Funded! This project was successfully funded on November 20, 2012.

Update #40

Kickstarter as a Subversive Activity

Is Kickstarter Dead?

Kickstarter and other crowd-funding sites such as IndieGoGo have created amazing opportunities for creative developers in many media, especially games. They are also very different from previous ways of financing projects, and that sometimes causes confusion. I regularly see articles questioning whether "Kickstarter is dead", and whether backers are wasting their money when they support a crowd-funding project. So far, they have been wrong every time, and fans continue to fund projects they consider worthy.

Kickstarter is not a place where you preorder games (or other products) - It is a chance for you to support projects you want to see developed. Because project creators are required to list estimated delivery dates for backer rewards, it is easy for backers to make the assumption that they are promising delivery of certain things on those dates. Let's see how this works in the traditional game industry.

Not Exactly Rules – More Like Guidelines

Game development is an exercise in barely-controlled chaos. Major game companies – as well as small indie developers – start and cancel game projects constantly. Everyone is at risk – The company, its investors, the project creators, and other employees and contractors. The gamers have an emotional risk as well, but usually no financial risk.

One effect of this risk is that most game companies rely on "safe bets" – sequels to existing franchises and games licensed from other media. Another is that they are very willing to cancel a game at any point of development. I've read that as many as 8 out of 10 games are cancelled by their publishers during development. At least 98 of 100 game proposals never even make it that far.

As for budgets and shipping dates, "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley". And "no plan survives contact with the enemy." The enemies of game development include the creative nature of the process, the uncertainty of developing new processes and supporting constantly-changing technology, the demands of corporate executives and investors, and the uncertainty of the marketplace.

In practice, this means that publishers cancel most of their games before shipment, and almost every game comes in late and over budget. Much worse is that game publishers often force developers to release unfinished games in order to make arbitrary deadlines; that happened to two of our games. I don't know about you, but I would much rather get a great game six months or a year after the scheduled date than a broken one delivered on time.

Kickstarter is Better... But Not Perfect

How do Kickstarter-funded game projects do compared to ones financed by publishers? Actually, very well. I've read that 90% of Kickstarter projects eventually ship, but that almost all of them miss their deadline estimate. That's a heck of a lot better than the 20% of publisher-financed games that eventually make it out. My numbers may be off, but the conclusion is definitely correct – A game funded on Kickstarter is much more likely to ship than a traditionally-produced game.

As to the missed deadlines, those are almost inevitable. If a project barely reaches its goal (such as Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption), the creators need to scramble for resources and use part-time developers to get the project done. If it makes a lot more (e.g. Double Fine Adventure), the developer is expected to make a much more complex game with stretch goal features. It takes a lot more time to make a big game than a small one.

So when people complain about Kickstarter projects "running late", they are apparently looking for miracles. It's possible for a game to ship on time, under budget, and relatively bug-free – I've managed it on several of my projects – but it's never the way to bet. Big publisher with a big budget, indie developer with a tiny budget – The process is difficult and uncertain for all of us.

The Return of Sierra Adventures

Many of the former Sierra On-Line adventure game designers have used the Kickstarter opportunity to bring back our dreams of making great story-driven games. Let's see where they are today:

  • Jim Walls (creator of "Police Quest") is currently running a Kickstarter for his new "Precinct" game at Like Police Quest, Precinct is a police procedural game with a mixture of traditional adventure game play and action sequences. You play as a police officer in a corrupt town, and must do your job while trying to clean up your department. If you liked Police Quest, Law & Order, or CSI, you should think about supporting Jim's game. The funding is moving along slowly, but still has time to succeed.
  • A group of filmmakers ("Molotov Angel") is trying to document the classic Sierra. They caught Lori and me on camera in separate sessions last year. Their project is at, but is far short of its goal with one week remaining.
  • Make Leisure Suit Larry Come Again, by Al Lowe (creator of the original "Leisure Suit Larry"), Josh Mandel, and Replay Games. This project promised to recreate Leisure Suit Larry 1 with modern standards for audio and graphics and additional text and puzzles. The game shipped this month and lives up to Josh and Al's promises.
  • Moebius, by Jane Jensen ("Gabriel Knight" creator) and her new company, Pinkerton Road Studio. Jane offered a "year of adventure", starting with the Moebius game. Pinkerton Road recently released an Alpha build, and it is getting strongly positive reviews.
  • SpaceVenture, by Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy ("Space Quest" creators). Lori and I saw a demo at Comic-Con in San Diego, and it looks great! Like us, Mark and Scott are re-examining many of the basic assumptions about how to make a good adventure game, and I think they are going to make a great game.
  • Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, by Lori Ann Cole and Corey Cole ("Quest for Glory" creators). We are working on a playable demo consisting of a short cinematic and a single playable room. This is a true "vertical slice" that plays exactly like the full game, so it is a big step towards developing the rest of the game. Lori and I are excited by what we can do with relatively-unlimited memory – beautiful graphics, great music, and a context-sensitive story and user interface that we like a lot better than the ones we used at Sierra

