Brainstorming thread about the next Kickstarter campaign.

Let's chat about what you want from our next game. :)
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matt
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Re: Brainstorming thread about the next Kickstarter campaign

Postby matt » Wed Apr 01, 2015 4:27 pm

I think ideally, I'd like to bake all the digital goodies for our next game in the standard reward tiers, so the digital add ons would just be for Neverending Nightmares 1, but we'll see. I panicked on our first kickstarter and added a bunch of add ons. Given the low volume of sales, I don't think they pushed us over the edge, but at the very least, we got a few articles out of it. The press was very kind to our kickstarter, and given the current climate, I don't really expect anyone to run an article if we add add-ons late in the campaign, but I suppose that might be a reason to wait. Then again, I imagine people pledge once and don't up it so maybe the add ons in the beginning would be a good idea? I'll have to give it some more thought. I'm half done reading Lobster's very thorough guide, and I haven't gotten to a section about add ons yet. haha

I find DVDs borderline unwatchable with their low-rez video, so I'm not sure there is a huge demand for that. hehehe I suppose there are Blu-rays, but I think most people prefer digital video.

We will have a director's commentary again, and we try to make our behind the scenes videos regular developer diaries. If there is anything you'd like to see in a developer diary, let me know. I've been a little short lately on ideas although moving has been rather distracting...

Thanks for your suggestions!
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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Re: Brainstorming thread about the next Kickstarter campaign

Postby evilkinggumby » Fri Apr 03, 2015 10:35 am

Ideas for additional Dev Diaries:

Protagonists: How do you settle on the details of your main character in games (the protagonist) ? Is it something you know from the very first inception of the game, or does it come later? How did this effect the main character in NeN and does it seem to already be solid for NeN2 or is it still a debatable topic? Do you do focus testing to see if the protag is going to work for players and the public at large?

Internship in the Games Industry: your thoughts on using interns (paid or otherwise) for production. were you ever an intern for gaming? how was your experience? are they generally useful or are they exploitative in AAA gaming?

Easter Eggs, slipping friends into games, and hidden nods: Do you do them., do you like them, when you play a game, seeing them makes you smile, or makes you cringe?

Camera work: NeN didn't have much for dynamic camera work, most of the scene and angle changes were creeated by art assets. Did you consider doing a more dynamic camera with NeN or with the next project, and aside from the typical difficulties (2d game only really Needing a fixed camera angle) what challenges do you want to avoid by having/not using dynamic zoom, filters, FOV effects, camera shake and wobble and other effects (lense flare, camera obscura, soft focus, etc)

Target Audience: (you may have touched on this before, i'm not sure). Do you have a very fixed target audience? do you set out for a certain demographic or type of gamer when maing a game? how might that effect development and a games success? is it better to narrow your audience when doing the kickstarter?
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Re: Brainstorming thread about the next Kickstarter campaign

Postby matt » Mon Apr 06, 2015 9:18 am

Those are good ideas! I have a few ideas for this week, but perhaps they will go up next week. I'll probably record them all except maybe the one about internships. We sometimes use interns (Joe and Adam started out as interns. We also had a concept art intern that went on to work at Naughty Dog), but our success rate isn't amazing with them. We don't really pay our interns because we find that we have to invest a lot of time and effort into teaching them about the game industry, so it's a learning experience for them. Sometimes we do it in conjunction with their school, so they get some school credit.

I was an intern at Microsoft on the Xbox Software Services team back in 2003, and I worked on Windows Media Center Extender for Xbox (the original), which no one has ever heard of. It was paid, but I probably would have taken an unpaid internship if I got to work on a making actual games.

Microsoft and other large companies view it as a recruiting tool, so they can get good people excited about working for them and find out if people who look good on paper can actually deliver. Unfortunately, we can't afford that and aren't really hiring, so that doesn't make sense for us. Hmmm... Perhaps I'll record something about it after all but talk less about the specifics of what we do.

