The Kickstarter Successes: Where Are They Now?

By John Walker on November 28th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Of all the many interesting discussions raised by the Kickstarter phenomenon of 2012, there’s one that’s only going to get more contentious: release dates. When a gaming project sets up a Kickstarter, they put an estimated date for the delivery of their stretch goals. And since these inevitably include a copy of the game, in doing this, developers are announcing a release date, often before they’ve even drawn any concept art. That’s not really how games development works. And so far, people don’t seem so hot on the guessing. Below is an epic list of all the $100k+ Kickstarters successful this year, and how they’re doing at keeping us up to date.

Kickstarter’s guidelines state that release dates are estimates, and encourage backers to be patient with projects struggling to meet their suggested dates, so long as that project is being open and honest about the process. They say,

“If problems come up, creators are expected to post a project update (which is emailed to all backers) explaining the situation. Sharing the story, speed bumps and all, is crucial. Most backers support projects because they want to see something happen and they’d like to be a part of it. Creators who are honest and transparent will usually find backers to be understanding. It’s not uncommon for things to take longer than expected. Sometimes the execution of the project proves more difficult than the creator had anticipated. If a creator is making a good faith effort to complete their project and is transparent about it, backers should do their best to be patient and understanding while demanding continued accountability from the creator.”

However, at the same time creators are legally obliged to fulfil their promises, or make complete refunds to backers who do not receive what they paid for. Which makes an estimated delivery date quite ambiguous – is it a promise? Or is it a guess, a hope, that we as backers have to accept might be wildly inaccurate? The reality is, we’re handing over money, on the promise of a game, no matter how much it would be more sensible to view Kickstarter pledges as angel investments rather than pre-orders.

So it seems interesting to take a look at the high-profile successes over the last year, and see how they’re doing in terms of meeting deadlines, or how likely they look to do so. These are the games that raised $100,000 or more this year, up to those finishing in October, almost nearly in chronological order. What I’m looking for alongside deadlines is how well they’re updating people with progress, and whether they’re being open about meeting targets. It’s a surprisingly poor show.

Double Fine Adventure
Double Fine
Raised: $3,336,371
Release date: Aug 2012

Well clearly that didn’t happen. But everybody who cares at least knows it, with every step of the development being filmed. The game, codenamed “Reds”, is getting a brand new engine, which is what’s taken up a lot of the last eight months. Development is due to “ramp up” next year. Sadly, their Kickstarter updates – while enormously detailed – are all for “backers only”, which rather misses the point of promoting a game.

FTL: Faster Than Light
Subset Games
Raised: $200,542
Release date: Aug 2012

They were closer than many. The game was officially released in September this year, and of course has been hugely well received. A real Kickstarter success story, from the initial incredible sight of seeing it receive 2,000% of its funding goal, to just how much we’ve enjoyed it.

Wasteland 2
inXile entertainment
Raised: $2,933,252
Release date: Oct 2013

Very sensibly setting its release date a year and a half away, the second huge Kickstarter success has shown tantalising screenshots, and one very brief video of game footage, but so far all of the same patch of land. Brian Fargo assures that development is going well, and they’re very pleased with progress, although promises of more frequent updates don’t seem to be too well kept. You can read a HUGE amount about what they’re up to here.

The Banner Saga
Stoic
Raised: $723,886
Release date: Nov 2012

Making over seven times more money than they’d asked for, it’s understandable that plans for The Banner Saga ramped up since the release date was given. While the original plan was to release “Chapter 1″ of the game by November this year, instead the beta version of the combat portion of the game has now reached backers, with promises of the full RPG sensibly put at an unspecified point in the future.

Shadowrun Returns
Harebrained Schemes
Raised: $1,836,447
Release date: Jan 2013

Giving themselves nine months didn’t seem very realistic at the time. A few months back they acknowledged it would be in May or June 2013. I’d be astonished if they met that too, based on the Horace Principle, which states: “Any release date that includes more than one potential month isn’t going to be hit”. Again, in making more than four times what they’d asked for, ambitions obviously increased, and that takes longer to make.

The Dead Linger
Sandswept Studios
Raised: $154,968
Release date: Jun 2012

June was clearly idiotic for a projected funded in April – a good example of how such dates really aren’t taken seriously. Instead, by October this year an alpha was released, with .003 released last week. So it’s happening, for sure, but oddly enough took longer than two months to finish. But right now you absolutely can download the current version of the game and play it.

Leisure Suit Larry
Replay Games
Raised: $655,182
Release date: Oct 2012

This is the first on the list that worries me. After some very peculiar antics regarding changing the studio making the game for them (still haven’t got to the bottom of that one, but I think it will bubble up again soon enough), so far all that’s been seen of the game are some background shots of one location, and concept stuff. Now, the game they’re remaking, the first Larry, isn’t very big, but even in the descriptions of how far they’ve got, they’re still talking about only now receiving backgrounds for locations. They’ve not signed the music yet, animation still seems to be in the concept stage. In October they reported they’d not developed any of the puzzles. Back in May is the last time I can find them mentioning a release date, and then it was a maybe December, maybe January. But I can’t find a word since. Not at all impressive.

Nekro
darkForge
Raised: $158,733
Release date: Jun 2013

I’m not too familiar with this one, but Jim spoke to the team about it back in June. They set themselves a sensible release date, and a recent update reports lots of good progress, and that it’s internally playable in its current form. However, even this project is now bumped until Q4 2013, with a beta ahead of that.

Starlight Inception
Escape Hatch Entertainment
Raised: $158,152
Release date: Aug 2013

Just seeing the “2013″ on the release date pleases my eyes, on a project funded in May this year. The Wing Commander-cum-Freespace project is clearly a huge task, and good, clear updates show exactly how far along they are with production. They remain confident they can hit next August.

Republique
Camouflaj
Raised: $555,662
Release date: Sep 2013

Kickstarter’s first really high profile will-it-won’t-it eventually did, in the eleventh hour exceeding its goal by a healthy $50k. And again, there was common sense in their release date, giving them well over a year to get it done. Sadly, they’ve chosen to make all their updates for backers only, so following progress isn’t for the unfunding masses. A fairly heftily stupid decision by any Kickstarter – the 11,611 backers are precisely the people who won’t be paying for your game once it’s released. They might want to speak to the 6,999,988,389 people who haven’t paid for it yet. Even their own website isn’t keeping track of progress. Guys – this isn’t the way to do it.

Grim Dawn
Crate Entertainment
Raised: $537,515
Release date: Aug 2013

I have to admit I was gutted when I first saw this was August 2013, despite being pleased they’re not over-promising. We’ve been following progress since 2010, and just want to play it! Even with the stupendous Kickstarter success (doubling their goal), it’s still so far away! But that’s obviously fine – it takes as long as it takes, and that’s as it should be. They’ve even hired four new full time staff, plucking some from the sadly closed 38 Studios. Still, it would be nice to see an awful lot more updates appearing.

Jane Jensen’s Moebius
Pinkerton Road
Raised: $435,316
Release date: Mar 2013

This was always an odd one. A pitch video that was Jensen’s family pratting around and not actually talking about games, and no fixed game for the project. Since then, apart from when plugging sales on their own social games, their updates are also blocked to people who might want to buy the released games. Utterly stupid. Even via their own website you cannot follow progress on Moebius without paying for it first. So who bloody knows if it’ll make its optimistic March release date. It’s hard to care, once you’re clearly told it’s none of your business.

Carmageddon: Reincarnation
Stainless Games
Raised: $625,143
Release date: Feb 2013

Scant few updates are mostly blocked to people who didn’t pledge, so another huge “fuck off” to potential customers. Except they then post the same content on their own website for everyone to see. Siiiiiigggggghhhhhh. Their site also says they’re in the “early stages” of designing the game, but thankfully progress updates show that isn’t really the case. I doubt very much they’ll make February, and it would be nice to see some clearer indication of where they’re actually aiming for with the three quarters of a million dollars.

Pathfinder Online Technology Demo
Goblinworks
Raised: $307,843
Release date: Oct 2012

I’m sure no one was more surprised that an openly flagged tech demo received six times its funding than Goblinworks themselves. After fees and failed payments, they received nearly $280k, which they had spent by September, the vast majority of which was salaries. And finished the tech demo! So they did it pretty much perfectly. Now they’re in full production for the game itself, with funding sourced from elsewhere. However, saying that, rewards aren’t shipped as yet, but that should be happening by January.

Xenonauts
Goldhawk Interactive
Raised: $154,715
Release date: Oct 2012

Phew, just in time! When I started compiling this list yesterday, there hadn’t been an update since August, and I was stern. But coincidentally a very apologetic update appeared overnight, saving their skin from my fiery wrath. However, regular updates can be found on their forums. They obviously didn’t hit their beta deadline for September, nor their release for October, but the beta is edging ever closer.

