This has project failure written all over it.
- The scope is too big.
- Your team is one person.
- Your ask is $5,000, which is way too small for the scope you’re looking at, which tells me you have no idea what it realistically takes to do this project. You will need at least $500,000. Maybe add one more zero to that figure if you’re going to do it right.
- You want to support oculus, vive, and traditional pc. I’m doing that, and trust me, it is HARD and a bit foolish. It’s like making three games simultaneously.
- You also want to add in multiplayer support? That’s like making a fourth game. What’s you server hosting plan? How much is it going to cost?
- your writing for your kickstarter page looks like something you wrote up in an evening.
- I see no evidence of experience developing any games, just 360 degree videos.
- You also want to run a “game studio”. That’s a business, but you talk nothing about how that looks. Where will you work? what kind of business structure will you have?
- This is all “concept” stuff with zero implementation. I’d believe you if you were like 50% there already, but I think you’re at 0% execution.
- You don’t even know what your actual risks and challenges are, you’re just making stuff up.
- There is no mention of what exactly YOU will be doing for this project.
- Your game design is about 5 sentences.
I know what’s going to happen here too. Your kickstarter will fail. You’ll get about $300 total commitments. You’ll wonder why and try to blame it on bad marketing. You’ll read my comments and feel a little discouraged, but you’ll ignore them completely and not change anything. And your project won’t lift off, and you’ll wonder why, oh wait, no, you’ll blame the failed kickstarter. You may try to convince other people to work with you on your project, for free of course, and you’ll promise them a share of the profits or project equity, and tell them its good for their resume and experience. You might get one or two people excited enough to join you, but they’ll be clueless as well, but you won’t know that. You’ll start off strong with regular skype meetings, sign some NDA’s or something and you’ll all talk about the game you want to make, and this will last for about 3-4 weeks, and then it comes time to start making the game. Progress is really slow and its a lot harder than anyone expected. You don’t know it, but your team members are just doing this on the side, and since they’re not being paid, they have very little stake in the project. Maybe some evenings they’ll work on it for an hour or two, then go play games or do something else. A month or two will go by, and one of your team members either does the fade away or just goes dark. You lost a team member. This demoralizes the rest of the team members and people start contemplating giving up. It’s no longer fun like it used to be a few weeks ago. Everyone else leaves your team, and you alone are left with seeing this project succeed. The temptation will be very great for you to give up as well, because hey, everyone else left and you feel drained and demoralized as well now. You shrug your shoulders and say that you didn’t invest a ton of time and effort into it anyways, so no big deal. Another failed project, and you don’t know why it really failed or what you could have done differently…
How do I know all of this? Because I’ve been there many times. I speak from experience. I know how this works and I recognize the warning signs. I’m not trying to be a downer here. You can succeed, but you have to do one thing: change your approach.
You don’t want to fail, and I hate seeing passionate people fail. So I’m going to tell you what exactly it takes TO SUCCEED with your project.
- To succeed, don’t half-*** anything. Go all the way and do it right, or don’t do it at all.
- The whole project sits on your shoulders (as you know). What this means is that YOU will be doing everything, especially if you can’t find anyone else to do it for you. That means you are going to be working your *** off for a very long time, meaning you’ll be working 60+ hours a week, including weekends. This is the reality. The hard gut check question you need to be asking yourself right now is whether you can spend 60+ hours / week on this. Do you work elsewhere? Do you go to school? Do you have family? Sacrifices will need to be made if you’re going to commit to this, and you should be expecting to do a lot of work. If you’re not prepared for this project right now, there’s no shame in delaying it until you are. That’s not a failure, it’s a prudent way to increase your chances of success.
- Time is money, including your time. You will have bills to pay, food to buy, rent / mortgage to pay monthly. Your own personal living expenses will probably be in the range of $2,000 / month, +/- $750. If you’re going to be putting in 60 hours / week with no pay for up to two years, you’re going to need to make sure that your finance situation is all taken care of. This is partially why the $5,000 goal on kickstarter is so unrealistic. Oh, and here’s another thing you’re going to have to budget for: You will waste 50% of your raised capital. This is unavoidable and a part of the process of finding your actual product which you intend to bring to market. You’ll waste money on all sorts of things, from spending weeks, months following a path which you later discover to be wrong, to hiring the wrong people, to buying art assets you don’t need, etc. If you think you need $200k for your project, you really need $400k.
- You are one person. You have strengths (I hope) and weaknesses. I’m a programmer. I suck at art and I don’t care to be an artist. I hired an artist to work for me. He’s a bad programmer, but I got that end covered. We each complement each others weaknesses with our strengths. You WANT to have other people working WITH you. It’s going to be extremely crucial to the success of your project to have the RIGHT person working with you. Spend a good month looking for the right talent to join your team. You want to find someone who is talented, smart, works hard, and someone you can get along with. You will be working with them every day. You will be investing in them by not only building up their skill set, but also helping them get deep, project specific knowledge. Your co workers will be your most valuable asset. That means you have to treat them right so that they don’t leave your team. The worst thing that could happen is someone you’ve spent over a year training and working with, ends up quitting. It should go without saying that you will absolutely need to pay your staff a pretty good pay check. You know how your cost of living is around $2,000 / month? So is theirs, but you want to pay them a lot more than the bare minimum. If they’re talented, they could just quit and work for someone who pays them better. You don’t need to hire someone right away, but you do need to be looking very closely at your project needs and how you fulfill them. You’ll be working a LOT. There’s going to be a lot on your plate, and when one particular area starts to take up a majority of your time (such as producing art assets), it’s time to hire someone to lighten YOUR work load. You’ll be doing everything else though.
