8-Bit Funding Post-Mortem

/long silence

This has been percolating for a while. If you’ve followed any of the goings on in my world, you might know that One-Eyed Monsters did not reach it’s target on 8bit Funding. I raised about 1/5 of the target, which means no one actually got charged and I didn’t received any money, a relief because with 1/5 of the money I’m not sure I could even pay for the thank-you gifts I promised.

I’d like to talk a bit about the 8BF experience and how I’d consider it, money aside, a resounding success!

Before we begin, you can go check the previous post on the subject for all the 8BF info, or follow this link to the original page (archived for eternity on 8BF I suspect).

Now, let’s begin with the positive.

What Went Right

The launch of 8bit Funding tipped my hand on OEM. I didn’t think the game was ready for primetime, ready to be shown publicly, ready to be asking anyone for money. I’ve been sitting on a Kickstarter invite for ages, waiting til I think the game is presentable before trying to fund it externally.

But 8bit Funding was going live, and I was sure it’d never have as much media coverage as it would at its launch. I contacted Geoff Gibson and asked if a game in my current state of production would be worthy of hosting, and he said if I had something I could show, he’d be happy to have OEM as a launch title.

I used the launch deadline as a motivator to get the first prototype done. My job hadn’t ramped up yet, so I set daily goals for game dev to get all the basic movements and animations working. Development had never gone so fast, nor had I learned so much about Game Maker so quickly. Things felt pretty great, and I got the prototype done and the video made with a few days to spare!

Momentum on the game hasn’t been as serious since then, but it’s still been higher than it was before the pitch. Putting the funding video out there meant making a proper announcement to my friends, family, and indie webforum compatriots that I was making a game and that it was inching towards playability.

I think about 90% of the donations I did secure were from friends-of-family. I think the most generous offers came from people I did community theatre with back in my hometown. My dad reposted my pitch on Facebook and people who knew me as the 12-year-old Colin in The Secret Garden threw some cash my way, and mothers of high school friends started reading this blog! It’s true what they say, most of your funding comes from people who less than 3 degrees of separation from you. Making the announcement to the world has been a good motivator as well, and the positivity from the people who took interest has been heartening.

And the best outcome? By far, it was the arrival of Josh Emans, a developer now helping me with OEM.

I, in fact, got three emails from strangers who looked at my video and said they’d like to help out on the project. The internet being the internet, two of them disappeared when I tried to take them up on their offer, but one was Josh, and he’s been onboard doing free coding, being hilarious over GChat, and mostly keeping me sane for several weeks now. His participation in this project has made development more organized (read: half as organized as it should be), has protected me from burnout, and has handled code that was beyond my current abilities. He’s spent the last two weeks putting together the camera system for the game, while I’ve busied myself with rebuilding the movement/animation controls and working on the dialogue system.

In the coming weeks, we’re working on the methods by which characters go in and out of rooms, and on the way characters interact with objects. Once all that is functional, the game will have enough of an engine to start putting in actual game content.

We’re shooting for having something that a person can actually play inside of the next two months.

So yeah, I’d call 8BF a win.

What Went Wrong

Of course, OEM didn’t get funded, so we should talk about why that happened as well. There were several probably reasons.

Lack of followers:
My 8BF pitch served as a fantastic tool for getting people interested in my game, but I would have seen more success had there already been interest. I’ve read it multiple places, and it’s proven to be completely true: if you want to be supported by your fans, you need to have fans. Had the game made a more official announcement earlier, or if I were an established developer with other games to my name, asking for $1000 probably wouldn’t have been impossible. I knew that going in, and adjusted my expectations, but I chose to jump on 8BF while it was hot, and if you scroll up a few paragraphs, you’ll see I’ve no regrets.

Lack of coverage:
I was rather baffled by the media coverage of 8BF. I’m not sure who all covered it, but I stay plugged into the indie community through a few sources, and I didn’t see much buzz about it. I’m not a daily reader of Kotaku, Gamasutra, or Rock Paper Shotgun, so maybe it got a lot of press there. But I read TIGSource and the IndieGames.com daily. IndieGames.com wrote up the new site, complete with a brief interview with Geoff, and shortly after covered one of the games that was fundraising. But while IndieGames.com has covered multiple game projects on Kickstarter, even ones that read as longshots to me, there’s been no talk of any 8BF games since that first week.

