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Crowdsourced Hardcore Tactical Shooter (i.e. not everyone is Doublefine)
by Robert Boyd on 03/07/12 11:24:00 am   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.

 

With the tremendous success of the Double Fine Adventure kickstarter (nearly $2.5 million raised with almost a week left to go), there's the idea that the floodgates have opened for the funding of more expensive, higher profile games.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

Case in point, Crowdsourced Hardcore Tactical Shooter.

The guy in charge of Crowdsourced Hardcore Tactical Shooter seems like a nice guy. He has a solid resume (he's worked on Halo Reach & Tom Clancy games among others). I wish him and his project well. However, as of the time of writing this article, the fundraiser is just short of 10% of its goal. Assuming a steady rate of funding, it will only reach 60% of its goal by the end date. Unfortunately, most kickstarter fundraiser see the greatest amount of funding in the first few days so the actual total collected will probably be less than that.

So what makes this project different than the Doublefine project?

1 - Lacks name recognition - There are few well known personalities in the game development business these days. In most cases, if you've heard of a specific developer, they've either been around for forever (like Miyamoto & Sid Meier) or they're a small indie developer. Most big games these days are attributed to companies and not individuals. For example, I'm a fan of many of Bioware's games but I couldn't tell you a single person who works there. And though I've seen several interviews about Mass Effect 3 recently, they're never with the same individual.

Cliffy Bleszinski could probably raise a few hundred thousand dollars for a shooter with ease. Though Christian Allen may be no less talented, he just doesn't have the name recognition.

2 -  Lacks a strong niche - There's a perception (true or otherwise) that the point & click graphic adventure game is an endangered species. The Shooter genre, on the other hand, is one of the most common genres out there. Even the specific subgenre of Tactical Shooter isn't particularly rare these days. Now the even more specific HARDCORE Tactical Shooter subgenre may be uncommon these days, but then you're talking about a niche of a niche and it's hard to get backing when you're being that specific. In contrast, the Doublefine kickstarter was as broad as possible within its own genre - I imagine Doublefine already has a pretty good idea of what kind of game they wanted to make but they refrained from sharing details for fear of alienating some potential point & click fans.

3 - Lacks great rewards - I'll give them this, the starting reward of $15 with a free copy of the game and access to private discussion forums is very solid. However, after that, things start to get murky. Many of the rewards give the person donating a stronger say in specific elements of the design. I could be completely wrong here, but it's my belief that most non-developers don't want to be responsible for specific design items. If they do want to design a game, it's in very broad ways - Make me a Zombie RPG or Make my favorite class/character stronger or Give me more levels! By tying donation levels to greater control over design, they're essentially saying, "Give us money and we'll let you work with us." Pay to work is not an attractive proposition.

Also, the highest reward is a custom crafted gun. I imagine the overlap between people who have large amounts of money to donate, enjoy hardcore tactical shooters, enjoy guns, and are legally able to own such a weapon is very small.

4 - Lacks an interesting video - Although there are some clips at the beginning and a cute/creepy part at the very end with his daughter, for the most part, the Crowdsourced Hardcore Tactical Shooter video is just the guy talking straightforwardly about the project. Contrast that with the DF video which is full of jokes and personality and changes location several times throughout the video.

5 - Lacks a feeling of importance for the fans' contributions - With the Doublefine kickstarter, fans feel directly connected to the success or failure of the project. If people don't donate, the game doesn't get made. In contrast, the creator of the Shooter kickstarter admits that the $200,000 they're asking for isn't enough to actually create the game they're planning and that they're planning on using the kickstarter funds as leverage to get serious funding elsewhere.

6 - Lacks a reliable team - Doublefine has an established studio that has created several games.  You can easily look at the games they've made and get an idea of what they're capable of creating. Serellan LLC? Nobody knows.

Now with all that said, their kickstarter still has a couple weeks to go so who knows? It could see a turnaround. Christian Allen has a good amount of experience and seems very passionate about this project. I hope it succeeds and they manage to create an amazing game. Still, let's see what we can learn from this particular attempt.

A new developer has no immediate control over some things. You can't suddenly make yourself into a popular or famous developer - that's something that requires time and success (and often, luck) to accomplish. Still, you do have control over many things such as...

1 - Pick your project with care. You need to pick something that's niche enough that people feel it isn't already being created without their help, but not so niche that only a few people want it. 

2 - Make your goal reasonable. As far as I know, the Doublefine Kickstarter is the only video game project to raise over $100k. If you're a brand new developer, even $10k could very well be too much. Remember, it's better to set a reasonable goal that you think you could actually achieve than to aim too high and end up getting nothing because the fundraiser failed to reach the minimum.

3 - Plan out your rewards carefully. You want the rewards to be appealing but at the same time not so expensive to create that you end up wasting a huge chunk of your funding just fulfilling rewards. Pay especially close attention to the low level rewards (like $10-$25) since those tend to be the most popular.

4 - Develop a network before starting your kickstarter. As mentioned in a recent GDC talk, typically a large percentage of the funding for many Kickstarter projects comes from personal acquaintances of the people running the fundraiser. Not only are your friends, family, and contacts more likely to donate to your fundraiser, they're also more likely to spread the word and encourage others to donate.

5 - Prove that you can do what you say you will. If you're not famous, you can't just say, "I want to make a game," and expect to get lots of money. But if you can show what you're capable of (for example, high quality footage of the game in prototype status), your chances of getting funding increase drastically.



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Comments


E Zachary Knight
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I had a very similar discussion on Gamepolitics a couple weeks ago.

http://www.gamepolitics.com/2012/02/13/tim-schafer-publishers-are
n039t-jerks

It basically fell down to the same things you listed here. But to highlight what I wrote here is the basis of my arguments:

What made Double Fine's proposal unique was a few things:

1) The names behind the game. Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert have a lot of weight behind their names. People trust them to make a game.

