The final campaign update: We're down but not out.
We want to take this time to express just how grateful we all are for the support we’ve received in these last couple months. Though our campaign ends with a bit of a whimper, we will continue to develop Forged of Blood as promised and we’re still firm on our 2018 release date. So, we know that many of you will have questions and we’re going to do our best to answer them here - starting with the three big questions we asked ourselves when we first started development on Forged of Blood:
- Do we actually have the capability to make the game we have always wanted?
- Will our vision resonate with Tactical RPG players?
- Will the game be economically sustainable to allow us to continue doing what we love to do everyday?
In our push to get a build to show for both PAX East and Kickstarter, we’ve managed to answer the first two questions easily. Our pre-alpha demo provided a solid proof of concept in our ability and in the entertainment value of our game. We were able to prove to ourselves that yes: Forged of Blood as we envisioned it is well within our grasp, and perhaps more importantly: it is actually a lot of fun. When it came to the TRPG players out there, the few that got the chance to play the build thoroughly enjoyed it and saw the nuances in our system even at the pre-alpha stage. Now to be entirely honest, the jury is still out on Question 3, and given how we’re ending this campaign it would be fair for some to say that this venture is not financially viable. However, we went into it as a passion project, and we’ll see it through knowing that we will enter 2018 with a game that our fans will love.
Though unsuccessful, our first Kickstarter campaign and our first steps into into this industry has been a treasure trove of lessons and unrelenting support; and we are ever grateful for all the kind words and critiques we’ve received. We’ll try to break down as much of our reasoning and thought processes below for those of you who want to know more about us and our decisions.
We’ll start by reiterating our main goals for the Kickstarter campaign that was mainly aimed at giving us the funds to take on some of the “nice to have” embellishments for our game. These are aspects of the game that we feel would enhance the experience of Forged of Blood, but would not be completely missed if they were not there. Expanded visual effects, character voice acting, and a larger writing team are all things that would definitely have added a higher degree of polish to the final product but are ultimately ancillary to the core gameplay and it’s enjoyment.
Regarding our start date for the campaign, we really have to address the question of time. Our plan was (and is) to make Forged of Blood over the span of two years and in an ideal situation we would have entered our funding round before we started production. Efficiency and planning have an exponential correlation over time, and we would have liked to be able to go into production having already raised funds from Kickstarter - like many game campaigns before us - so we are able to plan according to that budget.
Ultimately, we decided against that approach when we took into account the current state of video game crowdfunding campaigns and the fact that we are a brand new studio that has yet to put itself on the video game map. That put the burden on us as a studio and as game developers to show our chops as it were and we couldn’t have gone into the campaign with just concept art.
As it stands, with a year behind us and another year ahead of us, Forged of Blood is in a pre-alpha state. A state in which we are able to show our core game loop in a very tangible way, but are far enough away from release date that we would be able to plan for a course of action that can make the most efficient use of crowdfunding to address our “nice to have” list. That was the sweet spot we felt we needed to hit to be able to come to Kickstarter: the point in our schedule and budget where the injection of funds can take us to new heights or firmly set our development to the scope we can afford to take it on our own.
Finally, the matter of our Kickstarter funding goal is one of the most debated topics both internally in the studio and within the fan communities we’ve been a part of. We’ll start off by saying that our philosophy was to raise funds that we know could make a significant impact - you know the whole “go big or go home” mentality resonated pretty well with a bunch of nerds working on the ultimate passion project. That meant that we really didn’t want to dip our toes into the crowdfunding purely for pre-orders or a chance to mitigate risk.
Now we’ll address what our funding ask of S$ 150,000 or around US$ 107,000 would have truly entailed and why the number was ultimately that high. Starting with our intentions to expand on the visual effects - especially in regards to the magic system, this was truly one of those things that was an all or nothing aspect of production. As of now, we’ve planned for and funded ourselves to be able to show and mix spell effects that would look truly wonderful; but as many of you who have asked us about the magic know we have a lot more than just spell effects. We have modifiers that will further customize and shape the spells, and the moment we start to create new visual effects for each nuanced modifier and their eventual integration into a single spell… Well. You can imagine how the number of new visual effects will balloon. Let us not forget the amount of time it would take it properly hook up and integrate each visual effect with the corresponding spell mechanics. That would have multiplied our current visual effects budget of US$ 2500 by ten, in addition to needing a longer production runway for the programming team to implement, costing would run to an estimated total of USD$35,000.
