Welcome back to Kickstart My Heart, Diehard GameFAN’s look at what’s going on in the world of crowdfunding for video and tabletop games. Last week we looked at the many successful projects that I’ve backed over the past year and why I did so. It got a great response from readers, both over here at Kickstarter. Since you, our readers, seem to really enjoy seeing what projects are on the horizon, we’re going to try and make this a weekly or bi-weekly feature and continue to highlight projects that might be worth investing in. Remember that crowdfunding is basically pre-ordering a product. If the project reaches its funding goal by its end date, the project gets funded and you’ll eventually get your game (or something else. As this is a gaming site, we’ll only be focusing on games of all kinds in this column). If it doesn’t reach the funding goal, no money is taken from your account and the developers have to look for another way to get funding. It’s more or less a no-lose situation…unless of course the people behind the project tries to run off with your funding, but I’ve only ever seen that happen once, possibly twice, in the history of Kickstarter.
I. What I’ve Backed Since Last Week
Since last week’s issue I’ve backed two new projects, both of which I’m very excited for. Luckily for thi column, both are games – one video and one tabletop.
The Pinball Arcade: Twilight Zone. This is a new pinball table for the video game, The Pinball Arcade, which is available for multiple systems. I myself own it for the PS3, the PS Vita and the Kindle Fire. It’s honestly my favorite pinball simulator ever – mainly because it is a collection of some of the best pinball machines of all time digitally recreated and preserved so everyone can play them. You can read my review of the PS3 and Vita versions here.
What Farsight is currently doing is trying to raise money for the licensing of the old Bally/Midway pinball machine. It’s one of the most popular pinball machines of all time, but the cost to get the license is insanely expensive – $55,000 to be exact. That’s insane, but god knows I and thousands of other people want to play Twilight Zone in the comfort of our own home, so Farsight is trying a Kickstarter campaign to make it happen. If it’s successful, they’ll try for Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Addams Family, which are not only two awesome tables, but the latter is the first pinball game to successfully get voted into the Video Game Hall of Fame. I really want all three of these tables so I was happy to plunk money down to support this Kickstarter project and I sincerely hope all of you do too – especially DHGF staff that own The Pinball Arcade like Ashe.
Currently, Twilight Zone has about two and a half weeks to make their funding goal. Thankfully they are three-fourths of the way there, so it looks like they will make it. With nearly 1,500 backers though I’m not sure how many more people they will get unless the current people throwing money at the campaign uses word or mouth or other video game web sites like this one talk it up. So here I am doing just that. A simple ten dollar donation nets you the table, so if you have any love in your heart for pinball, back this sucker.
Kings of War This is a tabletop miniatures war game and it looks amazing. I’m not the only one to think so as the project is less than a week old and it’s already at 650% of its funding goal. How insane is that? I was never much for tabletop war games. I tried Warhammer in college, but I didn’t have the painting skills and it was far too expensive try that, play pen & paper RPGs and buy video games. Obviously that got chucked to the wayside. I really got into D&D Minis (painted and easy rules) and I was even ranked #2 in the state of Minnesota when I lived there. However that game died and I’ve been looking for a new wargame to pick up for the past five years or so. I helped fund Deep Wars, which is a new underwater Cthulhuoid themed minis game that I am crazy excited for. King of War however blew me away almost as much with the quality of the minis and the cost of everything.
Buying armies through Kickstarter is noticeably cheaper than buying them through Mantic Game’s own website. A 150 or so figure army looks to be about $175 dollars directly through Mantic but only $125 via Kickstarter. So for wargamers, that’s a significant savings. At this point I think I am in for two 1,000 point armies, which also nets me an exclusive Vampiress and Orc Wizard, a hardcover rulebook and then maybe some undead werewolves. At this point I’m leaning towards getting the dwarves and undead armies. This Kickstarter will probably make Chuck Platt squeal with glee as he’s our big minis gamer of staff but I can’t deny I’m pretty pumped about this one as well. This Kickstarter project may not need your funding, but the more people that pitch in, the more freebies backers will be getting so if you’re interested in painting minis or playing a wargame, this is definitely worth jumping on.
II. Feature: Failed Kickstarter Campaigns
It’s hard to do a search on failed Kickstarter campaigns unless you actively followed them while they were running. Still, I participated in sixteen Kickstarter campaigns, five of which were game based. We’ll look at five of those in this section and discuss just why they failed.
