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Whether you're a budding gamedev hobbiest or a veteran independent game developer, it's likely that at some point you've considered crowdfunding as a way to pay for and promote your game. Chances are you know a bit about some of the popular crowdfunding platforms today, such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo, or Patreon. Crowdfunding your game may be the perfect solution in making your idea a reality, but before you launch that campaign, make sure you're prepared for what's to come. Read ahead, fellow game developers, in this Dojo.com look into game crowdfunding.

Before You Start

Most game developers have big dreams, but first make sure you (and your team, if you have one) are ready. Before we even dive into the intricacies of preparing for crowdfunding, you should be honest with yourself about your skill level as a developer, your track record, whether you have the right team, and whether you have the fortitude to endure a prolonged campaign.

Also crucially important is your (or your team's) ability to self-promote and regularly communicate with your fanbase. Maybe you're a social media guru and thrive on self-promotion, but many of us don't have that natural ability. If promotion doesn't come naturally for you, don't despair: you can still be an effective promoter if you are diligent enough. And if that's just not for you, you can always enlist the help of your team to promote.

While we're on the topic of promotion, we at Dojo are happy to help independent game developers get their crowdfunded projects seen. If you'd like a bit of extra help, shoot us an email at info@dojo.com.

Ok, you're not discouraged, you know you have what it takes, and you're ready to make the game of your dreams!

If you are discouraged, don't be! Gamedev is a craft, and anybody with the right mindset and determination can get good at it. Just keep at it and don't give up. Consider joining Reddit's /r/gamedev community which serves as great support group and learning resource.

But before you create that KickStarter or Indiegogo account, you'll want to add these to-do items to your list.

 

1. Look at Unsuccessful Examples

This may sound like counter-intuitive advice, but you can glean a lot of good information about what pitfalls to avoid. Determine if there's a pattern for their misfortune. Did they not have a broad enough fanbase to generate interest in their game? Did they promise too much swag or game features, thus depleting their budget and energy? Or did they choose the wrong team - too large, too small, too much drama? If you can pinpoint tricky areas that you'll need to navigate in crowdfunding your game, all the better.

While we at Dojo are not here to fling mud on the internet, do your research. Here's a Business Insider article about three crowdfunding campaigns that went wrong (they're not video games, but still worth reading).

 

2. Talk with Successful Crowdfunding Campaigns

I suggest that you don't limit your research of crowdfunding campaigns to game-related ventures. Get boot-on-the-street advice from those who have actually done the work and succeeded. Most likely there are entrepreneurs out there willing to share their story. In order to use their (and your) time wisely, prepare a list of questions in advance. If it's not possible to interview the crowdfunders live, you can correspond via email. The point here is to take notes of what to definitely include in your campaign, and how to overcome common obstacles.

Several successfully crowdfunded games have appeared on Dojo.com. And while I'm not suggesting you go spam the developers, you might benefit from researching their games and the campaigns behind them and perhaps reaching out. Check out our incomplete list of crowdfunded games that have partnered with Dojo:

 

3. Are Your Expectations Realistic?

For many successful crowdfunding campaigns, the live campaign is just the tip of the iceburg. There is often a sizeable amount of work that happens before, during and after launch. You're not only working on delivering a game; there's a lot of activity related to communicating and organizing the campaign. Most crowdfunders don't embark on this adventure alone. They get help. And a lot of it. As you are enlisting help from friends, family, and colleagues, map out who will do what and by when. Make a schedule and stick to it! You don't want to your game crowdfunding to crash and burn before you even launch. Check out free online project management tools such as Asana, Trello, and Google Docs/Sheets to manage your team's project, expectations, and deadlines.

 

4. What's In It for Them?

Potential funders - especially those who don't know you - want to know what's in it for them. Be clear and upfront with your pledge rewards. A handwritten thank-you card may be sufficient for a $5 pledge… but probably not. How are you going to reward those who believe in your game and are willing to invest in you? Think about what you can offer and it's value to perfect strangers.

It's also very important to accurately map out the estimated cost of reward fulfillment, along with other project costs. But more on that later...

 

5. Don't Wait to Build a Fanbase

While a crowdfunding platform will give structure to your campaign, you also need to be able to spread the word about your project. You'll need current emails and active social media followers in order to gain attention and momentum. Don't wait to build your fanbase. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the crowdfunding machinery will pull you along to success. Lastly, cultivate relationships with influencers (e.g., successful game developers, bloggers, Let's Play YouTube channels). Target influencers who are have large followings following and can help spread the word, but don't neglect the smaller guys/gals. Don't wait to introduce yourself until you've started your campaign, as that's too late in the game.

