Friday, March 29, 2013

When one suffers do all suffer?

This week more troubling news came out of the Kickstarter community as Mike Nystul from Axes and Anvils and Cairn announced that he had “screwed up” and was “out of money.”  This has, of course, stirred up the backers of those projects, as well as observers in the Kickstarter community.  Yet beyond these two small groups (less than 1000 people backed the two projects) has this caused any ripples into the larger Kickstarter community?  Doing a quick Google search I found only about 15 articles about these two projects failing.  Between them they raised only $50,000 so maybe the money is too low? Then again when Haunts: The Manse Macabre fell on hard times the internet was abuzz about “Fully Funded Kickstarter Game Goes Belly Up.”   A similar Google search pulled up over 100 articles before the search started pulling up unrelated information.  So why the disparity?  

Was it the money involved?  As I said Cairn and A&A raised over $50,000 collectively yet Haunts raised only half that with $28,000.  From a money point of view this latest story would seem to be raising the stakes.  Could it be that there are more people involved?  Haunts had over 1200 backers while Cairn//A&A had just under 1000 so does a few hundred more people equal ten times the coverage?  Probably not.  

The simplest answer is that video games are more visible to the public at large and even the larger Kickstarter community.  Cairn/A&A are actually break-out successes in their fields raising thousands more than their original goals while Haunts barely squeaked by.  Yet at their core Cairn and A&A are just very small niche projects in the smaller community of pen and paper role playing.  Haunts is very much a niche video game, but by the mere fact that it is a video game it allowed writers to try and extrapolate the problems of one project to the whole of Kickstarter.  

The community has been weighing in on the Cairn/A&A issue all week.  Zach of Lesser Gnome Games has openly worried about the future of his own role playing Kickstarter thanks to these issues.  He worries that some of the cache that Kickstarter has built up in the community is lost by this development.  Fred Hicks from Evil Hat Productions weighed in saying, “This is perhaps an illustration that you can't just dive into Kickstarter without having a real business plan -- and at times a real, pre-existing, successful business -- to handle all the maybes.”  He also brought up a comment from the Kickstarter Best Practices Facebook group saying, “Kickstarter is not a Credit card.”  All of these are good comments and bring to my mind the overarching issue: businesses fail.

As much as Kickstarter states and emphasises that Kickstarter projects are not for starting a business, a project very easily becomes a business especially in the gaming sections of the site.  As most entrepreneurs and business followers will tell you lots of startups fail, at least half of them will never make it to year five.  

Source: Created from data from Longitudinal Business Database 1977-2010, Census; Business Employment Dynamics 1994-2010, Bureau of Labor Statistics

In the end it sucks that these projects are failing.  Just as much as it sucks when a local restaurant fails, but does that mean all restaurants are failing?  Most likely no.  So I suggest all Kickstarter creators take this event as another example of what not to do and plan for it accordingly!  Make a business plan, prepare, seek outside help and consult those who have gone down this road before.  There are plenty of ways to succeed, but there are far more ways to fail and the surest way to fail is to not prepare.  


Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Mind of... March 28th

Today is March 28th, 2013 and welcome to The Mind of...  

A key part to Kickstarter projects, and I think a lot of social based projects in general, is putting yourself out there.  Bringing the audience into your world and explaining what you’re doing and why.  So to help that along I’ve decided to start a new story type called, “The Mind of...”  so you get to see inside my mind a bit and see what I’m thinking and doing.  
For now I’m focused on getting back into the swing of things so I can move forward.  I took a break from things because of some minor surgery that made me not like sitting at desks for a while.  Which is not a fun surgery to have when your job is sitting at desks for long periods of time.  As is my way I’ve sent out several interview questions, received a few back, others are unanswered, while sending out requests for interviews to still more people.  It’s a constant cycle that takes a lot more time and effort to keep on top of than I thought before actually doing it.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Battle Worlds: Kronos

