Openness is our currency

You have to remember throughout all of this that we’re just college kids. Sean and I are moving into our third year of RIT; he’s a bit ahead because I interned at a company for a little while last year. What we’re constantly being reminded of whenever we walk though this campus and look at graduates and read blogs by established developers is, we have no business claiming the things that we have and are actively claiming on this page.

The question for today: If you’re advertising a concept in that position, and you want random people you’ve never met or conversed with to give you money (man, Kickstarter is a weird concept), what do you do? We’ve never released a commercial game; honestly, I’ve never moved a game out of the prototyping stage. What’s our strategy for getting people to trust us?

Before you run off and cancel your pledge, I want to try and get into the mechanics of Kickstarter and see if I can earn back at least a tiny bit of the trust I just lost from you. The truth is, we do know what we’re doing, and Eyes Open is going to be a really stinking good game. Our marketing efforts aren’t about lying to you, they’re about finding effective ways to make you see the game the same way that we already do.

I don’t claim to have comprehensive insight into the psychology of Kickstarter, but I can make some conclusions based purely off hearsay, observation, and my own experiences as a backer.  When I’m looking for something on Kickstarter, what I keep in mind is :

  1. I want to back games that I think are good.
  2. I want to feel like I’m genuinely supporting someone who needs my help.
  3. I want to feel like I’m getting access to something valuable to me in return.

We don’t want to pretend to give you something that we don’t have, and we don’t want to decieve you into thinking you’re getting something special when you’re not. So we play to our strengths instead of our weaknesses and we don’t act like big developers or small developers. We act like college kids who want to make a game.

What that means is that we don’t pretend that we’re an established studio, and instead we’re very very truthful that we are normal people first and foremost who have made specific choices that you could follow. There’s nothing special about any of us.

And we do all of this for very specific reasons:

  1. We want you to understand the game in the same way that we do. Then you’ll think it’s good, because it is good. The more you know about the game, the more you’ll like it.
  2. We want you to root for us, and we want you to become invested in what we’re doing. We’re trying to get you to move past the phase of “this Kickstarter is valuable only in that it makes a specific game that I want to play,” to a state more along the lines of, “This Kickstarter is valuable because I feel like I know the developers and I want them to succeed.”

This second is the most important, because it drives the way that we interact with you on almost every stage of the Kickstarter. We’re honest about things we’re worried about. We’re honest about what we hope the game will be. We try to be open, friendly, and accessible at every opportunity, because we want you to not only like us, but root for us.

Being open helps with providing you with value too. Eyes Open is a good game, and the development process behind it is genuinely interesting to me: it’s one of the reasons why I spend practically all of my time working on this game or thinking about this game. Access to that process on a level that a larger studio can’t offer is what we’ve built the entire Kickstarter around, because I do think you’ll find the journey just as cool as I do.

Documentaries and postmortems are really really good. However, they’re prepackaged and edited to an absurd degree. One of the special things about the updates you’re reading now is that they happen during the development process, and are released before we have any chance to rephrase our remarks in hindsight. What all of this means is that you’re not getting our thoughts on our development process, or an edited version of the best things we’ve done: you’re getting our development process at close to the same speed that we’re progressing. It’s a much more detailed look into what makes our studio tick.

Next up in marketing: How did we choose our Kickstarter reward tiers?