Monday, September 24, 2012

Kickstarter - Back To Basics?

There's been a lot of discussion about Kickstarter going on in various places around the internet gaming community. Most of it centers around the seeming failures of various projects to appear "on time" (that is, exactly along the original estimated schedule). Most of the discussion is stupid, with people fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of production schedules and creative endeavors. At times, it gets pretty heated (see the persona "Running With Scissors" in the thread on the matter in the Autarch boards, for instance, who ended up being closely moderated because of his inability to maintain any sort of decorum in his arguments).

Anyway, this discussion hasn't been isolated to the gaming world. There has been discussion about how Amanda Palmer has disbursed the funding she received for her latest album and tour, for instance, and there are other such discussions. Kickstarter has apparently been paying attention, because they have just announced some policy changes that should revert the system to its original intent - that is, rather than being a glorified pre-order system, it should be a method of funding ideas. That will likely change the entire dynamic of the way Kickstarter has been used for gaming projects. Rather than focusing on the big-ticket projects and simply purchasing an object, it will instead focus on the smaller projects that couldn't happen without funding (such as a book being able to pay for art rather than being unadorned).

So, what are your thoughts about Kickstarter? Is it a good thing? Is this a good direction for it to take?


  1. I've taken part in two Kickstarter projects - The Department, a Bladerunner-esq skirmish game, and Traveller 5, Marc Miller's Magnum Opus/Last Hurrah - and have been satisfied.

    I refuse to support ship modules and scenario books for the latter through Kickstarter as it's lazy pre-selling. These sort of projects, in the past, have come out as pdfs and books and relied upon their quality to sell, rather than vapour-ware and puffery on Kickstarter.

  2. Overall I think its a good thing. Like pretty much anything is can be abused and I saw a few cases of it, but you just try to keep educated and vote with your wallet. Some projects you just don't get involved in because it reeks of a scam or maybe its not good value for the money they're asking. Then you have ones that give a awesome return on your money, but you may have wait. Some of the arguments I've read are getting a bit stupid. Their arguments are they want Kickstarter to be something else than what it is. Its like arguing with an apple because its not an orange.

    I've back I think 5 kickstarters and 1 indigogo. While I've only gotten updates and PDFs (I ordered all hardcover print) I'm fine with waiting. Take extra time, do it right.

  3. For myself, I've backed 8 Kickstarters so far. One didn't fund, one was basically giving a couple bucks to a friend so he could put on a theatrical thing, one was a comic book thing (sort of) that has turned into quite the performance piece (if you're interested to know, look up "sad pictures for children" and check out the #pfsc tag on tumblr), two were music projects (that have both fulfilled their rewards, to my great satisfaction, though as I mentioned there are some questions about Amanda Palmer's, and Unwoman's ran into some unforeseen difficulties with the vinyl pressings), and the other three are gaming ones. Of the gaming ones, none have yet fulfilled their rewards completely, though Dwimmermount is giving regular updates and previews, and Traveller5 has presented the wallpapers that Marc said would be released. Ogre Designer's Edition has given several updates, there are several pdf bonuses from the stretch goals that have been released, and as promised a line editor for the game was hired. T5 looks to be completely on track, Dwimmermount is playing catch-up, and Ogre Designer's Edition has been pushed back a month or two.

    I think that the big lesson is: have a manuscript/prototype first, then do the Kickstarter to fund the publication/art/whatever. The music projects that fulfilled easily were basically ready before the Kickstarter went live. In both cases, the songs were written and arranged, and all that needed to be done was actually go into the studio and record.

  4. I like kickstarter and have put some money into some projects. I only back the folks I think I can trust to deliver, of course, but I don't care much for the schedules involved and usually ignore any mention of a timeline.

    Having worked in the video games industry, I think a lot of folks in both that industry as well as tabletop gaming suffer from a similar affliction: A love of games, without a love for business.

    That's not necessarily bad, but it's why schedules aren't predicted right or followed through on, and why estimates can be so far off, amongst other issues.

    Project management is an art all to its own and there are many passionate people out there who haven't been exposed to it very well. That isn't to imply that they are bad people, but rather that our expectations for individual projects of pure passion can't reasonably include a strict timetable.