Monaco Creator: Kickstarter Stretch Goals are "Bullsh*t"

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Monaco Creator: Kickstarter Stretch Goals are "Bullsh*t"

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The creator of the award-winning indie game Monaco says Kickstarter stretch goals hand too much creative control to the crowd.

"Stretch goals," for those unfamiliar with the term, are a rather simple Kickstarter phenomenon in which a project creator promises to add more stuff if you give him more money. With Project Eternity, for instance, Obsidian added new factions, races, translations into non-English languages and other features as the funding kept piling higher. It's a very common way for Kickstarter creators to encourage funding for their projects, but Monaco designer Andy Schatz takes a different and somewhat dimmer view of the practice than most.

"I have a little bit of an unpopular opinion of Kickstarter," he told the Penny Arcade Report. "I really like the idea of free money, but I'm of the opinion that designing a game around a variable budget is a terrible way to design a game. To be frank, I think that stretch goals are total bullshit."

"When you're designing a game, the way I think you should do it... you figure out what the game is, you figure out what the game needs, and you should make that," he explained. "If you are adding in some optional thing to incentivize people to give you money... there's a difference between allowing your fans to have an extreme amount of input on the game, which I do, the beta testers have an incredible influence on the game, but letting them design the game in the sense of, 'If the budget is this, then I'll do this, and if the budget is that, then I'll do that,' that to me sounds like the perfect way to make a game that's insufficiently complete or bloated."

Monaco, which is still in development, won two prizes at the 2010 Independent Games Festival including the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. Schatz was fortunate enough to not need Kickstarter to pay for its development; it was given a $100,000 budget by the Indie Fund, which has previously funded games including Dear Esther, Q.U.B.E. and Antichamber. Unlike money raised through Kickstarter and other crowdfunding efforts, the Indie Fund is an advance on sales of the game and also claims a portion of the profits.

Schatz acknowledged that his position is "idealistic" and said that he might actually try a Kickstarter himself one day, but for now he remains skeptical. "I don't like what it does to design," he added.

Source: Penny Arcade Report

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Yeah, I can understand where this guy's coming on this. If I ever did a Kickstarter, extra money would probably just go to QA testing and marketing.

He does realize that the developer is the one who decides what those stretch goals are?
Besides You can always have that stuff already included at cost then use the extra money for QA testing and marketing. Just don't tell anyone.

Right. Because working with a publisher, the developer always gets to decide the exact budget and features.

OH WAIT

It depends. If a stretch goal involves something that would directly cost money, instead of time, then I think it's perfectly justified. Localization and orchestral music are two things unlikely to be done in-house by the average indie developer. Extra cash can be used to directly pay for these services.

If your stretch rewards will require extra time and effort from your core development team, that can lead to feature bloat if you're not careful.

I don't care what other game devs say, there always stuff on the cutting block you wish was in your game due to time and budget constraints.

If wa more money, which usually creates more time, then you would want to add it back in.

The fact is that the more money you ask for in a kickstarter, the more likely it is to fail. Kickstarter is not some magic money giving machine. It requires a lot to have a successful campaign. So if you create a base budget for a good game. Although it not an exact science, you have a pretty good idea on what exactly needed in the game, and what is optional.

I don't think there something out there as "exactly" bloated game, in fact more often than not, games have lack of features and options.

I don't really see a problem with this. I mean, yeah, if you cut or don't include stuff that your game needs because you didn't get enough funding, then yeah your game will suck. But if you get a bunch of extra money and can then afford to throw in more optional sidequests and endgame content, then I don't see how any of this is a bad thing.

It's like an expansion or DLC for an indie game. Not inherently bad, and sometimes awesome.

Stretch Goals seem to mostly be a marketing gimmick. Having watched the pattern for Kickstarters the basic formula seems to be a slow start, followed by progressively greater speed, the more people that donate, the more donations come in. Once a product is funded, it all becomes about the benefits, people view it kind of like a pre-order at that point (albiet one without a guarantee, and people will be burned). "Stretch Goals" seem to mostly be companies promising relatively trivial stuff, or things that would likely have been in the game anyway, as a motivation for donating more and more money.

It can depend on the kickstarter, but in some cases it's like "If we reach this goal we'll add dwarves to our party based fantasy RPG". While that might make sense in some contexts, in many cases it comes accros like "WTF" to an educated eye because it seems unlikely they would have made something of that sort without the dwarves.