CastleAbra. This was one of the first video games I backed on Kickstarter and am still a bit bummed it failed. Had it been Kickstarter a year later it would have succeeded pretty easily. It had all the tools needed – a quality video, a low price point and it was a point and click adventure game, which has become the most successful genre on Kickstarter. Yet it only achieved $450 out of its $10,000 goal from twenty backers. Considering currently games with a 100,000 to one million dollar budget on Kickstarter is not unheard of, this might seem a bit strange to those that started looking at Kickstarter since the Double Fine era. In truth, video games were a hard sale on Kickstarter up until a few months ago. Even now, they need a decently known name with a bit of a track record to succeed – and even then, it can be a crap shoot. CastleAbra was a small project by a very small company (three people) that had never made a video game before. That made people wary it appears. Thankfully the game is still being released in late summer of this year. I’ll be picking it up when it comes out. It’s just too bad it couldn’t drum up any support on Kickstarter.
Diablerie. This was a horror trading card game I backed simply for the name and because I missed games like Rage and Jyhad. However, looking back on Diablerie it’s easy to see why it failed so miserably. Hell, it could even be a poster child for how not to do a Kickstarter campaign.
First of all, there was no actual information about the game in the initial write-up. Even that was only three paragraphs long and were pretty vague at best. There was a bit of substance in the FAQ for the project, but so few people read those that it was a bad idea to put all of the campaign’s info there. Second, there wasn’t a video of the project. That’s really needed to make a Kickstarter project work. Third, there was no examples of the card art or showing how the game was played. Fourth, the game was pretty much a Magic: The Gathering rip off. Finally, they never did updates. Regular updates show the project creator’s want to communicate with their backers. Communication is huge for a Kickstarter project and it can really decide if something gets funded or not. With all this in mind it’s no wonder only seven people backed it for a grand total of $226.
In the Dark: Puzzles Past Bedtime. Unlike the previous two failures (and the two that with follow this), In the Dark NEARLY made it. I’m not really sure why it didn’t actually. It had 181 backers and raised seventy-four percent of its funding. It just couldn’t get the last fourth and it’s a shame became the game looked really interesting. In the Dark looked to be a well designed puzzle platformer, the developers made frequent updates, the backer rewards were nice and Bump was a pretty adorable looking character. If it had been up for funding post the Double Fine campaign, it probably could have met (and beaten) it’s funding. Like CastleAbra, In the Dark is still going to be released as a PC game, but unlike it, In the Dark has a web page giving out more information about the team’s attempt to finish up the game. You can even pre-order both a standard and special edition of In the Dark if you want. I’m really hoping to the game sees the light of day and I even plan to review it here on Diehard GameFAN once it is released.
Class of Heroes II. This is perhaps the most infamous failure on Kickstarter for video games, if only because it did everything wrong. You had Monkeypaw and Gaijinworks trying to release a physical copy of a PSP game. Now that in and of itself isn’t a bad idea. However these were two companies that had NEVER released a physical copy of a game before – only digital releases of older PS1 or SNES games. Second, they chose Class of Heroes II. The first Class of Heroes was a not only a failure for Atlus USA when they released it, but it was a massive flop with critics and gamers alike. Hell, I LOVE Wizardry style games and I hated Class of HeroesHere’s my review of it. Why choose to bring over a sequel for a game that no one in the West liked in the first place? It also didn’t help that they were trying to do a new PSP game – a system that even Sony, its creator, had abandoned roughly two years before. Hell in 2011 we have had a whopping two games released for the PSP so far: Hakouki and MLB 2k12, neither of which set the world on fire. By the end of the year we’ll have two more games: Gungnir and Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time. That’s a whopping four UMDs – the same amount of games being released for the SEGA DREAMCAST in 2012. So we have a sequel to a very unpopular game for an unpopular system that uses a weird and expensive format. What on earth made them think they could succeed?
