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What developers can learn from that  Night Trap  Kickstarter
What developers can learn from that Night Trap Kickstarter Exclusive
September 2, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

September 2, 2014 | By Alex Wawro
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    20 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



When Night Trap co-creator Tom Zito launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month to fund development of a high-definition remake called Night Trap ReVamped, we had a lot of questions about the project.

So did many members of the game industry: developers and journalists alike (including former Gamasutra editor Frank Cifaldi) quickly began voicing concerns about whether Night Trap, LLC -- the company under whose aegis Zito launched the Kickstarter -- might be fleecing its backers.

To learn more about the project, Gamasutra spoke to some of the people involved -- including Zito and his fellow Night Trap co-creator Rob Fulop. So did other journalists, most notably Kotaku reporter Nathan Grayson, who shared the details of his conversation with Zito in an article aimed at elucidating the project for potential backers.

Developers, take note: even if you have zero interest in backing the project, there are some valuable lessons to be learned from mistakes made in the execution of the Night Trap ReVamped Kickstarter, some of which have since been acknowledged and corrected by the organizers themselves.

Tell backers exactly what they're getting and how you'll build it

First and most importantly, significant details about this Kickstarter were kept distressingly vague. For example, who's going to develop the product? Night Trap, LLC still won’t say, though Zito does tell me that the developer they plan to work with is a registered Microsoft developer who intends to build the game in Unity. And which consoles will the game be developed for? Beyond PC and Mac, the initial Kickstarter pitch said only “Xbox” and “PlayStation,” with some confusing language about the game being compatible with both current- and last-gen consoles.

“I take full blame for this,” said Zito, who claims he instinctually tried to keep things simple when writing the Kickstarter pitch in order to avoid confusing readers. “It goes back to my days of journalism, of wanting to give people as condensed a story as you can.”

But a Kickstarter campaign is aimed at wooing potential backers, not informing casual readers. The Night Trap ReVamped Kickstarter has since been updated to clarify that the game is coming to PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, though as of this writing it’s still unclear who will be developing it or what the remastered video footage will look like.

Whenever possible, tell your backers exactly how you'll spend their money

Zito tells me that they’ve already done an HD transfer of the original 1987 Night Trap 35mm footage, but that they’re waiting to see whether or not the Kickstarter campaign succeeds before investing money in restoring the HD footage to a point where they’re comfortable showing it to the world because, in Zito’s words, “we’re not going to spend more money on this until we see if there’s a market for it.”

But with no evidence that they've started work on an HD remaster, the Night Trap

"I take full blame for this. It goes back to my days of journalism, of wanting to give people as condensed a story as you can."
ReVamped
Kickstarter organizers are dissuading all but the most curious or hardcore Night Trap fans from supporting them. Some of the campaign’s numbers don’t seem to add up, either; the organizers launched it with a fundraising goal of $330,000, and Zito estimates they'll need to print up to 23,000 console copies of the game and ship them out in cardboard sleeves as backer rewards -- and only as rewards, as he claims to have no plans to sell physical copies of the Kickstarted game at retail. Moreover, the Kickstarter page claims those discs will be delivered to backers six months after the campaign ends.

$330,000 isn’t a lot of money to make a game with, even if you’re just building an interactive Unity shell for delivering HD video footage. And presumably that money isn’t just earmarked for the developer, since Night Trap LLC. also needs to finish remastering the Night Trap footage and potentially print and ship over 20,000 discs for PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

“What I can tell you, without disclosing confidences, is that if we raised exactly three hundred and thirty thousand dollars, we’d have enough money to pay the developer, press the discs that we need to press, and fulfill the orders that we would have received,” says Zito, when I press him on this point.

He might be right, but because there’s no breakdown of expenses on the Kickstarter page his backers have to take him on faith, just like they have to take it on faith that the HD footage exists and that the developer is someone they can trust to deliver on their investment.

