Results tagged “kickstarter”

Why it takes longer than you think

In case you're wondering, nobody hassled me about how long the rewards took. Apparently you folks really were in it for the game -- or to support me, which is even nicer.

However, I bet there are people out there who are working on Kickstarters. And they should be warned: it always takes longer than you think. To substantiate this, here's a timeline of Hadean Lands work that came after the game shipped.

Note that I did lot of reward design in December, but didn't order the stuff until early January. That's because I knew I would be out of town for the last week of December. I didn't want expensive parcels arriving when I was gone.

Kicking it forwards

Since my Kickstarter project is done -- not done done, I still have postcards and so on, but done enough for soup -- I should write the "support this other Kickstarter!" post.

I've already talked about Elegy for Dead World, which came to a triumphant conclusion a couple weeks back, and Extrasolar, which sadly did not. But there are lots of crowdfunders still open this season. Kickstarters, Patreons, Indiegogos... Indiegogoes? Indiegogols? Anyway, here are a bunch which at least brush up against the interactive fiction world.

This month in planetary exploration

Last year a game called Extrasolar showed up. It's a casual browser game about exploring an alien planet.

I haven't written a full review, but let me assure you that Extrasolar is delightful. You drive a rover around the fictional world, photographing wacky alien life-forms. At the same time, you're drawn through a storyline -- investigating the corporation that discovered this alien world and the technology which made it possible. The story is maybe a little thin, but it's nicely produced and offered in a juicy ARG-like framework. The point of the game, anyhow, is the planet. It's gorgeous, it's detailed, it's got layers of thoughtful biological world-building, and you get to wander around it with a camera. What could be cooler?

Extrasolar belongs to that pleasant species of game with which you can be obsessed without ruining your work day. You set a photography spot for your rover; four hours later you get the results back. Checking your rover is a coffee-break activity, not a way to lose a whole afternoon. If you buy a paid account (a one-time fee), the turnaround drops to one hour, but you can then program up to four photographs at a time.

The game launched with one explorable island and one "season" of story content. It took me about six weeks to play through (on the free, four-hour-turnaround schedule) (I paid up afterwards).

The company now wants to expand this to a second island and a second season. They've set up a Kickstarter project for this purpose. The project deadline is Wednesday, and if you take a look, you'll notice that it's basically tanking. Less than 25% funded. That is not what a KS project wants to see in its final week.

This is sad. Extrasolar is an ambitious idea; it's a game that isn't like a thousand other games you've played. It shouldn't be languishing in the Kickstarter races. For that matter, it shouldn't need Kickstarter; it should have a steady stream of players who are satisfied and happy to pay for season one. I don't have anything clever to say about that, nor any brilliant plan for making it successful. The game industry is rough and outside-the-box games have it rougher. (What this means for my own game-design future -- well, it's not encouraging.)

I will say that you should try it. Even with a free account, you can start to see bits of the story by Wednesday evening, and decide whether to donate to the Kickstarter. Then you should donate to the Kickstarter anyway. I'm not optimistic about it, but I could be wrong.

Extrasolar: Season 2 (Kickstarter)

Yes, that's me blurbing the game on the KS page. Also, I recommend reading through the updates on the KS blog. They've offered up a lot of the reasoning behind their play model, their technology, their science-fictional worldbuilding. This is a level of detail that game companies usually don't get into in public, and it's worth a read even if you don't plan to donate.

Here's a more energetic project: Elegy for a Dead World, a game about exploring an alien planet. But in a completely different vein!

I know less about this one. I've walked past a demo at PAX, and I've talked a little with the designers, but I haven't tried it myself.

The idea is that the game offers you images and fragments of a setting; then you write. That's the whole thing. It's not a puzzle game and it doesn't have a secret story built in that you're supposed to uncover. It's a system for players to create and share their own texts. A nice set of writing prompts and a framework to write in. If you're unsure about the literary inspirations here -- the three alien worlds are Shelley's World, Keats' World, and Byron's World.

This is way out there. It has more in common with a fanfic challenge than anything else. I have no idea if it will work; I don't even know if it's the kind of thing I want to play.

But this is exactly what I've backed it. I want to see more strange, experimental, off-the-wall games get launched. And this one, as I said, is doing a lot better. It's over 50% in the first week, which is on track for success.

