Micro-Producing: Starting to Kick

Posted by ahoodedfigure (4237 posts) -

Hello folks. 

I am the proud co-parent of a fine, double-headed baby, and will probably contribute some ducats to a horrifying creature that will speak of the end times.  Not everyone's cut out for the role of micro-producer, and as with being a producer in any field, it's a bit of a gamble. Here are my thoughts on all of of this. Feel free to tell your own tales of faith in companies below, if you like.
 
My first Kickstarter contribution was to a little card game that could, before either of the above had even been heard of, and it showed me the power that this venue has for getting solid concepts and strong companies better attention for their niche designs. It's basically a way to help focus all this enthusiasm people have at a single target, and it's done in a smart way.
 
Any cynicism I have about this format, giving money to people before a thing is even made, is tempered by my own faith in my ability to choose companies and people with a decent track record. There are plenty of projects out there that I think deserve funding ( this looks awesome) and those who will get funded because their design or presentation is just that great, but I think Kickstarter winds up benefiting those who Brian Fargo himself called the developer in the middle, the people with projects that need more than a few folks in a tiny office to make happen. 
 
Having seen how a BIG game company needs to worry about advertising budgets and supplying massive teams, it's easy for me to see why this venue makes more sense for stuff that's not going to make the biggest splash in the marketplace, though I don't think any big company needs to look at these niche products as an all-or-nothing affair. That's a discussion for another time, I guess.
 
All that said; because you're giving money to people who need to deliver (assuming they get enough. If they don't manage to meet their goal, then pfft, no loss for you), it's up to the contributors, and Kickstarter itself, to make sure these people adequately deliver on their promises. With that pressure to do well, it won't mean you'll get the perfect product you were hoping for, but you might get a pretty good approximation of what you reasonably expected. And that's probably more likely to be true if the funding level and the team match the goals of the project. So you have folks with a decent history like Brian Fargo and Tim Schafer pushing for games many of us have wanted, but egoists have declared that No One Likes (because they don't like them), finally getting a chance, not because there weren't other ways to do it, but because they're using a popular site that's easy enough to find and use.
 
Faith is already a huge component of this industry. We often rely on brand names to get us through when lack of full disclosure has us wondering what the end product will be (I'm still wondering how I'll feel when I reach the end of DAO), we do pre-orders as a game nears release, we get swept up in the five star reviews only to find that even journalists get swept up in the initial enthusiasm for the next blockbuster because, yeah, they're mostly gamers themselves. It's kinda scary, and pretty messed up, when faith gets put on the line, especially when it's betrayed. But at the same time, the upswing, when our faith is kept, it's pretty fucking sweet.
 
I'm a bit conservative for backing what look to be solid designers, but then again, I don't pretend I'm a venture capitalist, here. I'm just a micro-producer with eclectic tastes who wants to see a few cool games get made.

#1 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4237 posts) -

Hello folks. 

I am the proud co-parent of a fine, double-headed baby, and will probably contribute some ducats to a horrifying creature that will speak of the end times.  Not everyone's cut out for the role of micro-producer, and as with being a producer in any field, it's a bit of a gamble. Here are my thoughts on all of of this. Feel free to tell your own tales of faith in companies below, if you like.
 
My first Kickstarter contribution was to a little card game that could, before either of the above had even been heard of, and it showed me the power that this venue has for getting solid concepts and strong companies better attention for their niche designs. It's basically a way to help focus all this enthusiasm people have at a single target, and it's done in a smart way.
 
Any cynicism I have about this format, giving money to people before a thing is even made, is tempered by my own faith in my ability to choose companies and people with a decent track record. There are plenty of projects out there that I think deserve funding ( this looks awesome) and those who will get funded because their design or presentation is just that great, but I think Kickstarter winds up benefiting those who Brian Fargo himself called the developer in the middle, the people with projects that need more than a few folks in a tiny office to make happen. 
 
Having seen how a BIG game company needs to worry about advertising budgets and supplying massive teams, it's easy for me to see why this venue makes more sense for stuff that's not going to make the biggest splash in the marketplace, though I don't think any big company needs to look at these niche products as an all-or-nothing affair. That's a discussion for another time, I guess.
 
