Hey, everyone; James here.
This Random Design Thought is less about games themselves, and more an exploration of my recent experiences in starting to put together the upcoming Kickstarter campaign for WarMage: Apprentice Edition. We’ve never run a Kickstarter before, and while there are plenty of resources written by people after they’ve run a campaign or two, I haven’t found many people who have written about their experiences constructing and designing their campaign, and their expectations and hopes. I think there’s some valuable information lost because of that; even if it’s just a sense of solidarity with another creator who’s gone through the same thing that you have. We tend to polish the past a little, even when we don’t mean to, and a lot of Kickstarter post-mortems that I read tend to have this implication that the creator knew largely what they were doing along the way–when I suspect a lot of what makes a Kickstarter so time- and attention-consuming is that there’s only so much you can hold onto it and plan for it, and the rest of it is just holding onto the reins and hoping it doesn’t buck you into the dirt.
So I thought I’d just put down some thoughts I’m having about our upcoming Kickstarter over the next several Random Design Thoughts posts, and then revisit things afterward to see how my thoughts matched up with what happened.
The ‘WarMage: Apprentice Edition’ Kickstarter campaign cover image… or at least how it is right now.
First of all, while in my personal life I tend to be less than organized in a lot of ways (you should see my bedroom; it’s like someone set off a bomb in there), when it comes to creative projects and the like, I’m a pretty attention-to-detail kind of guy. That’s not to say I always get the details right–Caytlin routinely educates and corrects me on any number of things, as does the rest of the Roan Arts team–but I do always try to pay attention to them. So the first thing that I’ve done is research.
The most valuable thing we got out of going to Tampa Bay Comic Con (apart from joining the IGA) was a sense of position and direction as a studio. We went into TBCC not actually knowing how far along we were or how we were doing, and came out of it having learned that we’re much further along than we’d thought, and that we were probably ready to take the next step and move toward a Kickstarter. We try to be conscious of not moving too fast for our own capabilities and capacity.
So, we knew we wanted to do a Kickstarter and were probably ready to do a Kickstarter as long as we could do it on our own terms. Not shoot for the moon, but put together something respectable as our first attempt. The next question was, HOW do you put a Kickstarter together? That’s where we spent time researching, and learned a lot about not only the nuts and bolts of Kickstarter, but also about what we needed to know and decide before we could even make certain decisions, and what we liked and disliked that we saw in various other campaigns; we made sure to research Kickstarters that failed to reach their funding goals, as well as those that succeeded (and those that succeeded wildly, to be ready for that).
What We’ve Learned (Or What We Think We’ve Learned) So Far:
(1) Carefully consider your backer rewards, from a bunch of different angles. We’ve all got some kind of sales experience, even if it’s just retail sales from back in the day. There are a few things that you can pick up from that, like pricing things to encourage the buyer to up-sell themselves (‘well, for only $ more, I can get this, too…’), grouping price points together to aim for different kinds of backers (we’re doing a few groupings, to accommodate people who just want to help, people who just want the game, people who want something exclusive, and people willing to put in a big sum for a big reward), and making all the tiers a smooth progression (every tier we have planned builds on the tier below it; you’re never choosing between things, only choosing how much you want to add on top of what you’re getting).
(2) Really spend time working out your plan for shipping, fulfillment, and rewards. These are things that really need to planned out before you can put your campaign together in the first place. Do the math, and really brainstorm and look at your options. We’ve found a couple of cool things we can deliver on based on how we’re proceeding in these areas.
(3) Make the page visually appealing and fun to read, keep your initial video short and personal, and don’t overstay your welcome–and a lot of other aesthetic things which all compound on each other. Write a script for your pitch video. Consider how the reader’s eye will move down the page. Don’t let too much text go by without something breaking it up. Outline the information you need to give, and lay it out; then do it again, and again. Get feedback, and take it seriously.
(4) Figure out your plan for stretch goals. In fact, do everything you possibly can stand to do BEFORE launching your Kickstarter, so you’ve got plenty in your arsenal when it goes live.
(5) Be ready to engage your audience as often as you can. When your campaign goes live, it’ll become your full-time job until it’s over–then it’ll just be part-time. Figure out who on your team has, if not the time, then the energy, to be engaged consistently for a month.
(6) Be ready to succeed wildly, and fail spectacularly. There’s no telling what will resonate with an audience. Our game might be picked up as the greatest thing since sliced bread, and we might get funded a hundred times over. Or we might not even get a single backer. So it’s important to be ready for both possibilities, and of course, to do everything possible to push things toward the former and away from the latter.
So, What’s Next?
On the front end, we’re currently in the process of mocking up the campaign page, and reviewing it amongst ourselves before we start asking other people for feedback. On the back end, we’re finding and backing good projects to help build some credibility and support the community, we’re working out the logistics and technical points, and planning out our video(s). I’ll keep checking back in as we continue in this process, and learn, and make mistakes, and grow from them.