View Full Version : Does Kickstart/Paid Beta funding make better games - or just make games take longer?

30-08-2012, 10:40 PM
I find myself wondering this on account of a couple of games which appear to be slunking-off in the direction of 'no specified release date' despite considerable hype and fury in the past.

The biggest example of this HAS to be Desktop Dungeons - I've been a 'beta' player on that 1 year and 1 day and I was hardly 'in at the start' on that one!! Thing is - it seemed a decent-enough game to play back then and I get the impression that a lot of the time meanwhile has been spent going to shows and other stuff instead of finishing the game... ...

Less noticeably 'late' but still sliding is Path of Exile. After their 'free' weekend and their opening-up paid Closed-Beta slots, their estimates for an Open Beta have slid from 'July' to 'when it's ready'. Whether they were pushing to release to get some cash in the bank and have, instead, decided to use their CB monies to make the game better first I've no idea, but in reality it means the game has slid into the 'silly season' where it's unlikely to fair well (the idea of it not getting to OB this year would be seriously disappointing to me).

There are many other examples of this - as well as a shitload of Kickstarters which could easily follow this pattern.

Am I being paranoid or is getting this 'bonus' funding actually making people kick-back a bit and - well - forget they have a product to deliver(*)?

(*) I'm not saying those people ARE doing that - I'm saying they MAY be doing that :)

30-08-2012, 10:45 PM
What this bonus funding means is that you generally know about the game earlier than you'd do otherwise, that's why it seems to take longer.

30-08-2012, 10:52 PM
Ignoring the inevitable "Money is a bad incentive": The devs have funding so are less likely to go into crunch time.

In many ways that is good. But teams that have stable financial backing tend to be the worst at meeting due dates: Valve and Blizzard come to mind. Hell, LA Noire was a huge mess until R* finally yelled at the developers and forced them to finish the damned game in X months.

But that is not to say it is all bad. Not (PC) gaming, but Rich Burlew (Order of the Stick) has been outputting comics and new content more regularly over he past few months than he had in years, and it is largely because of guilt at having been given so much money.

It is like I mentioned in the comments feed: We are due for KS to have a huge and very visible flop (My money is still on Ouya :p). Right now, a lot of the funders (I would hope most) understand what an investment is. But far too many seem to think it is just a way to pre-order a game, and they are gonna be pissed when all those "too good to be true" games were just that.

People (rightfully) bitch about the traditional publisher model. It favors established developers working on very iterative games. Why is that? Because the development time and profits of those games can be judged with a moderate degree of certainty. And we all feel bad for Obsidian because they keep making games with amazing concepts (and equally amazing first halves :p) that flop at the end because "The publishers rushed them". But sometimes, that is what you need. In many ways, Elemental being rushed to release and flopping horribly is just what Stardock needed to realize "a flawed game is always going to be flawed" and to shift gears radically for Fallen Enchantress.

But I do think there is a pretty good solution to this, and it is actually a trick that a lot of writers use these days. Guilt through transparency and public shaming. If the people who supported you are made aware of your progress, you are incentivized to work harder because they will know if you are slacking off. Obviously that doesn't always work, but it is a pretty good motivator. And it is easy PR too.

30-08-2012, 10:52 PM
What this bonus funding means is that you generally know about the game earlier than you'd do otherwise, that's why it seems to take longer.

That's certainly true in some cases - but I do wonder what happens when developers go from "we need to get this finished so we can get some money for food" to "Oh hell we've got a stack of money, screw coding, let's goto every game show there is and get loaded".

Necessity is the mother of invention and hunger makes people finish shit - and finishing shit is important.

If think we can safely say that when over a year had passed since you made a tonne of money off a game, if you're not incentivised to finish it - you may never be.

See also Minecraft I guess...

31-08-2012, 04:47 PM
I dont think an alpha funded game with hundreds of thousands of players can flop big time like a game which was only tested by the developers and maybe a close circle of friends. the bad features/mechanics which aren't always visible as such to the developers get ironed out or completely removed. the game is much more dynamic in its growth and, well, seeing money pouring in just drive some developers harder, knowing there are now people who believe in you and your work.

31-08-2012, 05:06 PM
It depends entirely on the developer team. Some teams shouldn't ever be given all the time they want to work on a game because they end up scrapping it and starting over like 3D Realms.

But most modern publishers have swung the pendulum into the extreme opposite, rushing games out to neatly fit into customer buying trends and only going after "the sure thing" in game formulas, giving us a homogenized market. They are interfering more than they should.

Kickstarter is merely the means to an end. It's up to the people working on the game to decide whether or not they make good use of it.

31-08-2012, 05:53 PM
As Shooop says it depends on the team and it seems that many teams take different approaches with varying levels of communication (though it's hard to tell whether some of these will intensify once proper betas are in order).

Of the projects I've funded the one I've paid closest attention to (aside from Double Fine Adventure but they are more doing their own thing and having a cool documentary to show what that is, so it's a different kettle of fish) has been FT. In terms of release date it has slipped back a bit from the devs initial planning but not particularly far (and there's now a solid date there). Plus there were constant builds and great communication from the devs in terms of listening to ideas and explaining why they were/weren't implementing (the most notable probably being them implementing a save and quit feature after considerable demand). So even with a slight slip it was clear they were working hard. I think they've recently mentioned going to Indicade so it seems that a good work ethic and going to shows isn't mutually exclusive (granted Indiecade is after the release).

Almost undoubtedly there will be some whose games will slip considerably, whether through poor work ethic or the opposite desire to cram too much into the game (I can see how tempting that may turn out to be). However I have a feeling these will be in the minority. Sadly it's the even smaller minority which fail to come to fruition at all (or are an unmitigated disaster) that might put a spanner in the works of this rather useful method of fund-raising.

31-08-2012, 06:12 PM
Yep, seems to be the team so far. I'm not sure if there is a general practice yet (too early for me to tell), but it's not quite following the AAA market just yet. As said above, some things get earlier exposure, so it seems to be longer, bearing in mind other games take 5 years to develop!

FTL is soon to be released, and that was kickstarted earlier in the year (less than 6 months?). Voxeltron on the other hand was Alpha last year, and still needs a lot of work (but that was not kickstarter AFAIK). :P