I recently read an article from the developer of one unreleased Kickstarted video game pointing out the flaws of other failed Kickstarted video games and saw an interesting discrepancy. The Kickstarter page listed 10 developers working on the project, while the article author indicated that “just two programmers and one part-time artist” worked on getting a title prototype functioning. The other people listed might have worked on the title before the Kickstarter, or were going to come in after, but that list of developers wasn’t showing the current team at work.
I recognise that Kickstarters are pitches for money, so I’m aware that it’s much like a job interview in that you exaggerate your strengths and minimise your weaknesses to an extent. However, it also reveals to me exactly how easy it is to either willingly or accidentally mislead pledgers. On top of this came the recent news that Kickstarter itself is replacing human project evaluation and instead looking to algorithms to speed up the approval process.
Given that Kickstarter’s policy pushes responsibility for project evaluation onto pledgers (“people ultimately decide the validity and worthiness of a project by whether they decide to fund it“) it’s clear that pledgers should be a lot more diligent in picking the projects they choose to financially support.
As such, I’ve come up with some questions that every video game Kickstarter should answer. Some will already cover part of this information, but I’ve looked at a lot of video game Kickstarters and can’t think of any that provide all of these items up front.
The questions are:
- Who is the project manager for this development? Please let me know who is ultimately responsible for managing the project and its success / failure.
- Who is on your full project team right now? Please list their names, roles / titles within this project, whether they are working full-time, part-time or as-needed, and for how many months do they plan to commit to the project.
- What are the positions on your project team that aren’t currently filled, or that you plan to hire more of? Please let the roles / titles, whether you plan to hire them full-time, part-time or as needed, plus how long you think you’ll need them for.
- What applications, technology or platforms are you currently using to develop this project? Please list those applications or platforms and the version you are using in the development of this project, or have immediate access to.
- How are you planning on spending these Kickstarter funds to deliver the title as indicated? Please provide a breakdown of your planned budget.
- What’s your project plan to achieve your specified delivery date? Please provide a project plan or milestone schedule.
- What other ways are you planning on funding the development of this project? Please let me know if you are also planning to go for early access / pre-funding, splitting the title into separately purchasable episodes or some other approach.
To break this down a bit, you should know about a video game Kickstarter:
- Who is responsible for managing it, including all the money they are asking for
- Who the active project team is right now and how involved they are
- Who else is needed (such as if a project needs programmers, like the failed Yogventures title)
- What development technology / applications / programs etc the team already has been using to work on the title
- How the budget is planned to be spent
- What the project timeline looks like
- How the developers are going to raise extra development money, so that it is an open point about how much this Kickstarter really funds this project
Feel free to rephrase these questions, or only ask the ones that the Kickstarter pitch doesn’t cover, or even just copy and paste them wholesale in messages to the projects you are interested in. To me the above is some pretty basic information that shows the Kickstarter team at least has a project plan in place and is being transparent about their resources. If you don’t like the answers, then don’t fund the project.
Will these questions get an answer? Very probably not. If responding to these questions could jeopardise a Kickstarter’s success, then silence is a very likely outcome. It’s also very possible that answers received during the Kickstarter process will change during development – people enter and leave projects for a number of reasons.
However, the act of asking these questions will at least give potential pledgers a bit more information to consider. Even no response is a response in and of itself.
If you think there are any other questions that should be asked of video game Kickstarters, please let me know in the comments.