02 - Kickstarter Goals vs. Budgets

Developer diaries about creating Devastated Dreams.
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matt
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02 - Kickstarter Goals vs. Budgets

Post by matt » Wed Jun 03, 2015 11:48 am

In this developer diary, I talk about how kickstarter goals don't equate to game budgets. This is in response to Katie Chironis's opinion piece on Polygon about how "big indie" projects are hurting smaller indie developers on kickstarter.

-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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evilkinggumby
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Re: 02 - Kickstarter Goals vs. Budgets

Post by evilkinggumby » Thu Jun 04, 2015 8:56 am

haha you said yer goin on 33 and that yer old.. I laughed and then cried and then took a nap.. you young folk are so silly...

I guess if across the board EVERY dev on kickstarter is not really being forthright and accurate about total cost vs requested cost, people really shouldn't be so confused. I think the problem is that fact is not well known or widespread enough. So a lot of backers think " oh wow that shiny game only costs $20k so it must be pretty cheap to knock out a great game if you know what you are doing!" whereas what they're assuming is totally inaccurate. I wish someone could get the appx numbers for a handful or more KS games and write up a solid article on a major website to break it down in general terms (not disclosing actual figures, but rounded approximates that give very vague notions) to example how misleading people's concepts are at this point. Or just let stuff keep going and either everyone will figure it out on their own.. or go home and abandon crowdfunding on KS entirely. hehehe.

And for the record, I totally think Matt is asking for all this money cause he wants to line his pocked and buy more consoles and games for them to fill his shelves and walls and then continue making videos, gloating at his amassed wealth and power.

LOOK AT ME! I AM GILGENBACH AND I OWN EVERYTHING! BOW TO MY RICHES!

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LOLZ yeah.. as if :)
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[I am Evilkinggumby on DeviantArt and Steam if you want to looks me up!]

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matt
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Re: 02 - Kickstarter Goals vs. Budgets

Post by matt » Thu Jun 04, 2015 5:18 pm

Even if people were forthcoming with their actual budgets, it would still have huge variances I think. I'm sure some young whippersnappers would be happy to make games and get paid $15k a year. I don't even know what the budget of Neverending Nightmares was because it's complicated. Do I try to give back pay for when we weren't drawing a salary? Do I just write that off? Do I count all the reward fulfillment stuff including all the man hours for creating the art book? (That took forever?) The least I can say is we spent the 90 some thousand we made on kickstarter, the 99k from OUYA, as well as some additional money from consulting and that just barely brought us over the finish line for releasing the game (not including the unpaid months). We have been fortunate that the game has done ok on Steam since release but unfortunately not well enough that I don't lose sleep all the time over whether we can finish the next game... :-/
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

Harry Sunderland
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Re: 02 - Kickstarter Goals vs. Budgets

Post by Harry Sunderland » Fri Jun 05, 2015 7:00 am

You make a great point Matt. People need to stop comparing the budgets of different projects, because everything is so variable.

Everyone's opportunity cost of time is different, and different developers face different costs based on where they live.

People need to stop looking at the budget overall and only ask themselves, "Do I like this project? If so, how much am I going to donate?"

Who cares how much the project is asking total. There's too much variance to consider that. If you don't want a project...don't donate. If you want it a little...donate a little. And if you want it a lot, donate a lot. But don't base how much you donate or IF you donate based on the relative size of the KS goal.

Plus, these are game developers, not accountants. Give them some wiggle room because no matter how much a developer asks for, there are STILL costs they probably aren't accounting for.

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Re: 02 - Kickstarter Goals vs. Budgets

Post by evilkinggumby » Fri Jun 05, 2015 11:52 am

Harry Sunderland wrote:People need to stop looking at the budget overall and only ask themselves, "Do I like this project? If so, how much am I going to donate?"

Who cares how much the project is asking total. There's too much variance to consider that. If you don't want a project...don't donate. If you want it a little...donate a little. And if you want it a lot, donate a lot. But don't base how much you donate or IF you donate based on the relative size of the KS goal.
I really like that idea, and I think it would be rather nice if that was how everyone operated on KS and similar funding sites.

But as charming as it is, I doubt it is anything we'll see ever set in. When someone is being asked to donate or invest in something, they not only want to feel interested and excited about it, but they want assurance that what is being proposed is even possible. And "possible" can be either "able to be created on proposed budget" or " able to reach x budget to finish the fundraiser and collect" (as is the case with most Kickstarters).

For nostalgia, industry vets and familiar franchises, being so excited you forgo all reason and just throw everything you got at it is pretty common. For new properties, indie unknowns, and untested concepts, it is a whole different (much higher risk) story. Adding to that a growing number of kickstarter failures (read: unfinished games, abandoned projects or outright fraud) and you will see more and more backers being very finicky in how they spend their backer bucks.

so backers have to try and really think about what they're looking at. the metric they use to determine if it is worth it is all over the board, so relying just on "do I like this project?" is not always the first and only question, but really the last after considering all options.

