Saturday, 9 June 2012

Kickstarter /rant

I read a friend's post about Kickstarter this afternoon, and I felt he made a fair number of valid points. This seems to be cropping up increasingly as of late; the question of whether a project 'deserves' to go on Kickstarter, and I think it's started to become worthy of serious comment.

There is a clear parallel to be drawn with projects on a game developer's forum I frequent, though I should mention the 'problem' isn't limited to video games. Anyway, speaking as a collective, we often get posts from modders along the entire spectrum of ability; from total noobs through to university educated designers. The Source scene's in a big decline at the moment, so they haven't been as frequent as usual. However, time and time again these people genuinely expect us to get involved in their projects.

Double Fine is an example of how good Kickstarter can be
Admittedly, the Source community at is "generally cynical, critical [and] routinely destroys newcomer's hopes and dreams through giving them a non-euphemised point of view about their suggested projects" as one friend put it, but there's reason to this. These projects are created by 'ideas guys', whose skillset is lacking and their understanding of the processes involved in games design minimal. We can spot a project that's going to fail a mile off because we've all been there. Many indie and amateur devs are often guilty of saying "I promise we'll finish this" and failing to, but the sad fact is we all know it's an empty promise. Devs lie to themselves more than the target audience when they pitch ideas.

We all expected Raindrop to be a success - and it wasn't.
Would you fund a project not knowing if it would work?
What's more, even projects belonging to people with an excellent set of ideas and skills can rapidly go down the pan. Consider Nightfall, Raindrop - mods that we all expected to survive and prosper.

So where am I going with all of this?

The posts that I've read, from the ideas men to the experienced modders, get torn to shreds on Interlopers. We cut them hard and cut them deep because that's what we do. We're hard-bitten, self-taught workers of a craft and we're not going to bow down to someone with an (admittedly decent) idea but no skill or knowledge of the effort involved. We don't get paid to do this, y'know. Once upon a time, these ideas would get our support or our criticism, and they'd go from there with knowledge, experience and refinement - or be rightly binned entirely. Ever heard of City 13 by MajorBanter? Of course you haven't, because it was an awful idea and it rightly got no quarter at Interlopers. So let's expand this to the general playing field of games design.

"You're not funding a project - you're funding an ego."

Now, any game dev who thinks he or she has a half-baked idea will look at Minecraft or Orion's success on Kickstarter and genuinely believe that they can do it. Perhaps they can, but what about motivation? Skill? Interest? Ability? Design? The key tenets are set aside for a self-masturbatory attempt at what is basically validation of an idea. You're not funding a project - you're funding an ego. I'm sure there are many excellent Kickstarters out there, but for every Tim Schafer there's a MyLittleBronycon. One is a heartfelt attempt to build something, and if it fails then it dies gracefully and with our respect, as Raindrop did. The other is a bizarre, sickening and pointless moneygrabbing venture that wouldn't last five minutes on a public forum.

Feel free to debate this with me - this is a superficial conclusion, and there's plenty of health in this argument. Is Kickstarter a menace as much as a positive thing? Do these successful and honest projects outweigh the delusional ones? Let me know. But right now, I feel that instead of opening these projects to the much needed criticism and support from fellow individuals is analogous to the almighty playtest. It fixes fundamental problems, or gives you the knowledge of whether to bin the whole thing or not. By just skipping to Kickstarter, amateur devs undermine their own project and undermine the positive values of Kickstarter in search of a quick buck, motivation, or as far as I'm concerned the positive feedback they crave. And at the back of their heads will be a niggling doubt asking that big question - is this idea really as good as I think it is?

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