Kicking around Kickstarter: Is my annoyance justified?

I’ve been pretty down on Kickstarter lately, at least as a game-funding service. Most of my ire revolves around games that change from what is stated when you pledge to what eventually gets made, and much of that change is driven my stretch goals. At least that is what my gut has been telling me.

This morning I decided to stop listening to my gut and actually gather some data. I made a list of all the Kickstarter games I’ve backed and where they stand.

Six of the projects I backed either failed to make funding or were canceled:

Class of Heroes II – Failed $96K/$500K 4/27/2012
Tortured Hearts: or, How I Saved the Universe. Again = Failed $12K/$300K 4/29/2012
Gravitaz – Failed $7K/$25K 5/10/2012
GUTS – Failed $10K/$60K 9/29/2012
Project: Gorgon – Failed $14K/$55K 11/3/2012
Wildman – Canceled $504K/$1,100K 2/11/2013

There’s not a lot to say about the failed projects from an end user point of view. I know Eric Heimburg is still moving forward on Project Gorgon (he’s an Asheron’s Call veteran) and Chris Taylor sounds like he’s going to get the chance to do Wildman via (I think?).

Next up, projects that have been published:

FTL – Published $200K/$10K
Battle of the Bulge – Published $37K/$20K
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare – Published $85K/$50K
Akaneiro: Demon Hunters – Published $204K/$200K

Of these four, I get the feeling that three of them launched Kickstarter campaigns to ‘finish up’ a project and that Bulge was the only one that kind of lived and died on Kickstarter. My friends really like Bulge but the system was a little too esoteric for my tastes. Still, the project was delivered as promised so I’m calling that a win.

FTL is interesting to me because it was one of the first Kickstarter projects I backed and it came before the Kickstarter fad took off. The team brought in a lot more cash than they asked for, but I guess ‘stretch goals’ hadn’t been invented yet, so instead of using the extra cash to add a multiplayer mode or 3D effects or a /pizza command, they published the game they promised, and its really good. Another definite win.

And then there’s the Big List of Projects We’re Waiting on.

Wasteland 2 – $2,933K/$900K 4/17/2012
The Banner Saga – $700K/$100K 4/20/2012
Valdis Story: Abyssal City – $49K/$8K 4/27/2012
Aura Tactics – $11K/$5K 4/6/2012
The Dead Linger – $154K/$60K 4/29/2012
Shadowrun Returns – $1,836K/$400 4/29/2012
Starlight Inception – $158K/$150K 5/8/2012
Nekro – $158K/$100K 5/4/2012
Grim Dawn – $537K/$280K 5/18/2012
Republique – $555K/$500K 5/11/2012
Xenonauts – $154K/$50K 6/10/2012
Legends of Eisenwald – $83K/$50K 5/22/2012
Clang – $526K/$500 7/9/2012
Auro – $14K/$7K 6/29/2012
Shadowrun Online – $558K/$500K 8/14/2012
Castle Story – $700K/$80K 8/26/2012
Crea – $27K/$15K 8/7/2012
Steam Bandits: Outpost – $55K/$30K 8/19/2012
Mercenary Kings – $116K/$75K 9/13/2012
Expeditions: Conquistador – $77K/$70K 9/12/2012
Greed Monger – $90K/$30K 11/30/2012
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption – $409/$400 11/20/2012
Meriwether: An American Epic – $44K/$35K 1/6/2013

I’m not going to talk about each of these individually but I wanted to call out a couple of them. Also it’s clear that I went Kickstarter crazy last spring and I have a lot of money tied up in these games. Too much so. That’s no one’s fault but mine, of course, but I think it’s a good thing I got a little jaded or I’d be in the poor house by now!

The Banner Saga really is the root of much of my Kickstarter discontent. You know the story by now. The project was for a single player game that was going to be out by the end of last year, but they got so over-funded that they decided to build something more elaborate, and along the way they decided to spin off the multiplayer aspect as a stand-alone, micro-transaction driven title. That has launched, but the game I put my money in for still has not. Last I heard they’re aiming for late summer at the earliest.