Two Guys Space Venture
Two Guys From Andromeda
Raised: $539,767
Release date: Feb 2013

The Space Quest (except not with that name) sequel seemed to come from peer pressure more than anything else. Two developers who hadn’t spoken to each other in many years, getting back together to surf the wave of their contemporaries all seeming to do the same. It seemed almost reluctant at first… and then the updates came. And didn’t stop coming. Good lord, they didn’t shut up. Fortunately, they haven’t since, meaning people are kept up to date with progress. However, I’m not seeing any evidence of the game itself, which doesn’t really feel very good. A February release seems extremely unlikely bearing in mind they said this month the story was only worked out on a “high level”, but I can’t find anywhere acknowledging that, nor something more realistic. Not impressive.

Tex Murphy – Project Fedora
Big Finish Games
Raised: $598,104
Release date: Dec 2012

In-game footage was shown to backers only (although most of their updates are public) in August this year, but during this they explain that filming hadn’t even started. Otherwise news is pretty sparse, their own site massively out of date, and no acknowledgement that I can find saying that they won’t make their December deadline. Again, not great.

Word Realms
Asymmetric
Raised: $121,442
Release date: Oct 2012

While backers got instant access to the beta, and have been receiving updates to it since, they obviously didn’t meet their release target. That’s always heavily countered by there being a playable version in backers’ hands, but it’s still a huge shame to see all their updates locked to backers only. They’re still aiming for the end of the year, however.

Zombie Playground
Massive Black
Raised: $167,590
Release date: Mar 2013

There hasn’t been a Kickstarter update for a month, but the last one included details of the closed alpha which is due this December for backers. The public alpha is still due for March, which was always what their release date intended on. So that’s all looking rather proper!

Dead State
DoubleBear Productions
Raised: $332,635
Release date: Dec 2013

The winner for Most Realistic Release Date In A Kickstarter Before July 2012 goes to… However, the Joint Award For Idiotically Making Updates For Backers Only also reaches Dead State, along with so many others. At least it’s still a long way away, meaning they’re not in a phase for raising public awareness just yet. And while those updates are appearing monthly, the game’s own site looks like it was abandoned months ago, cobwebs all over the last update from June. Which isn’t great bearing in mind the Kickstarter didn’t finish until the beginning of July.

CLANG
Subutai Corporation
Raised: $526,125
Release date: Feb 2013

Not a lot of updates since getting funded, there is at least this epic post about… scary sword laser magic. No word on whether February is still possible, and even less information on the game’s own site, where you’d think it was still July.

STAR COMMAND
War Balloon Games
Raised: $151,806
Release date: Oct 2012

Always a bit odd, this one, since the iPad version was supposed to be close to finished when the PC version/iPad second round Kickstarter launched. However, while the release date has obviously been missed, there is an open update from this month explaining where things are at, and three weeks back they thought it might be done by the end of this month. Doesn’t seem quite so likely now, as there’s no release hype, so I expect this one might disappear into Christmas. Here’s 13 minutes of it to prove it exists:

Defense Grid 2
Hidden Path Entertainment
Raised: $271,726
Release date: Dec 2012

Lots of public updates, which is good to see. And even more impressively, closed beta access keys have begun being sent out. This is of course for the “Containment” version of the game, with the larger game planned to take a lot longer. But it’s looking pretty good for its projected release date.

Shadowrun Online
Cliffhanger Productions
Raised: $558,863
Release date: May 2013

Updates have dried up since September, which is a shame, especially now Jagged Alliance Online is firmly out the door. But those that have appeared have been open, at least. Although the sillybillies have been putting splendid updates directly onto their website, without linking from the KS page everyone knows to go to. Concept art began appearing early this month, making May seem pretty unlikely.

Castle Story
Sauropod Studio
Raised: $702,516
Release date: Oct 2012

They only asked for $80,000! My goodness, imagine how thrilling it would be to watch that total just climb and climb. Personally, I think when an indie raises nine times more than they asked for, they should be able to use at least half of the money to buy themselves a lovely house. They only promised a beta for their release date, and by criminy, they did it. Kind of. A prototype version was released in October, and the team is clearly still overjoyed and overwhelmed by the attention.

Project Giana
Black Forest Games
Raised: $186,158
Release date: Oct 2012

It was clearly ridiculous to put an October release date on a Kickstarter that didn’t finish until the end of August. Er, except it came out in October, and was really good!

SolForge
Gary Games
Raised: $429,715
Release date: Jan 2013

A perfect example of a post-funded Kickstarter. Regular, detailed, open updates on the digital trading card game, pre-order information for those who didn’t pledge, and clear information on their pre-order page that the Jan deadline isn’t going to be met. They’re now predicting “Spring”.

Mercenary Kings
Tribute Games
Raised: $116,064
Release date: May 2013

Only finishing in September, by this point you’d hope projects were at least guessing the middle of 2013. However, only two updates since isn’t great. And worse, the game isn’t even listed on their own site as existing. The last time they mentioned the game was to announce its Kickstarter, other than a quick aside that they’ve hired a programmer.

Planetary Annihilation
Uber Entertainment
Raised: $2,229,344
Release date: Jul 2013

After raising a simply epic amount of money, their decent number of open updates have mostly focused on fulfilling other tier rewards, with little info on game development. There’s nothing more on the game’s main site, either, and the pre-order page doesn’t list a release date at all. So is next July realistic? No way to know.

Broken Sword – The Serpent’s Curse
Revolution Software
Raised: $771,560
Release date: Apr 2013

Lots of open updates, including details of Uncle Charles’ “research trip” (holiday) to the Middle East. But not a lot of info on the game, or its progress. More frustrating is that Revolution’s website has no info on the game whatsoever. April seems incredibly optimistic to me.

Project Eternity
Obsidian Entertainment
Raised: $3,986,929
Release date: Apr 2014

Sound the trumpets! A sensible release date prediction! Clearly an RPG on the scale Obsidian are planning is going to take a heck of a long time. And now they’re equipped with $4m, ambitions will have raised. But most of all, their regular open updates actually detail the progress they’re making on the game. Absolutely perfect. I doubt they’ll be out before Christmas 2014 though…

So what have we learned?

  • Don’t put a release date you obviously aren’t going to manage. Even my left big toe knows that it takes more than six months to develop a game, and what possible harm could there be in picking a pessimistic date and coming in ahead of schedule?
  • Be honest about missing release dates. Don’t hide the information two-thirds through a post linked from an update – your Kickstarter is there forever, and the given release date is the thing people are going to read. When that date is in the past, and it’s not clear what the new one is, you look damned dodgy.
  • Make at least some of your post-campaign updates public. The people who pledged have already given you their money. It’s the attention of the people who didn’t pledge that you rather desperately need now. And hiding info from outsiders just makes your game look like it’s not for them. Sure, there’s backer exclusive content, and you’ll keep some stuff just for them. But radio silence for the rest of your audience is simply bad business.
  • Keep your own websites up to date! Sure, announcing a game as early as the concept stage is very abnormal in this industry, and keeping people updated about those early stages isn’t normally done. But unfortunately if you Kickstartered, you announced it, and leaving your site fallow for six months makes it look an awful lot like you took the money and ran. You didn’t! So why act like you did?
  • And put development progress in your updates. Sure, you don’t want to show too much too soon, but just tell us what you’re doing with the money! If your team spent the week coding a robot’s AI, tell us that. It gives a strong sense of progress, that absolutely is not achieved when all your updates are about whether you sent out some stickers yet. You exposed yourself early, and now you’re committed to that.

PS. To be abundantly clear, this is about what information can be learned from visiting the Kickstarter page for a project, and any links immediately from it. Information may be hidden away elsewhere, but that’s hardly relevant to the purpose of this piece. Indeed, as a member of the press I could have contacted developers directly to ask, but again this wouldn’t demonstrate what I consider to be possible poor handling of a post-Kickstarter project.

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205 Comments »

  1. CommanderZx2 says:

    Quit bitching that you aren’t getting updates on these kickstarter projects. Getting the development information is one of the perks to being a backer. If you aren’t a backer when then you’ll just have to wait until the game releases.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      And as John wrote: that’s a good way of preventing future customers from figuring out if they want to buy your game.

      • gravity_spoon says:

        Agree. Makes no sense to make updates available to KS backers only.

        • MadTinkerer says:

          Except that if they’re still making progress updates then the game isn’t available to normal customers yet anyway. Making backers-only updates is part of serving the people who have paid up-front. The people who haven’t paid anything yet aren’t losing anything. Especially since the game isn’t finished yet.

          Most of the time, when you do see in-game footage before a game is released, it’s really very, very far along in the process. Like last three or four months of a three year development cycle. Showing games early in development is usually a turn-off. You can’t play it, you can only see the crappy in-progress version. So far, the main point of the Reds documentary has been interviews and slice of life stuff, with them only getting around to showing real game stuff in the last couple episodes. This is because there is no game to show most of the way through. For all games.

          • hasuto says:

            I agree with this. Once the games are getting ready to ship I’m sure every potential customer will get previews and trailers as usual. And we’ve already seen this with the games that have been released, like FTL and Giana sisters.

        • Shuck says:

          I could see releasing a few backer-only updates so backers feel like they’re getting special attention, but otherwise, yeah, no reason to restrict all the information.

