Making a game is difficult. It requires an idea, commitment, talent, skill, and so much more. It can take weeks, months even, to just finish a prototype of a 2D platforming game. How do people find time to make games? Well, either you’re doing it in your free time, or you’re being paid to do it. You do have to make sure you have the time. And if it’s not just you working on it, you have to make sure others have that time too.
Comic Shapeshifter was supposed to be our first released game project. It’s a project we’re still super passionate about and hope to return to one day, but for a studio consisting of people who work in our free time, we lack the time and funds. Let’s have a brief look at the project:
This is a platforming game where you step into Saja’s shoes and go through a story about revolution. Lots of adventures await her in the City of Yarne — 10 chapters to be precise. You go up against an evil megacorp while also being hunted, but hey, you can transform into Saja’s favourite comic protagonists!
Let me stop right here and let’s analyse what we need to do, based on this:
- Concept Art for all environments
- Assets (art, music, animation, sound effects)
- Coding (making the player move, building the systems for the game to work like a game)
- Writing (Ten chapters, Revolution story… remember?)
And the list goes on and on. This is too much work for one person to handle, so you team up with others to work on it. And here’s the next barrier: Even if you have the time, you need to make sure you can get the time of your team members. Without a budget, this can be difficult as everyone’s lives are usually busy enough already. At this point, it might make sense to go for a Kickstarter, right?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. But before jumping onto a crowdfunding platform, here are a few things you should definitely think about.
1. Can you deliver what you’re crowdfunding?
This should be the most important one before you even think about asking anyone to invest. Money is one thing, using it wisely is another. But it’s not just about money; did you know most projects are never finished? You need to know that you can finish a project. Wrap it up. You don’t know if you can do that if you haven’t finished a project of the same kind (in this case, a game) before.
Make a game. Even if it’s something small, just so you can prove to yourself that you can finish things.
2. Do you know how long it takes to finish your project?
If you’re early into your project, you probably don’t. Before you throw something on Kickstarter, it would be best if you completely mapped out your game — how many levels do you need to make? How big are the levels? How much artwork is needed? Make a sheet and write it all down. My own rule is to never put something on Kickstarter if I haven’t produced the first chapter yet.
3. Can you excite people with the current state of your project?
Presenting: Jumpstomper’s Adventures! He’s an electrician who jumps on monsters. He needs to save his prince who has been kidnapped, and is kept in a palace!
Yaaaawn. We know that already. Show us something new or exciting. In our case with Comic Shapeshifter, it would be the ability to shapeshift into protagonists of made-up superheroes. This introduces several twists and allows for fun experimenting while playing. Problem is… this feature isn’t done yet, and the game itself doesn’t look too pretty right now. You need to make sure people go “wow” when they see it. Ask your most brutally honest friends about what they think about your game. If it leaves them stone cold, you still have work to do. (Also, don’t deter them by getting too defensive. These kind of friends are rare and you will want to keep them!)
4. Do you have any credentials, or a name that draws people in?
There’s been a trend on crowdfunding platforms where already-established people start pitching their projects. These people have been working in the industry since years, and likely already have a fanbase and somewhat of a “stardom”.
Now, you can’t compete with that just yet. And chances are, you might not be able to. But you need to validify yourself nonetheless if you want to get attention, as you might look like an unreliable producer next to someone who’s done 30 games in a beloved franchise before. This brings us back to point 1: Maybe finish a game first, before you ask for money.
5. What if I get funded, and fail?
I would love to say “Don’t fret”, but I wouldn’t want to bear the weight of a failed crowdfunded project on my shoulders. You asked for money, you got it, and you weren’t able to deliver. This is now on your resume, and all over the internet, with your name plastered on it. Chances of succeeding with another crowdfunding campaign after a failed one are low. Avoid failing at all costs, by knowing how much money you need, and if you can deliver. Delivering late happens often, and people can accept that with a good reason. Not delivering at all is less acceptable with crowdfunding.
Using some of the tips here should help you get on the right track of diminishing the chances of failing. Have a game already delivered. Make sure you know how big your next game is going to be. Better even, have a chapter of it already produced and gauge how much the others need. And make sure you ask for more money than you think you need, because things will likely not always go according to plan and you’re safer if you have some reserve to fix things with an alternative.
I hope this gives some insight into why I chose to put Comic Shapeshifter on ice first, and instead start with a game that I can finish on my own. Once our new mystery game is finished and delivered, I know we can deliver projects. Before that, I will abstain from crowdfunding my projects.