TIGSource, I was surprised to see, didn’t cover the site at all. On TIGSource any forum member can submit a front page article, but you’re not supposed to promote a project you’re working on. So I wrote that I would like to see some coverage of 8BF, but couldn’t write it myself. This sentiment was seconded, but to date no one has written the article. I may go ahead and write it myself now that my funding period is over, though I wonder if that’s an ethical grey area…

I also wrote to AdventureGamers.com about my game and several other adventure games, in case they wanted to cover them, but got no response from them. The lack of coverage to a site like 8BF has been very surprising. I’m sure it’s why so few projects have actually gotten funded there.

Cranky community:

Even more baffling, though, has been some of the responses from within the community. There’s been a lot of talk about the downturn into negativity on the TIGSource forums lately, and I don’t need to add logs to that fire, but it’s worth mentioning. Many developers crowdfunding on 8BF posted about their game and their fundraising efforts on the TIGSource Announcements forum.

Just about universally, the conversation immediately devolved into many members of the community criticizing the poster for asking for money. Some called into question whether asking for money was indie or not. Others expressed disdain for people asking for money at all (the phrase “I am so sick of the constant grovelling” was used). So then other members of the community (myself included) tried to counter these harsh criticisms, and then the critics countered back, and pretty soon the thread was no longer about the game but whether the game has any right to ask anyone for money at all.

My stance now is as it every was: there is nothing non-indie about getting money to make a game. Independence means financial independence as well, meaning your source of income is your own. If you don’t get paid for what is yours, you have to get paid for working on something that doesn’t belong to you, be it making games for a studio or scooping ice cream. There are few things more independent than getting paid for your own game, and getting paid on your own terms. Furthermore, a crowdfunding site like 8BF is entirely buyer-motivated. If a game is deemed unworthy of funding by most viewers, it simply won’t get funded. There’s no sense in criticizing people for asking for the money, all one needs to do is not pledge money to it. More pointless is criticizing people in a webforum, where it would make more sense to just not read threads for projects that don’t interest you.

To try to stem any backlash against OEM, in my own announcement thread I pointed out that I was asking for a small sum of money and that my devlog had been live for a year. I admitted to my inexperience, showed my progress, and shared a link to the only game I’d released so far.

Instead of a negative response, I got no response at all. Weeks after posting the original announcement, a single person posted to say the project looked cool, and I responded to that post. Those are the only two posts the announcement has received.

It has more to do with the way a small number of very negative people have occupied parts of the TIGForum than the overall temperature of the community. Spending time in the more developer-centric forums will show you how kind and wonderful the community tends to be, and I think most of the kind and wonderful people have been steering clear of more contentious forums like Announcements and General. But that’s a talk I won’t share in this space at this time.

In Conclusion

OEM is alive and kicking, and moving with more speed than ever before. We’re hoping to have the central systems working in an ugly, less-than-robust-but-still-functional, developer art sense within the next couple weeks, at which point I’ll start putting in some of the first proper content.

I’m taking the train into Boston this weekend for PAX East, where I’ll be viewing talks, playing SpyParty and Snapshot, game jamming with some other indies, and mostly trying to cop some of the goodwill leftover from GDC (which I didn’t make it to). I hope to make connections, friends, and followers, and come back with a full notebook of ideas. Not to mention hanging with my Boston friends.

OEM now has a Twitter account under the (still unofficial) company name, Innuendo Studios, so you can check it out there. The voice-bubble prototype, in all it’s boxy goodness, can be viewed on last week’s Screenshot Saturday (week 18).

And don’t worry about my finances – I did, in the end, pick up a couple extra students, so I won’t be breaking the bank just yet. Work continues, and getting help with the code is much more valuable than getting an extra grand in the bank. Surely, had I gotten the money, I’d probably have gotten hit by a car somewhere or other and had to spend it all on hospital bills.

