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DD: How do you scope your game for Kickstarter to make sure your pitch seems exciting without overpromising on what you can deliver with the game?
JR: The biggest factor for us was that we basically put our own money into it, so we said, “We have this much, let’s get as much done as we can on the basis of that budget and see where we are.” I mean, we hadn’t done a game like this before, though we’ve spent a few years exploring related technologies. This was the big one for us, our big, exploratory, experimental thing.
We just wanted to see what we could make with the money we’ve got, and that was the sort of deciding factor for when we would go for Kickstarter. I think we realized pretty early in that process that Kickstarter would be the best prospect. It was really coming into its own at the time, plus it gave us full ownership, so all the reasons people usually go for Kickstarter appealed to us as well. But I think the other thing we discussed quite early on was: Given that we had some money and time, the best way to make the pitch really strong was to work out what the game was going to be, and get as far toward that as we could.
So nothing that was promised was out of bounds for what we wanted to get done, no matter how much it would take to achieve it. I think we perhaps benefited a bit from how ambitious we were anyway -- it was just quite an ambitious idea for a game, using some technology that gets a lot of profile, but that you don’t necessarily see being used the way that we’re using it.
DD: How do stretch goals change your scope?
JC: Stretch goals are really weird. You’re constantly in development thinking about whether something is viable or not, and the kind of stuff that you need to do, or if something that you can do isn’t working, or if it’s working so well you want to have more things like it. So you’re constantly testing what you think the balance of the game needs to be.
Stretch goals kind of fall into that for me. They’re kind of stuff that you have on your “nice to have” list but that aren’t really essential.
JR: I had a conversation with Andy Schatz (Monaco) where he was saying, “What a weird thing to do to be promising things that should be optional.” We knew what the core game was going to work, and we knew how it could be extended.
We’re at an interesting stage now, where we’ve built on the prototype stage we had, and smoothed out the major issues, and now it works essentially as a complete game with just one NPC, just the hunters, the original concept art of the robotic gentlemen. That now works as a complete game. I think, perhaps, if we hadn’t had the Kickstarter money, we’d have gotten to that stage anyway, but that might have been the game we put out, because it’s playable just with this one NPC that we’ve given the behaviors that we want, who hunts you down and allows us to play at combat. All of that exciting stuff that we originally sat down and concepted and said, “This is how that should work,” that’s all in the game and it works.
But we can extend that, and we knew how we could extend it, and how NPC behavior could extend it, and the challenge now is to add all those things. None of the stretch goal things were unreasonable. It was all within the scope of a design doc that we could extend, because we knew how it would all work.
I think actually the most challenging thing for us, initially, was adding multiplayer to it. We didn’t just want to do a single-player game, but we knew the core of the game had to be this single-player, being-hunted experience, and I think that putting multiplayer up was a gamble. But it’s also the one that we feel the most pleased to have ticked off the list. Because of our existing interests, it felt like the biggest gamble, and people were saying to me and to James that multiplayer is a big task. At the same time, that was the thing that…
JC: It’s the stretch goal, right? It’s the thing to stretch toward.
JR: It was the thing to stretch toward, but I also felt it was the most natural thing, because we were already clearly going to end up having a multiplayer game at some point. So, to kind of get on with it and make that, is good. I think the other thing is, and this is why Kickstarter is brilliant for a lot of people and not just us, is that a lot of game development is a kind of scientific exploration process of trying a lot of different things and seeing how they can be thrown together in this mix to make interesting experiences.
For us to be able to go on and do that and experiment with the multiplayer stuff in a game we’ve put so much time into already, that’s great.