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Confluence Kickstarter Postmortem

I did a Kickstarter, and it didn't succeed, but it was a one of the best experiences I've had.

Ethan Calabria

December 18, 2017

4 Min Read


Over the last year, I worked on a game as the lead artist, programmer, marketer and pretty much everything else.  This is likely familiar to other indie developers.  After getting everything together, I launched a Kickstarter campaign, which you can see here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/182895165/confluence-thought-is-your-best-weapon

In Summary:

I only raised about 2% of my goal, and while it was painful to fail, the whole process was very positive overall, and I would encourage others to try.  There are three reasons why it was worthwhile even after 'failing':  I was able to push myself to produce my best work, transform theoretical knowledge into practical information, and I was able to connect directly with potential customers and get feedback.

More Detail:

The Work Itself

There is a huge amount of work to do on even a small game.  Working by myself, I had the benefit of a unified vision!  I joke, but this is a actually significant.  But handling all the roles does require energy and focus.  Both as an artist and a programmer I was able to push myself beyond what I thought I could do.  Having worked as a contract artist, I appreciate my clients, but in order to respect their budget, I've never been able to truly do my best work.  Over the last year not only was I able to do my best work, but my 'best work' improved significantly. 

On other areas, like marketing, my efforts fell short.  By the time the project was over I had just begun to really understand what marketing was all about.  This is still good.  I will need to learn those lessons eventually to succeed.  Working on this project forced me to do things I normally avoided: meeting people, networking, marketing, business negotiation.  My first tries in these areas failed often, but the first program I wrote had a ton of bugs, and the first drawing I did wasn't pretty.

Transforming Knowledge

One of the other things that was very valuable about this experience was transforming some of my 'theoretical knowledge'.  I will give examples.  Before this project, I didn't understand the purpose of a press release.  'Who would read this?  It's just an ad pretending to be a news article.'  I still believe this, but when I contacted press outlets, I was asked if I had one.  Many outlets are overworked and understaffed, they don't have time to do original journalism, and so a press release is an easy win for them.  And another bit of practical knowledge: The article won't be published right away, it may take a month (the length of a Kickstarter campaign coincidentally), so contact them well in advance.  Some may not come through at all, despite initial interest, so contact many.

Another example: I knew that of the people who saw my project some percentage would follow it, and of those, a lesser percentage would support it with money.  When I did my project I could see actual figures.  A little over 12% of the people that viewed my video pledged money.  With the figures I have now, I can start making plans on how much exposure I would need to try another campaign, or launch the game. (This figure will not apply perfectly to other situations but it's still useful to know, and see which sources of traffic respond well and which don't.)

For you it may be different assumptions that are challenged, or other things that you learn.


Before launching the Kickstarter I attended 2dcon, a convention for anime and games.  Both there and on Kickstarter I got a lot of feedback that simply hadn't occurred to me.  The game is much better now than it was, but it still has a long way to go.  I think for me this is particularly important because the structure of the game is unusual. 

For me personally these are the things I've identified about the game that need to be better: The gameplay itself is not clearly explained, and the amount of information conveyed by the UI is overwhelming.  The character art should be stronger for a game that's story driven and focused on human interactions.  Certain expectations are ingrained in people, so where my game breaks those need to be clearly explained.  Content updates should be regular if possible, sporadic updates make it hard for people to follow.  These are all challenging but achievable goals.

In Conclusion...

On top of all this I just met a lot of wonderful people: artists, gamers, developers and many others.  I don't feel that my effort was wasted, despite not raising the money.  Everything that has happened so far has actually brought me closer to where I need to be in order to succeed.  It is still painful to fail, but that's how we learn. 



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