Not As Smart As I Thought I Was

Musings of Keith

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Kickstarter: Lessons Learned

Earlier this week I shipped out the last Kickstarter rewards I owed people for Conspiracy of Shadows: Apprentice and it was like a great weight lifted off my shoulders. After a few days of reflection now that it is done I feel compelled to talk about what I learned about the process as well as myself. My hope is that both I and others can take what I have to say and use it constructively.

Kickstarter as Art Funding
So to be honest, the whole point of me firing up a Kickstarter was an excuse to get paid money to create art I wanted to create. For me, game design has long been that as well, so it really is a natural extension of me finding excuses to create. Kickstarter is an ok venue for that, but because of the reward structure it adds an additional burden on you the creator to make extra things.

Let me explain… or sum up because there is no time. I wanted to create a hand made book. There I admitted it. I wanted to hand write, illuminate and bind a book. I am an idiot like that. I first thought Kickstarter would be the venue to get funding to help me justify the time spent on a project like that. I was wrong. People want stuff for their money, not to proudly say they supported me in my effort to create a book they could look at pictures of on the internet or see when they met up with me.

Planning is Everything
So once I shifted from art effort to game effort, I worked up some rewards, a summary, a nifty video and pushed submit. BAM! it went live, and that was my second mistake. I didn’t think it through. Because of that I had these problems to contend with:

  • The book wasn’t done so my base cost was way off and barely covered printing and shipping (to me) costs.
  • I committed to making a ton of hand-made shit on a tight schedule for a man with 3 kids and a demanding job.
  • I didn’t calculate for international shipping costs.
  • I dropped the ball on one key could of been reward (a true digital version) which I am now scrambling to make because I think it is important.
  • I didn’t expect to have success.

The last one is key and drives all the others. I submitted my Kickstarter expecting to pull in maybe $500 bucks. I got 300% more than my funding goal and suddenly had to make good on my promises. I did, and I was only a little late on some of the rewards, but it was tight. I inhaled more smoke from burning wood than I ever intended.

What Does This Mean
It means I have come up with some rules for my future projects, and there will be future projects. The rules are simple and honestly I should know better because I complain about some of this stuff in my day job.

  • Be 90% done with your primary reward.
  • Be 100% done with one set of the most complicated reward.
  • Take your estimated timeline and double it.
  • Don’t provide rewards you are not interested in producing… a lot.

See. Simple. With those four I can make better estimates as to what kind of funding I need to get to make things happen. You mileage may vary.

Next Steps
For me this means I am rethinking a lot of my ideas for my next project. Right now I have in the hopper several different things and I am doing way more planning than I did with the first Kickstarter. Of these, the last one is most likely to come sooner because it is close to that 90% mark. 

  • Conspiracy of Shadows: Swords Against Deviltry - An extension of Apprentice that is a love letter to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.
  • Conspiracy of Shadows: Haunting - An adventure video game. I am teaching myself Lua and some other open source tools to build a 5 hour adventure game. Think Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.
  • Conspiracy of Shadows: Tarot Deck - When in my mind haunting was going to be a tabletop game, this was going to be a key part of it. Now I still want to make it as a stand alone product because the plans are fucking cool.
  • Conspiracy of Shadows Toolbox - Some time ago I rewrote Conspiracy of Shadows. A 3rd edition if you will and I periodically mess around with it, playtest it and update it. The toolbox would be a website where I am just constantly posting Conspiracy of Shadows ideas and games that may or may not see the light of day as a product.
  • Conspiracy of Shadows: Histories - Over the last several years I have been writing/illustrating/mapping a history of the world that is Conspiracy of Shadows in the mode of Herodotus. One day I would like to finish it and publish it as a servies of books. This is a long term project that may take 10 years to complete, but one day I would like to make it a reality and I think Kickstarter would be the best way to go about it.
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