Happy New Year! Backer Surveys for AI War 2 are arriving today. :)
Chris here! There are a few key pieces of information right up here at the top of this post, and then the rest is in more of an FAQ format that you can read as-needed.
Most Important: Surveys from BackerKit are coming today
You'll be getting an email from BackerKit, which if you're not familiar with them is a very common fulfillment-management tool that a lot of creators use in tandem with Kickstarter.
Please do answer that as soon as you can, and we can start getting your backer rewards to you asap after that point, depending on your tier level. The questions in this survey are short and easy, and the whole thing will likely take you 2-5 minutes if you're really slow about it. ;)
What this survey does is let us get you properly situated so that we can start sending you game keys through backerkit, and so that we can directly email you any followup surveys we have IF you're in a creative reward tier where there's going to be that sort of questions (aka "what would you like to name your planet?" and so on).
Now that that's out of the way: Thank you!
Thank you for your incredible support during this kickstarter!
Now it's our turn to start making good on all the things we've talked about. We're all extremely excited about it, and have been working quietly on it in bits during these weeks. It's mostly a lot of fairly boring stuff for most people (that we find fun), but if you're interested in following along with the minutiae of what we're doing, the forums for the game are by far the best place.
Kickstarter Update Schedule
We'll do progress roundups here at minimum once or twice a month, but there's a limit to how frequently we want to bother folks via official updates. We'll try to find a happy medium ground -- but if you want to control the flow of the information firehose yourself, visiting the forums is the best way to do that.
All that said, if you have specific ways you'd prefer to see more frequent updates, we're always open to ideas. We're trying to hit a nice balance between not disappearing from public view (comments section and forums aside) and not cluttering up your inbox constantly if you're just waiting for the final product to release.
As you may have noticed at the top of the kickstarter page where there used to be a "Back This Project" button, there's a button that takes you to the BackerKit Preorder Store. Here are some of what are likely to be the most common questions with that:
- If you were not already a kickstarter backer and you back the project via backerkit, you get exactly what it says there and nothing more (credit in the game aside).
- That means the various kickstarter incentives like copies of our other games, or the soundtrack, Stars Beyond Reach, etc, are not implicitly included in the pre-order store orders.
- Additionally, while we ARE still making progress toward more stretch goals during the pre-Early-Access period (more on that in a bit), each particular preorder-store item notes a specific percentage of its total that will be applied to the stretch goal progress. In some cases it's 100%, in other rare cases it's as low as 10%.
The reasoning for the above things is that with the kickstarter itself we had a specific budget and were able to design out reward fulfillment and tiers to go along with that budget.
With the backerkit preorders it is an entirely different structure and we have no idea what to expect, and so the budget for fulfillment of particular things purchased is built into the things that are purchased. Whatever isn't going directly toward the cost of fulfillment of that item is instead applied toward the next stretch goal, whatever that is (right now the next stretch goal is solar systems, but if we hit that we'll add more).
TLDR: The BackerKit Preorders And Kickstarter Tiers Are Two Very Different Things
If it doesn't say something is the case (you get x item) on the backerkit side, then please don't assume that you do get it because of something on the kickstarter side. When in doubt just ask, but in general they are two separate things.
How Long Will The BackerKit Preorder Page Be Around?
The BackerKit preorder page will likely stay live until we hit the first public Early Access release for the game in late May. At that point, with the game being sold through Steam and Humble and hopefully some other locations as well, we'll discontinue the BackerKit page. That will also mark the end of all of the "pre-funding" period of the game, and thus cap off whatever stretch goals there are.
Add-Ons For Kickstarter Backers!
There are some add-ons that we announced during the campaign itself, but we actually figured out a way to be a lot more inclusive with those instead and are now offering far more. Basically anything you see in the backerkit preorder page is something that you can have as an addon to your kickstarter pledge. You'll have that in addition to whatever you already selected during kickstarter.
- In some cases an addon item may seem to be missing, but that's probably because you already have it from your core tier. If you backed at $44 or up you already have the soundtrack, for instance, so it's not going to show you the soundtrack option in your add-ons list.
