Welcome back to another edition of Kickstart My Heart, Diehard’s Gamefan’s weekly look at crowdfunding in the gaming (both video game and tabletop) industry. In this week’s column, we’ll look at projects I’m currently backing, ten campaigns you, our readers, might want to back yourselves, and reasons why it’s okay to pull your pledges and when you should do so.
1. What I’ve Backed Since Last Week
Paper Sorcerer. Out of the ten projects I mentioned last week, this is the only one that I’ve backed so far. It’s a Wizardry clone that seems to be heavily inspired by The Return of Werdna, and it’s a mere three bucks to get the game. The art is very stylish, and I’m actually very excited for this. The game is going to be released on a number of devices, although this Kickstarter campaign is specifically for the PC version. Again, for only three bucks, you’re getting a high quality first person dungeon crawl. How could you not want to support this? Join the 120 of us participating (including a fellow ex DHGF staffer) in getting this wonderful little RPG off the ground.
Modest Medusa Season 2. This isn’t a game in way, shape or form. It’s a hardcover book collecting a set of strips from the Modest Medusa webcomic. I backed the first book last September and I enjoyed it enough to give the second one a shot too. What’s nice is that if you are new to the comic, you can get both books for $40, or just the first for $25. Jake has a lot of neat pledges available for bigger fans than myself, but I’m content with just the book, especially since the first ends on something of a cliffhanger. It is interesting to note that the first campaign was just looking for $2,100 and the second is looking for $12,000. That’s a big increase and more than the original 274 backers raised. Still, this should be a fun read and I’m hoping stretch goals are made as they net extra content.
2. Pulling Pledges
It’s very easy to get caught up in crowdfunding and back more projects than you were expecting to. This is especially true with video games, as there was a massive onslaught of high quality campaigns going on. Double Fine’s game, Wasteland 2, Leisure Suit Larry, Pinkerton Road, Tex Murphy, Shadowrun Returns and so on. Before you know it, you might have racked up several hundred dollars in pledges. Not everyone has a large amount of disposable income, so it’s important to only back projects you are going to actually use and enjoy. I’ve backed fifty one successful projects in the past thirteen months, which is a little less than one a week. Most of those have been between five and twenty-five dollars, so it’s been a small amount of money to help someone’s dream come true. Some projects, however, I’ve spent a lot of money on, like Shadowrun Returns, which I gave $125 to in exchange for a lot of stuff, and DeepWars, which I gave $175 to, but that was for four tabletop miniature armies. So it’s very important for your own fiscal well being to only back what you can afford. Sure some of the higher tiers of a pledge sound awesome, but if you can only afford the $15 level and still get the core product, you should probably do that.
However, if you don’t pledge to a product, you can’t take part in the discussion the community is having or read certain backer updates, so sometimes pledging is the only way to communicate, such as, “I would pay XYS amounts of money for a pledge that has ABC attached to it.” In these cases, it’s best to pledge something like a mere dollar or the bare level funding to join in the conversation, and then eventually pull out if you can’t scrape the money together or get a pledge level based on what you want. I don’t advocate pulling pledges, as your pledge might be the one needed to push the project in question over the top, but there are some good reasons for pulling a pledge. Here’s a list of five.
1. You smell a scam. If someone doesn’t seem right or feels odd about a project, don’t hesitate to back out. After all, once the project is funded, you have to pay up, but as this is venture capitalism, you’re not actually guaranteed an end product. So if that video game company fails to deliver on the game you and thousands of others spent so much money on, you’re out. You aren’t eligible for a refund by Amazon or Kickstarter, and the company just blew the money you supported them with. Remember, Kickstarter isn’t a pre-order machine, it’s investing in a small company or product. Sometimes investments go bad. This is why I only ever put a small amount of money in if it’s a company or person I can’t research on the Internet or if they have had financial issues in the past. When I give a lot of money, it’s generally because I have past experience with the project or, if it goes tits up, I can physically find the person who wasted everyone’s money.
