The future - part 2!
Hey everybody! Chris here.
Update #18, To... the future! has a ton of information about what is going on with the kickstarter in terms of our plans for a re-launch and so forth, but I figured it was time for an update. That was 8 days ago, after all!
First off, just had to mention this. We did at least hit that number, so that's very exciting. As of this post, we're sitting at $91k raised with 49 hours left in the campaign, so that's pretty exciting. Last week I had been wondering if we could break $90k, but now I'm wondering if we'll actually top $100k before this is all over.
Evidently there's lots of evidence that the "spike at the end" is a myth, but at the same time evidently you can have a campaign remind you two days before it closes. I've used kickstarter continually-if-intermittently since funding Castle Story in 2012, but there's still lots of things I'm learning.
Why Didn't We Cancel?
Last update I said that we'd run the campaign for "at least a few more days," but folks were imploring us to not end it early. For one thing, "you never know," but also an unsuccessfully-funded campaign looks better than a canceled one I guess? I see the logic behind that, and I think that when I've looked at other creator's bios and see a lot of canceled projects, that does send a certain message to me subliminally, so sure.
The other reason is that we needed time to get our ducks in a row anyhow for a re-launch, and canceling this first campaign wasn't going to make that happen any faster. May as well have this first campaign open and visible and gaining new backers who hopefully will follow us to the re-launch next week!
That's right! We're planning, barring anything unforeseen, to have a relaunched campaign on November 17th. We've been unusually quiet on this kickstarter for the last little while (really sorry about that!) because we've been working really hard on the new kickstarter.
A Better Second Outing!
We've had a huge amount of support, but a lot of folks have commented that our video in particular was underwhelming in a few ways, and that our campaign copy itself could use some work.
We spent a lot of time during this campaign rewriting and redesigning the campaign itself (both from a backer reward tiers standpoint and a visual standpoint and an amount-of-text standpoint).
That's something that we've addressed as much as we could within the time constraints of the first kickstarter while also getting all the other work done. Ultimately we spent a lot of time on things that didn't net us any real success (advertising is too high of a cost per acquired backer, for instance), and so for the next campaign we won't be running around trying to do that stuff.
The campaign should look better and cleaner from the start, and we're redoing our approach to the video as well. Overall Tom Chick as well as a number of folks here made it really clear: we need to spend less time on talking about what makes this different and better compared to the first game (preaching to the choir to some extent), and more time early on explaining what the player experience is going to be like in general. How will it feel to play this game, and what is it like? Etc.
Obviously speaking about improvements over the original is important as well, and we'll continue to do that. But those sort of folks are engaged enough that they can generally be bothered to scroll down the page to read that. At the very top of the campaign page, when we're basically trying to grab the eyeballs of anyone and everyone, we need to be better on message about what this is rather than how it evolved from something they may not be familiar with.
Your Feedback Helps!
We'll be sharing our new campaign page with you in advance of the re-launch and soliciting feedback on it, and we hope you'll weigh in if you see something amiss.
In the meantime, if there's something you think we should focus on that we didn't really address clearly in this first campaign, or that you had to scroll around too much to find or whatever, please let us know!
What's Different About The Re-Launched Design?
I'm normally a super open book, and so it pains me to say that there are a few things on this front that I'm not yet comfortable talking about -- solely because I don't want to create accidental misinformation.
Keith is working on the design document for the second campaign, and he and I have been kind of negotiating ideas and figuring out a core budget and what goes in stretch goals and how to accomplish certain things. Since that isn't all nailed down yet -- and in particular since we're having to make so many decisions based on a harshly cut budget -- I don't want to misrepresent something that he's working on that we're not in sync on yet. I don't mind eating crow and being wrong about something, but I also don't want to give you conflicting messages.
The biggest overall change in the new campaign is going to be the people involved. Blue and I will still be involved on the art front in particular, and I'll be involved in basically "presentation layer code" (GUI aside), but Keith will be taking over a lot more of the design work. You're in super good hands with him, as he basically ran the show for AI War Classic from 2011 to now.
An important note on that front, though, is that he and I have a bit different approaches to design. He's retaining the coolest things that I or others introduced as ideas for AI War 2 (sometimes those are stretch goals, though, simply for budget), but he's also adding some cool new things that I wish I had thought of (and that fit better in a reduced budget), and overall is retooling a number of the ideas from this first design so that they fit better in the new budget.