(I have to admit, my first question was "Can people build environments for their stories and then explore each others' worlds?" Because I am obsessed with building and exploring worlds. No, that's not what Elegy is about. You can read each other's texts, and there will be some kind of rating system so that popular ones float to the top.) (I have no idea what they're doing about the kind of gamer who draws a dick on everything.)

You should back this one because it's a crazy idea that no reasonable dev studio would pursue.

Elegy for a Dead World: A Game About Writing Fiction (Kickstarter)

Zarfplan: October -- goodbye sunlight

Not goodbye forever, or even for the rest of the year. But it's Halloween; it's been damp and grey all day; and I just returned from the annual Somerville Anti-Morris Dance. Feels like putting the sun to bed.

I spent the first half of October dealing with the remaining major puzzles -- the ones outside the starship. Naturally, this was more work than I expected (it's always more work than you expected) but I got it hammered out.

Then, on to the map! This was more than just adding rooms -- it's about positioning objects and clues.

I've long had a list of important puzzle elements, and a sense of where they appear in the storyline: these in chapter one, those in chapter two, that one behind locked door X, and so on. But most of them weren't actually present on the map. So for the past week, I've been going through the storyline, chapter by chapter, and marking down locations for absolutely everything.

That Cyan Kickstarter: Obduction

The rumor-noise was for the beginning of November, but I guess they were ready sooner than that. Greet Obduction:

All-new sci-fi graphical adventure game. They're headlining Rand Miller as head pooh-bah, and Stephan Martinière and Eric A. Anderson (Myst Online, The Witness) as lead artists.

Obduction begins with... well… an abduction - your abduction. On a crystal clear, moon-lit night, a curious, organic artifact drops from the sky and inexplicably whisks you away across the universes to who-knows-where (or when, or why). -- from the Kickstarter page

And there's an abandoned white house with a picket fence in the middle of a fantastical landscape. Adventure-game history acknowledges the nod.

Want to make games? Don't worry about the code.

At the top of this year, the Code Hero project launched its Kickstarter drive, quickly attracting positive attention ranging from highly visible blog write-ups to TV news interviews. Code Hero promised to teach anyone how to make video games by way of a videogame, an undeniably attractive proposition to many.

The team’s own enthusiasm for the concept effectively counteracted the fact that the extremely ambitious project was in the earliest stages of development, and they blew past their initial $100,000 funding goal. Their page remains frozen at the moment the drive ended, so you can still see their admirably bold appeals to US senators to plug their states’ educational budgets into the project, and their giddy promise that the game would transform from a single-user experience into an MMO if they could raise just a few more thousand dollars.

As winter settles in, however, the comments page for Code Hero paints a dire portrait of the project’s status: a cascade of unhappy, empty-handed backers asking for refunds, which has more recently evolved into community investigation of where their money might have gone. Clicking around the project’s Kickstarter page and the official website, one gets the picture that the project’s team went completely quiet after missing its self-imposed early-September deadline. (Though you can continue to order $13 copies of the game on its apparently still-functional order form, if you wish.)

Perhaps the team has chosen to take a hard-line approach to completing their development with no further promises or teasers, even to the point of allowing a dissatisfied-customer backlash to flourish unchecked on their Kickstarter page. I would be delighted to see the team resurface a year from now with a polished 1.0 release. But today, I do not foresee this happening.

I surprised myself by feeling a little bit angry about this development as I revisited it recently. Not simply because the project may likely fail — I have been in the software business for long enough to let Failure just keep one of my guest parking passes in its car. It happens, and we move on. But from my perspective, this particular failure helps me better see what sounded a little off-key to me about this project when I first heard during its higher-energy days. The problem, to my ear, lies right in the title: I very much doubt that an effort to teach game design or development that leads with code, or with any other technical aspect of the art, can truly succeed.

Please support Sportsfriends

As I write this, the Sportsfriends Kickstarter drive has just 14 hours to go and and still hasn’t quite met its goal. I encourage Gameshelf readers to go have a look and consider dropping in a pledge if there’s time left; for $15 you’ll preporder a copy of the finished work, a cross-platform collection of four indie games which all stress group-play.

The headliner is Johann Sebastian Joust, which isn’t a videogame but an ingenious computer-aided party-sport that is a pure joy to witness, let alone actually play. I couldn’t shut up about it after taking part in several J.S. Joust melees at last spring’s PAX East, and I would love to be able to play it with friends (as opposed to friendly strangers at game cons, as much fun as that is). You can see videos of the game in action on the project’s Kicstarter page.

