Hi, I'm Blake. my big project is a tower defence game called 'Forgive Me My Henchmen'. you play as a typical head 'bad guy', deploying henchmen and sabotaging a building to delay an unstoppable one-man army.
I wanted to write about some of the mistakes I made during the kickstarter, and also write about some of the things I think I did well. Hopefully, by writing about these, anyone who is about to launch a kickstarter can learn from my mistakes, and also repeat my successes. By writing this, there is small chance that I may get to learn from my mistakes too ;)
1) Assuming I’d be the exception to the rule
If you assume (like I did) that you will be the exception to the rule, you will may feel totally unprepared if a strong launch doesn’t happen (like I was).
A better approach is to expect the best BUT prepare for the worst.
What if you slip into obscurity? What will you do then? Spending time thinking about these harder questions is a much better use of your time then thinking about what message you will write after you hit your 25th stretch goal.
2) I didn’t have a demo
A lot of the successful indie kickstarters are from previously successful indie developers, or developers with status in the industry. Why? The reason why is that backers like to back people with CREDIBILITY. For unknown developers such as myself, one of the ways that you can help to build credibility is by providing a demo. I didn’t (for this reason) but I know excluding one harmed my project’s success. Lots of people won’t even play a demo, but it just reassuring to backers to know that one is out and available.
3) I didn’t make shareable content
If you are lucky, your campaign will have organic growth - when people mention it to other people, who in turn mention it to other people etc. One way that you can encourage this to happen is to make your content easy to share. There are two parts to this:
1) Having tons of share links and creating content that is good at explaining your game.
2) Creating visually appealing content.
I’m really weak artistically, therefore I am especially bad at that second item. Let me give you an example:
The image on the left was the one I used in my campaign. Two weeks in, I redesigned it, creating the image on the right. Which one is more shareable? It’s obvious right?
I also didn’t have any downloadable videos. Why this was such a schlep is because it meant that I couldn’t write to / get involved with any groups that post videos about new kickstarters/indiegames etc. Seeing as video is one of the most popular ways to consume media, not having downloadable videos is (in my opinion) a death sentence.
What I Did Right
1) I believed it wasn’t over til it was over
Not long after realizing I wouldn’t be the exception to the rule, I had the realization if that things continued as they did, I wouldn't hit my goal. This realization was about as pleasant as a swift kick to the testicles.
2) I had lots of gifs / links
Before I launched my campaign, I browsed through lots of other kickstarters (successful and not). Without exception, all the successful kickstarters have a ton of visuals. What you’ll also notice is that successful campaigns generally avoid big chunks of text, instead they break it up with pictures. This makes the whole kickstarter more approachable and visually appealing - I can’t stress how important it is.
I’ve been on a few kickstarters and it is difficult to find out more about the game than is provided on the kickstarter page - why? Because they don’t provide links to other sites/pages that may be of interest. I think I did a good job of posting links to my blog/twitter account/etc, and what that meant is that people who wanted to find out more about the game, its creator, or its development could do so if they chose. This is another way that you can build credibility (which I mentioned before is so important).
3) I got back to people
I think for the most part, I could be depended upon to get back to any/all backers who had any questions or comments - heck, if backers decided to invest in you, so how can you not invest back in them? Treat your backers well, it will help you build an awesome community plus you’ll meet some really cool people in the process.
And that’s it for the breakdown! I hope it helps a bunch of people.
A special thanks to Lincoln who suggested I do a kickstarter post-mortem.
Also, in other news, I’ve started dedicating whatever time I can to the game’s continued development, and looks like the game might be getting some music soon :) I’ll keep you guys up to date, and let you know how that goes.
Follow the game's development on twitter (@FMMHenchmen), on facebook, or follow me on twitter @BlakeMcDeezy
My mission for the past little while has been choosing a video editor to make my trailer. My criteria was that the video editor had to be easy to master, able to do amazingly complex operations, and of course, be completely free. As you can tell, I am a man of simple needs.
I think I finally decided on one (after trying out every single one in the known universe), and this was my journey.
Now, I must stress that this is likely due to my crappy laptop (which suffers from physical, mental, and likely even spiritual issues), but at the end of the day, I couldn't keep on using this software. Therefore, I tried to find software less taxing on my pc.
It's redeeming features are that it is free, and doesn't take up much processing power. However, these positives are outweighed by the fact that it will destroy your life, and eventually make you an empty shell of a person.
Realizing that I probably wouldn't get a decent movie editor for free, I started to explore 'not free' options.