News and Events

Lori and I travelled to San Diego Comic-Con a couple of weeks ago, and the E3 Expo the previous month. We had a great meeting in San Diego with the SpaceVenture team – Mark Crowe, Scott Murphy, and Chris Pope – and talked about how we can promote each other's games. We also discussed the issues both teams have faced using Unity to mix 2D and 3D art. Their game demo looks terrific and shows that they have learned some new game design tricks since the 90's.

What struck us at E3 was how little the gaming industry has progressed since we were last there 8 or 10 years ago. The budgets keep climbing, but we aren't seeing many real advances in game play, or even in the quality of the graphics. The "uncanny valley" theory suggests that when a game reaches a certain level of detail, we expect it to feel "real". At that point, more realistic graphics actually take away from the player's feeling of immersion. I think that most high-budget games are now at that uncomfortable level where they are too realistic to not be completely real.

The most impressive new games I saw were Thief and Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. The lead writer and a senior game designer for Thief gave a good talk at Comic-Con about what they are trying to accomplish with the story and game play. They are smart people, and the game sounds as though it will have some depth.

Subversive Activities

Our final trip of the Summer is this week. Lori and I are travelling to San Francisco to speak at the International Game Developer's Association (IGDA) Summit, and to have some meetings with potential partners. Our topic is "Game Design as a Subversive Activity", and will be at 4:00 on Wednesday, July 31. It's open to attendees of the IGDA Summit and the parallel Casual Connect conference. I'll plan on posting part of the talk (or at least a link) in the next Update.

What's so "subversive" about letting our players be heroes? We believe that the things you do and learn in games can carry over to your non-gaming life. Although we avoid "preaching" in our games, each one has an underlying message about making the world a better place. And that's why making our own games is so important to us, especially when we read messages about how our games have encouraged fans to help people in need and to make themselves better.

Kickstarter is subversive too. By supporting projects here, we are each saying, "I am choosing for myself which dreams I believe in, and which games I want to see made."  We are not delegating these decisions to a committee of "experts".  Our voices and our choices matter here.

Thank you for sharing our dream!


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      Creator eXoScoriae on August 26, 2013

      The "death of kickstarter" is very simple - a lot of people have a LOT of money tied up in projects they have seen no return on. I have several thousands of dollars on the line, around half of which is tied to projects that are over 6 months past their stated release period. Some of those projects have gone completely dark. CLANG!, a very lavishly promoted KS by author Neal Stephenson (with highly produced videos featuring many industry veterans like Gabe Newell), has been dark since releasing a very rudimentary alpha level demo back in April. No updates, to responses to messages... and not much hope right now.

      Only so many projects can ride on the coat tails of good will and and positive thinking before people pull back and wait to see the reality of it all. The inability to release games that were funded is going to lead to a series of lawsuits that will bankrupt these developers while providing little recompense to those who lost money pledging. They are slow in coming however, as unlike a KS for the design and release of a physical object, game development is a much longer and more nebulous process.

      If the first and second run games release and do well, systems like Kickstarter will tighten up and offer valid avenues of funding for well conceived and properly researched projects. I do not believe it will ever be very friendly to low end indie games again however, as right now, these have the worst record of success after funding, take the longest to develop, and are the most likely to fail based on the fact they often come with the least experience.

      I have to say though, CLANG! is by far the highest profile project I have seen go dark for a long period of time... and considering the high profile names involved and the absolutely zero-coverage it has had on any gaming website (coverage of the fact it has disappeared that is), I no longer I feel i can implicitly trust high profile campaigns either. After seeing the incredible roller coaster of mismanagement inherent to American McGee's sister projects, I have severe doubts in the success of that as well.

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      Creator Michael Crawford on August 7, 2013

      One more thing - I was so glad to hear that you guys had a chance to meet with the Two Guys. One thing I've hoped is that since most ex-Sierra teams seem to be using the same engines that eventually some information-sharing might be set up. Seems a good way to share best practices and toolsets and things, and reduce duplicated labor...