Well, we'll see... :)
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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Re: Brainstorming thread about the next Kickstarter campaign

Postby evilkinggumby » Mon Apr 06, 2015 5:33 pm

lol i love it you say you wouldn't do a vids on ternships then write all that about your experience with it. then maybe you will. i figure you may have seen both sides, as well seen AAA and Indie level interns, so you'd have a lot of knowledge and stories to talk about. :) specifics are not always necessary, just giving us a general taste of your vast wisdom is enough.

if you do any of these... kool. i wouldn't expect them all but i figured since you asked for ideas, if some are not good, maybe they'll give you ideas for ones that ARE good. :)

and just so you know.. i wasn't looking for some weird way to become an intern when i suggested it as a talking point.. LOL. a bit of what you said in response almost sounded like you were trying to make sure no one applied.. lol
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Re: Brainstorming thread about the next Kickstarter campaign

Postby matt » Fri Apr 10, 2015 5:49 pm

haha I realize you weren't interested in internships - it's just sometimes I feel bad getting applicants and not replying, so saying on a public youtube video that we accept internships might open me up to a lot of emails. haha Previously, the 24 Caret Games website with a picture of an old miner, and as a joke it said "we are looking for a Jasper replacement" and had an email address. We got quite a few emails applying to be a Jasper replacement - despite the requirements for what that is being completely unspecified.

I figured I could post it here because we get fewer views than on youtube - although we don't get a ton on youtube either.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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Re: Brainstorming thread about the next Kickstarter campaign

Postby evilkinggumby » Tue Apr 14, 2015 10:15 am

Nice. ANd I just posted on Watermelons' site about this (sort of) so I figure one good topic for a video, if you haven't done it already, is

"How Long is Too long?" Discussing lengthy development times and your experience with short dev cycles and longer ones. Are games best developed in only a year or two? Is developing across 3-6 years a good idea? 6-12 years? What is the expectation for consumers when looking at games developed over time at the indie and AAA level? Does dev time significantly impact the final price of the game? Should it?

And would you consider polling your fans and backers to see if they would prefer you make a game in 12 months, full stop, for $xxx or would they prefer you to make the game, with more polish and (maybe) slightly more content, for $xxx more? Are you averse to working a game more than 12 months as a personal policy?
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Re: Brainstorming thread about the next Kickstarter campaign

Postby matt » Wed Apr 15, 2015 6:04 pm

That is a tough question to answer, so it is perfect fodder for a developer diary. For the record, I don't think I could ever make a game in 12 months. Neverending Nightmares started development in December of 2012. Granted, no one was on the game full time, but even still, it was definitely more than 12 months. There is no way we will finish the next game in 12 months either.

I don't think I'd ever put the development length choice up to the community except perhaps in the case of stretch goals or greatly exceeding the budget of the game. There are quality considerations (as well as personal pride for the games carrying the Infinitap name) as well as timing considerations in terms of marketing.

My personal preference would be to work on games for longer, but that is assuming we can afford it. If we somehow got overfunded by like $100k, I'd like to add time to development personally, but I might try to push stretch goals to post-release in order to have my cake and eat it too.

In the best case, I'd like to have a bigger team and release games more frequently and/or have two games in production, but that is riskier, and I am very risk adverse given my experience on Retro/Grade...

Moving forward, for developer diary suggestions, I started a new thread over here just so I can keep things organized. :)
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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Re: Brainstorming thread about the next Kickstarter campaign

Postby LobsterSundew » Sun Apr 19, 2015 10:04 pm

Conveying mythology when it is not familiar to North Americans can be a delicate task. It can be a big challenge to introduce a new monster to an audience.