2. You don’t like the direction things are going with the campaign. I’ve only pulled two pledges so far in my life. One was for White Wolf’s Children of the Revolution. I, and many other backers, pulled out after we saw the quality (or lack thereof) of White Wolf’s first Kickstarter project, the Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition Companion. It wasn’t very good and was a huge disappointment. White Wolf raised double the funds they needed and kind of slapped together a sub-par product that amounted to roughly a dollar a page. Fool me once, sure, but not twice. So out my pledge went. This is the danger that comes with supporting multiple projects by a company when you haven’t received the physical copy of the first campaign you backed by them yet. Generally, if you see a company whipping out multiple projects at once… be wary.
3. You can’t afford to. Sometimes a person gets caught up in the thrill of crowdfunding and overspends. Don’t let that happen to you.
4. You don’t actually want or need the product in question. This is in reference to the other pledge I pulled. Two friends of mine did a Kickstarter for a re-release of their first album. I backed it immediately, even though I had the first album, but I wanted to help the start the campaign’s ball rolling. After the Kickstarter was guaranteed to succeed (well over the threshold to secure funding), I pulled out because a) they didn’t need me and b) I didn’t need another copy of the album. Besides, I gave them the video camera to shoot their music videos with and that’s a little more helpful then my fifteen dollars.
5. The person behind the campaign turns out to be a wanker. This is in reference to the Leisure Suit Larry/Sam Suede Kickstarter battle of words. When Paul Trow had his public meltdown, quite a few people responded to it by saying they wished they could have pulled their pledges after seeing what kind of a jerk he was. Lucky for Paul, they couldn’t, as the campaign had closed and there are no refunds on Kickstarter. If he had done it during the campaign… I’m not sure if it would have succeeded as well as it did, if at all. Look again at White Wolf. So many people hated the V20 Companion that they were only able to reach funding the last day of the campaign, and even then it was with half the number of backers that their first one had.
Which brings me to my own personal dilemma. I’m currently backing Kings of War, a very cool tabletop miniatures war game by Mantic Games. The minis are amazing looking, and the $225 pledge mark nets you almost an equal value in free stuff. I love the Undead and Dwarven armies, and I really would love to stick with this. However, I have several problems. The first is that I originally was going to get these for my wife to paint and then to play the game. My wife likes to paint ceramics, so I thought this would be a fun shift, as she’s a big fantasy fan. Unfortunately, she doesn’t want to paint anything that small. I really don’t have a sense of touch in my fingertips, so my painting them is a bit out of the question.
Then there’s the fact that literally no one I know plays this game, and more importantly, the only two people I know that play war games are Chuck in St. Louis and another Alexander in NYC. So it’s not like these would get played with, especially since war gaming is a very expensive hobby. I remember I got burned by Warhammer my sophomore year of college. I bought a starter paint set that came with five lizardmen in an attempt to work on my patience and focus. I had fun painting and it WAS soothing, but no one on the entire campus played Warhammer. It was all V:TM LARPing, Call of Cthulhu or Dungeons & Dragons. So I wasn’t going to be foolish enough to spend several hundred dollars on figures that would just sit around and take up space.
Finally, I have spent several hundred dollars on minis games in the past, but those were prepainted games like HeroClix and Dungeons & Dragons Minis. This was because they were cheap, pre-painted, and there was a large established network for both in Minneapolis when I lived there (I’m in DC now). That was worth it because I had fun, found people to play with, and it was a nice break from video gaming. Then, when I got out of Heroclix in 2006-7, I made all my money back from both games, since I had insane luck getting rare and super-rare figures. Also, I won a lot of tournies, and the prizes there were expensive rarities. However, I still have a large box of D&D minis in my closet, organized by teams, that will never see the light of day again (Although I wish they would. It’s a fun game). I already decided to back DeepWars, which gave me four full armies and a ton of extras for the cost of one Mantic army (albeit Mantic does a TON of figures for your buck), so do I really need two new minis games?