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am pleased to be joined by Colin Gilzean producer at KING Art Games who is here to talk to us about their latest project Battle Worlds: Kronos.  Thank you for joining us today Colin!
Thank you for having me.
First off let me start by applauding your team for making games for people like me.  Seriously first you make a great adventure game like the Book of Unwritten Tales but now you’re doing a turn-based-strategy-game?  With Hexes even?  Can you give us the rundown of the game?  
We are, just like you, huge fans of the genre and grew up with games like Battle Isle and Panzer General and Advanced Wars. Nowadays there are only a handful of games in this genre, but most of them can barely compete with the experience from back then.
So we decide it is time for a new one and figured we’ll give it a shot. Of course we’ll continue to develop Point&Click Adventures, as we are working on  “The Raven”, but having so many dedicated and committed people, it was easy to decide to take on this challenge.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lost Vegas

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am pleased to be joined by Olivia Wells director of a documentary that strikes remarkably close to my home town, Lost Vegas.  Thank you for joining us today Olivia!

Thanks for having me!

Having been born and raised just down the road from Vegas in the small town of Needles I’ve come to think of it as my “home city” as it were.  I’ve seen the were all the normal people live that keep that tourist attraction running, is that the part of Vegas you’re sharing with your film?

The aim of our film is to show all sides of Vegas, so yes we will be exploring the glam of the Strip, the normal residents (especially those who devote their lives to alleviating homeless), and last but not least those who are living on the margins of society. One of the themes of our film is to highlight the widening gap between the rich and the poor in America, and we are using the microcosm that is Las Vegas as our focus on how this gap affects this city’s inhabitants.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Telepath Tactics #2

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am pleased to once again welcome Craig Stern of Telepath Tactics fame to talk to us.  Though this time we’re in these much nicer digs, welcome back Craig!  

Thanks for having me!

When last we spoke of Telepath Tactics it was a brief comment about how the Kickstarter had failed but that you would continue to work on the project.  It has only been 2 months or so since the last campaign, what have you been doing in the interim?

A lot! A lot. I've kept chugging away on improving the game; it now has support for attack animations, improved enemy AI, improved player interface, a "rally" function that moves everyone at once, support for dialog trees and branching campaigns, a dialog editor, you can now use Cold attacks to freeze water and create walkable ice bridges, and so on. Seriously, I have three posts full of details on everything I've added and improved since the Kickstarter.

Based on your last update to the previous Kickstarter campaign you’ve had some pretty strong feedback it sounds.  What did your previous backers want you to focus on?  

They wanted me to focus on single player, on mod support, and on improving the game's graphics.

How important is it to update your artwork?  That seems to be an expensive and time consuming addition to the program.

"Expensive and time-consuming" is a good way of putting it. Creating a new attack in Telepath Tactics takes 5 minutes; creating a new animation to go along with that attack takes a few days to a week.

That's just the nature of game art: the more impressive the art, the bigger a content bottleneck it creates. That was the secret of the old ASCII roguelikes (and their more recent descendants like Dwarf Fortress): when you strip away the bottleneck, you can do so much more to stuff your game full of content and awesome mechanics.

My own personal opinion is that good visuals are nice, but they should be secondary to having strong and engaging interactive systems. Of course, that's just my perspective. Most people don't think about the trade-offs inherent in development; they just want nice visuals. And hey, that's fine. I'm the developer, it's my job to make the magic happen. If playing Mary Poppins with the proverbial spoonful of sugar is what it will take to sell people a tactics game with deep mechanics and mod support, then that is exactly what I'll do.

Friday, March 22, 2013

False Advertising

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am pleased to be joined by the lovely ladies of JAMFILMS.  Jen, Avery, and Michelle have come over to talk to us about their film, “False Advertising.”  Thank you ladies for joining us!

Thank you so much for having us! We really appreciate it.

So your film is a “feature length documentary about how the media negatively affects women's body image and self-esteem.”  Can you tell us a bit more about the film?  

