Thursday, September 13, 2012

Scoreboard: Grading the Crowdfunding

So - how are you feeling about your pledges to various Kickstarters and Indiegogo's these days?

Smarter folks than me have discussed the new tools at length.  I've decided to group projects into one of three broad types and categorize them roughly.  I've observed crowdfunding is being used for:

1) venture capital for an undeveloped product
2) a way to expand or polish a nearly complete product
3) an alternative to a traditional preorder

All three uses seem pretty valid - the problems crop up when you think you're pledging to one type of program and you find out later it was another.  The key is understanding what you're being asked to support and make sure you're willing to accept the risk if the project falls into another category.

Many of these gaming projects are being done by hobbyists in their free time, not professionals as a day job.  There are likely going to be delays - even under the best of circumstances.  Heck, even professional and corporate products are frequently late.

I decided to run down the various kickstarter-a-gogo's I've been funding, relate how they're doing, and point out how they fit into the "three point model".  Since many of these are hobbyist products, it's unsurprising how many are running behind schedule.

ACKS Player's Guide
The player's guide was a number 2 - a full manuscript was ready early on.  However, the rewards system allowed backers to increase the depth and breadth of the book quite a bit, expanding the initial manuscript.  The hard covers for this one are running a few months behind the estimated date.  However, backers have had access to the final draft of the work for a while, pacifying anyone lacking a little patience.

Adventurer Conqueror King
ACKS seemed to be a number 2 to me; the rules draft was available almost immediately, but backers had the chance to tune the final rules while art was solicited.  This was a great project to support.

Barrow Maze 2
On schedule
This is clearly a number 1; Barrowmaze 1 was excellent, and the online response motivated the author to create a sequel; the funding project launched before the manuscript was in place.  However, it seems to be on schedule, so far, so good!

Bumps in the Night
Pagan Publishing used Kickstarter mostly as a preorder mechanism to get this collection of horror scenarios for Call of Cthulhu printed (#3).  It was ready for Gencon.

The campaign promised a July delivery; from what I see with the updates, this one looks like actual delivery will be sometime next spring - 9 months or more behind schedule.  The natives are restless.  It is what it is at this point - a project that's behind schedule.

Horror on the Orient Express
On schedule
The campaign isn't even done yet; I'm pointing this one out since it blurs the line between 2 and 3.  HOTOE is a finished product using Kickstarter to get reprinted, much like a preorder, but Chaosium is also using the kickstarter to do updates and overhaul the presentation, adding flavors of a number 2 project.

LOTFP God that Crawls and Monolith Beyond Space and Time
Partially Late
Both of these were presented as number 2, finished manuscripts that needed art, layout, and finishing.  Vagaries of layout and page counts have introduced delays and additional writing, creating split shipments.  However, communication has been up front, backers are being treated well, so I haven't seen torches and pitchforks forming outside Finland.

LOTFP Hard Cover Reprint
On schedule
This involves a straightforward reprint of an existing product (essentially a #3) but included a funding goal to get a brand new Ken Hite adventure written (# 1).  The risk of a professional designer not delivering seems fairly low.

LOFTP Grand Adventures
On schedule
This was clearly a risky # 1 - soliciting backers to fund a bunch of elevator pitches from folks known for work in adjacent games or media.  If a lot of unproven writers had gotten funded here, there probably would have been quite a bit of glass breaking at some point.  As it is, the selections that got funded all seem dependable.

Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man
This is a niche Call of Cthulhu product by Dennis Detwiler, a co-author of Delta Green.  It's a number 2, a manuscript that used kickstarter to fund artwork and enhancements.  It doesn't seem far behind schedule for a one-man product.


  1. On Dwimmermount, I understand the problems that have led to the schedule issue. I not only understand the problems, I am very understanding of the situation. I am not restless at all in regard to it. In fact, the delay may result in my being able to increase my cash outlay in order to get more of the perqs that were offered (vinyl map mats and such), and possibly even pick up both versions (LL and ACKS) of the book.

    1. I'd also rather see the project take the time required to make it an excellent product, than rush to meet a poorly chosen delivery date.

  2. Another nice thing about Dwimmermount is that they are publishing each level and map as they complete it. They've even provided the early notes just in case disaster strikes and they are unexpectedly kept from completion. They may be late, but they are transparent about it to an unprecedented degree. I haven't seen any other Kickstarter work harder to alleviate the problems that come with being late, and I find it quite admirable. Besides, depending on how often you play and for how long, there's a very good chance you could start playing the first level of Dwimmermount now without ever having to wait for them to finish the level that you need for your next game.

    I wouldn't say this native is restless. Slightly concerned, perhaps, but not restless. :)

  3. This is a nice way of providing both feedback and "consumer reports" so to speak. I may do a post of my own regarding my various backings (I think I've done 8 to 10 so far).

  4. Great summary, Beedo. I would say that it isn't stellar overall.

  5. So far, I've gone in on:

    Advanced Fighting Fantasy's Blacksand! book, which is somewhere between a 1] and a 2]. I've got no doubt that this will be completed and will be of good quality - Graham Bottley has a good track record, and is working from excellent source material.

    LotFP hardcover - a 3] and again, Raggi's track record is good.

    LotFP adventures - a 1], but going on the track record of the writer and the publisher, I've got no doubts.

    OpenQuest 2 - a 2] verging on a 3]. Newt Newport has demonstrated that he can produce good gaming books.

    And Reapers Bones, and if they can't get me the product, who can.

    If one of these projects were to send me a message saying, 'sorry, we'll be months late', I'd think, 'fair enough, even for people who do this as a day job delays happen'. Maybe I'd be less forgiving with Reaper, but a guy churning out a labour of love? I'll wait for that over buying some slick, on time, hackwork (not that those are the only two options, I'll grant you).

  6. I did talk to Dennis Detwiler at GenCon and he said that the manuscript was probably 2/3rds finished and once the con season was over with, he would have it wrapped up soon. Since he is both the artist and the author, it's pretty much an in-house thing. I expect to see a finished version before Xmas if not early in the new year.

    Now on the other hand, I am getting a bit worried about GMS' Far West which finished funding in August 2011 and is now more than several months late. I know it has had some issues, but the delay and lack of solid communication is a bit worrisome.

    As for Dwimmermount, I was one of those who knew it needed fleshing out, but I through there was more than just bones to the skeleton. Perhaps the release date was overly enthusiastic, but the trickle of material doesn't really inspire confidence in the short term.