willing to help for free, is extremely hard. And so is keeping artists. They too want concrete goals, short-term results, progress. Working on a far-away Episode isn't motivating enough for most.
 
 
 
 
This fund-raising plan + playable demo is an attempt to transform the project into more serious proportions. Releasing a not-too-big playable demo is a clear goal for (new joining) artists. Giving small rewards in return for their work, should be a motivator. It's certainly not a month salary, but if you can earn ~125$ extra per month with your hobby, why not? The budget really is to keep the artists going, making realization of the goal a lot more realistic, on a reasonable tempo. I always hoped money wouldn't be needed, that sheer enthusiasm would be enough for fuel. But as explained above, it unfortunately isn't. Not if development gets too big and lengthy.
 
If it all works out, meaning we achieve a playable demo within reasonable time, that is liked by the audience, a bigger next step should certainly be possible. But to reach that phase, the project simply needs a booster. Money would be the glue to keep artists sticking on the project. So the budget is purely for making that demo only, which is why it can be kept low initially. But if people are really willing to donate even that relative low amount... We'll need our charms :)
 
 
Sorry for the looong response hehe





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