Yeah, definitely! False Advertising is about the media and how it negatively affects women’s body image and self-esteem. Women are taught from a young age that looks are the most important part of who they are and, sadly that is where their value lies. Unfortunately, there is a strict mold one must fit to be considered “beautiful” in today’s society. This is a direct result of the limited portrayal of what is considered beautiful in the media today.
In our documentary you will hear the stories and experiences of young women from all different backgrounds; stories about how the media has negatively affected them and those around them. We believe personal stories are very important because stories are easier to relate to than statistics and facts. We have had the pleasure of interviewing a couple plus-size models as well as some women in the industry who act and sing. We believe it is important for people to see how the media affects all women - even those in the industry. Also, a couple of the girls we interviewed have started organizations to help girls of all ages combat the messages the media is sending. Some of the organizations include The I Am Movement started by Lissa Lauria and Love Your Flawz and The Giving Keys started by Caitlin Crosby. We believe it is also important to show how women are working to make positive changes in our society. Essentially, we are all working together to accomplish a common goal; to change how beauty and women are portrayed in the media.
In the end, the goal of our documentary is to help women, and men, start thinking critically about the media and how they define what is considered "beautiful." It is detrimental to women of all ages when they internalize this ideal of beauty and strive to become it. We want women to know they are not alone in their feelings of frustration, inadequacy, and insecurity and, with each other, we can hopefully change the way we view beauty and ourselves. We believe the media can be used for good but in this day and age the majority of what is being produced isn't cutting it. Women of all ages, types, size, and color need to speak up and share their stories. After watching our documentary, we hope it will spark much needed conversation about these issues and empower women to stand up and fight for change; change in the way the media portrays women and beauty. We hope that after watching our documentary everyone will view the media in a different light and see it for what it really is: False Advertising.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Write the Future

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined from across the pond by Tom Hunter who is talking to us about his “Write the Future” Kickstarter project.  Thank you for joining us today Tom!

Thank you for the opportunity. One of the main things that first drew me into Kickstarter was the sense of a shared experience linking all of these cool people and projects together, and it’s great to see that conversation extending out to the blogosphere as well.

Plus reading the Kickstarter Conversation blog introduced me to a whole load more cool stuff, so it really is a pleasure to be invited to chat here with you.

Your main title seems to leave out one of the biggest things, in my opinion, about your project.  That being your project is organised by the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature and taking place at the Royal Society in London!  Sure that’d be hard to put in the title but those are kind of big deals!  Tell us more about what this is all about.  

You’re right, being invited to do organise an event like this at the Royal Society is definitely a big deal, and they’ve been great (and very trusting) in letting us in to use their space in this way.

It started out with the Royal Society approaching us to host the main ceremony event for the Clarke Award, which is taking place on the same evening as Write The Future. That’s always been an invite only event, which makes sense for an award ceremony, but both I and they wanted to see if we could push that a bit, and since we’ve got the space in the evening and it’s basically the same set-up - chairs, a screen, a lectern etc etc - we just thought maybe we could use the space in the day as well and organise something a little different.

In that way Write The Future is very much an experimental event for both us and the Royal Society, and we wanted to reflect that in the programming where we’re deliberately bringing different disciplines together, and also in the way we went about promoting the event. So we’re going to have science fiction authors talking alongside technologists and futurists, social media and marketing experts and Royal Society Fellows conducting the kind of amazing cutting edge research that ought to be enough to inspire an entire next generation of Sci-Fi authors.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Anna (A Starseed Novel)

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined the by the lovely and talented Meghan Riley who has written an award winning novel called Anna (A Starseed Novel)  that she has come to talk to us about.  Thank you for joining us today Meghan!

Thank you for giving me the chance to talk a little bit about Anna!

I think the fact that you have the subtitle: (A Starseed Novel) along with declaring the book a “YA Science Fiction” story means I’m not just about to read a tale of high school romance.  Or am I?  Would you tell us a bit more about the novel?  

There is a little bit of romance. And I mean a LITTLE. My main character, Anna, is a 17 year-old girl, and I tried to incorporate a little bit of every aspect of what it means to be a girl that age. Of course, that means sibling dynamics, friend drama, school stress...and crushes.. But I didn’t want that to be central to my story. Teenagers are constantly trying to put themselves in different “clothes” to see what fits. But no matter what we do, no matter what persona we take on as human being, our true selves eventually win out and that’s one theme in this novel.

