I gave a little talk - mostly just a Q&A - to the Seattle Unity3D User's Group last night.
They didn't record it, but Joseph Stankowicz took notes.
I also learned about the Washington Interactive Network REACTOR program - a program to accelerate small studios making games and apps. They have office space, mentoring, and cool people are involved. If you're an indie in the Seattle area, they could be a big help.
So the awesome keeps awesomeing - we've hit Stretch Goal #3, and Brian Luzietti is doing stuff. He's got some new jetpack sounds that I plan to get in the game today, just before the Indiecade deadline.
Now, something that's buried pretty far down on the Kickstarter page, that nobody has picked up on yet, is that I'm offering classes in game development.
After teaching at Digipen for a bit, and getting paid hardly anything for a ton of work, and thinking about the ginormous tuition the students are paying, I thought it would be a good idea to cut out the middle man.
Also, I was looking at other Kickstarter projects and thinking it was a bit lame that people were donating a thousand dollars to get, like, a tavern named after them or whatever. (And then I did exactly that with my own. But at least there's only five "taverns" in my game - it's valuable because it's rare! And you get all the other stuff too.) But I also thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if they got to create a whole level?"
But wait: not everyone knows how to make a videogame level. Which is why I then thought, "What if I offered one-on-one online (or in person, if they happen to be in the Seattle area) instruction and worked together with these budding level designers to make these levels?"
So that's what I'm doing. You'll get at least ten hours of one-on-one instruction by me. You'll get your level in the game, with a big bold credit by you, like the way N+ levels often have the designer's name on them. Also: you'll be keeping the rights to the stuff you make—so you can use what you create in your own games. (Though, at least for the near future, without the swinging character controller that's the key to Energy Hook. Still - your assets and level could be the foundation for something cool of your own.)
"But wait," you say, "that means I'd be paying you to work for you?"
Oh, no, you're onto me! Yes! Yes, you kind of would!
But I still feel like it's a good deal. You're getting real-world experience, mentoring from a veteran developer, and credit working on a notable game for a lot less than the price of going to game design school.
The bonus levels will be tangential to the main game. Players who don't want to play them won't have to, but I have a feeling some of them might end up being more fun than the core levels. What I'm imagining is at certain times the Energy Hook protagonist, Delilah, has to sleep. And when she sleeps she dreams about Energy Hook. And those dreams are the Bonus Levels that you all will make. Maybe sometimes they're pretty much like the regular Energy Hook levels; maybe sometimes they're COMPLETELY CRAZY. It's up to you. (But I get final cut.)
Make sure you have several solid days to work on your level before signing up for this - because if your level isn't done in time we just might have to ship without it. And if you're interested, you should probably get in touch first and ask me any questions you might have: [email protected].
Rereading yesterday's post I hate the sound of it. I come off as one of those "Look at how my hard work paid off" types and that's not how I feel. How I really feel is lucky that I'm able to raise any money at all being at home with my family, doing what I love.
Hell, I was lucky that Dogan Koslu convinced Ali Atabek to hire me at Mindcraft when I was out of college, getting me into the game industry in the first place; I was lucky that Peter Akemann and Dogan brought me on as the second employee at Treyarch; I was lucky to be in the right place and the right time to be a lead on the Spider-Man games - if that hadn't happened I never would have come up with the 3D swinging mechanic, and even if I had it would have probably sunk into obscurity; I was lucky to be on a team of great guys who made the mechanic so much better than my original idea; and now I'm lucky that people remember the thing, and I'm lucky that high profile games journalists have written about Energy Hook!
I really don't want to be the guy who eats fortune's cookie.
More luck: I'm lucky to have made friends with Jakub Koziol, creator of Little Alchemy, who not only recorded most of the game footage but also came up with the idea of having a launch party on twitch.tv and became the game's first (and so far only) Executive Producer - his initial contribution gave the whole campaign a huge boost, making it look awesome right out of the gate.
Not to mention I'm lucky that H1bbe, one of the early prealpha players, was able to record footage for the Kickstarter, and that he had contacts in the Ludum Dare scene, so when he spread news about the game there it spread. Maybe it was because of that that NerdCubed saw it, and then I was lucky that NerdCubed tweeted about it!
So ... my real advice is to make awesome friends ... which is kind of down to luck, huh?
The Energy Hook Kickstarter may not be up there with Brian Fargo's stuff but for what's pratically a one-person shop it's doing quite famously. So people are asking me if I had any secret sauce.
Strategically, I think the Spider-Man 2 nostalgia has been really helpful, and the $1 thing was unique and a lot of press were interested in that, so those two things combined drove a lot of backers.
So I'd definitely recommend finding a bit of nostalgia that hasn't been tapped yet. (Skaff Elias encouraged me to lead with "I made Spider-Man 2" rather than "Check out Energy Hook", and this tiny article by Seth Godin concurs - http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/10/no-one-ever-bought-anything-on-an-elevator.html.) I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing a $1 funding goal (I think it's a pretty cool thing to do, obviously, if you already have a viable game made, but it may not make much news the next time somebody does it) but I'd definitely recommend doing something out of the ordinary or seemingly crazy with your Kickstarter. That's my strategic advice. And I think that's probably what's really important, though bad tactics could easily undermine a good Kickstarter.
For example, selling a bunch of t-shirts at $25 might give you what looks like a high funding result but in actuality makes you a t-shirt merchant instead of a game developer.
(My t-shirts, at $60, were priced too high--I haven't sold that many of them--but backers also get the game, and it means I get to keep the Kickstarter money for funding development instead of shipping t-shirts.)
