Welcome back to the fourth installment of Diehard GameFAN’s look at the world of crowdfunding. Last week we looked at the internet drama surrounding Sam Suede, while this week we’re looking at two very different results that occurred when two of the most successful companies on Kickstarter went back for a second dip in the crowdfunding pool. As always, we’ll also look at projects I’ve personally backed since last week and give you a list of ten crowdfunding projects that should be on your radar. Let’s get to it.
I. What I’ve Backed Since Last Week.
Tex Murphy: Project Fedora. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I finally put money down on Tex when it became apparent they were going to need it. At one point they needed about 8K a day to make the funding level. My problem was never whether I was going to back it or not, but at what level. I already own all of Big Finish Games’ hidden object/casual adventure games (Three Cards To Midnight is a personal favorite) and I own all the original Tex Murphy games, so there wasn’t a lot pledge level-wise that interested me, so I eventually did the mere $15 level tier. It gets me the game, and it helped push the game over (along with my repeated plugging of the thing in this column). Project Fedora‘s numbers swelled insanely in the last week, and now the game is over-funded, with several stretch goals in place for more content and translating the game into multiple languages. It’s going to be interesting to see just what Big Finish Games does with the money, especially as expectations not only amongst Tex Murphy fans are insanely high, but even more so for hardcore FMV gamers. Games like Hysteria Project, the Casebook series, Relics: Dark Hours, and Raincliffe were also recent FMV adventure game releases, but their budgets were a fraction of what Project Fedora has raised. I can’t wait to see just how the money is used and whether or not this is going to set a new standard for FMV games.
Lily Looking Through. I mentioned this game as one to consider backing last week, and at only ten dollars for a full point and click adventure game, I decided to put my money where my mouth is. Lily Looking Through looks adorable, the demo was charming and I fully expect to get my money’s worth out of this title. This game met its funding late Sunday evening, and it has two and a half weeks to raise even more cash. At least two people from the Myst series are working on the game, and I think this is going to be a real hit. Over 800 people have backed it so far, and if you’re a fan of adventure games, just download the free demo and you’ll be hooked.
Appendix N Adventure Toolkits. I’ve reviewed a bit of the Dungeon Crawl Classics line of tabletop RPGs here and there. It’s a neat OSR system, and I was happy to see Brave Halfling Publishing do a Kickstarter for this system. I don’t appear to be alone, as 200+ people have backed it so far. The funding was originally for a single adventure, but as the stretch goals keep hitting, more are being made. Currently, for the mere $20 pledge, you are getting FIVE adventures. That’s four dollars an adventure. It gets even better when you realize you’re also getting four of them in PDF format too. The other sweet spot is at the $500 level, where Brave Halfling will publishing your own adventure for the DCC system and give you fifty print copies to boot. Now normally, you get paid a small pittance for writing an RPG adventure, but this is guaranteed to get your name on something published, and the money you put in basically goes to the massive amount of freebies you’ll be getting in addition to the printing of your own adventure. Definitely check this one out. That’s a lot of gaming goodness for a very small amount of cash.
Dungeon World. I had never heard of Dungeon World before this Kickstarter, although it appears to have been around for about a year. However, offering a full RPG (in PDF form) along with some bonus extras and the cute World of Dungeons extra for only five dollars? How could I say no? I really love what Sage Kobold has been doing with the updates and stretch goals. I’m not really into physical copies of RPG books these days (No point in having a heavy tome if I’m just reading them rather than playing them. Plus Kindle > paper.), but the physical copy tiers are pretty enticing. This is another great chance to get in on the ground floor of a young RPG system and help flesh it out. Also, I’m glad the Druid beat the Barbarian for the newest class. Go druids!
II. Going Back to the Well
Once a company or person has had a successful Kickstarter campaign, it becomes very tempting to do another, and then another. Then another. So on and so forth. However, the previous campaign can have a very positive or negative effect on your current Kickstarter. Let’s look at some examples.
Perhaps the most obvious right now is White Wolf’s Kickstarters for Vampire: The Masquerade. The 20th Anniversary Edition core rulebook wasn’t a Kickstarter project, but the V20 Companion WAS. This was a huge success, generating nearly 100,000 dollars for White Wolf and bringing in 1,134 backers, including myself. Then, less than two months later, White Wolf started a campaign for Children of the Revolution, another V:TM book. In less than a day, White Wolf raised half the funds for the book. However, that same day, the PDF version of the V20 Companion came out, and the results were, well… not to backers liking. The quality, proofing and amount of content for what people paid raised a lot of ire amongst the backers, and the overall word of mouth on the V20 Companion was highly critical of the project. I myself ended up reviewing it and gave the thing a pretty harsh review, simply because it was so poorly edited and the contents were pretty much fluff, reused art and a lot of padding.