- There is a mild price discrepancy with one particular add-on (Personable AI) and kickstarter tier (same name) compared to everything else, because we underpriced that item. That means you can get into some odd situations when that item is involved where it's cheaper to buy it one way than another. Huge apologies for that, but we have it set up the best we can without breaking our word on any prior promises -- the link explains more.
Changing Tiers/Rewards For Kickstarter Backers!
To a limited extent, backerkit will let you increase or decrease your pledge level compared to what it was on kickstarter. If you decrease your core pledge level, then you'll have extra funds that you already paid (via kickstarter) that you can apply toward different backerkit addons if you prefer.
- Let's say you have the Personable AI tier reward ($100) from kickstarter.
- For whatever reason, you decide you'd rather reduce your reward tier to just the standard Alpha Backer ($50).
- You now have $50 of credit on BackerKit that you can apply toward whatever.
- You could apply that toward the purchase of the Flagship Designer add-on (lowering the effective cost of that from $280 to $230 for you).
- Or you could use that to get 3 extra copies of the game at launch (exactly $50 cost).
An example going the other direction:
- Let's again say you have the Personable AI tier reward ($100) from kickstarter.
- You could just do a straight upgrade of that in backerkit to Star Reacher ($260 normally, so an added $160 for you), and nab all the new rewards from that (including Stars Beyond Reach).
Or, frankly, in most cases I imagine you'll just stick exactly where you're at! But if you want to add funds, or reallocate funds you already spent, you can do so.
The cutoff date for these changes is Valentine's Day this year (February 14th, 2017).
Ongoing Stretch Goal Progress!
This is what we're working on right now:
Where can you see what our progress is toward this goal? Weelll... that's hard, even though it feels like it shouldn't be.
- The big number at the top of the kickstarter page is $97,205, but that's not the whole picture because it misses the paypal pledges.
- The preorder page on backer kit shows (as of this moment) $802.00 raised in backerkit, but that also doesn't include the paypal pledges. It also doesn't include any fulfillment cost removals from that number (though at the moment I think it's 100% to the stretch goals).
- The paypal total is $443 as of this particular moment, but that changes on an ongoing basis, too.
So overall the total stretch goal progress right now is somewhere about $98,500, but there's no central place for us to show you that... yet.
What we're going to do is set up some spreadsheets that auto-calculate this stuff for us based off of exports from kickstarter and backerkit, and then we'll periodically update "the big progress number" somewhere TBD that is appropriately visible.
Why Are Add-Ons And Pre-Order Store Items More À la carte Than The Kickstarter Was?
We've tied fulfillment costs directly to the items being purchased. So we never wind up hosing ourselves (or the project) with fulfillment costs that we don't have funds to cover.
The Kickstarter and Backerkit processes have two very different goals.
- With Kickstarter, the chief concern was "let's make AI War 2 at all." Then, once that was assured, "let's make AI War 2 bigger without overextending ourselves."
- With Backerkit, the sole concern from a project standpoint is "let's make AI War 2 bigger without overextending ourselves." (The secondary concern being, of course, "let's let people who missed the Kickstarter still get in on it before we hit Early Access.")
Backing up and looking at the budget during kickstarter:
During the kickstarter we had to plan in various buffers into our budget for things like failed pledges, fees, as well as an uncertain degree of fulfillment costs. That gets rather fuzzy rather fast, though, because you can over-budget by quite a bit to be safe, and thus not reach your goals, or you can under-budget and find yourself in a pile of trouble later on (which happens to a lot of developers).
With the kickstarter, we actually hit it pretty close to dead on, based on luck and lots of prep reading. After dropped pledges, kickstarter fees, backerkit fees, and payment processor fees, and adding in paypal pledges, we wound up with a total of $87,049.48, aka 89.14% of the $97,648.00 raised through those platforms.
We had conservatively been estimating 15% losses (which we knew was high), and so the actual losses of 10.86% gave us some nice buffer. Specifically $6,847.01, which we are currently sitting on as unallocated buffer. That money will be used for AI War 2 in some fashion, but we're not yet sure how. Either it will go toward extra polish time, minor extra features for 1.0, or (least-excitingly) backer reward fulfillment overages or other speedbumps.
In the ideal case we don't have to dip into that at all until we get close to 1.0, and then we use it for just generally improving the game for everyone in some manner that is TBD. Until then it's a safety net.
