Kickstarting Simulations: The DOs And The DO NOTs

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.

47 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    Foxer answers:
    AFKAMC is not able to log in so is senfin his answers through me and tells me it’s the Rover badge middle top.

    And I can add it’s a Paveway LGB in the middle

    • Rorschach617 says:

      That’s the badge/insignia of HMS Bulwark top left

    • Rorschach617 says:

      The vehicle in the middle looks like a Husky mine detector

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      • AFKAMC says:

        According to Wikipedia, the Husky VMMD (Vehicle Mounted Mine Detector) was previously known as the Chubby system – however, I’m not about to google that at work.

    • AFKAMC says:

      I can log in now.

      Bulwark Bazooka is a 2014 album by the German industrial music project wumpscut, if that’s any use.

      It probably isn’t.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      A longshot as locomotives aren’t my thing, but could top right be a 4-4-0 Schools Class engine, the image quite possibly being from a Hornby box for one ?

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        Nope, you can just see the start of the Airfix logo on the right.

    • Premium User Badge

      tigerfort says:

      The viking ship top centre is the Rover Cars badge; one of the later versions, I think, from when it was owned by Phoenix.

    • AFKAMC says:

      I am wondering if the biplane is an Airco DH4 or DH9. But I’m not convinced of either.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      REALLY stretching here, but…

      If I’m right about the locomotive that series were all named after Public Schools (Eton, Rugby etc) and Top Hats – also known as stovepipes are still part of the uniform at some of those public schools like Harrow (that was locomotive BR 30919)

    • AFKAMC says:

      OK, this is a wild guess but:

      The Rover Cars logo was a viking longboat – Viking was a Mars lander; also there have been a few Mars rovers.

      A company called Clearpath Robotics is apparently developing their Husky robotic platform as a possible Mars rover.

      The holster makes me think of pistols, which makes me think of Webley – Mars Automatic Pistol (Webley-Mars).

      And there appears to be a quote (from Dumezil?) which says: “Mars is the surest bulwark of Rome against every aggressor”.

      • phlebas says:

        I can’t find the exact image, but that holster looks German – maybe for a Walther?

        • Rorschach617 says:

          Quick search of military holsters makes me think it is a Soviet holster for a Tokarev

          • Rorschach617 says:

            Link might be “Phoenix”

            The Holster may be for the Tokarev TT-30/33. Wikipedia says that WW2 surplus Tokarevs were sold in Europe and the US as “Phoenix”
            As Tigerfort mentioned, Rover was owned by the Phoenix group.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            But cannot make any headway on this possibility

    • billy_bunter says:

      To continue the public school theme, is that a Browning holster? The Browning Version is a play/film set in a public school…

    • Der Zeitgeist says:

      The bomb actually is an AGM-123 Skipper II, a rocket-assisted Paveway LGB: link to en.wikipedia.org

      • AFKAMC says:

        OK, The Skipper and The Rover were both comics.

        Bazooka Joe was a comic strip/character.

        (Sorry about the double post.)

        • AFKAMC says:

          The nickname of HMS Bulwark was apparently “The Rusty B”. It also appears there was a publication called Rusty Comics.

          • AFKAMC says:

            The Westland Walrus was powered by a Napier Lion engine – LION comic.

    • Hydrogene says:

      I know I’m late to the defoxing business this week, but if anyone had any doubt, the animal top left is a horse.

      /Captain Obvious out.

    • Tim Stone says:

      Comics, public schools, Mars, phoenixes… all wild geese I’m afraid.

      Roman says that Husky isn’t actually a Husky, and identifying the horse might help.

      • lglethal says:

        OK im far from certain on this, but the horse could be Silver, the horse from the Lone Ranger?

        I cant find that exact picture though, so I might be way off…

        • TheAngriestHobo says:

          Afraid not – Silver was white. You’re probably thinking of White Fella, Tonto’s horse, which was, ironically, a pinto (or Scout, another pinto ridden by Tonto). Neither is a match.

          The two closest matches I’ve found thus far have been Sergeant Reckless and Kasztanka, but neither has the flaxen mane, and their blazes don’t quite match up.

      • Hydrogene says:

        If the Husky isn’t a Husky, it must be a Meerkat then. See here: link to olive-drab.com But I’m no closer to a solution…

        • AFKAMC says:

          Is the link “SCOUT”?

          The Westland Walrus was a spotter aircraft – a scout.
          Rover Scouting is what you do when you’re too old to be a Boy Scout.
          “Bazooka Bubblegum” is a scout song.
          God knows what that artillery piece is, but in general, a forward artillery observer is also known as an artillery scout.
          Tonto’s horse, “Scout” – if that is indeed the creature in the picture, looks about the right colours/markings?
          A skipper is the leader of a scout troop in Sea Scouting (Boy Scouts of America).
          Google is giving me references to a 1st Bulwark Scout Group in Wales.
          Meerkats are known for standing sentry duty – meerkat scout?
          (Don’t know about Harrow, or the holster.)

          • AFKAMC says:

            Spookily, I’ve just noticed that my diary says that 4 September 1909 was the date of the first ever Boy Scout rally!