          • meatshit says:

            Sure there is. Unfinished games look and play like shit and there’s no shortage of idiots who will confuse alpha-quality footage for how the game will end up when it’s done.

          • soldant says:

            @Meatshit – That didn’t hurt Minecraft.

          • JuJuCam says:

            Why do the updates always have to include in game footage? I find early game-design updates fascinating, personally, and I can hang on to hype for a game that impresses on early conceptual stuff for quite a long time. Knowing that developers are at least considering important questions about “where the game is” and “what the players’ place is in this world we’re creating is” proves to me as a non-backer that these people are taking this process seriously.

            For examples of where this is well done, see PixelJunk 1-6 and Clockwork Empire.

          • kangarudeboy says:

            @soldant minecraft also was playable early in development, and was an atypical case; the development also was influenced heavily by the players/fanbase and the ways they were using and modding the game. And the game is essentially built off a very basic concept that was in place from the beginning: break blocks, place blocks.

            Not the best comparison.

      • wccrawford says:

        It makes the same sense that it makes for every other project that doesn’t tell potential customers anything before the game is finalize. And that’s most of them!

        Backers have already paid. Their money isn’t going anywhere. You can’t lose a sale on them, so there’s no harm in showing them the progress. (And in fact, they paid to be shown that progress.)

        Showing unfinished materials to *potential* buyers is just stupid. It’s the same reason that AAAs don’t make demos: It doesn’t make sense. All the paths lead to ‘lost customer’, never to ‘gained customer’.

        • malkav11 says:

          Exactly. Most of these projects are at stages of development where the public normally wouldn’t even know they’re in progress, much less the nitty gritty details. Opening a public window on the sausage making is fine if they want to, but mostly it’s there for the people who made it possible and would like to have some insight on how things are getting along.

          What I do think needs to be kept in mind is to at least once a month or so put a summary of progress made into an actual Kickstarter update. It’s fine to have a lot of the day to day discussion and updating and polling and whatnot happening on your own site and/or forums – I for one generally don’t need that level of constant involvement – but that stuff isn’t getting emailed to your backers, and it’s nice for people who -aren’t- actively following your site to be kept in the loop.

          • stiffkittin says:

            Completely agree with this. Sure, update posts on their respective sites can be more casual and spontaneous, but it needlessly divides your fanbase and excludes the less ‘hardcore’. Most of these would make perfectly good mini-updates through Kickstarter. To remind people they’re still working on the game and haven’t forgotten about them. In short it’s more inclusive.

            I’ve backed several projects guilty of this; and while I still have the utmost confidence they’ll be successfully finished, I’d like to see them step up on this score.

        • Bhazor says:

          Exactly. You could lose alot of potential customers by making a “So our alpha’s fucked” post public.

          • FhnuZoag says:

            But isn’t that depressing as hell? Basically you are saying that there’s no room in the system for a transparent, honest developer. That it’s basically ‘stupid’ to be open and fair, and give people the all the information they need to judge whether they actually should back your future projects. I think attitudes like that sets up a really rather antagonistic relationship between customer and developer, and in the long term, that’s really going to damage the industry.

            I think we should punish the likes of Kerberos and their SOTS II, and reward the likes of Introversion, and the people who made Fallen Enchantress, instead of make excuses for people who have the same essential attitude as the former.

          • gravity_spoon says:

            Whatever happened to making “informed” decision ? Also you guys talk as if people who didn’t fund their KS are never ever going to buy that game.

          • AngoraFish says:

            I’m pretty sure that most people who didn’t fund the kickstarters, at least in these forums, have been arguing that they’ll “wait for the reviews” before considering a purchase so dev updates on kickstarter are totally irrelevant to their ultimate purchase decision.

            Most of these dev update posts consist of trivia and ephemera along the lines of “here’s an interesting early 3D model” or “we just hired a community manager and did five media interviews this week.”

            When the companies have something more splash-worthy to promote, the companies will be crowing from the rooftops looking for coverage. I’m pretty sure, however, that they won’t be doing so from the updates tab on their now well and truly dated kickstarter pages.

          • cpt_freakout says:

            I know the audiences are different and all that, but if you’ve followed MMOs for a while now, you will have probably noticed how the whole concept of the Beta changed over the years for those kinds of games. ‘Beta’, instead of mostly meaning a test run where you go give feedback to the developers in order for them to make the game better for release, now mostly means ‘free trial before it comes out’. The result is that there are usually lots and lots of people who decide that the game in question is shit because X or Y doesn’t work, or because the graphics aren’t what they thought they would be, or because X or Y mechanic is still yet to be implemented, etc.

            My point is that sometimes opening up the process of developing the game can become detrimental, especially when it comes to those who aren’t really committed to it ever since the start, like I assume all KS backers are. People in general are very quick to judge, and when it comes to games there’s no exception. I agree with the principle that there should be a certain transparency with those who didn’t back, but there might be lots of drawbacks like happens with the ‘beta effect’ in MMOs.

        • darkChozo says:

          The problem with that is that a successful Kickstarter generates a lot of interest and goodwill, often to companies that don’t have an easy way of generating that otherwise (ie. indies). You can be interested in a KSed game without being committed enough to put down money months in advance; I’m interested in Star Citizen, but space sims are hit-and-miss enough for me that I didn’t feel like I could justify a contribution. Not capitalizing on that interest at all is just silly, plus it means that you don’t get further press later on by releasing major project updates. If John can’t see how KickstarterGame is going now, it also means that he can’t write a retrospective/update piece later, which is basically free advertising wasted.

          Not saying that everything should be public; you’re certainly right about alpha content and the Internet public’s reactions to such. Backers should be given special treatment, particularly if it was an explicit reward for backing. But not releasing any content at all to the public (say, with concept art and “here’s what we did this month”-type description) just seems like a waste. Not updating your website is even sillier; even the most tight-lipped of AAA games will at least have a teaser site up, even if there’s no real content there. Ultimately, it’s all about perception; if you look disorganized or fly-by-night, then people may well begin to believe that you actually are.

          • wererogue says:

            To be honest, it sounds like you’re not going to buy Star Citizen unless it reviews well. Why waste time and money putting out updates that won’t change your opinion?

          • jrodman says:

            Even for people who will wait for reviews, there’s still the problem of whether the people remember your game at all, or forget about it.

            The review cycle isn’t guaranteed to reach all the people who were interested at all. They could take a week off, or be on vacation, or have a project come up at work. An interested party who remembers your game is coming out is VASTLY more likely to buy it than one who has forgotten. Even if they plan to let the reviews decide for them.

      • Zeewolf says:

        For many of these, including Double Fine and Jane Jensen, giving backers access to inside-only info was clearly part of their entire Kickstarter concepts, so it’d be massively stupid to back out of that now.

        I think it’s a good idea to keep backer information and public, PR-info, separate.

    • KikiJiki says:

      Considering Kickstarter is viewed as a means of getting free marketing, backer only updates are silly.

      • Loque says:

        It’s not “free” marketing. KS gets a cut (5%).

        • The Random One says:

          It’s free in the same way that if you pay for a hotel stay with breakfast included, the toasts are free.

          • Toberoth says:

            Not actually free at all, you mean, since you’re already paying to stay in the hotel?

        • darkChozo says:

          I’d argue that the marketing is still free; the handling of the crowdfunding isn’t, but then again, the same could be said of basically any system involving payments. Though I guess you could argue that public exposure is a part of the Kickstarter “package”. [definitely not a poor choice of words on my part there]

    • Olderman says:

      Well, if they’ve promised it it does make sense that they keep that promise. It does seem silly to have done that in the first place though because I don’t see it as a particularly convincing incentive to pledge and yes, it makes them miss out on possible coverage. It all started with DF’s promised documentary. “Even if it fails you’ll see it as it happens so in itself it’ll be worth it”. A brilliant “life insurance” for them, but not for those that poorly mimicked the concept.

      • Caiman says:

        I wasn’t really all that interested in backing Double Fine Adventure for the game, but I backed purely for the documentary which I knew would be entertaining. I’ve already gotten my money’s worth on that. Having backer only access to that kind of thing can be great incentive, and opening it up to everyone kind of defeats the purpose, although I imagine it will all become available once the project is complete. Seeing John call this strategy “stupid” suggests he hasn’t really thought it through. Publicity for the game doesn’t have to be backer only, and will start once the game is closer to completion.

        • lazy8 says:

          Same here, the entertainment I get from the updates alone is, in my opinion, well worth the money.

          For me, kickstarter is not just about getting a product, it is about enabling people to create something and being able to follow how this process, which can be more interesting then the final product.

        • stiffkittin says:

          Have to add my voice in agreement. The documentary episodes are ridiculously well-produced. Worth the price of admission alone (at my pledge level at any rate). The team is charismatic, Tim is reliably funny and the videos are so well edited I’m very happy with my investment.

    • Bhazor says:

      “Quit bitching”

      You haven’t read many of John Walker’s rants have you?

