Kicking my own tires as a Kickstarter backer

I reviewed my ‘backed projects’ list on Kickstarter this month in reaction to a late project I have backed and the accommodating comments posted in response to a late and frankly insulting update from the project manager. After posting a polite, fact-filled response to this nonsense, I began to wonder about the whole idea of backing projects. As I reviewed the different things I have chosen to back, I began to feel that a blog post both to share what I have chosen and the current state of those projects might be worth doing. Ironically, this is being written two weeks later than I planned. Let he who is without sin throw stones on time; the rest of us will just have to lob them when we can. Note: we aren’t being backed for this activity and so are accountable to no one but ourselves.

Things I noticed

Development Times: I seem to be subconsciously attracted to projects with long development times. While a few of the projects I have backed can be classed as late, quite late, or ridiculously late, many are still in their planned production phase. This means I have backed far more projects than I have seen reach completion. The effect of that is that I have noticed that over the last 6 months or so, I have been avoiding projects that will require substantial development time. I now back (or try to stick to) projects that are done and awaiting funds for production, or are essentially done and are awaiting funds for enhancement and production.

Stretch Goals: I am growing annoyed with the race toward stretch goals and the ‘dream it up as we go along’ mentality that controls so many projects up for pledges. The interface for Kickstarter pretty strongly implies that a project should be planned out from start to finish. More than that, accurate prediction of fulfillment dates requires it. A backer should not have to go crawling through a series of updates to find release dates figured out when the smoke clears. This sort of basic information needs to be set much more accurately up-front by actually plotting out all the pie-in-the-sky scenarios you are willing to float beforehand. An excellent example of what I am talking about is the recent project by Artisan Dice. Step by step planning of each new goal and how long its fulfillment will take – all worked out in advance. No less exciting, no less motivating, but 100% less confusing, irritating, and misleading.

Physical Rewards: Living in Asia, I find that while I still love mail, I am most drawn to backer levels which provide all digital rewards. I am trying (unsuccessfully) to cut off the purchase of physical game books purely for reasons of shelf space. Despite being in the ‘exceptions allowed’ phase of quitting printed books, the seed is deeply planted in my mind and I have passed on some interesting projects because the assumption was that all backers would want a big box filled with lots of stuff and an over-sized, deluxe book. I am sure I am not the only one who is shifting to a gaming lifestyle that can all be loaded on a tablet.

The List

The badly formatted list below is a report of all the projects I have backed, their status at the time of releasing this post, and my comments on how well the project managers are interacting with backers and delivering on their stated plans:

PROJECT NAME                                                                                                             STATUS        

Transhuman: The Eclipse Phase Player’s Guide                                                     In Progress

  • ·         Reasonable Stretch Goals
  • ·         Good Updates so far

Handmade Ceramic Gaming Dice                                                                              In Progress

  • ·         Reasonable Stretch Goals so far
  • ·         Number of potential backers is the primary fulfillment concern
  • ·         Good Updates so far

Artisan Dice Does Handcrafted Polyhedrals                                                             FUNDED!            

  • ·         Expected delivery in November
  • ·         Good, detailed communication
  • ·         Production to start in June
  • ·         Number of backers is the primary fulfillment concern

Lords of Gossamer and Shadow: Diceless Role-Playing                                          In Progress

  • ·         Reasonable Stretch Goals planned and released
  • ·         Excellent Updates throughout, personal contact with each backer
  • ·         Product is complete and awaiting expansion and enhancement
  • ·         Product support is the primary focus of Stretch Goals for a staggered release

Rocket Dice                                                                                                                   FUNDED!

  • ·         Items ready for mass production
  • ·         Due in October

Achtung! Cthulhu – The WW2 Keeper’s & Investigator’s Guides                          FUNDED!

  • ·         Staggered delivery due over the next year
  • ·         No bets on timely delivery of later stretch goals with licensed tie-ins
  • ·         Stretch goals entered planning stage at funding
  • ·         Massive project with Stretch Goals of the sort prone to long delays
  • ·         Regular, detailed  communication

Interface Zero 2.0: Full Metal Cyberpunk                                                                FUNDED!

  • ·         Staggered delivery (in progress) due over an unspecified period
  • ·         Main items due in June
  • ·         Good, detailed communication

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls                                                                                              FUNDED!

  • ·         Due in August
  • ·         Good communication

Margaret Weis Productions: Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide                                      FUNDED!

  • ·         Staggered release of material in progress
  • ·         Product expanded through Stretch Goals
  • ·         Due in May, all content now in editing
  • ·         Appears to be on track considering the final size of the project
  • ·         Detailed communication

The Guide to Glorantha                                                                                                  FUNDED!

  • ·         Originally projected for  January 2013 + stretch goal expansion
  • ·         Stretch Goals projected to extend due date to May 2013
  • ·         May update pushed delivery to August 2013
  • ·         Regular, detailed communication throughout the project

The Morrow Project 4th. Edition                                                                                  FUNDED!

  • ·         Staggered delivery of different products
  • ·         Initial Pre-Release items revised due date in April (slightly behind)
  • ·         Second tier of Pre-Release items due in May
  • ·         Production items due in June
  • ·         Good, detailed, semi-regular communication

Magicians: A Language Learning RPG                                                                          FUNDED!

  • ·         Project completed and fulfilled on time, stretch goals in development
  • ·         Product delivered in PDF and Print, with additional rewards
  • ·         Good, detailed, regular communication throughout
  • ·         Very Satisfied

Perils of the Surface World                                                                                             FUNDED!

  • ·         PDF delivery received, Print copy is in the mail
  • ·         Detailed Communication
  • ·         Production delays explained clearly before due dates passed

Horror on the Orient Express                                                                                         FUNDED!