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      Creator Michael Crawford on August 7, 2013

      Very interesting post, Corey, and a nice "peek behind the curtain".

      I think most of the fretting over Kickstarter comes because everyone and their mother has a blog/podcast/vidcast these days and you have to fill column inches somehow. So "thoughtpieces" and fretting is the order of the day. People who are totally unused to the development process look at the sausage getting made and freak out; once the products start making it to market, things will settle down. When people finally get product in their hands they'll be ready for a new wave of investment.

      Of course there are always malcontents, and people who don't like adventure games won't comprehend how this whole arrangement is a positive. I've seen several sniping reviews about LSL:R that are from people who clearly have never played adventure games and don't understand the fundamental concept behind them. As Proust once said, "Haters gonna hate". Those of us who are getting their games, and are finally able to directly fund developers that we've sorely and bitterly missed for 15 years, are getting exactly what we want.

      (And also, since I've been on a QFG kick lately, I should thank you guys once again for... all that)

      But since you raise the issue of how many games get cancelled during development, I was wondering if you had any examples from the old Sierra days?

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      Creator Guran - St Christopher's Alumni on August 1, 2013

      Another positive thing with following these Kickstarters is that I've gained more respect for really good games. Nifty tools like Unity and AGS make prototyping easier. But to make a really good game is still HARD and can still be an agonizing process. Replayed The Last Express recently. It's still a fantastic game but was a huge financial failure and had a long, painful development process. Just imagine if that project had been Kickstarted...

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      Creator Corey Cole on August 1, 2013

      @Bryy: There are no high-quality indie games made for under $20K. An indie developer might decide to ask only $20K to help defray direct expenses, but they are "spending" much more in lost income. As Guran said, anyone good enough to make a good game at home could be working in industry for $75K or higher salary. The volunteer labor on these games is never really free; it always comes with opportunity cost. I am not willing to ask our contractors to work for free, so we have a high burn rate to keep them fed.

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      Creator SaltyBrains on July 31, 2013

      i am so excited not only to be getting new sierra type games but to realize that there are hundreds, no, thousands! of others just as excited! amazing. i grew up with these games and they mean so much to me, i dont even understand why :)

      your update is great. it does not bother me at all how long it takes to create a great game! take your time, make it awesome as you do -- we'v all been waiting decades already so there is absolutely no rush!

      if it doesnt work out i would not feel bad either, i would take a punt on any sierra remake!

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      Creator Guran - St Christopher's Alumni on July 31, 2013

      @Bryy They got a point though. When the indies develop, they usually dont get salaries. The money to pay for food and shelter has to come from somewhere else. Counting that money in you will only get flash games for $20k.

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      Creator Bryy Miller on July 30, 2013

      Basically saying you can't make a game for under $20k. They said this on Kickstarter of all places. If they are going to dismiss an entire legion of indie devs, then why should I support them?

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      Creator twincast: Eternally Tormented Mangy WoOS on July 30, 2013

      @Peter Schnare: Eh, obviously stretch goals should be sensible, but when they are, they are great for everyone involved - the creators can realize more ideas of theirs and the supporters get more bang for their buck. Pure win/win.

      @Bryy: Huh, what comments?

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      Creator Bryy Miller on July 30, 2013

      Kickstarters problem is its main feature: that is is accessible by anyone, for anything. Just look at the hundreds of campaigns - for games and otherwise - that have failed or either succeeded and then failed horribly. Kickstarter is neither free money nor free experience, and the fact that people think it is both, and that backers seemingly have no friggin' problem with delays and other issues simply because "they are achieving their dream" (someone on the GPG Wildman KS actually wrote "it doesn't matter that he fired everyone, since he is doing what he wants with his life") depresses me.

      A KS campaign needs to be run like a political campaign, and you need to know exactly what you are doing. You can't just throw up an arbitrary financial goal and hope you'll just hire people.

      DFA got delayed and ran out of money, but Shadowrun is amazing. Banner Saga Demo is also pretty great (although due to their comments about game dev, I'm not going to be donating to them again).

      It's all about reality vs. accessibility.

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      Creator Maus Merryjest AGL589 on July 30, 2013

      ChosenOne: I believe C&L were talking about the mainstream game industry, which is what E3 represents, not the indie industry.

