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The Dangers of Beating Your Kickstarter Goal

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the feature-creep dept.

The Almighty Buck 168

jfruh writes "In March of 2012 legendary game designers Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert ran a Kickstarter to design a new adventure game, asked for $400,000, and came away with more than $3.3 million. Their promised delivery date was October 2012. Now it's July 2013, and the project still needs cash, which they plan to raise by selling an 'early release' version on Steam in January 2014. One possible lesson: radically overshooting your crowdfunding goal can cause you to wildly expand your ambitions, leading to a project that can't be tamed."

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Ah... (5, Insightful)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about a year ago | (#44220373)

Surely you mean "The Dangers of Overextending the Scope of Your Project Beyond What Resource Allocations Allows".

I guess that's not scary enough though.

Re:Ah... (4, Insightful)

Flozzin (626330) | about a year ago | (#44220563)

You would have thought though, that before they wildly expanded in order to spend 8 times what you wanted in funding, you would deliver on your core game.

Re:Ah... (5, Interesting)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#44220613)

I always enjoyed games that had a good core and then released expansion packs later that actually expanded on the game. It was almost like getting two great games. Total Annihilation was good, Core Contingency made it better. Diablo II was good. Lord of Destruction made it better (although in this case, the expansion was essential to actually finishing the storyline). StarCraft was good, Brood War made it better. It seems expansions that really expanded the game died out around ten years ago. Since then, expansions are more like content packs - they tend to just add more of the same.

Re:Ah... (3, Informative)

sjpadbury (169729) | about a year ago | (#44220761)

Someone hasn't looked at Civilization V, then.
Civ V was good.
Gods and Kings made it better.
Brave New World (releases in about 4 hours for me) according to reviews is making it even better still.

Re:Ah... (1)

EzInKy (115248) | about a year ago | (#44221203)

To me Civ3 was the ultimate in gaming fun. Certainly Civ4 was easier to play on Linux, but they so overdid the graphics that gameplay seemed to be a secondary consideration. As for Civ5, my understanding is that they severly restricted the ability to build decent armies.

Re:Ah... (1)

C0R1D4N (970153) | about a year ago | (#44221503)

I think the armies are the biggest improvement by far from iv to v. No longer stacking units allows you to actually place your units in strategic locations (spearmen defending archers, etc). Now if only they would split building and recruitment so you can do both simultaneously.

Re:Ah... (3)

mjwx (966435) | about a year ago | (#44222689)

I think the armies are the biggest improvement by far from iv to v. No longer stacking units allows you to actually place your units in strategic locations (spearmen defending archers, etc).

Actually Civ 5 allows more of this. Spearmen sit in front of your archers, archers shoot over the spearmen. This and cities that can attack make it a game of turtles. Forget any other strategy.

Add to this the fact the AI is crap and you have the reason I still play Civ 4.

Re:Ah... (1)

BergZ (1680594) | about a year ago | (#44221511)

What you hear is true.
As someone who has played all 5 of the Civilization games to-date I have to say that they've streamlined the game.
I've always loathed the process (in Civs 1 - 4) of naval invasion. It's my least favorite part of those games.
In Civ 5 they have removed *most* of the hassle of naval invasion. You don't have to build transports. You just send your unit to the coast and say "embark" and a transport appears out of nowhere to carry the unit across the water.

Re:Ah... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222777)

I haven't played 5, only the previous 4, but I do like the tactics of getting my armies transported safely across bodies of water, I like having "beach head" cities that are either open-war captured enemy cities or barbarian cities that were, erm, liberated, and then ferrying troops to this new continent. I find a fun challenge in getting a nice sync between trainign the troops, having transports waiting on this shore to take them to the battlefront while there are others already fighting there.

As the game progresses you have submarines, destroyers, battleships protecting the transports. Carriers at sea also need to be protected so I stacked other ships (and subs) on know "carrier group".

My favourite maps are always team continents or islands. I'm usually first or second in terms of landmass...but I still haven't got to the point where this grants me victory, seems that Culturar or Diplomatic come first. (and I don't much care for Space Race).

I play like this in RTS games too. Really like the islands, advancing on beach heads and laying siege to enemy encampments.

But, hey, your likes can be different.

Re:Ah... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221343)

As someone who preordered Civ V, it was a constantly crashing buggy piece of unfinished garbage with half the fun mechanics from Civ IV cut.

Now they expect me to pay for two expansions to get the fixes and the content that should've been in the original game? Fuck that.

Re:Ah... (2)

Seizurebleak (2020360) | about a year ago | (#44222593)

Can't fuckin' wait. I usually prefer the more peaceful victory conditions and it sounds like brave new world is gonna deliver.