Make sure you can deliver what you promise in the form you promise it

As many developers pointed out when the Night Trap ReVamped Kickstarter launched, it seems preposterous that Sony or Microsoft would allow an independent developer to print discs for their consoles and package them in cardboard sleeves.

Zito says he’s met with representatives of both Sony and Microsoft, and that they require him to

"If I had this to do all over, I probably would have done zero physical discs."
secure orders for between 20,000 - 40,000 discs before they’ll allow a print run. He expects to have no problems doing so if the Kickstarter succeeds, since he estimates that the Night Trap ReVamped Kickstarter backer tiers allow for a rough total of 23,000 discs to be ordered.

However, during our conversation he does admit that he made a mistake in saying that the console versions of Night Trap ReVamped could be sold in cardboard sleeves, and that he has since updated the Kickstarter campaign to stipulate that they’ll be shipped out in standard console-appropriate packaging.

Developers, the takeaway here is clear: take pains to make sure that you can deliver on what you've promised before you launch a crowdfunding campaign. Doing otherwise invites suspicion, even if you make a good faith effort to keep your backers and the community at large abreast of your decisions.

For his part, Zito says Night Trap, LLC hasn't done the greatest job of getting the word out about its Kickstarter campaign or of communicating openly with its backers at the outset. But after several days of radio silence, the organizers of the Night Trap ReVamped campaign began posting updates to its Kickstarter page and responding to feedback in the comments section.

As our conversation wraps up, Zito tells me he regrets offering physical discs at all; Night Trap LLC has since received numerous requests for a digital download alternative from fans who, in Zito’s words, “don’t ever want to own another disc in [their] life,” and he has hastily added it as an option for Kickstarter backers.

“I talked to a number of retailers to try to figure out what was the right way to approach this, and almost uniformly, they thought that the right way to do this was with physical discs,” says Zito. “Even though both Sony and Microsoft told us that they thought most people would want this as a downloadable title.”

So really, the greatest takeaway might be that promising to print discs for contemporary consoles is never a good idea.

"if I had this to do all over, I probably would have done zero physical discs," says Zito.


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Comments


Nate G
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"they’re waiting to see whether or not the Kickstarter campaign succeeds before investing money in restoring the HD footage to a point where they’re comfortable showing it to the world."

If you're not willing to invest any money in it, why should other people?

I also have no idea who would do physical discs over downloads for a project of this scale. Of course if you talk to retailers they're going to want you to make a disc because they can sell those. Making decisions like this calls into question how much they know about modern game development and reflects badly on the whole campaign.

Marvin Papin
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Before people want to know about whether you can make it or not, they need to be interested in the project.

1 - there are no screenshots of the game
2 - the is no visual of the game in the first video
3 - I suppose it shows the concept. Maybe gameplay but it's vague.
4 - People will think. 330 000 $ for an interactive movie ?
5 - People wanna pledge games with something they really want. A fan base. Are the players 30 y back are still interested in video games ? interested in that kind of video game ? are enough to follow actuality and find your kickstarter ? I don't think so.
6 - Are all the people of the team above 50 ? It's also a parameter, things are changing fast.

Sorry but I don't think you'll make it, particularly with all KS failures and now people get interested in early access since there are already materials to show up (even if there is movement in it too).

People who pledge are people who do expect a certain gameplay. Show me how your game is interesting with visuals. I will not listen for 5 minutes some guys speaking about the full story. Show me actual gameplay.

But anyway, I'm not interested in that kind of games and it seems to be "just" an interactive film.

Benjamin Quintero
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Night Trap was an early 90's interactive film that displayed everything that was wrong with late 80's shock cinema. It was all bad acting, bikini clad girls, low budget effects, barely serviceable plots. It was all very campy and silly which made for the perfect kind of 3am "there's nothing else to do right now" entertainment. The world has changed, and fewer and fewer people burn their clocks on this kind of entertainment. Less than 1000 people might be an accurate estimate of who meets the criteria:

1. Played Night Trap, or was a gamer at the time Night Trap shipped.
2. Still plays games today and hasn't moved on to other mid-life hobbies like boats and motorcycles.
3. Still has a desire to play Night Trap or relive some childhood memory.
4. Doesn't remember why they don't make games like this anymore.
5. Knows about Kickstarter at their age, assuming they didn't go off to become a banker or something.
6. Has the disposable income to invest in hand waving nostalgia campaign.

