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When players buy your game before it's done: Expert tips on alpha funding
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When players buy your game before it's done: Expert tips on alpha funding

July 30, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 7 Next

For Wolfire, alpha funding has helped the team unify its Overgrowth development and marketing.

"Development milestones actually become interesting to press and to fans, because they can actually try out the changes immediately," he reasons. "It also helps grow a community around the game, which can provide feedback, report bugs, create mods, and evangelize the game to new users."

And, of course, it's helped that getting pre-orders in so early has helped fund Wolfire's game without the need for much capital up-front.

I asked Rosen whether the length of his alpha funding campaign has caused any backlash from fans. He says that as long as his studio is constantly looking to improve the game and release new stuff for pre-orderers, the fans mainly stay happy.

"There are always some who are impatient," he says, "but most of them realize that we are working as hard as we can."

Rosen says that alpha funding was a better route for Overgrowth than Kickstarter, since the latter takes a cut, gives you nothing if you don't reach your target, and only runs for a finite period of time.

As for Overgrowth, Rosen says that "Let's Play" videos have played a key role in the game's steady sales build-up.

"It is helpful if your game is interesting to watch as well as to play," he reasons. "Similarly, videos are a great way to demonstrate the changes in each update, especially if you put some effort into making them entertaining to watch! I try to make sure that each video concisely shows the changes for existing players, but could also provide a compelling intro for someone who has never heard of the game." 

Jamie Cheng - Don't Starve 

Klei Entertainment's Don't Starve is an interesting case study in alpha funding. The game was originally released as a paid alpha via the Chrome Web Store, and then became one of the first "Beta" games to launch on Steam, even before Steam's "Early Access" functionality was launched (essentially allowing alpha and beta games to be sold on Steam.)

"In general I think games that are inherently replayable are more likely to be successful as an alpha/beta as players can return to the game and enjoy the changes as they're made," Klei's Jamie Cheng explains.

"Making sweeping changes once the game is in the hands of the public was difficult, but we did it nonetheless," he says. "We spent huge efforts to let our players know what we were doing and why, and throughout the development major features and changes to systems were made."

Getting on Steam with his pre-release build wasn't too difficult, thanks ot Klei's past dealings with Steam, first as an indie with Eets, and then with Shank, Shank 2, and Mark of the Ninja.

"Somewhere in there we approached Valve and discussed testing the waters with the game on Steam," he says. "This was quite a few months prior to Early-Access Beta being a real thing on Steam -- we certainly didn't know it would be a 'thing' yet." 

Carsten Boserup - Interstellar Marines 

Another studio that has taken a similar funding route is Zero Point Software's Interstellar Marines -- although Zero Point has waded just a tad bit longer into development before offering early access than most studios I talked to.

Interstellar Marines was first announced back in 2005, and after several years, players could pay to become "Spearheads" or "Frontliners," and receive alpha builds of the game.

Earlier this month, the game went up on Steam via Early Access, meaning that you can now preorder the game and grab an early build before its release.

If you're unable to find a publisher for your game, or you simply want to be able to work more quickly on your game, then alpha funding is definitely worth considering, Zero Point's Carsten Boserup suggests.

This second point in particular is something that Boserup is keen to stress. "Alpha funding can help enormously with speeding up development of a project," he says. "Handled correctly, it can result in a positive spiral where more funding results in quicker updates, which results in more funding."

"Additionally, being funded by players releases a developer from the binds a publisher may put around it -- freeing you to make the game you want to make, rather than one you are forced to make."

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 7 Next

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