The same principle applies for character voiceover work. If we voiced only our two main characters then the game will feel empty. If we voiced our main characters and a small selection of the supporting characters then the game will feel unfinished and unpolished. The course of action we decided on was to provide a large enough contingency fund for quality voice acting that would allow us to tell the story we want properly. Conservatively speaking, we were looking at allocating around $10,000 for a proper selection of characters to be voiced along with our cutscenes and cinematics.
That leaves the remaining $ 55,000 that would have been allocated to expanding our current writing team of one largely overworked guy to at least two… largely overworked guys/gals, and ideally more (subject to negotiations and pricing of course, but from our conversations and previous experience running another studio, you generally get what you pay for). We so desperately wanted to expand the team because as it is, most of the team are filling in for multiple roles at the studio and to say that the team is over extended would be a bit of an understatement.
Narrative choice and consequence is one of our foundational design pillars, and thus far we’ve found a few creative ways to create agency across the various narrative sequences we have planned. But there is always that itch to do more… to be able to make more and allow for even more actions in the game (passion project right?). Being able to have bring on a few more writers would really open up our already branching tree of choices and consequences into a whole forest for players to explore.
To us, all of these embellishments went hand in hand, and to do one without the other would have broken the cohesion of the final game output. Right now, Forged of Blood still promises to be a Tactical RPG experience that focuses on nuance and player agency - our magic system, tactical combat mechanics, character building, and planned narrative threads are still green lit in our production and we fully intend to deliver and build upon what we’ve made. Our failure here on Kickstarter is one that cut a very personal wound in our hearts, but it ultimately only detracted add-ons we would have liked and not our core vision.
Furthermore, we felt that if we were to go in with a much lower funding goal - say $50,000 - we couldn’t have realistically promised what we did with our current goal. That would have effectively categorized our Kickstarter campaign as pre-orders and not as a means to make the game truly better. To us, that just feels… off. We see digital pre-orders as a way to measure early viability, and for larger game studios large pre-order numbers help to allay shareholder needs and wants. They are ultimately great for developers but might not necessarily have the interests of the consumer in mind and so we we stuck to our plan.
As we look ahead and beyond this decidedly upsetting turn of events, we know that Forged of Blood will have a little less eye candy to draw people in. This may very well impact our long term sales viability - or it may not - but to the hardcore Tactical RPG fans we’ve met around the world: this is still the game you’ve been waiting for. The promises we’ve made, the mechanics we’ve designed are still our primary goals and though the mechanics and design decisions are in a constant state of flux, the game and it’s enjoyment will remain our driving force. Our inability to expand our team just means that we carry forward the same burdens and responsibilities that we have carried over the last year, and in many ways that might work out for the best.
We have also been asked on multiple occasions if we would give Kickstarter or other crowdfunding platforms a shot at a later date, and the answer to that is an unsatisfactory: “maybe.” Right now, our focus is to continue developing the game so that if we do decide to seek additional funds, Forged of Blood would be in much more advanced state and people would be able to approach our vision with a little less hesitation. Until then, we have a lot of lessons to learn from here and a lot more work to do.
To our backers: we count you as our game’s most passionate supporters - your pledges speak to your commitment to the genre and our game. In the coming weeks we will be sending out a survey that will offer opportunities to be even more involved in our production and we can’t wait to hear from each of you.
This has been a humbling, trying, but ultimately rewarding experience for us as a studio. We’ve had the chance to meet and talk to so many passionate fans of our genre, and we would also like to take this chance to use our efforts here to help another tactical game that does have some very similar goals as we do.
The guys over at Fort Triumph are in the middle of their campaign, and everyone here on the Forged of Blood team are rooting for those guys to succeed. We are also eagerly waiting on the huge success of Phoenix Point by original X-COM devs. Our genre is niche, and the devs around the world that work on games like ours help to bring visibility back to the sort of tactical gaming that we have sorely missed.
At the end of the day, this campaign and the efforts that preceded it have truly validated our game concept. Commercial viability aside, Forged of Blood seems to have well and truly resonated with many of the genre’s fans and we’ll keep going until that 2018 release date.
Thank you all so very much for your support. We’re stinging a little here, but we’re not stopping.
The Critical Forge Team