There were some things that I was basically building in an R&D budget for in the sense of "we're making this massive new interface for planets that we'll have to spend a lot of time refining, but it's okay because we're setting aside X amount of budget and buffer for that." Turns out we don't have that much budget to work with, so he's focusing more on things that don't require so much experimentation, but that are clear and strong improvements over the original game (to a crazy degree, really, in so many cases).
This is horribly vague, but my goal is for us to have an actual design document and budget to start showing you later this week so that you're able to actually see specifics. Sorry about the vagueness in the interim, but I figured that an overview was better than radio silence.
That said, here is one important preview from the new design document which gets at a lot of things:
Adjusted Statement of Purpose
Our original design document for our first AI War 2 Kickstarter was long and in-depth, and outlined a certain version of what this sequel could be. This vision was driven by Chris, and perhaps almost too-grandly reinventive.
Taking a bit of a step back: at core, our goal ultimately has to boil down to this: to revive AI War and get it growing again. The new vision certainly involves Chris, but is fundamentally driven by Keith, who was the chief architect behind some of the golden years of the AI War Classic creation period (AI War Classic 5.0 through 8.x, mainly).
Bear in mind the above is subject to change in the short term prior to the re-launch, but we're confident enough in it that I don't feel too much at risk of sharing misinformation by presenting this now. ;)
Once we re-launch, of course, we're locked into what we promise. So we want to make darn sure we get it right, and have our focus in the best possible places with the core.
Adjusted Budget For The Re-Launch
The exact starting budget is something that we're still figuring out, but we're trying to keep it under $50k if we can. Based on this first kickstarter, it seems reasonable that we might actually hit that goal within the first 72 hours and then spend the rest of the campaign pursuing stretch goals.
If that's the case, that would be incredible, because there's a lot of stuff in stretch goals I'd really like to see. Breaking with tradition from this first campaign, we actually will be laying out some of our first stretch goals from day one of the new campaign, so you can see what we're shooting for (and our core video can refer to those things, too, then, which will be nice).
Beyond the point where our first campaign conservatively tells us we can expect funding, we'll start only revealing stretch goals as we near them, since that's the general good advice for kickstarters.
My Role Coming Up
To be blunt, in order to keep Keith having a job long enough to actually finish the new AI War 2 core in a way that maximally benefits the players, there's not too much room in the second kickstarter's core budget for me.
A variety of the stretch goals bring me in more and more, which is one reason I'm excited for those, but either way the project will be something that I'm involved in from a producer's position. But I'm basically being demoted from design lead to instead being a co-designer at best, and some of the programming work is being shuffled to Keith instead of me.
So what the heck am I going to be doing with myself?? Well, obviously I'm still going to be involved in the project either way -- I have quite a bit of code to contribute still, and some design bits to weigh in on, and general producer duties, and playtesting on my own personal time, and so on.
But in terms of my core working hours, I'll be working on some other project instead. I want to be super clear about that up-front, so that you're not surprised if we launch another kickstarter after this one for the project I'm working on, or something of that sort. We're still trying to figure out that stuff, but AI War 2 is the priority focus so that's still pretty nebulous.
Put one way: I've had to partially lay myself off of this project in order for it to be the best that it can be and come to fruition, but I still need to work to put food on the table so to speak, so you'll see me doing other things. I'll always be plenty happy to answer any questions about where money is going in budgets, and we'll be as transparent as we can upfront about that, too.
Arcen has had multiple simultaneous projects at a number of points in the past, with basically split working groups where Keith is the design lead on one set and I'm the design lead on the other. In those cases we each tend to program on our own projects more exclusively, but will pop across to help one another on areas of our respective expertise. It works out really well -- all of the last 3 AI War expansions were all developed under that sort of arrangement for example.
That's Enough Rambling For Today!
The TLDR is that we're still working away, AI War 2 is still going to be great, and we'll share everything on the new vision for it with you soon. Things are changing in a variety of ways, and it's a lot of complex juggling to make sure that we're doing things in as optimal a fashion as possible, but we're getting it figured out in a way that is making us happy, so that's a good sign.
Until next time!