State of the Project, May 2013
Hi everyone. Here's an update about where we stand with the Year of the Dwagon project.
First, the good news is that all remaining backer rewards were mailed out last month. Only DVDs (which do not yet exist) remain for pledge rewards. If you feel you are still owed something that's not a DVD, please message me directly through Kickstarter, and we will sort it out.
The bad news is that a lot of the goals we had set for this project have been stalled out for some time. We're not giving up on any of them, but like many projects that exceed their initial targets, we have made a series of unpleasant discoveries and gotten clobbered by unknowns. Here are two very good articles about how this happens:
What specifically happened to us is that much of what we set out to fund has turned out to be a whole lot more expensive than we'd planned, despite getting quotes before we launched. Stickers, pink dwagons and Hamstards set us back more than anticipated. Our pre-animation, composing, and other creative work on the motion comic drained so much of the budget so fast that we had to call a time out and figure out how we could afford to proceed. There were legal and other unforeseen expenses that cropped up, too.
Additionally, we ended up having two major capital outlays last year that were not funded by the project. The purple decrypted dwagon plushies had to be ordered in a high quantity, because the material was custom made. And the larger-size hardcover books we decided to make were a $20,000+ expense which was never planned for (very much my mistake).
Among the nastiest surprises was the cost of shipping. Postage rates went up at the worst possible time. When we went to the larger-than-planned hardcover book, it was over 4 pounds and in wider dimensions. The cost to ship it overseas is $35! I had to ask our backers for additional support in January just to get the books out the door. They came through, and I am very grateful.
Maybe the most crushing, time-eating thing has been the story of the new website. Before launching the Kickstarter, I researched local web development companies and found one that really had their act together. They had done impressive work for security-dependent clients like credit unions, and their designs looked awesome. I gave them a spec for my dream website, they gave me a ballpark bid of $7500. So I doubled that and made our stretch goal $15,000.
After we had raised that money, I went back to them and had a 2-hour meeting with the lead developer and company owner about everything I wanted the site to do. They then came back and told me it would be $36,000 to build.
Since we didn't have that much, I went to plan B. We have a lot of volunteer talent reading this comic, and I hired an Erfworld fan to be lead developer on the site. He gave me a bid of around $8000 to build the site in Drupal. Long story short, he bailed on the project after about 5 months of development, and disappeared. I then put together a second team of Erfworld readers. The second team started over on a new platform (ELGG), got some things done. Then the lead coder had a personal crisis and quit. That took another 5 months to play out. Then we pulled together a third team. Team 3 changed platforms again and thought they could have the site up by January. Then by April. Last month, they also effectively dissolved and vanished. I am now pulling together Team 4, to pick up where Team 3 left off, starting in June.
But the very worst thing—what really has knocked us flat—has been Xin's situation. Her family crisis has impacted her ability to draw, and she decided to leave the comic after Book 2. That has left me with a major project I never planned for: finding a new artist. I have spent the last six months searching for someone who could possibly replace her. We have someone now, but getting him up to speed and ready to draw this comic has been a project in and of itself.
Very soon, we'll be launching another Kickstarter called "E is for Erfworld" (The Erfabet Book). This will be to introduce the new artist by having him draw Erfworld characters and creatures for every letter of the alphabet. It's a smaller project, but an important one. If we can't fund a professional illustrator, then I am not sure how we can keep Erfworld going at all.
So, it's been rough. But it's not hopeless. Everything costs twice as much and takes 5 times as long as we think, but I believe it will all get done and be awesome. Erfworld under the next artist ought to be able to hold to a regular update schedule, the website will get built, and we'll march forward into the rest of the saga.
Thanks as always for your patience and support.