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Subject: Indie Board Game Designers, Camaraderie, and Kickstarter rss

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Robert Burke
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I started this string to get an independent game designer's perspective on backing the projects of other independent designers.

Personally, I look at every board game project that arrives on Kickstarter, and I have backed over 40 projects now. As a designer with a couple successful campaigns under my belt, I see giving back as a way to encourage others and keep the indie board game scene vibrant and connected. I like the new 5% Kick It Forward thing that I have scene popping up, but do we really need something like this on our project pages? Shouldn't everyone looking for pledges also be a pledger?

I think so, and here is why.


I want to support game designers that are doing what I do! I know what they are going through. I feel like we are connected. It's called camaraderie. I can't afford to support every project, but if it is something that appeals to me in anyway there are certain triggers that make me click that pledge button.

Here are some of the triggers:

1. Am I excited about the idea, theme, or mechanics?

If a project appeals to me in anyway, chances are good I will support it. It doesn't have to be the talk of the town, but just has to have something I find appealing. I am not a stickler for perfection, or great reviews out of the gate. I WANT to support a fellow indie designer's project, give me a reason. ANY reason.

2. Is it priced right?

We all have budgets, so I can't pledge to every game, but if the game is priced right I will go in for a copy, if not, I may throw in a buck. I happen to really like early bird pledges. I know some do not, but let me tell you why I do. Early bird discounts give someone a reason to pledge now! This is important for many reasons, the most important of which is momentum. The more pledges that come in early the higher your project appears on the Kickstarter board game page, which equals more pledges, which equals a higher ranking, etc. and so on. It's an important cycle if you can make it happen. In addition, all the people who got in early are more likely to become evangelists for your project. From my experience there are a lot of people who will sit on the fence, wait until the project is sure to be funded, or wait until the last week before the project ends. Early bird pledges help reduce this greatly.

3. Did the designer back one of my projects?
This will usually always trigger me to back a project, but is not required. Not that I need any designer to back my project, but if they do I would feel incredibly guilty if I don't return the favor. We are a community, we are not competition! The more quality independent projects get funded the more people will be willing to pledge in the future. Indie project success is good for ALL indie designers. We have a lot of people that deserve our undying gratitude for using Kickstarter to produce high quality games. Alien Frontiers, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Eminent Domain. These are projects that have an excellent reputation for being GREAT games. Without great games like this we would not be seeing the number of successful game projects that we are happening on Kickstarter today. As indie designers we should also own these game, play them with our groups and be sure to let our groups know they were KICKSTARTER projects!

4. Did the designer offer me friendly advice, do I know them, have I seen them be helpful to other designers?
If so, I am much more apt to support a project. Karma is real, remember this! NEVER bash a fellow indie designer on BGG, Twitter, or anywhere. As my mother taught me, if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. It doesn't matter if you hate the game, the art, the mechanic, the reward levels, the price, whatever. Keep it to yourself. But if you can't help yourself, make your negative communication private. We are all in this together. We can choose to build the reputation of independently produced games, or we can choose to destroy it. Don't let your competitive spirit and/or jealousy hinder the amazing thing we are seeing being built! A great competitor wins by improving their products, not by pulling down others! I actually got upset when I saw Steve Jackson had launched a Kickstarter campaign. I had to remind myself that he has every right to do so, and that it is a GOOD thing, not a bad thing. The more attention that comes to Kickstarter the better! I will put 100% of my focus to improving MY games and taking care of MY customers. You should too.

5. Has the designer backed other projects?
I always check to see how many projects a game designer has backed on Kickstarter, it's not necessary to be a backer of other projects, but it certainly increases the likelihood that I will pledge.

Let me know what pushes you to back a project by a fellow designer, and what keeps you from backing one?



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Erik Dahlman
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I actually follow a pretty similar line of reasoning. Obviously, I can't back every project but I probably back more than I would have had I not gone through the experience of running a KS project. I have to say the most disappointing thing about backing a project and then asking them to back yours later is the complete lack of response. Tell me you don't have the cash but tweet about it. Say you don't like the genre of the game and maybe give it a thumbs up anyway. But don't ignore me now that you either have your money or your campaign ended unsuccessfully.