On behalf of Dominique Pamplemousse

I know this project has been widely spoken of in indie-games-land over the past few weeks, so maybe I'm just gilding the grapefruit here. But Deirdra Kiai's indie musical claymation adventure kickstarter(*) is moving into its final week of fundraising, and it has half a progress bar still to go.

(* Kickstarter in this case is Indiegogo, but you know what I mean.)

Check out the online demo of Dominique Pamplemousse in "It’s All Over Once the Fat Lady Sings!" (Demo is Flash, but the completed work will be Win/Mac/iPad.)

The Kickstarter world is currently full of remakes, re-releases, decades-belated sequels, and other wonders of nostalgia -- do I even need to hunt down example links? Amid all this, we need some attention for new, original games by people who weren't already famous in 1995.

I think a stop-motion light-opera adventure game counts as original. I mean, I'm not familiar with too many games that do either of those things(*). And if you're still hooked on nostalgia, well, Pamplemousse is a third-person graphical adventure of the old Lucas/Sierra model.

(* I never managed to play The Neverhood.)

The artwork is charming; the music is charming; the sung and spoken dialogue is well-done and apropos. But this is not the soul of the matter. When I played Deirdra's last graphical game, Life Flashes By, I wrote: "Not too many authors sit down to write a straight-up high-quality story, in the interactive mode." That is what we are offered here.

It will be a shame if, amid all the crowd-funding frenzy, this project gets lost on the wayside. So, please give Deirdra some money. The funding deadline is the end of August.

A word in support of history

This post is not about me. It is about Jason Scott.

Colonial ninjas are go

Speaking of Kickstarter game projects involving children and mortal peril, Boston-based Lantana Games succeeded in their fundraising effort to complete Children of Liberty, a young-adult historical-fiction stealth platformer. Colonial America is a rich thematic source that games haven’t explored much, and I’m happy see this project funded. So here’s us also wishing the Lantana folks all the best while they screw on their tricorns and get down to business.

Funding the Thunderbeam

Wiley Wiggins, semi-obscure movie star and aficionado of semi-obscure adventure games, has co-founded a team to create Thunderbeam!, an iPad adventure. They aim to capture the spirit of the compelling — and, in retrospect, often disturbing — young-adult adventure-dramas they watched on TV as kids, particularly anime such as Gatchaman (or, as I knew it, Battle of the Planets) and live-action shows like The Third Eye.

Add in an original soundtrack by theremin-enhanced indie rockers The Octopus Project, and you’ve got me desperately mashing a ten-dollar bill into my laptop screen before remembering how Kickstarter works. Happily, they met their funding goal while I was in the middle of writing this post, but the drive remains open for another 11 days, and every dollar helps; I just zapped them a sawbuck in the correct manner.

The team’s website features a lengthy video about the game, interspersed with clips from the various games and TV shows that inspire them. (What crazy show is that completely earnest “Hitler isn’t dead” line from? Were I chewing gum I would have choked on it right then. That is some transcendently bizarre television, which I apparently missed for growing up on the wrong side of the pond).

I must admit some concern about their telling the whole world in lurid detail about the game’s emotional plot twists this early in the project. In my experience, talking too loudly about your work’s actual content — versus revealing teasing glimpses of the shadows said content casts — can sap one’s drive to ship the final product to an audience that has no idea what’s about to hit it. You can trade some of that away for the short-term boost of people telling you how cool your idea sounds, and arguably this isn’t a terrible idea when it comes to collecting Kickstarter pledges. But you need a lot of creative fuel in your tank for the long, long drive towards shipping, so I still advise caution.

Still, just given the talent involved and their clear love for the source material, I feel optimistic that this project will land in the right place. Best of luck from the Gameshelf to Karakasa Games!

PAX East 2011: Zarf's anecdotes

I wrote a whole lot about last year's PAX IF events, because that was my first PAX and everything was exciting and new. Now it's my third (two in Boston, one in Seattle) and... everything is ho-hum and tired? No. It was an exciting weekend. But I may gush less about it this year.

Boston-flavored Kickstarter du jour: Children of Liberty

Boston-based Lantana Games has launched a Kickstarter page for Children of Liberty, a stealth-based platformer they’ve been working on for the last year or so. They seek $5,000 to purchase equipment and software that’ll help them finish the work.

Beyond being a valued and respected member of the Boston-area indie-developer community, Lantana knows that the best way to get me to embed a Kickstarter video on my blog is to prominently feature my own voice in it. So here you go:

Aside from loving to hear myself talk, as a lifelong New Englander I also have to love the game’s setting and theme, where the stealthy protagonists are child agents of the Patriots on the eve of the American revolutionary war. Really looking forward to seeing the final product.