 

6. Have Fully-Functional Website with Videos and Game Art

You'll want to tell your story and one of the best places to capture that story is on a website. Secure a domain name and build out a fully-functional website. Include screenshots, promotional artwork, videos, and other information that will convince potential backers that you mean business. Many successful crowdfunding campaigns use trailer-format videos to communicate their product and generate interest. Equally important, once your game is far enough along, is posting exciting gameplay videos. Invest the time (and money) as it will show you're serious. 

You want to have a central place where your backers can go for information after the campaign. For example, Kickstarter freezes a crowdfunding page after the deadline. You can't upload new videos or post updates. That's why you need a website.

 

7. Budget! Money Matters When Crowdfunding Your Game

Too many amazing game concepts have been sunk by money mismanagement, or simply the failure to accurately budget project costs and time.

Let's talk about reward fulfillment first, as it is often the most underestimated project cost of all. You absolutely need to map out the potential cost and level-of-effort needed to generate these rewards. Create a spreadsheet tracking what the total cost (including shipping costs, and any customs if using international manufacturers) and total time contribution would look like to fulfill all potential reward tiers. And then build that total cost into your campaign's budget! And pad your cost estimates a bit to allow for contingencies.

Also, be realistic about the budget needed to build your game, as well as building marketing materials and doing promotion. Chances are that you and your team can't work for free. Build an honest budget to estimate your project costs, and do not paint a rosey picture when budgeting. It's much better to pad these numbers also, because delays, rework, and obstacles are guarantees in large projects. Don't just include direct labor in your budget. You may need to hire contract workers or commision outside artwork, music, or sound effects. Or hire translators for localization.

Don't forget about your crowdfunding platform's fees. Often the platform will take a percentage (typically 5% to 10%) of all donations. Also consider the cost of web hosting and marketing.

A hypothetical Kickstarter campaign that raises $20,000 in funding may end up paying $8,000 or more in reward fulfillment, campaign fees, and other indirect costs. And that's before you even pay your team. Read Joey Daoud's helpful post on Kickstarter budgeting: How to Figure the True Cost of a Kickstarter Campaign.

Creating a game is super fun, and managing money may not be on top of your list. Nonetheless, you should be diligent about tracking and managing your finances, as failure to treat your campaign as a business can spell doom.

 

Moving Forward 

I sincerely hope that I have not discouraged anybody from taking on a crowdfunding project and realizing the game they've always wanted to create. Also remember that a crowdfunded campaign can do wonders for creating game interest and pre-release sales. Don't expect to profit within the actual crowdfunding campaign, but do know that a successful campaign can create huge potential for long-tail profit after the campaign concludes.

If you found this article helpful or have any suggestions, please be sure to let us know. In the future, we plan on writing a detailed piece about the pros and cons of specific crowdfunding campaigns. Stay tuned!

 

 

Walkthrough: Rancho Ranch

Walkthrough: Rancho Ranch

Play Rancho Ranch!

 

I recently spoke with George Kobyakov, founder of indie game dev team The Shpufa.  He has released several hit games recently, including a game we've recently sponsored called The Last Samurai, and the popular runner How Dare You. I got a chance to ask him about life as an indie game developer, his latest game Infinity Inc, and his plans for the future.

 

Bryce: Thank you George for speaking with us! We’re extremely excited to launch your latest game, Infinity Inc, on Dojo.com!

George: thanks for having me! :)

 

Bryce: My pleasure. Your studio, The Shpufa, has published games with us before (The Last Samurai). Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself and your studio?

George: I'd be glad to. Our studio was founded about 3 years ago, when I made our first game, alone. At that time I was working in a gamedev studio as an artist, but I'd wanted to be an indie for a long time. I knew about some Flash game publishing businesses and I thought it will be a nice start for me. After a month and a half of development I had our first game - Acorn Story. After launching this game I quit my job and started to make Flash games. But now our studio is just 2 people - me, as artist and coder, and my wife(!) as artist.

 

Bryce: That’s a great origin story! You took the plunge to follow your passion, which is definitely not an easy thing to do for most developers. And your passion for gamedev really shows in the awesome games you and your wife have built.

George: That's true. Sure, there were some hard times for a gamedev, but I'm glad we have overcome these obstacles and continue to do what we like most of all.

 

Bryce: That’s great that you’ve hit your stride, and I’m sure you will continue to be successful. Speaking of success, you’re launching your latest game, Infinity Inc, on Dojo. I had the pleasure of playing it before most of our readers, and let me just say: it is an amazing and novel game!  I believe Infinity Inc has recently been recognized within the indie community as well. Can you tell us about that?

George: Yes, when we finished developing Infinity Inc, we wanted to gather some feedback about the game. There's one great gamedev event in Europe - DevGAMM. This time it was in Hamburg, Germany. They always have great speakers (this year they had speakers from CD Project Red about The Withcher 3, guys from DICE and many awesome indies like Threaks, Vlambeer, etc.). And they have a game contest, so we thought - why don't we participate? 

