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That's So Braben: Elite: Dangerous' crowdfunding rollercoaster Exclusive
That's So Braben:  Elite: Dangerous ' crowdfunding rollercoaster
January 15, 2013 | By Mike Rose

January 15, 2013 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

It was looking pretty hairy for Frontier Developments' Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter up until the last week, but that $2 million target was always meant to be smashed.

Dangerous is the Elite sequel that many players have been pining over for around 15 years now, and as such, you would have been forgiven for believing that David Braben's Kickstarter-bound followup would breeze past its goal. As it turns out, the industry veteran himself shared a similar view -- at least to begin with.

"I started off confident, but in the middle I was a little nervous," he admits to us. "All Kickstarter campaigns that are eventually successful seem to have a similar shape, so I was hopeful there would be an upturn at the end."

"I think there can be a danger with Kickstarter that people set their minimum goals lower than they really need, because of the understandable 'all-or-nothing' nature of the funding, without considering the commitment it brings," he adds, "but half-way through I too had the odd doubt if this was the right thing to have done!"

Notably, anyone watching Twitter on the day that the Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter launched will have no doubt witnessed a wide range of reactions to it. Some we hugely pleased to see a new Elite sequel on the way, while others weren't so infatuated.

elite 2.jpg"Initially people were pretty positive, but a small number of nay-sayers seemed to bring a great deal of negativity," says Braben. "I think this was principally because it seemed quite a few campaigns started a week or so after ours - the ones from 22 Cans/Peter Molyneux and the one from Blitz/the Oliver Twins being the most obvious, and there was a perception being put forwards of 'bandwagon jumping.'"

"Ironically this in itself became a bandwagon, as this story was propagated around," he adds. He also notes that being forced to list the target in pounds rather than dollars didn't help his cause -- "It should be possible to specify round numbers in each currency. Also there are more restrictions on UK-based projects. I think it would be good to expose some flexibility to the creators here."

Braben notes that he doesn't really see a huge deal of different between the campaign run by Tim Schafer and Double Fine last year, and his own approach.

"I think one criticism was fair - that we went into our campaign with too little prepared material," he reasons. "We were going to have a video, but ended up doing an exclusive video with Rory Cellan Jones of the BBC so our video was delayed a little.

The team later added lots of extra material to the Kickstarter page, but Braben believes that some damage was already done -- "people took the relative lack of material for a lack of faith."

"It is strange but with Kickstarter there is a difficult balance between it being a way to start a project (and so you would have nothing) to requiring finished quality material in order to do the pitch (and so be almost finished)," he notes.

elite 3.jpgWith this in mind, he says that the number one thing Frontier learned during the campaign is that you need to have tons of prepared content ready for viewer consumption -- however, this isn't the most important element.

"I think people often miss what I think is the most important element - to be open, honest, and reactive to fans' comments," he says. "Certainly this is what I look for when looking at other people’s Kickstarter campaigns."

"The biggest lesson I have learned is the level of engagement from the fans is vital. I have really enjoyed talking to the people on the comments pages, on Reddit, and privately. It can be hard work, but it is heart-warming, and as a rule people were very positive and supportive."

And now Frontier turns its attention to developing the new Elite, and somehow managing to fulfill the expectations of a generation that has been waiting patiently for some time.

"I have every expectation it will continue to be difficult!" Braben says. "People's expectations are pretty high, but people have seen what we have shown already, so I am confident they will enjoy what we make, and of course many will have input in this process too."

"One great thing about modern games though, is you can continue to improve them post-release, so even those who do not the particular feature they long for, there is a good chance we can add it with time."

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Ron Dippold
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'I think one criticism was fair - that we went into our campaign with too little prepared material.'

Yes, that was a bad launch. I'm glad you made it, but you squeaked by on the name(s). Double Fine also coasted on their name for initial launch, since they weren't saying much about the game, but the level of engagement from Double Fine was huge. Regular video updates and daily email updates. But that's a privileged case. Wouldn't it be better to have the most impressive page you can have for launch?

It's not a video game, but this is the best campaign I've seen to date, and I would seriously suggest that anyone considering launching one read the project page and then all the updates:
Yes it 'only' did $580K, but it was only shooting for $20K initially and didn't have the name advantage of most of the other big non-hardware Kickstarters. Ryan managed it masterfully. The only game Kickstarters I've seen that handled it this well were Double Fine (engagement after start) and Star Citizen (initial page, engagement after start).

David Navarro
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"you squeaked by on the name(s)"

To be fair, the name(s) is all I needed.

Leonardo Ceballos
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To be fair, it was a bad LAUNCH. I never played Elite, though I certainly knew OF it, but the initial lack of materials was off-putting. Compared to the similar Star Citizen kickstarter, with the jaw-dropping playable early demo, it seemed positively anemic.

BUT, what the name (and the long, 60 day campaign) did was get me to pop back a few weeks later. By this point, what was there had been drastically enhanced. It became clear that substantial work had been done already and what some of the unique or salient features would be (the realistic ship destruction fascinates me). At that point I had he confidence to pledge and I'm glad I did. Very much looking forward to Elite.

Ron Dippold
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"To be fair, the name(s) is all I needed."

True! But it would have saved a lot of nail biting and they might have gotten $3M instead of $2M with a strong launch. If you can get that initial surge it seems to be self sustaining.

Like Leonardo I do think they improved the page a lot later.

Maria Jayne
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"It is strange but with Kickstarter there is a difficult balance between it being a way to start a project (and so you would have nothing) to requiring finished quality material in order to do the pitch (and so be almost finished)," he notes."

It's not really strange, when you are asking for a larger commitment you have to present a greater commitment yourself. Some guy asking for funding to make a game for $5,000 only needs a concept picture with some text. Somebody asking for a million has to do better than some guy, especially when you claim a grand design and a professional studio to back it.

Anyway, I was skeptical after the starting pitch this would make it. Grats to them, good luck with the project.

Jakub Majewski
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Exactly. David Braben was asking for $2 million, and he initially had *nothing* to show. Not even a video of himself talking, there was literally nothing there.

I think that in the event where someone was pitching for a smaller amount needed to *start* a project, not to complete it, the reaction to a lack of materials would be different. At least, I dearly hope so, because it's something I intend to try in the near future - a "help us fund pre-production" crowdfunder.

GameViewPoint Developer
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Been waiting a long....long time for this game.

Pierre Xavier
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Yep, me too, i remember i used to play Elite 2: Frontier religiously, days on end, playing, thinking, breathing this game on the Amiga 1200 and CD32.

I have pledged its Kickstarter and eagerly await its release! :D