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      Creator Stefan Brauner on July 30, 2013

      Pheww! Just reading the headline left my mind playing tricks on me ;-)

      As mentioned various times before, your updates provide a most appreciated level of knowledge, insight and humor.
      With the frequency of updates nowadays(and I only support 10 projects so far!) I'm enjoying these to the utmost!

      My confidence in your crafting skills is unbounded and with the mere prospect of another game centered in Gloriana my patience is too.

      So far I benefited greatly due to Kickstarter, relishing games like LSL:Reloaded(even if I despise the notoriously inaccurate german subtitles ;-) ) or Expeditions: Conquistador, which I didn't backed but felt compelled buying.
      Presumed Gems like Project Eternity, Wasteland 2 and Torment:Tides of Numenera are nearing realisation with each update(although it's still quite a journey ;-) ).
      To top it all, one of my all-time favourite games will see its continuation: Hero-U!

      Thanks for giving us new dreaming-material!

      PS: Is Shawns prior design a thing of the past? I liked his impish/smug appearance very much.

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      Creator Maus Merryjest AGL589 on July 30, 2013

      "The Return of Sierra Adventures" -- I am such a dork, but that title gave me good shivers :)

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      Creator TheChosenOne on July 30, 2013

      What struck us at E3 was how little the gaming industry has progressed since we were last there 8 or 10 years ago. The budgets keep climbing, but we aren't seeing many real advances in game play, or even in the quality of the graphics.
      Really? Must have seen a different E3 then I have. And certainly in the industry as a whole (outside E3 etc) I see plenty of advances. You just need to know where to look.

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      Creator Guran - St Christopher's Alumni on July 30, 2013

      @Corey Good article! As many others have said: I don't mind delays as long as we get updated on progress. And you do an excellent job with that! But I get slightly worried when you say that it's easy to get more money. What options are there, except for publishers or getting jobs on the side? A second Kickstarter for the same game is not likely to bring in much. Episodes/early access is a possibility but might be unpopular.

      I'm also curious to hear what the issues with mixing 3d and 2d in Unity are.

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      Creator Palindrome Bob-XSF-I'm in AGL589-AA496 on July 30, 2013

      Thanks for providing us with your insights on the KS phenomena, Corey. Estimated delivery times are just that, estimates. To me, personally, story is all that matters. Since I also consider this update as part of the story of (the creation of the game) Hero-U, all is hunky-dory. Let us see where this story will be taking us. :-)
      ### Member of the Pinkerton Road Cavalry ###
      ### Dreamfall Traveller ###

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      Creator Corey Cole on July 30, 2013

      Changes of address and such: Send email to support (at) hero-u (dot) net. Either Chris Fong or I will pick up the email and handle it.

      Great comments, everyone. Keep them coming while I'm on the road.

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      Creator Ratatoskr- Battle Squirrel of the AGL589 on July 30, 2013

      I've been lucky so far in that while pretty much all my projects that I backed are late, no one has disappeared off the face of the earth yet. So late is fine with me as long as the communication keeps coming and we know that we haven't been abandoned. Though I do get annoyed by the ones that stop updating on kickstarter in favor of their forums just because I don't want to check 15 different forums for my news.

      On another note, I moved so should I email you my new address or should I change it some other way?

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      Creator Peter Schnare on July 30, 2013

      This is very well written, I almost think Kickstarter should copy some of this on their info page.

      I've had the conversation about "Kickstarter is not a pre-order site" on a number of occasions with people. I find that a lot of people have the wrong idea about how this works. I always saw it as micro-investing. I try to stay out of the comments on here mostly because I find a lot of backers have unrealistic expectations and don't want to get into that argument. Even when I somewhat agree I find the 'vocal minority' backer response to be over the top and demanding. As a result I tend to have a lot of sympathy for the project owners.

      On the other hand I once heard a friend of mine in the game industry state he didn't believe in stretch goals since once you got more than you are asking for it should be profit. I can see the point since I find a lot of projects offer a lot more that I believe the should or need to and I quite often I start to worry that the project owners are over-extending themselves in the heat of the moment. Also I don't want to necessarily begrudge anybody from making somewhat of a profit on Kickstarter if someone gets a lot more then they are asking for but profit should come later and not be in the Kickstarter equation. During the Kickstarter I think that you should make an effort to please your 'investors' by making the best product you can and using excess money to increase the scope of your project is a good way of doing that. That will also allow you to sell a better product and hopefully make more money after the Kickstarter is over.