After running 1M people or so through that filter, you probably are going to pinch out a fraction of 1% participation.

Kevin Fishburne
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"6 - Are all the people of the team above 50 ? It's also a parameter, things are changing fast."

"2. Still plays games today and hasn't moved on to other mid-life hobbies like boats and motorcycles."

"Knows about Kickstarter at their age, assuming they didn't go off to become a banker or something."

Really? Apparently all the media attention and IGDA hand-waving in the world is not enough. Thank god I'm not over 50 or I'd be screwed!

Benjamin Quintero
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I'm not sure what your argument is Kevin :) but for as large as Kickstarter may to in your world, it's something of a microcosm to the rest of the world. In some ways that's like an IT guying walking up to us gushing over the new server technology and we're like, "that's nice, just keep my web page running." You can appreciate his excitement but it doesn't mean you are going to save up and get one for yourself. Some people just grow out of games, and by extension, the know. Night Trap was a LONG time ago man; people move on sometimes.

Kevin Fishburne
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@Benjamin I wasn't disputing your point that a Night Trap Kickstarter appeals to an ultra-niche market. I was put off by the comments in your and Marvin's posts that people as old as the creators of Night Trap and its fans most likely can't deal with rapid change, no longer play games, have boats and motorcycles as hobbies, don't know about Kickstarter and have possibly become bankers. In the wake of the recent media frenzy around Anita Sarkeesian's detractors I was simply surprised to see comments like that here.

If the Night Trap team mishandled their Kickstarter campaign I doubt it was because of their age. They may have been out of the loop for too long, are too lazy to do the necessary research and work, are hopelessly inept, etc., but unless they're dead or senile age is irrelevant.

Marvin Papin
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I just point out people thought but really, there are NO young people in the team. And I think it's important to notice it. Now, their age are pointless to me but I don't think it is for most people and we are speaking of a kickstarter campaign.

Now, I don't know how it is for you, but here, nearly nobody over 40 outside the game industry have heard spoken Kickstarter. If you only base yourself on people of the game industry, you will probably not make it with that kind of game through kick starter. Who do you think are backers ?

I just outline some points that in my opinion will 'combined' will never make a viable kickstarter except if you have great numerous relations and fans.

And sincerely, would A TEAM of 20-30yo people have made that kind of game and bringing it to kickstarter ? maybe that's why there are only aged guys ? I have nothing against that, but it's not pointless.

"Apparently all the media attention and IGDA hand-waving in the world"
Within the game industry. In france, our medias unfortunately nearly never speak of video games, it's even nearly a taboo.

"They may have been out of the loop for too long, are too lazy to do the necessary research and work, are hopelessly inept" is this not a parameter relative to their ages ? I don't think you could find that kind of case for a 20 yo guy.


Finally, this is not about whose right or wrong. But those detail really needs to be pointed out. Take the case of molyneux. He did some mistake but he mades fable 1, populous and is making godus but he's surrounded by youngs (however since it's not an indie tentative so that's kinda different).
I'll try to find a team of people over 45 with a "new age" game to highlight this is not a standard.

Kevin Fishburne
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@Marvin

"I just point out people thought but really, there are NO young people in the team. And I think it's important to notice it. Now, their age are pointless to me but I don't think it is for most people and we are speaking of a kickstarter campaign."

I respectfully disagree that it is important to notice it, and that their age is important for most people with respect to a Kickstarter campaign, or anything else dev-related.