So with all that in mind, as much as I would love to support Mantic and buy two 1,000 point armies, that would leave me with two hundred or so figures that would never get painted or played with. I could get two sets of season tickets to the Shakespeare Theatre Company here in DC for less than that (35 and under special). So I’m sure I’ll pull my pledge in the next few days. Right now I’m just keeping it there to help inflate the stretch goal marker.
3. Ten Projects You Should Consider Backing
As always, we’re going to look at ten current Kickstarter and/or Indiegogo campaigns and highlight ones I think that you, the Diehard GameFAN readers, might be interested in. We will never feature the same campaign a second time, so every week you’ll get ten new things to look at. We’ll start with five tabletop games and then move on to five video game projects.
Conspiracy X: The Conspiracies Sourcebook. I won’t lie: I’ve never played Conspiracy X. It’s not my sort of RPG. However, I’m a big fan of Eden Studios, and even wrote for All Flesh Must Be Eaten back in the day, so I would like to give something back to George and the gang by plugging their Kickstarter here. It’s not like they need it though. The project was funded in LESS THAN A DAY and still has nearly a month to go. This is Eden Studios’ third consecutive Kickstarter, and it appears like it will be their most successful yet. You can get the PDF of the Conspiracies Sourcebook for only $15, and you can even get the entire set of Conspiracy X books in physical form for $160. That’s a pretty good deal. The only thing missing is an all digital option. I try not to get physical copies of RPGs these days as I generally read them, not play them.
Sid Sackson Signature Series. Sheesh, that’s a mouthful, isn’t it? This is a wonderful tribute to the late, great game designer. He was the tabletop equivalent of Stephen King, as the man churned out high quality games faster than most people could think of them. He’s largely forgotten by the general public these days, so I was thrilled to see a Kickstarter attempt to revive three of his classic games: Sleuth, Monad and Venture. What’s really great about this campaign is that you can pick and choose amongst the three games being funded by this project. You can get one for $20, two for $39 and three for $55. If you do the $55 pledge level, you get a nifty collector’s slipcase to hold all three titles. Out of them all, I can personally recommend Sleuth. We had it at our lake cabin, and my cousins and extended family would play this regularly. This is a wonderful tribute to a gaming guru and I really hope this Kickstarter gets funded… and then some.
Tooth and Nail: Factions. Tooth and Nail has a week to meet its goal of $15,000 and it looks like it’s going to happen. Still, every dollar counts, and if you’re a fan of Customizable Card Games, this might be the game for you. This game has everything you need in one box, some you won’t need to buy boosters or expansions. There are six different factions to play as, all based off a different animal/humanoid hybrid (Think Dr. Moreau rather than furries) with the Red Claw Tribe (ARMADILLOS!) being my favorite. The game sounds like a lot of fun, and I love the fact that you can get an entire multiplayer CCG for a flat $35. If you’re looking for something that allows you customization and strategy without filling up multiple shoe boxes in your closet, consider giving Tooth and Nail a try.
Dungeon World. I mentioned last week that I was personally backing this game, but now it’s time to plug the game in this section, as I really do think it is something you should consider backing. Dungeon World has been out since GenCon 2011 in a beta form known as “The Red Box.” This Kickstarter is to fund the final product in pdf, softcover and hardcover form. You can get the game for only five dollars if you want just the PDF, and you’ll also get several awesome rewards to boot, including an adventure, supplement and more. Again, this is all for only five dollars. This is too crazy a deal to pass up. At higher levels, you get physical copies of the products, t-shirts and more. The art looks great, and this is definitely one OSR style game I would love to run a campaign for. Come on people, five bucks for a dump truck full of stuff. If you like tabletop gaming at all, this should be a no-brainer for you.
