Guide for avoiding astroturfing, BUT productively spreading the word.
Chris here. Glyoxim brought up a really good question, and it's one that I felt like deserved its own update post simply because we all want this thing to succeed, and people have different levels of comfort with this.
I promise I'm about done with the "how to promote this for us" updates, and we'll have a variety of other cool things to show and tell you in the next one. Apologies again -- I hate this part of my job, but I really want to see this game get made.
When it comes to astroturfing, which I implored you not to do last time, I suppose I really ought to clarify what that actually is (in terms of what I was speaking about, anyway).
Here's my view, based on 7 years of being in and out of many gamer communities as a developer:
1. If you (and that's you, reading this, not me) are registering at a place specifically to talk about AI War 2, that's probably quite bad. If you're a long-time lurker, it might be excusable in some cases if you can be really clear that you are One Of Them and legitimately are. But even there, at best it's going to be frowned upon, at worst it's going to be banned and would be astroturfing.
2. If you've had an account somewhere for years, and have been or currently are active there and have contributed random commentary and content on a variety of subjects, then bringing up AI War 2 in an appropriate place in that location (following all the rules of that specific place) is GREAT.
That's you spreading the word into a community that you're clearly a part of, and that's actually a big part of how the original AI War spread. Seriously: I can't emphasize that enough. We would not have gotten on Steam, gotten the notice of Tom Chick, or any of that stuff had it not been for awesome forum communities.
3. As a general rule of thumb, if more than 10% of your posts are promoting something -- AI War 2 or otherwise -- people are going to be annoyed at best and see you as a spammer at worst. If you have fewer than 10 posts in a place, then one post from you is your limit.
4. Social media is a free-for-all, because you're speaking to your own connections. That's true in any other location, such as your Steam friends list (which is the big viral idea I had last night), Discord servers you're a legit part of, and whatever else you can think of. Where do people like you go? Go there. :)
5. Reaching out to reviewers or podcasts that cover this sort of thing and saying "hey you might want to check this out" is perfectly okay. However, only message them once, write it in your own words, keep it brief, and try not to be publicly calling them out like including them with an @ in tweets or going on their youtube comments lists, etc. Much more above-board to contact them privately.
6. Generally speaking, and you may find this hard to believe, contacting other gamers is far more effective than contacting press. Specifically I mean gamers that either value your opinion, or that share common interests. Media effectiveness in raising awareness is low, particularly in the current market, which is part of how we're in this pickle to start with.
7. A key component of virality is convincing those you talk to to do as you do. If they come here and back that is fantastic, but I doubt you know 6000 interested gamers. But if you know 5, and each of those know 3 that you don't know, that's 20 right there. If that second tier knows even just 2 each that the first and second tiers didn't know, that's 50 people right there. And that's just from you. But it only works if those follow-on contacts also spread the word. With them doing that, it's amazing how small a village needs to be to support this sort of thing rapidly, honestly, and effectively.
8. When it comes to sites you're suggesting that I (or anyone else at Arcen) post at, here is the dynamic: if we go there and post first, it looks very very bad. If there's an existing discussion, even a short one, and we go there and join in, it looks very very good. In a strange way, developers are like vampires in old stores: we have to be invited to come in. ;)
What To Say
In general, say whatever would convince YOU to back. Say what you actually believe, of course. There's an awesome thread on our forums with ideas from other players on that front, though, if you're not feeling persuasive.
That other message template regarding the community stretch goals, though, is here:
Hey there -- sorry to bug if you already know this, but AI War 2 is currently going through a kickstarter that I'm backing, and I thought you might want to know. It's here (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/arcengames/ai-war-ii?ref=1y7vww), and they've really thought it through from the look of their 160-page design document. Their campaign is about halfway through and really needs more visibility, and they have no direct way of reaching their existing Steam customers, so if you like what you see can you also pass along this message to AI War players on your own Steam friends list? There's easy info on how to best spread the word in here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/arcengames/ai-war-ii/posts/1719283/
You might also choose to link to this update post (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/arcengames/ai-war-ii/posts/1719581/) as well, if you like.
Remember to use the url with ?ref=1y7vww at the end so that it counts toward the community stretch goals!
Community Beats Advertising!
For one thing, advertising is often brief to the point of being terrible and so easy to overlook.
At any rate: we're about to have to start investing more heavily in advertising. We've spent close to a thousand dollars on that so far, and our budget was three thousand for those purposes, but we may have to spend more. This is not what you want.
For each 100 thousand people that see an ad, maybe 1-2% will click it if it's a good ad. Then, out of those people, some huge percentage will see the kickstarter page and just bounce off of it, because they were weakly targeted to start with. If we get another 3% of those people to actually back at some level, that's doing super duper well.
As a general rule of thumb, that means we could be spending upwards of $30 per additional backer in some cases. Given that the average pledge is $37.46, that is technically moving us toward our goal, but in a super weak way. Ultimately it is eroding the project and our carefully-planned budget from within, and it isn't sustainable long-term.
With increasingly-better-targeted advertising, that cost per acquired customer can be dropped dramatically, potentially down to as low as $5 per actual backer. That would be fantastic. Given we need about 6k more backers, if we got that all through well-targeted advertising, that would be a cost of 30 thousand dollars.
If it means we hit our goal, we can absorb that cost. There is enough buffer in the project. It's a lot better than the project failing. However, that's way more than a month of extra development on this game. Have you seen what we can do in a freaking month?? Look at our insane patch notes for Stars Beyond Reach as an example. I would vastly prefer to spend that thirty thousand dollars making you guys awesome new things for the game.
All right, I'll get off my soap box. But folks in the comments have been clamoring for ways to help, and this is how. Thank you so much for caring that much, and for believing in this project!