Balance of Power Creator Says Kickstarter Used To Be Cool

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Balance of Power Creator Says Kickstarter Used To Be Cool

Chris Crawford says his Balance of the Planet initiative is on the cusp of dismal failure because Kickstarter has changed.

Do you know who Chris Crawford is? He was a pretty big dog back in the 80s and early 90s, designing strategy and war games like Patton vs. Rommel, Balance of Power and Balance of the Planet. He effectively retired from the industry in 1992, although he's written several design-related books since then, and in July of this year he decided to hop aboard the Kickstarter train with an updated version of Balance of the Planet, "an educational simulation of environmental-economic issues."

It has not gone well. With four days remaining, a little over $11,000 has been pledged, less than ten percent of the project's $150,000 goal. Crawford is no Tim Schafer, but neither is he an unproven unknown, especially with regards to strategy games like this one. So what went wrong?

"As it turns out, my model was only right for what Kickstarter used to be," Crawford told Gamasutra. "That is, Kickstarter used to be a semi-charitable operation in which people could assist worthy creative projects that might not make it commercially, but still ought to be done. But in the area of games and comics, this is no longer the case."

"What's going on now, which I did not comprehend at the time, is that Kickstarter is a marketing channel [for games], so instead of buying a game after it's made, people just pay for a game before it's made," he continued. "It works in that context, but I had entirely the wrong context in mind, so Balance of the Planet's Kickstarter became a dismal failure."

That may be a valid point, but the truth is that I'd never even heard of Kickstarter prior to Schafer's gambit, which is probably the case for most of you, too. And if we take the Double Fine Adventure as the turning point in Kickstarter hipsterism, then odds are that Crawford's project wouldn't have had a chance even when it was still cool, because it was so underground.

The game itself is also a factor. Crawford takes pains to note that Balance of the Planet is a serious game, and while it will be very educational, won't necessarily be a lot of fun. He also intends to give it away if and when it's complete, meaning that supporters are throwing their money behind it for purely altruistic motives, which is asking a lot from the internet.

Crawford said that if he ever takes another shot at Kickstarter it will only be to raise money to make updated versions of existing games. Funding for new, experimental projects like this one, he added, would be better found elsewhere.

Source: Gamasutra

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So, what exactly about Kickstarter has changed, if anything? I don't see how anything about Kickstarter is different other than its larger audience. It was always a gamble; this just looks like a gamble that Chris Crawford lost.

Also, was Kickstarter ever 'Semi-Charitable?' I don't know its history that well but I thought the 'no charities' thing was always there.

updated versions of existing games, well that was a retarded thing of him to say.

Because some of the highest are just rereleases of old games right?

Some ambitious projects like Planetary Annihilation get funded like crazy. The difference? PA sounds FUN!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/659943965/planetary-annihilation-a-next-generation-rts?ref=category

Lets compare the twos taglines

Balance of the Planet: An educational simulation of environmental-economic issues.

Planetary Annihilation: Planetary Annihilation brings RTS gameplay to a new generation of players in a way that's never been seen before.

People want to put money into things they would enjoy seeing, as it has always been. I saw this project and went "lol fuck that" because why? It sounded boring as shit.

Pitch an idea that sounds fun, and you have a better chance of getting a project funded.

I'm not sure at what point making an extremely self-congratulatory and highly irritating promotional video to promote an educational environmentalist game seemed like a good idea to him.

It's less that Kickstarter has changed than that it never was what he thought it was in the first place. And now he is upset that his plan failed and is bitter about it.

is that Kickstarter is a marketing channel [for games], so instead of buying a game after it's made, people just pay for a game before it's made,"

Which, granted, seems pretty true. But it seems to be a popular system that is definitely getting funding towards these games, allowing games that would never have seen the light of day from traditional publishing the ability to appear on the market. I'm alright with that.

Seriously watching that video makes me want to punch this guy in the face, its so ANNOYING

Although you could never do straight charities, you could raise money for charitable causes provided a product was available. For instance, I participated in a Kickstarter to create a comic book with the profits going to support Japan in the wake of the disasters last year.