      • D3xter says:

        Indeed, that is a very unlikely proposition, although I still have to work myself through most of the wall of text above :P

        I too have my doubts about Larry…

        As for the “Estimated Release Dates” given, I always add at least 6-12 months to that and it should be rather obvious that if a project receives somewhere between 5-10x the funding it was looking for and might ramp up its ambition that would mean quite some delay.
        I think most people understand that though, especially if the devs are honest and give updates as to their situation.

    • Adjuchas says:

      I’m all for investors only getting to see and give feedback on various features and such, but they should all do regular press releases for general public consumption… it’s just good business practice and gives people who aren’t sure but are interested something to check back in on frequently.

      • Jay says:

        This seems like a sensible way to handle it. At the very least, your website shouldn’t look like a ghost town since your kickstarter ended.

        • AngoraFish says:

          Most of these companies are small outfits getting on with making the game, rather than keeping the media circus rolling on an infinite snowball of publicity.

          Quite frankly, the devs have far more important things to do than keep feeding the hype machine at this point – the finished game can speak for itself.

          Most wouldn’t be expected to get either significant media coverage, nor substantial interest from potential future customers, at this point in the development cycle anyhow.

          • RobF says:

            It doesn’t take someone half an hour to make a small blogpost keeping people up to date. Let’s not pretend it’s some sort of herculean task that will halt all development or something really beyond the kin of most humans.

          • wererogue says:

            @RobF

            Publicity copy probably averages 1 or more staffer-days per release – and the more infrequently you talk to the public, the less likely you are to want to spend time explaining mistakes, so the more time you spend polishing your update.

          • GeneralTso92 says:

            He isn’t saying make a 2 page report on the game, but at least give a small few sentence update on the game.

            That isn’t hard at all.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I agree that the tone was a bit strident, and I think there are some very good reasons to have backer only updates. One is that an exclusive information feed is one of the informal rewards for backing a kickstarter, so they provide an incentive for people to back the kickstarter. Another is that alpha art can look absolutely atrocious; more than one game has gotten slammed for the visual quality of its alpha. Finally, maybe they want the product to look and feel finished before they present it to the market at large.

      • Liquidoodle says:

        I’m with you Batman, I’ve only backed a few projects that I’ve been able to afford and feel like backer only updates especially the Double Fine ones are a reward to you for your support, giving them away to everybody would reduce that lovely feeling a backer has. I think the odd press release wouldn’t hurt though for everybody who missed out, just as long as the backers don’t get left with a feeling of being short changed.

        As someone looking at Kickstarting a project early next year this is all interesting to read, I hadn’t once thought anyone would get annoyed by backer only updates, intriguing!

    • caddyB says:

      Even if you are right, you still lose the argument because you seem incapable of being polite.

    • Preyer says:

      I completely agree, I was annoyed by the complaining in the article. How many big game studios release frequent updates on their upcoming games, say BioWare on Dragon Age 3? Who even expects that?

      Yeah, it would be nice, but it’s nice that (even) backers get updates you normally don’t get.

      • Surlywombat says:

        All of them? It’s called marketing.

      • John Walker says:

        Er, all of them incessantly.

        • Bhazor says:

          No they don’t not when a game is still in preproduction.

          The same reason you don’t get many pictures of movie sets before the script is written.

          • KikiJiki says:

            You still get a lot of news about movies while they’re in preproduction, such as directors signed up etc. Not the best analogy.

          • RaveTurned says:

            PRESS RELEASE: Trailer for Call of Honor: ManShootFace to be announced next week! Contains reports of exclusive pre-release footage!

        • InternetBatman says:

          Like Bhazor said, not at this stage. We knew Dragon Age III was in development months before it was announced and they still have yet to release something substantive.

          Furthermore, the other games have to make up their costs when they release it. Kickstarter games have already been bought / funded, so they don’t have nearly the same marketing pressures.

        • Deano2099 says:

          Nope, you get marketing stuff from the marketing people sure, but that’s not what backer updates are. They’re generally written by developers, not PR drones, and the limited audience gives them a freedom that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to have. On the one hand you want honesty and transparency, on the other you want everyone to be able to see what’s going on. That won’t happen – no-one will give a warts-and-all update if they know the games sites will just pick up on the most negative thing they say and run it as an attention-grabbing headline.

          It’s also worth noting that backing for just $1 gets you the updates, if you’re not that interested in the game, I think you can afford to wait until the actual PR machine kicks in. And it’s actually not a sensible thing to do to present curious people who missed backing the game with tons and tons of progress updates. What you want to do is provide targeted, specific marketing campaigns at specific points in time to grab those people.

          I realise it’s annoying for a games journo to end up in this weird place where some of us muggles know more about some of the games in development than you do. But most of us have more than enough games to play, we’re generally not interested in finding out about a game we can’t buy, can’t back and can’t play a demo of. We’ll wait until release.

          This is going to crop up again then to, when journos are after review copies of KS games. I know I for one would be mighty pissed-off as a backer of say, Wasteland 2, if you lot got sent the code a week before we did, even though you’d done nothing for it, whereas I’d paid to make it happen. This happened with the Amanda Palmer album and I’m still narked about it: “thanks for your money! you can have the album in two weeks, in the meantime here’s a review by a guy who got it early despite not being a backer”

    • alexheretic says:

      I certainly hope John continues “bitching” in this manner for many years to come. You seem to be suggesting his writing is fuelled by a jealousy of backers getting the precious news he isn’t.

      Is that likely?

      Man I get bored by pre-release game news, and I read RPS front page, not their inbox!

      • Deano2099 says:

        It makes the job of a games writer harder, as you can’t fact check so easily when you don’t have all the available facts, and it’s embarrassing to write a story then have a bunch of people in the comments contradict you using quotes from backer-only updates. I imagine it’s quite annoying.

        • AngoraFish says:

          If a games journalist wants the updates, then back the project. It’s a basic and trivial cost of doing business. Surely it wouldn’t be that hard for RPS to kick in $1 to each significant kickstarter to get the “inside scoop”.

          • RobF says:

            That doesn’t really sound like a smart idea. It’s probably far smarter if people developing games tell more people about the game they’re developing so people know about the game they’re developing, especially journalists who then go on and write stuff about their game to tell more people about the game they’re developing so more people buy the game they’re developing because someone told them about it.

            Generally and stuff, y’know.

          • JohnnyMaverik says:

            I don’t agree that kickstarters should make ALL of their updates public, part of the promise of backing a game is to be given an inside look on the development progress and process, something we don’t usually get.

            Big progress updates should be made public in some form as part of a normal marketing campaign, but process updates, that’s why I backed the Double Fine Adventure, to get a glimpse of how a studio like that works and what development processes are actually like. So, if a kickstarter wants to do the backer inside look but not sacrifice public awareness they should separate progress from process. Progress should be public, process should be what you’re kickstarter backers have paid to see. Admittedly the example I gave haven’t really done that, as nearly all updates seem to be backer only.

            But journalists should buy kickstarters if they want to write articles about them? That’s a step too far, you’re basically saying game journalists should back every single kickstarter on the off chance that they might want to write an article about it in the future… which is just plain ridiculous on so many levels.

          • AngoraFish says:

            Game journalists should buy games, yes. The culture of games journalists expecting freebies is precisely the problem. Not buying games = pressure to provide positive coverage or risk dropping off the freebie gravy train = puff pieces and inflated reviews.

            There’s no reason, of course, that they can’t also use traditional journalism techniques like, you know, calling or emailing the developer.

            Journalism does not equal trawling the internet for publicly available snippets then serving these up as ‘news’.

          • RobF says:

            Well, good luck with that then.

          • JohnnyMaverik says:

            “There’s no reason, of course, that they can’t also use traditional journalism techniques like, you know, calling or emailing the developer.”

            There I agree with you, on the buying part not so much. I don’t think journalists should expect to get everything for free, but many don’t especially in the games industry, and I don’t think they should have to fund every kickstarter project to put themselves in a position where they can cover it. I don’t think that’s necessary anyway, but that was what was being suggested, as in they had some kind of professional obligation to put money into everything they might (or might not) at some point want to write about, which is truly ridiculous.

            Widen that statement out and it’s like saying game journalists have to pre-order anything they want to cover with-in a month after it’s been announced (at which point of course they have no idea if they will want to cover it’s progress in the future).

    • kwyjibo says:

      The thing that John misses is that backers paid for exclusive access. The reason you get the word “Exclusive” plastered across magazines and websites, is because it is of value.

      The access is a reward, it increases the amount you raise. To then ignore your campaign, and just do a bait and switch, opening up your updates to the unpaying masses would only piss your backers (read evangelists) off. Even if the bait and switch pays off, and the early access you grant others actually drives more sales, that doesn’t stop your original campaign from being a fucking lie.

      These projects can get plenty of press anyway without having to open up their dev diaries.

      • Low Life says:

        You seem to confuse having any information public with having all the information public. Why does everything have to be black and white?

        If I was paying for weekly dev diaries and dev forum access, I certainly wouldn’t think I was being betrayed if the developer also released a public statement about the project’s general status every month or two.

