Launching a game project is more like launching an expedition than it is like launching an arrow. Supplies are important, but knowing where the hell you’re going, and why, is much more so. If you take the wrong heading, you can miss the oases and end up in the deep desert, wondering what all those vultures are looking at. Advice, travel directions, folklore, weather warnings are the difference between life and death.

Case in point (from a writeup of a talk I gave at GDC about Sunless Sea):


Because we talked to our community for months before launch, we ended up with ‘LOSE YOUR MIND. EAT YOUR CREW’, which was a lot better than  ‘2D Elite with steam ships.’

So I am very interested in supplying the expedition, but much more than that, I want to get a community involved with the game as soon as I can. I’ve already got bloody invaluable feedback from my subreddit, but Kickstarter communities are a whole nother level of involved.

Accordingly, in the next few days I’ll be talking to the mailing list to get everyone’s thoughts on the preview version of the Kickstarter. If you haven’t signed up, now is a good time to:

But here I want to talk about some of my thinking in the KS so far. Specially the rewards.

The Cultist Simulator team is just me, and a couple of freelancers. I’ve been involved in three Kickstarters, and I know too well how much time they can eat up, and how pushing that funding total up can come to seem as important as making the game. So I want to keep my budget modest, and I want to watch my workload carefully. That means I’ve ruled out a lot of possible rewards: I’m focusing on the things I can do without losing my mind.

The basic reward, for £10 or thereabouts, will be a copy of the game. More specifically, a Perpetual Edition copy of the game – any and all DLC and updates forever. I’ve talked here about what that means, and why I’m not doing a backers’ alpha or beta or any of those. That probably means less money, but also fewer headaches.

The £30 tier is a copy of my digital notebooks, which look nothing at all like this:

I reckon this will be interesting to the people they’re interesting to and completely baffling to everyone else, which sounds like a good KS reward.

The £50 tier is the “you’re in the game” one:

“Your name, or a pseudonym, goes in the game, as an author of forbidden works / damned soul / grasping tide spirit / oracular bottled ape foetus etc.

I reserve the right to veto unsuitable names, because I still remember that time a backer tried to get a landmark called Dankmeme Swamp in Sunless Sea. But I’ll find something that works for us both, or give your money back.

If I get a lot of backers, I am really going to regret making this a fifty quid tier, but I’ll put an whole extra library of Scarlet Monks in or something.”

It really helped, having a bunch of backer names for landmarks in the Sunless Sea map. We had to do some massaging, but it was a nice creative constraint. And I am having to think up a lot of occult author names.


The £100 tier comes with two promises:

  • I will invent a custom word
  • “I will answer one question about the lore of any game I’ve worked on, including this one, as long as it’s not NDA-protected. The question must be asked on or before March 21st, 2021.”

Games I’ve worked on are here. NB that Dragon Age 4 isn’t on the list, because no-one’s confirmed that Dragon Age 4 is happening, and even if they had, I would be NDA’d up the intimates.

Again, this is strictly for people who really want to see Cultist Simulator be as good as it could be; or for those few who are hopelessly haunted by some irresoluble riddle. I do quality words, though.


The £500 tier, God-who-Was-Stone, is: “I will send you a Thing. This Thing will be suitable for display, if you like that sort of Thing. “

So this is down to whether you want the kind of Thing I’d send you, based on my previous work. Fair dos if not, honestly.

You’ll notice that this is the first physical reward (other than the flash drive the digital notebooks will go on). Again, I think this will lose me cash, but it will save me a lot of time. I’m a small operation now.


The £1000 tier, God-From-Light: all the above; plus, work with me to put a unique item in the game; optionally, come round to my Mysterious Lair by the River (in London, UK) while we talk the item through.

This is how Nuncio and Visage and a bunch of marvellous stuff ended up in Sunless Sea, and I’d do that again in half a heartbeat. I’m locking this down to 3 max, though, because the back and forth takes a lot of time.

The visit to my place is honestly for my benefit as much as anything. I’m always curious about what kind of superbackers put this kind of money into a game, and I feel better about taking the money if I can shake someone’s hand.


The £2500 tier may not exist.

Conventional wisdom is that there should be a tier before the next one. I think conventional wisdom is right, but it’s tough thinking of rewards that are worth the money to the backer, don’t cost me loads to fulfil, and which won’t require days of time. I’ll keep thinking and looking for ideas.


The £5000 tier, God-from-Blood: A Tattooed Developer

“Choose any piece of game art to be tattooed on my actual skin.

Seriously. You might remember I got inked with Sunless Sea art as a stretch goal.

Conditions: it has to be Cultist Simulator art (or a quote); my girlfriend gets to veto anything too alarming. If we can’t agree, I’ll refund.”

This is basically me playing chicken with my audience. I slightly regret having the idea, because I couldn’t not put it in once I had, and I definitely regret that the Kickstarter pledge max is 5K not 10K.


Things I’m not offering:

“Possibly a scrap of the developer’s soul, but probably not”. This was the £1 reward. I don’t think I’ll bother with a £1 pledge. I want to offer people the chance to engage significantly.

No custom content. This goes with the Perpetual Edition thinking. Honestly, I go back and forth on pre-order bonuses and whatnot. I think they’re legit, I think developers have a right to monetise their games how they want, but it’s hard to calibrate what feels reasonable vs what feels like horse armour. And it takes time to write content if you want to give value. So I’m going for less cash, less headache.

No digital art book. They take real effort to put together, and I never look at them for other Kickstarters I’ve backed. If everyone tells me I’m wrong, I might add one.

No other physical rewards. It always takes more time than you think. I might go for smaller physical rewards if some good ideas occur. But I keep coming back to this: a high funding total is secondary. Getting directions through the game development desert is what I most need.


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1 comment on CULTSTARTER!
  1. Honestly, this all looks like a good setup to me. I certainly can’t think of anything else I might want to see as a reward. At the moment, I’d have to choose between the £30 and £50 tiers, because while I am very very curious about the £500 item, I can’t justify the expenditure.


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