Dekker Records: The Kickstarter Postmortem

So, the deadline for our Kickstarter came and went. After a brief flurry of funding in the first few days, the Kickstarter stalled and is now dead on arrival.

As good game developers, we are in the habit of doing a postmortem on our projects. Postmortems are good educational experiences for even the greatest projects, but failed projects can be especially informative. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

What Went Right

  • Backers
    • As mentioned, we had a great initial push. Only two of our backers were actually people we knew. 7 out of our 9 backers were people we didn’t know before the campaign started.
  • Community engagement
    • I believe we were pretty good about keeping our backers informed as to where we were and what we were currently doing. Sometimes that was prodded by a comment, sometimes that was a result of our planning beforehand.
    • We also had some great backers, willing to give us advice or to promote us on their blogs. That was invaluable.

What Went Wrong

  • Video
    • We forgot the main principle of making a pitch – knowing your audience. We made our introductory video as if we were pitching to another studio instead of pitching to kickstarters. This may have created a bad first impression. Our presentation certainly didn’t grab anyone’s attention – our metrics showed that most people stopped watching as soon as the intro trailer ended.
  • Flair
    • We went live with a pretty boring and lifeless page. We made some efforts to change things later on, but we’d already screwed the pooch on making a good first impression. Our Kickstarter page should have had the personality and humor of Dekker Records.
  • Our Beautiful Faces
    • You never saw them – at least not in video form. Apparently, that’s a Kickstarter no-no. Our intro video might have been more effective if you saw Mike and Dan speaking instead of a presentation.
  • Lack of Community
    • This was our biggest problem. In a way, it’s a catch-22 for a new studio – building a community around a product that doesn’t exist yet. Mike and Dan both are pretty lacking in the desire to use social media and neither one frequents forums that would have brought in an interested community from elsewhere. This is what hurt us more than anything – had we been spending the past half-year we’d been working on the project building our brand instead of waiting until we had our demo to showcase our work we would have been better off than going live with just our demo.
      • We’ve been working to change this, often by networking through more traditional means – Dan has recently been engaging with his local tech community and Mike has deigned to descend from his mountain hermitage more than once a fortnight.

What Happens Now?

So, the Kickstarter didn’t make it. Where do we go from here? Well, The Dekker Records: Thunder Stone Blues is still coming out. We’re going to have to release it as three separate Acts (episodes) which means the story will be more linear than what we originally envisioned (had the Kickstarter succeeded we were going to release acts 1 and 2 together, which would have allowed you to tackle either act in the order you desired). Act 1 is coming out in June with a possible Steam version at a later date.

Act 1 will have some custom art assets and a ton of new content (which we’ve told you about in past developer updates). The new art will most likely be generated by Mike and Dan working together but won’t be nearly as impressive as if we’d been able to hire someone, and won’t replace as many of the RPG Maker assets as we’d wanted. The new content is all game development stuff, right within All-Father’s wheelhouse. New classes, skills, and dungeons to explore are coming your way soon.

It also won’t have a soundtrack performed by a live band. We’ll have to figure something out about making the current soundtrack more cohesive than the blend of midi and real instrumentals that we have now. Mike is hard at work and Dan is readying his strongest criticisms as we speak.

Keep an eye on our webpage, our Twitter @AllFatherStudio, and our Facebook page at  for further developments.

We’re still accepting donation via GoFundMe which, unlike Kickstarter, this goes directly to us whether we’re funded or not. We’re also looking into possibly launching a campaign on IndieGoGo in the near future.

We’d like to thank everyone that pledged to The Dekker Records: Thunder Stone Blues; your support means the world. Again, we will be publishing – Thunder Stone Blues is happening, and you will be able to help Dekker unravel her mystery in three low priced acts. See you in June!

Daniel Chessare and Michael Commini

Things to Come

Hey, everyone.

 

The Kickstarter is still going, but we at All-Father Studios are already hard at work on the commercial release. So, even if you’ve played through all of the demo, what incentive do you have to buy and play the Act I story again? We’ll give you a preview of things we have already added to the game and things to come!

 

New Locations

 

We’ve already added a few new locations. Where does Dekker go when she’s not on the case or at the bar? Do those magic shops actually do anything? In the full version of the game you’ll find the answer to all these questions and more!

 

New Skills

 

We’re tweaking the already existing classes and adding a new system to allow you to tailor those classes to your playstyle. Want Dekker to have more attack power? Want access to offensive spells before you meet [name redacted]? Our new Crystal system will allow you to choose class specialties, making it even easier to play the game your way!