Anna loves astrophysics and wants to be a physicist someday, but it’s going to require her to leave home to go to college. This is a struggle for her, because ever since her father died in Afghanistan, she’s been very protective of her family. She fears things with her brother and mother will start to fall apart if she leaves. So, she’s feeling torn. To make matters more complicated, her crush suddenly takes notice of her and she doesn’t quite know how to handle it or if he even likes her that way, because she’s led a sort of sheltered life. She gets a taste of being a true teenager, which is something she’s deprived herself of and it messes up her routine.

But all of this is a distraction, because, as Anna is dealing with life as a teenager, she’s also dealing with a sort of medical mystery. For as long as she can remember, she’s had these strange spots on her arm. They’ve stayed relatively the same for most of her life, but at the beginning of her story, they start to change. First, a rash. Then, boils. Then, hallucinations. She comes up with very logical explanations, but something happens, and she realizes that she has no more explanations. She has to figure out what is happening to her before something bad happens.

There are a lot of twists and turns, and people who don’t usually read Science Fiction have liked it.

I understand the story was released last year on Wattpad, how did you discover that site?  What was it like winning their 2012 Watty Award?  

I originally participated in some traditional online writing communities, but it was taking four or more weeks for me to get feedback on my writing. So, I went searching for something new and I ran across Wattpad. I signed up in February, but was concerned at how public it was. There were a lot of people participating and not as much structure as what I was used to. In June 2012, just as I was finishing up a rewrite of Anna, I decided to take the leap. I started posting the novel chapter-by-chapter and got feedback instantly, and I was surprised to find people were really liking the book. I got some really passionate messages from readers, on Wattpad and on the social networks I’m on.

I didn’t originally plan to enter the 2012 Watty Awards. There are a LOT of books on Wattpad and thousands were entering the awards. In the end, those messages from my readers spurred me to enter. The first round of winners were chosen according to reads, votes, and frequency of activity. I ended up in the final round in the Science Fiction: Undiscovered Gems category, a subcategory chosen based on number of fans of each writer. I was pretty new to Wattpad, compared to other finalists. I was up against four other books and ended up winning by a rather large margin. It was stressful throughout the few months it happened, but I was thrilled to win.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Shackleton Crater

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by Josef Shindler VP of Joe Got Game to talk about their new Kickstarter Shackleton Crater.  Thank you for joining us today Josef.  

JS: I’m very happy to be here James! I’m really excited to share my project with you today.

As a current NASA employee and a full supporter of the Liftport group’s endeavour to create a Lunar Space Elevator I am extremely interested by your premise for Shackleton Crater.  Would you explain your concept a bit for us?  

JS: Shackleton Crater was born out of a couple of elements. The project evolved from pressure that Joe Ybarra’s friends were putting on him to remake M.U.L.E., a game he produced with Dan Bunten and Ozark Software back in the early 80’s. During a lunch brainstorming session he and I hit on the idea that if you were going to extend M.U.L.E, you’d extend it into a colony building game. Some research into colonization efforts around the globe revealed Shackleton Crater as a potentially interesting site on the Moon. When we took all these elements together we saw that we had a concept for a lunar colonization strategy game that could be rooted in hard science while still being incredibly fun.

Shackleton Crater is billed as a “fast paced turn based strategy game” isn’t that contradictory?  

JS: Not at all. We are designing a turn in Shackleton Crater to take a few minutes. This allows the rhythm of the game to move quickly while still allowing you to take breaths when you need them.

The game is described as being four stages, are these four separate styles of gameplay like in SPORE or do they just flow together?  

JS: The stages are incremental, but they do flow together. The focus of each stage is actually the strategic objective as opposed to the rule set. We did this deliberately to model the direction a real colony would take - they would focus on survival, production, expansion, and finally construction of scientific wonders. You will slide back and forth across the stage boundaries as you undertake each project - a good example of this is when you branch out from Shackleton Crater to build communication dishes on the far side of the moon. You are essentially building a new colony, but all your other work is going on at the same time.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Once Upon a Horror

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by writer/filmmaker Rolfe Kanefsky to talk about his Kickstarter project “Once Upon a Horror.”  Thank you for joining us today Rolfe!
Thank you for expressing interest in my very first kickstarter project. This is all new to me.