I tend to be wary of stretch goals myself, since in general if they represent something trivial (like sending people posters) or a bit of coding that doesn't strike me as being that big a deal if they were doing everything else the product promises, I tend to become wary of the company. In many cases it seems like "Hey, we raised a million dollars to make our game, now give us more money so the project heads can all go out and buy new Ferraris, and we'll toss a few grand of it to a bulk printing service to make you posters!"

I like the idea of Kickstarter, and believe a lot of good has come from it, but every time I think about it I can almost hear a ticking, some epic explosions seem to be inevitable. I'm just waiting for some dude collecting money for an indie game to show up at con driving a really fancy factory-new sports car, and hilarity to ensure when he's caught. You know "if you have that much money why were you begging for donations" and "sure, you are making the game, but did ALL the money you were sent go into that game, HTF does a guy begging for handouts spend $100k on a car in the middle of the dev process?".

Stretch goals aren't always game features. The horrifyingly successful Homestuck Kickstarter used the Stretch goals to give people various bits of limited edition merch. Posters, clothes, decks of custom tarot cards, little pins. I think that's a very good use of stretch goals. It gives you something you can say is genuinely unique and interesting that not a lot of people possess, and links you to the fandom, but it doesn't bog down the product itself.

Sounds like some folk here are confusing stretch goals with different donation tier levels.
Then again, I don't go into Kickstarter that much so perhaps I'm wrong.

Still, if you don't like stretch goals.. don't have them. Problem solved. Now stop raggin' on other people.

DVS BSTrD:
He does realize that the developer is the one who decides what those stretch goals are.
Besides You can always have that stuff already included at cost then use the extra money for QA testing and marketing. Just don't tell anyone.

yes, but it sometimes does feel like one of these endless infomercials on tv.

if you call now you get this beautiful knife
image
that can enable immortality on every inanimate object! call now! we only have 34 left! oh 33 left....

rhizhim:

DVS BSTrD:
He does realize that the developer is the one who decides what those stretch goals are.
Besides You can always have that stuff already included at cost then use the extra money for QA testing and marketing. Just don't tell anyone.

yes, but it sometimes does feel like one of these endless infomercials on tv.

if you call now you get this beautiful knife
image
that can enable immortality on every inanimate object! call now! we only have 34 left! oh 33 left....

Wait, Is that the Staghorn?

OT: Still better than paid DLC.

Yeah, that's not how I see stretch goals at all.

When the stretch goals are thought of ahead of time, it's like:
"Here are the features we want to include and the money we need for that. Here are extra feature we would like to add but don't fit in the budget; If our budget grows, we'll include them."

And when they're added as the Kickstarter progresses:
"We had an original budget and feature set, but you guys just keep giving us money! Here's what we're thinking we could add with that extra cash..."

Well I would expect a developer to know what "feature creep" means but hey he is only one game into the business and even that is not done so let's just call it mild ignorance.

In case people do not realize, near all games no matter how big came out with less then what the devs envisioned it to be, because there is always a budget and time constraint, if you extend the budget then they can obviously go further.

It's not like stretch goals are thought up on the spot. And some of the best games ever were evolved from radically different concepts.

For example; if Borderlands 1 stuck to it's realistic graphics style, it wouldn't have been nearly as charming.

When you use Kickstarter, you're making a product for the masses. End of story. If it happens to be your dream project, then that's great.

If you're terrified of handing over creative control to the people that you're selling to, then you shouldn't be using Kickstarter in the first place.

Well, duh. *reads article*

Kickstarter stretch goals hand too much creative control to the crowd.

Okay, that sounds kind of stupid. Complaining about control when you're going to that same crowd to give you money?

And even more to the point:

DVS BSTrD:
He does realize that the developer is the one who decides what those stretch goals are.

What he said. Where is the control loss, exactly?

Thank you! I've been saying this for months now, and on top of that people seem to not even notice that games like Star Citizen have taken it to the next level and made the game pretty much Pay to Win before there's a game to win at all. Kickstarter is an excellent idea on paper, but according to the way some companies have been using it, it can and is definitely being used for evil.

E: Actually, this article seems to be complaining more about how it gives more of a creative say for the userbase, which I'm not at all opposed to. There should really be some more exposure on how the kickstarter project can be downright awful though.

This guy is a total, and complete, idiot.

The game isnt rolling out incomplete if it reaches its funding zone but none of the stretch goals. The stretch goals are things that developers often have to leave by the way side because of time and budget constraints

Like Project Eternity, we are getting, what? 9 extra classes/races at launch because they have the extra time to develop them? Stretchgoals are a GOOD thing, it lets people get their game out there, and then if people like the sound of some of the things devs wouldnt normally be able to include in the core game, they can fund them for those too.

sid:
Thank you! I've been saying this for months now, and on top of that people seem to not even notice that games like Star Citizen have taken it to the next level and made the game pretty much Pay to Win before there's a game to win at all. Kickstarter is an excellent idea on paper, but according to the way some companies have been using it, it can and is definitely being used for evil.

