Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
September 16, 2014
arrowPress Releases
September 16, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


 
Defender's Quest II's "UnKickstarter" approach to crowdfunding
by Lars Doucet on 10/29/13 04:45:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Kickstarter is the go-to solution for crowdfunding these days, but I'm a control freak so I designed a custom solution for our upcoming game, Defender's Quest II: Mists of Ruin.

Defender's Quest II: Mists of Ruin

No solution is one-size-fits all; we're in the unique situation of developing the sequel to a critically acclaimed title, namely Defender's Quest: Valley of the Forgotten.

The pre-order page for DEFQ2 looks like:

This is heavily influenced by starbound's preorder page, and it solves several key problems I find with the way Kickstarter displays rewards.


Visual Clarity
First of all, what you see is what you get. All of the rewards are represented by visual icons, and cumulative rewards from previous tiers can be added. For example, our book tier includes a digital art/story book, as well as all previous rewards: the game's soundtrack (from the music tier), and games (from the game tier).

Defender's Quest II book tier preorder

Just by looking at this tier, you know immediately what you're going to get -- everything in the box. And if you want detailed information, you can click on the "more details..." box which will expand and lay things out explicitly:

Book Tier details

And just to be super-compulsively clear, when you click "buy now," it takes you to a new page with a Humble Store pre-order widget, puts all the details in a box below, and replaces the "all of the above" line with the actual descriptions from cumulative tiers.

Compare this to a typical kickstarter reward tier.

Kickstarter reward tier exampleThis example is from the awesome upcoming RPG Cosmic Star Heroine, and is a commentary on Kickstarter itself rather than their game or rewards.

The developer has to cram the reward text into a narrow box, and has no formatting options whatsoever. You can't separate important information in a smaller box under "more details," you can't put the "Note" in italics or a smaller font, and you can't even create a proper title for the tier and set it in bold. It all runs together.

Worst of all, relating how cumulative tiers work is confusing at best, which is why the "...and all of the above" convention has become so popular, and thus expected.

You can't always follow the "all of the above" model (especially for more expensive limited tiers), and developers who break with that format are then reduced to creating charts to explain exactly what each tier provides:

Cosmic Star Heroine Rewardes

I'd like to reiterate that I'm not knocking Cosmic Star Heroine or Zeboyd Games for this. Not only am I a big fan (I totally baked CSH), but this is pretty much how you have to explain things if you use Kickstarter.

CSH clearly isn't hurting from using Kickstarter --  they made their goal and then some. I just think there are much simpler and clearer ways to present rewards, and Kickstarter's format kinda locks you in a box.


"Comparison is the thief of joy" -- Teddy Roosevelt


Kickstarter campaigns don't exist in a vaccuum, so backers tend to compare campaigns against one another. Given KS's standardized pitch format, this makes it very easy to line up A vs. B, and thus puts a lot of pressure on you to standardize your pitch accordingly, even if that pitch doesn't play to your strengths.

For instance, the "Talking Heads" video format, complete with professional lighting, editing, and sound, has become quite popular and even expected (even if some developers eschew it). If you're launching on Kickstarter, the video takes center stage.

But what if you don't want to make your pitch that way? Videos are important, but I'd rather let my actual pitch do the pitching, and make the video a simple, direct, summary, sans talking heads:


 

Of course, this option is only really available to us because we've already released a successful game. But given the fact that our second game's chief "social proof" is our track record from the first one, I won't spend time and money on a super-deluxe promotional video. Not only does designing our own site let us frame the expectations, it also serves as it's own social proof, since it proves we're at least competent enough to build and run our own pre-order site.

My wife is fond of pointing out "social inflation" -- for instance, weddings started as simple ceremonies but now have expensive dresses and rehearsal dinners, brunches, etc. Kickstarter started as a simple crowdfunding format, but then professional videos, complicated reward schemes, and stretch goal after stretch goal got added to the mix.

There's many sane video game Kickstarters, for sure -- I just want to avoid the inflationary pressure of that environment entirely.

We also aren't interested in doing any physical rewards, given the massive boondoggle that has been for other developers. The whole point of this is to make the game happen sooner, not later, and therefore all rewards are either directly related to game production (such as naming a monster in our special "ending credits" bonus battle after you), or at least by-products of it (such as the digital art&story book).