  • ·         Due in August
  • ·         Production blog from Writers
  • ·         Infrequent, detailed Communication

Spherical D14 and D18 – the missing even-sided Game Dice                                    FUNDED!

  • ·         Project complete, product delivered
  • ·         Regular, detailed communication
  • ·         Very Satisfied

Westward: A Steampunk Western RPG, a Cinema6 Experience                               FUNDED!            

  • ·         Due October 2012
  • ·         Still being ‘playtested’ despite description of being complete during KS
  • ·         Not yet in final layout
  • ·         Sporadic communication, focus on other projects

Shadowrun Returns                                                                                                        FUNDED!

  • ·         Excellent communication
  • ·         Project projected for delivery in February 2013
  • ·         Project now expected in June
  • ·         Regular, very detailed communication

Attacks of Opportunity   – Dice Sets                                                                              FUNDED!

  • ·         Project complete, products delivered
  • ·         Good communication

The Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man                                                                        FUNDED!

  • ·         Project Due in September 2012
  • ·         Writing & Art complete in November 2012, pre-layout content shared
  • ·         Still in layout
  • ·         Poor, disingenuous communication after deadlines pass

Containment the RPG                                                                                                  Unsuccessful

  • ·         Disappointing that this did not get funded

GODLIKE Roleplaying Game in PDF and Paperback                                                 FUNDED!

  • ·         Project complete, product delivered
  • ·         Poor communication, unexplained delays
  • ·         Funded July 2011, Delivered August 2012: 13 months for proofing, editing, and layout
  • ·         Satisfactory product, good art, good printing, editing problems

Technoir: high-tech, hard-boiled roleplaying                                                           FUNDED!

  • ·         Project complete, Stretch Goals ongoing
  • ·         Primary Product delivered – Very Satisfied
  • ·         No specified delivery dates on Stretch Goals; 1 of 3 delivered
  • ·         Poor communication, focus on other projects
  • ·         Most recent comment April 17 2013 stating 2nd goal is being revised/completed
  • ·         Project funded in July 2011

Conclusions

I have none, really, but I do have intentions on how I plan to back in the future:

I have not seen the fulfillment stage for most of the projects I have backed, but it is important to note that a good number of these are also not yet due. If most turn out to go the same way as those that have gone long past due, I am done with Kickstarter.

Looking back over my list I do see a trend for delays in the projects I back, and I hope that I have committed to steps as a potential backer which will insulate me from backing projects with the same hallmarks in the future. As backlash against late fulfillment becomes more common, the result is bound to be projects with exaggerated delivery dates. Good! Vastly overestimate the time it will take and do it right up front on Day 1 of the project. Surprise me with early delivery, that will never get old. To keep up on what I have backed I have set notifications in my calendar to remind me to check on progress.

For projects which are overdue, and incommunicative, I have begun to check on them much more regularly and comment if there is no information forthcoming. I usually find that other backers have beaten me to the punch. That used to be good enough for me, but now I am starting to add my voice to theirs if their comments are met by silence and continued inaction – or worse by slavish “it’s okay-ism”. It is ridiculous to treat Kickstarter like a store; likewise it is ridiculous to let producers ride without reports of how they are progressing on a projects we have backed.

How have your interactions with Kickstarter changed, Gentle Reader?

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Comments
2 Responses to “Kicking my own tires as a Kickstarter backer”
  1. Brian says:

    What’s up casting shadows? Well, I can say that this is something I can speak to. As a backer and a co-creator the problems with kickstarter are varied. As much as they are with the creators. Our project was set up to do wat KS was originally meant to do. Assist a small business get off the ground. The project started out nicely and we did balloon a little, but not too far. We funded well and we had put out our “estimated” delivery date quite far. However what happened after it was over was a totally different story. Can you say “victim of our success” as we then had several independent miniature companies and artists calling to get our assistance in producing a model line. We did take on a few projects. To our detriment one of the clients had some pretty bad management of the release schedule and very poor communication. All of which led to the delay of our own project.

    We have however communicated with our backers as to what is happening and where we are in the process of moving into a larger space. The response overall was very positive. Many were pleased with the product that was being turned out through other companies were are working with. It has been a big learning curve.

    I would say this though. Kickstarter itself needs to do more to help creators in understanding the pledge fulfillment process. The pledge manager is very lackluster for dealing with complex pledge levels. This has given rise to several third party companies that deal with just that. Thus adding another expense for the creator that they had not originally planned for. Many of my projects that I have backed are doing just fine. An art book of miniature painting from Massive Voodoo is being shipped in the coming week. This was the only project I backed on Indiegogo. The James Wappel painting DVDs will not be coming for some time and neither will the Dwarven Forge dungeon tiles sets. Though I have faith in booth James and Stefan to produce a quality product.

    I would also say that I have been hard pressed to support a truly small company as many have either not had a long enough track record. Funny coming from one myself, but we do have a history in the miniatures industry. The projects I have backed have been from medium to small companies or individuals that have been around for some time though. At least enough to research. Hope things are going well and your backed projects all come through.

    Cheers,
    Brian Gregory

    • Runeslinger says:

      Thanks for commenting, Brian. It is nice to get some input from someone who has been on both sides of the pledge button, and to have someone from the YouTube RPG community leave a comment here.

      I hear what you are saying about the lack of clarity from KS in terms of explaining to creators how things work, and am not surprised that Backer Kit and other solutions are more expensive than people expect. I also understand how the demands of business and the need for both cash flow and developing a reputation tend to impact on project completion all the way around. Part of that understanding is to develop the position that backers need to be more aware of things both on their own, and through demanding better/more accurate accounting of progress (or the lack thereof).

      In the end, I suppose a whole community of sharing how to back and how to create through this company will need to be developed~

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