What We're Doing

So, we're still cranking away on our prototype/first playable, but in the meantime, as you've probably seen (if you're reading this blog at all) we're also working through how to fund this whole thing. A friend forwarded me this article, which does a great job of discussing the kind of approach we're taking with Wonderspark. A handful of people have asked, given that our goal is not to say, raise a ton of VC money and get huge immediately, why we don't do something like Kickstarter. I think the two main things are that we want to develop a microtransaction-based game. That business model enables a LOT of positive things, and we want to help the game industry find a positive, ethical, player-centric way of doing microtransactions, because it's a way of actively making the game industry better. But Kickstarter traditionally hasn't been good for microtransaction-based games, because ultimately, people want something for their $$, and a "free" game isn't significant. And in-game things are often not significant - at least not at first.

And more, our style of developing means that while we may have an idea of what we're going to build, part of why we develop the way we do is that we really value flexibility. We want to be able to adapt as times change, and be flexible enough to react to interesting developments as fast as possible. If we promised something and then had to change course, it's much, much harder to do when you've said to the people that gave you money that you were going to get X, and now you're getting Y.

Second, almost all of the really successful Kickstarter *games* have been based on nostalgia for the OG developers. Tim Schaefer, Peter Molyneaux, Chris Roberts, etc. Nothing against that, it's just not a "tool" we have at our disposal. So the chances of a Kickstarter being successful are very small, and the work required, by all accounts, is huge. Instead, we're just focusing on building a great game, and maintaining our ability to be flexible.

But when it comes to the issue of flexibility and adaptation, it definitely makes things difficult even in a non-Kickstarter environment. People want to know what they're going to get for any money they invest, and so it's hard to say, "Look - we're building this thing, and we're heading in the most promising direction, but I can't really promise you that this is what we're actually going to make."

I can explain why we're heading in a particular direction. I can explain why we believe these things will have positive benefits for players, and for us as developers. But the key to success for us has always been our ability to adapt & move fast, and expectation & planning, honestly, are the enemies of agility and speed.

I know that sounds like an excuse - like, "You don't want to be rigorous," or "You just don't like the hard work of planning," but I think it's actually the opposite of that. It's much harder to maintain flexibility than it is to just tell people what to do and plan a month in advance. I think for people who are used to having strictly prioritized roadmaps to work from, it's really scary to not know what you'll be doing two weeks from now. It's harder to plan, even in broad strokes, the direction of the business. But the catch is simple: You can't plan the general direction of the business a quarter out in mobile, because things are changing so fast. All you can do is spend a lot of time creating a plan that is wrong, and build up a lot of momentum and inertia around that wrong plan that makes it very hard to change when you have to change.

So part of the difficulty is that people want plans. They want some level of predictability. They want a security blanket. But much like most financial projections around unreleased games, the failure of that is that everyone knows the numbers are nonsense. They're like a thought experiment so you can prove how you think. And THAT, at least, has some value. Roadmapping a significant way into the future doesn't even have that benefit, and the impact that it has on your ability to change direction is so negative, and so difficult to deal with that it's simply not worth it in this environment.

Yeah, so. That was a bit of a tangent. I thought I was going to start the post with one thought, but ended it with something completely different. An example, I guess, of what I'm talking about. :D