You’re quite welcome! “Once Upon A Horror” is a very evocative title, would you tell us more about the project?  

Well, I’ve always been a fan of series like “The Twilight Zone”, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, “Ray Bradbury Theater”, and of course, “Tales From The Crypt”. I was always a little disappointed with shows such as “Tales From The Darkside”, “Freddy’s Nightmares”, “Monsters”, etc... It has been awhile since we had a good show like “Crypt” or anthology movie like “Creepshow”. It’d say the most successful movie in recent memory was “Trick r’ Treat”. Although now, there seems to be a trend starting again with “VHS”, “S-VHS”, “The ABC’s Of Death”.

So, “ONCE UPON A HORROR” started as four tales that I wrote specifically for Tiffany Shepis to host and hopefully star in the last episode like Boris Karloff in “Black Sabbath”. I thought it would be fun to take the sexy late night hostess “Elvira”-style with Tiffany.  The four tales could easily be a 90 minute anthology movie but my real goal is to turn this into a pilot for a weekly television series or Fearnet webseries.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Day of the Dead

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am pleased to be speaking to the trio of ladies behind the “Day of the Dead” animation project.  Ashley, Lindsey, Kate, thank you for joining us today.  

Hello James ! We are very glad to be here. It’s really nice to receive such a warm welcome from the Kickstarter community.

Would you be so kind as to talk about the animation project and how the Kickstarter relates to it?  

Well, every year, Ringling College of Art and Design has their seniors demonstrate what they learned during their time at school by making a short film. They can either make one by themselves or in a team (in our case, 3 students). The students must come up with their own story, characters, and environments. They also have to animate, texture, and light their film all on their own. You might say it’s 100% made-from-scratch by us, so it’s a very personal and special project. They staff also encourages us to have a good musical score that helps tell our story. It’s not a requirement that we hire a composer, but we want our film to be as great as it can be.
Music can be a very important part of a film; it can help convey the emotions that the character is feeling, and helps captivate the audience by bringing our world to life. Without music the film will be boring and dull! As visual artist we are not that great when it comes to composing music, so that is why we hired Corey Wallace, a professional composer, to help us write beautiful, fun, and entertaining music.

However, as typical poor college students, it’s been hard to scrape together the funds to get a great composer; so that is why we have turned to Kickstater.  We hoped that the people of the internet will love our film as much as we do and help us reach our goals. Which we did!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Silly Sousa

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by the long performing and talented Don Farrar who has come in to talk to us about his latest project SILLY SOUSA.  Thank you for joining us today Don!

Hi, James, thanks for having me.

Why don’t we start by talking about who this Sousa guy was and why a silly version of him is worth backing?  

Well, most people know his name, and that he wrote marches. What they don’t (maybe) know is, that he was the equivalent of a rock star in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, traveling the world with a 100 piece band and filling concert halls everywhere he went. He was one of the most famous people in the world in his time.

Why is this project worth backing? That would be for others to say, really, but I feel it is worth doing, for one thing, because nothing like it has ever been done before. I just know in my gut that it has value, and needs to be out there for an audience to enjoy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rifftrax Twilight

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am pleased to be welcoming Mike, Kevin and Bill from Rifftrax to talk about one of the worst movies of all time Twilight!  More specifically their MST3K brand of live Riffing of the movie, thank you for joining us today guys.  

(K) Happy to virtually be here.  Or there. Where am I?

(B) I am happier than Kevin to be here.  OR there, or wherever.  Sorry, I’m very competitive.

This Kickstarter project isn’t for a Rifftrax of Twilight since you’ve already done that, but to come up with enough dough to shove it in the face of Hollywood and pay for the rights to a do a live show of Twilight?  

