Craig Stern Is Stupidly Honest, Maybe Honestly Stupid: Telepathic Tic-Tacs


Wait a minute, a Kickstarter project that isn’t a total piece of shit?! What is it doing on this blog?

Craig Stern’s project, Telepath Tactics, makes me more conflicted than a closeted gay boy in a gym locker room. Just when it looks like he’s doing it right, the following detail makes it look so stupid. I want to be in support of it for being what I think a video game Kickstarter should be, but I just can’t, because behind the genuine honesty here is just enough absurdity for me to shake my head at.

“The lion’s share of the really tough stuff is already done. I just need more resources to give the game all the content and polish it needs.”

Craig has been working on this game for 2 years. So why does he need money now?


Take it easy, Craig, I’m asking the questions here. But since you brought it up, what is the deal with that?

“(Please note that I am not counting wages for myself in this figure. I don’t want a salary; I just want the money to get this thing done right.)”

See that? I should be in support of this already. Craig doesn’t even want you to cover his Lunchables while he makes games for you. That’s the most reasonable thing I’ve ever heard. But what could possibly cost $25,500 all of a sudden, 2 years into development?


“Hiring a sound designer to create all of the sound effects for every last button click, movement, attack, character death, item usage, and action in the game. Estimated cost: $12,000”

I take back every mean thing I am about to say about you, Craig. Hire me for this. I am a sound designer with years of experience in both indie and AAA games. Give me $12,000 and I will create all of the sounds you need.

I take that back. I will do it for free to prove that you don’t need $12,000. How many fucking sounds do you need? It’s 2D, top-down, retro-graphics tactics game – do you think you need cinematic-quality audio or something? It would just feel out of place. Nearly half of your god damn budget is for little battle sounds. I’m flattered that you value my profession so highly, but when you talk about the bare minimum you need, you’re off to a bad start with this. Are all of your quotes so absurd? Is the other $13,500 for particle effects?

Here, take this:

You can create all the sound effects you need, for free, very easily. You know who’s going to complain that you have bad sounds? NO ONE. It’s retro, like every other aspect of your game.

“Hiring a composer to flesh out the game’s soundtrack with more music. Estimated cost: $4,000”

Now I’m really confused. Battle sounds for twelve grand, music for four? Some sound designer with no musical talent must have given you these quotes. Speaking of no musical talent, don’t you have any friends who can make some music for you? How is hiring a composer for $4,000 just enough to get your game done right? You already hired this composer to make the title theme – did you not think that you would eventually need more than that?

“Hiring artists to create more art: tilesets, destructible objects, character portraits, NPC sprites, and a second gender for each character class. Estimated cost: $4,000”

This is probably the most legitimate part of the budget. I’m curious, though, how much you spent on all of the art that’s already there, which seems to be substantial. Thousands? I’d bet not. But there’s another small issue I have with this: Craig developed this game to be modded.


“Literally everything in the game, you can change, and you can extend”

To put this into perspective, you want $4,000 to pay someone to do what other people are going to do for free once your game is out. You could release your game as it is now (or just a demo with the modding tool) and have people submit art to you for the single player campaign. Boom: free art, and some up-and-coming game artist gets their art in a real game.

Last point on this: the only reason you need this art is for the single player campaign. You got all of the art done for the multiplayer game, but now that some friends want a single player game, suddenly you’re looking at an extra $25,500?

And maybe that’s what this whole thing is about for me, Craig. You’re not asking to be kick-started, but, much like our friends Dark Vale Games who made Forge, despite their failed Kickstarter, you want to be kick-finished. (And don’t think that that’s all the gloating I’m going to do about how right I was about them.) You’re not asking for funding to get your idea off the ground, you’re asking for it because you want more. More sounds, more music, more art. This game already exists, you just think it doesn’t have enough stuff. You want all of the other genders for the character classes, because some are now restricted to males, and some to females. But please, point out the males and females for me in this picture:


Exactly. Save your $4,000. If people want boobs and penises in this game, they’ll mod them in. Trust me.

“Promoting Telepath Tactics* at PAX East. Estimated cost: $2,000”

By far, the most absurd part of the budget. Want to promote at PAX? Hand out some business cards. They won’t cost $2,000. Promise. Also, if you’ve done enough promoting with no budget to convince people to give you $25,500, I’m thinking you don’t need $2,000 to promote something. You’re doing just fine without it. Besides, talk about breaking your “I just want the money to get this done right” rule.