I'm not going to post the list here, but there are publishers out there that are cranking out more than one game on Kickstarter. Many of which are Kickstarting games before they've even delivered on the first one. What they fail to realize is that if you blow someone off the first time, they will remember you. And you will never sell them another game, ever. I don't care if I think I might even be interested in it, because I have a very hard time accepting people that are only in it for themselves.

Kickstarter isn't just a 'place to get free money'. It's a community as much as BGG is a community. And when you have people that take but don't give, I can only hope that karma catches up to those people.

 
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I think this is something that I have an evolving opinion of.

I haven't launched a game yet, but I have backed a few. Before I was going to actually do a kickstarter I was definitely in the "is this a game I would buy" category.

Now, it's just as much "was this person helpful to me when I needed advice". TMG has gotten some support from me based solely on that. Michael has been really helpful in the process. Although, I think a copy of Ground Floor is going to be nice to own in any case.

The guys who launched Fleet and Farmageddon have been likewise extremely helpful.. though I was already going to back those titles because they looked awesome.

I do have a seperate personal account that I use for backing projects. Perhaps I should change that to make it clearer that I have supported projects.

All of that said, I don't know how I feel about a stricly "back this project because you backed mine" and I don't know how I feel about kicking it forward for the same reason. I'll gladly support projects that I think look good, or from people that I see as supporters or friends of my project or just seem like all around nice guys.
 
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Erik Dahlman
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stooge wrote:
I don't know how I feel about a stricly "back this project because you backed mine"


I hope my reply didn't come across as this. I know that it doesn't make sense for everyone to support everyone else's game because then we just end up cycling the same cash around while KS takes 10%.

All I'm saying is that if I spend $100 on a campaign to help someone get over their goal to make their game, I think it would be nice to see a couple of tweets for my project when the time comes. Don't pretend you don't know me anymore because now you've already gotten what you wanted.

That being said, there are quite a few guys on KS that I approached before I started a project and they were amazingly helpful (Jason Fordham and Trevor Cram especially). I do love that so many people have been forthright with information to help everyone else succeed. Richard Bliss at thegamewhisperer.com and a few others here have posted quite a bit that I and others have used along the way.

So for the most part it's been good and I'm happy to have met everyone that I have and look forward to meeting more in person. I just hate to see people come in and use the system without giving anything back.
 
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Jeff Warrender
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I like the upbeat tone of the OP, and I think the emphasis on supporting other indie designers/publishers is commendable and noble. Nevertheless, I'd like to gently dissent. Let me first say that I have no problem with people supporting other people's projects, but I'm concerned about this becoming an expectation or obligation.

1. Games are very expensive to produce and come with all sorts of hidden costs . Freight, customs, artwork, advertising, royalties, Kickstarter fees -- these all add up, and even with KS, a new publisher may find it hard to turn a profit on his first games. Adding another drain into which he's obligated to pour what funding he does manage to secure just puts more strain on his bottom line. And moreover, it's putting his money in exactly the wrong place -- if he's trying a grow a small business, surplus capital should be going into his own business, not someone else's.

2. People contributed to your Kickstart, not someone else's. This particularly applies to the "Kick it forward" concept, which is a terrible idea. People who contributed to your project did so so that you could execute on the rewards that you promised under the terms of the KS, not so you can become a philanthropist and back other people's projects. If they want to support other KS projects, they can go ahead and back them -- they don't need you to use their money for that purpose. The money that you raise should be used to execute your own project, and given the aforementioned consideration, it seems terribly imprudent to commit to peeling off 5% of your project off of the top -- it adds risk that you won't be able to deliver on your commitments.

Imagine you have the great fortune to raise $40k -- the $2k you're giving away could pay for the freight for your games, or for some additional artwork, or for advertising, or heck, a couple hundred additional copies of the game to sell.

3. Kickstarter boardgame projects aren't charitable enterprises. Building off of the previous point, taking 5% of your project's budget and giving it to other boardgame projects is not a charitable act, anyway, because every boardgame project entails rewards -- the previously mentioned $2k, donated by people to support your project, is actually being spent to buy you a bunch of cool new games for your collection. There was recently a bit of a brouhaha when a Kickstarter (not a boardgame project) was found to have spent some of his project's budget on his living expenses. Using the money to buy some games doesn't really seem terribly different in principle.

