Thursday 14 March 2013

Obligation, Honesty And The Road To Kickstarter

by Simon Dean, Project Lead

Making The Game You Want.

Over the last six months we've had the opportunity to engage with a growing community to better our understanding of what Folk Tale should be, and how that differs from what we've built as a demo. Some of you may ask why we didn't just do that on day one, but with little awareness and a community the size of which you could count on your left hand, there was nobody to ask. So for nearly two years we've been developing a single-player mini-campaign to act as a taster of the world of Folk Tale. It turns out we were wrong, but only slightly.

With a small development team and the assumption that we raise only our minimum fundraising goal, our ability to deliver the entire scope of Folk Tale at launch is limited. We have to take a smart approach, so we asked everyone through our Steam Greenlight and Facebook pages the order in which game modes should be prioritised with a view to staggering releases.  Your answers - sandbox (289), campaign (230) and multiplayer (127) - proved incredibly helpful and enabled us to make the following observations:

  • Replayability is essential;
  • The fewer constraints on game play the better - let us play how we want to play;
  • Single player features are more desirable than multiplayer in games such as Folk Tale;
  • Story is entertaining and provides a learning opportunity before advancing to other game modes, but offers limited replayability;
  • For multiplayer, co-op is more attractive than PVP;

This insight coupled with the benefit of two years production experience leads us to a logical conclusion: develop Folk Tale as a sandbox game with random events within a dynamic story framework that utilize limited cut scenes.  Once we have a solid single player game, and funding permitting ( which by that stage should be supported by sales revenue ), expand via DLC to add new content and cooperative multiplayer.

Two Years Of Preparations.

While the norm for Kickstarter projects is to present early stage concept art and WIP videos after only a few months of work, we've gone far beyond that and produced a polished feature rich demo that includes a lot of mechanics and UI from the final game.  It's taken significant investment and risk-bearing on our behalf, but we feel there are good reasons to do so:

  • Risk mitigation

    There were a lot of unknowns when I first started on Folk Tale. Before trying to attract a team of collaborators, I felt a duty of care to ensure we could deliver.  That ethos continues throughout development, and only by completing a feature rich demo will we know for sure that few technical challenges remain that could trip us up.

    Unfortunately not all projects share that ethos, and Kickstarter is starting to see the occasional funded project fail before completion, possibly because of poor technical and financial risk management or leadership. That hopefully won't be an issue on Folk Tale because of a policy to mitigate quantifiable risk early on, and professional experience.

    The team has done a huge amount of work up front to establish credibility, enabling us to deliver a complete mini-campaign to backers immediately after Kickstarter. Rather than starting from scratch we will be heading into our Kickstarter with optimized game code, significant volumes of content already made, and established production workflows that make it far easier for us to execute our delivery plan. Now it's all about scaling out to produce the content by funding more of the team on a full-time basis.

  • Kickstarter fatigue and the need to stand out

    We suspect fatigue is affecting smaller scale lower quality projects and funding is migrating towards larger more credible projects.  While delivering quality and broad scope requires more resources and funding, what we are presenting will hopefully help differentiate us from the other campaigns that will be running in parallel with ours.

  • Demonstrating commitment, willingness to share risk, and an ability to deliver

    As potential backers you will hopefully feel more at ease knowing you are funding a team that has been together for two years with a demonstrable commitment to delivering quality with effective leadership. A team who believes in what they are doing strongly enough to have risked a lot of time and savings before asking for funding.

  • Establishing a trust relationship

    We've been very active in establishing regular communication with the community through social media, email newsletter, and this blog.  Not only does that help spread awareness, it contributes to building trust.  We need to earn and respect your trust if we plan to ask you to support us with funding, and that starts with a policy of transparency, communication and ethical behaviour.

In the coming weeks as we continue our preparations for Kickstarter, we'll be sharing our plans for revised features, and when you might expect them.  In the meantime, to keep up with the latest news, you might like to consider opting in to receive the monthly newsletter and register for beta.

If you enjoyed this blog, please consider sharing it with colleagues and friends. As an indie team we need all the help we can get in spreading awareness. Thanks for your continued support!