All that said; because you're giving money to people who need to deliver (assuming they get enough. If they don't manage to meet their goal, then pfft, no loss for you), it's up to the contributors, and Kickstarter itself, to make sure these people adequately deliver on their promises. With that pressure to do well, it won't mean you'll get the perfect product you were hoping for, but you might get a pretty good approximation of what you reasonably expected. And that's probably more likely to be true if the funding level and the team match the goals of the project. So you have folks with a decent history like Brian Fargo and Tim Schafer pushing for games many of us have wanted, but egoists have declared that No One Likes (because they don't like them), finally getting a chance, not because there weren't other ways to do it, but because they're using a popular site that's easy enough to find and use.
 
Faith is already a huge component of this industry. We often rely on brand names to get us through when lack of full disclosure has us wondering what the end product will be (I'm still wondering how I'll feel when I reach the end of DAO), we do pre-orders as a game nears release, we get swept up in the five star reviews only to find that even journalists get swept up in the initial enthusiasm for the next blockbuster because, yeah, they're mostly gamers themselves. It's kinda scary, and pretty messed up, when faith gets put on the line, especially when it's betrayed. But at the same time, the upswing, when our faith is kept, it's pretty fucking sweet.
 
I'm a bit conservative for backing what look to be solid designers, but then again, I don't pretend I'm a venture capitalist, here. I'm just a micro-producer with eclectic tastes who wants to see a few cool games get made.

#2 Posted by Patman99 (1543 posts) -

My first kickstarter contribution ever was the Double-Fine initiative. More recently, I saw this Wasteland 2 thing and simply could not resist. I would be happy to shell out $20-100 dollars to see my favourite game genres/franchises be reborn. It is a novel idea that Tim Schafer started to push, but I think the true success will be if the game is actually good (Which I imagine will be a reality). If the game is good, then even more potential "micro-producers" will emerge thus giving life to an otherwise not thought of method of acquiring capital.

#3 Posted by Enigma777 (6047 posts) -

I think you're more of a nano-producer... Pico-producer?

#4 Posted by Claude (16251 posts) -

I'll buy it when it's done. It better be good or I will bitch like hell. Cause I bought it, otherwise, not a peep from me.

#5 Edited by ahoodedfigure (4237 posts) -
@Claude: Wiser choice, of course.  I wonder if hunger breeds a better game... I guess we'll see.
 
@Enigma777: I hope you don't wear yourself out too much calling people out on the abuse of that particular prefix. I figured someone would mention it though and I'm glad it happened right off. If you DO happen to do that a lot, though, I hope you get paid for it. I remember micro being the popular one 20 years ago when it was all about microcomputing. We haven't left the nano stage. If we get the pico stage, and I'm still alive, I'll probably get a chance to start making pica jokes. As opposed to pika jokes.
 
@Patman99: I think a lot of pressure will be on them to make it good, but because the money's already fronted, it sorta reverses the "will-they-or-won't-they-like-this" frustration of game design. They will, if you get enough money. The rest is up the people making the game not to embarrass themselves. As to how good these games will be-- who knows?

I think there will be a bit of a conflation of people who will try to ride the wave of name recognition, which will probably cause some confidence shortfall while things adjust. I guess it always sort of goes that way when a new fad comes. I hope these sorts of things, though, continue to be viable. Makes a fan of weird stuff like me all happy and stuff.
#6 Posted by Brodehouse (9370 posts) -

I spend 60 dollars on games already, more often on concept than execution. This is an early pre-order, purely on concept.

What I like about it is 100% of my money going to production, instead of roughly 25% making it back to the developer.

For people who get a rage-on about devs trying to expand audiences by changing 'their game', this is a way for those people to finally understand why. Maybe there isn't enough people out there to make a 60 million dollar direct descendant of Baldur's Gate/X-COM/Syndicate/whatever old franchise people want to see more of. Maybe there is, let's get a Kickstarter going and see if it happens.

#7 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11001 posts) -

I donated my $15 to Wasteland 2 out of principle more than anything else. As the foremost authority on old games the guy who writes about old games (specifically old CRPGs) as a hobby, you don't need to think very hard to guess that I am on board with this project. Whereas, Schafer's adventure games, for as much as I like them in concept, suffer from the part where they are old adventure games and thus occasionally require leaps of logic that I have trouble making. A step above abstractions upon abstractions like Myst at least, but I don't find the core gameplay of Adventure games all that fun, more of a series of roadblocks between the next bit of clever writing.

Brian Fargo is a name that has been connected to a lot of the Role Playing Games that I hold dear, but he was high management by the time the late 90s came around. To see the stuff he was directly involved in would require me to go back to stuff like The Bard's Tale and the original Wasteland, games from an era before VGA displays and mouse control, i.e. the stuff my modern "child of the 90s and 00s" brain can't handle. I'm still optimistic about how this will turn out, if only because they must know the kind of crushing expectations they have placed on themselves, but if it does end up being a disaster, or at least a Fallout 2 "I don't really like this game even though it seems like I should" type scenario I will at least be happy that someone made that kind of game in 2012, or 2013 as it were.