        • phlebas says:

          Yup, it’s the Meerkat:
          link to thinkdefence.co.uk

    • phlebas says:

      The big gun in the middle looks to be a Howitzer, 7.2 or 8 inch I think.

      Could the connection be etymological? Almost all the elements (trigger, meerkat, walrus, howitzer, bazooka, bulwark, holster, rover, skipper) are English words of Dutch origin:
      link to en.wikipedia.org

      • AFKAMC says:

        Yes, also “school” (as in group of fish) – which links with the School-class locomotive.

        I had noticed that bulwark was of Dutch origin, but discounted the idea – got confused because meerkat is from Afrikaans. (I then spent ages trying to find a connection with the name Roy, but gave up after Rovers, Rogers and “Chubby” Brown.)

        Anyway, well done!!!

  2. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    Oh and it’s an M1 Bazooka (aka Stovepipe) at the bottom

  3. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Combat Air Patrol looked OK, but I did not get a sense that it would truly offer more than DCS could from their pitch. It looked stunning, but with DCS I feel like I know what I am getting. As my hard drive fills up with hundreds of pounds worth of P3D and DCS addons that are not getting as much use as they should (“steam sale syndrome for flightsim addons”), I just felt like supporting CAP would be a bit pointless from a personal perspective. If it releases on steam for proper though I will certainly have a nosey around.

  4. peterako1989 says:

    Ah yes the boondogle F-35. I can’t help but to wonder what this guy was thinking. I can’t understand the love behind this aircraft.

  5. Premium User Badge

    DuncUK says:

    I don’t know what’s more surprising about that hunting game… that the guy only wanted $400 to kickstart it or that he failed to get even that much.

    • Shuck says:

      It’s not so surprising – people may be bad at knowing what a game development budget is like, but they know that $400 doesn’t make much, especially when paired with the most minimal, laziest possible pitch that doesn’t actually describe the game beyond “Farming simulator and theHunter combined”. Plus they never even said what the money was actually for either, since it was made clear this was purely a free-time project. It still managed to raise $120, even so.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    BTW if anyone is looking to fill any gaps in their DCS plane collection they are having a 70% sale from 15:00 UTC (16:00 BST) today till 09:00 UTC (10:00 BST) Monday.

    DCS: Flaming Cliffs 3: $39.99 to $11.99 (70% off)
    DCS: A-10C Warthog: $39.99 to $11.99 (70% off)
    DCS: Black Shark 2: $39.99 to $11.99 (70% off)
    DCS: P-51D Mustang: $29.99 to $8.99 (70% off)
    DCS: Fw 190 D-9 Dora: $49.99 to $14.99 (70% off)
    DCS: Bf 109 K-4 Kurfürst: $49.99 to $14.99 (70% off)
    DCS: Combined Arms: $19.99 to $5.99 (70% off)
    F-15C for DCS World: $9.99 to $2.99 (70% off)
    Su-27 for DCS World: $9.99 to $2.99 (70% off)
    Su-27 The Ultimate Argument Campaign: $9.99 to $2.99 (70% off)
    A-10A for DCS World: $9.99 to $2.99 (70% off)
    Su-25 for DCS World: $9.99 to $2.99 (70% off)
    DCS: MiG-15bis: $49.99 to $14.99 (70% off)
    DCS: F-86F Sabre: $49.99 to $14.99 (70% off)
    DCS: UH-1H Huey: $49.99 to $14.99 (70% off)
    DCS: Mi-8MTV2 Magnificent Eight: 49.99 to $14.99 (70% off)
    DCS: C-101 Aviojet: $59.99 to $17.99 (70% off)

  7. TillEulenspiegel says:

    Are people allergic to umlauts? They’re not just decoration! “Panzermadels” makes my eye twitch. You can have fancy fonts and Japanese characters, but you can’t properly write Mädels?

    Like the English newspaper writers who can’t copy and paste the name Mesut Özil, but instead refer to a nonexistent person called Ozil.

    • LionsPhil says:

      That tank dating game also has the laziest damn character design, in that they didn’t do any. You can’t just put generic anime characters in front of footage of tanks and call it a day!

      Well, OK, I mean, obviously you can and apparently the Internet will throw money at you. But what a let-down of the concept. No night-operation dates with a bashful T-90, staring into her Shtora dazzlers…

      • Baines says:

        Indeed. War of the Human Tanks (which wasn’t a dating sim) had character designs with character.

        Panzermadels just has generic anime girl designs. I guess it could be coincidence that the schoolgirl outfits are rather similar to the outfits in Girls Und Panzer, since green kind of sticks out as a tank-related color. (Girls Und Panzer being about girls driving tanks, not actually being tanks.)

        I don’t care enough about Kantei Collection to know how well the girls match their related ships. The similar-theme Arpeggio of Blue Steel has character designs that don’t really relate to the specific ships, but at least they aren’t stock interchangeable designs. (To be fair, with Arpeggio the human forms aren’t actually meant to be the ship, and are really just human-form simulations that the ships’ create in an attempt to try to better understand humans.)

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      At least that’s recognisably the same word, instead pity those who’s names are transliterated from different alphabets.

  8. AFKAMC says:

    OK, The Skipper and The Rover were both comics.

    Bazooka Joe was a comic strip/character.