Category Archives: Indiegogo

Raising Azazel (a FUDGE game)

So you may remember that I wrote at the start of November that I was going to do the NaGaDeMon challenge this year.

I managed to write and publish my game, going by the name of Raising Azazel. It is a PWYW on Drivethrurpg.

The challenge I signed up for was a FUDGE specific one. There are lots of different challenges in the NaGaDeMon community and the FUDGE one suited me and was  technically a bit easier in that the core mechanics are already tried and tested. It then became more about creating the setting and the story background and then customising FUDGE to bring it all together.

A month is surprisingly short when you set a deadline at the end of it!

The game I released was virtually unedited, had only been played once and in hindsight has some rather important omissions such as there is space of the character sheet for experience but absolutely no rules for experience in the game.

I did create lots of bespoke art for the finished, and I use the word finished lightly, game but every single piece is in exactly the same size and format. If I were to do the page layout again I would recreate most of the art.

I wanted the rule book to be almost a graphic novel with all the background and game setting depicted that way. As it is you get one page of the graphic novel and then a few odd panels dotted through the book. Graphic novels are hard to write if you are rather talentless as a writer!

Still talking about layout there is one example explaining a rule that is separated off into a boxout but none of the others are. I think they all should be so they are easier to find.

Something that I had seen in Terry Amthor’s Shadow World books that people seem to love are his vignette scenes at the top of each chapter. I had wanted to recreate that but the problem is that these require artistic talent as a writer. I did come up with something rather cool. I grabbed a couple of public domain books, one on devil worship in the 19th century and one on astrology. I then changed the odd word here, inserted my characters names for historical figures and such like and used these as extracts from fictitious books. I think they were quite cool but I think I need one at the top of every chapter so that the layout is consistent.

On the topic of chapters. I thought that it would be cool to have the chapter names and headings in Latin as there is a church conspiracy running through the game. This was a bad idea! Did you know that Chapter Six in Latin is Caput Sex? That is neither scary or cool.

So I have a choice now. I can confine Raising Azazel to the depths of OBS, never to be mentioned again or I can revise, edit, fix and improve the game. As I enjoyed the work I have done on it so far I rather fancy the second option.

So I am planning to try out Indiegogo. In the new year, I am stacked out right now with projects, I am going to launch a campaign and try and get some funding to do the bits I cannot do well done properly. It will also teach me something about how Indiegogo works and how to run a campaign.

If you are still reading this and you haven’t already seen the link to Raising Azazel on the Stargazer’s World MeWe group then could I ask you to have a look and give me some critical feedback in the comments? I can then evaluate it and build a todo list that will become part of the Indygogo campaign.

Here is that link again http://bit.ly/RaisingAzazelSGW

Is Kickstarter a double edge sword?

A couple of weeks ago, as a consequence of the g+ exodus, I got into a conversation with another indie game developer.

The gist of the conversation was that this person was just starting out with their very first game, not quite at the play test stage. It was immediately obvious that they envisioned making tens of thousands of dollars and giving up their day job.

I know that it is possible to create a successful game but I do not know anyone who has successfully made a living at it. It seems to be generally accepted that indie produced ‘paid for’ games generally sell around 100-200 copies each.

There are always exceptions but that is the generally accepted figure. So if you are making $10 a copy then you stand to take $1000-$2000 from your game. As a game designer then that has big implications. If a full page piece of art can cost $500 then two such pieces could wipe out everything you will ever earn. In effect if you work for the artist not the artist working for you.

I told the person I was talking to that one thing I wish I had done was start the social media accounts for Devil’s Staircase last October when I first had the idea rather than three weeks ago when I suddenly wanted public play testers. I could have trickle fed nuggets from the games development over the year and build a bit of a following. When I then wanted playtesters I would have had anywhere from a few tens to possibly a couple of thousand people to reach out to.

It is my intention to crowd fund Devil’s Staircase and it would have been equally useful to have an audience to put the word out to when that starts next year.

So I have been looking at crowd funding and I had rejected Kickstarter in preference to indiegogo. The amount of money I have invested in Devil’s staircase is so small that it would have looked petty to kickstart for just $500. It also seems really important in the long run to have a successful kickstarters behind you as your track record. It is possible that the door is closing on the kickstarter method of games funding for the indie developer. I suspect that in 3 years time rpgs funded that way will come from a small cohort of companies with a track record of funding and delivering games.