#8 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4237 posts) -
@Brodehouse: That's a good point about percentages, and probably why all games won't fit this model. We already know about Wasteland or Doube Fine, so we find out about these games early on and throw some shekels at them, while plenty of other games we might like more will come and go, either within places like Kickstarter, or elsewhere. It's nice to have one venue to find everything that you won't find in a store (I'd forgotten about the title of Legends of Grimrock until I stumbled upon it again a few days ago), but I guess concentrating things too much will mess up businesses that'll come in the future with fresh ideas on how to market games without a marketing budget.
 
And yeah, I think it's a decent statement to people who think games have to hit the same notes all the time. You have plenty of big budget games that are quickly left in the dust that were trying to please the same people as the eventual winners. The market could definitely use more high-profile diversity. 
 
Looks like Baldur's Gate is at least getting an HD upgrade, which should be fun (as long as the models don't get too detailed... these refurbished games might not age so well if we can see everything).
#9 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4237 posts) -
@ArbitraryWater: I think the jolt of whatever chemicals you get when you accomplish something, along with the usual vibrance and cleverness that adventure games bring helps me overlook the occasional *PAIN* of not reading the designer's mind. It also depends a lot on what the designer did to make the game, especially if they allowed alternative ways to solve it, which Tim Schafer seems to want to court. Still, every adventure game's a bit of a gamble. I felt Gemini Rue was rewarding but in some ways could have used improvement as a commercial release, and Machinarium should have focused on those clever environmental puzzles and stayed away from the more standard logic puzzles you might get one of those fancy gift shops you'd find in a mall. So, I understand people's reticence, but I have so many good adventure game memories it's hard to say no to someone who gave me a bunch of them.
 
It's important to remember that Brian Fargo IS a producer, he's trying to get stuff made and that's pretty much been his job, although producers have the potential to help maintain the spirit of a project when everyone wants to go off in their own directions. Usually a producer's trying to manage resources and keep people from straying; the guy has, apparently, his own money on the line to get the game made... I still wonder about that, will he take money from sales post launch?  I dunno.
 
And yeah, even though I should be more curmudgeony about it all, I can't be. The stunt nature of this, pulling off a big enough project to show people it can be done, kinda feels good no matter how the project turns out.... y'know, t'would still be nice if it revolutionized genre expectations a bit. Or at least reminded the lil' folk that old ideas with a modern patina can still kick ass.
#10 Posted by ChrisTaran (1487 posts) -

As someone who has contributed to 8 different Kickstarter projects, I do not, outside of the project people giving a valiant effort to complete a project, ever feel like they absolutely must.

I am giving them money in hopes of a return, not in guarantee of one. If they've tried, but still fail, I do not in any way wish for my funds back, nor will I feel any sort of resentment towards them.

This is something I think everyone going into funding a Kickstarter project should have the mindset of.

#11 Posted by Bollard (5024 posts) -

My first Kickstarter was CodeHero: A game to teach people how to make games. Seemed a great concept so I thought why not give a little to get a cheap copy at the end.

#12 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4237 posts) -
@ChrisTaran: Yeah, that's why I feel like the producer comparison fits more than it might otherwise. It's a bit of a gamble, it's not guaranteed, it's not like spending on an end result, where some sort of consumer protection makes sense. Many things could happen, or not happen...  so maybe we'll see a bit of a backlash when some people aren't happy with the end result. Hopefully people are aware enough of the dynamics that this won't be a problem, but there's always someone...
 
@Chavtheworld: Yeah, I saw that. I know education games still have a stigma, but damn is that a nice idea. And games in general could probably be teaching a bit more as part of a puzzle or whatever and we'd learn it because we needed the information to get by in the game world. So, yeah, send me a message if you get to play it any time soon and tell me how it goes. I hope that game works out.
#13 Posted by Bollard (5024 posts) -

@ahoodedfigure: I will dooooo.

#14 Posted by Krakn3Dfx (2480 posts) -

I tossed in $15 for the Double Fine Kickstarter. Was going to kick in $15 for Wasteland 2, but then I saw the "cloth map" option for $40.

Damn them. Cloth map is my Kryptonite.