 

New Easter Eggs

 

Beyond the obvious influences, what strange bits of pop culture have infected our designers’ fragile minds? Sharp-eyed players will be able to find out. New references and jabs abound, rewarding exploration with insight as to just what strange bits of trivia have fermented into the heady brew that is The Dekker Records!

Michael Commini

Co-founder/Designer

 

Origins Pt.2

Hi again!

This time around I want to talk about why we decided to cast a woman as the main character, especially since the game’s creators and writers are men. So much can be said for how women are represented in video games, if they are at all. We see it constantly in video games, highly sexualized female characters and weak helpless women regulated to support roles. We all know the state of female representation in video games, just Google it, it’s not pretty.

When we made Dekker we had to make sure we created a balanced and well thought out character. We didn’t want to create a character, and a world, where a female detective was constantly being crapped on by her coworkers and society in general. We specifically avoided creating scenes where a man makes a sexist comment and the woman responds with some empowering speech. We also avoided the cliche where a sexist male insults a female cop for being a woman, calls her weak, and then at some point later in the story she saves his life and all of a sudden he has a new appreciation for women.

In our game there are no exclamations of “A woman guard!?” or “Why would I be scared of a dame!?”  To us, creating a truly equal and respected female character isn’t about constantly reminding the player that Dekker is a woman, it’s about reminding the player that Dekker is a person. In our game women are equal, they’ll get treated equally, for good or for worse. We didn’t ask ourselves, “What would a woman do in this situation?” We asked ourselves, “What would a hard-ass, high functioning alcoholic, private eye, do in this situation?”

Really, when all is said and done, our primary motivation for making a game with a female lead is that we thought it would interesting. It also gives us the opportunity to right a few wrongs that exist in the industry. We didn’t just add a female hero, coming in ACT 2 we’ll be introducing more characters that break the gender norms found in JRPG’s, as well as a role reversal for the ever popular Noir trope, the femme fatale.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel Chessare
Co-Founder / Designer

Origins Pt.1

Hi there,

I want to start off by saying “Thanks!” to everyone who has contributed already to our Kickstarter and also thanks for taking the time to check our site and developer blog.

Today I want to talk about some of the thoughts and ideas that went into The Dekker Records, specifically the idea to take classic JRPG and Noir tropes and turn them on their ears. The idea for TDR initially came about because of our fondness for classic JRPG’s and old noir novels by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Once we had the idea in mind to combine the two we went about pinpointing the tropes that made JRPGs so good, and also so bad. The number one gripe we, and we believe most people, have with the JRPG genre is the narrative breaking properties of a certain resurrection item.

You know what? I’ll just say it; Phoenix Downs ruined one of the most important scenes in video game history…Aerith’s death. Really, any meaningful character death is ruined by a game where resurrection items are available to the public. Here’s how it should’ve played out “Oh no! Aerith is dead…wait, I’ll just pop down to the corner shop and purchase a Phoenix Down for 500gil because they sell them to everyone in the city.”

The first thing we wanted to address was this glaring example of “mechanics that break narrative”, while at the same time poking some fun at the idea of a world where no one really has to die. Why does every RPG sell resurrection items so cheaply? So that players have a way to beat the game. The only problem being, it has no impact on a game world that pretends that death is still something that happens, well, at least to normal folk. So, we thought it would be fun and interesting to create a world where readily available resurrection items not only have an impact but the idea that heroes, adventurers, and even monsters are all part of a vital industry that rely on them.

Once that was in place the next logical step was to take them away. After all, you can’t have a murder/mystery if death doesn’t mean anything. Of course, if heroes know they can die permanently that would throw a huge wrench into the industry of a being a professional hero.

Also, you can’t have an interesting noir murder mystery without a detective. In our next developer post we’ll talk about the biggest change we made to the JRPG and Noir genres, gender role reversal, and the impact it’ll have on the game.

 

Daniel Chessare
Co-Founder / Designer

Kickstarter Now Live

Our Kickstarter is live as of yesterday. In the under 24 hours between this post and the Kickstarter being approved we have already raised 10% of our funding goal. A link to our Kickstarter can be found on our Fund Raising tab.

We’d like to thank all our backers who have contributed so far and preemptively thank anyone who backs us from hereon out. We appreciate you for helping us make The Dekker Records: Thunder Stone Blues the best game we could possibly make.

Going forward into 2015 we plan to add more features to Act I and release Act II. Your funding helps us to make what we hope is already a great game into an even better one.

Look for more from us in this new year!