Craig’s argument for why it’s in your best interest to fund him promoting the game is that the more people who play it, the more content will be available, via mods. What’s funny about that is it makes all of the other parts of the budget less important. The more people modding this game, the less you needed to throw $12,000 at a sound desinger to create some attack sounds. Again, all of this will be done for free if the game is fun enough for people to care enough to mod it. But rather than find out, Craig would like to sell you some promises so he can pay for these assets ahead of time.

“Hiring a web designer to build a proper website* for Telepath Tactics. Estimated cost: $1,000”

Ooh, what’s a proper website, I want one! How does this help get the game done? You’re starting to sound a little full of shit, Craig. You’re not asking for just enough to get your game done; you want every possible expense this game can produce covered before you finish it. You’re not asking anyone to fund your personal time, and I respect that. But asking them to fund things you flat out don’t need – or, in other cases, shouldn’t cost anywhere near your quotes – isn’t much better. You have the classic misunderstanding that the solution to every game development problem is to throw money at it.


But maybe I’m being too hard on Craig. If that’s the case, it’s because I read these before I started writing:

“At $200, you’ll be listed as a Producer in the game’s credits! Good resume fodder, I bet.”

“At $5000, you can work with me to design a battle in the official campaign! You’ll also be credited as an Assistant Designer.”

Fuck you, Craig. I hope you go to an interview for a real job, and tell them that you have production or design credits from backing a Kickstarter project. See how that goes for you. You’re whoring out credits to your game. That is so incredibly disgusting, I can’t even imagine how you haven’t deleted this Kickstarter project out of shame.

And since I’m already angry with you, let’s just get this out of the way as well. You already have 2 games that you’re currently selling on your site. (Oh, look at that, you already have a site, and neither of your other two games have their own sites, but you really need $1,000 for this one) So you were able to make those two games, which you feel are worth $12.99 and $24.95 respectively, but suddenly, you’re in way over your head with the budget of your current game? How many tens of thousands of dollars have you spent on the sound design for your two previous titles? I’d be willing to bet none. I don’t think the entire budget of both those games combined was even equal to what you’ve quoted for the sound effects alone here.


So you make a game, sell it on your site, but not many people buy it. You make a second game, sell it on your site, and not many people buy it. So for your third game, you figure instead of selling a game, why don’t you just sell promises?! Create a Kickstarter page, talk about how great this game is going to be – don’t even mention that you have two games completed already – and rake in that sweet promises money. Nobody seems to care about your games once they’re done; might as well sell it while people can still imagine how great it might be.

That’s the sad truth, and you know it. You didn’t need Kickstarters for your previous two titles, nor did you need one for the two years you’ve been working on this game. But you just thought hey, wouldn’t it be fun to throw some money around this time? Making people interested in a finished game requires that game to be interesting. Making people interested in a game that’s coming out soon requires some sweet talking to gamers. You’re obviously better at the latter. Put in for a job working on the community team for a game developer. Be sure to mention all of the times you were listed as a producer for giving someone money on Kickstarter.


11 thoughts on “Craig Stern Is Stupidly Honest, Maybe Honestly Stupid: Telepathic Tic-Tacs

  1. I love the slow boil in this post. You start out totally reasonable and even optimistic before you explode near the end.

    Thoroughly enjoyable – now write more often!

  2. Rob says:

    I’ve seen the sale of a “producer” credit a lot. I don’t go through Kickstarter that often, but I’ve seen it enough that it struck me as odd to see you so upset by it. This is probably the first time that seen a suggestion for it to be used on a resume, though.

    Small aside, a typo:
    “How many tens of thousands of dollars have you spent on the sound design for your two previous titles? I’d be willing to BE*T* none.”

    • davidgaames says:

      Thanks for the heads up; corrected!

      As for the producer credit, I don’t see its prevalence as a reason to not call it out. Though I do think the resume suggestion was what put it overboard for me in this case, because it highlighted exactly WHY it’s a bad idea. If you want to put someone’s name in the credits under “Special Thanks” or something like that, then fine, but crediting a real role is not okay. It promotes the message that you can buy your way into the industry.

    • davidgaames says:

      David over at Caffeineforge was kind enough to inform me of this as well today. Glad to see people keeping up. 🙂 Thanks! I will definitely be doing a post on it.

  3. […] I don’t have to tell you about Craig Stern’s game, Telepath Tactics. I don’t have to tell you that I didn’t approve of his first Kickstarter. I’ve already done that. […]

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  5. […] he’s certainly no Craig Stern.While this seems rather modest for the sound design of a game, let’s not forget that this is […]

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