Now looking at how backerkit impacts that budget:
- Backerkit gives the game a new source of pre-Early-Access funding -- yay! This is something we're very excited to be able to put toward the stretch goals.
- However, to a hugely varying degree, those backerkit add-ons have associated fulfillment costs with them.
- We could have chosen to just not offer the high-fulfillment-cost line items, but then that would be a real disappointment I think. For instance, the ability to have a custom music track by Pablo that gets added to the soundtrack for everyone is pretty freaking epic; it was something we couldn't offer in the base kickstarter this time because it was too big of a wildcard in fulfillment cost.
- That wildcard nature of fulfillment costs makes any meaningful budget planning for backerkit funds impossible, because we don't know what people will choose to buy, if anything.
- The simplest safe way to handle that would be to just say "stretch goals are over," but that would be a big disappointment to us (we want to see the game grow!) as well as folks here, I know.
- Our middle-ground way is just as safe, but as you note from above it's not simple to calculate without us dumping the data into excel periodically. Basically where each add-on/pre-order item has its fulfillment cost tied directly to it, and thus contributes to the stretch goals to a varying degree.
- This also answers the question of "why can we do things in an À la carte fashion now."
TLDR on the whole À la carte Thing
Basically the budget and cost structures on kickstarter and backerkit are entirely different, and we tried to match our offerings as best to each platform and our goals with that platform as possible.
In some cases that may wind up with some edge cases where "thing x is a better deal if you do this this and this" either during the kickstarter or backerkit periods. If any of those cause anyone frustration, we sincerely apologize for that, but hopefully it will be reasonably smooth sailing.
Overall we've done our best to try and please all of the people all the time, which as we know is impossible to do. I'm already braced for someone being upset about something, and the worst part is I'm sure it will be a completely rational grievance, but hopefully the above longwinded explanation shows how and why we've laid things out this way.
Ultimately we've learned a lot about running kickstarters since doing this one, and we'd probably do a few things a bit differently if we did it again. I'm not sure precisely what we'd do differently at the moment, but there are some tweaks that we'd make in order to further reduce the discrepancy between the kickstarter fundraising period and the backerkit fundraising period.
When Do Stretch Goals Stop?
So here's the calendar of events:
- Today: BackerKit surveys go out.
- Between now and February 14th: you folks get said surveys back to us, and we get you the earliest rewards asap after you do.
- Sometime in February: if you backed at an alpha tier ($44 early bird) or higher, you'll get your game key for AI War 2 itself. Same if you pre-order the alpha add-on.
- From now until late May: funds raised from backerkit and paypal will be applied to the stretch goals based on the percentages stated on each item (see above for explanation). Let's see if we can get solar systems!
- Very Late May: The game will arrive on Early Access for anyone to purchase on Steam and Humble for $30, and the Early Access backers ($26 Early Bird and up) will get their keys at this time. Also at this time the backerkit store and the paypal store will be taken down, and the pre-release funding period (and progress toward stretch goals) will be officially over.
- From June Through October: The game will be selling in Early Access for $30 during this time, and the funds raised from this will not be applied to stretch goals. I've put in a few tens of thousands of dollars into AI War 2 already, and will put in probably at least another $10k between now and 1.0 launch, so this EA period may help recoup some of that, or at least offset it. If it sells like hotcakes and we have just piles of money sitting around (haha) then we'll have to figure out how to deal with that, but that's an unlikely problem for a future date.
- Sometime in October: At this point the game will hit 1.0 / launch status, and leave Early Access. Its price will drop to $20 at this time, and all of the people who backed at a launch tier ($16 early bird) will get their keys at this time.
- After that: We'll have post-release support of course, but then as far as large stretch-goal-style additions go, we'll have to see how we go about funding those sorts of things. In the past we did it with paid DLC expansions for AI War Classic, and we may do that again. We may return to kickstarter for those. Right now there are too many unknowns, but we do plan on making the game much bigger via whatever the best means are when we get there.
TLDR: The current style of stretch goal funding ends in late May, when the game enters public Early Access.
We have a subforum about kickstarter reward questions, which may already answer your question or which we're happy to answer questions in. But you can also post comments here, or message us, or email us, or whatever you need to do.
Thank you so much for your ongoing support!