For the purpose of my trailer, I am sometimes doing transitions that last a fraction of a second, and are often in quick sequence. What I quickly learned was that for basic transitions/edits this software is great, but if you are trying to do complex stuff, then this is not the software for you. For some odd reason, instead of diving a second into hundreths, they divide it into numerical quarters. For example. Let's say I want a frame to last 8/10 of a second. With this software you would write that as 0.2...why?!? WHHHYYY??
This, as well as other things, make this software incompatible for complex job.That is why I knew I needed to go with something more complex...
The thing is, Adobe Premiere Pro actually isn't difficult to use! As soon as I watched a 20 minute tutorial online, I realized how intuitive it is. It only seems like an unconquerable beast if you try to use it without knowing the basics first.
In terms of cost, it will cost me 30 per month...this I can live with, considering I will only be using this software for the next month or two.
So final verdict...I will be using Adobe Premiere Pro. Wish me luck!
I am working on creating my trailer, so recently had to commission an artist to draw some images that the trailer will need. I created an ad, got a decent number of responses, then had to decide who I would use.
I wanted to make a quick blog entry explaining why one of the most important factors I based my decision on was the artist’s ‘trustworthiness’, and how the artist managed to come across as trustworthy. I can’t speak on behalf of all who commission artists, but hopefully, writing this will especially help those artists who have a ton of skill and act professionally, but aren’t necessarily standing out in the market in the way they deserve to.
From the offset, the artist made an effort to establish his trustworthiness. When he first wrote to me, he even described himself as a ‘reliable and versatile’ and provided the link to his website. On his website was not only his portfolio, but also a ton of positive reviews that he had received from previous clients. I can’t stress enough how important these testimonials were to me.
For me, one of the biggest fears that I have when doing business via the internet is that I’ll be ripped off. Either I’ll pay the artist and they end up being like Patrick Swayze and GHOST or that they will be difficult to work with. For those reasons, building trust is so important when doing business online. When a ton of clients write on someone’s site saying how awesome that they are to work with and how they can be relied upon to come through, the risk I’ll be ripped off or be dealing with an unprofessional feels waaaaaaay smaller. Simply put, in my opinion, collecting and displaying positive testimonials from previous and satisfied clients builds trust.
Another thing that builds trust is when an artist (eventually) uses their actual name. I know it is not safe to overshare one’s personal information on the internet, but when you have been calling someone ‘Generic Designs’ or something similar for days/weeks, you don’t know what country they live in, you don’t know if they have a face, you don’t even know if they actually exist - when that happens you wonder why they are being so secretive, and consequently, what they are trying to hide.
I am not saying this is logical (it would be incredibly easy for someone to create a scam profile), BUT I am saying that this is what goes through my (and likely many others) heads. I don’t need to know someone’s life story about them to be able to trust them, but I do need to know that I’m dealing with a person and not a nameless, faceless, locationless entity. The more ‘human’ someone comes across as, the more one trusts them. That is why even companies make an effort to have a personality as opposed to being seen as cold, emotionless, impersonal institutions.
When I was faced with choosing an artist, it was the one who provided EVIDENCE that I could actually rely on them to do a great job - in the above ways - who got the nod of approval.
So all in all, find a way to signal to potential clients that they can trust you. I think testimonials and sharing (but not oversharing) some basic information can be a great way to do that. More importantly though, be trustworthy! If you are trustworthy, and end up signalling it effectively, then you definitely deserve all the great business that will come your way. (If, however, you are a scam artist who reads this to try and figure out how you can scam more effectively, then I hope you get a papercut you swine!)
I not only tackle my game with the enthusiasm of a 6 year old, I sometimes act with the strategic insight of a 6 year old as well. This, of course, has led to me making all the mistakes on my game dev journey - ALL OF THEM!
Becoming a guru on mistakes has given me the necessary experience to write an article warning other game devs about perhaps THE MOST SERIOUS MISTAKE you can make along your journey. See if you can relate to this story:
Not long after I fully committed to making game dev my career, I started to spend a LOT of time on it for three reasons:
1) To be successful you gotta work hard. There are no shortcuts.
2) I was doing something I completely loved.
3) Many of my hopes and dreams banked on the success of this project.
Because of these three reasons, I can spend close to all my waking hours on game dev without a second thought. From 2014 to 2015, this is exactly what I did.
My daily routine during this time was extremely Spartan (not in the shirtless with abs kind of way, but in the highly disciplined and vigorous way). I would wake up early, cycle to my part-time job, finish at around 3 and cycle home, then work on my game from 4 until whenever I would fall asleep. I was not completely unbalanced - I still made time for exercise, and I would occasionally go for brunches and hang out with friends - but for the most part, game dev was my life, and I was okay with this.
