The convincing to do a Kickstarter
Last September I went full time indie to work on a game that I had been itching to make for quite some time. Some developer friends of mine saw it and immediately started to say that I should do a Kickstarter campaign using it. At the time I dismissed them, surely this game wasn’t that good – who would want to give me money based on a promise? Later on I attended some industry events and met up with somebody who used to be my producer on a PS2 game I worked on back in 2001 and he had just completed a very successful Kickstarter campaign and he spent most of the time telling me that I should do it as well and that it was an amazing experience.
Taking the Plunge
So, I took the plunge, I made a Kickstarter. It’s an incredibly nerve wracking experience putting one together. The campaign is very good, very easy to get all the details of your project in, no problems there. The video however is a different experience altogether. It took 4 videos before I got something was even remotely happy to let other people to see and each video took something like 60 takes to get right. I’ve spoken in public before and while it still makes me nervous I can gauge reaction from the audience and adjust my speaking to adapt my delivery and what I am saying, but in front of a camera? It’s not the same and I still think I come across as an idiot.
After you get all your details in, you’ve created the rewards, the story and the video and then you click submit. Quite rightly Kickstarter have to curate your campaign to make sure that it falls in-line with their regulations and that takes time. I can just imagine they are getting quite a few projects knocking on their door to be let on so this part of the process takes time. It took just about four days before I got an email saying that my project had been approved. About two days in you start to get the impression that maybe your campaign is going to get rejected.
DO IT - DO IT NOW!
The email finally arrives, your campaign has been approved and right at the top of the page is a big green button that says ‘launch’ it takes every ounce of will power you can muster not to just hit it there and then. Part of me was screaming ‘GO ON, IT, DO IT NOW!’ but my head was overriding it, willing me to check everything over, talk to people about it – send them the preview and get their view before going live. Sure enough the reactions of those people led to some changes that I implemented. It was about 1:30am that the voice screaming to click that launch button finally got it’s way and I pressed it.
Having pressed that button my emotions swung immediately from YAY!!!! To OMG – what if nobody backs this? I didn’t need to worry though my iPhone immediately starts buzzing from all the tweets coming in from people announcing they have backed my project. There were so many that my wife threatened to throw the iPhone out of the window and I think we got maybe two hours sleep that night - even though the iPhone is on silent mode that buzzing it does is loud at 3am.
What nobody warns you about when doing a Kickstarter
What happens next is something nobody who has done a Kickstarter warns you about, so I’m going to break that tradition and tell you now: I’ve never done drugs but I can imagine having a Kickstarter campaign is like Heroin. Every time somebody pledges to your campaign you get an email. This might sound like something mundane but trust me it isn’t; those emails are like a drug. Every 3 seconds I find myself clicking refresh in my email client. In fact this blog post is taking an age to write because I keep tabbing to the email client and clicking refresh. And then there’s the Kickstarter page itself – maybe the page updates before the emails are sent so I’d better refresh that as well. Then there’s Klicktraq, which tells you how you’re doing, what the predicted final amount is, better keep refreshing that as well!
Along with the complete addiction to clicking re-fresh comes the flip-flopping between jubilation that people are being amazing and backing your campaign and abject terror that it’s not going to succeed. You wake up in the morning and take a look at where you currently are – did anyone pledge something while you were sleeping? That is if you get any sleep! I am currently waking up at various stages of the night and refreshing everything, so I know what that total amount raised is going to be but I refresh anyway. The project has been live less than a week so far, by the time it reaches it’s conclusion I will probably no longer know how to do anything beyond click refresh. I will have had no sleep and they will probably be knocking on the door to cart me away to the funny farm where no doubt I’ll be able to play with dolphins and pretend I’m clicking refresh.
You're giving the source code as a reward - are you mad?
One of the things that surprises people when they see the campaign is that I am giving away the source code to the game as a reward. This might seem like a mad thing to do but when I sat down to work out what rewards I wanted to give they all had to be something of value. I’m not trying to belittle the obvious rewards such as t-shirts and posters – people love them but to me that’s something trivial to give somebody who is putting a lot of trust in you, giving you money on something that isn’t finished yet. So I decided right from the beginning that I would give as a reward the one thing that meant the most to me, the one thing that I had that was the most valuable and meaningful thing I could give – the source code. Of course since this is a campaign in order to raise funds that reward wasn’t going to be one of the smaller ones so it’s set as a price that matches it’s value but at the same time I hope is not beyond the reach of people. In fact I wanted to be as inclusive as possible so there’s a lower priced reward that makes it available to students and so far one of those rewards has been taken. This is not a cynical ploy, I like sharing my work and that doesn’t just mean the final end product but the journey to that product and that means the code itself.
So how’s it doing?
As I’ve mentioned the project has been live for less than a week and has managed to raise 20% so far. The odd thing is that it doesn’t have a lot of people pledging to it but those that do are pledging quite high which means with just 50 people pledging it has raised £2051 (or $3281) so far – ironically I just had to hit re-fresh to check that. Will it make its target? I don’t know but what I do know is that it’s a hell of a ride, come join me on it!
Byron Atkinson-Jones is an Indie developer that used to work for the big companies like EA, Sega Sports Interactive, Lionhead studios as well as Indie legends like Introversion and PomPom. You can follow hime on twitter: @xiotex