Relatedly, even a publisher who wishes to be charitable with his proceeds may have charities that are nearer and dearer to his heart than other KS projects. He may not wish to build this into the language of his KS project (indeed, I believe KS forbids this), but his desire to be charitable is no less worthwhile.


Again, there is not a thing in the world wrong with supporting the projects of other small (or big!) publishers who are in the same boat, just trying to bring a successful product to market in a competitive business in which margins are low. Helping the other guy out is great, if you want to do it. But there shouldn't be a perceived expectation from the community or from other publishers that you should do this. And if there is, it's not reasonable to expect that this must needs take the form of a monetary contribution, or of a commitment to reinvest 5% of your proceeds into other people's projects. There are plenty of other ways to be helpful, and these should be encouraged and recognized.
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Brook Gentlestream
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Jeff, there is nothing wrong with your reasoning, but your arguments are based on a common misunderstanding of the way Kick It Forward works.

The idea in Kick It Forward is that is that 100% of all backers' money is going to go into backers benefits and growing your business. Further, it's assumed this business, once started, will be profitable. The Kick It Forward money is expected to come out of the net profits of the subsequent business venture that was able to first get off the ground due to kickstarter. It's not backers money that's used, but rather money from profits after the subsequent business venture has launched and yielded its expected returns.

There's still plenty of reasons to be against the Kick It Forward program, but at least reasons #2 and #3 do not apply.
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Robert Burke
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As a game designer I want to play new games, especially games by independent developers like myself. This is not my main source of income, heck it's not even ANY source of income. So if I pledge to a project it is my money, not money from my project, which I keep completely separate.

I want to pledge to game projects I like for many reasons. 1. I like games 2. I want to research what others ar doing 3. I want to help my fellow designers. I am not sold on the Kick It Forward thing, it feels like you are only doing it to advertise it. And will people actually follow through, or did they just put the logo on their KS page in hopes of gaining more backers?

I would never expect anyone to back my project because I backed theirs, but I can say I am much more apt to support someone who supported me. That's just being honest. And that's how it should be. But what I am talking about goes way beyond pledges. Are you a designer that helps newcomers out with information, advice, moral support, or do you look at every new game as competition. Do you lift fellow designers up? If your not Hasbro you're one of us. We need each other to keep the incredible momentum for designer games going.

The documentarry Going Cardboard (a Kickstarter project) touched on this. I forget who it was, but the gist was game companies and designers want great games by others to sell because it brings more people into the hobby. If someone plays Catan and loves it, it is only a matter of time before the play Carcassonne, Dominion, Stone Age, etc. and end up with an account here on the Geek.

I suppose my point is just, "Let's stick together". We are partners more than competitors because the market itself is growing.
 
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Brook Gentlestream
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Tinyelvis wrote:
I suppose my point is just, "Let's stick together". We are partners more than competitors because the market itself is growing.


Right! It's those geeks from VGG that are the REAL enemy!! devil
 
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Robert Burke
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lordrahvin wrote:
Tinyelvis wrote:
I suppose my point is just, "Let's stick together". We are partners more than competitors because the market itself is growing.


Right! It's those geeks from VGG that are the REAL enemy!! devil


Right! It is our job to evangelize for cardboard and REAL human interaction.
 
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Ryan Full
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Tinyelvis wrote:
Right! It is our job to evangelize for cardboard and REAL human interaction.


Hey! My Xbox has a headset with voice chat!
 
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Tom Razo
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I have backed and will continue to back mostly small independent designers versus the established game companies. If I had unlimited funds I would certainly back anything of interest, yet I tend to offer support to the projects that help fund a dream rather than expedite a products delivery to market.

I certainly feel a sense of community when I back other projects and hope that some day others will back one of my projects and feel the same way.


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Jeff Warrender
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lordrahvin wrote:

The Kick It Forward money is expected to come out of the net profits of the subsequent business venture that was able to first get off the ground due to kickstarter.


Ah so. Thanks for clarifying. I still think it's not a great concept, but this does at least soften my concern about using project funds to support other projects. Again, I don't think there's anything wrong with personally committing to supporting other projects, I just think it's undesirable to view such a commitment as obligatory for a project to be worth funding.