(Note: Cuba is metaphorical. I am not going to Cuba. Brush up on your famous movie quotes.)

There we have it; just over $31,000 dollars. (I won't say exactly how much over, but I know who you are.)

Thank you all. To those of you who thanked me, you're welcome. To the rest of you, happy holidays, and if you don't celebrate any near-term holidays -- go invent one. We'll wait. We're not proud. ("Or tired.")

In one sense, the hard part is now over. I can put aside my fundraiser's hat, which (trust me) doesn't fit my head at all. I can go back to designing games and writing code. That's all I've ever wanted, mostly.

In another sense, the easy part is now over. I'm no longer watching money roll in with the tide; now I have to row out and earn it. I owe you people thirty-one thousand dollars' worth of game. Time to get crunching.

And now, some questions from the audience!

Last day: Support Zarf and creator-driven games

All right; I’ve let Andy drive the blog around long enough. While my last post about my rediscovered obsession with text games remains entirely true, what I did not mention — largely due to competition rules — was my own IFComp entry, and how much time and energy that little excursion took up. But I have finally published its post-competition release, and thus can take the Gameshelf wheel back for a while.

In the near future I’ll post something more akin to a proper release announcement, followed by some number of post-mortem essays. (If there’s one thing that inspires lots of handwringey thoughts on IF game design and conventions, it’s writing one of the damned things. In 2010.) But before I get to those, I’d like to keep the spotlight on Zarf’s crazy project for just a little longer.

As I write this, the Hadean Lands Kickstarter drive has less than a day left on its clock. If you’re reading this post on Monday, Dec. 6 (Eastern time), then you still have a chance to pledge your support, if you haven’t already.

Our goal is to push the pot over $30,000 before the buzzer sounds. That’s only $1,100 away, as I hit this post’s “Publish” button. (Seen another way, that’s a just a few dozen more purchases of the Hadean Lands limited-edition CD, which, allow me to remind you one last time, is the only way you’ll be able to play the game outside of an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch while it launches in the App Store.)

It’s true that Andy met his modest goal of $8,000 the very day the page went up, tripling that total well before today. But that doesn’t mean that this project couldn’t use every pledge-dollar offered to it! As described in the video on the project page, he isn’t just going to publish a single game, but also release for the world’s free use the various tools and frameworks he’ll need to create and improve along the way. In other words, your pledge doesn’t just help Zarf buy lunch; it’s an investment in the future of quality interactive fiction, by everyone who cares to write it — and, world willing, sell it.

But just as important as the game and the technical work is the trail he’s blazing as an independent game creator in general. When sites like Rock Paper Shotgun picked up the story, I was happy not just because here was IF shouting another ping onto the larger game radar, but also because the unexpected success at this one crazy guy’s completely independent bid for support has definitely gotten many non-mainstream game creators’ gears turning. I myself have witnessed someone on an indie game-developer mailing list name-check Zarf while announcing his own launch of a game studio, even though it has little to do with IF per se.

Tomorrow, Andy will start leading the IF community towards — we hope — a new flourishing of commercially viable interactive fiction. But besides and beyond that, we’re starting to see the effects of something wonderfully wider, and we have one more day to make it wider yet. Let’s make it happen, not just for text adventure games, but as a show of support for passion-fueled, creator-driven, future-changing videogames of all kinds. You know what to do.

The final week

Here we are, with 6.9-ish days to go. I've just passed 600 backers and 26,000 dollars. Those numbers mean nothing to my brain, of course. I can't picture a pile of 10,800 overpriced muffins. I can imagine six squares of people standing ten-by-ten, but I don't know what it would sound like if they all cheered at once.

This whole experience has been a little unreal, is what I'm trying to tell you.

I took this past weekend (the US holiday) as a bit of a dry run. I spent one day eating (that's the holiday), and then three solid days working on IF work. Not the game design, not yet. I answered email, and then did an extraordinarily dull bit of interpreter coding needed for full Unicode support. (Do you know what "Normalization Form D" is? No? Lucky rotter.) This is what my life will be like come January. Overall, a success. I have leftovers, too.