Re:Ah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220891)

I always enjoyed games that had a good core and then released expansion packs later that actually expanded on the game. It was almost like getting two great games. Total Annihilation was good, Core Contingency made it better. Diablo II was good. Lord of Destruction made it better (although in this case, the expansion was essential to actually finishing the storyline). StarCraft was good, Brood War made it better. It seems expansions that really expanded the game died out around ten years ago. Since then, expansions are more like content packs - they tend to just add more of the same.

Or make you pay more for stuff that should have been in the game core game to begin with, like with Fallout: New Vegas. Yes you can still play the game without the DLCs but it will feel like somethings are missing, especially if you don't play Old World Blues and Lonesome Road.

Re:Ah... (1)

miknix (1047580) | about a year ago | (#44221157)

Finally! Someone who likes Total Annihilation. I still play it though, it works great using wine!

Re:Ah... (1)

togofspookware (464119) | about a year ago | (#44221285)

Are you able to get networking to work well under Wine? When I try it the cursor moves around at about half a frame per second and makes it completely unplayable. This is the only reason I have left for keeping Windows machines around (though I am hoping Planetary Annihilation can take its place, and that will supposedly be designed to run on Linux).

Re:Ah... (1)

dead_user (1989356) | about a year ago | (#44221513)

Played it this morning. My copy is from Good old Games. The $6 they charged for a working install that worked on a win7 machine without having to find all 4 cd's and related keys and making sure they weren't scratched was sooooo worth it. Even for a game I already bought twice.

Re:Ah... (1)

Atzanteol (99067) | about a year ago | (#44221515)

To me it's still the best RTS ever created.

Re: Ah... (4, Funny)

iamhassi (659463) | about a year ago | (#44221699)

Yes TA is great but what's with the system requirements? 64 megabytes for the larger maps is outrageous! ;)

Re:Ah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222013)

did you try Spring RTS ?

You should. You'll love it.

Re:Ah... (1)

bunkymag (1567407) | about a year ago | (#44221629)

Agree but the trouble of this approach is when the planned upgrades are cynically used for sales.

Diablo III for example shipped missing a number of the features that were present (and well received) in D2LOD. It's clear there was always a plan to 'hold back' various elements of the experience for the sole purpose of selling the expansion later.

Maybe it's just naivety but I don't think this used to be the case - rather, it was "produce the best game you can - then try to improve it down the track".

Re:Ah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221707)

Um, yeah that's nice for a strategy game. Makes no sense whatsoever when talking about an adventure game.

Re:Ah... (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44222037)

Sometimes that tight fisted manager standing over your shoulder demanding results yesterday actually has a useful purpose.

Putting a creator and an editor and a producer all in the same person results in problems. Look at the "director's cut" versions of movies, they rarely are better than the trimmed down original. You need someone to say "you're done now, please stop".

Yes, they realized after funding that their small adventure game didn't have to be small and could be the size of one of their older games. And that's the point when they should have really decided what they were going to do instead of letting it grow. Maybe grow the plans slightly but then put some tight limits on it and start working. If money keeps pouring in then use that money as profits instead of assuming it means that more work is needed. Or give some of that back to the investors in other ways: for $3 million they could have said "good new, it's on Steam but now it also has a DRM free edition on the side".

Re:Ah... (5, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#44220605)

I think it was Nicholas Meyer (of Star Trek II fame) who said "art thrives on limitations" and time and again we have seen that, you get a big budget and you go overboard and end up with a mess. Maybe in the future others will learn and set some sort of upper limit on their kickstarter?

Re:Ah... (1)

forkazoo (138186) | about a year ago | (#44220751)

Not every project needs an upper limit, but some certainly do. A friend of mine did the 3Doodler kickstarter and it also wound up unexpectedly successful. (Blew through the original goal in the first few hours, and wound up making a few million dollars at the end of the 30 day campaign.) When they sold out of the planned first batch, there was a bit of a scramble to estimate how quickly a second batch could be made, how big it should be, etc. But, they didn't change the design of the product, so they were basically scalable by pushing delivery deadlines for successive batches out. Of course, the risk is if you have underestimated a per unit cost that would have become obvious after the first batch, you are still locked in to deliver subsequent batches at whatever price you got for them. If you sold the first batch, and then did a re-analysis of how best to do the second batch, it's possible that things could be done better.

When you pitch in for something like a Kickstarter project, making a guess of how well the people will handle the scaling is just a part of what you have to estimate. If there isn't a history of successful delivery of similar projects, you have to deal with the likelihood that your investment won't pan out. If there is a history of it, you still have to deal with the possibility. That's what happens when you spend money on something that doesn't exist.