        • AngoraFish says:

          But that’s not what John’s arguing is it? He clearly thinks that everyone cruising by the old kickstarter page should be fully entitled to read the entire dev diary. This whole palaver seems more like a petulant schoolboy rant to me.

        • kwyjibo says:

          “You seem to confuse having any information public with having all the information public.”

          Not true. My closing sentence suggests that they still have all the usual marketing channels available to them.

    • Text_Fish says:

      I agree, especially in relation to DFA which is still deep in development. Normal game studios are free to publicize whatever they like — as long as kickstarted projects honor their commitment to backers I don’t see why people who weren’t bothered enough to back should act all entitled. I’m sure once Reds is closer to a release date (or perhaps even released) DoubleFine will do all their normal interviews and publicity, but to do so now would be jumping the gun.

      • RobF says:

        When we’re using the phrase “entitled” to describe people suggesting that it’s probably a good idea if you keep people who aren’t funding you informed of your work as well as just those that do, I think we can safely say that the word has now lost all essence and meaning.

        And when we’re trading developer updates as a commodity, I just don’t know what to think anymore. I really don’t. We’ll put a price tag on anything and say it’s ours when we pay it, we really will.

    • wererogue says:

      This idea of “these games should all be posting regular updates to non-backers” smells a little bit like the “I bought this Kickstarter game so it’d better come out” mentality, possibly tempered by a games-journalist expectation that a game, once announced, is marketed.

      Crowdfunding’s still new, so time will tell whether there’s a backlash from a game going dark – but I suspect it’ll be fine. This is more like a small team pitching to investors – the investors sure as hell want regular updates, but the public doesn’t need to know what’s going on until the formal announcement, after which the marketing can kick in.

      I also agree that you’re risking turning people off by giving them associations to an unfinished game. If you go dark for a year or two, then the game can seem fresh and new again when it’s time to launch. If you keep hollering “look at our crappy prototypes”, you could quickly scratch the paint on any especially impressive pitch.

      That’s not to say that I don’t think it can work the other way. I just think that it’s a gamble, and an unsolved question as to which is “better” – and that saying people are stupid for being closed is a bit off.

  2. luukdeman111 says:

    On the uber entertainment forums the debs are actually quite open about the development of planetary annihilation. They give very brief weekly updates about what they’ve been working on and also answer quite some questions about the game. So now and then they even do a live stream on twitch to give extra insight in the company….

    So shame on you RPS for missing that! But it does show how hard the info is to find for outsiders… So it’s pretty much ubers fault too…

    • Teovald says:

      I am a backer of this game and I did not knew about this forum as well …

    • John Walker says:

      No shame on us whatsoever. This is a piece about what the public can find by reading their Kickstarter page and links from it.

      • moocow says:

        I think this is a little disingenuous though, you set up the premise of the article that dates may or may not be a promise to backers, but then switch to what is available to the public at large in your run downs, which seems rather unfair.

        If the developers have made a pseudo-promise to backers, and keep them fully updated privately, isn’t that exactly meeting their obligations as you set out?

      • luukdeman111 says:

        The website is indeed hard to find, hence the last statement in my comment. The kickstarter page does however link to the Facebook page and to lesser extend to those forums as well.

        So it’s pretty obvious that you couldn’t find much info about the development because you had to do the same proces for like 30 games but someone who is really interested in the game shouldn’t have much trouble finding information..

      • BathTub says:

        They also publish their weekly summary of what’s new on their Facebook page.

  3. Ansob says:

    The Pathfinder MMO team are now doing a second Kickstarter for even more money: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1675907842/pathfinder-online-a-fantasy-sandbox-mmo

    It’s basically vapourware. The alleged purpose of the tech demo was to raise investor interest, and now they’re saying they want to get more funding from Kickstarter instead of the investors they were supposed to get off the back of the first ridiculous project.

    • wodin says:

      Just…WOW…they also want a million….

    • Lanfranc says:

      They do have investors, the point of the Kickstarter is to finish the game sooner and with more content. (According to Goblinworks at least.)

    • antoniodamala says:

      The worst is that none of the kickstarters actually explain how the game will be played. They say it’s a sandbox mmo whatever but that barely defines anything. Is probably going to have a boring WoW-like point and click playstyle because most RPG nerds are dumbshit and don’t know how to make games.

      • solidsquid says:

        From the video, it sounds like they’re planning to try and recreate the Kingmaker adventure setting from the Pathfinder setting. If this is the case, it would mean you would have a setup similar to Eve Online, where players can build towns/forts, create supply routes and other stuff along these lines. You could also have players setting up actual player-run kingdoms (much like Eve has it’s corporations)

        You’re right that it’s not entirely clear, but if this *is* what they’re planning then it could actually be a pretty interesting setting, but would be pretty high risk just due to the scope of the project. Might explain the reluctance of some game publishers to invest

        • Lanfranc says:

          Sounds pretty likely, since both the Goblinworks CEO and CTO (and probably others on the team) previously worked at CCP Games.

    • solidsquid says:

      In their FAQ they mentioned that they got enough funding to develop the game with a 4 year timeline. The Kickstarter is to try and expand their team so they can cut the timeline (from the sound of it fairly significantly)

    • The Greatness says:

      Wayne Reynolds: The Game.

  4. RaveTurned says:

    RE: Castle Story – the prototype they eventually released was the one they were talking about in their $25 reward tier (“Get the original PROTOTYPE soon after the Kickstarter is over!”). The Beta as described in the $15 reward tier is still in the works.

    • Stromko says:

      Yes, those of us who signed up for the beta, for instance, still have nothing to play. An important difference. Even if they’d given us the buggy-as-hell alpha instead in October, that would have been closer to fulfilling their Kickstarter promise than what was implied by this article.

  5. Stellar Duck says:

    I got another mail from Obsidian this morning as it happens. It’s the only thing I’ve backed and I’m pretty happy with that choice. I like the updates and they make me feel like a valued customer. While that may be an illusion, it’s a nice illusion I shall cling to for the time being.

    • Bhazor says:

      Obsidian has been great with updates but very light when it comes to solid details about the game. I’ve been following closely and still know close to nothing about it.

      You could say the same about it’s stablemate Wasteland 2.

      I think Star Citizen is the new high water mark for big budget kickstarters. Tonnes of details, a sea of in game footage and lots of direct input from the backers. The fact it also made more than any other game might be related.

      • InternetBatman says:

        I would say Obsidian has been significantly more communicative about higher-level details and design decisions than Wasteland 2. Wasteland 2 had that one interesting post about the text parser, but updates come fairly infrequently.

        Obsidian recently had an update showing how the architecture is rendered giving an idea of how the game will look, and had the armor update explaining their philosophy behind it and how they believed tiers might work. In the course of the kickstarter they discussed their stamina/health system, as well as such esoteric things as prone and reach attacks.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        I’m fairly confident, though I may well be proved wrong, that when they have something more solid to show off they will do so. From the updates I’ve read so far they seem to be in a planning phase and that might be a bit vague to show off at the time.

        • Bhazor says:

          But that’s what I mean. Is it right to run a kickstarter when you haven’t even finished the planning stage?

          I backed day 1 and I don’t regret it. But when I backed I was expecting them to reveal a lot more stuff during the month.

          I have faith in the team making a great game heck they made Kotor 2 from scratch in 9 months and that is one of my favourite games. But I’d say they should have waited three months and come out when they have everything laid out and an early prototype to show. I’d say with that they could have doubled the funding, I imagine a lot of people didn’t back because they weren’t as enamoured with Obsidian and what they saw wasn’t enough to break out their wallets.

          • Stellar Duck says:

            I honestly don’t have a solid answer to that. In general, I’d say that it’s alright but you’d be doing yourself a favour if you can show something up front. I expect that goes mostly for “unproven” developers whereas Obsidian do have a record and some very, very good games under their belt.

            As I said, it’s the only one I’ve backed (though I shall be sending some money to Jim when I get paid tomorrow) and I felt comfortable doing so because it was Obsidian. It’s a fairly safe gamble for me. This will of course vary from person to person. In the same way it will also differ from dev to dev, what they are willing to pitch to their customers/backers. Tom Francis for one didn’t feel comfortable doing it, despite Gunpoint looking solid as it is: http://www.pentadact.com/2012-11-15-why-isnt-there-a-gunpoint-kickstarter/

          • InternetBatman says:

            I would honestly say that it depends on experience and the production base that you already have. Obsidian very clearly has somewhat accurate content-metrics, all of the equipment they need, and an assembled and experienced development staff that has worked together on games in this genre before. That probably allows them to judge costs more accurately than a new team which needs to hire a second programmer to get multiplayer working, and largely works from home or Starbucks.

          • Bhazor says:

            Oh I trust Obsidian know what they’re doing and that all their pipelines are running smoothly. But if Kickstarter is about marketing then their campaign was basically rubbish.