I was okay with this lifestyle because - like with farming - game dev has a harvest season. To expand on the farming comparison, farmers don’t lead fully ‘balanced’ lives in the traditional sense. There are seasons where they live a leisurely life and have plenty of time on their hands. Then comes harvest season, when they are up early, work hard all day, go to bed late, and then repeat until the harvest is completed. They have to live this crazy, unbalanced life for a short time because they know that if they give it their all over harvest time, they can live the rest of their year with ease. In contrast, if they slack off during harvest season, then the rest of their year will be a hard one. Similarly, there are times in game dev when you’ve got to give it your all and you cannot take breaks. Sometimes, there are deadlines to be met, targets to be hit, and you have to work hard to hit them, with no excuses. For ages, I had the ‘this is harvest season’ mentality.
The thing is, what I have learned is that game dev takes 5 times as long as you think it will. Personally, I thought that this game was going to be released over a year ago...that obviously hasn’t happened. There have been a million things to do, each one taking a lot longer than I possibly imagined it could...SO if your game takes a lot longer than you think it will, how long can you maintain the ‘this is harvest season’ mentality before you begin to question it?
I kept up this hyper-focused mentality for over a year. Although I enjoyed working on my passion, and my drive never wavered, there came a point in mid 2015 when I reflected upon the past year. Not only had I not released my game, I had also not lived the kind of life that I wanted to. I had been so focused on a future goal, that I had forgotten that life was happening in the meantime.
When you focus on the future so much that the present only becomes a means to an end - that is when you have to begin to question your priorities. Life is amazing and it happens everyday, so if you focus too heavily on the future, you end up losing this perspective. It was only after realizing how much many experiences I had deliberately missed, how many relationships I hadn’t properly developed, and how much fun I hadn’t had that I realized that game dev couldn’t be my life. Game dev could be (and is) a fantastic PART of my life, but it is not my life. Personally, this revelation has put me in a healthier headspace - working on my game has never been as fun as it is now.
So all in all, I would advise people to work hard, focus intently, BUT also make sure that your project isn’t the only thing giving your life value. Whether your project is a success or not, either way, life will happen in the meantime - it’s best to make sure that you are living a worthwhile one regardless.
Follow the game's development on twitter (@FMMHenchmen), on facebook, or follow me on twitter @BlakeMcDeezy
Okay, I admit it - I’ve been a terrible blogger. It is not that I don’t care about the blogosphere, it is just that I find it extremely dull compared to actually working on my game. When I have the choice - blog or work on my game - working on the game always wins.
But I’ve decided to change that! I’ve thought of how I can make blogging more fun. It is the same way I made journalling more fun (many years ago).
Back in the days, I always wanted to keep a journal - or rather, I liked the idea of being the type of guy that would keep a journal. So I bought a journal, and made pact with myself - everyday before bed, I would write at least a sentence or two about my day.
I would go strong for about a week or two, and then abandon it completely. Truth is, I’m no James Bond - most of my days simply are not worth writing about. Ever tried writing a journal entry that begins with ‘Today the only exciting thing I did was put more jam than usual on my toast’? Well, it is demeaning. Creating an obligation to write, and writing only about one topic - my day - quickly took all the joy out of journalling, and I would drop the habit quite quickly as a result.
I think I have been thinking about this blog the same way - something I am compelled to do, writing only about my game’s progess. Ugh. Sometimes the things I am working on - although important - are so dull that writing about them would age me. I fear I would visibly age with every word I wrote, just like that dude from Indiana Jones who drank from the wrong cup.
I only became good at keeping journals when I said to myself ‘Fuck it’ and took all the pressure off. I stopped treating my journal as a typical journal, instead it became the book I would turn to whenever I wanted to write something or anything down. I would use it to plan stuff, think through ideas, take notes, doodle, and of course, write about my day/thoughts/feelings if the need ever arose. I would write in it when I felt like it, and not otherwise. Sometimes I would end up writing in it a couple of times a day, sometimes not for a week or two. Having a book that I can write things down in whenever I feel like it has been great, and - as a result - I have been writing in journals quite consistently for about 5 years now.
So I think what I am going to do is to open my blog up. I am going to blog about what I want, when I want. I am guessing it will mostly be game related, but not necessarily so. Who knows? There are no rules! I can write anything!!! Agh! WAGAA! WAAGAAAA!!! CHICKEN HAT!!!
Haha, yeah, the pressure that my blog also has to be super professional has been a downer as well. I think rather than aiming for professionalism, I will just aim to create a blog that is fun and sincere. Let’s hope me giving myself permission to be a bit more crazy will actually mean that I can also start to create a blog worth following/reading. Check up on this site in the future, judge for yourself if this is going well.