E: Actually, this article seems to be complaining more about how it gives more of a creative say for the userbase, which I'm not at all opposed to. There should really be some more exposure on how the kickstarter project can be downright awful though.

You seem to be misunderstanding the article

Example:
Stretch Gals:
1 million: The game is funded congrats!
1.1 million: We launch the game with 2 solar systems!
1.2 million: Say hello to nebulas in game!
1.3 million: 2 more NPC factions!
ect...

What you are disliking is Funding Tiers
20 dollars: You get the game
30 dollars: You get the game and beta
.
..
...
100 dollars: Here is your shiny new battleship when the game launches!

Stretch goals are things that improve the game over all for everyone, funding tiers give players little extras for when the game launches OR gives you little toys, I know I supported Planetary Annihilation and am getting a rather badass statue for my desk when its released.

Also Kickstarters get some decent coverage, just not on this site.

Roughly once a week Rock Paper Shotgun does an article with interesting kickstarters, kickstarters that made their goals and kickstarters that fell unfunded
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/01/27/kickstarter-katchup-27th-january-2013/

Azuaron:
Right. Because working with a publisher, the developer always gets to decide the exact budget and features.

OH WAIT

QFT.

Seriously, this goes beyond idealism. I almost suspect "taking cheap shots for publicity". At the very least, I'd say it highlights inexperience in the field. He's developed one game on an indie grant.

Edit: Okay, on re-read, I sound rather arrogant, considering that he's developing one more game than I am/have. Still, looking at how other developers are handling it, I really think he's missing the point entirely.

My opinion on stretch goals are a little different to Mr. Schatz. Now, I have no idea on whether I may be completely and totally wrong, I am not an indie developer and I have nothing of worth or interest to put on Kickstarter. However, I see the idea of stretch goals as not only a fund for extra content, but a fund for the improvement of original content.

Say I ask a publisher for 200,000 in order to create my game. They really like the idea but understand that at 200,000, the game will be a full release. It will be playable and fun but unpolished. So, instead of giving me the 200,000, they instead give me 250,000 in order to add a bit more panache to my game. Let's just assume unlike actual publishers, they let me choose what I can do with the extra 50,000. Now, I have a few choices. I could use the money to hire some more animators and graphic designers to add a bit more polish OR I could use the money to hire game designers and bug testers to tighten up the gameplay OR I could use the money to add new features that I think players will really appreciate and enjoy. I could even split the money multiple ways so players get a little bit of each and a nicely rounded experience. What I'd like to stress is that the game itself was complete at 200,000, a Version 1.0 if you will, and was completely playable and enjoyable. The extra 50,000 was only used to improve what was originally there within the creators own vision, effectively creating a Version 1.1 before release to public. I see Kickstarter as essentially the same except with asking the audience to fund the project instead of a publisher.

One potential problem previously mention is the appearance of bloated unnecessary gameplay but that can be solved as long as the creator actually has the confidence in his conviction to tell his fans and the audience, "No". I know, I know, shock and horror. No-one wants to be told "No", particularly by a person you are personally giving money to. It's natural, it's a sense of ownership. The idea that "This person is creating a game for me/us and therefore should implement every idea I/we have". And, you are correct, to an extent. Whenever possible, anyone taking your money should listen to you and implement the ideas that will make you happy. However, noticing that I said whenever possible, this should not conflict with the creators original vision of a game. Say that my game is a tactical strategy game that, as of original vision and release, does not contain a multiplayer element. Several people investing in my game, have expressed an interest in, and interesting ideas for, a multiplayer element of my game. If I think these ideas are great and can be easily implemented into the game, ruining nothing for anyone and in fact making those that invest in the game very happy, then its a no-brainer that I should go ahead with it. However, if I don't think the ideas will work and don't think they will fit in with the idea for the game, I effectively have two choices. 1) Shoehorn in a completely out of place multiplayer aspect that in fact devalues the rest of the game in order to appease fans or 2) Explain the situation to the fanbase and effectively tell them "No" in order to stick to your guns and your game. It all depends on the relationship between the person/people creating the game and those buying/investing in the game. You should never completely disregard fans but if those fans are constraining you to a design choice through a feeling of obligation, you as the creator are completely entitled to tell the fans that the idea is not going in. Conversely, if you put in a gameplay element fans didn't want or ask for and end up ruining the experience for them, you do have an obligation to own up to that mistake and try and make the game better by listening to the fans.