If you look at the Kicktraq for CotR, you see the funding almost instantly dries up. If you were watching the Children of the Revolution Kickstarter, you saw a lot of grumpiness from previous backers, and then people lowering pledges or pulling out completely from backing the project. What should have been the bigger, more successful project barely got funded, and the thing skated across the finish line by the skin of its teeth. Children of the Revolution got its funding, but only due to White Wolf lowering stretch goals and begging people to pledge, to the point where it got a bit sad. Many backers raised their specific pledges so they were paying more than the $60 that the book was supposed to be at. Even with all White Wolf’s attempts to contain the PR damage of the V20 Companion, the damage was done. The average backer had to pledge ninety-four dollars a head to make this project happen, compared to eighty-five dollars a head for the V20 Companion. Most telling isn’t just the fact that Children of the Revolution barely made funding, but that it raised only 57.5% of the funding the V20 Companion had, along with only netting half the backers. When you realize that White Wolf had to bring in a lot of new people that hadn’t been part of the V20 Companion Kickstarter to make funding work, you see that the majority of the people from their first Kickstarter didn’t want to be a part of the second. If Children of the Revolution turns out to be as much of a dud as the V20 Companion, then White Wolf probably won’t be able to make a third (or any other) Kickstarters work.
At the same time, look at something like Sedition Wars. This is the second project for CoolMiniOrNot and, unlike White Wolf’s missteps, is a perfect example of how to do a second, high quality Kickstarter campaign. Their first project, Zombicide was a huge success, raising over 700K and netting over 5,000 backers. They did a ton of stretch goals, had a lot of updates and personal contact with their backers, and it still stands as the most successful board game in the history of Kickstarter. Now, I’m not a zombie fan at all, so I didn’t back that, but I’ve been watching CoolMini’s second Kickstarter campaign, Sedition Wars very carefully. Here, CoolMiniOrNot is following the same strategy that worked for them in the past. They have an expensive high end product (80-100 dollars for the core game), but the product is not only filled with a lot of quality materials (amazing looking minis), but there are many, MANY easily obtainable stretch goals. So, the more money raised, the more stuff backers are getting. At this point, the amount of miniatures in the game has DOUBLED and it’s still going. CoolMini is interacting with their backers regularly, and even better, the backers themselves have become sort of a community. Now of course, Zombicide has yet to reach the hands of the people who bought it. If backers had as strong a negative reaction to that as White Wolf backers had to the V20 Companion, would Sedition Wars be as successful? Probably not. So there are really three lessons to be learned from all this.
1. Spread your campaigns out enough to keep your backers from burning out and not having enough disposable income to help you out.
2. Make sure your backers are happy with the first project’s end result before starting another OR;
3. Make sure your backers don’t HAVE the end product before you start your second.
All that said, I think CoolMiniOrNot will continue to have extremely successful Kickstarter campaigns (I’d love to see a fantasy horror game by them. Something Ravenloft-esque.) while White Wolf will have learned some very valuable lessons from their two Kickstarters, such as what not to do in round three, and who their biggest Kool-Aid drinkers are. Here’s hoping when the eventual Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition goes on Kickstarter, we’ll see it fare a lot better than Children of the Revolution did.
III. Ten Projects You Might Want To Back
As always, we end the column with a look at ten crowd funding projects that I think will be of interest to you, the readers of this column. We’ll start with five tabletop games, and then move on to five video games. Remember, I myself might not end up backing these, but it’s still something I think you’ll enjoy reading about.
The Duke. I’m a big fan of Catalyst Games Labs. They give me a steady flow of Shadowrun products after all. Instead of a Kickstarter for a tabletop supplement (which, they honestly don’t need to do given their fanbase), they’ve decided to hold one for a board game. The Duke is a board game for two players, and like chess, it involves various pieces that have different movement patterns, with a goal of capturing a single specific piece. In Chess, it’s the King. In The Duke, well… it’s the Duke. What’s neat is that pieces change their movements after you use them. Each tile is two sided, and you will constantly be flipping back and forth. Each side has a very different movement pattern, and some even have special abilities. You definitely have to watch the video to get how exactly the game is played, but if you’re a fan of two player board games, dropping thirty dollars on The Duke might be up your alley.
