Thursday, October 3, 2013

Professional Starcaft as the backdrop for a visual novel?



Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! Today I am joined by TJ Huckabee and Tim who are here to talk to us about their team’s Kickstarter SC2VN - The Esports Visual Novel.  Thank you for joining us today TJ and Tim!
TJ: Glad to be here.

Tim: Excited to talk about our game

As long time readers know I have special place for Visual Novels, can you tell us a bit about SC2VN and why you decided to make a visual novel?  
Sure. I’ve been playing Starcraft since early 2010 and making videos about the game since about 2012. One of the videos I made dealt with a “what if” scenario: what if there was an SC2 visual novel? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8COOrPHM-Q)
I was contacted by Tim and asked if this is something he thought we could actually make. From there, we began work.
Yeah, I saw TJ’s dating simulator video and was actually very impressed by the writing.  After watching the video I thought it would be really funny to make a full length game, but after giving it more thought we both realized this could be a very serious project that would produce a game that would be fun to play and experience.



The backdrop of professional Starcraft 2 esports is an odd choice of setting.  What made you decide on this setting for the story?  Will people who don’t know a thing about Starcraft still enjoy this story?  
Important of any medium is breaking out of the expected and the tedious. We didn’t want to make a game set in a Japanese high school, you know? Still, Starcraft’s pro scene is more than just unique. It serves as a great setting.
I had a write up that goes in depth into the history of two Starcraft leagues (found here: http://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=23276#p292124). This is only one aspect of the rich history that Starcraft offers as a backdrop for a narrative.
We absolutely intend for people that don’t even know what Starcraft is to be able to play and enjoy our game. In fact, one of the goals in creating this project is the bridge the gap between communities. We want to walk away from our project and see SC2 fans get into VNs, and VN fans get into SC2.
The backdrop is definitely unique for VNs, but I think it fits very well.  The world of professional SC2 is very rich and people are always asking to know more when I tell them about it.  It’s cool to see TJ answering questions on VN forums because the players are engaged with the world that seems like fantasy (people playing video games for money), but it’s actually a reality that is happening right now.

I hope we see similar themed VN’s or games about professional gamers in the future.

What game engine are you using for this project?  Is this Ren’Py or something else?  
Ren’py. It’s a great engine that allows for quick edits and relatively robust mechanics. We love it.
It let us develop a demo that had a polish to it, and what’s exciting is we can make the final game even better now that we both know how to approach development.  I previously never had any VN or game development experience.
What do you mean say that SC2VN “will contain adult material and scenes?”
Ahaha… Well, one thing I want to make clear is that this is not a dating sim. The story is focused far more on the narrative and the main character, Mach, than anything else. Our game should be fun to read, but also make relevant commentary on issues we address: what it’s like to be aimless and twenty, what it’s like to lose, what it’s like to be a foreigner.
All of that said, part of the draw of the project was the idea that the player can score with a professional gamer. We intend to deal with these situations as a game like Mass Effect might. It’s a part of our project, but isn’t the focus.
Why did you guys decide to release the game for free when it’s complete?  What do you say to backers who think, “Well if it’s going to come out for free why should I back it?”  

That’s definitely something we thought of and even discussed. The thing we ultimately decided was that we want as many people as possible to play our game, enjoy it, and give us feedback. We may end up going forward with a ‘pay what you want’ model, which I think gives us the best of both worlds.
We want our backers to really WANT the game made. It’s true that you could see the game, love it, not back, and then play with it’s released. That disappoints us, but people are free to choose not to support us, just as someone is free to choose to support us for $350.
We hope that people understand that we want to deliver a really high quality experience when the game is released, and do it in a reasonable time frame.  Having the resources to commissions artists, musicians, voice actors, and anyone else is going to be enormously helpful in letting us release the game within a timely manner.  We know there may be delays, but we don’t want to get stuck in a development limbo.  From personal experience, I know that working on projects on your own free time, while asking others to work on projects for free on their own free time, can lead to a lot of difficulties and delays.
I also want to clarify that neither TJ and I are taking a phat check off SC2VN, all the money is going to other artists.
I’d like to thank you for putting a budget breakdown into your campaign.  While it doesn’t put hard numbers into the breakdown, it does discuss where the money is going.  How important do you think it is for Kickstarter projects to include a budget breakdown?  

We think it’s very important. The purpose of funds for a Kickstarter can seem extremely nebulous at times, occasionally coming down to living expenses for the creators alone. We don’t like that approach.

In fact, there’s a small amount of controversy going on in the Starcraft 2 community on various crowdfunded documentaries that have been unreleased for two years now. It’s made the climate for crowdfunding the SC2 community extremely cold.

In a crowd-funded project like this, it’s best to always be transparent when possible.   I understand that some projects can’t disclose that information for one reason or another, but luckily we have the opportunity to let our backers know how the game’s resources will lead to the final game.  

How did you discover Kickstarter?

I discovered Kickstarter through news articles on days when projects were first starting to be funded. I’ve always liked the idea of Kickstarter, and I’m glad to finally give the website a try as a creator.
Same as TJ, I heard and saw a lot of projects over the past few years.  I never thought I would be involved in a crowd-funded project like this, let alone having it be a game like this!
A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

We’ve posted tons of threads in relevant forums, used my youtube channel, hosted livestreamed storyboarding events, and reached out on twitter and tumblr. One of the things I didn’t realize was how we would need to turn eyes into backers. We got plenty of views and decent coverage, but a thread with 20k views gained us only one backer.
We have planned more livestreams, Starcraft history, and participation from Starcraft community figures. We have a long way to go.
Again, this is our first Kickstarter so we’re learning as we go, but we talk frequently and try to read up as much as we can while looking at the data of who is backing us and who is not.  Right now, we’re going to try to deliver as much content as possible about our game to show we’re capable of completing this project.  I’m really interested in seeing our live streams succeed in publicizing our game because its a great medium in the SC2 community for engaging players.
What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

A lot of our coverage has been on Facebook, twitter and forums. It’s a novel idea that is always met with some interest and willingness to download, it’s just turning that interest into backers that has been our struggle.
I’ve used Kicktraq, and we’re currently on track for around 6k, a little less than the 7k we’re looking for.
So far no big gaming news websites have talked about us (we’d make a great story *hint*).  We’re definitely working on refining our plan to publicize ourselves better.
Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Do your preparation beforehand. Scrambling while you’re in the middle of a Kickstarter project is never fun.
Don’t let the Kickstarter end your enthusiasm. Fundraising and publicizing is a lot different from writing, and it’s something I’ll be glad to be past to work on the game.

Having a good network was really key to spreading the word about our game.  Starting a Kickstarter is step 1, step 2 to infinity is the publicizing, content creation, user engagement, and actually delivering on the project!
Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Download our demo and, if you like what you see, back our project!
Along with backing us - telling your friends, tweeting about us, posting on forums, or streaming our game really helps us get the word out!
Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

Thanks for having us.

Thank you!