Kickstarter projects traditionally start with a big burst of love, then slow down for a long while, and then rush towards the finish line at the end. I suppose it's different for projects that cross the finish line so early. Nonetheless, and naturally, I'm hoping for a big clutch of last-minute donations. Not because I'm greedy, right? This is fundraising. I'm not allowed to shirk it, because the funds will help me. You know this spiel. So here's my last fundraising plea:

The Hadean Lands story flew around the gamer press right away. Everything since then has been word of mouth. Fantastic, enthusiastic, helpful word of mouth -- but inevitably low-volume word of mouth. I've pushed the story at some of the literary, science-fiction, and fandom news sites, but it hasn't grabbed. Nor is it much of a business story, except for that one (very gratifying) blog repost on CNNMoney.

Therefore: if you think that IF is cool, mention me to your non-gamer friends. I think this project has the potential to reach book-readers, e-book-readers, watchers of smart TV, followers of online narrative projects -- the border between old and new media. Who do you know?

Yes, it's early. I'll come around when the game is released, and try to reach the same people all over again. But that's the future, and this is the last Kickstarter week, so now is when I'm asking.

Whew. Plea ends. Thank you for all you people have done.

Halfway, and extended teaser

It's November 16th, roughly halfway through my little experiment.

(What do you mean, we blew past the edges of the Petri dish on day 1? How does that make any sense?)

Rather than stew in self-congratulation -- I can do that perfectly well in the confines of my own skull -- let me offer you a Halfway Present:

An extended game teaser for Hadean Lands. Now with a second ritual to complete! And many more objects to play with in the process!

I hope this gives a better idea of how the game's magic will play out. (Warning: some of the things you will find are not useful in this teaser. They're for rituals later on in the game.)

Now, just a little bit of self-congratulation: CNNMoney asked to reprint my Update #8, the post on running Kickstarter successfully. Very kind of them.

Overall, you can probably guess that I'm utterly thrilled with the way things are going. Contributions are still coming in steadily, if slowly. I'm hoping that the upcoming weeks see my plans percolate out from the gaming press into business reporting, writing circles, and -- heck, I don't know -- web comics journalism. I mean, why aim low?

Hadean Lands posts and interviews

In this spot, I'm going to collect links to news articles, interviews, and random discussion threads about Hadean Lands and my Kickstarter effort. Apologies to those of you who have been voraciously reading all the links as they roll by. (Which is all of you, right? Right?)

Comment if you see one I missed.

Three upcoming documentaries on games

We seem to be entering a nexus of documentaries about games. Far be it from me to do anything but encourage further flowering in this field! Witness:

Lorien Green has released a clip of Gone Cardboard, a film about board games -- particularly Eurogames, by the looks of it -- and the people who play them. She expects to release the final cut in early 2011. (Link via Kevin Jackson-Mead.)

The enigmatically named Spinach hopes to produce a doc about people who create digital games, called You Meet the Nicest People Making Videogames. That link leads to the project's Kickstarter fundraising page, which includes a teaser he filmed at GDC. Mr. Spinach approaches this endeavor from scratch, and needs help covering both equipment and travel costs, a position I can certainly appreciate. He's a quarter of the way to his goal, so far... (Link via Anna Anthropy.)

And of course, just 49 hours and 15 minutes after I type these words, I plan on attending the world premiere of Jason Scott's Get Lamp at PAX East. It is part of the interactive fiction track which is of course the real reason to attend the show, ho ho. Jason's been working on this film for years, and I was privileged to see a clip a few months ago at a Boston IF meetup. It's gonna be a goodie.

Kickstarter Project Needs Just a Bit More, Ends Today

You may have heard of Kickstarter. A number of independent game developers have used it to fund various projects. Here's another example, and I'll let Heather speak for herself:

Before You Close Your Eyes is a game/interactive story about personalities
and consequences. It is intended as an immersive, story-rich vehicle for
introspection and understanding the choices made by others. It is
presented in a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style and will be available on
iPhone, Android and Web.

I am attempting to fund this project on Kickstarter, which is a cool web
platform for "crowdfunding". Crowdfunding is what happens when lots of
people are willing to put their money behind something that they love and
think should exist in the world. The Kickstarter model works a bit like a
PBS pledge drive. Backers declare how much they would like to contribute to
the project and receive 'Thank You" gifts that the person asking for funding
had defined.

You can take a look at my project site here:

Just about 10 hours to go, and she's raised $8010 out of her $8500 goal (which represents 2 months of time to work on the game). And as with most Kickstarter projects, lots of fun gifts for pledges of various amounts.



Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Warnings and Log Messages