Appendix N Adventure Toolkits. This is another Kickstarter project I’m currently backing. Appendix N Adventure Toolkits are for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, but they can easily work with any OGL/3rd Edition/Pathfinder system. I really prefer creating my own adventures when I run a campaign, but I LOVE reading adventures. This was a great deal for me, because at the twenty dollar level for this campaign, you get both a PDF and a physical copy of each adventure funded by this campaign. With stretch goal funding, that means you currently get FIVE adventures for your $20. Math aficionados should realize that comes down to only four bucks an adventure, or two dollars per product that you are getting. The project has also hit stretch goal #4, which gives you a gaming box to hold all the adventures too, making this even more incredible of a deal. If you bump up your pledge to $30, you will not only get all five adventures (and the gaming box), but eight extra pdfs as well! That is an insanely awesome deal any tabletop gamer worth their salt should take advantage of. What is really awesome if that if the campaign hits $15,000, you will get yet another adventure, this time one that was worked on by the legendary Gary Gygax himself before his passing. Brave Halfing Games will rework this adventure into one that uses the Dungeon Crawl Classics system instead of Lejendary Adventures, which is was originally designed for. So basically, for $30, you can get five or six physical copies of the adventures, pdf versions of said adventures, a gaming box and then eight extra PDFs. Holy crap, this might be the best deal in Kickstarter tabletop history.
…and that’s our tabletop games for the week. Now let’s look at video games.
Zombie Playground. There are way, WAY too many zombie themed games on Kickstarter, and I tend to pass right by them because they are so derivative of each other. However, our own Mark B and Mr. Capra are both backing this one, so I decided to take a closer look, because there had to be something special about this one for that to happen. Indeed, Zombie Playground is a pretty awesome looking game, featuring single-digit aged children taking on a horde of the undead. This will be an online team based action game, with video footage reminding me somewhat of the Rainbow Six games. However, the visuals are extremely adorable and gory at the same time, making for a truly bizarre juxtaposition. My only concerns are that the stretch goals seem to be unobtainable at this point (they should be able to get the core game funded though), and that the tier levels are pretty expensive for what amounts to a tiny bit of exclusive content per level. It’s $15 for the game, but for every five dollars above that you put in, you get an extra item. That’s pretty pricey for DLC. That said, as soon as I saw Sunny the lantern dog, I had to really restrain myself from instantly going, “Here’s $60! GIMMEE PUPPY!” Watch the core video and those in the update. The game seems like it has a lot of potential. I’ll be passing, because it will be on Steam (DRM is DRM and Steam is especially annoying as hell when you aren’t connected to the internet (Hello laptop on vacation or on an airplane)), but this is definitely a game that deserves to find an audience.
Minis With Enemies. Speaking of games that I would back if they were not going to use Steam, Minis With Enemies is just an outright awesome concept. Do you like tabletop wargames like Warhammer, Heroclix, D&D Minis and so on? Do you not have anyone that you know IRL that wants to invest the time and money into something like that? Well that’s where a game like Minis With Enemies comes in. It’s a virtual minis game where you can collect, paint and trade minis and use them to battle with via a variety of systems connected to the internet, like PCs, tablets and smart phones. There will be PvP mode, but also an awesome solo player mode where you can use your collected figures in various scenarios. Basically, it’s a wargame that doesn’t take up a massive amount of space in your house and that you don’t have to lug everywhere if you want to play. It’s also great for people like myself who can’t paint to save their life. Words can’t express how much I love the idea of this game, and if it didn’t involve Steam, I’d be down for either the $75, $95 or $150 dollar level. Of course, I totally get why they want Steam as their delivery service. For all the things I dislike about Steam, it’s a great setup for online community play, and although I personally won’t be backing this because of the delivery system, I really do want to see this not only get funded, but thrive. It’s such an awesome idea that reminds me why I purchased that mediocre Mage Knight game for the DS back in 2004 or so…
Endless Migration 2. Now here’s a really outside the box game. We’re always hit with a barrage of first person shooters, RPGs with angsty spiky haired emo kids, and tactical third person games with terrible camera angles. How often do you see or hear about a game where your job is to collect and guide a flock of birds throughout space and time? The concept is just so out there that I fell in love with it. I also have played the demo of the game to death. It’s a surprising amount of fun akin to an old school vertical shoot ’em up, except you’re just dodging. Endless Migration 2 is very close to reaching its funding, and it’s only $5 for an iOS version of the game and $25 for a special edition version of the game (PC and iOS). My advice is to play the demo, and to then fork over the cash if you really enjoyed it. These are the type of games I love to see on Kickstarter instead of the, “I made a game with RPG MAKER. Give me money.” trope that seems to be growing on the site. I can’t wait to see the final product of this game.