When a movie never had mentioned anywhere before that sunlight is the vampire's weakness and if the audience has no previous knowledge of vampire lore, imagine how strange it is to see a classic vampire antagonist just burst into flames when a ray of sunlight from a small hole strikes it. The viewer may not even realize the ray of light was important, so the ignition just seemed to randomly happen. Not knowing the lore, it just appears that the movie randomly ended with the vampire catching on fire and this results in a less than optimum experience.

If the audience is confused when they shouldn't be it is a problem. An example is that when someone not from Japan watches the trailer for Uchouten Kazoku or trailer for Pom Poko with no idea about what a tanuki is. Both those works are amazing experiences, but I would find it hard to recommend because I'd also have to recommend tens of Wikipedia links to read in order to pierce that material.

Mulaka - Origin Tribes was a Kickstarter project that had the job of having to introduce Rarámuri lore. I don't think it did a good enough job.

Conveying the mythology can also be an viewed as an opportunity. The audience is starting from a blank slate about what rules are behind the monster. This means more flexibility with how some rules can be interpreted.

I skimmed through the Wikipedia category for Philippine legendary creatures. There are some useful monster ideas that could be used.

Kumakatok are 3 people that appear at a doorway as an omen. Amalanhig are failed aswangs that can't climb trees. The batibat resides in a tree and sits upon the chest of any person that tries to sleep near there until that person suffocates.

For an example about conveying the lore I'll focus in this post on the busaw. It is an intelligent flesh-eating ghoul that visually looks like a simple farmer during the day, steals fresh corpses at night and then transforms the corpse into a pig to try to feed to other humans to transform them into ghouls like itself. There are multiple ways to convey the monster.

The clueless character. A poorly executed approach is often trying using a Dr. Watson stand-in character for the audience that is given big dense infodump after infodump. This can be lazy story telling. A crazy old man in a village would rant about all the rules about busaw.
A villain's monologue. This is another often abused storytelling technique. The player would be spying on the busaw as it talks to itself with glee about what it will do with the corpse/pork it now has. This can be made interesting, like Farcry 4's definition of insanity, if the writing is excellent.
Players could find readable notes or audio logs. AAA games like the Deadspace and Resident Evil franchises utilized this a lot. The player would find a bloody journal page with the witness testimony of someone who live long enough to write the information down before the busaw killed him. Sometimes this can be immersion breaking when people ask why someone would be writing such a note.
The player gets shown, not told, the rules of the world through a string of separate scenes. I am reminded of BioShock scenes with splicers. A spying scene of a farmer partially transforming into his true busaw form, then a spying scene of seeing the corpse robbed from the grave, followed by a spying scene of seeing the stolen corpse transfigured into pig meat and then finally a spying scene of people being fed the pig meat which triggers transformations into ghouls. A disadvantage for this is it can take a lot of time.

Research can be done to see how others have attempted to introduce such monsters to North Americans. An episode of Grimm is currently one of the ways aswang have been introduced to North Americans.

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Re: Brainstorming thread about the next Kickstarter campaign

Postby matt » Tue Apr 21, 2015 6:08 pm

If you watch the American version of Pom Poko, they refer to their magical scrotum as a "pouch", which makes it a lot less interesting. hahaha

Your list of techniques are really helpful. I think in a horror game, it's even more challenging. Other characters decrease the scare factor (to me at least), so I want to try to give background without characters interacting. I think that's why notes are so attractive, but I totally agree with you about how they can break immersion. I am trying to write them such that they fit into the world rather than exist purely for exposition. It's challenging, but I think we can do it.
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Re: Brainstorming thread about the next Kickstarter campaign

Postby LobsterSundew » Sat May 02, 2015 12:05 pm

Having a character like Ashley in Resident Evil 4 that accompanies the player can ruin some of the atmosphere. The player character being without allies does raise the tension for many players. It is still possible to have interaction with other characters, but with restrictions. In Bloodborne there are chats with NPCs who are on the other sides of doors or gated windows. The point I'm getting at is that there can be some form of barrier or distance between the player character and other non-hostile/friendly characters. Having the protagonist be the intruding outsider who doesn't start knowing what is happening is a Lovecraftian option.