See the FTL entry above. I would’ve been much happier if the team had made the game they promised and delivered it when they promised, then used the extra funding for a sequel or something. This was the first time that ‘stretch goals’ meant ‘changing the product into something unrecognizable.’ I was also really turned off by this blog post by Banner Saga team member Alex Thomas. It’s a rebuttal to a another piece that could’ve been written by me. Thomas is doing a real spin-job around this stuff. Anyway I could go on and on about my disappointment over The Banner Saga but at the end of the day I’m just looking at it as $50 lost in a bad investment. Not the end of the world.

Now let’s talk about The Dead Linger. I LOVE these guys. They’re being really transparent in their development. The game hasn’t published but they have given backers access to an alpha build. This is kind of what I’m looking for in a Kickstarter project. I feel like I’m part of the process, or at least I could be. I could play the alpha and give feedback and watch the game come together (and it’s the game they promised in their pitch). I feel 100% positive about my choice to back this team.

Legends of Eisenwald is worth mentioning because they’re very close to release, as far as I can see. They’ve offered backers a beta build and the game looks really good. Excited to see this one launch!

Clang is an unusual project for me because I just backed it as an idea. I doubt I’ll ever play it (don’t want to buy a bunch of hardware just to play one game) but this is a true case of me ‘investing’ in the gaming industry. I want to see them make this game even if I won’t ever play it.

Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption I backed because a friend on G+ was talking about it and it was in danger of not making its goal. In some ways these are the most rewarding Kickstarter projects because you feel like you actually made a difference. As this is an adventure game, I probably won’t even play it, but hopefully my friend will, and he’ll have fun, and I’ll feel good about doing my part in helping the game get made.

Also there’s one more project I want to mention: Project Eternity – $3,986K/$1,100K 10/16/2013 This was the first project I backed, then withdrew my pledge from, based in part on my Banner Saga experience (they were throwing stretch goals around like mad) and on the fact that they just felt greedy to me. They were well over their goal and still pushing up-sells really hard (in the form of add-on pledges). They really left a bad taste in my mouth. Hopefully the game will be worth it.

Whew so that’s a lot of text, but when I look back, if I had opted not to back The Banner Saga I don’t think I’d be nearly as ‘anti-Kickstarter’ as I am. The jury is still out on a lot of games I backed…some of them probably will never make it to fruition. But some of them (like Shadowrun Returns) I’m super-excited about.

It’s also clear I was much too liberal about throwing money at projects last spring… spent far too much money on these projects.

So I think going forward I just need to be more careful and perhaps pledge towards the end of a campaign rather than at the front of it. If a project has made its goal it doesn’t need my cash until it hits retail. That way I won’t get disappointed by stretch goals. It’s always going to be a risk, of course. That’s just the nature of Kickstarter. But when you pick the right projects you can feel really good about them.

(I should note that these aren’t all my Kickstarter projects; just the game ones. I’ve had pretty good luck when it comes to other products on the service.)

Gravitaz needs you!

This is gonna be quick since I’m at work, but time is of the essence!

Gravitaz only has about 24 hours to go in their Kickstarter campaign and they’re short of their goal. They need a push from fans of futuristic combat racing!

Here’s a press release they sent out today:

GRAVITAZ Recognized By The International Game Developers Association
GRAVITAZ Kickstarter featured alongside the likes of Banner Saga, Wasteland 2, FTL

DENVER, CO (May 9, 2012) � The GRAVITAZ team was honored today by the International Game Developers Association. The GRAVITAZ Kickstarter, set to raise funds for the high-speed combat hover-racing game, is now in the International Game Developer Association�s recommended projects list. GRAVITAZ can be found alongside such previous Kickstarter successes as The Banner Saga, Wasteland 2, FTL, and Auditorium Duet. (

�The Kickstarter is going to come down to the wire, but there�s still a shot,� says Megan Fox, one of the programmers behind GRAVITAZ. �If even just 2,000 discover the game and plunk down $10 for a copy, we�re there, that�s funded. The Internet is a mighty big place – surely we can find 2,000 more fans of high-speed combat racing.�

Learn more about how to bring futuristic racing into the present at

Emphasis is from me.

If you’ve any interest in this style of game, the now’s the time to come forward and pledge!!

