Edit: Please note that we’ve written a follow-up to this article, which you should check out here!
The headline is a joke, of course, and a bit of parody of what’s been going on recently with videogame Kickstarters. Successful and famous game developers have been running Kickstarter campaigns recently to make the next big sequel or new game that they have in mind. That’s fine, of course, and I definitely understand the excitement; I myself passed around the link for Wasteland 2′s Kickstarter. If these people screw these games up, at least it will be a sincere, earnest screwup by a game designer who really wanted to make something great, instead of a cynical boardroom checklist screwup by a publisher who really wanted to increase profits from last quarter. The headline of this article should suggest that I am indeed questioning where this is leading, and whether or not a company that just developed a game for Bethesda really was what Kickstarter was made for.
Now, some of our readers may remember that we attempted a Kickstarter ourselves a few months back, for Auro. Sadly, It didn’t make it, and we accept total responsibility for that. We started it off with a very unclear and somewhat “inside-baseball” video, as well as a character design that everyone seemed to hate. When we realized that a lot of these complaints were absolutely correct, we scrambled to respond to it, and created a whole new illustrative video and character design, but it was too late. Most of the people who were going to even take a look at our Kickstarter already had, and had simply been turned off. That’s completely understandable. We don’t blame anyone for not feeling super “donatey” for that Kickstarter. Edit: Some people seem to be not getting this, so before people read on, please read the following: this article is not about how we’re upset that our Kickstarter failed. People not wanting to give us money is 100%, completely fine!
Auro is a game that’s being made by 3 people, on our off time. It’s a game that, all told, will probably have ended up taking us a year to complete because we have to do it on our off time while doing other jobs. Again, that’s fine, and that’s probably what we’ll end up doing, because we really love this game and believe in it strongly.
So anyway, a lot of new Kickstarters run by large-size, AAA teams are popping up and making millions of dollars. Wasteland 2 has made over two million so far and it still has 11 days to go as of this writing. And everyone on the internet is just leading the charge. Here are some comments from the many, many reddit posts supporting this kickstarter:
“I wish I had more money to give! THIS MUST HAPPEN!”
“You can always save on food since it’s not nearly as important as this project. I think I can handle not eating for a month, right?”
“SELL YOUR WALLET ON EBAY, GIVE MONEY TO KICKSTARTER”
Which is all great! I’m really happy to see people excited about this. Hell, if I had any money, I’d probably have donated myself.
The issue is that when we ran OUR Kickstarter, we were met, several times, with a very different attitude. Not a “your game looks like shit” or other such, “I’m not interested in funding your specific game” type post — that, we’d be fine with (and actually I’d be surprised if someone hadn’t said such a thing about Wasteland 2, even, among all those comments). The problem is this attitude of, “how dare you ask for money?”
Check out this lovely comment from one user on indiegames.com:
They want FIFTEEN THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ? For THIS? To me it looks like a fraud.
If you REALLY WANT do something, do it yourself. Like I have done – without ANY money and in my spare time after work hours.
I can’t see a point in supporting lazy people with so much money.
Keep in mind, we were asking for $15,000. Given that the game would take us at least 5 or 6 months (if we were able to work full-time), and we are three people, this is still hardly enough to live on. Even with the Kickstarter money, we might have had to go into credit card debt or some such. Here’s another, from a Kotaku posting about the game:
Can anyone explain what exactly makes a project like that cost $15,000? Are they both going to be working 8 hours a day for 2-3 months, and it’s their salary?
I suppose it’s theoretically possible that this was a legitimate question, but I somehow doubt it. That doubt becomes a lot stronger when you read a reddit thread like this one below (or this one…)
The “are we funding a game, or your living expenses?” question is particularly curious, as though the two things are not the same. It’s not as though we need the money to buy a big ol’ bag of pixels, or something. Clearly, there is a some amount of resentment towards indies trying to get their grubby paws on people’s money.
Since this whole fiasco, I’ve gotten several supportive emails pointing out this strange double-standard. Edge Magazine even wrote an article about it. Essentially, I think the issue is that people don’t understand that making games is a lot of hard work, whether it’s for a huge Fallout 3-scope game or something more the size of The Binding of Isaac.
Game developers, big or small, need to be able to pay the rent and buy food in order to continue making games. I think everyone knows that, and I think that there is something implicit in Kickstarter that indicates that it’s really there for helping out the little guys. The big guys have connections and passive income; they have means to make things happen, and they do make things happen. Things like The Indie Fund and Kickstarter are, I believe, there to help the little guys without connections or any passive income from a library of hit games they already got published.
I also recognize that Brian Fargo started this “kick it forward” campaign, which he deserves credit for. Again, I hold absolutely no bad feelings for Fargo or inExile for starting a Kickstarter, if anything I applaud them for going around their publishers. I do think that there could be a tipping point, though. If too many “big, famous rock-star developers who have full-time jobs making games already and passive income from past hits” start doing this, there will (hopefully) be a bit of blow-back. Otherwise, I think the amount of indies who get funded will dramatically decrease as all that potential funding gets sucked up into making the next Doom, Wizardry or Ultima sequel.
In the meantime, we’re plugging away on Auro as much as we can every day. It’s going slower than we’d like, so we’re still considering other possible funding sources (including another Kickstarter, possibly), but it will get finished one way or another.
We have a follow-up to this article written here.