Ace Detective. Ace Detective is a bit pricey for a card game, coming in at 40 dollars for the game or 55 dollars for the game and its first expansion, but it’s more than halfway to its goal, so people are obviously not shy about the sticker price. Of course, a good deal of the appeal is coming from the amazing artwork that the game has acquired the rights to. The core game uses artwork from the old Black Mask magazine and the classic Weird Tales magazine. This is a wonderful idea and the cards look great. The game looks pretty fun to play, and I love that one of the stretch goals involves Lovecraft. Noir + the Cthulhu Mythos? Yes please!
Rappan Athuk. I know most of you are wondering what a Rappan Athuk is, or even how to pronounce it. What you do need to know is that Rappan Athuk is currently the record holder for the most funding brought in by a tabletop product – and is still has roughly three weeks to go. Over 600 people have contributed to this Kickstarter, helping it to raise over 100,000 dollars! Of course, it helps that the main product goal (a faux leather bound hardcover copy of the adventure) clocks in at a whopping 100 dollars, a signed copy costs 175 dollars and for 250 dollars, you get the hardcover and a bonus adventure. These are some pretty astronomical prices compared to a lot of other tabletop Kickstarter campaigns, but the key selling point here is the quality of the materials, coupled by the critical and fan acclaim Rappan Athuk has received since it debuted as a Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition OGL product well over a decade ago. This particular Kickstarter is for a Pathfinder and/or a Swords and Wizardry version of the adventure. Looking at the campaign, it’s not hard to see why people are willingly throwing c-notes at Frog God Games. The adventure is huge (over 50 levels!), the artwork is amazing, the quality of materials and size justify the asking price (although 40 dollars for just a PDF is way too high for any product) of the physical copy and the Reaper Minis at higher levels are gorgeous. This is definitely a tabletop product for a high end consumer, but one well worth considering purchasing if you’re a fan of either system Rappan Athuk is being released for.
The Bleeding Hollow. On the other side of Pathfinder things is a brand new adventure by TPK Games that just wants to raise 1,000 dollars. The Bleeding Hollow is another long adventure (100 pages+ in length), but they’re not looking for a ton of money and you can get the PDF for as little as 15 dollars. The adventure is sure to get funded at this point, even with only eighteen backers currently. The stretch goals are pretty awesome and easily obtainable. If you’re a Pathfinder fan, you should definitely consider backing this one. It’s an easily funded project helping out a small company, and putting out another big spooky Pathfinder adventure for the general public.
Kill the Overlord. With less than two weeks to go, Ape Games might have trouble getting funding for its latest Kickstarter project (although their first, Rolling Frieght was successful). You might know Ape Games as the makers of the Order of the Stick board game, or from our own Matt Faul’s interview with them at Origins this year. Kill the Overlord is a nice little card game with a very reasonable price point (20 dollars). It’s designed for a large group of players (four to eight) and the artwork shown so far is very striking and yet almost chibi in design. This is very much a strategy game rather than a fast paced card game, and it looks like it could be a lot of fun. Kill the Overlord is only a little over a third of the way there, so if you’re interested in the game after reading this and going to the game’s Kickstarter page, donb’t just give them money – give them word of mouth as well.
Allright. Tabletop is done, now it’s time for video games.
Paper Sorcerer. This is a relatively brand new campaign. It has less than two dozen backers and isn’t even at the ten percent mark. BUT IT SHOULD BE. Why? It’s an old school first person Wizardry style game. The kind of thing that gamers like Mark, J. Rose and myself go nuts for. UltraRunawayGames is only trying to raise five grand and that should be easily obtainable, especially since Class of Heroes II managed to raise close to 100K (but still failed). Where are all those people that were clamoring for that game now? Oh that’s right, this isn’t a JRPG, even though CoHII isn’t a JRPG at all but a clone of a very old Western game. Sigh. The bottom line is that something like Paper Sorcerer deserves to get funded. You can get the game for as little as THREE DOLLARS and the art style is very striking. The story and gameplay concept is almost the exact same as Wizardry IV: The Return of Werdna, but I have a feeling it will be nowhere as ball-breakingly difficult (It’s considered to be the hardest game ever made after all…). You do have three bucks to spare, right? Then consider backing this game already.