(K) Close.  Yes we’d love to do a live riff of Twilight in theaters nationwide.  We’ve been doing these shows for a few years now, they’re a blast to do and people love to see live riffing, but we’ve never been able to get our mitts on a big juicy Hollywood movie.  And since Twilight topped our own poll as the Worst Movie Franchise Ever, well it seems perfect.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tornado Chasers

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am pleased to be joined by the one and only Reed Timmer whom our readers might know from Discovery Channel’s  Storm Chasers series.  Reed has stopped by to talk about his passion and his Kickstarter project to fund the 2013 season of his Web TV Show Tornado Chasers.  Thank you for joining us today Reed.  

Thanks James. Great to be here.

Tornado Chasers seems like a pretty self-explanatory name, so how different is the series from your previous work on Storm Chasers?  With one season in the can what brings you to Kickstarter to film the second season?

Storm Chasers was a great experience and I think it made a lot of people aware of what we do as chasers and the dangers of extreme weather. With our new series, Tornado Chasers, we want to give viewers the real experience of chasing. It’s more intimate. We want you to feel like you’re in the Dominator intercepting tornadoes with us. We want you to be part of our team. Because we’re independently produced, we can show you an entire tornado sequence in real time without cutting to commercials. It’s less a reality show and more a true documentary show.

That’s where Kickstarter comes in. At the end of the first season we realized that our viewers loved our approach and preferred it to Storm Chasers in many ways. We have our Emmy-nominated executive producer, Chris Whiteneck, but the show is still truly a grass roots operation. For 2013 our production team wants to take it to the next level, update our equipment, implement new techniques and enhance the production quality even more. We also thought it would be a great way to offer a “season pass” and extra goodies to our incredible fans.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Gunship First Strike!

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am pleased to be joined by Steve Wood creator of Gunship: First Strike!   Thank you for joining us today Steve!

No problem - thanks for allowing me to add my thoughts!

First off congratulations!  You made it through the entire Kickstarter process from designing and creating your game, to the actual campaign, and now at long last: delivery.  How does it feel to be done?  

lol - I’ll let you know when I get there!  I still have one last batch of shipments to go, but they’re all packed and ready to label.  I hope to have all orders out by the middle of next week.  But it does feel good to be almost done.  It was a lot more work and planning than I thought it would be.

I think it’s pretty fair to say this has not been a smooth road has it?  From the years of hard work getting the game designed in the first place and all of the revisions and play tests.  To the hugely successful Kickstarter campaign.  Then to the hang-ups and overruns of production, shipping, and customs there has been trial after trial with this game.  In the end though was it worth it?  Are you happy with what you’ve accomplished?

Absolutely.  Nothing worth accomplishing is ever easy.  And I believe that when mistakes are made, and you take the time to actually LEARN from them, you gain valuable Experience.  It’s one thing to have someone tell you what to expect and how to prepare.  But it’s in the trenches where you learn how to build a business, and I have been through some really interesting adventures during this whole thing!  My only regret is that my Backers had to wait longer than they should have.  Hopefully in the end, they will enjoy Gunship and the long wait will just seem like a distant memory...

If you could go back and change something along the way what would it be?  

There are several things that I would change, and WILL change on the next one.  But if I had to choose just one, I would have charged more for International shipping.  I jumped into this whole Kickstarter thing and saw other projects charging 50 dollars for International shipping.  I thought that was really unfair and wanted to open Gunship up to this great overseas market.  So I pinned a lot of hopes on the actual shipping weight and charged 20 dollars, hoping the actual cost would be 30 and that I could subsidize the same 10 bucks that I was giving my U.S. Backers.  In the end, the games weighed a lot more than I thought and the actual shipping cost overseas went to 50-55 dollars each.  I lost THOUSANDS of dollars on that.  Not to mention further delaying these guys while I juggled funds.  It’s embarrassing and expensive when you fail to plan things like that.
But the good news is that the International community FINALLY got a good deal on shipping, lol!

What is the biggest thing you learned from this entire process?  

