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Calibrating for Kickstarter

by Ethan Levy on 06/12/13 04:27:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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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.


When we sat down to begin the design process on Enhanced Wars, we began by agreeing on 5 "first principles" that would guide the game's development. These first principles inform both our design goals and our working style. Perhaps the most important principle is "Community is a team member." As Enhanced Wars is a multiplayer first game and funding the game via Kickstarter is essential to bringing this game to market, we know that opening up our process to the community and involving them at every step of the way is the only possible path to victory.

Even though we are fairly early into the development of the game, we have already been soliciting feedback via a tactics game fan survey. So far the number of responses and positivity of the results has given a huge boost to the Quarter Spiral team. We wanted to share some of the early results both for our fans and for other developers who may be planning out a Kickstarter.

If you are interested in shaping the future of Enhanced Wars and getting early access to the game, you too should let us know your thoughts by taking the survey.

Barking up the right tree?
The key question to answer is "Will turn based strategy (TBS) fans back a game via Kickstarter?
Of our survey respondents, over 50% have previously funded games via Kickstarter, so we have cleared one of the biggest hurdles for at least half our fans. Not that creating a Kickstarter account is a huge barrier, but even if all of those remaining 47.5% want to back us, it is safe to assume that not all of them will end up creating accounts.

We also asked fans if they will support us on Kickstarter. This is a bit of a cheeky question for sure, to ask fans for support largely based on 1 video on IGN and a few screenshots. But over half of the survey respondents said they will back us. The 35% who gave an open ended response largely took the form of "Depends on your quality. If it is good, I will back you." Only a very small number of fans who took the time to finish the survey flat out said they will not support us on Kickstarter.

Targeting the right platforms?
The next question to answer "Are making the game for the right platform?" We are currently developing Enhanced Wars for PC, Mac & Linux. As with most parts of the game's development, our ability to deliver a quality experience for other platforms is largely dependent on our ability to raise enough money to port to, QA and support that platform.

For this question, we allowed fans to pick as many platforms as they desired. In our ideal world, Enhanced Wars will be a cross platform game that allows you to pick up and play your turn on any device connected to the internet.

The most desired platform is Web browser - so if these results hold over time, it is likely we will want to add browser to our initial batch of platforms. Unsurprisingly, PC is up next followed by Steam. This encourages us and validates our desire to put the game up on Steam Greenlight as well as Kickstarter. This is our ideal distribution platform for Enhanced Wars - so hopefully enough players vote for us!

iOS and Android are clearly of interest, and we ought to evaluate adding them to the stretch goal list. For all their success with crowdfunding and hype in the media (which has convinced me to pre-order both) neither Ouya or Oculus Rift have generating enough interest to make them worth putting on our roadmap at this time.

Building the right game?
Enhanced Wars is a multiplayer first game. We will build this game with a realistic feature set for our Kickstarter ask, based on years of production experience and over 35 shipped games contributed to by members of the team. Anything we can do on top of the core, multiplayer experience is contingent upon not only hitting our initial goal, but beating them with stretch goals.

This brings us to data both encouraging and troublesome. The single most requested feature is a single player campaign. Based on our experience building linear, single player content, we know that this is also the most expensive feature to implement. Creating a single player game will significantly increase our needs in terms of budget and time to market. We will need to craft a story. We will need to build more tools. We will need to develop AI that is both intelligent and fun. We will need significantly more art, sfx and game features to create a quality campaign that is worth playing.

Normally, stretch goals are at reasonable increments after the initial goal is reached. But if we truly want to build a great single player game, we will need to ask for (at minimum) $100,000 more than our base ask. It is an interesting thought experiment to imagine how players will react to a campaign with a single stretch goal that is that much higher than a relatively low project goal.

The popularity of other stretch goals was in line with our expectations based on previous work on multiplayer, TBS games. Team battles, map making tools, tournaments and more playable factions are proven hits with the community.

Giving the right incentives?
A big factor of a campaign's success is the rewards it offers. Kickstarter is more or less a presale platform when it comes to games. In order to bring in high value contributions - or any contributions at all - we need to make sure we offering rewards that players desire.

This chart will probably be the most interesting to other game developers. Unsurprisingly, copy of the game, beta access and alpha access are the 3 most popular rewards. Next up is a custom skin for your army followed by the ability to work with the game team in designing a unit for the game.

A common lesson from successful Kickstarter campaigns is to limit the amount of physical goods you offer. It is not unheard of for campaigns to end up in the red because of unexpected costs of physical goods. Of the physical goods we asked about in the survey, 3D printed unit from the game is the most popular (and the one we think will be a limited, high value reward). After that is T-shirts, which so far are popular enough to want to include in the rewards. More complex physical goods like a printed and signed art book or printed and signed poster got a low enough response that they do not look like appealing offers.

More out of the box offerings, like access to the team's design documents, print and play version of the original prototype, digital poster, naming a map or getting your voice in the game, all look questionable based on these early results.

Just the start
These results are early and we intend to collect a lot more survey responses before we make any hard decisions about Enhanced Wars' future. If you are interested in shaping the future of Enhanced Wars, and getting early access to the game, there is no better way than taking the survey now. If you have already taken the survey, thank you for the support!

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