      All said I've been on the internet for a while, I know my opinions may be different from other people and I will always hear comments I do not agree with and I have come to believe that is not necessarily a bad thing. I think this is move to crowd funding is positive and I have been fully on board since I found out about it.

      Actually I've got to slow down a bit I find it's getting a bit expensive.

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      Creator Avotas on July 30, 2013

      @_Journeyman_ Right on. I backed a game project recently, a written module for a pen and paper RPG, which has now exceeded its estimated delivery date by 8 months. The weekly updates have slipped too weekly, then bi-monthly, and finally have stopped all together. I am perfectly happy to wait, provided updates are being made, but when someone goes underground the feeling of resentment poisons the project.

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      Creator twincast: Eternally Tormented Mangy WoOS on July 30, 2013

      @David Melanson about 10 hours ago
      "Interesting comment there about the Hero-U user interface being one you "like better than the ones we used at Sierra." Considering how much I liked the right-click-alternating-function-cursor interface, I'm curious to see what you've come up with."

      Yeah, me too... I always detested the sudden decrease in options from KQ6 to KQ7 etc. and then I see most of the few reviews of LSL I've read complain about it not being simplified down to the modern "look" and "interact". Argh! (Then again, I love old-school SCUMM verbs even more, but I can agree that that breadth might be taking it a bit far.) Mind, moving shouldn't really need cycling through the actions to get to, so there's a little bit of validity in their complaint. Hmm, that said, going back and forth between "walk" and other actions is much less unwieldy with the right-click verb coin or keyboard shortcuts than with the verb bar or right-click cycling.

      Still, since this isn't a direct sequel to or remake of a Sierra adventure game, I am open to whatever they have planned.

      As for the state of the game shown in the screenshot: the different styles of the current assets are clashing a bit hard at the moment, but other than that I like it. =)

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      Creator MadJo on July 30, 2013

      @George N. I don't see ianquest insulting newbies or blaming the backers for the delays.
      It's more about expectations.

      When a Kickstarter campaign reaches its funding goal, does not necessarily mean that the project automatically succeeds.
      Whenever I back a project on kickstarter, I keep in mind that that project might fail, and thus that I might lose money.

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      Creator WP - Member, Mutant League on July 30, 2013

      In The Return of Sierra Adventures someone forgot:
      Quest For Infamy - An Adventure Game By Infamous Quests

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      Creator WP - Member, Mutant League on July 30, 2013

      TotalBiscuit, The Cynical Brit about Kickstarter vs. Pre-orders :…

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      Creator _Journeyman_ on July 30, 2013

      As I see there are some rules on Kickstarter that have to be observed:
      - Never lie to your backers: to have an example of lying take the "DRM-Free problem" of shadowrun returns.
      - Never make your backers feel they've been fooled: like announcing you don't have funds to complete your first kickstarter right after running a second successfully (Double Fine)
      - Communication: as make update frequently, band give bad/good news promptly.

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      Creator Tobi (Crusader Kickstarter pls!!) on July 30, 2013

      btw the last sentence wasn't specifically addressed at this campaign because apparently we do get regular updates here :)

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      Creator Tobi (Crusader Kickstarter pls!!) on July 30, 2013

      nice update, I love the screenshot :) and I agree with Adauli in that I don't care if the game is late as long as there are regular updates!
      i backed one game and they promised an update "in a month" and they didn't post anything. then after like 3 months or so they said "yeah we didn't have anything to report". that is unacceptable for me. there is always something to report, even if it is only one or two sentences - like in this update, one paragraph about the progress of the game and the rest was other interesting stuff. so the excuse "there was nothing to report" is plain bullcrap. so in saummary: release the game when it's finished but give us regular (monthly) updates!

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      Creator Adauli, Red Wizard of the Obisdian Order on July 30, 2013

      My personal expectations are als long the game is not over 1 year late and we get updates at last each month evrything is fine.
      But there some no go for me
      1) Having the game on sale even below the lowest price in the KS in the time betwean the KS and ~1 Month after release. (Allready happened 2x for me)
      2) Not giving easy to reach information about the status of the game at last once per month
      3) Fail to deliver within 1 year past the given time

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      Creator Joseph Austin on July 29, 2013

      fan-TAST-ic update! The screenshot excites me... I like the change in the art style, and I have high hopes. Thank you for pitching Precinct too... I'm fearful it doesn't have much hope, but it should. I get the sense that Kickstarter success comes in waves (aka, paydays) and that this one may have missed the crest. I hope they try again.

      I still ultimately believe that crowdfunding is a great way for the gamers to control the games, and I have high hopes for its future.