That’s not all, Class of Heroes II had a funding goal of $500,000 dollars and they refused to do a tier for digital versions of the game only, meaning backers had to pay $60 for a physical copy of a PSP in a time when they generally cost between $19.99 and $39.99. Ouch. Backers were told it was because of all the neat special edition stuff that would come with the physical release…but then they weren’t given any examples of what would be in this special edition. No pictures, no descriptions, no prototypes, no anything. It took them until April 12th (two weeks before the end of the campaign) to even put up gameplay videos. This was just a comedy of errors from beginning to end and I pledged mainly to support a new PSP game and to watch the train wreck firsthand. Now that’s not to say I didn’t WANT the campaign to succeed. I pushed it pretty hard on the site, including doing an interview with Victor Ireland about it. However, when a project is mismanaged on all levels from beginning to end and you have backers making comments like “We have to support/save JRPGS!” without realizing that Wizardry and all its clones are Eastern RPGS, you can easily see why Class of Heroes II was the equivalent of a MST3K movie for Kickstarter fans. Class of Heroes II didn’t even get 25% of the funding they sought and only 882 people backed it.
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. This was a campaign I fully expected to succeed. After all I loved the Consulting Detective games for my PC and Sega-CD. Several staff members here at Diehard GameFAN are also big fans of the games. So, the thought of raising $55K for recapturing/remastering the games in High Definition and port them to the Ipad and other handheld devices seemed like a shoo-in. Yet at the end of the day, only 559 people backed it and Sherlock Holmes raised less than a third of the money they had hoped to get. So what went wrong? Well, there were two big things. The first is that no one really covered the Kickstarter campaign besides this site. Without word of mouth, gamers who didn’t frequent Kickstarter (like myself) had no idea and thus couldn’t pledge. It also didn’t help that this hit at the same time as Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2 and all the other big video game successes. Much like Class of Heroes II‘s reliance on people that would remember the name “Working Designs,” even though that company had not been around for a decade, systems like the Sega-CD and 3DO have been dead even longer and many of the gamers that grew up with those systems aren’t fully immersed in modern gaming (and especially sites like Kickstarter) to know that an old favorite is trying to come back from the dead.
What really killed the game was how accessible it tried to be. You could get ALL the Consulting Detective adventures by pledging only nine bucks. That’s a dollar a game. That’s exactly what 275 gamers did. Now people would have happily paid $20-25 for all nine games. That would have raised another three to four grand. Still not enough, but it could have helped more than you might think. A lot of Kickstarter campaigns get a push at the last second if it looks like they can break the 50% mark. Maybe it’s people feeling sorry for the campaign or people were just waiting to pledge until it appears that said project would likely get funded. Whatever the reason, there is always a surge at the end of a project’s life and a little more money could have gone a long way.
Perhaps what really could have helped is if Zojoi had started with a Shadowgate Kickstarter. David Marsh made it abundantly clear why he didn’t, but Shadowgate, DéjÃƒÂ vu and Uninvited not only had more success but are still fondly remembered and talked about regularly while Consulting Detective is merely cited as the best of a niche genre – that of FMV style games. Shadowgate would have gotten nearly every gaming site to cover it and then Zojoi could have spun off a list of backers by saying, “Now help me do Sherlock Holmes!. At least we’ll eventually get the remastered Consulting Detective games at some point. It’s just later rather than sooner because this campaign failed.
III. Ten Games You Might Want to Back
Each week, I’ll be taking a look at ten games, five video games and five board/card/tabletop games that I think you, our readers, will find interesting. They aren’t necessarily things I will be backing myself but ones I think deserve being looked at and considered. I won’t cover the same ones each week, instead allowing new games to be focused on, so you can always go back and read previous columns to see what else was mentioned. Let’s start with the board games first.
Sedition Wars: Battle For Alabaster. This is a pretty neat looking board game for two players that uses some very nice looking minis. It’s like a nice mix of Aliens and nanotech/Cthulhoid creatures. Now I’m not a big sci-fi fan, I think eighty bucks is way too much to pay for a board game and I REALLY don’t like the concept of board games with expansion packs. Sedition Wars is all of the above but man, it looks amazing and I was STILL tempted by it. It might not be up my alley, but if you like old minis games like Heroclix, Mage Knight and Star Wars Minis, this two player tactical title is probably something you be chomping at the bit for, especially after watching all the videos CoolMiniOrNot has up for the game.