Quest for Infamy. Much like Lily Looking Through, Quest for Infamy has a downloadable demo here. I have yet to play it, but rest assured, if it’s even as half as good as the Kickstarter campaign makes it sound, I’ll be backing this one for sure. The graphic style reminds me of a cross between Shadow of the Comet and The Bard’s Tale, which is a pretty big compliment. It’s a retro-looking point and click adventure game/RPG hybrid, which intrigues me, as they are two of my favorite genres. The game looks gorgeous, the video was amusing and it’s only ten dollars for what is sure to be a high quality game for your PC. Just play the demo and see for yourself if it is worth the money. I know I’ll being doing just that.
HeXit. As you probably know by now, I’m a big fan of point and click adventure games. As HeXit is just that, it caught my interest. However, you probably also know I’m not all that into Sci-Fi games. That’s also something that HeXit is. I won’t lie. I tend to like my adventure games to either be mysteries like Still Life, horror games like Dracula: The Resurrection, or out and out comedy farces like the Sam & Max series. So why am I giving this the nod where I was (and still am) completely uninterested in SpaceVenture? Well first, SpaceVenture is meant to be funny, but the videos for the project didn’t make me laugh at all, which is never a good sign. I also wasn’t a fan of the art direction or character design at all. All in all, SpaceVenture did nothing to interest me in the game (except for the involvement of Rob Paulsen. NARF!). That doesn’t make it a bad game (I’m sure it will make its near 10,000 backers quite happy), just one that could have used better marketing (or a better video) from the people behind the game. It’s also why the project has had to scrape and beg for every dollar it has earned, making it a photo finish down to the last few hours regarding whether it would make funding or not. If it wasn’t for the nigh zealotry of the fans, the game would have stayed stalled in the upper 200,000’s. As it is, the thing made funding with twenty hours to spare. That’s cutting it close.
Meanwhile, something like HeXit has a more interesting art style to me, and it fits in more with the aspect of helping indie game developers reach their dream of being able to release a product. I think there is a LOT of potential with HeXit. It looks gorgeous, has a great story hook and it’s nice to see another 3D point and click adventure game trying to make it on the market. HeXit has about a month to raise the remaining ninety percent of its funding goal. Can it do it? I think so, and it’s definitely a project I’m very interested in seeing succeed, if only because it’s so different from all the other adventure game projects on Kickstarter these days.
Reincarnation: The Root of All Evil. Hey look! Another adventure game. What can I say? It’s the most popular genre over there at Kickstarter. Reincarnation: The Root of All Evil is the latest in the Reincarnation series. They’re well made games, beautifully animated, and all are available for FREE over at Newgrounds. The series is trying to go from flash game to LucasArts style point and click with The Root of All Evil though, which is not only a commendable goal, but one that they only want 15,000 dollars for. A quality game with a low level campaign goal? That’s what Kickstarter is all about. The Reincarnation games are quite funny (although a bit short, as they are Newgrounds games), but they really showcase how top notch a Flash based game can be. I also love that, for only twenty-five bucks, you can get the game, a book about the game and TWO stuffed animals based on the main character in the game. In fact, those stuffed animals were from a previously successful Kickstarter campaign. This is a great chance to help fund a new chapter in a popular P&C adventure game series, get a lot of stuff for your donation, and help the series bring their game to the next level. About the only thing missing from the pledges is the opportunity to have all the Reincarnation games in a single downloadable collection (or CD-ROM). After all, you never know when you’ll be away from the Internet or when a website goes down…
Cult: Awakening of the Old Ones. I’ll admit that when I first heard the name of the project, I was expecting a Call of Cthulhu video game. I was a bit disappointed when I learned it wasn’t, but that quickly dissipated when I realized exactly what Cult actually IS. The graphics look a little out of the 1980s, but retro visuals never bother me (in fact, sometimes they enhance a game), and the core hook of the game has me exceptionally interested. Cult is basically a tailor-made RPG with a user-generated world. It’s also interested to note that Cult is almost completely text in its current form, harkening back to the days of Zork and a lot of adventure games I played when I was in single digits. The great thing is that Cult has already made its funding goal and the next three weeks will simply be about stretch goals, like porting the game to Linux and Mac systems This game definitely won’t be for everyone as it’s very old school in style and theme, but I love the idea so much and I definitely think a lot of you, my readers, will feel the same.
…and that’s it for this week. I’ll see you again next Tuesday as we take a look at the latest and greatest in the world of gaming crowdfunding.
Alexander Lucard is the Editor-in-Chief of Diehard GameFAN and Director of Operations for the InsidePulse network. He has worked in video game journalism since 2002 and is 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 can also be found in the monthly periodicals Massive Online Gamer and Pokemon Collector Magazine.