Tactical advice is a lot easier to give, but I broke no new ground here. A fellow by the name of Erik Sebellin-Ross gave me tons of advice and help in this area and I recommend you give him money for his services if you have any to give.
He pointed me to this article, which changed the way I think about Kickstarter: http://www.thedominoproject.com/?p=2228 The important thing here is if you don't already have a community, Kickstarter isn't going to magically find you one. So I upped my efforts to build community and tell people about the game. I spent somewhere between a third and half of my 'work' time doing this. Not only did I blog more; I youtubed; set up & maintained the facebook page; got on twitter and used it almost daily (I've had more bang-for-buck out of twitter than out of facebook. YMMV.), and shared all my news to G+ as well. It was slow going, but at the moment I launched the Kickstarter (excuse me for flopping out my social penis here, such as it is) I had 200 likes on facebook, 901 twitter followers, 501 people who had circled me in G+, 350 Facebook friends, 745 e-mail newsletter subscribers, and 682 Reader subscribers to the blog, which averages 170 hits/day according to Typepad. (Some of those numbers are suspiciously round but that's really what they were at the time.) So there's some data points for you.
Kickstarter takes your existing reputation and catalyzes it.
Possibly more important than those efforts was when I thought I was going to launch the Kickstarter several months ago, contacted the press, and then changed my mind and decided to wait until I had a build I felt willing to let people play. I sent out that first round of articles a week before I intended to launch, following the advice of Indie Game Girl: http://www.indiegamegirl.com/category/crowd-funding/ and http://www.indiegamegirl.com/how-to-get-press-with-a-0-pr-budget/ - a note on that press article. I've cold-called press with previous games, and usually hear crickets. You have to do what Emmy says, but you also have to have a story worth repeating. Nobody cared about Sixty Second Shooter, but Energy Hook was remarkable. Anyhow, not sure how much of my communities growth came from my efforts and how much came from a couple high-profile websites; and the websites that covered it gave testimonials I could use on the Kickstarter page; and I knew who to contact when it finally was time to launch the Kickstarter for reals.
One more note on contacting the press - I did not send out a carpet bomb form letter. I e-mailed every one individually, often taking a moment to read some of the stuff they'd wrote online to see if my thing might be the kind of thing they'd be interested in. And I hadn't even seen this Mike Bithell how-to-do-promotion video yet, which also says to do just that.
Finally, this is a good one about setting reward price points and remembering that Kickstarter is about people who really care about your project putting in extra - it's tempting to devalue ourselves - (Will people really pay $35 to playtest my game? I wondered. Apparently some will!) - so, um, don't do that. http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/TroyLonergan/20130503/191665/
And Reddit. I recommend hanging out on r/gamedev some just to get a feel for how Reddit works. Posting to the #screenshotsaturday thread every couple of weeks is easy and fun and you'll discover that it really matters when you post (as soon as possible) and that it helps to tell people on other networks that you've posted to give the post a spark of upvotes that might help it get noticed. Doing an Ask Me Anything once your Kickstarter has leveled out can give it a nice spike.
One piece of advice that turned out to be a bit disappointing was to launch on Steam Greenlight as well: I expected the large number of eyeballs on Greenlight would click through to Kickstarter and get me some backers but it didn't seem to work that way for me. I may have had more luck going the other way, with people who weren't quite willing to back the project but were willing to help out a little with a Greenlight vote. Still, worth doing. One piece of advice I'd have is prepare your Greenlight ahead of time, or launch it first, because once your Kickstarter is up it's hard to find time to do anything else. I didn't do that, I just wished I did.
So that's all that comes to mind right now. Any questions?
This means Linux support is happening, along with the new zipping and retracting / extending features of the energy line. If you've been holding off because you wanted to make sure Linux support was in there, you're good to go.
Next up, at $30K: a human stretch goal: Brian Luzietti, composer and sound effects guy extraordinaire!
Brian has worked on an insane number of games, many of which I bet you've played. (And if you want to chill out to some of his previous tracks in anticipation, it looks like a lot of them are illegally available here.)
If we make this stretch goal, everyone who has backed at the Beta level and up will also get access to the soundtrack.
We've worked closely together before on Schizoid and a secret Microsoft project that was sadly cancelled, and I'll be overjoyed to work with him again.
We're pretty confident we're going to hit this stretch goal, so Brian has already started working on it.
A lot of people want to know: hey, if you get on Steam, will there still be a DRM-free version?
I've thought about it and decided the answer is Yes! I don't know if it'll be through GoG or direct from my website (probably using the Humble Store), but if you want a DRM-free binary you'll be able to get it. Use it wisely.
And the Kickstarter has been covered on a variety of sites (listed here in the order in which backers have come from the sites so far):
The $1 funding goal thing is a lot more controversial than I thought it would be. It looks like I'll need to explain that more clearly and talk about why I did what I did. I'll do that soon.
I'm generally avoiding the comments, even though they're overwhelmingly positive, because all it takes is a couple negative ones to threaten my mood, but I did read some, and this one was awesome, from "PRIMESGHOST" on Penny Arcade:
Kicked and...kicked again. Honestly, I don't care if this guy is begging for money. If he were homeless I would let him live in my garage! I STILL have Spider-man 2 in regular rotation. All I do is just whip around the city for hours, it's so relaxing. If this man invented that mechanic then I owe him a lot more than I just kicked in because he has given me YEARS of rest from a long day's work.
Thanks so much Primesghost! It's really awesome knowing you got so much out of it. (And about that garage offer ... can my wife and kids come?)