How to be a businessman/shipper.  Designing a game is great - but there is so much MORE.  You need to know how to coordinate all of it.  How much to charge, how to get the games to America.  How to store them, what shipping materials you’ll need to get them safely to the customer.  How to tell 1106 people that their games are going to be late.  How to deal with that guy who rates your lifetime achievement a 1 out of 10 and doesn’t even tell you why.  And how to use that guy to motivate you to try even harder to accomplish your mission.

But the most IMPORTANT thing I learned, in the big scheme of things, is how truly awesome the brotherhood of gamers really is.  I had a complaint rate of smaller than 1%, even when things went wrong.  Everyone has been really patient, positive and encouraging.  I have made so many friends in different countries that I talk to on Skype.  I’ve met people in the USA that I plan to visit soon.  Volunteers are everywhere - from the guys who post pictures for me when I don’t have time, to the players who post Player Aids to help the next guy learn.  When I announced that the post office had raised the rates in the middle of my shipping, and that I was running low on funds, guys sent me money via PayPal.  They didn’t have to do that.  I’m just a new publisher that no one ever heard of.  But they believed in me enough to befriend me and reach out a helping hand.  And that is what it is all about.

A few weeks ago I had a chance to talk to Dan Yarrington from Game Salute about the state of the Kickstarter universe.  Since your project was marked by the “Springboard Seal of Quality” it of course came up in the course of our discussions.  Would it be fair to say that your project became a “victim of your own success” as it were?  With all the stretch goals and extras tossed in it couldn’t have made your life easier when it came to fulfillment.  

Let me start this by saying that Dan at GS is a great and helpful guy and I think that Game Salute offers a lot to game publishers just getting started.  In the end, I decided not to use them as my distributor because I am stubborn and wanted to take things in a direction that they do not offer.  I still have not found that perfect path of distribution and I’m “going rogue” for now and doing this on my own.  More about that later, perhaps.

Did the Stretch Goals and Extras make me miserable?  of course! :)  Since Gunship has been in different stages of playtest for many years, I was lucky enough to have plenty of things to throw in there that were already combat-proven.  And a few things like the Punchboard Tokens and Engraved Dice came from desperately trying to come up with ONE MORE thing to throw in - these items became some of my favorite new Gunship components that I now could never imagine the game being without.  But yes, when fulfilling my orders (I packed every single box personally) it required an elaborate code system that I could entrust myself to follow.  And I still forgot to add extra dice to several orders, and a few other assorted items to others.  If the whole thing had been streamlined better, I could have had an assembly line of volunteers to knock it out much faster.  It was so crazy at some points that I don’t even think a dedicated fulfillment company would have touched it.

Speaking of stretch goals do you think they’re a good thing?  You’ve already explained to the backers (which I am one) how certain stretch goals had to be dropped or retooled due to issues along the way.  Do you think they’re an integral part of Kickstarter or are they  “bullshit” as Andy Schatz calls them? That the features being put up as stretch goals “ should decide if the game is incomplete without those features. If the game is missing a finger, add a finger, if the game is not missing a finger, don’t add one.”  

I think that they are a good thing IF you are adding things that you have already playtested, quoted and weighed.  But when you are in the middle of Kickstarter Craziness, getting higher and higher pledges that you never dreamed of, and the people are requesting the NEXT Stretch Goal (HIGHER! HIGHER!  HIGHER!)  you can get excited and start promising the world, because your dreams are suddenly coming true and every cool idea that you ever had for your game is now possible.  But not all of those dreams are fully ready for the public.  Not all of them are going to keep your box under the 4-pound International Priority Mail limit.  And not all of them are going to be profitable.

I do agree that the game needs to be complete without adding all of these new things.  Stretch goals should be all about upgrading the components to better quality or adding really cool things that do not require a lot of new playtesting.  For example, adding plastic minis instead of punchboard tokens.  But you better know how much those plastic minis will cost and weigh BEFORE Kickstarter because the chaos of battle is NOT the time to learn! :)

How insane was your shipping?  Do you think you would have been better off with a fulfillment agency like Game Salute than going on your own?  Since you did do it yourself will it be easier in the future since customs has already “shaken you down” as it were?  