            The only real bump they got was when they released the backdrop/screenshot. Sure enough with something solid to show they got a big jump in press and blog reports and subsequently backers and money. In fact the day the screen shot went up their daily income tripled.

            http://www.kicktraq.com/projects/obsidian/project-eternity/#chart-daily
            (screenshot released 11th October)

          • ColdDeath says:

            can you really say though when the “planning” is over with a game as massive as that? what do you want in that plan to be exactly? cause if you would want all sorts of stuff like the races with details, backstories, etc. etc. planned out, you do realize how long that would take? And what exactly is it that you would count as “solid details” this early? I mean sure it’s great if someone can pour a lot of time and money (yes, doing stuff like that is not free either) into concepts and videos and whatever else, but you have to remind yourself, this is called “Kickstarter” for a REASON, these projects don’t always have that amount of money available to pour into up front, that is the POINT of it. Just my 2 cents on it

        • Stromko says:

          I’m glad I backed Project Eternity as well, but partly that’s because I can’t play it yet so it is all pure hype.. Of the games I’ve backed that have hit release, well, there’s Faster than Light. Disappointing. Less content than a lot of flash games I’ve played, even if the content that’s there is painfully precisely balanced (in that it doesn’t matter what awesome gear you find, you will die if you don’t have a perfect run).

          • Toberoth says:

            I’m amazed that anyone could be disappointed by FTL–they did exactly what they set out to do, and they did it with aplomb. Brilliant little game with a surprising amount of depth and complexity. What were you expecting, exactly?

  6. gravity_spoon says:

    Arthur Bruno stated that most of the work needed was in art department on Grim Dawn. They hired some artists and one of them who goes by the forum-name Zentai has been putting up updates about artwork on the forum.
    EDIT: His name is “Zantai” and here are threads by him: http://www.grimdawn.com/forums/search.php?searchid=433526

  7. Olderman says:

    This explains a whole of a lot more than the words “kickstarter fatigue” imho.

  8. slerbal says:

    Excellent article, John! There is no way I could track all those projects myself and so it is a really interesting read – I also think by running articles like this you might help keep developers honest and encourage more transparency. I totally agree that making updates available to backers only is a really poor move if they want to sell to anyone beyond their kickstarter backers.

    It would be awesome if this could be a periodic piece :)

  9. Innovacious says:

    No love for things that succeeded before double fine made kickstarter the hip thing to do?

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1432651738/octodad-2

    I cant imagine the amount of money it would have gotten if it happened after double fine, but I think its better this way. Too much obligation to do extra things when you get more than you asked.

    • John Walker says:

      I said that it’s projects that raised over $100,000 twice!

      • Innovacious says:

        You expect me to read on a blog!? Geez, fine!

        I usually just skim through these kickstarter things, I’m sorry, please don’t hate me,

        • Toberoth says:

          If you’re just going to skim articles then you shouldn’t be commenting on them.

          Also the phrase “no love for…?” is horrifically overused and whiney.

          GRRRR

          *calms down*

  10. daphne says:

    About the Banner Saga:

    “…with promises of the full RPG sensibly put at an unspecified point in the future.”

    How is this deemed “sensible”, considering that their main pitch was not for Factions, but the full single player RPG? A dubious perspective, Mr. Walker. I would be pissed if the game I pledged for was replaced by a multiplayer variant and the actual game’s release was due “an unspecified point in the future”.

    Thankfully, it’s actually not that unspecified — IIRC they are aiming for the first half of 2013.

  11. Teovald says:

    I will be interesting to see where we are at in one year.
    I fear that at least some of these projects will fail (Republique for example looks a bit scamy to me…); I just hope it will not stop the funding of really interesting concepts that can’t get money from traditional editors.

  12. basilisk says:

    Jane Jensen’s project seems to be coming along nicely, actually. So far, she’s only been showing some concept art and some very early versions of a cutscene, but it’s obvious she has a really good idea of what she’s doing and the updates are pretty regular. Still no news on “Mystery Game X”, though, other than that it’s episodic and the first one should be coming out pretty soon.

    Though it certainly would be nice if they gave at least some updates to non-backers.

  13. wodin says:

    Just been to the Star Command forum..and it’s just full of spam…probably the worse forum I’ve seen.

  14. Flappybat says:

    Star Command is rather dodgy in having taken $36,000 for a mobile release that was meant to take three months and they still haven’t released a year later, then coming back asking for $100,000 for a port!

  15. Lemming says:

    I’m confused as to why you think it’s stupid when updates are ‘backer only’? The entire point of updates is to set your backer’s mind at rest, for everyone else it’s just a normal game release and developers aren’t exactly open doors in that regard, usually.

    If all the non-backers ever see are eventual press releases, trailers a preview and finally a review, what’s the problem? Isn’t that how it’s always been done?

    • Adjuchas says:

      Well sure, but most developers aren’t asking the general public for cash until after their games are made. :P
      I’d like to see more frequent news from developers all round however, it’s easy to forget a game in the 2-10 years between announcement and release, unless there is regular news to keep you aware.

      • Sarigs says:

        It’s a fair point but in this case here, the “general public” that were asked for cashed, and that said “Yep sure here you go” ARE the ones being kept up to date & the people who weren’t interested, didn’t want to put the money up for what ever reasons are the ones that aren’t.

        If I don’t back something then the project is no one accountable to me as a non-backer.

    • FhnuZoag says:

      It means, for example, that future backers for additional projects can’t look at their past record to decide whether or not these guys can really handle a kickstarter project, and also that if things go wrong backers find themselves on their own, without the ability to appeal to the Great Court of Internet Public Opinion like they could if things were done openly. Which makes it easier for the developer to get away with abusive practices.

      Overall it just seems like a bad attitude, and even if many developers have had that attitude before, it’s still not a particularly good one to perpetuate.

    • alexheretic says:

      The difference is simply in the “how it’s always been done” case we don’t care about the investor(s).

      For example, if a project gets cancelled the press would, at best, announce this and call it: “a shame as it looked promising”.
      Would we like a kickstarter cancellation to be handled in the same way?

  16. Tom De Roeck says:

    To be fair, I know for a fact that Shadowrun Online is being worked on very hard at the moment, and their facebook updates reflect this.

  17. Anarki says:

    Here’s my experience of Kickstarter. I backed the Carmageddon remake and eagerly awaited their “feb 2013″ release date. I got an email a few weeks ago proudly announcing that they are releasing Carmageddon on iPhone! Which I don’t give a shit about that. So I kind of wonder, I gave them money to make this game, but they’ve been pissing about making an iPhone game? Humph.

    • The First Door says:

      Yes, I have to say I’ve been a tiny bit annoyed by the Carma people too, but I went into it knowing they’d be a bit of a risk. Making a huge deal about how your backers can get a free iOS game is great… but does rather alienate people who are on a different ecosystem!

    • Toberoth says:

      I’m pretty sure they said from the beginning that they were going to work on the iPhone port first.

  18. Masterpwny says:

    What about the $500,000+ catastrophe-in-waiting that is ‘Yogventures’?

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/winterkewlgames/yogventures

    • John Walker says:

      It was inevitable that I’d miss one or two – there are thousands of projects! But yeah, they’re not doing a good job with the updates.

    • Innovacious says:

      I never actually cared about the game (or the people). It just seemed like “Minecraft made us, we cant do anything else so we will just make a new Minecraft”. But they know nothing about game design and hired some guys who still seem to be learning themselves and just said “Hey! Make THIS, ok, thanks, bye”. From the start it pretty much just seemed like a cash cow riding on the popularity of kickstarter and their fanbase which is almost entirely all minecraft players. They got money but i wouldn’t call it a success.

      Look at the webpage now: It says to per-order, but shows nothing and gives no reason to; It gives the illusion there is more content but all the links on the webpage do nothing; the forums link uses https but the connection is NOT secure; there is a “legal notice” at the bottom but its not actually a link and oh god why is that youtube button so blurry and out of place. Its all so poorly made.

      • Alphabet says:

        I think this was a huge strategic mistake by the Yogscast. Unless something amazing happens, the game is going to be ridiculously, laughably bad. It’s $30. It’s due out very, very soon. Lots of kids bought it. My suspicion is that it was their plan to escape from dependence on Minecraft. But it could end up annoying their own fanbase. And the lack of updates / mentions on the Yogscast itself doesn’t bode well for this game, either. At $5 or even $10 it might have been fun.

    • D3xter says:

      Or the how-the-fuck-did-this-get-that-amount-of-money “Homestuck Adventure game”: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/14293468/homestuck-adventure-game/

      And likely vaporware TAKEDOWN: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/355932838/crowdsourced-hardcore-tactical-shooter/

        • lazy8 says:

          I backed code-hero, thougth it was an interesting concept, they had a working beta available from the start and the program is getting regular updates.