 
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Matthew Rogers
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I backed Robert's game before launching my Kickstarter, and with no expectation (or invitation) of reciprocity. The game was just a good fit... simple enough for my youngest but hopefully enough meat to keep me and the older kids interested. I've also backed several other projects, some of folks who backed me and some who didn't. Each one of the projects has been a decision based on the individual project and whether or not I think they'll fit into my family or one of my gaming groups. And I didn't expect anyone I backed to automatically back me... not everyone's going to be interested in my game and that's okay.

I support Kicking It Forward, exactly for the reason that another poster does not. Take a typical (bigger than mine, but not spectacular) board game project: say they raise $10,000. Between manufacturing, shipping, ancillary rewards, marketing and everything else you might be lucky if your profit is $1000 - $2000. That means that project's founder will be putting $50 - $100 into KS, funding 2 or 3 other games (or other projects) that interest them.

However, a video game studio (like inXile) that has a blowout success of $2.9 MILLION and lower manufacturing costs per unit will be investing a whole bunch more into Kickstarter. A rising tide lifts all boats and stuff like that.
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Matthew Rogers
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jwarrend wrote:
...a commitment as obligatory for a project to be worth funding.


I'm sure you mean a perceived commitment, right? As a supporter of Kicking It Forward, I'm not under any obligation to spend my 5% profit on another KiF project, just a KS project. And I'll continue to support non-KiF projects with my personal funds, I think KiF is another way to build up the KS economy, but not the only way (or even the best way, as has been pointed out, KS wins in the end since they always get their cut).
 
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Robert Burke
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zedturtle wrote:
I backed Robert's game before launching my Kickstarter, and with no expectation (or invitation) of reciprocity. The game was just a good fit... simple enough for my youngest but hopefully enough meat to keep me and the older kids interested. I've also backed several other projects, some of folks who backed me and some who didn't. Each one of the projects has been a decision based on the individual project and whether or not I think they'll fit into my family or one of my gaming groups. And I didn't expect anyone I backed to automatically back me... not everyone's going to be interested in my game and that's okay.

I support Kicking It Forward, exactly for the reason that another poster does not. Take a typical (bigger than mine, but not spectacular) board game project: say they raise $10,000. Between manufacturing, shipping, ancillary rewards, marketing and everything else you might be lucky if your profit is $1000 - $2000. That means that project's founder will be putting $50 - $100 into KS, funding 2 or 3 other games (or other projects) that interest them.

However, a video game studio (like inXile) that has a blowout success of $2.9 MILLION and lower manufacturing costs per unit will be investing a whole bunch more into Kickstarter. A rising tide lifts all boats and stuff like that.


Thank you Matt! What is your project? I would like to pledge.
 
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Matthew Rogers
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Robert,

It's over now, but you can find the project page at http://kck.st/zUI2xw

If you're truly interested, I'm taking preorders for the base game at http://mrwgames.com/available-now/wfd/, but as I mentioned above, don't feel obligated... not every game is a good match for every gamer or group.
 
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Robert Burke
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zedturtle wrote:
Robert,

It's over now, but you can find the project page at http://kck.st/zUI2xw

If you're truly interested, I'm taking preorders for the base game at http://mrwgames.com/available-now/wfd/, but as I mentioned above, don't feel obligated... not every game is a good match for every gamer or group.


Ordered, thanks!

I need to play new card games, my current game in development, Battle For Souls, is a card game.

My mechanics are basically set, but I want to play as many card games as possible to see what people really like and what they don't.
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dataspire wrote:
stooge wrote:
I don't know how I feel about a stricly "back this project because you backed mine"


I hope my reply didn't come across as this. I know that it doesn't make sense for everyone to support everyone else's game because then we just end up cycling the same cash around while KS takes 10%.



No, not at all. I was just opining myself, not specifically trying to address anyone's comments.

I get where you are coming from, and I think I'm probably more likely to back a project than I was before I decided to run a kickstarter, and I definitely think the indie developers need to help each other out.

Backing is good, getting the word out and giving advice is probably the best way to support one another.
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Jeff Warrender
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zedturtle wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
...a commitment as obligatory for a project to be worth funding.


I'm sure you mean a perceived commitment, right?


No; I was talking about the point of view of a person considering supporting a KS project, and suggesting that the person should NOT use "this KS project is a Kick It Forward project" or "the owner of this project supports other KS projects" as necessary criteria that a project must meet before it's worth supporting.


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