The Crystal Catacombs. I really like the retro look of this RPG/platformer hybrid. It reminds me a lot of games I played on my PC in the 80s. Maxwell Jensen blew me away with the screenshots and level ideas for this game. The story is nothing fancy. You’re out to explore the crystal catacombs and collect loot while going further than anyone has before. I really like the touch of being able to backtrack all the way to your home base and store stuff. I realize the game’s graphics won’t do much for younger or casual gamers, but I personally love the throwback style the game is going for. Plus… I’m a sucker for roguelikes, especially for my PC, since this genre of RPG seems relegated to handheld systems these days. There’s a ton of potential here, and there’s even more to come, since helping the game meet its stretch goals will let Maxwell be able to add things like a level designer, co-op play and more. The game has already made its funding goal, so every little dollar this gets now goes towards making Crystal Catacombs bigger and better. You can snag the game for only $10, which is a great price point for something like this. I’m really glad to see CC make it, as it wasn’t successful the first time the game had a Kickstarter campaign. It looks like the second time is the charm though, and so we should be seeing this game in early 2013.
Xeko. Out of all the video game projects we’re looking at this week, Xeko is the one I want to push on you the most. Xeko originally started as a CCG about endangered species. I actually have a starter deck or two somewhere, and I found it to be cute, but as I’m not really a CCG person, nor do I know anyone who is, that was about the extent of my fiscal contribution to the game. I loved the idea of the game though, between how it actually played, how it helped educate kids about endangered species and the importance of protecting the environment, and that the game’s proceeds went toward actually helping these animals rather than exploiting them for money. Unfortunately, like many collectible games that aren’t Magic: The Gathering or Pokémon, Xeko died out after a few years. Now, however, it’s trying to make a comeback as an online CCG for social networks and mobile platforms. I love this idea in the same way I loved the old version of Magic: The Gathering I had for the PC. I didn’t have to purchase boxes of cards that took up space (I’m the opposite of a packrat), and I didn’t have to lament the fact that my IRL friends weren’t into the game. If this Kickstarter succeeds, you can play (and thus get edutainment) Xeko online. It’s a third of the way there with a month to go, so it’s looking pretty good for the funding of this game. What excited me most about the online version of the game, though, is that Nolan Bushnell is a major player in the remake of Xeko. Honestly, that alone should make you want to back the game, as his involvement alone should have you saying, “Hey, I should back this thing.” Don’t know who Nolan Bushnell is? Then turn in your gamer card now and hang your head in shame. This is the man that founded Atari! He invented Chuck E. Cheese’s! The video game industry as we know it wouldn’t even exist in anything to close to what we know it as without this man. So, couple a really cool CCG for kids with a positive message about protecting the environment and endangered species and its being backed and helped into digital form by Nolan Bushnell??? How could you not want to back this? You can get the game for as little as $16, and you’ll be helping to fund a game that is as educational as it is entertaining.
…and there we go. Another week, another column. Join us here next week same bat-time, same bat-website as we take another look at the world of crowdfunding. Have a good one!
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.