"Now, I don't know how it is for you, but here, nearly nobody over 40 outside the game industry have heard spoken Kickstarter. If you only base yourself on people of the game industry, you will probably not make it with that kind of game through kick starter. Who do you think are backers ?"

In the United States, according to the ESA (http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/esa_ef_2013.pdf), 32% of gamers are under 18 years old, 32% are 18 - 35 and 36% are 36 or older. According to Quantcast (https://www.quantcast.com/kickstarter.com/demographics) 16% of Kickstarter's unique hits are from gamers under 18 years old, 46% are 18 - 34 and 38% are 35 or older.

"And sincerely, would A TEAM of 20-30yo people have made that kind of game and bringing it to kickstarter ? maybe that's why there are only aged guys ? I have nothing against that, but it's not pointless."

They're the guys who made the original game, and to be honest I didn't think ANYONE would bring Night Trap to Kickstarter. If it meets its funding goal I will expect hell to freeze and pigs to fly.

Being out of the loop necessitates a period of time elapsing, which is entirely different than someone being out of the loop simply because time has elapsed. It's a choice. A twenty year old has probably never been in the loop unless they've been programming from a very young age. There's a big difference between playing games and making them.

My argument is simply that people need to be taken on their merits, not superficial physical qualities such as race, sex, height, weight, age, sexual preference, what color shirt they're wearing, etc. You can either do the job well or you can't, period.

As far as old farts still making games, other than Molyneux, Richard Garriott (Shroud of the Avatar), Chris Roberts (Star Citizen) and David Braben (Elite: Dangerous) come to mind. Whether or not their dev teams consist of twenty-somethings I couldn't tell you.

Benjamin Quintero
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Kevin,

I wasn't saying it specifically had to do with age. That game was a long time ago, and as time passes people just start getting off the Night Trap train. I only meant that there is a high likelihood that not EVERYONE who played games at some point in their long-ago childhood are STILL playing games today. Sometimes people just find other ways to be entertained (ala: the boats and motorcycles comment), or life happens and you get kids and responsibility and you use your finance degree to do something other than work in games or technology; even if you played games in college or whatever. It was just 1 of many filters that knock those people out of the list of potential pledges.

And yes, they really mishandled that campaign =) as well.

Kevin Fishburne
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@Benjamin I think what it comes down to is the inverse relationship between free time and responsibility. With more responsibility comes less free time, which forces you to choose what's most important to you. Do you want to play golf, or play video games? Which choice is more popular I have no idea. My dad does both, but he's retired so I don't think free time's an issue. His Gran Turismo skills are insane... We even built a racing chassis with a real car seat and two ButtKickers attached to make it rumble.

Anyway, perhaps I took your comments the wrong way. I'm turning 39 this November, so my old man get-the-fuck-off-my-lawn rage is starting to build. :)

Marvin Papin
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stats are stats and 35 is quite far from 50.

the guys made that game 30 y back. We need to live with our time

yep, merit and they wanna do something they like but once again. Once again, when people see a bunch of old guys on the video, they remark it. And even if I do not think it's relevant, it is for many people. And when they see the kind of game (retro style) it is, they associate it with their age. Most devs probably don't but most are not those who are pledging. It's just an opinion but I don't think that you think most people do not think to their ages when watching the vids.

"The hell is the others" :)

Zachary Strebeck
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We just had a great post not too long ago on here about ageism in the games industry. Comments like the ones in here only add to the mounting evidence, I think.

I'm 36. Am I already out?

Marvin Papin
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Not even at 60 it's just your skill that matters. ;)

But not sure it does for others. notably some potential employers ... sad.

Zachary Strebeck
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Which is the reason for the article I referenced - http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DavidMullich/20140822/223945/No_Co
nsoles_For_Old_Men_Ageism_In_The_Game_Industry.php

And why some are taking offense to the question even being asked as if it matters.

Dave Hoskins
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I thought the whole point of Kickstarter was for people with "disposable income." Not to mention gaming in general.