New Gravitaz update

I’ve mentioned Kickstarter project Gravitaz a few times now and I’ve formed kind of an emotional bond with the team. That’s one of the awesome aspects of Kickstarter, I think. You get (ideally) frequent updates from the developers and you’re along for the ride, cheering them on when things go well and wondering what went wrong when they don’t.

We’ve got another update this week, though it’s mostly for fun. The team went out to a go-kart track for research:

The sad truth is that I don’t think Gravitaz is going to make its funding level unless we can find a new audience of fans who’re excited about the game. With 8 days to go they’re around $18,000 short.

But the take-away from this video is that even if the Kickstarter campaign doesn’t make it, Gravitaz will live on; it’ll just take longer to make. You can’t help but admire the determination that so many Indie game developers have. I was glad to hear this news because Gravitaz is a game I want to play:

In GRAVITAZ, players fly jet-propelled hover vehicles for fame and glory on the rough-and-tumble courses of the world’s first antigravity racing league. Players compete with computer and ghost opponents against time on delicate tracks scaffolded over the faces of skyscrapers and down through city streets with a diverse pool of vehicles, from scratch-built garage projects to high-end sponsored racers. It�s like nothing else on earth – neither go-karts nor Formula 1 can prepare the racers for what they�ll meet on the track.

But it isn’t over until it’s over, and if you’re a fan of combat racing and want to play Gravitaz sooner rather than later, it’s time to step up and pledge. Then tell your friends about the project. Let’s get this thing funded, people!!

Glass Bottom Games partners with Logitech on Gravitaz promotion

A couple weeks ago I posted about Gravitaz, a Kickstarter project from Glass Bottom Games. Gravitaz is a futuristic combat racer for PC/Mac/Linux.

Today Glass Bottom Games and Logitech announced a new promotion. If you pledge at the new $65 level you’ll get not only a copy of Gravitz but a Logitech Wireless Gamepad F710.

Now to be clear, this isn’t saving you big money or anything. You could just buy the F710 for $50 and pledge $15 to Gravitz and wind up with the same swag, but by doing the whole thing through Kickstarter Gravitz gets all your cash to put towards developing a kick-ass game; Logitech is content to walk away from this deal with the good feeling of having supported a small game developer.

If this new deal interests you, act fast. They started with 20 of these gamepads to give away and as of the time of this writing, 6 are already spoken for.

Here’s a dev interview where the team shares a bit more about their plans for Gravitaz:

Kickstart This: Gravitaz

Here’s the latest project to coax me to click that seductive “Pledge” button over at Kickstarter: Gravitaz. This is a near-future racing game similar to Wipeout. Of course, if you’re not a Playstation person you might not know what Wipeout is, but I think the early gameplay in the video below pretty much sums it up: high-speed, low-friction racing with weapons.

So why did I back this one?

First, Developer Glass Bottom Games is made up of industry veterans, most of whom were working on Lego Universe before forming their own studio. I’m confident they can deliver the product.

Second, they’re not asking for a lot of cash: $25,000 is their goal. We can hit that easy!

Third, their pledge levels are really low. It only takes a $10 pledge to get a digital copy of the finished game (PC & Mac are the initial target platforms). After that you can get all kinds of extras, but $10 is pretty damned cheap.

Fourth, full disclosure, I follow Glass Bottom Games co-founder Megan Fox on Google+ and she’s good people. I want to see her studio thrive.

And fifth and most obvious: I want to play this game!

If they go past their initial goal they’re hoping to bring the game to iOS too (what, no Android love??). I’m hoping we go sailing past that puny $25K figure and get to the kinds of numbers where we backers can start chanting “TRACK EDITOR, TRACK EDITOR, TRACK EDITOR” (it sounds good chanting that, right?).

Anyway, check out the early gameplay in the video, read the pitch over on Kickstarter, then decide if it’s worth $10 to play the game they’re describing. To me, it was worth $30.

Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter project

I tell you what, I have no idea how long this Kickstarter Nantucket Sleighride will last but I hope it never ends. All of a sudden all the games I’m most excited about are either Legend of Grimrock or a Kickstarter project!

