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Jason S.Walters

Third Party Hero System Kickstarter Projects: Some Thoughts

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Probably not, bigby, but I will never know till I try. I suspect the two books planed by Phantomgm are much like my book ideals, about as likely to see print as much as I am likely to find flying pigs. No offense.
I was just joking about the typo. Unless it wasn't a typo in which case I have no idea what you were trying to say :P

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Well, out of the three Kickstarter projects I have invested in that are in the midst of production, the one I have been most pleased with is Monster Hunter International. I will certainly support anything else that Steve Long comes up with in the future and puts into Kickstarter, based on what I have seen of this one. The book is soon to be delivered, and I've been pleased by the PDF. Imaginary Friends is on track for delivery, but updates have slowed way down since funding. If it makes the delivery date and lives up to its promises, my future support of additional Hero-based projects from them will be assured. The bottom of my list is Narosia, which has been the most disappointing experience of the three. I was very excited about this project and invested the most in it out of the three, and it's not only late on delivery but frustratingly slow on project updates. Unless I am wowed by the next offering, I am uncertain if I will support another from them, which makes me sad. I guess two out of three isn't bad.

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Well, out of the three Kickstarter projects I have invested in that are in the midst of production, the one I have been most pleased with is Monster Hunter International. I will certainly support anything else that Steve Long comes up with in the future and puts into Kickstarter, based on what I have seen of this one. The book is soon to be delivered, and I've been pleased by the PDF. Imaginary Friends is on track for delivery, but updates have slowed way down since funding. If it makes the delivery date and lives up to its promises, my future support of additional Hero-based projects from them will be assured. The bottom of my list is Narosia, which has been the most disappointing experience of the three. I was very excited about this project and invested the most in it out of the three, and it's not only late on delivery but frustratingly slow on project updates. Unless I am wowed by the next offering, I am uncertain if I will support another from them, which makes me sad. I guess two out of three isn't bad.
My problem with Narosia is the comments explaining why they are late. Including the rules for a complete game instead of just a supplement turned out to be harder than they expected.

 

Okay, I never knew it was planned to be a suppliment. It was always presented as a complete game. If they have no clue how to fit the rules in how did they even guesstimate they size of the book and how much it would cost to print?

At this point I would preferred a suppliment.

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As has been mentioned by others profusely, my experience with Kickstarter projects has been hit and miss. I have backed a few, and for the most part, I have been satisfied with the results. But as Lord Liaden points out quite rightly, publishing is a business, and in my opinion a lot of entrants into the Kickstarter realms are doing these as "projects" which is to say they have NO experience actually publishing or producing product in the real market (by the way, that is my current profession). So, by way of example, Narosia (which I backed whole-heartedly and am really excited to see) is 6 months behind schedule now, and the updates says they are working on the skills chapter... WHAT? That by my reckoning tells me it will be at least another 6 months before we see product (if we actually do). A year behind schedule has put more than one publisher in hot water financially. So with no true responsibility to their backers, many seem to feel that they can proceed at their own pace and everyone should be delighted by it (I am not suggesting Silverback Press is doing this, just that I have seen some do this very thing). There are plenty of black holes I can chuck my money into, would that I had the finances to do so...

 

I guess the real gist of what I am saying is simply this, if people want kickstarters to be successful in the long run, they must be run as a business, not a hobby. As a result, my desire to fund others hobbies is quickly waning... And as said before, if it can't get funding, it probably shouldn't be produced...

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Well, at Blackwyrm there are no scam kickstarters. I finished the entire product's draft before we even started, and we set a promise date that we are still on track for. An announcement about our promise date will be coming soon.

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I wonder...how many of theas Kickstarter projects are real, and how many of theas are scams?
Very few are scams and Kickstarter catches and cancels many of the scams that do occur (like the recent Kobe Beef Jerky scam that got axed minutes before completion). Heck, you can be more or less 100% sure of any project being put up by an established company. I've funded over 80 projects and have not been scammed or otherwise cheated yet.

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Actually, I think they do do a good job of policing obvious scams at Kickstarter, and I believe that even the ill-fated projects were started with the best intentions. I am just saying that intentions don't "feed the bulldog", and that more professionalism is needed on the part of many Kickstarters, and more accountability when they fail.

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A brief report on my limited Kickstarter experiences.

 

Would Invest Again:

One project has fully delivered the rewards promised, 4 to 6 months after expected completion date. Communications were very good.

One project has started to deliver the electronic rewards promised, and is more or less on target to hit the physical product date goals (within a month or so). Communications are excellent.

Three projects are in the procurement stage (dice manufacturing in all three cases), and look to be on target to hit goals. Communications range from very good to excellent.

 

Probably Invest Again:

One project is in the production stage, but looks to be on track for hitting the physical product goals. Communications are good.

 

Probably Would Not Invest Again:

Two projects have already missed the production date goal. Communications were typically poor, but have improved. One is 10 months past production date goal, the other is 5 months past, both are still in development, and do not look like they will be ready for printing in the short term.