I’ll post again after PAX, most likely. Take care, readership.


9 Responses to “8-Bit Funding Post-Mortem”

  1. 1 Soren B. Nowak 03/11/2011 at 2:31 am

    Hi! I followed the launch of 8Bit and saw your game there too. It’s good to know that something positive came out of your efforts. I hope 8Bit will catch on in the future and I wish you the best of luck on your game development!

    ps. Excellent article btw. :)

  2. 2 ben 03/11/2011 at 10:21 pm

    Hi, nicely written article, but I don’t really think you need to analyse this too much.

    I hadn’t heard of this game before, but looking around on this site, and on your funding page, it seems to me that the difference between your project and funded projects is that it seems like you’ve done no development, whereas other projects have quite developed and intriguing prototypes. Maybe you could build the first episode and release it for free, build up a fan base (as you say), and then ask for funding to develop the other episodes.

    • 3 mrskimps 03/11/2011 at 11:38 pm

      Well sure, the first episode being free has always been the plan. In fact, the funding model I’m considering is that each episode will have a target income, reimbursement for the cost of living plus a modest profit, and when that target has been reached the game is re-released for free.

      But go back and watch the 8BF video – this game has been in development for over a year. We’ve had the misfortune of starting over in different languages (twice), but the current, Game Maker incarnation has been in development for about 6 months. There’s not a lot to show yet because it’s all under the hood. But it’s much more than “no development.” But indeed, it’d be more likely to get funded if more is finished. But, then, if you can get the game finished without funding, then you don’t need to ask for funding in the first place.

      • 4 ben 03/13/2011 at 9:55 pm

        It’s unfortunate that your game has suffered some setbacks. I can definitely see that you’ve done something, but what you’ve got (people walking around) is only maybe the first 1% of a finished game. I admire your enthusiasm, but it seems like you’ve only just started to learn how to build a game — and I’m not sure people would want to invest money in someone with no track record. I wish you the best with your game. My only advice is to not rely on anybody else, I had a few team projects fail before I realised that I was only going to finish things if I did everything myself.

        • 5 mrskimps 03/14/2011 at 10:00 am

          I appreciate the feedback (really, I do!), but worry not about the state of the game. In the post I mentioned that the game has much more than people walking around – it’s got an inventory system, a states system for handling unique animations, camera controls, and a recently-completed dialogue system. They all need expanding, but it’s a lot of content in the past few months. I don’t demand funding, and I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t get any. As I said, I wouldn’t do Kickstarter without a playable prototype.

          As for working with people, trying to do everything myself was one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever assigned myself. Having Josh onboard is a life-saver. But I agree about over-reliance. There is nothing Josh is doing that I *can’t* do myself with some studying and elbow grease. Were it necessary for him to leave the project, I’d still have all the code he wrote and be able to continue on my own. But having a running mate makes the process faster and more enjoyable. Maybe you and I just work in different ways.

          • 6 ben 03/14/2011 at 4:30 pm

            Ah, alright, it does sound like you’ve got quite a bit developed. :)

            Don’t get me wrong, working with people is fun and inspiring, and I love it, but critically depending on others can lead to issues. Maybe I’m just grizzled from 4 years of working solo on my phd… :o

  3. 7 Aquanoctis 03/21/2011 at 6:08 am

    Yeah, I agree with what you said about TIGS. But at least the dev forums are still nice. That’s where it counts, right? :D
    Shame about you not getting the funding though, but I suppose getting Josh on-board makes up for it somewhat.
    I’m really glad to hear that this is still powering along even with the set-backs. You can definitely see that you’re dedicated all right! Again, best of luck as always. It will surely be awesome!

    • 8 mrskimps 03/21/2011 at 8:21 am

      Hey, thanks Ryan! Dedication is unflagging, a decent work-schedule is still a work-in-progress. But getting closer every day.

  4. 9 David 05/10/2011 at 7:49 pm

    Love the work you’ve done, only wish I had come across your project sooner so I could have helped when it was still up for funding. Oh well, i’m glad to still that your still pushing forward in your more recent posts!

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