2) A niche product. Adventure games are still loved by a lot of people and those people want one of these games again made by the people who made the games they loved before.

3) A reasonable budget. A request for $400k is far more likely to succeed over a request for $20million.

4) A reasonable time frame. Double Fine proposed to have the game complete by the end of October. That is a far more realistic goal and one people are more willing to bet on than a goal of 2-3 years for a common AAA game.

Robert Boyd
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I hadn't even considered time frame, but that's a good point. A game that is scheduled to come out later that year is much more appealing than one with a nebulous "when it's done" release date.

Jon Ze
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Agree on all your points guys.

A stronger tactic for this shooter (and the lack of a big industry personality) would have been to present the game at 40-60% completion, and then ask for funding to finish development. This might have given the credibility and faith required to really get backers believing in this project.

"We aren’t just showing you inside the world of development, you will be participating."

Other option would be to build out the UX required to facilitate this kind of participation. This interface could be made into a VERY cool, social learning experience for backers, and being able to show them the exact "admin" area they'll be entitled to (and all the features it entails) would have been a great motivator.

The key is providing some sort of value, otherwise it's just a bunch of talk (Schafer and Gilbert's names are their added value). In business it's a good practice to over-deliver whenever you can, and it's become apparent that Kickstarter is no different.

That said, there's 24 days left, so time will tell if this is just a slow burn. I'm sure he appreciates the extra publicity here regardless, Robert.

Sean Hayden
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Good assessment! Your points are all pretty much spot on.

With regards to the 2nd point #2 about reasonable goals, I think in certain cases it may not always be good to aim small. If you are scoping out interest in a project, you may be better off aiming for the maximum you might need for that project, or else you could end up with a handful of other people's cash, a public obligation to create a project, and not enough funds to do it with.

Luke Mildenhall-Ward
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I think if you can attain about 3/4 of what's needed, you'll be okay. I think you'd then have the leverage to convince people (either partners working with you on the project directly, or private investors) to see the last quarter of the project through.

Eric Schwarz
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More than anything I think it simply comes down to recognition, hype and advertising. If I asked for money to create a game, I probably wouldn't receive a single dollar even if it was the best idea in the world. Tim Schafer has legions of followers - 99.9% of developers do not. It's a novel phenomenon but I think that's all it is, novel - and I'd even be surprised if it worked more than once for anyone, either.

Kyle Redd
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Building on what Sean Hayden said - Christian Allen told RPS (I think) that the $200,000 they are asking for is apparently not the full amount they will need to build the game. That should be a major red flag for the backers, who will now have to worry whether or not the money they contribute will go to a game that very possibly will never be completed.

james sadler
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I had a feeling after the DF campaign that other devs would think they could do as well. What DF did was truly amazing and I tip my hat to them, but like it has been said, they have a huge amount of brand recognition in making great games.

At the same time though I also took Kickstater to be for initial funding sources to complete an aspect of a project, not to fund the entire thing. Like "hey everyone. I need to buy this camera to finish my indie film....." Not asking the public to fun the entire project. Personally I think if you are looking there for that kind of support you probably have other issues and would never get my money.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Tora Teig
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I think (maybe one of the) issue(s) with crowdsourced technical shooter may be that it totally fails on point 1. "Pick your project with care. You need to pick something that's niche enough that people feel it isn't already being created without their help, but not so niche that only a few people want it."

All I see is gun-crazed people making something that already exists to a nightmarish extent. I would love to help them out just for the sake of helping them out, because they seem like nice guys. But I don't think the project in itself is interesting at all. Nice article, Robert!

David Serrano
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"All I see is gun-crazed people making something that already exists to a nightmarish extent."

Amen. Grass roots movements are created when the needs, preferences and opinions of minorities or majorities are not addressed or heard by the incumbents. It would be impossible to argue the needs, preferences and opinions of any segment of shooter fans are not being addressed or heard by AAA publishers and developers.

Stephen Chin
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I would also suggest that target goal and (perceived) company size play at least some factor in as well at this point. For better or for worse. Plus, people have difficulty when it comes to using large numbers in context.

DF asked for 400K and it's likely that people who don't understand the development process see them as an established (ie large) company with lots of people - that the showed a large cubicle farm adds to that. So right away, we have 400K for a large company to make a game in a few months.

By comparison, the other project is asking for 200K for an indie studio which most people (who don't know) probably perceive as 'small' (manpower wise). Like it or not, people will end up comparing these two valves and ask themselves which one is 'worth' more. For some, they may also attempt ponder it more deeply and part of that thought process may include: why does a small company with less people working on a project with a bigger time frame require SO MUCH (or so it feels perhaps) money when a huge company like DF (with more people) can make a game in less time.

Luke Mildenhall-Ward
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Just noticed the same project was re-submitted to Kickstarter, and it's almost as though they found this article and fixed many of these criticisms — http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/355932838/crowdsourced-hardco
re-tactical-shooter — this time they managed to exceed their $200,000 goal!

Christian Allen
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Just dropping in to say thanks for the constructive critisism...

Bye

Christophe de Bortoli
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" Pick your project with care. You need to pick something that's niche enough that people feel it isn't already being created without their help, but not so niche that only a few people want it. "

That what they did. Last real Tactical Shooter was Swat 4... in 2005.
This subgenre is rare (more than point of click, I found many excellent point of click this last years), it's even dead.

Alistair GD
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Points 1-6 all start "Lacks...", but the Kickstarter was a success, and without a resubmit as suggested above. The Kickstarter was drip fed new imformation and media as it progressed, and made the target.

I think that says something, that a KS initiative that was lacking so much, still made a $200,000 target, that's quite something.


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