It’s really exciting to me, to be able to help these game designers make games that sound awesome. Suddenly I’m a fucking philanthropist!! Good games better the human condition, right? 🙂

Anyway the latest project to get me pumped is Shadowrun Returns, led by Shadowrun creator Jordan Weisman. His company, Hairbrained Schemes, created the very awesome Crimson Steam Pirates for the iPad last year. [Holy smokes, in looking for that link I found out CSP is on the Chrome Store, too!]

Shadowrun Returns is planned as a 2D, turn-based, party-based RPG that will come with a mission editor. It’s got some social aspects in that you can hire your friend’s characters as minions to take on your own missions. Weisman says it’ll come out for iPad and PC.

But no sense in me rattling on. Here’s the introductory video and of course there are lots more details over on the Kickstarter page.

They’re hoping to raise $400,000. They’re close to $60K $70K (went up $10K while I was writing this post!) now with 24 days to go and backers coming on-board at a brisk pace. $15 is the minimum pledge to get a digital copy of the game for PC. I went with a $30 pledge in order to get a book of stories written about the game.

Kickstarter projects that need your help

So speaking of Kickstarter… I’m backing a few projects that haven’t yet met their goals. Figured I’d share them here in case they seem interesting to anyone else:

The first one is the one I’m most hesitant about: Class of Heroes 2 Deluxe for the PSP. This is a collaboration between MonkeyPaw and Gaijinworks to bring a deluxe, physical version Class of Heroes 2 to the PSP. Gaijinworks, to me, = Vic Ireland of Working Designs fame, and that’s why I’m backing it. However my understanding is that they’re localizing CoH2 no matter what…the Kickstarter is more about a big fancy packaged edition and some general enhancements to the project. I’m not interested in physical copies of anything, so I’m just kicking in for that ‘general enhancements’ part. Also, they’re trying to raise $500,000, which is a pretty big number for a PSP game, I think.

Update: There’s been an update to the Kickstarter page for this making very clear what funding will add to the project:
-A Physical Deluxe Pack to be made
-English Voice Acting in the Digital and Physical releases
-English Opening Song and Video in both releases
-Extended game fixes and features (extra save slots, better controls, etc)
-Translation and release of Class of Heroes II webcomic series

Next up is Tortured Hearts – or, How I Saved The Universe. Again. This one bills itself as a satirical, old-school RPG, but what grabbed me is the artwork (see the video below) and this bit about the party system (a party-based RPG? Yes!):

This is a single player game, with 8 possible companions (unless of course you donated $5000, in which case you can be your own companion). It is quite possible to play solo. If you choose companions, you can have up to five in a party for the classic 6-person party. However, not all these companions get along with each other. They have their own personalities, skills, and agendas. The PC and the companions have approximately 100,000 words of dialog with each other. Much conversation is initiated spontaneously by the companions and occurs between them as well as with the PC.

These folks are hoping to raise $300,000; I’m hoping they make it.

Last is The Dead Linger which is “a first-person zombie survival sandbox in which you can venture into a vast, undead world, surviving and exploring in whatever way suits you best.” Nope, I’m still not tired of re-killing zombies! I like the sandbox aspect of this one; believe it or not I was getting a bit of a Minecraft vibe when reading about it. First, you can play with up to 16 people in your zombie sandbox, and then there was this bit:

You’ve found a hideout. Now what? Barricade it! Fortify it! Defend it! You probably need a place to keep your stuff. You might need a place to house your clan, or maybe you just like a particular building you found. If you choose, you can fortify and defend

This one is from an established team with a game out on Steam (Detour) and they’re only looking for $60,000. We ought to be able to get them there, right?

I’m backing a few more projects but they’ve already made their goals so no need to promote them, but just for the sake of completeness:

FTL Kickstarter ends. Now we wait for the game!

FTL, the indie spaceship simulation rogue-like, finished their Kickstarter drive today. They were hoping to raise $10,000 to help finish the game. They barely squeaked by, finishing up at $200,542.

This is a game being made by a team so tiny they don’t even have a company name. It’s just FTL by Matthew Davis and Justin Ma. And they got as far as getting a demo onto OnLive and winning a couple of Independent Game Festival Honorable Mentions (for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize and for Excellence in Design) without any funding (as far as I know).