 

So, what else separates these projects? The "Would/Probably Invest Again" projects all have a person involved who is enthusiastic, and had a clear vision of the final product. One of the projects at the bottom ("Probably Would Not Invest Again") seemed to get bogged down when specifications for the product changed. The other just didn't seem to have a clear vision of the final product, and did not understand how to "herd cats" to get many contributors to turn in their work in a timely manner (or at all; several assets for the book apparently required replacing people who didn't turn in anything).

 

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I'm picky about kickstarters, and fairly tight on money so I don't back as much as I want. But I have back 2 successful and pledged for 1 failed one, and one that is 11 days away from funding, but it is from a publisher I trust (Kobold Press) so I have no worries.

 

I just am really careful, and so far I've not had any issues. If I had more money I would have backed about 5 others but I just couldn't afford it at the time.

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I've had a pretty good experience so far. I have backed 24 projects. Of them one was cancelled and one failed to meet its goal. Of the rest most delivered on schedule, the ones that were late were very good at keeping the backers informed. I should note that of the ones that are late now, two are software (I actually would have been very surprised if this wasn't the case) and one tabletop RPG.

 

The RPG had a very long no update gap and I was beginning to think that it was going to become vaporware when we received a backer update. One of the two writers had incurred an unexpected medical issue that involved surgery and a recovery period. The update occurred when he was recovered and the project has slide back time lost.

 

All in all I am pleased. But I do have to agree with some of the comments up-thread. I tend to back projects by people or companies I recognize. Though I have taken chances if the project is a genre/system I like by someone I have never heard of.

 

The biggest thing I really HATE about Kickstarter is its extremely crappy search function and very limited tag use. You cannot combine anything, each search is one category or tag and then you have to look through everything manually. The only way to find something quickly is if you already know its name which kind of defeats the purpose of people being able to find things they might want to back. I wish they would allow multiple tag selection or add more categories, such as differentiating between Computer and Tabletop RPGs or at least separate Tabletop Games into RPG's, Boardgames and Card Games.

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I've had a pretty good experience so far. I have backed 24 projects. Of them one was cancelled and one failed to meet its goal. Of the rest most delivered on schedule, the ones that were late were very good at keeping the backers informed. I should note that of the ones that are late now, two are software (I actually would have been very surprised if this wasn't the case) and one tabletop RPG.

 

The RPG had a very long no update gap and I was beginning to think that it was going to become vaporware when we received a backer update. One of the two writers had incurred an unexpected medical issue that involved surgery and a recovery period. The update occurred when he was recovered and the project has slide back time lost.

 

All in all I am pleased. But I do have to agree with some of the comments up-thread. I tend to back projects by people or companies I recognize. Though I have taken chances if the project is a genre/system I like by someone I have never heard of.

 

The biggest thing I really HATE about Kickstarter is its extremely crappy search function and very limited tag use. You cannot combine anything, each search is one category or tag and then you have to look through everything manually. The only way to find something quickly is if you already know its name which kind of defeats the purpose of people being able to find things they might want to back. I wish they would allow multiple tag selection or add more categories, such as differentiating between Computer and Tabletop RPGs or at least separate Tabletop Games into RPG's, Boardgames and Card Games.

It does have Video Games and Board/Table/Card games as sub-categories.

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An update, companies I'd definitely support again:

BlackWyrm Publishing (Hero/Savage Worlds) -- Imaginary Friends came in on-time and with lots of great communication. Mr Wumbles packed himself in the box to make sure I said it was a great product, as well.

Evil Hat (Fate) -- the FATE Core hardcover book was beautifully done, and (mostly) on time. I like that there were frequent updates, often with links to the material in production. I've still got a few more things that are making their way to the printer, but the wonderful PDFs are already in my Dropbox account. Their second Kickstarter for Fate dice absolutely surprised me when the dice arrived at the beginning of the target month, well before I expected them.

Far Future Enterprises (Traveller5) -- sure, it arrived a few months after the target date, but that was OK because of the great communication. Wonderful product and swag, too.

 

There are two others that are nearing completion, and I expect that they'll also be on this "support again" list. One is taking a bit longer than originally estimated, due to the number of participants (she's having dice milled from various metals), and the other one is waiting on the slow boat from China, but both give frequent updates with good information.

 

And then there are the last two. I wouldn't touch a new project from either of them. One is 16 months since funding, and a year since the expected publication date. Apparently, writing a game book is harder than it looks. He's had two other Kickstarters, one which finally delivered product (but apparently not promised swag) after 17 months, and one which looks suspiciously like a Kickstarter for swag for that was promised for that first one. Communications was abysmal in the beginning, and has become more frequent (but filled with excuses).

 

The other one is also struggling, but has at least addressed the issues, and has presented valid reasons for the delays. Like the other one in this category, updates were nonexistent for a few months, then were issued sporadically, and are now fairly regular. It was funded a year ago, and has missed its estimated publication by six months so far.

 

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I honestly just haven't seen much that I would use from any of the HERO kickstarters.  The one I did sign up for failed to get funded IIRC.  And that was so long ago I don't recall what the product was going to be.

Mythic HERO was about the only one that looked like something I would use.  The Blackwyrm stuff (that I recall seeing - been out of the HERO world for a spell) is / was mostly full campaign settings and I have *never* been able to really use a published campaign setting.  I always find some little thing I don't like and then just make my own setting borrowing the ideas I did like if anything.