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      Creator Rambutaan on July 29, 2013

      Also very much interested to see the results of that talk at IGDA you're going to have.

      One of the biggest impacts that Quest for Glory had on me was the whole concept of a paladin doing what is *right* and that doing what is right is oftentimes a lonely road since sometimes doing the right thing doesn't actually mean following the word of law or what is deemed socially acceptable.

      While I'd never advocate breaking the law, I think it can apply when it comes to those situations where it "all it takes for evil to succeed is for a few good men to do nothing." Most of us would be too afraid to do anything and conform to the majority. However, everyday people can be "paladins" of sorts, going in harm's way to protect others or doing the right thing. I'd like to think that the Quest for Glory series would've helped in planting that seed.

      That and people with an unhealthy obsession with puns... :P

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      Creator Corey Cole on July 29, 2013

      @George N.: In reference to "Creators would do everyone a favor by setting more realistic dates." That sounds great, but I'm not sure such projects would get funded. I cut out a long section about that from my Update, but it comes down to psychology and expectations. If I ask for money for a project to be delivered two or three years from now, I will have trouble getting anyone excited about it... unless I've already spent at least six months or a year developing content for it that I can show. That's why Pathfinder Online did two separate funding projects - One to develop a "tech demo" to show that they can make the main game, and one to actually start on the game. Even so, I expect they will need to raise more funds along the way.

      Similarly with budgets: Just because a game project asks for $100,000 or even $400,000 on Kickstarter does not mean that the creators expect they can finish the game for that price. We set goals that we think can be reached, and hope that the project takes off and brings in much more. Once a project has raised some funds, it becomes easier to get more. But asking for too much up front is a recipe for a failed funding campaign. It's better to ask for less, and plan on expanding the project later, than to devote a month or more to an unsuccessful campaign.

      In hindsight, Lori and I were wildly optimistic with the Hero-U campaign, and we are very grateful to all of our fellow dreamers who helped us meet the goal. We are committed to completing the game and to making it as good as our abilities allow. More importantly, we're in it for the long haul and plan to make many more games to follow up Rogue to Redemption.

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      Creator Corey Cole on July 29, 2013

      @Sean: Awesome comment! I needed you a few days ago when I was agonizing over this Update - Five drafts in three days, and thousands of words discarded. Anyway, I really appreciate your addition to the post and hope people come down to the comments and read it.

      By the way, I just got linked to this well-written article on the same subject: I carefully avoided talking about "The Doom That Came to Atlantic City" in my post, but it's a much worse situation than any of the adventure game projects. The good think about all of the ex-Sierra and ex-LucasArts designers is that we are very serious about our craft. I am certain that all of the funded projects I wrote about in this Update will deliver and be good games.

      @BigD: See my previous paragraph. :-) Writing a game is like writing a whole lot of these Updates. A famous writer once said something like, "Writing is easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and bleed on the keys until it's done." So, yes, we are constantly questioning our own design - "Is this scene really necessary? Does this character serve an important enough role that we can't possibly cut him or her out? Does this puzzle really belong in the Rogue game, or should we postpone it to the Wizard game?" And yes, we've made some cuts already.

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      Creator Sean Jordan on July 29, 2013

      I love, love, LOVE this post, Corey. I think you've captured perfectly why Kickstarter and games with an established, yet niche, audience are a match made in heaven. And I think you've channeled the voice of many gamers like myself who have long wanted to be a part of the game design process emotionally and financially but who have not had the skills, resources or desire to get into the business.

      Back in the heyday of adventure games, I was always surprised when the credits would roll and 50-60 peoples' names would flash onscreen, including people who didn't seem like they had anything to do with the creative aspects of game development (such as marketing folks, middle managers, publisher staff and so forth). That has only gotten worse in the era of the AAA game; many of today's games have credit scrolls that last 3-5 minutes and which feature hundreds of names, many of which come from the bloated publishing organizations behind them.

      We're in an era in 2013 where game developers have the tools to create amazing products with fairly limited resources, but it's easy to forget that game design is a skill that goes far beyond writing code. While the indie gaming scene (which follows a more traditional business model of "we'll build it; you buy it") has produced some great new game experiences, it's also produced a ton of half-baked concepts and games that masquerade as being artsy or humorous or edgy when, in reality, they're just stylistic homages to earlier, better games. The indie scene relies on the low-cost experience to ship software, but being the low-cost provider has resulted in an awful lot of hesitance to buy games at full price when they'll inevitably be on sale for 75% off via Steam or in a Humble Bundle within a year. Being the low-cost provider is a self-defeating model in the end, especially when the market gets crowded.