The deciding factor for me to go for indiegogo, over kickstarter, was the funding model. With KS you have to reach your target to get any funding at all. If you miss it by a single cent then you get nothing. This encourages people to add ever more enticing stretch goals to try and make that initial target.

Indiegogo has a different option and that is variable funding. With variable funding if you get what is pledges regardless of the amount and your target.

The two options suit different people. If you absolutely have to have $1000 to actually create even one of your products, say a card based game and you have to have the cards, then getting $800 means you cannot fulfil your pledges. This is bad. On the other hand if you are fulfilling via drivethru and the game is PDF and POD then the same $800 will still buy in freelance writers and art.

I have already paid for the writing so I can guarantee that the game content is there, I have licenced an entire gallery of images for my game and turning those images in usable game art is a matter of applying exactly the same photoshop filters to every image to give them a consistent look and feel. So I have my art. Given that I have the rules, the book text and the art it doesn’t really matter if I get $1, $10 or $1000, I know that I can give my backers their game.

When you do crowd fund you do not get all the money pledged. The platform takes a straight 5% and the payment card transaction charges up to 3%. It is also taxable income so that could be another 20% or more.

John Wick Presents raised $1.3Million for 7th Sea 2nd Edition. If you did that as an individual in the UK you would have to pay just over half a million dollars in income tax immediately!

I am sure you have seen the news that John Wick Presents has just laid off all their staff and is winding down its production rate?

I suspect part of the problem is that if you have been paid today for the work you need to do for the next three years or longer then you are going to have to manage that cash fund every carefully. You cannot go back and ask for more if any unsuspected snags suddenly come up.

The other problem with the kickstart and stretch goal model is that if everyone who has funded you has already bought your game and all the future books as well, where are your future sales going to come from? You have basically emptied the barrel before you start.

With indiegogo it seems like a lower pressure environment. The platform still puts you under a little bit of pressure to make your targets big and raise more money but they are on commission so the more you raise the more they earn. That pressure is far greater on KS where you have to succeed for KS to make any money.

I have a little bit of a personal challenge and that is to earn about $250,000 from games. That is the price of a small farm or small holding where I can live and have a few more (ten or so) horses. Nothing is really dependent on the success or failure of that goal, it would simply be nice to think that a) I ‘bought the farm’ but in a good way and b) I could point at something and say that is what RPGs bought me. As long as I live until I am 180 years old, I am right on track.

I am very much into low stress and just for fun game creation. Kickstarter is most definitely not the tool of choice for that style of game design!

The dark side of Kickstarter

Kickstarter Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms have become quite popular recently. A lot of RPG publishers and designers have adopted Kickstarter and other crowdfunding services to raise money for their products. I have backed a couple of projects on both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo and overall I am quite happy how things turned out so far.

But alas where there is light there’s also darkness. Some time ago I had a post called “How not to run a Kickstarter to fund your RPG”, where I gave some examples of what I consider big no-noes. You also might have heard about the problems the people behind the upcoming iOS/Android game “Star Command”. After paying for the backer rewards and taxes they basically had not much money left to actually make the game. It looks like they managed to get back on track after all, but there’s some real risk that a badly planned crowdfunding effort might stop a project instead of actually kickstart it.

Another problem I’ve seen is that there are sometimes issues with fulfilling the promises made. What we backers often forget is that there’s always a risk involved when be back a project. If the project starter fails to fulfill his or her promises or takes the money and runs, we can’t do much about it. Especially when it comes to bonus goals things can become frustrating quickly. I know of one Kickstarter project that has ended almost a year ago where people are still waiting for the stuff promised when the bonus goals have been reached. A lack of recent updates isn’t making thing easier either.

But not getting some bonus stuff promised is not as bad as when over the year after the fundraiser has ended people are still waiting for the release of the game they helped to fund even though it was supposedly done (aside from layout and printing) when the crowdfunding started.

Of course we never know what went wrong in these cases. In most cases it’s probably not ill will of the people involved but just bad planning, personal issues or health issues that got in the way or what we would call “force majeure”. But with every Kickstarter you support there’s a certain risk that even if it meets its goals the backers might not get what they hoped for.

That’s something we should always keep in mind when putting our hard-earned money on the table. Don’t get me wrong, I totally love the idea of crowdfunding but we have to keep in mind that there’s always risk involved. It’s not as if you have a legally binding contract with the project starter. You basically donate money to a cause with limited to no influence on the outcome.