I think his issue was that he didn't market it well enough. One of the reasons the Double Fine Adventure did so well was that word about it spread very quickly to everybody who was interested. If nobody who cares knows it's happening, it's not gonna hit its target.

I think he confused Kickstarter with IndieGoGo.

That promotional video is the worst. I went from not knowing who he was to wanting to stomp on his face inside the first minute.

So as the first comment at the Gamasutra article says... the way the simulation is described on the Kickstarter page is not going to inspire or excite anyone. Funding it is like eating your mushy peas because your Mom thinks you should.

Nightmare99:
That promotional video is the worst. I went from not knowing who he was to wanting to stomp on his face inside the first minute.

Now that I've had my coffee and looked at it a second time I agree with you. THAT'S why he didn't make any money - he's an arse. Mystery solved.

JuliusMagnus:
I think he confused Kickstarter with IndieGoGo.

I think you've got something there. Taking the recent Wardenclyffe fundraiser as an example it's definitely possible to get huge sums of money for nonprofit causes, and most of the internet STILL probably doesn't know who Tesla was, but he got a million bucks in a week.

So, maybe it's more about how you advertise and what venue you use?

Could it be that his project was lame and uninteresting? Noooo, can't be that. Things are just too CORPORATE now, man.

I'm sorry Mr. Crawford, but I think the problem is your expectations.

Also, I believe you value your work a lot higher than other people would.

*ahem*
"people could assist worthy creative projects that might not make it commercially, but still ought to be done"

That right there is your problem. No one else thinks this about your project. Welcome to real life.

I'm sorry, but I'm not sure we even needed this article. It's essentially a grown man whining because no one else likes his idea. But he can't admit it's a poor idea, so he instead blames the system.

Awesome. Some body get this man a can of "Wake the hell up."

So he wants to make Fate of the World, but more boring?

I'm not surprised that tis didn't work out. The game doesn't sound like fun at all, the video is pretty bad and to top it off, it doesn't seem like he did a lot of promoting. Contrary to popular believe, Kickstarter is not a site for free money, you still have to make people want to buy what you're selling.

It's not that kickstarter has failed him, it's that his idea is simply too niche. And yes, people need to like your idea to want to fund it. I don't think any amount of marketing could make this idea seem worthy on kickstarter.

It's an educational game, one of the most hated forms of electronic entertainment ever invented. He shouldn't be marketing this to gamers, he should be proposing it to schools and the government. So I guess in a way he's right, in that he has completely failed the marketing side of his idea. He doesn't know his demographic at all.

Maybe if he hadn't waited until everyone was tapped out (or knew how to make a promotional video) Balance of Power could have broke even.

Wow... having read his whole kickstarter, I'll say this much.

My god that was the most boring piece of crap I've ever had to force myself to read on a website for a game. Plus those rewards? Completely uninspired.

This whole "My idea was kickstarter before everyone else started kickstarting" hipster vibe I'm reading off him isn't making me want to do anything more than ignore him, which isn't helping his case all that well I'm betting.

Considering this being the first time I've even heard of his game, even after my several bored scrollings through Kickstarter's list of video game projects, shows there hasn't been much on his part to really try and reach out there. He seems to have even stated as much, focusing on trying to reach out to pro-environmental websites and blogs (who have more than likely never heard of him in the first place) instead of reaching out to those who are actually fans of his type of "game".

Plus, that whole "defeatist" attitude he's presenting himself with definitely isn't winning any favors either I bet. I've seen projects shoot up even hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last hours of the drive. And he's giving up on the project (not the game itself it seems) with 4 days left.

sethisjimmy:
It's not that kickstarter has failed him, it's that his idea is simply too niche. And yes, people need to like your idea to want to fund it. I don't think any amount of marketing could make this idea seem worthy on kickstarter.