      Kickstarter (and IndieGoGo) games are a different beast, because they're predicated on gamers buying into an idea first and paying a premium to get behind it. It's a business model based on locking in a fanbase with a pitch and getting them to commit their resources to see the idea through. These fans take on the role of playtesters, financial backers and marketers; they cut a lot of fat out of the development process and put the focus back on the individual creators. If the game ships and flops, the risk tot the dev team is mitigated; if the game ships and succeeds, the original backers can share in the accomplishment with the creators.

      Two recently-shipped Kickstarter titles that are getting beaten up by the gaming press are Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded and Shadowrun Returns. Both are exactly what they promised to be, and backers are largely pretty happy with them. But those who weren't willing to buy in at the onset are more critical and less likely to want to make a purchase of either. To which I say -- that's fine! But don't blame Kickstarter if you don't like the games. Blame the fact that the devs didn't have the luxury of time, resources or desire to make them broad experiences that would appeal to everyone.

      Anyhow, I can't wait for Hero-U, and I'm so glad to see the evolution it's taken as you guys have listened to your backers and really embraced the feedback we've all offered. We're here as backers because we know that you guys make outstanding games that aren't of interest to the broader market of 2013. And if Kickstarter Fatigue does set in, it's only because so many great game developers are out there trying to get projects going so they, too, can bypass a bad system and enjoy the creative freedom that only a system like Kickstarter can provide.

    34. Bd01.small

      Creator BigD Breaking out with Waldemar on July 29, 2013

      As always Corey, an informative and thoughtful article. One of the huge advantages of Kickstarter is the interaction between the backers and the creators. However, one of the disadvantages is the backers can see more of the angst that you describe! I honestly thought LSLR was in trouble when they changed developers; that looked like storm clouds but apparently not! I'd be curious as to your take on handling programming changes as the project progresses. I was helping write a very small part of CATIA back in my IBM days. As we were releasing code 3 to 4 times a year, we had the opportunity to schedule changes but we still suffered from the dreaded FEATURE CREEP where someone high up in management read or heard something that sounded cool and decided the code needed it (Hero-U, now with Corinthian Leather!). Do you find yourself fighting the release date vs cool things you could do?

    35. Riggo.small

      Creator Riggo on July 29, 2013

      Nice update Corey!

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      Creator Rambutaan on July 29, 2013

      Informative posts as always Corey. Also thanks for the heads-up to Precinct :).

      I actually wrote an article myself recently about Kickstarter Fatigue and whether it's kicking in. It seems interesting that it appears for each successive "Sierra" Kickstarter it's become harder and harder to secure the funds. I think early adventure game Kickstarters like Broken Age and LSL: Reloaded were at the right place, at the right time and was riding the euphoria of the "Power to the Adventure Gamer Kickstarter Backer" movement. With all the negative press recently though this may be affecting some of the willingness to back projects. That's because some people (not all, some) who originally went in didn't realise that making a game is an inherently risky process as any creative endeavour is (as you've described in this post). So basically the backers who are left are the ones who can accept there is inherent risk while some who haven't returned have had their bubble burst and feel "betrayed" because they didn't receive their "pre-ordered game" at the right time with the same features they wanted. All about managing expectations I suppose!

    37. Enry1.small

      Creator David Melanson on July 29, 2013

      Interesting comment there about the Hero-U user interface being one you "like better than the ones we used at Sierra." Considering how much I liked the right-click-alternating-function-cursor interface, I'm curious to see what you've come up with.

      Also...maybe it's just the angle, but holy mackerel that is a big moose...

      Anyway, thanks for the update. Obviously I believe in taking a risk...and I don't mind things "running late" if it means the end production will be better for it.

    38. Missing_small

      Creator George N. on July 29, 2013

      @ianquest - Let's keep the insults out of it, eh? The fact that most KS reward fulfillments are late isn't the fault of the backers, new or veteran, and many creators do an extremely poor job of managing expectations. (Not the Coles, I'm speaking generally.)

      Creators would do everyone a favor by setting more realistic dates.

    39. Missing_small

      Creator ianquest on July 29, 2013

      You can always tell Kickstarter newbies vs KS veterans in comments. The newbies make noises about how the creators 'owe them' a product on a particular date, or how creators should/shouldn't be spending funds: the veterans go "eh, it'll get here when it gets here, we'd much rather it be great than on a particular date, and this isn't a pre-order, so the delivery date is only a guesstimate which the creators ALWAYS underestimate"!

