STASIS and Kickstarter
This post has been a long time coming, but I figured it was finally time to throw it into the wild…
One of the questions I get asked most often (ok, second most-the first being ‘When is Stasis going to finished), is:
WHY ISN’T STASIS ON KICKSTARTER?
I think that Kickstarter is a wonderful platform, and I avidly follow quite a few of the projects that have gone up. Project Eternity, Wasteland 2, Torment, and Broken Age are my staples, along with a few smaller ones.
But even these projects seem to be running into issues-and these are projects with multitudes of experience behind them.
One of the big issues, and one that I think is one of the most important ones, its keeping the community updated on your progress. A big selling point in these projects, and any project on Kickstarter, is that you get to see the project emerging-see how the sausage is made. Now while thats a really cool idea for the gamer who loves these things, its a very difficult thing for the developer.
I personally feel that I announced STASIS way too early. The truth is that I never thought it would be a large project, so didnt see the harm in showing it off in its early states. If I look back at this blog, a TON of time has gone into the blog posts, talking about various aspects of the game, whats happening in the background, why I do what I do. Now this has been beinifial in some way, I think that I can be hurtful in others.
For a game that relies on STORY as one of its major selling points, to have 2 years of stuff talking about the game, without mentioning the story, is VERY difficult. But see-because I view this blog as my personal thing, Im not bound to talk about the game. There are quite a few posts here about…well..other things. Articles I like, other games, and other random ideas. These other projects have to have a media communication plan that’s SPECIFICALLY TAILORED TO THE PROJECT, WITHOUT GIVING AWAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION. And they have to update OFTEN, because this is part of what the backers pay for. This adds in an extra layer of complexity to an already complex situation, and one that I wouldnt want to find myself in.
If you go dark, and have a media blackout, your backers will (rightfully) complain. If you update too often, you are going to start to dilute the games content in the minds of the players. Now with the RPG’s mentioned, this is a little easier, because the idea with an RPG is to create enough tools and rules in the game to let the player craft the story-but in a much more linear game (like STASIS, or Broken Age), its almost impossible. Im surprised that Double Fine actually managed to go for almost a year before even announcing the name of the game, and a screenshot. And people were starting to notice it, and getting agitated with them for being so scant on aspects of the game. Which brings me to issue 2….
People are mean, and artists are sensitive! Ask ANY artist if they enjoy showing people unfinished work, and they will say NO. Unless they are sadists.
Reading the comments and discussions of things like the first WASTELAND 2 screen, or the Torment locations, or the PE level prototype makes me shiver. Complaints about there not being dust on the footsteps, too much blur in the back grounds, ladders not being properly scaled….these are things that can be a bit of a crushing experience for artists, specifically when they KNOW that its not something that’s complete.
Ive been quite lucky, in that the reactions to the screenshots and videos of STASIS has been pretty good-but that’s because everything I release, I release on MY schedule. I release them because they are complete. I’ve done my internal QA, external QA, double and triple checked everything, and when things aren’t correct, thrown them out and started over. There are actually about 3 game play videos that I haven’t released, because I just didn’t like 1 or 2 things with them. Thats the power of NO EXTERNAL PRESSURE.
Lets say STASIS goes on Kickstarter, and I raise $100 000,00. That means, that, before I even release the game, I’m $100 000.00 in debt. I have to give away $100 000.00 of product ON THE DAY I LAUNCH. Now, I know that people have the ‘but without the money you wouldn’t have a product’, and that’s a very fair, and true argument. But the problem with an Adventure Game, is that the market IS small.
The RPG projects have a much wider appeal, and I have NO doubt that they will double, triple, or even make 10 fold what they have put into it. But a smaller Adventure Game like STASIS? I have high hopes for the sales, and concrete plans for what the money I make from STASIS will go into-but I would hate to, at the end of a grueling few years of work, come out with giving away all of the product that I would have ever sold, and starting from square 1. I know thats its a worst case scenario-but the truth is that its a possibility-and on that I need to be very mindful of.
Thats why I don’t think that Stretch Goals are a very good idea. I understand WHY they are there, but I think that the feature bloat they cause, and spending money that you don’t have, isn’t the best way of getting out an ALREADY incredibly complex product.
Looking at Broken Age, the initial budget for that was $400 000,00, with the final funding coming in at almost 8 times that. It would have been better for them to stick with the original goal, and had enough money from that game alone to create another 8 games! Or 4 larger games. or 1 big game and a sequel! Instead, the entire budget, again of money they technically dont have, has been put into ONE SINGLE PRODUCT.
I’m not employed. If I got a large influx of cash, I couldn’t really quite my job and work on STASIS full time, because I own the company. Its a company that my brother an I built from the ground up over a decade. I have many other lives that are dependent on me to be here every day. Because of the worries of ISSUE 3, I couldn’t go at this full time. Not yet at least.
STASIS IS MY KICKSTARTER. I have a goal in mind for how many sales STASIS has to make for me to go into full time Game Development. Make no mistake, that is the end goal. I want STASIS to be the beginning of that journey. I want to create an awesome game, that people will love-and use that foundation to do the same again and again and again. I don’t want people to buy into the promise of future things-because those are fleeting at best, and gut wrenching when they fail.