That said, the game devs should absolutely stick to making an initial delivery before worrying about stretch goals. I have never seen a significant game project come in ahead of schedule or under budget. Ever. I've been starting some indie game dev stuff on my own time recently, and just getting a crappy game out the door really is a shocking amount of work. Getting a good game out the door is an almost inconceivable amount of work, and getting exactly the game of your dreams out the door is simply impossible. Considering that the original planned budget of the game was such a small percentage of the ultimate take, they could have just done the original game as a "practice run" to give something to the players and then used whatever was left as the budget for the bigger fancier sequel.

Re:Ah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221229)

This is why ST:TOS was good (at the time) but ST:Voyager was just Gilligan's Island in space.

Re:Ah... (1)

crakbone (860662) | about a year ago | (#44221593)

I blamed it on the fact they threw the Star Treck bible out. Every other company had to use the bible of the star trek universe to write the shows with. Voyager just didn't care. So you ended up with a show where the ship is stuck out in space at a distance that was only 3 years out but somehow was magnified to 99 years and had to save energy by hiring a cook and trading for food but could replicate a shuttle every other episode. And the prime directive only took precedence if it could stop actions that could help the crew or their travel home.

Re:Ah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221681)

What nonsense are you talking, the time it would take them to travel 70k ly's, was well established, in DS9 with the wormhole, and TNG many years earlier when Q bounced the enterprise to system J-25 of the beta quadrant.

Re:Ah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222617)

And every technical problem was solved by "Attempting to compensate"
It must have been a joke, because that exact quote was used at least 5 times in each and every episode of voyager.

yeh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220383)

pebble anyone?

Re:yeh... (1)

TheGavster (774657) | about a year ago | (#44221131)

I don't know about yours, but my Pebble is awesome. Like 6 months late, but awesome.

I think the most important thing for these "preorder" type Kickstarters to do is limit the number of backers for the physical reward pledge levels, and if they do add additional slots move the estimated reward date out. Pebble screwed up by not having an initial limit, and then finally set a limit after the campaign exploded that was unreasonably optimistic given the original estimates. They had zero units available by the original date anyway, but the difference in ship dates between units 1000, 10000, and 50000 was significant.

Also, if they'd limited the first batch they could have made it on-shore while the China factory was being set up. A major part of the delay was the extremely late decision to off-shore production. Tooling up the factory and Chinese New Year probably contributed at least 2 months to the schedule slip that could have been avoided for the first set of backers by sticking to the original garage lab plan for those units.

This just in.... (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220401)

Project costs way more than expected. News at 11.

Re:This just in.... (4, Funny)

Arkh89 (2870391) | about a year ago | (#44220495)

--- a/Message
+++ b/Message
- Project costs way more than expected. News at 11.
+People are not able to forecast accurately costs of a project (time, money, etc.). News at 11.

Re:This just in.... (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about a year ago | (#44222133)

If a project that was projected to fit within a $400,000 budget can't be completed with $3.3 million the issue is a lot bigger than bad estimation.

Hmmm (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220405)

Either they utterly under-estimated the cost, or blew all the money in Bahamas!

Re:Hmmm (5, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year ago | (#44220561)

The original project maybe not. The stretch goals probably.

With stretch goals you either need more time or more staff than you had originally planned on. If your stretch goal is 10% more than your base game and involves some trivial art feature that's easy to just hire an artist or overtime and existing one for.

When you get 8x as much money as you were planning on, you stick in goals that you don't think you'll meet, or don't have serious cost estimations for. And that's where you get into trouble. People aren't serious about getting down to work when they know there is way more money than you expected available to pay them, hiring on significantly more staff than you were expecting, with the required office space and infrastructure and training that goes with that takes time, a lot of it, and then with the way kickstarter funding is counted by tax agencies you may be screwed on any money you didn't spend that calendar year and be looking at a huge tax bill. Etc.

Oh, and as with all creative enterprises, just because I made a great movie/game/story last time doesn't mean I will do so next time, or maybe my great idea will turn out to be... not so great on implementation and now I have to do something else. Changing gears costs money too.

Well I'm also not sure how good a plan they had (2)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about a year ago | (#44220945)

Some of the games that have come on KS have had a pretty good business plan behind them. They know what they want to make, the basics of the world, the story, the scope, all that kind of thing. They then can determine based on funding what sorts of things they'll be able to put in the final project. I mean this goes on with any game project, you will have more ideas than you've ability to implement, so you decide what to keep and what to cut.

However the Doublefine Adventure really didn't seem to have that. It was basically "Let's make a point and click adventure game!" Ok, cool, but that is pretty broad. I mean they don't even have enough to have a title, just kinda a place holder. A whole lot could fall in their potential scope. Hence, a bit harder to know how to budget for it and so on.

They really would have been better off having a more solid plan first and then been able to do some budgeting on it.

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220981)

just because I made a great movie/game/story last time doesn't mean I will do so next time

Tim Schaffer isn't exactly a one hit wonder. He has a proven track record of producing great games. I don't know what his track record is for delivering on time and under budget, but he does know how to consistently make quality games.