No Security: Horror Scenarios the Great Depression. I love horror tabletop games. Call of Cthulhu, Vampire: The Masquerade, Ravenloft, Chill. You name it, I probably own it. No Security is set in the Great Depression. I love this era for gaming and even praised a recent Call of Cthulhu monograph entitled Children of the Storm that was also a collection of horror adventures taking place in the 30s. The adventures sound great and I love that No Security will be released for multiple systems. The only thing keeping me from pulling the trigger is they still haven’t announced WHAT systems. I’m pretty open in that respect but if it ends up being things like Don’t Look Back, Macabre Tales and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it wouldn’t be that useful to me…or many other gamers. However just from watching the video it sounds like CoC is a lock for one of the systems, so there’s a good chance I’ll be backing this at some point.
Castle and Crusades: Player’s Handbook: 5th Printing. I know, I’ve been weighing whether or not to back this for a while. I even mentioned it in last week’s column. I already own a copy of the first print in hardcover and the fourth printing for my Kindle Fire, but I really do enjoy this setting. It’s my favorite OSR franchise and for $40, you get two hardcover editions in full colour, one of which is signed and a free adventure to boot. That’s an insane deal and the only reason I’m not pulling the trigger on it is I don’t NEED a third Player’s Handbook. Any fantasy RPG fan should be strongly considering this. If you’re not familiar with the system, just do a search here on the page. I’ve reviewed about five adventures and the Classic Monsters Manual in the past year alone.
Ace of Spies. Now this is a pretty nifty idea. This card game revolves around espionage and does some very cute and clever things around the gimmick. I’m not really a big fan of card games, but I loved the promo commercial for the game and the gameplay video made the game pretty compelling. With four decks needed to play Ace of Spies, it does seem like things can get a bit cluttered and/or busy. The style of play reminds me a lot of the old Call of Cthulhu card game Mythos except that was a CCG and Ace of Spies is not. I was also a bit surprised that the game doesn’t have Washington D.C. has a location. After all, my city has more spies in it than the three in the game COMBINED. ;-) I’m not sure if I’ll back Ace of Spies, but the artwork looks great, it’s a pretty neat idea and at only $25 for a full game ($35 with the special Kickstarter promo cards), it’s surprisingly affordable.
Dragonshire E-Z Lock Building Construction Set. I’m not a wargamer and I’ve never really used minis in my tabletop exploits, but Fat Dragon Games puts out some really nice looking terrain pieces that are a snap to put together. This particular Kickstarter auction is for making a village. You can have your Warhammer figures rampage through it or use it as a town for your 4e D&D characters to save from a marauding horde. Whatever your imagination or published adventure calls for. As this auction nets you a PDF, you can print off as many copies as you need, so you don’t have to pay the insane prices we all know minis can go for. At the same time, it can get pricey trying to get proper materials to print the village off with. Watch the video to see how it is assembled and if it looks interesting, definitely considering back this as it’s only twelve bucks for the PDF. You also get a nice amount of bonus items thanks to the project meeting several stretch goals with the next one being an adventure for Castles & Crusades, nicely tying into another project I’ve plugged this week.
Alright, that’s our tabletop campaigns of the week. Let’s move on over to video games.
Paranormal. Over the past year I’ve watched indie games go from sane, respectable amount of money being asked for to astronomical amounts due to how much games like Double Fine Adventure. Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun Returns have made through crowdfunding. What a lot of these people trying to fund their projects seem to miss is that the companies making that kind of money are ones with a pretty strong pedigree in the industry as well as name recognition. So when I see Joe Blow asking for a hundred grand for something that looks like a 16-bit game, I roll my eyes. That’s why Paranormal is so refreshing. All Matt Cohen wants is a measly eight hundred dollars to fund his haunted house simulator. The core concept is an intriguing one, the video promoting the campaign is well done and it’s only twenty dollars for a copy of the “game.” It’s going to launch with 360 controller support and it’s nice to see a more atmospheric release rather than the typical game that you can “win.” I’m really hoping this gets funded as it’ll help a young developer finish his indie project and it’s nice to see someone accomplishing so much with just a little bit of funding.
