Cultist Simulator: the Kickstarter Decision

A couple of weeks ago I was dithering over to run a Kickstarter in November 2016, before my BioWare contract, or September 2017 once I’d finished at BioWare. An earlier KS would mean I would know where I stood with funding, and could get a second shot if it failed; a later KS would be a much easier sell than ‘thanks for the money, now I’m putting the project on hold for six months’.

So I did what I usually do, and went to the community. I asked everyone on the Cultist Simulator mailing list (which is here, btw, if you want updates) whether they would be more likely to back a Kickstarter in November 2016 or in Q3 2017. I then spread the survey link liberally around and listened to everyone with an opinion.[1] If you expressed your opinion, thank you, it helped!

They survey results split 43/57 for 2016/2017, which was a pretty mixed reaction. But I was interested in provoking and listening to people’s specific thoughts as much as anything, and these were really useful. Some of the things I came to believe in the wake of the consultation:

  • – running a Kickstarter would give me valuable information about how popular the idea was – but I already have a core of people who are seriously interested, so that’s less important than it might be.
  • – I have momentum and a decent profile now – but after I’ve been working at BioWare for six months, especially since my contract allows me to blog (tactfully) from inside the EA Leviathan, my profile will probably be higher
  • – I’ve run two successful KSs and I’m very aware that backers are forgiving, as long as you don’t take the piss. As long as I made sure everyone knew the sitch up front, it would probably be fine, but there would definitely be a communications tax.
  • – Failbetter are running a KS in January 2017 (probably). If I run a KS in September 2017, I would be in their rain shadow; people are still confused about whether I work there (I don’t) and what our connection is (I often have lunch with various Failbetters still) and they might confusedly ask, hang on, don’t you have another KS ongoing?

But the deciding factor was this. Someone asked: can you guarantee you’ll be done at BioWare after six months? and my first answer was “hell yes, I’m not going to extend there if I have a game to make”. But then I realised the mistake I was making.

I was still thinking like a studio head. When you’re employing sixteen people, you want to be damned sure everyone will be eating in a year, so you plan the fuck ahead. But my personal burn rate is much lower than that, and I can improvise. The main reason I left Failbetter was because I wanted to spend a while taking advantage of whatever opportunities presented themselves, rather than planning my life around biz requirements years in advance.

So I’m going for a Kickstarter in Q3 2017 (if I run a KS; more on that in another post), because that means if I do decide I want to keep working with BioWare a bit longer (if they’ll have me) – or do a PhD or run a bar in Da Nang – I still have that option. I like to finish projects; but let’s leave the future open a little longer.

So until Christmas, I’m working, self-funded, on CS, along with a couple of bits of consultancy-I-can’t-talk-about-because-you-know-this-biz. The Unity version is coming along swimmingly – I have the core loop running with all the content from the original prototype -but it’s butt-ugly at the moment. I’ll probably do another post on that next week.

Thanks for stopping by.

[1] (Actually, I made a silly error, which was to ask people ‘would you back, and also do you think other people would back’. Everyone’s an expert on their own feelings, but very few people are experts on other people. So this confused the results. Avoid asking that, folks.)

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