Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
 
What exactly did you give that money for?

One of the major "successes" of Kickstarter video games was Shadowrun Returns, which aimed to collect $400,000 and got $1.8 million instead. Only now they announced the game being delayed from January 2013 to May/June 2013. And the game will be somewhat different than what they presented on Kickstarter, having an isometric view instead of a top-down view, and cutting some social features. So while it is still possible that if you gave them money you will get a game named "Shadowrun Returns", that game might look and play differently than what you imagined or were told before. And you might wonder whether giving money to "Harebrained Schemes" was such a good idea.

I'm already experiencing something similar with a different game, the only game I ever Kickstarted: Banner Saga. The Kickstarter project said the focus was on a single-player campaign, but when I got beta access the game only had a multi-player part. I assume the single-player campaign will still come later, but on the "backers get beta access" part of the deal I got screwed, getting the opposite of what I wanted.

I am sure that many games change a lot during the development process. Most of the time nobody even notices, because that all happens behind closed doors. But Kickstarter games are somewhat different in that the initial pitch of the game is very public, and people give money because they liked certain aspects or features of that pitch. So if those aspects or features get changed over the development of the game, some of the backers will most likely feel cheated.

Ultimately what Kickstarter for games is, is a charitable donation to game developers to do whatever they want with it. Personally I feel my charitable donations are better placed elsewhere, as game developers tend not to be starving, and there isn't exactly a lack of games out there. But as Kickstarter feels more like "investing" than "donating", there will be a backlash coming when people realize that they don't always get what they thought they gave money for.

Comments:
I agree that people who think of this as a commercial purchase - a Steam Sale - will probably be disappointed. I think a good analogy is that you believe in independent, local bands/musicians/poets/artists/theatre/restaurants/wineries, so you go to openings because you want to support and encourage them. But it would be naive and probably incorrect to expect a great experience.

You go because the rare chance that you find something great. You get to feel virtuosos that you are helping out the independent. If it does take off, you can smugly tell your friends how you supported it before it was cool. Cognitive dissonance means that you will probably enjoy your kickstarter game more than the identical game you did not invest in.

If all you are going to invest in are sure things, you are probably better off waiting until a multinational produces it and it gets some reviews. If you are truly pushing independent gaming, which I am not advocating being skeptical of all zealots, then you should regard all your games being completed as a failure - you did not support ambitious enough projects.

If you think some/most games will be finished, some/most of those will be similar to the original plan and some but probably not most will be good, then I think you are in the right mindset for Kickstarter. But if you think of it as an alternative to Steam/Amazon, you may be disappointed. Although if Kickstater catches on, it may broaden. Certainly the number of frauds and incompetents will grow. But maybe it becomes something like Amazon eBooks or direct-to-iTunes music where the traditional publishers is disintermediated. Developers who could discuss a deal with a traditional publisher choose the Kickstarter route instead.

My guess it is a fad that is near its peak; hope not though.
 
Not at all surprising. The problem with Kickstarter is being unable to cap the donations. Which works almost ok with physical products, but can be devastating for a game. You have 10 times the money needed, you have to spend them, and you cannot waste them. So you add new features, new resources and not everything works exactly as planned, so you have to change. Normal software development. You should care if the game delivered is good, not if it is exactly as pitched.

Although i will have a few words with Tim Schaffer if the Double Fine Adventure turns out to be cover based shooter.


 
> what Kickstarter for games is,
> is a charitable donation to game
> developers to do whatever they
> want with it

And that's exactly why I have never backed a videogame/software project.

Unless the page clearly states something like "You're donating your money for something that could drastically change over time", better giving that money to charity.
 
That's not that much different to an MMO like Guild Wars 2 where they promise something and 2.5 month later completely turn around the single most important selling point.
 
Not to derail the thread, but I backed Banner Saga for the excatct same reason as you Tobold. I've not even loaded the beta yet, since it is pvp only. Just trying to put it out of my head until release
 
I think the money is for increasing the chances of something you think is cool will be implemented. Although its still a donation, it's not charity. When you create your annual budget, it belongs in the bucket alongside that Steam game you bought on sale, played it for 3 minutes and then deleted it because it sucked.

Keep your save the whale money in a separate bucket.
 
To be fair, Steam sales are not the same thing. Before spending your money you can easily check if the game is good or not: blog reviews, youtube reviews, forums, etc.

Yes, maybe you get bored 3 hours later but that can happen with a backed game too.
 