Re:Hmmm (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about a year ago | (#44221115)

just because I made a great movie/game/story last time doesn't mean I will do so next time

Tim Schaffer isn't exactly a one hit wonder. He has a proven track record of producing great games. I don't know what his track record is for delivering on time and under budget, but he does know how to consistently make quality games.

But what is his track record with being handed a giant sack of money before any code is laid down? What says he wont just flee with the sack?

Re:Hmmm (3, Interesting)

deek (22697) | about a year ago | (#44221479)

Tim is smart enough to know that he cannot run. The Internet is everywhere. We will track him down, lock him up in a small room, Misery-style, and make him write the game we want. Along with the whole Broken Age team, of course. Can't expect Tim to do the programming and artwork, even if we hack off a foot or two.

Anyway, point being, Tim isn't going anywhere. I'm perfectly confident the game will be made, and it will be Schafer-awesome.

Re:Hmmm (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44222073)

No, but I could see Tim and Ron singing "Bootay!" and throwing doubloons in the air.

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222465)

What says he wont just flee with the sack?

The fact that he's still there while the sack is almost empty?

Re: Hmmm (2)

donscarletti (569232) | about a year ago | (#44221339)

Also, if you watched those Amnesia videos that Double Fine put out, you would see that Tim Schafer is working with a lot of other good people. Frankly it is impossible to build a large game through one person's vision and oversight, you need multiple people each chipping away at the project almost autonomously if you want some magnum opus full of creativity and surprises. Being enough of a good sort to have lots of good people that want to work with you is what separates successful game creators from the wrecks and failures strewn around the industry's forgotten corners.

Another possible lesson (5, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#44220411)

Only buy a finished product unless you have money to burn.

Re:Another possible lesson (2)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#44220435)

Even if this lesson was something worth to be learned it wouldn't be learned from this example as the people who financed it on Kickstarter will have their product in the end, mismanagements aside.

Re:Another possible lesson (2)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#44220653)

How do you know that?

Re:Another possible lesson (2)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#44221325)

Firstly because he has a name that is worth a lot more than what he took so he has all the interest in the word in delivering the game.

Secondly because his company managed to deliver several games already, so he is obviously capable of doing so.

And last but not least because he already announced a solution. He will deliver the game in two parts. The first part will be available at about the expected date and the sells will be used to finance the second time. Kickstarter backers and whoever buys the first part will receive the second part for free when it is ready.

Re:Another possible lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222115)

I guess the real question is whether it'll be as awesome as everyone hopes it is. Especially for creative projects, there's always the risk that people won't like the direction, or might have expectations set too high. Not saying that it'll happen here -- what they've unveiled so far sounds promising -- but you never know.

Re:Another possible lesson (4, Insightful)

jordanjay29 (1298951) | about a year ago | (#44221073)

Reality check: not every project that succeeds on Kickstarter delivers a final product.

Re:Another possible lesson (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#44221331)

Sure, but Tim Schafer isn't everybody. I don't want to repeat myself so I advise you to refer to my previous post in this same thread .

Re:Another possible lesson (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221081)

Well so far it sounds like a money scam to me. Oh right, people gave these guys 3.3 million dollars for making stupid videos and posting it on kickstarter.

Hell of a lot better than ad money from youtube.

Re:Another possible lesson (2)

Flozzin (626330) | about a year ago | (#44220467)

This is what I am doing. Yes, some corporate games suck, but I don't have money to blow funding someones pet project. Plus I don't know what I will be doing years from now. Maybe I gave up gaming altogether. Maybe they drastically change their concept to something I don't want. Maybe, they just flat out lie(WarZ).

You can give to kickstarter groups. I've been screwed before, thanks.

Re:Another possible lesson (5, Interesting)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year ago | (#44220595)


Kickstarter is a lesson to investors and publishers etc. that there is money available for things they didn't think there was a market for. If no one funded star citizen or project eternity or the like then we would go another 10 years without good space combat games and isometric RPG's. As it is we'll probably see a lot, some of which will suck (and some of which will be the kickstarted projects unfortunately), but the 'product' you're buying on kickstarter is really paying to create a genre or a product family or the like. Sure, you might get star citizen or some adventure game that *might* be good. But expectations are high on those. I'll be happy if funding star citizen means one of the big guys picks up on 'space sims can make money again? Hurray!' XWing vs Tie Fighter 2015' or whatever.

Re:Another possible lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220657)

Oh man. If they made a Tie Fighter or Freespace sequel I could die happy. This is especially so, given what the FSO's SCP has done. That engine can do all sorts of things, and then add full time programmers on top of it to further extend it and there is nothing you can't do.