#15 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4237 posts) -
@Krakn3Dfx: Yeah, for me it's a meaty manual, which I guess that'll also have. But I think I'll stick with the 30 buck version just because my entertainment budget's gone a bit out of control as of late. 
 
I actually didn't have too many games with maps, really, or if they had them they were just folded glossy paper, not cloth.  Heh, back then the maps were a lifesaver, too. Often games now just spoil everything with their maps. I remember Might and Magic was more interesting because I knew there was cool stuff to find beyond the local area because I could see that stuff on the map. I feel like a retro rant's coming on, so I'd better stop :)
#16 Edited by ColonelRick (114 posts) -

As a Dutchman: Fuck you, you German cunts :P Think you're all hot shit because you work for Tim Schäfer and stuff.

(Referring to the video about how to back the project if you live in Europe/don't have a CC)

#17 Posted by Hailinel (22704 posts) -

@ColonelRick said:

As a Dutchman: Fuck you, you German cunts :P Think you're all hot shit because you work for Tim Schäfer and stuff.

(Referring to the video about how to back the project if you live in Europe/don't have a CC)

Oh, go put on your wooden shoes and get high. :P

#18 Posted by Vegetable_Side_Dish (1722 posts) -

I see the $65 I gave for the premium copy + shipping as me saving $5 from what I would have given for a complete version of Mass Effect 3.  
Not only am I getting a boxed game, cloth map, instruction book, digital soundtrack, digital concept art book and some weird novella along with the game, I'm also supporting some genuine talent that don't have to answer to higher-ups and compromise their vision. 

#19 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4237 posts) -
@Vegetable_Side_Dish: Complete? I assume you're not including all the DLC ;)
#20 Posted by Vegetable_Side_Dish (1722 posts) -
@ahoodedfigure: Just the Day 1 content, making the game $70, unless I'm mistaken. 
#21 Posted by Funkydupe (3293 posts) -

@Vegetable_Side_Dish: I hope its worth it.

#22 Posted by RagingLion (1362 posts) -

Nice piece. I've only funded the Double Fine Adventure so far and quite a large reason for that is because of the documentary which I think will be particularly sweet given the natural comedic talents of Schafer even though the nitty gritty will also be awesome, especially if well produced and edited like it seems it will be. I loved Building the Bastion so I'm in because of something else like that. In terms of the game, I'm not absolutely desperate to play it and anything that falls in that category is now something I just wait for a Steam sale for. I've bought Monkey Island 1 and played and did enjoy it without it rocking my world and I've got 2 waiting for me as well but I don't have a particular history with adventure games and they can often be a frustrating thing to play. I did like Machinarium though - tone, music and animation went a long way with that one though although the gameplay didn't ever annoy either.

Yeah, have to see about future Kickstarters. I doubt I'll be one to resurrect an old genre. I don't have a particular dear one I don't think and if I know a game is going to get funded anyway for something I kind of want I might just opt to wait to get it normally once it's actually made. Really like the model and what it allows though.

#23 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4237 posts) -
@RagingLion: Good to hear from you. I find it interesting that most of the companies have to really press what their product is about, while Double Fine slid through on reputation alone. The tricky part for them will be picking what they're actually going to make, now that so many eyes are on them.
 
It's also interesting that since backing a failed project means zero money lost, while backing a successful one has all the risk. The usual tendency for someone to hold back until it looks like a sure thing is reversed.
#24 Posted by RagingLion (1362 posts) -

@ahoodedfigure said:

It's also interesting that since backing a failed project means zero money lost, while backing a successful one has all the risk. The usual tendency for someone to hold back until it looks like a sure thing is reversed.

This is a good point. Though it remains that the onus is still on you to make the right judgement on if the team are capable of creating a game to completion and the game you want them to make to a good quality.

#25 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4237 posts) -
@RagingLion: Yeah, that much doesn't change. Sometimes I'm actually tempted to give a boost to a company that looks like it's floundering just because when you see a thing moving toward the basic amount goal, you feel like that momentum somehow equals a better company. As though the movement of funds is somehow a validation of their worthiness. Hard to judge, even with big names, what would be the smart choice. Hindsight will show :)
#26 Posted by Brendan (7511 posts) -

So far I've given money to Double Fine, FTL, and Wasteland 2. I wanted to support The Banner Saga as well, but I think I should limit my contributions to three things before ever even seeing a product for anything yet.

#27 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4237 posts) -
@Brendan: I held off on Banner Saga myself. It's not like support is the only way to buy the game so I'm not too worried. And it looks like they're doing fine.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.