Now they’ve got about 20 times what they were hoping for. I wonder what they’ll do with it? If it costs them $10K to finish the game, will they just pocket the other $190K (hopefully using it to fund their next game). Or will they try to add $190K worth of new features to FTL?

They must be overwhelmed, to be honest. Estimated launch date is this August. Maybe they’ll quit their day jobs and work full time on the game. Who knows?

I just know I’m looking forward to playing it! I kicked in enough to get into the closed beta that’s supposed to start in May because I was too impatient to wait for August. 🙂

Congrats to Davis and Ma, and here’s hoping Kickstarter continues to be a great way for people to get unique game ideas funded!

Will the hivemind allow a true Wasteland sequel?

I’m a supporter of inXile Entertainment’s Kickstarter fund to get Wasteland 2 made. I remember Interplay when Brian Fargo was running the show. I remember playing games like The Bard’s Tale and Stonekeep and yes, Wasteland.

I contributed $75 — more than I’d pay for a finished game — because I wanted some old-school RPG goodness. (The same reason why I’m so excited about Legend of Grimrock) I contributed because I read the pitch and focused on passages like:

We�re going back to the original and building from there. No first person shooter, we�re going top down so you get a tactical feel for the situation. And we�re not ditching the party play to turn it into some hack-and-slash bloodfest. It�s turn based, tactical, with a storyline that will be deeper and broader.

We�re determined to keep the gritty, grim and satirical writing. We�re going to pitch those moral dilemmas at you. You�re going to be faced with the consequences of your actions.

The problem is that I ignored (or read with naivety) the passages like:

With your collective vision, the game that was the godfather to the popular Fallout series will become a reality. Not only will you fund the development, but you�ll have a voice in how the game goes together. We will have forums up for design discussion and soliciting your ideas for what will make Wasteland 2 rock.

This is your chance to influence the kind of game you want to see. With fan funding, you drive the direction of game design and development. If it is important to you, it is important to us.

I forgot that when it comes to gaming, I’m on the lunatic fringe. I really do want an old school RPG, but if inXile really listens to the fans on the very active forums, or to new-school gamers like Joystiq’s Rowan Kaiser [see “(Don’t) Give me that old time RPG combat” where Kaiser comments on what Wasteland 2’s combat ought to be], what we’ll get isn’t what I am imagining.

And that’s probably a smart business decision for inXile. Sure Kickstarter can fund development of the game but presumably they’re going to want to sell a few copies of the finished title to people who didn’t Kickstart, too. If they really build the game I want, they probably wouldn’t sell more than a few thousand copies.

And no matter what, I simply don’t have the hours to spend every day trolling their forums and arguing down the new-schoolers and pushing my old-school mentality. I actually wrote to inXile with my concerns: that basically I hoped we weren’t going to end up with a game designed by committee. I got a nice email back meant to re-assure me but I’m not sure it did. They told me they were using the forums to determine what features the fans felt strongest about so they could focus their energy accordingly, but that they have come core tenants that will not be modified by the forums.

So once again I feel like I ought to be on the forums stomping my feet and shouting for turn-based combat, for deep stats and in-depth character building, shouting against the kids who want the game to be Diablo with mutants or something.

In the end, I’m still confident inXile will deliver a great game, so I’m not too worried. I love Kingdoms of Amalur for instance, and it’s about as far from old school RPG as you can get.

But I’m still looking for an old-timer (in actuality or in spirit) game designer who wants to really create an old school RPG with modernized graphics. Someone determined to build what he or she wants to build, and not let the hivemind scribble all over the design doc. That person has to be out there and I want to help fund him or her.

Brian Fargo’s latest Wasteland 2 video

Brian Fargo is at it again, making us smile as we cheerfully hand-over a bit of cash to help him make a game we’re looking forward to. I’m proud to support Wasteland 2 via Kickstarter, (that sounds corny but I’m totally serious) and I’m really impressed by Fargo’s new KickingItForward initiative (where he asks developers to agree to apply 5% of the profits they make from a Kickstarter-funded game towards other Kickstarter-funded projects). Not everyone sees Kickstarter as a community, but I do and it sounds like Fargo does as well.

It’s still too early to have real info on the game, but Fargo’s already having fun and giving us a laugh: