The information in this post reflects the state of the Kickstarter at the moment of publication.
Edit: Information has been added to the KS page in the FAQ section about some of the concerns expressed in this post.
So there’s been a lot of talk around lately about Crowd-funding, about accountability, about hard-nosed interviews and games development. There’s a group of people, myself included who see game crowd funding with a suspicious eye and on the other side there’s people defending the model and saying we should not judge based on a few bad apples and that overall, game devs are doing their best.
I won’t hide that the discourse about how game devs are doing their best and that we should not pass judgment based on incomplete information or a lack of understanding of the game development process is bothering me. When I’m being asked to fund a project, I do have to make a decision on whether or not it is a good investment and I believe it is the responsibility of the developers to give me that information if they want me to fund them. Something that is often lacking.
I’m not going to make friends in the game industry today with this post but I feel I need to illustrate my reasoning as to why I will not fund a game. And in today’s example, we will be talking about Crowfall, a new MMO project who just arrived on Kickstarter.
The information given
So, let’s see what Artcraft, the developers tell us about Crowfall. Well, there’s a very long description of what the game will be about which is awesome since it would be a bit silly to fund a game I wouldn’t want to play in the first place. On that regard, I give A+ to Artcraft. I feel reading their description I have a good idea of what the game is about.
They also do a good job of presenting the team and their past work. So A+ again there, I know who I am dealing with.
Funding wise, they want to get 800 000$ dollars and the video tells us that they have some personal money invested already. I would have liked to have seen this written in the description and also how much do they have invested already. How much of the total does 800k represent? Do they have other funding that they did not talk about? I would also like to know the total budget of game. On that aspect I will give a D- to Artcraft. Not a complete failure but there’s too much info missing.
Tying in the previous point, we have no idea of how far along exactly development is. If alpha is late summer we can deduce work has been done and the videos would suggest it but really, no solid information is given so we have no idea. The videos could be either gameplay or just video and we have no way of telling.
Timetables are also lacking. They write they plan to be in Alpha by late summer 2015 but beyond that… no real info. I’m giving F here, I would have liked to know when to expect the game to be out. Right now I have no idea of their planned timetables beyond an alpha date.
Lastly, risks are also a bit generic. They tell us it’s going to be very difficult and risky, they tell us that times are subject to change and then they jump into commitments. I wanted to know the risks they foresaw in more specific terms. Right now all I have is making games is hard and times can change… generic stuff that doesn’t tell me anything. F again.
-Game info: A+
-People behind the game: A+
-Funding Info: D-
-Schedule and advancement: F
If you look up investment guides (and we are investing in a game) they recommend you do your own research about the product and individuals behind it before making a decision and since I find that the information given is lacking in a few key areas, let’s do our due diligence and investigate.
The game itself is well explained I feel and won’t need much research. They do admit that there’s a high risk since they’re creating something new not attempted before so it’s something to keep in mind in regards to what this entails. I think delays are to be expected as some things are ironed out and in worst case it could lead to the game not seeing release or seeing release with significant changes meaning a key feature we like won’t be present.
The people behind the game now. This is the leap of faith part I feel. Both producers and the whole team have experience on big titles and quite a few releases so we’re not dealing with inexperienced people which is good. On the flipside, quite a few of the titles named , Shadowbane, Star Wars galaxies, Warhammer Online (team), Dark Millenium (team) and the Sims Online to give examples have had troubled histories when not outright cancelled or reinvented. So it’s something to keep in mind that the people behind Crowfall don’t have perfect records up to this point. That said, they might not have been individually responsible and people can and do learn from past mistakes. This is why I say it’s a leap of faith. It could could well, it could go wrong but it’s not a sure shot by any means.
Funding is where it gets suspicious. They have shown a team of 17 which, according to the average indie salary for 2014, would cost 850k to fund for a year. Alpha is 5 to 6 months away and based on past game it will be likely a year between alpha and release at least. So right there they are short on funding which is a big alarm for me. Yes they said they had private funding but we have no idea how much of that is left so it could be that they need the KS money to keep going. We don’t know and that for me is a huge problem. They’re asking me to fund a game that if I’m to trust the info I have, is already lacking funds to complete.
The last three items, schedule, advancement and risk tie into the funding problem. I have no real idea of the advancement of the project so far and launch date. For all I know there could be years away.. no way of knowing and the only risk that is listed is that delays are likely. Not good news when the project is already under funded.
So based on my research, the risks of this project are extremely high. A new concept that seems underfunded with no clear delivery date.
But you don’t know!
I know that some people will want to counter this post by saying I haven’t done enough research, that I don’t understand the realities of game development, that I don’t understand the goal of Kickstarter.
You know what? That is exactly the problem!
The fact that the Crowfall Kickstarter doesn’t tell me enough forces me to do research and estimate by myself if I think it’s a wise investment or not. I shouldn’t have to do that. The Crowfall team should have done everything in their power to prove to me how reliable and serious they are, how they were going to make the game and make sure it would launch in a timely manner and with enough funding to see it through.
What I got instead was : “We got a cool game and you should give us money. Trust us! We’re cool!”