Re:Another possible lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220939)

Yes, but Lucas would cast you as Jar Jar Binks and there would be constant commentary during your dogfights. There would be a piss poor PC port. And, he would remove the ability to turn in-game voices off because options are something only PC targeted games provide to players. Enjoy. Note: I wish I was kidding about this, but this sounds plausible.

Re:Another possible lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220953)

EA taking over the X-Wing series? Thanks, but no thanks. [shudder]

Re:Another possible lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221407)

A high end game company funded by kickstarter money is a bad idea. Those creative types need adult supervision that kicks their butts every now in then, and follows through on threats to fire senior people, cancel projects, and lay off staff if project plans are blown by more than the usual amount. Having kickstarter as the Big Daddy is kinda like having... well, let's say being accountable to the state of Rhode Island.

Re:Another possible lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221875)

Or another way of putting it: don't invest your money where seasoned investors fear to tread, even though they'd own part of the result.

Bad Planning (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220423)

'It's a bad plan that can't be changed' – Publilius Syrus c.100 BC

Release the core game as it was intended on time and add the extras (in game, ports to other platforms, whatever...) later.

This needs to be planned for Kickstarters from, well, before the start. Because you might get more money than anticipated, but not more time.

Re:Bad Planning (2)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44220557)

Release the core game as it was intended on time and add the extras (in game, ports to other platforms, whatever...) later.

This needs to be planned for Kickstarters from, well, before the start. Because you might get more money than anticipated, but not more time.

This is so true. I know some people with a successful Kickstarter campaign begin to get caught up in the hype and promise the Moon and anything else they can think up in order to keep the ball rolling. They really shouldn't get caught up in the hype, other than to be promising minor cosmetic things or as suggested promise that they will be on the development path well after the original release. I completely agree.

I've been involved with several startup companies over the years, and the worst disaster was also the best financed company I was ever part of. We blew over a million dollars in the course of about 18 months (surprisingly not that hard to do). It wasn't even anything exotic, just some equipment, rent, and a trip to a computer convention (where I actually landed a contract with enough profit to pay for that trip anyway.... that really wasn't the problem). There were some huge mistakes made, and lots of finger pointing in the end that was rather pointless but still happened.

Re:Bad Planning (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44221991)

The problem is how kickstarter seems to work. They include the stretch goals right there in the initial pitches. So not only do they have to get the time and resource planning reasonably correct for the first goal, they need to also get good estimates for all subsequent stretch goals. So the more stretch goals that get funded the more likely it is that they're going to slip up.

Now sometimes the stretch goals are probably not too bad. Project Eternity as I recall had stretch goals that were relatively simple to do compared to the original product's complexity. Like adding a couple more races or classes to the game, or adding more levels to a mega dungeon. Once all the pieces are in place and the engine set up and in use, then adding to it incrementally isn't so bad. However there are still things that could go wrong. I sort of predict that the mega dungeon will be one of the less interesting parts of the game (sort of Watcher's Keep in Baldur's Gate II expansion).

Where the stretch goals work best is when they don't add much extra work. As in no DRM if we hit a goal.

At a certain point though it has to stop. Every additional $X just goes to being a pre-order only instead of a commitment to add more stuff.

There are other dangers (4, Interesting)

CmdrEdem (2229572) | about a year ago | (#44220469)

Like not taking into account the Crowdfunding site share, Paypal transfer tax (depending on where you live and what site you did use), country, state and city taxes. If you are opening a business there are costs for that too. To properly employ someone is very expensive in some countries (guess what: taxes, social security and so on).

People will eventually learn how to calculate all this, but indies went too eager to the crowndfunding bubble and did not consult their accountants to see how much game development actually costs. Ow yes... accountants also cost money.

You could say that Tim was victim of his own success, but I say he was victim to his own creativity combined with over-excitement.

Re:There are other dangers (2)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year ago | (#44220503)

You could say that Tim was victim of his own success, but I say he was victim to his own creativity combined with over-excitement.

Well, hopefully it's too soon to name any victims yet... though I have to say I'm glad to see the scope was extended to a larger, more in depth adventure game, almost all of his others have been well worth it. Then again, I'm fine with waiting until it's actually finished to buy it...

Re:There are other dangers (1)

CmdrEdem (2229572) | about a year ago | (#44220827)

Yes, Tim is pretty good at his job. Full Throttle would be at my Top5 game of all time if I ever bother to make such list. What I meant is all this discussion is blown out of proportion because of hype. If it was a non-kickstarted project it would be canceled and thrown into Limbo until someone really asked about it and the fate was revealed. They were open about what is happening and deserve some kudos for that. And while you can say they have the moral obligation to be open in this case, they could simply smooth talk us all the way into believing everything was fine.

It is a symbol that one of the most successful crowdfunded projects is in such trouble.

