Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Kickstarter has been picking up a lot of steam lately. For those of you who have not heard of it, it is the most popular of the crowd-funding sites. It does have competitors such as RocketHub and IndieGoGo, the key features of these sites is that a project can be proposed, typically with a video either showing off a pitch or a demonstration of a prototype, and then interested parties can pledge funds. In return for pledging certain amounts rewards are promised, often a copy of the final product, along with various cool extras.

There are problems with Kickstarter, only people based in the US can create projects on it, credit cards are required to pledge funds and there is no ability to actually invest in a project in the traditional sense. If a project is unable to be completed, the only advice available is that the people running the project are expected to cancel funding and that backers may take legal action if they don't.

Kickstarter does some things very right, payment is performed fairly smoothly through Amazon and payment is only authorised at the time of pledging, cards are only charged at the end of the funding period, if not enough pledges are made to meet the initial goal then no money is taken from any of the backers.

The single best run drive I have seen was the Order of the Stick Reprint Drive, Rich Burlew did updates nearly daily during the drive each time providing a graph which gave an idea of where the project was currently up to, what would be done with further funding and involved some of the characters from the strip.

The entire drive was done in a way that was both transparent and motivating and it was clear that Rich was keeping in mind the costs of the rewards he was promising in that he was getting quotes during the drive and not announcing rewards if he was not yet certain on the costs. I have not seen a drive run quite as well since and I think that the charts the charts that Rich produced showed how this helped keep a fairly consistent rate of pledging through the drive.

The only criticism I have of the OotS drive is that Rich never updated the Project home page and given that he had added so much content to the original drive it would have been helpful to note this on the front page.

My profile on Kickstarter makes my interests pretty clear, I have backed mostly gaming and comic related projects. The ones I am currently backing/keeping an eye on are:

Shadowrun Returns: I am a big fan of the Shadowrun setting, I like the fusion of cyberpunk and fantasy and being able to play in a setting where there are whole nations of elves that it is acceptable for me to hate. I like the fairly high lethality in the setting and the balance between magic and machines.

Unfortunately the most recent game to bear that title Shadowrun, was an FPS released in 2007 which disregarded and contradicted significant parts of the Shadowrun lore and setting, had an interface which was built around a 360 controller even on the PC and required Vista and Games for Windows Live. It was before Microsoft dropped the crazy idea that they could have a subscription version of Games for Windows Live too.

The only other released Shadowrun titles were for the Sega Genesis and the SNES, both being console platforms I've never owned.

I am looking forward to seeing what they do with Shadowrun Returns, Jordan Weisman was one of the people who originally created the setting. I like the genre of game they are intending to create and am pleased that they are planning on releasing a level editor with the game.

Between this, which is admittedly being set quite early in the SR timeline, the 2050s, and Shadowrun Online which is a browser game set in the 2070s it is going to be an interesting year for Shadowrun fans.

Smart Controllers: This is the first Kickstarter I have backed that probably won't hit its goal. It is a Bluetooth dual analog stick controller, created on the Arduino platform.

It is intended primarily for use with smart phones and tablets, I think the design is attractive and I like the idea of a controller to which you can upload your own code. I don't honestly know how you are meant to use it with a smartphone though. It is currently in its final hours.

Pebble: Speaking of Bluetooth devices that you can upload your own code to. Pebble is a kickstarter for e-ink Bluetooth watches that connect to smart phones. A Pebble will be able to interact with apps and display information whilst you are running, control playback of music, display SMSs, caller ID and other notifications from your phone and will be released with an SDK allowing third parties to develop apps and alternate watch faces for it.

This is currently the most funded and fastest growing kickstarter drive ever having already hit over 4 million dollars pledged. Actually, if I can convince enough friends/family I would like to reduce costs a little bit and change to an Office Pack or higher pledge. =)

The Banner Saga: The Banner Saga is a hand animated turn based tactical game based on Viking culture. The video and basic proposed story sounds really cool and is being produced by developers who used to work at Bioware.

The art style is really attractive. I love the animation and I have to admit I kind of laughed when watching the motion capture parts shown in the pitch video.

It is in its final days and the devs have released a video revealing their final stretch goals, it seems pretty likely that the game will now be scored with a full orchestra which promises to be impressive given the music played in the background of the video. It would be really cool if they hit the $700,000 needed to add Player-Owned Cities into the multiplayer.

Roll20: Roll20 is a project that only recently came to my attention, it seems fairly similar to other tabletop clients I have seen and tried but the key differentiating factors I can see are:
  • It is web-based, which means no fiddling around with a server app and no poking holes in your firewall to allow your friends to connect.
  • Roll20 has built in video chat for up to 10 people, I think that video chat would really help when you are playing remotely, it is pretty easy to drift off when using just voice chat, especially if people are being slow with their turns and I am at a computer.
  • Importing from the web is built in to Roll20, the demo video shows off grabbing tokens and background music via a search as well as from your own computer. The legal issues make me worry a little about this but it is a really awesome concept and should help reduce the content creation burden that a GM has. It can be tricky since once you have a battlemap and background music option there is a kind of obligation for the GM to use them.
Fortunately my friends are able to get together once a week to do some pen and paper gaming and so don't yet need this. Unfortunately later this year my girlfriend is going to be headed to Sweden for several months and something like this may allow her to continue to play whilst over there.

I have been really impressed with Kickstarter so far, it will be interesting when projects on this or perhaps competitors start being able to also offer equity to the more serious backers. In the next 18 months either Kickstarter will continue to grow and see more major players trying to utilise it for riskier ventures or we may have some high level failed projects that dampen the general enthusiasm for it. Either way it will be pretty interesting.

Are there any projects on Kickstarter you are currently backing or keeping an eye on?


  1. All of these are quirky ways of getting funded - it is really pre-paid sales - with no guarantee in place. You have to do a risk assessment wether you think the company will deliver or not. While you are impressed so far - you havent actually been sent any of the benefits you have "bought" yet have you?

    So I like to only back huge projects really... it is getting rather too easy as the price points tend to be rather low.

    I have backed:
    Banner Saga (after you posted above - damnit!)
    Wasteland 2
    Shadowrun Returns
    Zombicide (board game - i think these days i would probably just wait and see what its like when its released, i would rather smaller bets)
    my profile -

    Not on kickstarter - a fairly random pair of shoes, after i was really hating my office shoes and how they annoy my ankle... again i would just wait and see how it goes before buying this one

    On my watch list:
    Pebble - Just not sure I would get the use out of it - no matter how cool it is. Might wait and see, get one when its released instead (it is easy to forget this is almost always an option)
    Grim Dawn ( - made by the titan quest dudes - seems cool and cheap enough.

    1. This is true, it means that you really need to think about the reputation of the project creator, the games I have backed I am fairly confident of, because they either already have a working prototype (FTL, Pebble), come from people with established reputations (Doublefine Adventure, Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns, Pebble, Order of the Stick, Dreamland, Schlock Mercenary Boardgame, SMBC Theatre Goes to Space)

      I also have received the books from the Dreamland one, that was the first project I backed and it was back in 2010, so it would be quite concerning if the books hadn't arrived by now =P. Similarly already received a bunch of content from SMBC Theatre though their actual space stuff hasn't quite started yet.

      I think that most of the time if you can't either show off a prototype or already have an established fanbase, then you are unlikely to find much success on kickstarter. Pretty happy with that being the case too.