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Thank you for sharing your Kickstarter experiences. This was very helpful. I am sad that we fell into the "perceived scam" for some of you, but I completely understand. 

 

The Kickstarter process is challenging and risky on multiple levels. Our biggest failing is we were not as prepared as we should have been, for reasons that have been thoroughly explored. That is a risk for backers and developer alike. All of these things have a cascade effect. Missed opportunities — frustrated backers. In the end however, it is helpful to remember that we are all gamers working to create a shared experience that is unlike anything else. When we hear about something, especially something that resonates with us, we want it ASAP. When a company like mine then provides a timeline for that thing, naturally expectations are set and we build our excitement towards that moment. We are all let down when that date is missed, and even more let down when it seems like things are not progressing even close to original estimates. Communication is the key, and one of the points we failed on. We continue to work to improve this cadence with meaningful updates, and sometimes we succeed and sometimes the frustration of having nothing to report manifests in reporting nothing. 

 

But I ask you to remember, that we are all passionate about gaming. When I run my playtest of Narosia every week, I experience first hand why I love what I am doing. When I can't get something to work on paper the way it works in my head, I'm frustrated, I gather my gang, and we brainstorm a way forward. We hold on to the idea that what we have put together is a fun experience that we can share together. Passion is the hardest thing to communicate, especially with sincerity. My players, and the many convention event players I have had the pleasure of spending time with, remind me every time why we do this, and we we need to succeed and keep taking one step forward every day. 

 

I wish I could do this full time. I wish that I had infinite funds to make more of these projects happen. In the end, we set an objective and we leap for it. When we fall, we get up and keep working until we get it. Next time, it will be better. The time after that, it will be even better, and we will continue to improve while making the products that we want to see, that we have played, and that we know people, at least some people, will enjoy. 

 

So many of you have been very supportive of this project, and I appreciate it very much. Some of you have continued to be Champions for us and for that I am sincerely grateful. This year is going to be a great year for us, finally, and hopefully I can spend more of my time on the boards discussing the finer nuance's of Narosia's villains and the secrets hidden across the world. That's all I really want to do. 

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The main reason you fell into the "perceived scam" category was lack of communication for nearly a year.

Now that you are doing regular updates anyone who claims the product isn't being made or was a scam is just being intentionally obtuse.

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For us, too, it is an investment. We aren't going to make money on this, as much as we would like to. I think this industry is quite challenging from a production perspective. We just hope to build a foundation for something on which we can build future success. 

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One of the secrets to this is creating a thread on whatever board it belongs on here and keeping people appraised of your progress. One reason why this works is "Paul Masson" strategy, where we offer nothing before all the work is done. The number one thing my fans want is staying on top of things, and by doing this, I keep my hope of being an amazing game designer alive.

 

Michael

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I'm going to second Balabanto's comment here.

 

Communications are paramount.  I think everyone investing in a Kickstarter recognizes that there are quite likely going to be unexpected speed bumps that crop up along the way.  As a rule, we're a pretty forgiving bunch.  But no one likes to be treated like a mushroom (always kept in the dark; only fed s**t), so it's REALLY important to keep the communications open, be honest about unexpected problems, and avoid arrogance in dealing with your customers, no matter how annoying some of them can be.

 

I backed 6th Edition Ogre, from Steve Jackson Games.  It was over a year late.  But during that year, they updated us over 175 times.  They told us every step of the way what was going on, and frequently even had pictures to help explain what the problems were and show us what the successes were.  I never doubted that I was going to get an amazing product, lots of swag, and a lot of fun out of it.  I also never lost faith that SJG was being totally honest and up-front with us.

 

By comparison, I've backed a couple of projects from another well-respected game company with a track record even longer than SJG's is.  They have utterly failed their honesty checks repeatedly.  Even when they do communicate with us, it is only to soft-soap us and lie about where they are in the production of the items we backed.  Within three or four months they write another update that proves they completely lied about where they were and what was happening all along.  Recently there has been a major change in the company's management, and I again have hope that we might eventually get our products, but even so, there is a tremendous amount of good will and customer enthusiasm/support that has been needlessly squandered along the way.  Support that it will be hard for them to earn back.

 

By comparison with both of those, I have supported two Kickstarters by a relative unknown (Sine Nomine -- a single person show) in the past year, and both delivered AHEAD of time and completely.  He achieves this by having his product ready to go absent some artwork and editing, not "incentivizing" us with a ton of extraneous crap (you are NOT a t-shirt company) by way of "stretch goals," and by working diligently once the Kickstarter closes to finish the remaining work and get things out to the customers.  He also keeps everyone updated religiously, usually every two to three weeks.

 

The bottom line, even fancy game companies with a long history of producing excellent materials can run a bad Kickstarter, fall into the trap of over promising, and fail the simple communications test.  It's really all about organization, pre-planning, attention to detail, and keeping the backers informed.  We'll forgive a lot if you just TALK to us, honestly and forthrightly.  We've invested in your dream and are eager to see you succeed; surely that's not too much to ask in return....

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