A way to write notes is to have the character who wrote the note have a specific individual the note was intended to be delivered to. It could be a letter about complaining, like how the Russians in Resident Evil Revelations 2 complain about what is happening to the working conditions on the island. Another example is having text like "To whoever finds this journal, do not make the same mistakes I made in that forest". If a player just encounters a note with "Do not eat the mushrooms" and nothing else it feels like a note from the developer instead of an in-game character.

There is the classic advice of try to show something first before having to resort to telling the audience. If the audience does need to be told about the rules of the world, space out those rules so it isn't an overwhelming infodump.

Minimum goal:

With a large minimum goal than NN had, the chance that the next campaign would need the last 48 hours to get funded has probably increased. I'm starting to look at scenarios such as what if the first day only brought in 800 backers or 2,000 backers. So far it is clear that the minimum goal asked for should be what is needed to be able to make the game. For now planning would be pessimistic and assume even the first stretch goal wouldn't be met. If things turn out better then that is a bonus.

For a $15 game NN should have averaged $22 to $31 per backer. It did $29.58 per backer. For now I assume the $15 price for the main reward tier for a copy of the game stays the same.

If I choose a pessimistic minimum goal like $300,000 it would take 9,678 to 13,637 backers to reach 100%. It would need to do about $90,000 in the first 7 days to have enough momentum.

For a $200,000 minimum goal it would be about 6,452 to 9,091 backers to reach 100%. It does look like $200,000 should be doable because it would actually be a battle to reach a milestone of about 5,000 backers before the last week and ideally before the middle. For comparison, NN had 3,608 backers. Not every backer can be expected to return, but a big chunk like 40% should which could be 1,443 backers. Getting funded on Kickstarter can depend on tipping points. The plan would be to try to get 3,557 backers more than the amount of early backers the next campaign should almost automatically get in its first 72 hours.

Aggressiveness:

An aggressive engineered campaign is best for achieving stretch goals, but at greater risk of the momentum stalling out if something goes wrong. Prices can be pushed higher than otherwise and in some situations the minimum goal is padded higher. Such campaigns can do very well at the start and end but have a much greater risk of stalling out.

A non-aggressive engineered campaign sacrifices stretch-goal achieving potential to focus more on achieving 100% funded. The goal can be lowered as much as possible. Rewards can be given away cheaper than normal to get backers. This can result in some inefficiency per backer. Why give away a copy at $10 when people will pay $15? It can be just about accumulating enough backers that the missing funds can be filled in near the deadline by backers upgrading their pledges. Such campaigns can recover from losing a lot of momentum while aggressive ones end up facing problems.

A balanced rewards structure is harder to do. It easily loses the advantages of those other two approaches if done wrong. Even if executed well, the pure strategies can outperform it. I am biased towards the non-aggressive approach, but I've been making structures more aggressive over time as I've learned more about timing for campaigns. Something to help make campaigns more balanced is new ways to implementing early-bird rewards.

Basic Rewards Structure:

I will likely be recommending a rewards structure similar to what NN used since that structure was already good. In retrospect I do see areas that could have been optimized more, such as the $75 to $100 range.

Here are graphs for NN.
http://i.imgur.com/KyPWv3g.png

For NN's campaign there was a $10 early-bird version of the $15 tier. I see that as non-aggressive. More aggressive would have been a $12 early-bird version of the $15 tier. That extra $2 could either help reach a stretch goal more or be $2 too much for someone who would have pledged at $10.

Cascading type early-bird rewards, like a $10 early-bird with 200 slots, then a $12 early-bird with 1,000 slots and then the regular version $15 tier, so far look to be a horrible idea. The act almost like a poison to the efficiency of the campaign. It harms the medium priced rewards that follow.