It's an educational game, one of the most hated forms of electronic entertainment ever invented. He shouldn't be marketing this to gamers, he should be proposing it to schools and the government. So I guess in a way he's right, in that he has completely failed the marketing side of his idea. He doesn't know his demographic at all.

you have it in one.

niche games work on kickstarter but hes asking for alot of money to fund the niche of niche games here. heck i search now and then on kickstarter and browser the game ones and this has never popped up at all

Oh god. I didn't watch the video until people mentioned it here. 40 seconds in and I want to beat him. No I've never heard of you. I wasn't even BORN when your games came out. So instead of telling me what you did 20 years ago, tell me why you deserve my money NOW. No, don't tell me why you're doing this, tell me what it is I'm paying you to do and why it's worthwhile.

Also, those screenshots were hideous. It looks like poorly formatted windows forms. Even 'serious' games need good visual design. Heck, Microsoft Word isn't a game at all and it looks better.

Looked at it a bit more, and given how it's set up, there's no reason to make it a game at all. You've got numbers you set and then you click and button and see how it ends up. It's not really a game or even a 'simulation' in the sense that a gamer would think of it. All it really does is plug numbers into formulas and spit out a result. I fail to see why you need funding to build such a thing at all. Far more complex things have been built by people in their spare time.

I always thought Balance of Power was an awfully smug and boring game, and now I see that it just mirrors the man it comes from.

Don't ever, ever whine about people not appreciating you. It annoys the people who don't care, and brightens the day of those who do not, in fact, appreciate you.

FelixG:
snip

Rather off topic but.....
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I love SupCom and this game looks amazing.

I'll be honest, I've never heard of the bloke, I assume I should do, but I don't. I've never even heard of any of the games he's made, and if he retired in 1992, he stopped doing anything 3 months after I was born, meaning I'm not going to have any exposure to him. Saying he worked on a few big name titles for credential purposes is all well and good, but leaving almost half the video for him to just plug himself in a faux shocked way is just indulgent.

Look, I'm all up for funding projects that wouldn't get published otherwise, I donate to a lot of kickstarter stuff that looks cool, and granted they generally have big names behind them, they're people that are still relevant, or still have a lasting effect today (that I can see at least).

The unknowns that I donate to I can see that they're people that genuinely want to make a great game that also I find appealing, and this might be the break they need to make it into the industry, if it doesn't get funded I get my money back and I don't lose anything in the investment.

Balance of Power just looks like such a niche game that the people it would appeal to ain't the sort of people checking out kickstarter or people that even have a massive interest in games. Don't start blaming everyone else just because your game didn't appeal to everyone, there's ways you can make boring subjects fun, (ala Harvest Moon, seriously a farming game? That game should not be as fun as it is.) and this just doesn't cut it, it looks dry, drab and totally frikkin boring. He should be appealing to Education and Government bodies if he wants to make an educational game, if the kickstarter audience isn't interested in it, it's not interested, don't act like everyone else is at fault.

If you want to make an Educational game you have to make it fun, because it's a game, if you can make learning fun then yes, go for it, but otherwise you might as well just read a text book for that sort of stuff.

FelixG:

Some ambitious projects like Planetary Annihilation get funded like crazy. The difference? PA sounds FUN!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/659943965/planetary-annihilation-a-next-generation-rts?ref=category

Thanks for bringing that to my attention, that looks awesome, seriously, fucking MOON ROCKETS? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! Oh how I love kickstarter.

Oh Crawford you mad evil genious, I actually know a bit about the guy, mainly his lectures... the man is completely bonkers in a charming sort of way, imagine Peter Molyneux from planet Zarg and on crack.

Be that as it may, sorry but your game is not something I would want to play, hell I don't know a single soul that would... that is the main reason why this failed.

Kickstarter used to be cool before it went mainstream, man!

It was never really what he thought it was in the first place. His project didn't get funded. Sucks for him. That doesn't mean that Kickstarter has changed for the worse.

*finally sits down and watches the pitch video* wtf did i just watch.

Kickstarter seems to be on the same track as the last time I checked but eh you really gotta have a good pitch to get attention

Yep, kickstarter just isn't cool enough for an old man who hasn't made a video game in 20 years, wears a creepy cult white shirt, and made a boring educational game in his basement.

Kickstarter just isn't cool enough.