So contrary to Mr. Schatz, I do not see the problems of Kickstarter as a Kickstarter related problem. In my eyes Kickstarter, as an entity, offers a framework for designers to use as they see fit. The misuse or misunderstanding on how to use Kickstarter effectively should be placed solely on the shoulders of those who misuse or misunderstand it. Similar to the instance of some of the userbase of XBox Live, the problem lies not with the actual system but with those that are making it a wholly unpleasant experience by mistreating the system. You can effectively use Kickstarter to your advantage as long as you stick to what should be some of the Isaac Asimov style cardinal rules of game creating. 1) Make a complete playable and fun game. 2) Stick to your creative vision, as long as this does not interfere with the first rule. And 3) Listen to the fans and implement their ideas as long as this does not interfere with the first or second rule. And on that particularly nerdy note, I will wait for responses.

I wasn't even aware that stretch goals tended to be based on fanbase suggestions. Is this really that common?

Admittedly, I've only really paid attention to some of the big name kickstarters, like Star Citizen, Planetary Annihilation and Wasteland 2....

Simply his point is fair and I like the logic to a dgree, lets just hope strech goals don't harm games as maybe some will strech too far.

He actually has a very good point.

A stretch goal is basically an extra, something taped onto the game. After all without the stretch goal the game you made would still be intact right? After all that is what you originally asked money for. A self contained game that would function and be playable.

Now I do disagree on the matter of stretch goals never being a good thing.

Shadowrun Returns adding a second city if the game reaches X amount of money is simply a promise to enlarge and widen the scope and story of the game to encompass a world bigger than it was before. Here the stretchgoal adds more value to the game, a story that spans multiple continents, has the possibility to offer new interesting gameplay mechanics and a bigger scope of a story. The same can be said for Planetary Annihilation where adding more planets just takes more time and so more money is needed. The core game can exist without the scope but the stretch goal enlarges the game offering more gameplay on an even bigger scale.

Now on the other hand we have stretch goals like... I am actually drawing a blank on Bad stretch goals here... most of the time stretch goals involve either widening the scope, offering expansion of the core gameplay or adding support for other platforms.

The only bad stretch goal I can think of is the documentary stretchgoal, though even here it has value to the people that donated to reach that stretch goal because they are interested in the development of the project they backed.

I guess you can say that the stretch goals have yet to become ludicrous and pointless and are for now just an extra addition on top of the vision for the core game.

Content stretch goals are one thing - I can completely see what he's saying about '$10K gets you an extra game location or new race.'

However stretch goals like 'Port the game to Mac and Linux' seem totally reasonable and should in no way compromise your game. It's also something that does require some extra money for time involved with porting and QA. This seems like the perfect example of an optimal stretch goal that benefits everyone, really.

I kinda disagree with him there. I've been a part of a number of (student) game development teams, and we almost always have a grand vision of a game that has to get harshly cut down in features, scope, etc. in order to be able to provide a somewhat finished project by a deadline. I would expect that these 'real' projects are somewhat similar in that they have to set their goals based on the limiting factor of how long they can keep sending out the paychecks.

If they bring in more funding, then they can keep their team on longer and possibly get to put in some of the features or content they would've liked to have in the core game but couldn't really afford. So I see nothing wrong with having features and content as stretch goals.

DVS BSTrD:

rhizhim:

DVS BSTrD:
He does realize that the developer is the one who decides what those stretch goals are.
Besides You can always have that stuff already included at cost then use the extra money for QA testing and marketing. Just don't tell anyone.

yes, but it sometimes does feel like one of these endless infomercials on tv.

if you call now you get this beautiful knife
image
that can enable immortality on every inanimate object! call now! we only have 34 left! oh 33 left....

Wait, Is that the Staghorn?

OT: Still better than paid DLC.

no, i dont sell that crap!. its the staghorn 3000!!!!

also stretch goals dont necessarily exclude paid dlc or dlc in general....
image

This guys is a fucking moron. If he doesn't want stretch goals...don't fucking use them, dipshit. Fuck this guy though, I'm damn happy that games like Star Citizen absolutely smashed that shit out of the ballpark. Stretch goals for the WIIIIIIIINNNNN!

lacktheknack:
When you use Kickstarter, you're making a product for the masses. End of story. If it happens to be your dream project, then that's great.

If you're terrified of handing over creative control to the people that you're selling to, then you shouldn't be using Kickstarter in the first place.

I disagree, I was under the impression that you appeal to a niche audience. If they wanted to appeal to the masses you would use a publisher with all the chains attached.