I’d say moderately insane.  Like I said before, I’m not even sure that a fulfillment agency could have handled it.  Not to take anything away from them, but I was just very intimate with everything and I think it needed my personal handling.  I did save a ton of money doing it myself, and the fact that I am a multitasker/organizer by nature was a big plus.  I think it will be MUCH easier the next time around.  Now I know what materials to have on hand and how much it costs to send a game to just about anywhere.  As far as customs goes, I’m not sure that I will ever go down that path again.  I’m looking for US suppliers and may only use China to supplement what I can’t find here (and just pay extra for air mail).  Dealing with Customs left an extremely sour taste in my mouth, and if the east coast ports had gone on strike (which they came within hours of doing while my games were at port) it probably would have bankrupted me.  Not sure I want to take that chance again.

I will admit I was surprised at just how big the Gunship boards are.  Are you happy with the build quality of the game?  

Well I’ve been playing with actual-size prototypes for years, so I knew what to expect in that regard.  The cards could have been thicker and I have heard rumors of warping wings, etc.  But I was very happy with the colors, the dice, the rulebooks, tokens etc.  The box has a nice heaviness to it when you pick it up from the store shelf.  Next time, or next game, I’ll make sure the cards are better and I plan to address the warping thing once I am done shipping and have time to experiment.  I don’t believe it;s a huge deal and a lot of guys sleeve the cards anyway.  For a first-timer like me, I’m happy enough with the quality but I do see room for improvement, and I will.

How hard was it working with an overseas manufacturer?  Do you think you’d work with them again in the future?  Are there no US options?  

I addressed some of this above, but I’d say that WinGo was pretty good to deal with.  There was obviously a language barrier from time to time but nothing that could not be navigated.  I’m already getting quotes from them for a few components for the upcoming expansion, and it’s going easier (see “Experience”, above!)  If I chose to stay domestic next time, it would be more because of the hassle of International shipping and not because I did not get along with my manufacturer.  The price is definitely a plus though!

What’s next for Escape Pod Games?  I noticed an ad for a carrier expansion on the box I received.  

A TON!  I’m launching an expansion on Kickstarter in April.  That will be followed this summer by new accessories and game Modes.  Then, in October, we’ll be launching Gunship: Second Wave! which will include the gigantic Heavy Battle Cruiser.  A few more Modes and accessories by the end of the year, culminating in the third part of the trilogy next year.  Then I plan to launch a totally new game in a new genre in 2014 but there will always be more Gunship to come!

How did you discover Kickstarter?

I think I stumbled upon it in a BGG thread.  I was intrigued by this as I had a game idea but no money or any way of getting that kind of money.  Did my research and figured this was the way to go.  Met Luca Oleastri and found WinGo right in that same time period and the rest is history!

What kind of media attention did you receie with your project?  How did you spread the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Did you use Kicktraq to track your progress?  

Did not use KickTraq as Kickstarter has its own integral user tools for such things.  Although I’ll give it a try next time around.  I mostly spread the word by contacting game sites and asking to do interviews and podcasts, then started buying banner ad space and ran a BGG Contest.  I have a pretty cool website and I highly recommend having one - makes it much easier to direct traffic to a home base where potential Backers can find answers to their questions.  I’d definitely say that you should start marketing in a “Coming Soon” kind of way, then graduate to “Now on Kickstarter” - you need to start telling people about your game way beforehand.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

So many that I could write a book (and I just might!)  I think that the bulk of it can be learned by reading this interview, though.  At some point things are going to slow down and I will write up something and post it to help others.  One of the goals of Escape Pod Games is to climb up the ladder and reach down to help the next guy who’s struggling to get on.  As a fellow gamer, it is my duty to do so.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Sure.  As you can see, I love to type my every thought and idea.  Always nice to have a place to do so, and I’m sure that my wife appreciates the outlet!  As a final thought I would like to throw in a shameless plug for my game, which can be found at:

Gunship will be launched to the rest of the general public in early March but you can join our Mailing List or email us to preorder.  Every copy I sell helps me to grow the company and get to where I’d like to be, so please stop by!  Thanks again!

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from you in the future!

You will!  -Steve