The Hotdog Laserhouse

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Regarding Kickstarter

With Gigidigi’s Cucumber Quest Kickstarter being such a success, Kickstarter is back at the forefront of my mind again.

A couple weeks before the whole thing blew up because of Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert’s Doublefine Adventure, I was discussing the site with a friend and I came away thinking maybe I should do one for myself. She was poking fun at the fact that most Kickstarters for indie games were asking for like, $50,000 or $100,000, despite having no history of creating games and only vague descriptions of what they were going to do with all of that money. They were basically selling ideas, in other words, and weren’t getting very far.

imageMan, I’d probably need less than a tenth of that," I had said. To make iOS games, I’d need a copy of Multimedia Fusion 2 (a "middleware" of sorts I’ve been using since 2001) that was my own, which is anywhere from $120 to $350+. Add on to that a MMF2 iOS export license, and we’re talking closer to $300 or $400. Given that Apple only lets you publish iOS games from an Apple device, I’d probably need a Macbook or something along those lines, which puts me in to the realm of $2500-$3000. And, of course, I’d need an iDevice to test it on, like that iPod Touch you see on the right. So we’re talking roughly $3500 for me to one-man-army my way to making iOS games using the Multimedia Fusion middleware. 

Of course, in my head, I’d considered maybe rounding up to $5000, with the remaining $1500(ish) going towards possibly hiring a full-time musician and maybe even getting some kind of drawing tablet to ease the process of creating art assets.

You also have a real history of making games that you can point to," she responded.

Therein lies the problem. The number of games I make versus the number of games I finish is really skewed. Kickstarting up to $5000 on something I may spend years goofing around on seems like a massively skeevy thing to do. When the only thing I’m wasting is my own time it’s fine, but if people are going to invest money in to me, that’s when it becomes uncomfortable. But, to a certain extent, that’s what small game developers do, isn’t it? Jordan Mechner transcribed a journal he kept during the development of the original Apple II version of Prince of Persia, and there was a period of around 6-9 months where he rarely touched the game. And that was his job. He worked for a company that made software, where he was being paid to make a videogame. And he did that. I am still technically considered a “hobbyist”, so my tendency to slack is less appalling.

But I can’t use that as an excuse. Can I? No, I can’t let myself be that kind of monster. Apologies to Jordan Mechner; I don’t mean that as an insult to him (and in Mechner’s defense, it was a much different time).

imageThat just means I would have (gasp!) responsibility to finish a game I was paid to make. The question is: Am I ready for that level of responsibility? Would I be willing to “work for videogames” as the phrase goes? Well, maybe, I guess. I don’t know. The thing is, I have current commitments that I would like to finish, first. It’s really just stupid fangame stuff, but I’d like to get those out the door before I really sit down and “get serious”. But how long is that going to take? Should I just cut my losses and go for it? Probably, but I’m sure there’s plenty of people I know that would be on either side of that argument. It’s my question to answer, I just don’t know if I can just yet.

So let’s assume I take the plunge and start a Kickstarter, for… say, an iOS version of my Fantasy Trail Mix game that I haven’t touched since the first week of March. Then what? Then comes 30 days of worrying as I fail to meet my meager goal? $5000 is a pittance compared to the hundreds of thousands that are getting headlines, but do I have a fanbase that would support me to that point? The answer is “probably not”. Sure, when Imran and I did the Sonic Endurance Race, we raised about $1000 in 24 hours - but that was the combined might of NeoGAF, Platformers.net, plus whoever reads TSSZnews.com and Nitrobeard. There is no way I could have drummed up that much support on my own, and definitely not for personal gain like a Kickstarter.

Could I?

Do I have the confidence in myself to even try? Well, if I did, I would probably have done it by now. Would Kickstarter even take me? They’d kind of have to, right? I mean, they let idiots like this guy and his ridiculous “Spongebob Z" nonsense through the gates to panhandle for money. If I have a game idea that is even a little bit functional that is totally of my own creation and not anybody else’s, I’m already a step above stuff like that.

imageThe other problem in all of this, though, is that now Kickstarter is a “thing”. A deluge of Kickstarters are going up and the signal-to-noise ratio is beginning to heavily spike in favor of noise. Everybody’s jumping to the foray with their hand out to the point where people are being a little more discerning regarding the types of Kickstarters they talk about and support. Despite what some call the “Tim Schafer Effect”, starting one up right now seems like it would probably be a pretty awful idea and I would feel like an awful person for being associated with… well, the Spongebob Z guy, basically. I was raised to never ask for help with anything, and with the public opinion of Kickstarter rapidly dwindling, I doubly don’t want to be seen as part of that crowd.

(Checking that off my to-do list)