Steve Fulton
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I'm in the demographics that this game is targeting. I know who Tom Zito and Rob Fulup are. I'm a fan of Rob Fulop's earlier Atari 2600 games. I started playing video games in 1977, and I still play them now. I also design and program games on daily basis. I also understand Kickstarter, and I have backed several successful "nostalgia" titles that speak to me as a classic video game fan. This Kickstarter should be right in my wheelhouse, and I still skipped it. Why? Well, because, when you get down to it, Night Trap was not a good idea back then, and it's not a good idea now. Nostalgia, at least the kind of nostalgia people shell out money for, needs to be based on a ground-swell of affinity for a quality product, not based on controversial notoriety with nothing to back it up. At the same time, the amount of money they were requesting just looked like too much for the product they were producing. Something did not seem right. These things need balance of interest, reasonable budget, nostalgia, and reason to exist. This one just didn't have it.

Now, if Rob Fulop started a Kickstarter for, say, "Demon Attack 2015" as a Steam game and asked for $25K with stretch goals, I'd be much more inclined to be a backer.

Kevin Fishburne
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Man, I loved Demon Attack. So simple, yet so beautiful. Believe it or not, it still runs on my Intellivision III. Simply increasing the tempo and pitch of a heartbeat like bleep as you progressed was enough to quicken the pulse. Maybe you should shoot Rob an email. Demon Attack was a hell of a lot better than Night Crap.

Zachary Strebeck
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I'm going to pimp my own post here, because it's important reading for ANYONE starting a Kickstarter project. Jamey Stegmaier's posts on the Stonemaier Games site are particularly vital, even though they are from a board game perspective. There is such a wealth of info out there, there's just no excuse for doing a Kickstarter wrong anymore!

http://www.strebecklaw.com/thinking-of-using-kickstarter-to-fund-
your-game-check-out-these-resources-first/

Just realized that I never posted it on Gamasutra. Will have to do it this week.

Rob Fulop
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OK excuse me as I rise from my wheelchair here - uh - as flattered as I am to find a few people who remember Demon Attack, I will always maintain Night Trap was then, and still remains, a prototype for live action centric interactive entertainment. Night Trap was never intended to be a "game" in any sense of the word - it was instead conceived and developed as an answer to the question "what would be a workable format for an interactive movie?"

The title was a first effort - an experiment - a throwaway attempt to make an actual movie that the user could somehow "play". Night Trap was made to run on a hardware system thAt never saw the light of day - streaming interactive videotape - it was only through a fluke twist of fate that it was years later repurposed and released on the primitive Sega CD platform.

To compare the play pattern of Night Trap to the play patten of ANY dynamic videogame like experience is laughable - you might as well compare a cookie to a pizza - it just makes no sense whatsoever.

Night Trap is NOT a game, it is a prototype for a proposed format for cinematic interactive entertainment - where the player controls a fixed camera, seeing one scene at the exclusion of seeing another happening at the same time. There had been nothing like it before we made it, and nothing like it since. It was an attempt to innovate, to make something NEW, and like most innovative attempts, it failed more than it succeeded.

And in that regard, I remain totally proud of the work we did on Night Trap, and invite any of the harsh critics to step up and show us what a real interactive cinematic experience should look like, and how it should look like a movie while at the same time deliver the replayability of even the most primitive video game.

Christian Nutt
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It's funny; I think most of the people posting about it probably played it at the time, and even if they're adults (and maybe even developers) now, it's probably hard to let go of the perspective of "at the time", when you slapped down $50 (or whatever) to play something that was hyped to be the future of video games and got... well, "a prototype for a proposed format for cinematic interactive entertainment".

I mean, I have a real fondness for it; I also remember trading it away to my friend after a week just so I could get a game that had some kind of gameplay, since my mother was in no mood to buy me a second Sega CD game so soon after the first. But we're talking about when I was 15. As an adult, of course it's a lot easier to see what you were aiming for, what limitations you had to work with, and understand the result.


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