Wasteland 2 Kickstarter Chat #6
Gaming has quickly found itself to be Kickstarter’s most popular category by quite some margin.
We have already seen it impact the gaming community and as more and more developers look to crowd funding as a viable means of financing their games, removing the publisher entirely, its success seems assured.
But, what do the studios working with Kickstarter think of the process? In a series of exclusive interviews, we ask the studios turning to Kickstarter and crowd funding what means to gaming and why it’s proving to be such a success…
InXile founder Brain Fargo has been trying to get Wasteland 2 made for years, with Kickstarter helping, it’s finally happened. But what has it been like working with community funding…
What stage is your game at?
At this point we are at approximately the halfway point in the development cycle for Wasteland 2. I have us on a 6/6/6 plan, which had us finish all the pre-production including all the heavy lifting on design for the first 6 months.
The second 6 months is all about integration of the assets such that we can fully play through and get a total sense of the experience. And the last 6 months is one in which we focus on iteration of the ideas, build in more nuance and get the feedback from beta testers in.
It is critical to have plenty of time for iteration on an RPG as we need to accommodate for many different play styles. We will have a video demo in the next few weeks which shows off first pass at the HUD, combat, skill usage and conversation.
Would your game exist if it wasn’t on Kickstarter?
I tried for decades to get this game made via other ways and it was just not going to happen. But now I look at it as a blessing in disguise as I am able to make this game without compromise without the craziness I experienced working with the current dev/pub system. I don’t have the pressure of figuring how to make it a console experience or how we might be able to leverage DLC etc. It’s a more pure experience.
Have you made or anticipated any changes to the original pitch? If so, how did the community react?
We have really stayed quite true to our detailed vision document that we released early on. The backers have been very vocal in the things they want and it’s critical that we make the game they funded.
It is always risky to show assets early as often people will not understand how much change happens to these works in progress, however we have shown much to keep transparency high and to solicit input throughout the process.
If anything we have made the game deeper and added more art than originally planned but we never communicated the base level so they couldn’t react to us adding more, however I’m certain they will be ok with that.
Will Kickstarter grow or diminish in importance during 2013?
It depends on your perspective but I feel confident that the total monies that flow into Kickstarter will increase but not at the same rate as the number of projects get put up.
This will have the effect of having the money gather around the bigger titles, however there are still an abundance of games being funded that would have never seen the light of day. I once read some disappointment that “only” 25% of games were being funded.
That is a crazy high number if you compare it to the percentage of games that were pitched to publishers and then greenlit. Even with the failed Kickstarter games it they can bring new potential backers each time. Kickstarter is just wonderful in my book.
Are you concerned the next generation of consoles will distract from Kickstarter?
I think the new consoles should be concerned about distractions from us. The games I am seeing on Kickstarter are incredibly creative and they are filling voids that the publishers didn’t handle.
Not to mention we are delivering these creative games in a business model that doesn’t insult the players. And the more creative projects the more likely another Minecraft comes along and pulls the dollars away from the consoles.
How has Kickstarter funding changed the development process?
I think different developers would give different answers but for us it has forced us to be very clever about tool use and getting assets created or bought for less than in the past. Fortunately the Unity store has really helped in this regard. It has also created a stronger communication early on in the development process so that there are no surprises at the end.
How did you work out your original goal total?
We looked at a fairly short development cycle combined with a smaller scale project and assigned our overhead against that time frame. The original number was the minimum for us to create something to satisfy the RPG crowd.
As the funding rose we continued to add more writers, a larger world, more art, increased music etc. Dollar for dollar we made sure that the money was used wisely and I’m in a great position to deliver something really special.
We are also fortunate that we have catalog sales like Bard’s Tale which gives us a little breathing room.
How does the pressure of working to a crowd compare to working for a publisher?
There could not be a more diametrically opposed system of development. My experience with publishers is that once that contract is signed there is a shift of pressure for us to constantly proves ourselves to them and the press.
We jump through hoops to get paid and achieve milestones to survive. I estimate that I lose up to 40% of my personal time chasing money down, haggling about milestones, doing demos for marketing and then simultaneously running around pitching your next project so that all your guys have jobs when the current game wraps up.
Crowd funding is very different in that there is a trust system in which you get the money upfront and are expected to deliver. It is also a more personal experience in that they are looking at me directly to make sure it happens.
Fortunately we have the dynamic of the open nature of things so that I can constantly run the key sensibilities by the backers to assure we stay on point. The pressure is intense but I would not have it any other way.
Would you use Kickstarter again?
I’ve been quite vocal in my love for Kickstarter but my appreciation goes beyond just the financing parts.
The financial elements are obvious in that we get the money up front and we effectively sell units without having to pay a 30% distribution fee to the digital sites and backers can get the game for much less than what the finished product would be.
But the best parts are the purity it creates for us to create. We avoid all of the publisher issues I noted above and instead we spend 99% of our brain time trying to make the game more engaging with writing, combat tactics, graphic appeal, musical cues and the like.
And speaking of publishers, we aren’t working with any for development but instead are fully vested and focused on crowd funding.
And most importantly we have an open dialogue with our backers so that they make sure we are staying on point. There won’t be any surprises (except storyline) when the game ships.
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