That video... maybe he should have at least paid that software marketing consultant for a couple hours, and gotten better sound equipment.

I would be interested in the game except I already have a very similar one called Fate of the World, and it's quite good.

I assumed from the title and the first two seconds of his video that this guy was a dickbag. I kept on reading, and I was proven right.

It feels more like it didn't get funded because people didn't like the idea of the game. Sorry, but Kickstarter isn't just a 'CAN I HAVE MONEY PLEASE' button. Your idea actually has to attract interest to make money.

Uh, RocketHub? That's the indie equivalent of Kickstarter's mainstream these days.

Mr.Crawford is right. Kickstarter did change. It used to be about getting actual people who wanted to invest in projects to be created into another consumer dump where companies that are already dedicated to making the product are simply selling consumers a product in advance. It stopped being about people becoming investors and became people continuing to be consumers.

I mean this isn't entirely a bad thing but it isn't a positive thing either. One of the biggest problems with out economy is that people aren't investing and while there are sites where people can invest in small family businesses abroad they can't invest locally. Kickstarter could of been that filler but instead people have proven that they would rather be consumers instead of investors. So instead of having a stake in the matter it is safer to just offer a reward for investing.

So you're complaining that kickstarter needs advertising for your project to work? That's true of any area where they are numerous projects. Maybe if kickstarter had like a dozen projects, but with everyone jumping on board its going to take some advertising to raise awareness.

At first I thought that he was talking about x-wing vs tie fighter: balance of power. Then I was disappointed

Tenmar:
Mr.Crawford is right. Kickstarter did change. It used to be about getting actual people who wanted to invest in projects to be created into another consumer dump where companies that are already dedicated to making the product are simply selling consumers a product in advance. It stopped being about people becoming investors and became people continuing to be consumers.

I mean this isn't entirely a bad thing but it isn't a positive thing either. One of the biggest problems with out economy is that people aren't investing and while there are sites where people can invest in small family businesses abroad they can't invest locally. Kickstarter could of been that filler but instead people have proven that they would rather be consumers instead of investors. So instead of having a stake in the matter it is safer to just offer a reward for investing.

I suppose, but then it could be more of a "safe" investment as it were. People are unlikely to just give you cash, it's a nice sentiment, but lets look at it this way: (although this is more game centric)

For the big Kickstarters, some people will give enough for a copy of the game, and some people will give thousands of dollars, this is an investment, as the only reward back is the game and a few doodads, however due to the amount of people giving cash for "a copy of the game" on top of the big investers, the kickstarter gets more cash, which will either go towards funding extra game features, or allow them to have leftover capitol for a future endevour, or may even get publishers interested in them, because they've shown that people will hand over money for the games they make, grinding away the "this isn't a safe investment/no one will buy this" philosophy that the AAA execs have adopted.

Either way, it leads to more games from the developer as the kickstarter helps them to get onto/back on their feet. So it's an investment but in a roundabout way, it's not just giving money with the hope of a come back, it's helping people...well get a kickstart in their games.

I mean we can't expect people to invest really, that's for people with lots of money, I'm quite happy to donate to kickstarters of all styles, but I'm too poor to donate lots of money, so I tend to donate the cost of the game+a fiver, and I'm sure there're lots of people like me that all add up to allowing them to have the money to make the game in the first place. I thought that was the whole point of kickstarter? Little donations adding up to a big amount, not for people to actually...invest in "Dragons Den" style.

I actually played Balance of Power and knew who Chris Crawford is. But this video of his, it's no good. He's trying to be funny, but the style doesn't suit neither him nor the subject at hand. He would have been better off making a serious and factual promotional video for his serious game.

Also, I have always suspected Chris Crawford to be an egocentric guy. The "bad" ending of Balance of Power basically told you that you're an idiot and you suck (not really, but that's the way it felt). And unfortunately this video really highlights that uncharismatic personality trait of his.

Kickstarter is going to be the death of innovation. People like what is familiar so they will throw money at remakes of old games, minecraft variations, and other non-imaginative games. I know this may not be true but based on the games that are currently being largely donated to, it seems like this may end up becoming the truth.

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