Also, I`m very curious to see how many people will get the game at Steam`s Early Access. I believe that crowdfunding completely changes how finished product sale forecasts works. I think veteran devs are expecting to finish the game and still sell as much as they are used to with a strong launch and longtail sales. Remains to be seen.

Re:There are other dangers (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220601)

...You could say that Tim was victim of his own success, but I say he was victim to his own creativity combined with over-excitement.

Sure, one could say that...or one could also say that someone who has been in business long enough to be referred to as "legendary" should at least know the basics of business before making rather large financial guesstimates on general costs. Things like employer taxes and medical insurance plans aren't exactly corporate secrets.

Re:There are other dangers (1)

CmdrEdem (2229572) | about a year ago | (#44220871)

Well... It is very common to go over-budget in most, if not all, games. And the costs of running a business are no secret. Any local, trustworthy accountant (yeah, pretty limited bunch but they exist) can tell exactly how much it will cost. But Kickstarter stretch goals are a completely new beast, and therefore hard to predict.

I don`t have business experience, but it`s pretty obvious to me that, as you make a bigger project, more and more money is spent in management. Management that can barely keep things on track. So, too much management is a money burner, and the reason why I think big corporations are such a waste.

That is where publishers are useful (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about a year ago | (#44220913)

While developers like to hate on publishers, and often with good reason, one thing they usually do is have some business and accounting sense to keep projects on track. Developers can have a "just another couple months and it'll be great!" mentality whereas a publisher understands that time is money, a lot of it. Every month you spend on a project has a big cost. Hence it can be important to release earlier, even if it does mean cutting back.

Shadowbane and Duke Nukem Forever are two great examples of developers just running away with the "we'll just work on it until it is whatever our vision is," sort of thing and failing massively.

The problem with the Doublefine thing is that it seems to be a creative person at the helm, and that can mean bad business decisions. It's a nice sentiment to say "Let creativity run wild," but in the real world, you have to consider business concerns.

I'm more optimistic on Wasteland 2 because Brian Fargo is at the helm and he's a business person. He seems to well understand the need for getting things out the door and working on doing what you can with the resources you have, even if it is less than you want to do.

Todd Howard had some good points on this during his keynote about this kind of thing: "Your ideas are not as important as your execution," and "We can do anything, we just can't do everything." Both are very true. You have to decide what is going to be in and what isn't, because you haven't the time or resources to implement it all, and what you do implement needs to be good because the grandest ideas are blunted in an unplayable game.

Re:That is where publishers are useful (1)

CmdrEdem (2229572) | about a year ago | (#44221855)

I agree that if you want to make a game you must understand that you don`t have the resources to do everything. Being so, the secret here is what you do first and when to stop making new stuff to make the stuff you already have the best you can.

That said there is reason why publishers are hated. They are business only. They care little for creativity. They care only for profit. And you may say that for capitalism in general, but you can`t let that be the guiding line in a creative industry. A industry that relies on creativity to make a profit. That is the great contradiction that publishers face every day.

And what do they seek to solve this problem? QA, Focus group testing, yearly franchises and so on. This industry is inherently risky, and even the most profitable franchise will cease to be profitable on the long run. I don`t know how long it will take for that to happen with CoD but I hope it happens sooner rather than later. If you want to make sure money, go work in a bank or be a MD. This industry is where guys take huge risks, where you bet on competent people and new ideas.

Bootstrapping, small enterprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220471)

..could use a lesson from some famous entrepreneurs: use what you got first, then, if you need capital, ask for it. Judging by the length of time, it's not unheard of in the industry to spend a few years on the big, blockbuster games.

But, even the big boys know to release smaller games, to keep the funding going. I hear they have an App for that.

Nothing to do with goals (2)

Bieeanda (961632) | about a year ago | (#44220491)

Everything to do with Tim Schafer being constitutionally incapable of reining himself in. And you know, that's fine when you've got a publisher holding the purse strings, and ultimately able to put their foot down when things get out of hand, especially when it results in titles like Psychonauts and the other amazing adventure stories he's helmed. It's a lot less okay when you can't go to the publisher and ask for another million bucks to see things through.

Actually, there is a problem with goals here-- specifically, that there wasn't one set in the first place. The Doublefine Kickstarter was an experiment that asked for money to finance the creation of a game, and a documentary film of the whole thing. Nobody knew what it was at first, certainly nobody expected it to get out of hand, and then Tim decided to make something Totally Amazingly New and proceeded to torpedo the budget.

What he has now is a fantastic idea, but it's the kind of fantastic idea that wants a whole lot more money than the KS brought in, because it's going to require a lot of artists working their hands down to the wrists.

Re:Nothing to do with goals (1, Flamebait)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about a year ago | (#44221247)

My theory is that Tim realized that people will give him money for making stupid videos and promises (that at least are backed up by his reputation as a great game maker, unlike a lot of other KS campaigns), and therefore he almost has to try to see how much money he can get before making the game. It is a giant snowball effect. The more money he gets, the bigger and better game he can promise, which means he needs more money, so more video shenanigans and dancing around trying to get people to give him yet more money.

My prediction is that when the game is finally released the early backers and fans will hail it as the greatest game ever that changed the face of the gaming world... no matter what the game is actually like.

I am fully prepared to be flamed and modded down by doublefine backers.

This is called feature creep; mission creep (5, Insightful)

cheesybagel (670288) | about a year ago | (#44220501)

Which is why you should stick to well defined objectives. Do the planned release. If you got more money than you expected then you release an expansion pack later for free.

Re:This is called feature creep; mission creep (2)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#44220845)

If you got more money than you expected then you release an expansion pack later for free.

Screw that! We aren't talking about a government or non-profit organization here...

Release the $400,000 game you said you'd release, and everybody paid for. If you overrun the budget a bit, no problem. Just think of the rest of the money as extra sales of the game, in excess of your break-even point. Deliver them the copy of the game they paid for, and they'll all be happy.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to use SOME of that money for a free expansion pack, community web site and forum, or to develop a sequel, but in general, treat it like profit.

Re:This is called feature creep; mission creep (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221359)

The PMbok defines it as scope creep. It is usually considered a bad thing, but it can be a good thing in a limited number of instances. The importance is controlling its introduction. Kickstarter kind of feeds the desire to scope creep especially towards the end of the project as the planned huge strech goals are cleared in less than 6 hours and everyone is clamouring for more. Or it could have been simple misscheduling or poor budgetting. Lord knows that nothing outside of kickstarter goes over budget.*cough* Star Wars *cough*

This subject was adequately explored (4, Funny)

NEDHead (1651195) | about a year ago | (#44220539)

in "The Producers".

Re:This subject was adequately explored (1)

TheCycoONE (913189) | about a year ago | (#44221525)

Unlike the producers, they won't lose if the game ends up wildly popular.

Pebble watch is another example (5, Informative)

oneblokeinoz (2520668) | about a year ago | (#44220573)

For another example look at the Pebble watch.

Originally wanted $100,000 in funding, wound up getting over $10 million. That changed the size of their problem from making 1000 watches, to making 100,000 watches. So now they had to scale their manufacturing by a factor of 100, which is a totally different set of problems to solve.

There has been a lot of angst (some anger) at the delivery delays, most of the "investors" have been reasonably patient, some have been downright ignorant. One of the most popular forum topics is something like "I funded it on [date], why haven't I got my watch", where [date] was only a small number of days after the kickstarter campaign began, but in reality was when they were at over $5 million going up.

Disclaimer: I'm still waiting (patiently) on my two watches. I should have just ordered black, or changed to black when they made the option available. sigh!

Yeah, major problem (1)

multiben (1916126) | about a year ago | (#44220581)


Mission Creep is deadly (2)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#44220589)

The key is to stick to your original stated goals, and not to expand them just because you get a bunch more money.

People knew what they were buying with the KS, so there was no reason to radically up-scope the mission, especially to the point that the mission became unobtainable.

Re:Mission Creep is deadly (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#44221181)

No, not really.
90% of the time I get a KSer is because I know the game will have 200% more details than the developers had originally planed at that price point.
And specifically, all money they raised must be spent designing the game, or it is fraud.
I did see a KS project were the stretch goals were just more toys for the backers. But I personally thought that that went against the idea of KS backing, if not being technically fraud.

it's no surprise (2)

kirkb (158552) | about a year ago | (#44220611)

When you've got a "creative type" in charge of managing a project, you get "creative project management".

Where I work, if a 6-month project ended up taking 3 years, people would be fired. Or overthrown. Or lynched by a mob.

Re:it's no surprise (4, Funny)

Lehk228 (705449) | about a year ago | (#44221253)

where i work if a 6 month project only took 3 years everyone would shit their pants.

we moved to a new building in 2009, while moving we found memos in the basement about the upcoming move

dated from the 80's

here's how you will raise the funds, Tim (1)

itchybrain (2538928) | about a year ago | (#44220625)

Take the lead from Ben (Throttle) Reuben and race in The Corley Motors Smash-A-Torium Amateur Driver Ultimate Destruction Maximum Carnage Marathon.

Good luck and don't lick the dumpster.

Duke Nukem Forever redux (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220633)

The same thing happened to Duke Nukem Forever. After the success of Duke Nukem Forever, they were given as much money and freedom as they wanted. Without any deadlines or boundaries, well, you know the rest of the story.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever redux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220727)

Correction: "After the success of Duke Nukem 3d..."

Pro tip: get rich! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220651)

I really won't get how having excess money for a project should be a problem. Just proceed as originally planned, except richer.

Green28. (-1, Offtopic)

Lili Banner (2976843) | about a year ago | (#44220803)

what Wayne implied I didnt know that a mom able to make $6609 in 1 month on the internet. have you seen this page... www.Green28.

Software engineers are an optimistic bunch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220925)

and game designers and developers are probably some of the most optimistic of the lot, in terms of thinking of how the idea that one of them thought up during the morning's commute, which was then embellished by a "jam" with co-workers in the conference room, is guaranteed to revolutionize the entire industry, and shake up existing establishments and conventions in digital art, and concepts of work and play, and Western Civilization.

Meanwhile hard-headed management that knows something about game development and what gamers are really interested in, is in short supply.

Video games: Too expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221063)

Consider you can raise under a million on kickstarter to create a movie using well-known A-list actors.

Better titles (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about a year ago | (#44221069)

The Dangers of Bad Project Management
The Dangers of Scope Creep
The Dangers of your eyes being bigger than your stomach.

People like to criticise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221289)

... but nobody considers the possibility that Double Fine wants to make the best possible game, and that takes time, no matter how much money (or fans) you have.

First world problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221353)

Isn't "I have too large a budget" the ultimate first world problem? Hell it is probably a zeroth world problem.

This is why we're in a recession. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221403)

I just don't understand why the scope was expanded at all.

If I need $X to do W, and then find myself with $X+Y, I spend $X to do W, then keep $Y for a later Z.

More specifically, he said "I want to make this game, and need $400,000". Once he got $3.3 million, he should have created and released the original game he had planned, and reserved the other $2.9 million for the next game.

What kind of fucking idiot decides to spend all the money he has simply because he has it?

Let Tim himself explain why. (2)

Camael (1048726) | about a year ago | (#44222113)

Statement titled "A Note from Tim" []

Those of you who have been following along in the documentary know about the design vs. money tension we've had on this project since the early days. Even though we received much more money from our Kickstarter than we, or anybody anticipated, that didn't stop me from getting excited and designing a game so big that it would need even more money.

I think I just have an idea in my head about how big an adventure game should be, so it's hard for me to design one that’s much smaller than Grim Fandango or Full Throttle. There's just a certain amount of scope needed to create a complex puzzle space and to develop a real story. At least with my brain, there is.

As a side note, it appears that a majority of the backers (or at least, those who identify themselves as backers online) are fine with expanding the scope of the game. And also, that those who complain the loudest against it do not appear to have put any money into the project (like parent poster).

1870 again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221443)

Unregulated securities. Been there, done that. Surely, it will be different this time.

Scope creep (1)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#44221725)

Scope creep has always been capable of consuming even the most generous of budgets.

The more things change (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222023)

The issues described are as old as business. Crowd funding complies with the same laws of risk and fear as any other form of finance. People tend to think that money can solve everything and that more money is always better. What they don't realize is that expectations grow exponentially. Even large companies (banks for instance) suffer from shareholder syndrome. Shareholders that fund a company expect ever bigger profits which attracts more shareholders that expect even bigger profits etc. etc. The more funding a company attracts, the higher the expectations. If the returns on investment isn't dividend and a rising share price but products (as is the case with Kickstarter) expectations can completely derail what was originally a viable project. And that is just for companies that mean well. There is a growing number of companies that see Kickstarter as just a funding source that guarantees sales before any product has even been made. They will promise the moon and have no problem underdelivering when it suits them.

Misunderstanding on the part of backers (5, Insightful)

Minupla (62455) | about a year ago | (#44222217)

The issue comes from backers believing they're preordering a product.

This is not what is going on here. What is going on is more akin to the Medieval practice of being a patron to an artist.

We hand our collective money to an artist who says "I want to make something like this... And the more you provide me in funding the bigger and more grand a statue I can make."

We as a group come together and pool our money and hand it to the artist saying "We like your vision. Here is a bucket of gold coins, go forth and create awesomeness".

This makes more sense when you consider that the high end rewards are usually something like "A copy of the widget, plus lunch with the widget visionary"

Noone pays 1000$ for a game. People pay 1000$ for artistic vision and being a part of seeing the vision realized.


How much coke does it take.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222231)

To get rid of 3.3 million dollars in less than a year? I don't care how much feature creep you have- that's ridiculous.

I've seen this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222771)

The "Bronycon Documentary" kickstarter did this. They raised like $350k of a target of $60k. They then wildly expanded their scope and ended up losing money. I had a good laugh. They thought they'd be able to sell digital downloads of it for $13, after already cannibalizing their base of support to fund the thing. It's like people can't take ten seconds to think their business plans through.


Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222791)

The only thing you have to understand about it: there is never enough.

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