We submitted Infinity Inc to the contest in several different categories, and we won the "Excellence in Narrative" award. We were super excited.


Infinity Inc is shown on the big screen at DevGAMM. The game was selected for the "Excellence in Narrative" award.

George: 

I should note that Infinity Inc was inspired by great sci-fi novels, movies, and games. Players might recognize some influences from Robert Heinlein (Starship Troopers) and Issac Asimov novels (I, Robot), and the Half-Life and Portal game series.

 

Bryce: Sounds like a whirlwind of an event! Submitting your game, then having it selected for an award for its story. The game’s storyline is very cool, has a great sense of a sinister yet sarcastic dystopia, conjuring up memories from I, Robot and Portal. A lot of though has gone into the story and dialogue. But the gameplay is also pretty awesome.


Send in the clones!

Bryce: Could you tell us a bit about the game’s mechanics and plot?

George: The game is a physical 2D platformer with puzzles. You're playing as a simple employee of huge corporation, Infinity Inc. The corporation discovered the clone gun, with which you can clone any object. They have one simple rule - you MUST NEVER clone yourself or other people. But, of course, you did clone yourself and everything went wrong! 

So, your goal is to make your own clones and then kill them to solve deathly traps along your way. The game has 5 different areas to explore and dozens of lasers and saws to destoy you

.

George: Players might ask, "who made all these traps?" Well, finish the game and you'll see! :)

 

Bryce: Love it! The whole concept is very unique. Are there any easter eggs or funny stories behind the game development that you’d like to share?

George: Like most other developers, we just love to put small easter eggs in our games. And sure, this time we also have a few of them. For example, I challenge players to find an ester egg from the "Lost" TV show. I'll give you a hint - it's HUGE.

 

Bryce: Your more intrepid fans will surely be looking out for it. Infinity Inc has a lot of style, polish, and personality, and I’m sure everybody will enjoy the game immensely.

Bryce: What’s next for you? Are you going to continue the Infinity Inc story arc, or any other future plans?

George: Currently Infinity Inc is our all-time favorite game that we have made in our 3 years of gamedev. Thus we'd like to extend the story and improve the game to make it even better. We still have a lot we'd like to add to the story, and I believe soon there will be a sequel for this game. Of course, our main goal is to release this game on Steam. In this way we could provide the best gameplay experience for the players. 

But now, while we're having a little respite from the Infinity Inc story, we're preparing a new game for the web - it's an idle-clicker game called Clicker Squad.

 

Bryce: Seeing Infinity Inc on Steam would be fantastic. I hope people who read this and get a chance to play the first episode agree!

Bryce: In 140 characters or less*, tell us a bit about the upcoming Clicker Squad!

George: It's a mix of Tap Titans, Tap Heroes, and Clicker Heroes. Evil sprits have taken control of 10 Kings in the kingdom, and your squad must take back the kingdom! Upgrade heroes, use magic, and kill thousands of monsters. :)


A preview The Shpufa's upcoming Clicker Squad

* Yes we know, this is over 140 characters. 

Bryce: I’d definitely play that! :D

Bryce: George, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview! It’s been fun talking with you. We’re really excited to launch Infinity Inc with you, and I’m sure others will really enjoy it as well! Best of luck to you with all your future projects.

George: Thank you! It's also a big pleasure for us to launch on Dojo.com for a second time!

 

Play Infinity Inc now!

 

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Walkthrough: Dogs in Space

Walkthrough: Dogs in Space

Play Dogs in Space

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Support Kill the Plumber [FUNDED!]

 

Kill the Plumber is coming to Steam!

UPDATE:  Kill the Plumber for Steam has been FUNDED on Kickstarter!

Thank you all for the support.

 

We have some great news!  Our good friends at TekiTown - Izzy, Keybol, Zach, and Jim - are building a super awesome, enhanced version of Kill the Plumber 2.  Our web version of the game is just a preview of what's to come.  The new Steam game, which is ALREADY GREENLIT and approved on Steam, is guaranteed to feature:

  • 100+ levels!
  • Grassland, dungeon, castle, beach, and underwater levels
  • 30+ playable characters
  • Recorded speedruns
  • Controller support

But we need your help.  This game will only exist if YOU support the developers!  Head over to the Kill the Plumber Kickstarter Page to support the project and make sure this game becomes a reality.

TekiTown has pledged to include even more content if they break their funding goals.  Check out what the developers have to say about this mega-upgrade to the Kill the Plumber series on their Kickstarter page.  Even if you can't donate to help fund this game, please share the game with your friends.  Let's all show our support so that Kill the Plumber for Steam can be the best possible game!

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