      That said, some creators do leave something of a bad taste in your mouth: one computer game I backed delivered the product only a couple of months later, so they quite obviously were pretty much complete, & the instant they launched they started having discounted sales in places like Steam & GOG: they used the backers to get the product out the door. It's a good game, but their treatment of backers left a lot to be desired.

      Most creators (like you) are frank & open about where they are with progress, what they're achieving, when & why they run into delays etc, & only update when they have something useful to say & we veterans appreciate that! It's only the panicked/excited newbies who aren't trying to keep up with several dozen projects who demand a constant stream of minutiae...

    40. Gravatar_herocorey.small

      Creator Corey Cole on July 29, 2013

      @Lawson: The Meep toys should be boarding a slow boat from China next week or so. Originally I planned to bundle them in with the game, but I'm now thinking we will try to ship Meeps (and hopefully t-shirts) earlier (probably Sept. or Oct.). We still need to finalize the t-shirt designs and do some other work on "physical goods" in the artists' copious spare time. ;-)

    41. Gravatar_herocorey.small

      Creator Corey Cole on July 29, 2013

      erk, typo: "by the starters" should be "by the standards". There may be others; please insert a Babel Fish into your ear before reading.

    42. Gravatar_herocorey.small

      Creator Corey Cole on July 29, 2013

      Heh, thanks for the correction, Justin. Our original schedule called for us to ship 3 months from now, so we aren't technically late yet. But we know we will finish several months later than our original guess, as I posted in an earlier Update. The programmers are telling me the demo will be ready "real soon now". When we have it, I will put up a Backers-only Update with a link to the demo. (We're working on strategy for when to provide it to non-backers. My thought is that we will do that later.)

      @Jacqland: I also think that Double Fine should have looked at all that money and said, "Let's use half of this to make an excellent game." Then if they overran by a reasonable amount, they'd have made it. Remember that they didn't really get $3.3 million for the game. After fulfilling backer rewards and paying Kickstarter and Amazon fees, they probably cleared about $2.2 million. Still a lot of money, but not by the starters of 2013-era game production.

      I just read an interview with Notch in which he mentioned that he had considered funding Psychonauts 2 and that Double Fine had said they would need "a couple of million," but that actually turned out to be $18 million. If that's their "normal" game budget, I can see how even a small game could get relatively very expensive.

    43. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Lawson Culver on July 29, 2013

      Although I'm excited about the game coming, I'm (possibly) more excited to be getting a Meep. Any word on when those will ship out? Was a final design selected?

    44. Kickstarter.small

      Creator Justin on July 29, 2013

      Nevermind me, I'm an idiot. I was looking at the date of another project while writing that.

    45. Missing_small

      Creator Charles Harrington on July 29, 2013

      Love your thoughts on heroism and games - in a cynical age in love with anti-heroes, I appreciate game creators with an eye toward creating games where we can play actual heroes. Even the thieves.

    46. Heyme.small

      Creator Jacqland on July 29, 2013

      I dunno.... Just because you mentioned it, my issue with the Double Fine Adventure / Broken Age is that the studio recently put up another kickstarter for another game. Broken Age is already out of money, and planning to finance the second half of the game with the first half - all while diverting resources to the new strategy project. That just doesn't seem like smart management to me (But then, I'm not in this industry, so maybe I'm missing something obvious).

      That aside, thanks so much. Your updates are always informative and make me think about more than just the project status. :)

    47. Missing_small

      Creator George N. on July 29, 2013

      Wait a sec - what's 10 months past the estimated time of completion?

    48. Missing_small

      Creator James Vaughan on July 29, 2013

      Sorry if this is a bit off topic, but does this mean you won't be at PAX? I was hoping you see you there as I'm planning on dressing up in the original hero's Shapier garb.

    49. Kickstarter.small

      Creator Justin on July 29, 2013

      "Kickstarter is not a place where you preorder games (or other products)"

      Depends on the project. Some of them literally ARE preorders. They've finished their project and now need to prove to their printer (or whatever) that they can order in volume.

      "I think that most high-budget games are now at that uncomfortable level where they are too realistic to not be completely real."

      People have been saying that for the past decade.

      So....any news on the game? At 10 months past the estimated time of completion my guess would be that people are getting pretty anxious to see real progress.

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