It is like choosing to patronize a restaurant. Does everyone go to a particular joint just for the food? do some go for the atmosphere, or the crowd, or the big televisions? Do they go there for fond memories, or for the view out the front windows, or something else? Is it reasonable to expect EVERYONE to just pick an eatery ONLY on the food and little else?

the tough part is what is being proposed is so open ended that if it was a resturant it would mean being offered various meals for different prices but not knowing what the actual operational cost is both to make the food, supplies and seasoning, plus costs to staff the joint and pay the bills. oh wait... we don't have that now in most cases....

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So then I wonder why people are so interested with gaming. lol. I think it comes down to trust, at the heart and soul of it. Are you willing to "trusst" a diner that charges $50 for a burger when the joint is small, quaint but not very decorated or frilly? If said burger looks, generally, like any other burger in town, will you trust it is really the best most amazing new experience you've had in a long time? One's mileage on trust varies, and having transparency helps. If the diner said the burger was more expensive because it used only local farmer's materials, that it was especially selected to be the best prime cuts of beef and vegetables, if it was to help fun an organ transplant for the diner's founder who is on their death bed, or to raise money for a kids charity... you might be willing to "invest" in it. If it was just that price and no explanation for WHY is given.. you'd walk away and find a better deal.

So people are looking to establish trust in the campaigns. are the dev's being up front and honest about ENOUGH of it to feel legit and trustworthy? Is there fears or questions purposefully being left out? are the asking prices justified by what they're saying and expecting? or are they saying their game will be amazing, innovative, and the best damn experience you could ever have with a puzzle/Platformer and the investment starts at $50 just to lick the bun...

since there is no consistency in ACTUAL cost of game development, much like there is no up front costs given at resturants typically, we the investors/backers are forced to use a very different system of weights and measures and make unfair and often inaccurate assumptions about the budgets and efficiency. I can assume hamburger meat is about $2 a pound for most restaurants just as easily as I can assume a dev is paid $30 an hour no matter the game. If no one is going to disclose the truth, it will keep happpening.
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Re: 02 - Kickstarter Goals vs. Budgets

Post by matt » Fri Jun 05, 2015 3:01 pm

I think it's tough to NOT consider the goal when backing projects. If the developer has a number like $17 million stretch goals for Starfighter Inc, it (to me) seems like they don't really have reasonable expectations for what they can accomplish. Scaling up to a dev studio that could deal with a $17 million budget is very tough. High Impact Games had a sister studio (Bionic Games) that died after their first title (Spyborgs for Wii. Be warned! It's not good...), and I think part of the reason was that they grew from nothing to a full team too fast. There was a lot of other bad luck too though.

However, usually my issue with projects is their goal is too small. A lot of times that is a rookie mistake, but Formula Fusion suffered from this where the text seemed to imply that they couldn't really complete anything of substance with their goal. Then their stretch goals were super weird because the first one was ESPORTS integration?!?! and then they jumped right to console versions BEFORE they have the "full PC release" stretch goal. Weird.....

The worst thing I see is a budget of like $20k and they plan on supporting PS4, Xbox One, Vita, and WiiU just because they are using Unity. Their QA bill for TRC compliance on 4 platforms is likely bigger than $20k. That doesn't include the man months of work required to make your game compliant (no - Unity doesn't do that for free) or the cost of the dev kits. (Sometimes free, sometimes expensive).

Things like Bloodstained and Yooka Laylee that say up front that their goal is not their development budget is really helpful when evaluating the project in my mind anyway.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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Re: 02 - Kickstarter Goals vs. Budgets

Post by evilkinggumby » Tue Jun 09, 2015 12:55 pm

matt wrote:However, usually my issue with projects is their goal is too small. A lot of times that is a rookie mistake, but Formula Fusion suffered from this where the text seemed to imply that they couldn't really complete anything of substance with their goal. Then their stretch goals were super weird because the first one was ESPORTS integration?!?! and then they jumped right to console versions BEFORE they have the "full PC release" stretch goal. Weird.....

Yeah I have seen a few projects that I was passing on because of this issue. When it feels like their goal is unrealistic, too little or too much, I tend to worry. Unless they state straight up that the amount needed is just for a small bit of development, I won't touch it as saying " we only need this small bit to make a HUGE GAME that is still mostly undeveloped" sounds like they're really not well versed in game development to make the project work. Often I see the issue with upstarts and untested teams who walk into it on a whim. A few I took the risk on (though a small risk) usually failed to hit their goal anyhow. lol
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