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Kickstarting Simulations: The DOs And The DO NOTs

Sim Funding Faux Pas

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In readiness for Flare Path’s imminent swan dive into game development (After long negotiations with W.E. Johns Media we’ve finally secured the Worrals licence!) I’ve been examining crowdfunding options this week. Having studied dozens of Kickstarter and Indiegogo sim projects I believe I’ve now got a pretty good idea of what persuades punters to part with their pennies and what causes them to hurry past. In fact I’d go so far as to say I’m now perfectly equipped to cobble together an intelligence-insulting, dream-trampling Sim Developer’s Guide to Crowdfunding.

Track Records Tell…

Not everyone that attempts to fund a sim project by eliminating the middle man fails. Wandering the Junkyards of Crushed Hopes that are the Kickstarter and Indiegogo archives you occasionally – very occasionally – come across a success story. In July Reiza Studios, the makers of high-calibre automotive offerings like Game Stock Car Extreme and Formula Truck raised over $100k with a perfectly pitched and executed Indiegogo campaign.


In February Polish grease monkeys Red Dot Games panhandled a more modest $20k with similar ease. Would these funding drives have succeeded if the finance seekers had been unproven outfits rather than established studios with legions of loyal fans? Perhaps, but it would be silly to deny that kickstarting a sim is far, far easier if you happen to be a trusted developer with recent hits under your belt.

…Except When They Don’t

That said, David Kinney had worked on developmental simulators of the B-2 and F-22 for Northrop and Lockheed, and had a hand in several recreational sims (Sabre Ace, Luftwaffe Commander, Combat Pilot…) but that didn’t mean he was able to secure the $75k he needed to forge ahead with an F-35A module for Digital Combat Simulator. When push came to shove, worries about realism (the F-35A is classified so obtaining accurate flight model and systems info would have involved bolt croppers and night vision goggles) and feature creep meant sizeable sections of the DCS community kept their wallets firmly shut. Some potential customers may have found David’s enthusiastic talk of ‘Operational Evaluation’ a little off-putting too. Paying for the ‘privilege’ of participating in a highly-structured beta test program isn’t everybody’s idea of value for money.

DCS hasn’t had a lot of luck with crowdfunding over the years. Two earlier third-party campaigns – Ilya Shevchenko’s DCS WWII: Europe 1944 and Laszlo Becz’s DCS: MiG-21Bis Fishbed – both hit their targets but later came to grief when key personnel departed under glowering cumulonimbus clouds. In the case of DCS: WW2 Eagle Dynamics ended up stepping into the breach. With the Fishbed project Leatherneck Simulations gamely picked up the pieces, continuing development and fulfilling pledges despite the fact Indiegogo receipts were long gone and records of the funders nowhere to be found.

Greed is Unattractive…

From the images and vid in Todd Schram’s Kickstarter pitch, his bijou “releasing soon” carrier landing simulator for iOS and Android looks almost finished. If the dev had bothered to explain why “nailing down the flight physics model between the F18 and the arresting wires of the Aircraft Carrier” was going to cost an additional $25k, perhaps he’d have attracted a few more backers.

…And so is Economic Illiteracy

Ben Lyons’ ‘Farming Simulator meets The Hunter’ concept is pure gold but something about his $400 funding target and 100-word, single-image Kickstarter page tells me he’s probably not quite ready to turn that concept into a video game.

This ‘Learn to Fly with a Boeing 717’ pitch is a tad more business-like, but here too enthusiasm seems to have blinded the kickstartee to practicalities. I have it on good authority that crafting a PMDG-standard MSFS jetliner from scratch in six months for $12,000, is technically impossible without free Tailor of Gloucester-style assistance from industrious rodents.

As Australian Truck Simulator’s deviser Zachary Clark clearly has a better grasp of sim production costs (ATS had a $200k AUD goal) it’s odd all pecuniary sense seems to have deserted him when it came to deciding on pledge rewards. Had this rig-rammed Antipodean marvel ever made it to release, $50 investors would have been in line to receive a hard copy of the game, “all DLC free of charge” and a t-shirt and cap.

Coding Experience Helps

As the commendably honest Jacob Thomas discovered back in February, including the following in the ‘Risks and Challenges’ section of your Police Officer Simulator pitch may not encourage discerning window shoppers to take the plunge.

“A challenge is going to be how to develop this game as I am not in the know with any major software cooperations such as Rockstar. I would like to know how I am going to be able to learn how to build the game itself.”

Fine and/or Misspelled Words Butter No Parsnips

VFR Sims wanted a modest $3600 to help build the ultimate MSFS Cessna 170B. They ended up with a measly $60 partially because – and I’m speculating here – their KS pitch was heavy on the aspirational soundbites and painfully light on WIP screenshots and proof of competence. A2A’s Scott Gentile might be able to get away with phrases like “a new standard” and “we dare to dream”. Less accomplished/experienced devs should probably stick to facts and gags.

A Little Novelty Goes a Long Way

Sadly, KS venture capitalists showed no interest whatsoever in Jason Pie’s America’s Armor: Main Battle Tank Simulator in 2011. However, offered something equally tanky but significantly quirkier this summer, the pledges poured in.

Sometimes Even a Great Concept, Tempting Media, and a Well Run Campaign Doesn’t Guarantee Success

Having watched the rather promising Combat Air Patrol 2 join the Kickstarter Fail Club on Wednesday (an outcome that may, it’s true, have had more to do with CAP2’s imminent Early Access release on Steam than genuine lack of interest) my faith in crowdfunding is at an all time time low right now. Unless, like Reiza and Red Dot, you’re an established dev with a sizeable, enthusiastic, and attentive following, relying on Kickstarter or Indiegogo for sim finance would appear to be the height of folly. It looks like Flare Path Games will have to fund Wizard Prang the traditional way. Roman, disconnect the brake lights on the Panda, we’ve got work to do!

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The Flare Path Foxer

From a certain angle – assuming you squinted and turned a blind eye to a couple of uncooperative clues – last week’s collage appeared to sport a Warhammer 40K theme. It took lateral leaps from Drakshaa and Rorschach617, and element decrypts from Matchstick, FurryLippedSquid, Gang of one, Al__S, billy_bunter and Stugle to uncover the actual binding agent.

(theme: the Ford Model T)

a Clube de Regatas (CRB) badge (A reference to the Model T’s distinctive pedals)
b Laurel & Hardy autographs (The Model T featured in several of their films)
c Westland Lysander (affectionately known as the ‘Lizzie’)
d Douglas F4D Skyray (affectionately known as the ‘Ford’)
e Walter Model
f Tau Fire Warrior (Tau is the Greek letter ‘t’)
g Cornish tin mine
h Pietenpol Sky Scout (Thirties aircraft powered by Model T engine)
i Aloha Wanderwell (‘The World’s Most Widely Travelled Girl’, she circumnavigated the globe in a Model T in the Twenties)
j Cover image from Brave New World (The Model T and its creator are revered in Huxley’s novel)

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Foxer Fact #522

The WFA credits Roman’s brother, Hristo, with the invention of the edible foxer. While working as a pizza chef in Amsterdam in the late Seventies, Hristo regularly embellished the pizzas of favoured customers with themed toppings. Roman will never forget the time his crusty roundel came adorned with kiwi fruit, Catalina dressing, coronation chicken, fiordland penguin and khuwa.

All answer’s in one thread, please.

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