Things have been busy lately, and I haven’t been keeping up with Kickstarter as much as normal. However, I can always count on friends who actually enjoy this ranting of mine. I was tipped off this week to a crowdfunding project practically designed to make me rage. It’s bad enough when you want $150,000 to make your indie game. It is entirely unforgivable to ask for $150,000 to make one DLC character for your game.
If you’ve been more diligent on gaming news than me this week, you may already know what I’m talking about: the Skullgirls Indiegogo project.
The twist right away is that the story isn’t all bad. It actually makes the idea of this project relatively feasible. Essentially, the publisher for Skullgirls, Autumn Games, got caught up in an expensive legal battle, and became unable to continue financially supporting the game. So now it’s left to the players to decide whether or not a new DLC character should happen. Sounds reasonable enough so far. Fortunately for my boundless cynicism, that’s not the whole story.
Let’s focus on this budget, for starters – $150,000 is stupid expensive for a single character in a fighting game. Where is all of that going? Lab Zero Games was kind enough to provide their budget breakdown.
“$48,000: Staff Salaries – 8 people for 10 weeks”
So, in general, I’m against getting crowdfunding to pay salaries, but in this case, I’m willing to let that slide. This is a pre-established company, their game already released, and in order to get something done, they have to pay their staff. And we can assume that they have every reason to think that people want this character – they have the game sales and fan base who will naturally want more content for the game that they’ve been enjoying. It’s essentially what Double Fine did; the players say they want something, they can’t get publisher support for it, so get the funding directly from the fans. They’re not suckering people with respect to the fact that they can do what they say they’re going to do. They’ve proven themselves, and there won’t really be many surprises with adding a character – it’s not as if they’re making a whole new game. The risk to the fans is minimal.
So fine, you’ve got 8 people working on this, and that’s going to cost money. But how is paying your entire staff less than a third of your budget? What the hell else is happening here?
“$30,000: Animation and Clean-up Contracting”
Contracting? Okay, so you have a staff of 8 people for this game, but none of them are animators? That’s.. odd. Did you contract all of the animation for this game? Why don’t you just have an animator on staff? It’s almost as much for the animation as the payment to your entire staff.
“$4,000: Voice recording”
Okay, it’s more reasonable for no one in your staff to be a voice actor, and that amount seems pretty reasonable.
“$2,000: Hit-box Contracting”
Okay, you’re just making shit up now. Not only can no one on your staff animate this character, but they can’t create hit boxes? It’s a small part of the budget, but I’m starting to wonder just how little your staff is actually going to be doing for this character.
“$5,000: Audio Implementation Contracting”
Give me a fucking break. Audio “implementation”? What the fuck kind of sound engine are you running that it costs $5,000 just for someone to call a few play functions on sound files? And again, why is no one on your staff doing this?
“$20,000: QA Testing”
That does it. I take back what I said about your $48,000 staff budget being reasonable. They don’t fucking do anything. They can’t animate the character, they can’t record a voice for it, they can’t create basic hit boxes for it, they can’t implement the sounds for it, and they can’t test it. Are you paying them $48,000 to give it the stupid fucking name “Squigly”?!
“$10,000: 1st Party Certification”
I guess Phil Fish was lying about how much it costs to patch a game? Sounds like these guys are getting a deal if that’s for both Microsoft and Sony – maybe because after the character is patched in for free, this content will be converted to a DLC character for $5 in a few months. Who knows how the patch-to-DLC magic conversion happens, anyway? Good for them. Let’s finish off this budget proposal.
“$10,500: IndieGoGo and Payment Processing Fees
$20,500: Manufacturing and Shipping Physical Rewards”
Let me just see if I’m clear on this one: of your $150,000 budget, $31,000 of it is going to paying for the things you need to ask for the money in the first place. Great plan.
Now, the Indiegogo fee is a percentage, so the only reason it’s $10,500 is because you’re asking for so much god damned money in the first place. And the reason that you’re asking for so much money is that your staff is a bunch of useless fucks who can’t do the most basic game development tasks.
The physical rewards are yet another point of contention for me. First of all, let’s talk about what they are. Most of the rewards here are digital – the game is a downloadable title, after all. So what are all these physical rewards that cost $20,500 to manufacture and ship? Well, a poster, a postcard set, a t-shirt, a soundtrack CD, and some sketches. Now, the t-shirt and sketches, okay. But the rest is bunch of junk you’d be better of delivering in digital form, if for no other reason than they wouldn’t be so limited.. or stupid. What benefit does actually producing a CD give you for the soundtrack? Why would anyone want postcards for a video game?
Leave it to the taste of gamers, I guess. But there’s also the issue of possibly not needing to fulfill physical rewards. Let’s say, theoretically, that everyone put in $30 or less, to only get digital rewards. You’ve already factored in a completely unnecessary $20,500 for all of the possible physical rewards people might have chosen. I’m sure that money would have gone to your incredibly useful staff to name another new character “Scribulz” or some shit, so they could create another Indiegogo page contracting all of the actual work for it.
It’s all a moot point for me to rant about, of course. Apparently, enough people play this garbage and have a huge excess of disposable income that it’s already way over the requested budget. And that, dear readers, is why I hate you all.
Unless, of course, you didn’t contribute to this project. In which case, the jury is still out on you. Don’t fuck it up.