Chris answers the most common questions and reveals too much (as usual).
Hey folks! Chris here. Jack is going to have your "real" update for today, but there have been a lot of comments that I am backlogged on, and I figured I would address those in an actual update post. That's both more visible and easier to structure.
Whew! First of all, sorry that I've been away so much today. Who ever knew that running a kickstarter was so much work, eh? ;) Lots of progress today on talks with various folks who can hopefully get the campaign a lot more visibility, so that's very good news.
Also more talks on contingency plans should this fail -- either various options for a re-launch with a reduced goal (and reduced features), or with various publishers we're tentatively talking to. I'm not ready to go either of those places yet, as we still have some good aces up our sleeves in terms of contacts that might help this thing snowball.
So a lot of things have been happening, and Jack and Erik and I have been very busy on those.
Blue has been working on some new stuff that she should be ready to show off before the end of the week, too, which I'm excited about. She's the artist, but beyond that I'm not saying anything. ;) We're both excited about it, though.
What Happens If This Fails?
Those sort of things seem like strange things to link to in a kickstarter update, don't they? It probably violates all manner of "best practices" guides that say to keep things always positive or whatever.
Well, I AM positive. For one thing, yesterday Sidekick was saying 2%. ;) But more seriously, the fact that the traditional crowdfunding arc puts us at a very low chance of success doesn't mean a whole lot. AI War has always been an outlier, and we have a lot of options even if this does fail.
In the meantime we're pushing as hard as we can to make sure it doesn't, and I wish I could tell you more about some of those things, but they mostly involve confidential stuff with other parties. That's vague and unsatisfactory, I know, but I've been working on that stuff all today, and will be more tomorrow.
Certain things are obvious, like various podcasts that I'm going on. Those won't be something that magically floods the campaign with new people any more than the reddit AMA was... but then again, the AMA raised something like $3k directly, and who knows how much indirectly. One thing I've learned over the years is that small things do in fact add up. Another way to look at that $3k: we just earned 1% of our total needed budget by doing an AMA. That sounds a lot cooler. ;)
Okay, But Actually What's The Plan?
There are a lot of potential plans that we have, in various pieces and permutations, and we are undecided on exactly how this would fall out. It's probably not in my best interest to tell you all these things, since that might negatively affect your backing behavior if you don't believe that things are Dire If This Exact Thing Does Not Work.
This list is not all-inclusive, and is in no particular order, and a lot of these have variants and/or can be mixed and matched:
- We could get a publisher. We've talked to a couple already, in a tentative fashion, and are getting a feel for that as we go. It's not my first choice (I like independence!), but it would be one option. But the downside is probably a lot less creative freedom, and that could impact the game for years to come, honestly.
- We could re-launch with a far lower campaign goal ($75k, possibly), and basically do what amounts to "AI War 1.5." But it would mean that a lot of the coolest features get yanked out, including things like 3D graphics and a lot of other goodies. But via post-new-campaign funding of whatever sort, we could basically build back up to the full goals of AI War II over time. It probably would be more expensive to customers as well as more wasteful for us as well (doing art that then gets tossed, etc), but it would be possible. It also would mean that some people I care a lot about lose their jobs, essentially.
- Pablo could launch a separate campaign for the remastered and expanded soundtrack, and we then don't tie that into the main campaign at all. That then succeeds or fails on its own. It's an interesting concept, and if it started with a lowish goal then it could be a case where the amount of funding determines how big the soundtrack grows. But that has a good chance of splitting up support in a negative way, and possibly leading to an overall smaller soundtrack.
- That other project that the kickstarter mentions (in passing, waaaay down at the bottom in the budget section) is actually something that is basically codenamed Reverse AI War. That's not its real name. We may be able to get publisher funding for that one (which is more palatable to me), or do a separate kickstarter for that one, based off a free playable WebGL version. Basically in this you play as the AI and you [redacted]. It's simpler, less expensive to make, and something I've wanted to do for a while. I was going to work on it after my part of AI War II was done, but we could swap the order of those around. But this could divert AI War II's general support and also lead to a delay in my parts of AIW2 if we're actually doing the full scope of what this kickstarter would entail. So this is more for if we do a split kickstarter, mainly.
And there are some other things, too, that could work out for us. So we're not on death's door, this kickstarter isn't Arcen's Absolute Last Chance, and so on.
But this kickstarter is incredibly important to me, because it represents the vision of AI War's future that I am most excited about, AND it lets some people I care very much about all keep their jobs.
Why Did Funding Drop Off So Much After The First Day?
This one is easy to answer, and kickstarter even has the metrics to make it easy to prove. In the very first day, most of our backers were the hardcore AI War fans who were waiting to hear about it and pounce as soon as it was announced.
That was apparently about 400 people; not bad, given the current press environment is not conductive to news like this at the moment, and we've only been talking about this for a month and a half in general.
Another 25% of the people that backed on the first day were people who found the project simply by browsing new projects on kickstarter, and then also the "new projects we love" section.
Arcen has an unusually enthusiastic existing fanbase compared to most first-time kickstarters, so the spike was unusually high on the first day or two, and the average backer amount was nearly double what we'd otherwise expect (if I haven't said it, you folks rock).
So, the answer is: those enthusiastic fans skewed the data from the first two days. The campaign is following something close to an average kickstarter trend, except for that magnification on days 1 and 2... until yesterday! Yesterday when we did the updates to AI War 1 and The Last Federation, we suddenly saw a new spike in backers.
Now we simply need to get more "atypical spikes" via other means. Advertising is something we experimented with, but it was a horrible waste of money in the end. The return wasn't even close to break-even, mainly because the ads are stupid expensive and we have a very targeted niche game (300k owners of the original notwithstanding).
If we get those atypical spikes, and/or if we're able to get more sustained awareness within our existing customer base (or new customers), then we'll meet our goal. If those things don't happen, then we'll fail to hit our goal. It's actually super simple: on the regular graph of a kickstarter, we fail; but if our atypical tools are up to the task, then we can turn that around.
Time will tell, and for the moment it's full speed ahead. At the very worst, if we have to re-launch, we'll be able to do so with more awareness than we went into this one with.
Back Up: Reverse AI War? Did You Just Announce A New Game?
Uh... yes? Yes, I guess I just did. Huh. It's a strategy game, and it has turns. Design and coding are a solo project by me, and then there's Blue on art with that one. Ideally Pablo on music. It's a vastly smaller affair, and that appeals to me as a nice counterpoint to the giant that is AI War 2. Variety being the spice of life and all that.
I'm going as fast as I can, honest! You know I like to share information as early and often as possible (perhaps to a fault), but for Reverse AI War (terrible name, that --we need a real one, still) we're still in the prototyping phase and I don't want to tell you things that would then be wrong.
I can tell you that we would never go to a kickstarter for a game like that -- a new concept -- without having a playable demo (WebGL, ideally) that you can enjoy and make your decision based on. Depending on how things go with how much time the kickstarter takes, I might theoretically have such a demo for you by the start of November.
Not that this means I have any less interest in AI War 2! But... well, a designer's gotta design, you know? I get the itch for that, and I have had to really restrain myself with AI War 2 in order to be faithful to the first game and responsible with the v1.0 budget. So I guess this is my overflow valve, so to speak. ;)
Jack will have a better update for you shortly, but I figured this post was also worth writing today, given the questions that keep popping up.