- You sound like you’ve got a game idea you want to make. That’s great! Now, what you NEED to do is write it down in excruciating detail. Plan the whole thing out on paper, and be extremely thorough! This is going to be your game design document and your team members are going to refer to it to know what needs to be built and how it needs to be built. The game design document is how you communicate your project requirements to your team members. They won’t be able to simply just read your mind and immediately know what to build and how to build it. Something needs to tell them. Now, keep in mind that you’re not going to get everything exactly right the first time around. Game development is an iterative process, but you want to put as much structure to each iteration as possible so that you can control and manage it. You can spend a lot of time writing a 100% thorough design document, but realistically, 75% of it will be good. As you put more effort into the documentation, you start getting diminishing returns on its value. However, this isn’t an excuse to write a sloppy design document, the point of “good enough” is much further out than you might initially think. Finding the sweet spot of “good enough” is an art which comes through experience.
- Your biggest project threats are going to be scope creep, time limits, and finances. Scope creep is going to be the biggest, most insidious source of project bloat and potential project failure you’ll have. Here’s generally how it works: You build your project with a set list of features. You get a moment of inspiration and want to add another big feature. This is a design change. This costs you additional time and money. Do you have the budget for it? Does the feature ultimately help you make more money? Some ideas will be really good, but other ideas will be a waste of time (remember how I said you’d waste 50% of your capital? here’s one of those ways!). One thing thats really bad about scope creep is that your idea comes from your own head, so you won’t be able to resist the pull of it or the emotional attachment you might have for it. This means you shouldn’t trust yourself, you need sanity checks, and the right way to do that is to put a process in place which keeps the best ideas and throws out the bad ones, and that process is developed through practice, refinement, and company culture. The worst way you can start a project is by creating something which is too big and ambitious for your team size and its capabilities. It’s a million times better to complete something SUPER SMALL AND SIMPLE than to half finish a grand, complicated, ambitious game. You can sell the finished product, but you can’t sell the unfinished one. And here’s how it actually goes: When you think you’re 90% done, you’re really 50% done. This means you will have to spend a lot of time fixing bugs, polishing stuff, testing, etc. which you weren’t expecting to spend a lot of time doing.
- You’re going to need financing to fund this project. Once you’ve got your design document writen out, it should give you some idea on the scope of your project. Try to put time lines on what you think it would take to complete the project, every step of the way, from start to finish. It might take you a full day or two to break it down, but this is a worthwhile investment of your time and energy. Once you have a time estimate, multiply it by at least two. This gives you an idea on what your actual costs are going to be. Now, you can do a feasibility assessment on the scope of your project! Are you looking at a $50,000 project, a $500,000 project, a $5m project, or a $50m project?! If you have a $500,000 project on your hands but only have funding for $50,000, then you’re going to have to figure out what parts of the game you need to cut! And trust me, it’s WAY better to figure all of this out during your project planning phase than to get 50% into your project production, only to find out that it’s twice as large as you thought it would be and realize you’re not gonna finish it on budget or on time. To reiterate, if game development is like going to war, then the war is won in the planning of it. Guess what investors like to see? Guess who they fund? They put their money in projects which have the highest chance of succeeding and returning big gains on their principle investments. If you’re a first time founder, they’re going to be skeptical about you due to lack of experience, so what makes it easier for them to say “yes!” is having a very solid start on your project. This means you are going to have to spend a lot of your own money to get off the ground. Personally, I think kickstarter is a really bad platform for raising capital because it’s all or nothing, requires a massive time commitment (which could be better spent doing product development!), requires high production values to succeed, you need a lot of internet followers, and people on the internet have no idea on what the actual costs of developing a game are. “World of Warcraft takes $1 million to produce!”. Hell, even a bank loan is better.
- If you’re going to be leading a company, you need strong leadership skills (something I’m working on myself). Leadership is not something you’re born with, it is a trait which gets developed and refined with time and practice. Leadership is not about being a boss who dictates what others should do for them, it’s about bringing people with you to success and helping them get the things they want. People will look to you to make final decisions and trust that your decisions are the right decisions to make. The future of your company depends on you, especially if you’re leading it.
- You can do ALL of these things right, but still release a game which completely fails in the market place. In the past, huge companies have invested millions in games which have totally flopped. So, if you’re going to go in on this… be prepared for that possibility. Hedging your bets on VR is kind of a good idea right now, but you can’t depend on the novelty factor forever. Your game should stand on its own merit, whether its in VR or not. Though, to be totally honest, VR is kind of a game changer which means that there are some things you can’t experience in any other way but VR. If you’re going to make a VR game, I really hope that you take full advantage of VR and its capabilities and don’t just do “Concept X, but now in VR!!!”. The key question every developer needs to be asking about their game is, “Why is THIS interesting to people?”. Don’t try to answer that for yourself (which is an assumption), let other people answer that for you through play testing (which is evidence). If there’s nothing interesting about your game to other people, you have a high risk of market failure. You might be the only person in the world wildly interested in a deep space pirate hockey MMO, but everyone else might just say, “meh…”. Test your ideas and assumptions every step of the way, as often and widely as you can, and change direction if your tests reveal something isn’t working.
Best wishes and good luck!