          • emertonom says:

            You’re joking, right? The kickstarter ended in February. They had two announcements in March. Nothing for a few months, then an announcement on July 4, saying “Release date: Pax Prime” “(August 31-Sept. 2)”. Then an announcement Sept. 3, saying “New Release Date,” and revising it to say that the _alpha_ would be available that Friday. There was no mention of what they’re working on, how long they think the final version will take, how big the team is at this point, or much of anything. There have been no further updates. To their credit, it was eventually possible to download the alpha from their website, but it had no updates to the teaching content, which, as I understood it, was the entire point of the game–and in fact, the teaching portions they’d ported from the “beta” they provided during the kickstarter were, in many ways, no longer working. The Kickstarter comments section is filled with people speculating on whether it’s a scam and discussing how they went about asking for their money back. The lack of communication has created a great deal of animosity. It’s almost a textbook case of a kickstarter project going wrong.

            I haven’t requested a refund–I didn’t pledge that much initially, and I still hold out hope that they’re trying to make the game and just doing a really, really lousy job of community relations. But regular updates? Not by a long shot.

            The best thing to happen to Code Hero in the past year is that Hack & Slash was chosen in Amnesia Fortnight.

      • Flappybat says:

        Homestuck has already produced several simple flash RPGs and have several years of track record for producing art/writing/music. Also a lot of that money is going into merchandise rewards.

  19. DickSocrates says:

    Anyone who has ever worked on anything (ANYTHING) with a soft, self-imposed deadline in their entire life knows that you rarely meet them and often work takes 3 to 4 times longer. So it’s worrying so many of these people put ridiculously near release dates out there. More worrying they don’t be open about it.

    You can’t do anything above a short story or an EP in 8 months from scratch unless you’re a super genius with all the aparatus already ready and waiting for you. One guy with an idea that requires a studio and a team, neither of which he has at the time of the Kickstarter saying a game will be out sooner than a year and a half is living in dreamland. Not Kirby’s Dreamland, if that was the case they’d have it finished the same day.

    • FhnuZoag says:

      Like I’ve always said, the problem with the kickstarter system is that it discourages realism, and encourages developers to lie to customers (and themselves) to get more money.

  20. Chizu says:

    I’ve only backed 4 Kickstarters, and they were all very recent. So I’ve yet to see if those I have backed keep their updates coming.
    (One of them is Strike Suit Zero, which is basically a finished game anyway, with a January released date, so I don’t really expect tons of updates from them)

  21. Azhrarn says:

    You seem to have missed Strike Suit Zero there. :)
    The game is due to be out on January 24th next year, and the beta starts next week.

    • RaveTurned says:

      “These are the games that raised $100,000 or more this year, up to those finishing in October…”

      SSZ funding finished on November 17th.

    • John Walker says:

      Weep.

      Projects over $100,000, funded by October or before.

  22. Scratches Beard With Pipe Stem says:

    I thought Double Fine Adventure’s release estimate was October 2012, not August 2012.

    By the way, if you think backer-only updates are a bad business decision, I guess it’s OK to say so — but please don’t whine about it.

  23. SypherLane says:

    I was expecting to see Code Hero on this list. The developers raised roughly $170k back in February and have since then released five updates, of which four pertain to the actual game. They announced a beta release for August, which somehow became an alpha release instead. Since then, only silence.

    • emertonom says:

      I share your disgruntlement, not least because if this guy screws it up to the point where people think it’s a scam, it makes it less likely a subsequent person can take up the idea and actually build it.

  24. InternetBatman says:

    I think it’s worth mentioning that the projects frequently put up a timeline on how soon the original game can be delivered, and do not update that when stretch goals come into the picture. Stretch goals should cause serious distortions in the timeline because a lot of development problems cannot be solved by dumping extra people on the project, and some problems just take time to solve.

  25. Slinkyboy says:

    Great article! You guys hit the spot that’s been itching for a long time.

    Thanks. I also like the Do & Don’t. The biggest Kickstarted game I’m looking forward to is Xenonauts!1 Hell yeaaaah can’t wait for Beta!!!

  26. Neurotic says:

    Visually, Star Command reminds me of an old Amiga favourite, Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters. Except more blocky.

  27. Roz says:

    This is exactly why I’ve not backed any projects, or even considered KS.

    I don’t enjoy the feeling on the uncertainty of a game even being completed after backing, let alone being shafted by multiple release dates.

  28. salejemaster says:

    Does anyone remember this game that was kickstarted, it was like heroes of might and magic onli all realistic gritty medival? I cant remember the name of the project :3

  29. Shinan says:

    I believe the reason Doublefine’s updates are for “backers only” is because their updates usually include the video series embedded in the update. And the video series was one of the “awards” for backing so making those public would kind of sort of defeat the purpose.

    And having those updates embedded is very practical for lazy backers like me who can’t be bothered to visit the “backers only” forum. (where there’s undoubtedly more stuff on display, but what the hell)

  30. Emeraude says:

    Nice, just when I was thinking of making such a list. Will save me the effort.

    [Shadowrun Returns ]Giving themselves nine months didn’t seem very realistic at the time.

    I don’t know, given the modest scope they seemed to have, and the fact they made Crimson: Steam Pirates in 12 weeks, I found it optimistic but doable. Of course all that went through the window as soon as they reached the end of the Kickstarter having raised more than 4 times the asked budget.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      fun accusation… Steam Pirates is basically a reskin of Steambirds by another company, cutting out a lot of the time you might spend on designing the actual game mechanics (actually mentioned in the comments of that gamasutra article)

      • Emeraude says:

        Given that I have no platform to test it with, I didn’t look into that accusation about Crimson: Steam Pirates as much I’d have liked (though I must say that, having played Steambirds, I don’t think it can claim to have to be the originator of those mechanic it employs. I don’t doubt they were recreated, but they already existed).

        What I did get out of the interview is that the small team managed to produce something decent enough for Bungie to sell in roughly three months.

  31. JackDandy says:

    Gee, I wonder how that Tropes VS Women project is progressing, and why John chose to avoided reporting about it…

    • bladedsmoke says:

      Um, because it’s not a game?

    • Unaco says:

      I didn’t back it, but I’ve spoken to a couple backers. It is still progressing, she’s been providing updates to backers regularly. But, with it getting 30 times more money than she was originally asking for, the scale of the project changed, and, as such, the expected date for delivery was pushed back to accommodate the increase in scope.

      Also, it’s not a game. That’s probably why John didn’t post about it here.

      Gee though, I wonder if you really care about how it’s progressing, or you just wanted to stir some sh*t…

  32. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    I’m disappointed in Doublefine (the only KS I contributed to) for not delivering what I felt was promised: a simple Tim-Shaefer-esque point and click adventure. It seemed exciting because there wouldn’t be a publisher, it wouldn’t have to be fully voiced or polished to the bone… just a charming little adventure game. Now what, it’s going to be a mega-epic elder scrolls of point and click or something?

    • JackDandy says:

      Don’t really understand what you’re talking about. It’s still a PnC adventure.

    • Liquidoodle says:

      I’m the complete opposite in view to you on this, I’m glad the scale has ramped up alongside the sheer scale of funds they obtained for their kickstarter, I think if they released a tiny game with the millions they made everyone may well have felt short changed with it. I love watching every update video that comes along too, they fill me with glee to see developers having fun rather than feeling the horrible constraints of publishers :)

    • moocow says:

      If only there were say 7 documentary episodes and many production and art updates that give a sense of what the finished product is going to be, available to people who happened to back the project.

      But to save you time, it appears it’s going to be a Tim Schafer-esque point and click adventure, pretty well-polished, yet somehow retaining charm despite this.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Right, but it’s not out now.

        • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

          I’d rather have a polished game that’s not out now than a mediocre game that’s out now.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Guys, this is great stuff, surely. But I didn’t contribute to this sort of timetable, is all. I hope it’s wonderful, but I was thinking smaller, and by smaller- quicker release. There’s plenty to play and I’m sure I’ll love the game, but I’m disappointed that it couldn’t have been what I was originally given the impression of… a smallish game that would have already been released by now.

      • thelongshot says:

        All I got to say is that it was clear that once they were getting a ton of money that the scale of the game was going to increase. If you weren’t going to be comfortable with that, you should have pulled your support at that time. None of this should have come as a shock to you.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      Sparkasaurusmex, I think your complaints are ludicrous. I suspect you are going to be even more peeved when you realise that this game, while still having a Tim Schaefer quirky vibe, is more serious than his old stuff, at the moment looking like it might even have a touch of melancholy.

    • Scratches Beard With Pipe Stem says:

      In this case I don’t care too much (I backed DFA), but I do understand the concern. What was described was a $300,000 game project. But ultimately what’s being created is a $3,000,000 game project. To some people bigger might be better, but others may want what was originally proposed to them: a small game delivered pretty quickly. In a way, it’s kind of a bait-and-switch.

      It would almost be nice to be able to set an UPPER limit to your pledge. (In other words, if the total funding goes past 150% or something, I withdraw my pledge, because I know the project will change into something I don’t want.) But…would that cause a paradox and short out the space-time continuum?

    • Emeraude says:

      As I have been saying, there should be a mechanism allowing a project creator to put a ceiling to the funding. I can see a project becoming a victim of it’s Kickstarting success.