Lumberjacked. Man, I don’t even know where to start with the sheer weirdness that is Lumberjacked. It’s a Full Motion Video Game with choose your own adventure styling. It features Dan “The Beast” Severn of UFC/WWF/NWA fame as a psychotic killer to boot! Interactive horror movie games aren’t unheard of, especially with full video. They range from the infamous Night Trap to the big budget The Back Dhalia to the little remembered Pumpkinhead game. I don’t know if Lumberjacked has a chance of success, and as I don’t have an iOS device, it’s not a game I’ll get to play, but the rewards are pretty amazing. $150 to spend a week being trained by one of the best MMA fighters of all time? I’m half tempted to back the game just for that reward! The game needs another $25,000 and it has to raise it in a week, so if you’re interested, now is the time to go look at the campaign watch a few videos and then back it.
Pathfinder Online Tech Demo. I’ve been watching this one since it launched but as I don’t really touch Pathfinder except to review it, I had no incentive to back this. However with a week and a half before the campaign ends, I felt it was worth bringing up to the DHGF audience that might not be aware of it yet as this campaign is an odd yet wonderful blending of tabletop and video gaming goodness. This particular campaign is to help fund a tech demo of the eventual Pathfinder Online. You’re not basically pre-ordering a game like with most video game Kickstarter campaigns. Instead, you’re funding a demo to help get investors and publishers interested in a full fledged MMORPG set in the Pathfinder universe. Now that sounds odd, right? You’re investing in something you’ll never play or use so that other investors with larger wallets can fund the actual game you’ll have to buy down the road. Now that whole concept sounds a bit nonsensical but not only has it worked, but Goblinworks has reached double the funding they’ve asked for. How so? Because they offered tabletop rewards in exchange for helping fund what might lead to an actual video game that uses Pathfinder mechanics. This is such an innovative and outside the box idea that it actually worked. It also highlights that the divide between tabletop gamers and video gamers is nowhere as big as some might have you believe. If the Tech Demo gets 2,000 backers, people at the fifteen dollar level not only get a 64 page PDF supplement for Pathfinder, but they’ll get an added dungeon as well. I’m glad that the tech demo will be successfully funded, but I’m even more intrigued to see how this experiment will play out post-campaign.
Redux: Dark Matters. I’m a huge fan of the original Dux for the Sega Dreamcast and this Kickstarter campaign for the sequel has me more excited than any video game Kickstarter besides Shadowrun Returns. Not only does this campaign mean we’re getting yet another new Dreamcast release in 2012, but the game will eventually be ported to Steam, PSN and Xbox Live! Of course the purist in me feels that the game needs to be played on the Dreamcast like it is meant to, but the realist in me also knows not a lot of people still have Dreamcasts compared to Playstation 3s and Xbox 360s. Even better is that if the game hits 40K in the next week or so, Redux will get a new ship and weapons added to it. It’s a hair over $39,000 now, so it’s very likely. As well, NG:Dev.Team have added a STEELBOOK version of Dux as a $100 reward. How crazy awesome is that? If you own a Dreamcast, this is a campaign to definitely consider backing. Not only is the project guaranteed to be successful, but you can have the thrill of playing a new game for Sega’s last system. If you don’t find that inherently awesome, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Kitaru. This Western made RPG is just a few hundred dollars from being funded at the time I am writing this article. It has less than a week to get it. I’m confident that it well and it looks like a fairly interesting game. Kitaru is being released for the PC, MAC, Android and IOS based systems. Yes, like most Kickstarter campaigns, consoles are left out in the cold (There have only been three successful Kickstarter campaigns for console titles – One is the above Redux that I mentioned above and the other two, one for the Nintendo DS and one for the Atari 2600 just ended a few days ago.), but that’s okay because for only fifteen bucks, you’re getting to play an active time turn based cyberpunk RPG. I was impressed by the video so far, especially since this game is being made by such a small team. It’s only going to be between eight and ten hours long, which is exceptionally short for an RPG, but the length of a game should never be as important as the quality. Cross your fingers that this lives up to the potential.
So that’s it for this week. Join me next week as we take a look at ten different gaming projects looking for your crowdfunding disposable income.
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Alexander Lucard was the Editor-in-Chief of Diehard GameFAN and Director of Operations for the InsidePulse network. He has since retired from writing, but clearly shows up now and again. He has worked in video game journalism since 2002 and was also a paid consultant for Konami and The Pokemon Company. Alex has previously written for Tips N Tricks, Gamespot, White Wolf, TSR, Wizards of the Coast, Eden Studios, 411mania, Not a True Ending and more. His writing could also be found in the monthly periodicals Massive Online Gamer and Pokemon Collector Magazine.