And don't even get me started on "stretch goals." Suffice it to say, we won't have any.
 

Fulfillment

Kickstarter can make fulfillment a bit of a chore, since it's not really a content delivery platform.

Humble Store definitely makes fulfillment easy, since they're all about delivering digital content. As soon as something's ready, we just upload the bits to their servers, and the backers get their stuff.

For instance, we give out free copies of Defender's Quest I with every pre-order, so the basic game tier represents a savings of about 57% off the two games bundled together at full price. With Humble store, people who preorder Defender's Quest II today will get their DEFQ1 keys immediately.

Final Thoughts

Aside from the above concerns, Kickstarter is really designed for a specific kind of campaign - one where you won't do the project if you don't get the money, and you are raising money for a limited amount of time. Not only are we committed to Defender's Quest II's development regardless of how much we raise, we see no reason to limit pre-orders to 30 or 60 days. Furthermore, Kickstarter's payment options are limited because of their unique "all or nothing" system.

There are some cons with running our own site. You have the burden of making your own custom front-end, and Humble Store is not (yet) as feature-rich as Kickstarter (letting backers upgrade their tiers by tacking on X$ is technically possible, but not automated), and various other minor issues.

That said, I like having a closer relationship with our fans. No muss, no fuss, simple and direct -- Defender's Quest II is happening, and if you want to get a discount or some exclusive early backer rewards, you can pre-order it today.


Related Jobs

YAGER Development GmbH
YAGER Development GmbH — Berlin, Germany
[09.16.14]

Visual FX Artist (f/m)
Vicarious Visions / Activision
Vicarious Visions / Activision — Albany, New York, United States
[09.16.14]

Animator-Temporary-Vicarious Visions
Raven Software / Activision
Raven Software / Activision — Madison, Wisconsin, United States
[09.16.14]

Network Engineer - Raven
Raven Software / Activision
Raven Software / Activision — Madison, Wisconsin, United States
[09.16.14]

Sr. Gameplay Engineer - Raven






Comments


Nils Pihl
profile image
Interesting approach, Lars. Will you do an analysis on this campaign afterwards and share the results with us? I'd be very curious to see how you guys did.

The game looks neat, by the way, and I love the comment on social inflation. I know a company gearing up for a Kickstarter, and they're nervous about not looking compelling enough with the lighting etc. I'll share this post with them :)

Lars Doucet
profile image
I will definitely do a post-mortem! There's always the possibility this will be a massive failure, but so far my hopes are high! :)

Sjors Jansen
profile image
Ooh, possible console ports.
Since Joshua Granick is helping out, is there any chance that if that happens, the code would go towards general OpenFL support for console targets?
Because if so, that might be a good point to boost the crowdfunding, as OpenFL is open source.
(I use Haxe/OpenFL as well)

I hope the project will be a success.

Lars Doucet
profile image
That's sort of the idea, yeah. We're building native OpenFL backends for the various consoles we plan on targetting. The challenge is you can't just share that code openly, because it's tied to console SDK's, and thus subject to NDA, but presumably it could be shared by other developers also under the relevant NDA's under certain licensing terms.

Sjors Jansen
profile image
That'll do. +1 Pre-order

Israel Lazo
profile image
There must be something we can do!

please!

Kyle Redd
profile image
This is a good write-up, although the only point that I think could really qualify as a criticism of Kickstarter is your initial one about the tier formatting, since there's nothing stopping a KS campaign from using trailers as their pitch video (as the Shovel Knight folks did) or from using Humble Store for distribution (as many campaigns rightfully have).

Edit: Also the issue of limited-time, all-or-nothing campaigns in your final thoughts; although that is debatable since it carries several benefits for consumers versus self-run methods such as yours.

Amir Barak
profile image
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh..... Defender's Quest sucked so much of my life, why do you hate me Mr. Doucet??

Seriously though, I'm heading off to get the book tier. Hope you guys do well with this. Seems like a very clear and game-oriented approach (something which some of the kickstarter campaigns have lost sight of).

John Teymoorian
profile image
Very much looking forward to the game Lars. Loved the original and always a fan of your expositions on gama. Great work.


none
 
Comment: