Rebuild 3: Kickstarter postmortem

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Posted by Sarah Northway | Posted in Biznizz, Rebuild3 | Posted on 05-11-2013

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Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville was just successfully funded on Kickstarter, raising $41k from 2200 backers. Breakdown from Kicktraq:

Rebuild stats from Kicktraq

Like most campaigns seem to go, it started strong, then totally lost momentum, then suddenly leapt forward at the end of the run. Looking at my referrals (full breakdown here), I’m guessing this is in large part because Kickstarter was featuring it at those times. A whopping 53% of my pledges came from people who were browsing Kickstarter when my campaign caught their eye.

It was a success, in that it surpassed my $25k goal, introduced new players to the game, and raised an average $19 per backer. To be honest I was hoping more existing Rebuild players would take an interest, but due to a marketing snafu it’s possible they didn’t even know it was going on. Either way, I knew it’d be a challenge to convince free Flash and $2.99 mobile players to back a PC downloadable game for $10 (no iOS version in the rewards either).

The campaign didn’t come close to actually funding the game in it’s entirety, which would have required more like $150k with my time at cut rate. But I was upfront in saying I didn’t need to fund the entire game, that this money would go towards extra art and extra content and stretch goals. Of which we made a couple, but I’m somewhat relieved that we didn’t make the voice acting stretch goal.

Rebuild backer numbers from Kicktraq

My advice for anyone else doing a video game Kickstarter campaign:

- Read Lobster’s guide to Kickstarter from start to finish.

- Don’t use IndieGogo. I really hate Kickstarter for being so revoltingly US-centric and I know it’s not easy to make or fake a US company (or UK, or Canadian which is what I am). But if the referral numbers are truth, then over half my pledge money came from Kickstarter regulars who bumped into my game on there, mostly while browsing in the video games section. I shouldn’t be surprised; I do it myself. IndieGogo and other crowdfunding sites sadly have much smaller communities.

- Make your video pure gameplay footage set to music. Recent uber-successful campaigns have done this, implying that people are more interested in the game than the story or people behind it. Filming yourself is way too much trouble, especially if you freeze up in front of a camera like me. But Colin was a very patient director and we eventually did get through my lines after 5 mornings of filming. We thought my story of being a (mostly) lone female dev living in the jungle in Panama might catch some attention, but backers seemed to be more excited by the gameplay.

- Don’t bother with physical goods at all. Other devs report they are too much trouble and talked me out of doing a board game as a reward (I know: awwwww). Despite an early poll that showed my fans had no interest in t-shirts or stickers, I did them anyway because dammit I like those things. It was only possible because I found a company (Teelaunch) that would produce and ship them for me.

- Put people into your game at all levels. Stick their names in the credits ($1), on randomly generated characters in the game ($25), draw stylized versions of their faces for random characters ($100), or make them full named npcs with stories and events in the game ($500). Offering these rewards was one of the reasons I wanted to do a Kickstarter campaign in the first place.

- Offer exclusive in-game content. I felt torn about my $20 reward tier which gave players unique starting stats for their main leader. On one hand, it smelled like DLC to me to write content for the game but withhold it from regular players. On the other hand, backers were genuinely excited about it and it cost me little to do.

- Plan something to talk about. I listed the npc gangs, announced the soundtrack, talked about the art and my travel/work lifestyle… but then it devolved into short notices about milestones peppered with gratuitous character sketches from Sara. I wish I’d prepared more in-depth articles about game features since backers did (surprisingly) seem to read and enjoy them.

- Add rewards in the middle of the campaign. My theory: once backers have read a few updates and are getting excited about the project, they’re looking for a reason to increase their pledge. I did additive “everything above, plus” reward tiers so when I added the soundtrack at the $35 level, all the higher tiers included it too.

- Invite backers to vote on something. I had some controversy when I added the Relationships & Kids stretch goal. I didn’t explain it very well, I think I made it sound like playing house in The Sims. Anyway it got backers talking which seemed like a good thing even though they were angry, so I told them they would instead vote between that and the Seasons stretch goal. Half the comments in my whole campaign probably related to this.

- If you don’t need the money, don’t worry about the money. Unlike many projects, I had other options for funding. I used the campaign as a promotional tool and to gauge interest so I wouldn’t kill myself making the game perfect if nobody wanted it. I chose a relatively low goal ($25k) and reached it in the initial rush. I did promotional stuff for 2 hours every morning plus one full day a week, but didn’t feel the incredible stress that most teams seem to. It may not have been a huge financial success, but I did raise awareness for Rebuild and started a sense of community that I hope to carry over into the alpha & beta test.

rebuild3_ksthanks

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Rebuild 3: Only 2 days to go and new $40k stretch goal added!

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Posted by Sarah Northway | Posted in Art, Biznizz, Rebuild3 | Posted on 29-10-2013

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The Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville Kickstarter campaign made its first stretch goal with no time to lose! I’ll be adding 3 extra faction, including the 1337cREw gamer faction who were so busy having a weekend lan party (do people still have those?) that they didn’t even notice zombies filling the streets outside. Here’s Dara, their leader:

dara2_550

And here’s Madison, a bit of a rebellious youth who joins The Pharmacists. Not for the drugs, not for the protection, but because he likes their style:

rebuild3_madison_550

Now there’s only 48-ish hours to go, but in a fit of crazed optimism I’ve added another $40k stretch goal: Relationships & Kids. Somewhere in all this killing-the-zombies, saving-humanity, rebuilding-civilization, people surely must be getting on with the daily friendships, feuds and flings that make life worth living.

The basics are: the more time two survivors spend together, the more they’ll like one another. If something bad happens to a person (for example, they’re ripped to shreds by ravenous undead), their friends will be sad. If one of them is happy, they’ll give a happiness boost to their buds. And if two people really, really like eachother, and happen to be opposite genders, perhaps like magic a baby will appear!

Kids will stay safe in the fort of course, we’re not going to send them out to crawl into those tight little spaces and scavenge everything their tiny fingers can grab until they’re at least 14. Maybe 13. It’s a tough world out there.

Okay, on a less depressing note – here’s a sneak peak at one of Sara’s zombies, who she calls Cutter. I think he must have gotten into a face-biting match at some point, but I can’t quite tell if he lost or won.

rebuild3_cutter_550

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Rebuild 3: Kickstarting it

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Posted by Sarah Northway | Posted in Biznizz, Rebuild3 | Posted on 01-10-2013

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kickstarter-badge-275

The Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville Kickstarter campaign has been live for about an hour, and already has $2000 in pledges! :D I’m so excited and proud just to be a part of the crowdfunding movement which is changing how indie games get made. Since Double Fine opened the floodgates, crowdfunding has become a viable way to fund game development without a publisher. It’s a wonderful way to gather fans together and communally support the creation of something bigger than us. My heart is glowing; let’s all join hands and sing now!

Rebuild fans have already been showing their support for this sequel since the Rebuild 3 ideas wiki opened last November. I’ve gotten so many valuable suggestions that are going to make this new game the best evah, and most of them are in the game already. I’ve about reached the halfway point and am still on track for a release in Spring 2014.

The campaign will run until October 31st to raise $25,000 to help with the cost of art, writing and music. I’m going to finish the game regardless, but the more money this campaign raises now, the more awesome I can afford to make it. And if we manage to overshoot the goal, I’ve got some stretch goals I’m just itching to announce.

This is your chance to get in early and preorder Rebuild 3 for Windows & Mac (via Steam or DRM-free direct download). The first 500 will get a discount price, then there are sweet extras like exclusive starting equipment, a digital artbook, a sticker for your laptop or your name and face on actual survivors in the game.

Whoo! Let’s do this thing!

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Going Indie with Sarah Northway

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Posted by Sarah Northway | Posted in Biznizz, Development | Posted on 07-09-2013

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Hardcore Droid invited me to write an article about my rise as an indie game developer for their series on game jobs. In it I talk about education, travel, and my experiences as an indie so far.

I’m an independent game developer. Independent from publishers, independent from bosses, from 9 to 5 work schedules and commutes and possessions and national boundaries. Since I went indie in 2011 I’ve lived in 15 countries and released five games, including the post-apocalyptic strategy series Rebuild.

I know my experience isn’t the norm but if you’re keen to do the same I can tell you the steps I took to get where I am now.

Step 1: Love Games

In 1988 I was 8 years old and saving up for my first big purchase: a NES with a light gun, Duck Hunt and Super Mario Brothers. One afternoon of smushing goombas and I was hooked for a lifetime. Forget TV and books (or God help me, sports or makeup). Give me my video games! In my awkward teens I got deep into the vast open worlds of pc games like Sim City, Civilization, the Elder Scrolls and Might and Magic. Through them I learned how to navigate DOS, connect soundcard drivers and write batch scripts. I loved computers because they were full of little puzzles and let me play games but I knew the games industry was a very exclusive club of brilliant and hard working people. I believed if I was ever lucky enough to become a game developer, that video games would lose their magic and the last thing you’d want to do after working on games all day would be to play one.

I was wrong…

…read the rest on Hardcore Droid

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Incredipede and Steam Greenlight

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Posted by Sarah Northway | Posted in Biznizz | Posted on 28-11-2012

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Colin and I released Incredipede one month ago on October 25th. It’s available for sale from our website (via the Humble Store) and also on Good Old Games. There’s a Flash demo version now making its rounds on the internet, which is apparently quite popular in China and Spain. We’ve had great press in Rock Paper Shotgun, Gamasutra, Indie Game Magazine, Verge, PC Gamer and Edge Magazine. People love Thomas’s beautiful art and the game’s quirky original mechanics.

The Incredipede Gatekeeper

One of the gatekeepers in Incredipede.
Vote for us on Steam Greenlight.

But it feels to me that most of the world is still waiting to discover Incredipede, because it’s yet to appear on the One True PC Distribution Platform: Steam. There’s no doubt about it: they won. Even I (Sarah) use their store to find new games, and often buy games through Steam rather than directly from developers. The most common question we get from people looking to buy Incredipede is “will I get a Steam key when the game is released there?”. The answer is yes. When!

As you’ve probably heard, Valve recently changed the way they accept indie games like Incredipede onto their Steam store. It used to be you’d email them directly and hear back yay or nay or (more often) nothing. It was obviously an understaffed and un-ideal system, and to Valve’s credit they’re trying to improve it. Incredipede has been one of the first games to use their new submission system Steam Greenlight. On Greenlight, games are voted for by the general public and the top 10 are accepted onto Steam every month. Being a relatively unheard of unreleased game, Incredipede had little chance of getting enough votes in time to launch with Steam. The onus is on the developer to bring players in to vote for their game, a challenge that IMO makes the controversy over Greenlight’s $100 fee seem downright silly.

Incredipede flew up the ranks after release and is hovering at #20, which means it’ll likely be accepted in a couple months. Colin’s planning some improvements for the Steam release and we may push it back to February or March to avoid the post-Holiday hole. We’re both quite confident that this is going to happen, but it’s been demoralizing to have to wait, checking that number every week to see if it’s moved.

So if you haven’t yet, please go vote for Incredipede on Steam Greenlight. And yes, if you’d like to buy it now, we’ll give you a Steam key as soon as it’s on there.

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