  33. The Random One says:

    A fair point, but strangely made. You are gauging how available information is for people who 1) might be interested in these games, but 2) were unable or unwilling to back them, and yet 3) decide their main source of information on an upcoming game should be its Kickstarter page. Do such people exist? There are some KS projects I was interested in but didn’t back for various reasons, but I don’t go to KS to know if they’re coming along, I go to glorified blogs run by pun-happy Englishmen like I do to learn about any upcoming game.

    • AngoraFish says:

      I’m not sure how fair the point, but otherwise this ^^ a thousand times.

    • MondSemmel says:

      Yes, I thought something similar. In fact, I wonder how much traffic kickstarter pages continue to get after they are finished. Backers get emailed when a new update is posted, but why would anyone else visit these?

      And on the matter of backer-only updates, I think John actually forgot his original argument for why (and when!) these were bad: _During_ kickstarters, some projects offered backer-only updates, which is almost always stupid – people are still on the fence, so it’s important to be as transparent as possible.
      I have no idea how that argument transformed into essentially “updates must _never_ be backers-only”.

  34. Yachmenev says:

    I´m not sure that I completely understand the purpose of the article. While updates can be used to promote the game, I´m not sure that you can consider it a must? The more, the better, of course, but please give some credit to the developers that actually are doing a tremendous work of updating the backers about where their money is going and where the project stands, like Double Fine.

    If I´m missing something, feel free to correct me. I do like that RPS are keeping a careful watch on kickstarters so I don´t want to crticize this too much, but I´m a bit confused now.

    As for the set delivery date on a project, can you actually change it after the project is started?

  35. Blackcompany says:

    Backed:

    -Wasteland 2
    -Kinetic Void
    -Grim Dawn
    -Eternity
    -Sui Generis

    As of right now, I am less than pleased with the amount of information I have received (recently) in regards to Wasteland 2. I was hesitant to back a game from the same folks who could not even see fit t o fix the broken co-op in Hunted: The Demon’s Forge. But I wanted to believe in a world without big publishers so I went ahead. And for some time now, I have heard…silence.

    And Kinetic Void is even worse. I rarely get updates on this game any longer. Frankly, I had forgotten about it until I read this article. I have little hope I shall ever see it completed.

    As for Grim Dawn…I am hopeful. And that is all. Hell, I have a feeling that by the time it comes out I will be so burned out on top-down Fantasy dungeon crawlers I may not even play it. But we shall see. Hopefully they are truly intent on putting a twist or three on the genre.

    As far as Eternity…I am less and less pleased with Obsidian on this title. Every update seems to indicate more and more they are making ‘generic top down fantasy game #179′ with our kickstarter funds. Still, they are Obsidian and I remain cautiously hopeful that they will make a fantastic game in the end.

    tl;dr: What I have learned is that I am done backing Kickstarters for a goodly length of time. I need to see the ‘phase one’ games released and become profitable and then perhaps I shall return to backing things again. But I am afraid that my wallet and I have had enough of hope for a goodly time and would now like to bide our time and see some results.

    • coffeetable says:

      “As far as Eternity…I am less and less pleased with Obsidian on this title. Every update seems to indicate more and more they are making ‘generic top down fantasy game #179′ with our kickstarter funds”

      It was explicitly sold as a successor to Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. What exactly were you expecting?

      • aDemandingPersona says:

        I agree, I am not too sure what he was expecting. Just got caught up in the hype?

      • FhnuZoag says:

        I suspect some people expected something more like Planescape.

    • InternetBatman says:

      That was the pitch for Project Eternity. They’re making a fantasy game based off of D&D and High Medieval stuff.

      I agree with Wasteland 2 though. I’m actually more confident in Shadowrun Returns than Wasteland 2 at this point.

  36. MadTinkerer says:

    Meanwhile, Chuck’s Challenge and Jetpack 2 have received a few updates to their playable Alphas. True, not everyone can do the playable Alpha thing, but even if something bad happens and development ceases I do have actual playable versions of both!

    • InternetBatman says:

      I didn’t have the money for Chuck’s Challenge. Is it good? I was really interested during the Kickstarter.

  37. Entitled says:

    Wow. That’s a lot of titles. There appeared to be less of them when they came one by one.

  38. aDemandingPersona says:

    For me, it makes sense that as long as the release date isn’t looming imminently or passed, to have backer only updates. Some of these high profile games like the Double Fine Adventure and Project Eternity there wouldn’t even be public knowledge of their existence yet.
    Keeping the updates to the paying persons at this stage seems perfectly reasonable.

  39. Baboonanza says:

    Reading the list many of the worst offenders were fairly blatant cash-ins at the time. And while it’s worrying that many of the developers seem to have no idea at all how long it takes to make a game I can’t say I’ve been overly concerned with the given release dates, or even read them, when I’ve backed projects because I know how these projects work and ‘when it’s done’ is good enough for me.

    A lot of the problem with KS seems to be a combination of people having too high expectations and backing projects that are grossly unrealistic though.

  40. Eric says:

    You didn’t mention Super Retro Squad, but those guys are in trouble. I mean, really, it sounds like it is not going well at all.

    Turns out, artists are not necessarily efficient or competent project managers. Who knew?

    • Baines says:

      It was limited to those that raised $100,000. Super Retro Squad pulled in $53,000.

      But, yeah… That doesn’t look good. They were supposed to be making an alternate graphics version of a game that they’d already made before. (New levels and stuff, but still…)

      Instead, we get a rambling video called “Incoherent Ramblings” where the guy spends the first five minutes talking about how they bought a house and spent two months renovating it.

      “It looks like progress is going a little slow” “I’m thinking that maybe if I start working, people will work a bit faster or something.” ???

      And the guy saying that he hopes they can focus on getting stuff done is so rambling and unprepared for the video that he’s making that he sounds high half the time.

      Oh yeah, it’s sounding like a train wreck is in progress.

  41. derbefrier says:

    I agree with the sentiment that non backers aren’t entitled to anything. I know Chris Roberts plans on locking down various features in the Star Citizen website once all the kickstarter pledges are transferred to the correct accounts. Things like the monthly Town Hall meetings and other updates will be for backers eyes only, and for good reason. We are the ones that invested on his Idea and we are owed that much. The rest of you though are owed nothing you have no personal interest in the development of the game and honestly you don’t matter at this stage and its the developers decision how much they share with the public for better or worse.

    • Eric says:

      I don’t see anything in John’s post implying that he feels entitled to updates, and he’s quite clear about saying that yes, there should be backer exclusive content. He’s saying that not posting at least some information for the public about how things are going is foolish, not unethical. (As for whether he’s right or wrong about that, time will tell I suppose.)

      • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

        He’s rather unnecessarily insulting about it, calling such projects “idiotic” and the like for not having non-backer updates. I know it’s difficult to gauge tone in text, but he just seems overly angry about it and increasingly so as the article progressed, is all. If he wanted the updates, he should have backed the project, simple as that. They’re not obligated to give him anything, and if that makes him angry, well, tough shit.

  42. pilouuuu says:

    Developers should keep some exclusive content for backers. They can give them information first and some exclusive information. But at the same time they should promote the game, show some work in progress, unless they don’t want to sell the game to non-backers, which I doubt is the case.

  43. wodin says:

    My jaw hits the floor when I see how much people have laid out on Star Citizen..quite extraordinary..

  44. BruceVC says:

    Thanks for the summary of the status of KS games, I think its very important that companies keep us updated around release dates. If they can’t meet those deadlines then they need to let the fans who funded the projects know. Silence is both annoying and disingenuous

  45. pmuschi says:

    It was a great idea to do an article like this. Really enjoyed it.

  46. jmarquiso says:

    You should check out outgrow.me – the site covers every successful kickstarter post campaign, and monitors where you could find and buy these products.

  47. maladroid says:

    I approve of the idea behind this article but, based on my own knowledge of certain projects, I have to question how well it was researched. So I had to go back to Tex Murphy: Fedora’s KS page just to cross-check the release date stated in the article against my memory of it. True enough, the release date below the “game copy” reward is Dec. 2012 but if you bother to check the FAQ at the bottom of the page it clearly states that they aim for a 12-14 month development cycle starting on the back of the campaign’s end (and that’s been the case since during the campaign, I know for a fact they didn’t change that statement recently). So June 2012 plus 12-14 months = Summer 2013 roughly? Certainly nothing close to Dec. 2012, at any rate.

    Now, I am not entirely sure why they thought putting that misleading date on the rewards section was a good idea but I suspect it has something to with delivering the most basic of rewards (like wallpapers, access to updates and their previous games etc.) rather than the finished game itself. Sloppy, perhaps, but so was your research on this particular project, in my opinion. I do agree their updates have been disappointingly sparse, though.

  48. Infinitron says:

    Brian Fargo has been posting small Wasteland 2 update reports on his Twitter and on the game’s Facebook page.

  49. Dark Nexus says:

    Hidden Path has stated a few times that DG: Containment has likely slid by a couple of weeks to mid-Jaunary for backers and mid-late Jan for “general release”.

  50. Wedge says:

    I was wary of all these project started up by “original creators” to remake old things when they didn’t have any active development teams, and that seems a well warranted suspicion…