Hi there everyone. For those of you that don't know I started a Kickstarter for a personal project of mine called Primal Hero. Primal Hero is an online browser-based monster fighter that my brother Seth and I are developing together. I wanted to do some blog entries every few days to track progress and let others know what it's like to start and run a Kickstarter, whether this fails or succeeds there is something that all of us can learn from this. There is a link to the project at the bottom of this wall of text.
So first let me give you all a little bit of background information. Seth and I have been working on Primal Hero since about May of last year. Around the end of June or July Seth had finished programming the basics of the combat system for the game and I had finished a test background, several Primals, and gotten a base down for the male player character. We also did a lot of jotting down design stuff to figure out what kind of a game we wanted to make. Like what features we felt were necessary to include in the launch. Since it's only the two of us we need to make the most of our time and make sure that everything we are doing is necessary for the final product we want to pitch and eventually deliver.
4 months prior to launch
In September 2013 Seth went back for his last semester of college at OSU and I continued to do freelance work/personal work/work for Primal Hero. We also started posting about our game at this point to try and build up hype before our Kickstarter launches. We did tri-weekly updates, Mechanics Monday, Primal Wednesday, and Lore Friday. This worked and at the beginning we got some attention but it was mainly our close friends and family on Facebook (go figure). Over time we accumulated more people, but progress was slow. Since Seth was in College and also on a ballroom dance team he was often very busy and we did not get very much programming done at all until about 3-4 weeks before the Kickstarter launched. Before that 3-4 weeks, through our tri-weekly updates we ended up showing probably about 15-20 Primals that you can catch or start with in the game, we explained the lead up to the game's main storyline, and explained most of the major game mechanics we plan to include in the final production of the game.
During the 3-4 weeks before we launched the Kickstarter things began heating up. Stress started building and doubts began running through my mind as I looked at our small community of around 200-300 likes on our Facebook page and our measly 10 followers on Twitter. We had been posting on several other indie community sites since September such as IndieDB, TIGforums, Game Jolt, Eclipse, Unity forums, and GameDev.net. These sites gave us some confidence and some people really seemed to enjoy the idea of our game which boosted our morale a bit. However we were still very not well known. Little did I know that other indie games would contact indie review sites weeks before they launched their Kickstarter to try and gain some exposure beforehand... I did this yesterday so I'm a little behind on that.
So by the time we launched our Kickstarter my brother was off on a ballroom dance tour, he's still there now, since it's only been 5 days, so he's busy and we aren't able to get a lot of programming done. So at the moment I am compensating by spending 10-12 hours a day on art for Primal Hero and social networking to try and gain exposure for the game. When we launched our Kickstarter we had the basics of questing programmed, combat was programmed, world map travel, character creation, and the inventory was programmed.
On the art side I had 29 Primals painted, 2 backgrounds finished, the world map painted and done, several characters, the male base character including several different faces, eyes, hair, armors, weapons, cloaks, and skin colors. I had the UI done for the Main game, for the map buttons, for the synergy system in our game, for the inventory, for character creation, and for questing. And I had several attacks done with particle effects for combat. I did a promotional illustration as well and all the fancy Kickstarter art to make it look professional and fancy. ANNNNNNND I had to learn Adobe After Effects a week before we launched so we could have a fancy flashy logo entrance.
I'll just say it was hard. Very hard.
From observing our Kickstarter we realized that in comparison to many of the most successful Kickstarters we were lacking a few things:
1) We haven't made a game before.
After talking to a couple different indie developers I realized that they all start out the same way, they all want to make a huge dream game. Primal Hero is our huge dream game. However! Nobody ever does their dream game first, we we're not smart in this area and were stressed for time so we just went for it. It's not a lack of expertise in our field that makes making our first game our dream game, I've been a freelance artist for 2 years now and although I still have a lot of room for improvement I can create better graphics then some other games out there. And Seth is not a professional programmer, he hasn't programmed for any big companies or on big games before, but that doesn't mean he doesn't know how to program. It's a trust between the consumer in my opinion.
People will see a Kickstarter started like Might No. 9 ( http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mightyno9/mighty-no-9?ref=discovery ) or Double Fine Adventure ( http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/doublefine/double-fine-adventure?ref=discovery ) and instantly fund it because those people have experience making good games and they trust them. We haven't built that trust with people yet because we've had nothing to establish that trust upon. But there's something very curious about those Kickstarters and honestly it gives me a strange feeling. I'm not sure how to describe it, but it's not good. They show no gameplay. They stay very, very, VERY vague about the game. And their main pitch is the fact that they have made good games before, and that's it. That's awful. You can label that you have members of a team that have worked on major games before, but that doesn't mean they were the deciding factor in whether that game was good or successful, merely a piece of the puzzle. It becomes entirely different when you work with a smaller group of people. Of course it's great to establish that you have members of your team with experience in the gaming industry, but I find it ludicrous to have it be your main selling point as a pitch.
2) We don't have enough gameplay to show.
Now, to go on the opposite side of what was stated above, some highly funded games on Kickstarter actually have an abundance of gameplay videos to show and are fairly far into development. We are not so lucky, as I said before we don't have much programming done. A lot of what we have to work with are mock ups and written mechanics that are planned to go in-game. Whether this is enough to sell the idea we will just have to see. Unfortunately though, this is the most we can do for now.
3) Easy Publicity.
When you hear that the two twins that run the EVO championships every year are making a game you go nuts and want to spread the word. When you hear two brothers that you've never heard of are making a monster fighter game you don't give two shits. It's sad, understandable, and so so true. Months before the Kickstarter for Stonehearth ( http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1590639245/stonehearth?ref=live) went live Kotaku did a story on it without even knowing anything about the game. All the story said was that the two brothers were creating this game and the Kickstarter will be out soon. But imagine how much exposure that simple story got them! It's not so easy for us unfortunately.
1) Ugly Duckling
Other things that have been problematic have just been the every day stresses of having your work be fully exposed to the world. Imagine having a child, a son or daughter you've always wanted, watch them grow up and take their first steps and be so proud of them. Then, you introduce your kid to Reddit and they hate you. That was a weird analogy but you get the point. It truly is heartbreaking to believe in your game and to see people doubt you or see people go past it without a care, it causes that fiery passion in your heart to dwindle to cinders.
The whole Kickstarter experience has caused stress in my relationship as well, luckily I have a wonderfully understanding girlfriend, but it's still difficult to work through. I work 10-12 hours a day, I don't get to give her as much attention as I want to and especially not as much as she deserves.
3) Social Networking
Something that stressed me out today was I started a contest for a free signed print of a Primal Hero illustration. All you have to do is share the image of the illustration with the Kickstarter link. I had much higher expectations than the outcome. I think total at the moment we have 10 shares. That is on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr combined. It's all just disappointing.
Now, if anyone has actually read through all of this kudos to you. But I wanted to remind you all that no matter what, no matter how many people doubt you, no matter how many people walk on your project, ignore your dreams, and get in your way of success, there is always a way past it. And that way is to just keep going. There's nobody on this Earth that I can blame if my Kickstarter isn't successful except for me. If it's not successful it's not because I was unlucky, it's because I didn't push past the unluckiness and make my own luck. Primal Hero may not see the true light of day for a long time, but it'll always be my dream game, and damnit, I'm gonna make it.
"If you're not trying hard you're inviting bad things to happen to you... But if you're trying your hardest and really giving it your all and bad things still happen to you, then that means great things are on their way."