Again, I assume the next campaign will have a $15 price for the main non-early-bird Kickstarter reward tier for a copy of the game. $15 is a really good sweet spot of not too high and not too low on Kickstarter. I would also like to see the $10 early-bird return. What would be different is using not only one of the new types of early-bird rewards I've been exploring, but also a hybrid which seems to do the best. So now I'll go over four types of early-bird tiers.

Traditional early-bird rewards have a decided upon limited number of slots. The challenge is to not have too many or too few slots for various reasons like momentum and efficiency. I observe again and again that many backers get funnel to an open early-bird tier. The attractiveness of a discount means other tiers may not be even considered.

Time-limited do not have an upper or lower limit, but end instead when a time deadline is reached. Elegy for a Dead World tried this after I critiqued their preview. The big advantage is it avoids all the big problems of having too many slots that can really poison the campaign in the trough. The big disadvantage is that if no one is around the deadline just rolls by without many people having seen the project. I don't think lack of press coverage is as big a risk for Infinitap's next game based on the press coverage for NN. Some may argue that a risk is giving too many early-bird copies away. From the defensive strategy perspective this isn't a problem because if you get a big amount of backers that is good anyways because those backers can upgrade later in the final week if the project is below a minimum goal or stretch goal. An advantage is that it create urgency to pledge early regardless of how many other backers there currently are because at the deadline that reward will no longer be available.

Milestone-limited is a strange one. The early-bird gets closed when a milestone like 40% funded towards the goal is reached. In my head I can see some scenarios where this is superior and others where it can just be a weaker version of the time-limit approach. I probably won't be recommending this one unless I find somethingmore inspiring about it. It is a complicated one. Things like a troll $10,000 backer become a problem. More often it just risks cutting off the early-bird too soon depending on the higher reward tiers getting popular.

A hybrid combines two or more conditions I just talked about. It can be "Ends on the [specific date] at 8pm EST or until all 5,000 slots are filled". This appears to be the most fit option. It provides more control to the project creator than any other option I know. There is a generous upper hard limit so it doesn't grow out of control or poison the campaign in the trough period. There is a time-limit so the generous limit on slots isn't a problem and it creates urgency if the launch is weaker than expected.

Now about the next campaign, there are two parts to what could be done.

Part 1 is I suggest a hybrid $10 early-bird tier with a time-limit and a very generous cap on the number of slots. This should meet demand on launch day while also not risking poisoning the trough period. How long the time-limit should be is no longer than 7 days, but there is freedom for how few days to offer it. I'd suggest no less than the first 48 hours.

Part 2 is actually another early-bird tier that is engineered to be for Infinitap's existing community. It would likely be an early-bird for the reward tier that adds alpha access. This is also a hybrid, but the time-limit for this potentially $25 to $35 priced reward tier is actually set to be ending sooner than the time-limit on the $10 tier. The time-limit could even be in the first 48 hours. This tier would be for the hardcore fans and the discount would be a way of rewarding them for being part of the community.

The $1 tier for NN had 257 backers. Such a tier helps with the popularity ranking. Having every backer get included in the credits means even a $1 backer feels like they were recognized for becoming part of something. I would strongly recommend having a $1 tier again. Looking at the graph for the $1 tier, that reward steadily grew through-out the run helping to keep the internal exposure up within the video games category.

Introducing beta access and the soundtrack in the same reward tier continues to be another tip.

A high priced reward tier that includes being able to decide a topic of a developer diary may be an idea to explore. It is like how Extra Credits offered episode topics at a fundraiser for charity.

Linking:

Kickstarter added Google Analytics support for projects.

A 302 HTML redirect is something to consider. It can be the URL used in the demo before the actual Kickstarter project URL would be known. Before a launch date is decided that URL leads to a presskit. When a launch date is decided it becomes a countdown page until the project goes live that also has a link to the presskit. When the project page is live the server redirects traffic there. After the launch the countdown page can be re*purposed to being a countdown for the campaign's deadline.


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