Again, I’m going to reference my frustrations with Tumblr, and my attempt to use this as a microblogging platform. My current goal is to distance myself from Tumblr, the ads, and the popularity contests that go on there. But the first concern anyone has is breaking the addiction of the Tumblr dashboard.
After hearing the story of this game and developer, and thinking back to all the great time I had playing Symphony of the Night (still one of my favorite PS1 games ever), I had to back this. Make dreams come true!
My answer is an enthusiastic YES! But, with caution.
Up front, I’ll say that some of the best games I’ve played in 2014 and 2015 are early access or Kickstarter games. For example, at the end of the Steam summer sale last year, my zombie hunting troop decided to purchase early access 7 Days 2 Die. It was a somewhat spur of the moment choice for us, and might have been dubious considering the name of the developers (The Fun Pimps). However, this turns out to be one of the best purchases I made last year – and the Pimps are an absolutely awesome development team, btw.
As a matter of fact, my Raptr notes that I’ve put 380 hours into this game – the second-most amount of time on any game I’ve played since I’ve had Raptr. The most of any Steam game by far. And watching this game change and grow, being a part of it since alpha 6, has been amazing!
When I’m not gaming, I’m an artist, writer and creator. I love Kickstarter because I see it as a way that I can invest into someone else’s dreams. I know how I’d feel if I were putting my heart and soul out there for funding, telling the crowd that it can be done, but only with help. That takes a lot of guts and a lot of confidence in a project.
I don’t go backing things willy-nilly, however. I enjoy browsing Kickstarter games and seeing if anything captures my interest. When it does, I spend a lot of time reading their sales pitch, watching their videos, measuring what the team feels they can accomplish, getting a feel for what the crowd-funding community thinks, and weighing my interest in the project. I’m very careful about what I opt into. I rarely put more than $20 into a Kickstarter – I feel that’s enough to make a solid backing, but not so much that I’d lose something if the game doesn’t get made. Best laid plans and all that. Even good intentions can go astray.
I’m also very patient because I understand the amount of time that goes into these projects. Some of the games I backed last year have only been released as early access on Steam this year. Some still are in development. But as long as these games keep me informed and updated, I’m content to continue to wait.
Of the Kickstarter games I have backed and received, most of them have been what I hoped and expected. Darkest Dungeon was a real surprise and joy of a game to play. Though I haven’t played it in a while, I still love Starbound and I’m excited by all the progress the game is making. Armello and Hero Generations are also both good games that I’m proud to have backed and helped become something real.
So, I suppose I don’t look at early access and Kickstarter games as something owed to me as much as it is a donation in good faith that the game is going to be made.
I’m also taking part in early access such as H1Z1 and Landmark. I didn’t put a whole lot of money into these early access packages, but just enough to get in and try things out. I’ve found both of these to be okay overall, but I remain hopeful that they will become something much better in the future.
Cons of Crowdfunding
The biggest con of early access and Kickstarter is the most obvious: You put money into a game with the risk that it doesn’t get made, it gets abandoned halfway through development, or it is not the game that the Kickstarter advertised when it’s done. You roll the dice every time you take the chance.
Here’s an interesting spreadsheet (compiled by Stumpokapow) that details the progress of crowd-funded games that pulled in over $75,000 as of June 2014. While there is a risk of failure, it seems for the most part, funded games are becoming released games. Kickstarter also updated their terms of agreement last fall to include expectations of creators. While they do remain mostly hands-off on conflicts, I noticed they stated:
The creator is solely responsible for fulfilling the promises made in their project. If they’re unable to satisfy the terms of this agreement, they may be subject to legal action by backers.
Getting Burned by Early Access: A Cautionary Tale of Dragon’s Prophet
But, sometimes, even a game that fills its promises just is a totally unsatisfactory game in the end. I can’t say that all of my early access experiences have been wonderful. My one biggest example is the Dragon’s Prophet early access.
I thought a game endorsed by SOE (at the time) that centered around taming, training, and riding dragons could be nothing but awesome. Throw in a housing system and a class that fights with scythes, and you have my total interest.
This was a game I thought I could love, so early spring of 2013, I paid for an alpha account that included a cool flying dragon, a free house, outfits, Station Cash and other stuffs. I was so stoked to get to play a game where you could ride (flying!) dragons from the get-go, not to mention I thought the Pokemon capture/train sort of thing would enthrall so many other people.
What I got was not at all what I hoped for.
The action combat was a mess and totally unbalanced between classes.
The housing was a fubar at release, with the plots costing so much for so little that it makes FFXIV’s housing look like a steal in comparison. This was kinda fixed later on by allowing people to purchase “apartments”… but so much for the idea of open world housing islands. Meh.
Women avatars were a sexualized disgrace – revealing armor, perpetual high heels and embarrassing boob physics included.
The game was being translated, but the localization of quests and attempt at story were just awful. I’ve played some corny MMO stories, but this one had me constantly wincing.
The attempt at dynamic open-world events were a fail, and dungeons weren’t much better.
There was cash shop in everything. I do mean everything – even rezzing your character had a cash shop option, if I remember.
Honestly, the only good thing I could say about the game was that I liked the dragons. But, even those became cash shop purchases in the end, totally defeating any prestige you might have earned by capturing those once-elusive legendary dragons.
Not to mention that the alpha was released sometime late spring, and only lasted a month or two before they threw it into open beta. This really annoyed me, as I’d paid to play an exclusive alpha release and in a very short time, everyone was able to play. So don’t complain about how long the Landmark alpha/beta is too much… at least you got your time as an alpha/beta tester.
Many of us testers gave all this feedback to the team. Very little of it actually mattered in the end. Kinda like Trion and ArcheAge, I think SOE’s hands are pretty tied in how this game can change. So all the time and effort I, and other people, spent offering all the above feedback as an alpha tester was disregarded and they pushed it to beta anyhow.
The game wasn’t ready when it did launch live a few months after open beta started. I don’t think it ever did very well and I warned everyone against it.
The Moral of the Story
Don’t jump into early access and crowdfunding with your heart and hopes on your sleeve.
Spend time investigating an early access game and listening to feedback about a game before you put money into it.
Don’t pledge money you don’t have on an early access or Kickstarter game.
Once you pledge, consider that money gone.
Do get a feel for the community’s thoughts towards a Kickstarter, but don’t get caught in hype.
Don’t buy into early access if you can’t deal with bugs and an unfinished game.
Don’t shun a game for being early access… because you never know if it’s going to be your next favorite game!
Do support the dreams of developers who are making games with concepts that are original or that really appeal to you.
Support projects in small ways at first, to play it safe. If you like what you see once it hits early access, you can always support the developer further by purchasing additional copies for friends – a win-win! 🙂