In the games I've donated to as well as the games I wish I did, the amount of people taking an active role in development is fairly low.

I'm sure that this is being tracked (not as well as if they had a giant publisher compiling this data). However the number activity on the forums of these games is minimal to the number of backers keep in mind that these big projects attract Johnny come laters.

In Project Eternity's case, they honestly had no idea they would get the support they did. As a major developer to get more people on the project they would have to pay their publisher to let certain employees get redeployed from their previous assignment to the new one.

JarinArenos:

Azuaron:
Right. Because working with a publisher, the developer always gets to decide the exact budget and features.

OH WAIT

QFT.

Seriously, this goes beyond idealism. I almost suspect "taking cheap shots for publicity". At the very least, I'd say it highlights inexperience in the field. He's developed one game on an indie grant.

Edit: Okay, on re-read, I sound rather arrogant, considering that he's developing one more game than I am/have. Still, looking at how other developers are handling it, I really think he's missing the point entirely.

I share your sentiments, I do hope that he will be eating crow in the fall when Planetary Annihilation, Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun Returns hits the scene.

On one hand he makes sense.
on another one im always the guy that thinks "What? there's only 30 weapons? there should be at least 300 in a game like this"

Mr.Tea:
And when they're added as the Kickstarter progresses:
"We had an original budget and feature set, but you guys just keep giving us money! Here's what we're thinking we could add with that extra cash..."

Yeah, I think this is the key point. Even if the goals are planned before hand rather than as the KS progresses.

The thing is, as far as Im aware you cant stop people from donating money to the KS. If this guy were to make his super great game design, with everything 100% accounted for and budgeted, and then the KS was successful and people give him more money than the goal... what is his plan? To turn around and say "thanks for the extra money... Im not going to use it for anything relevant, Im just going to take it. Yoink"?

If people keep giving you money on Kickstarter, you need a plan to deal with that extra money. Anything else is just ignoring reality.

Well it seems to work fine for funding animated series.

Emily Carmichael got an extra $3,000 with her 2ed or 3ed stretch goal, which offered nothing more than adding temporary tattoos. Now she is only $1000 under double her original asking funding, she has enough to make TWO seasons of Ledo & Ix for PATV.

He pretends to know what goes on in the heads of devs going to Kickstarter.
For all we know, any given dev on Kickstarter could've had a fully fledged feature list that they wanted for their game, but they decided to cut some out to lower the costs to have a feasible Kickstarter goal. So if they reach their goal with time to spare, it wouldn't be a foolish idea to try and get some of the scrapped features back in through stretch goals.

Unless you go and ask each team on Kickstarter, you can't know for sure.

UNHchabo:
It depends. If a stretch goal involves something that would directly cost money, instead of time, then I think it's perfectly justified.

Are you independently wealthy, UNHchabo? Because I have to work for a living and I'm therefore pretty well acquainted with the idea that time = money.

Especially when the project is basically the creator's full time job. OK, they make money off wider sales at the end of it, but the pre-order cash is what literally kick-starts them... allowing them (and anyone they may employ) to pay the bills (rent, food, utilities, taxes, transport... as well as collecting any materials that may be needed to make the thing) whilst working on the thing prior to its eventual release. Extra features need more working time that may otherwise have been spent at a "real world" part-time job flipping burgers, or more pay for additional lackeys to make extra things happen without delaying the release.

This was actually made fairly clear in one project I have backed - a theatrical version of Princess Mononoke. The minimum essential funding level was simply to rent out the space to put on the play, to pay for licensing of the script/screenplay/etc, hire lights, print posters, and to build all the sets, props and costumes. Or at least, to bolster the troupe's own funds so they didn't hit their credit card and overdraft limits, the rest of the payoff coming in ticket sales (with a limited number of "free" advance tickets available at the higher tier I chose). Everyone working on it was either volunteering or calling in favours.
The stretch goal for that KS project? Getting enough in the bank that all of the people from whom favours had been begged could be given a little thank-you payment or gift for their time, effort, and donated materials, with a couple of minimal extras (like colour inserts in the programmes and such) for the donators themselves. It wasn't the most high-value affair; minimum funds were about 5000, and the stretch was about 7000, which it barely cleared. But a good reminder that actual people with actual living costs to cover and multiple demands on their limited time are involved in putting a serious creative endeavour together, and that warm fuzzy feelings can only go so far.

(OTOH, a couple others I backed put a reasonable wedge of the overspill money into providing additional tchotkes for backers, like custom keyrings and stickers coming alongside a printed collection of webcomics once enough had originally been raised to ensure the print run could go ahead...)

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