In fairness, The Banner Saga didn't outright say that the Beta access would include single-player content. That it didn't include content you were paying for is unfortunate, but it's less a fault of the Kickstarter ethos and more a problem with limited communication in general -- I had similar problems with a Steam purchase of Wanderlust: Rebirth. And even ubersuccess beta-funded Minecraft has drastically twisted from its original format.

Shadowrun Returns, as well as the countless KickStarter projects that have been delayed or are likely to never be feature-complete, are probably more meaningful criticisms. So are more fundamental issues, like that Star Citizen pledgers have no idea what system requirements the game or server, should they be released, will have. Or, for that matter, that many publisher-backed games never make it to release, and expecting Kickstarter projects to do several times better is not terribly likely to be successful.
 
I actually pledge shadowrun returns and carmageddon reincarnation, and even if the games don't come out exactly as described, i backed them simply because i loved them the first time i played them.

I have been getting the email updates from shadowrun pretty frequently, and i'm actually pleased that it's going to be isometric instead of top down. All i know is whatever harebrained schemes puts out, will be far better than anything other distributors have put out (fps xbox version.. gah!!). Really all i'm hoping is that they stay as true to the book rules as they can, and that it actually gets finished at some point.

As far as i'm concerned, i'm ok that it's delayed, as long as the update emails keep coming.

 
I think a lot depends on the state of the project being kickstarted. Backers of FTL got exactly what they were expecting, similar with Project Giana. If you back a project that has a reasonable launch date and just needs some additional funding to be completed you can have a reasonable chance it will be exactly what you were promised.

If you back a project that consists of a few concept arts and claims to be due in 6 months I think expecting it to keep promises is naive.
 
@Kreeegor Kickstarter can absolutely cap their donations. If it is desired, a project can set limits on every single tier they offer so that they can build a theoretical maximum by virtue of there simply being no slots left on any tier.

You see it all the time on the really pricey tiers, but few Kickstarters put the limits on the lower tiers because they are the most popular.
 
Kickstarter is just a different way of funding games.

As so far as it provides an alternative to the corporate types deciding on which franchise will get its N-th iteration (FIFA2054), I totally support it.

Think of it this way: it provides a better alignment between game developer and future customer. Fund us with 500k+ and we'll do this and this. Fund us with 1M+ and we'll do a lot more.

The best part is giving a LOT to your big fans. Yesterday I saw a Monster Compendium which had a backer give 1000 for a leather bound edition, with a custom portrait done by the artist who does the monsters. Now this will look great on ANY mantlepiece!

The only thing missing on Kickstarter is a binding contract. Or some kind of due diligence.

I'd say with 90% of the game projects, you can bet the developers are making great sacrifices to get the game done. I doubt they take industry-average pay, they are probably relying on Kickstarter to cover their living expenses and hope to sell the game and make a profit there.

Maybe I'm too idealistic but a lot of the guys who do games for a living are.

P.S. Buying games for 50% off or 80% off on Steam doesn't support game developers, it supports Valve and the publishers. In other words, you're paying for the Bobby Kotick's private plane.
 
Kickstarter is just a different way of funding games.

As so far as it provides an alternative to the corporate types deciding on which franchise will get its N-th iteration (FIFA2054), I totally support it.

Think of it this way: it provides a better alignment between game developer and future customer. Fund us with 500k+ and we'll do this and this. Fund us with 1M+ and we'll do a lot more.

The best part is giving a LOT to your big fans. Yesterday I saw a Monster Compendium which had a backer give 1000 for a leather bound edition, with a custom portrait done by the artist who does the monsters. Now this will look great on ANY mantlepiece!

The only thing missing on Kickstarter is a binding contract. Or some kind of due diligence.

I'd say with 90% of the game projects, you can bet the developers are making great sacrifices to get the game done. I doubt they take industry-average pay, they are probably relying on Kickstarter to cover their living expenses and hope to sell the game and make a profit there.

Maybe I'm too idealistic but a lot of the guys who do games for a living are.

P.S. Buying games for 50% off or 80% off on Steam doesn't support game developers, it supports Valve and the publishers. In other words, you're paying for the Bobby Kotick's private plane.
 
Check out the shelves of this D&D game developer and tell me you'd rather trust Bobby Kotick with your game money:

http://batintheattic.blogspot.com/2012/11/my-gaming-shelves.html

He is supporting some worthy projects on Kickstarter and he'll probably do one of his own soon. I'd trust him.
 
As with all investments, understand the risk before parting with your money.
 
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