Monday, April 09, 2012

Trying to Stand Out in a World of Kickstarting Awesome

Where to begin...where to begin?

I have long been a big believer in independent projects and fan supported endeavors, especially in the hobby gaming community.  It seems to me one of the best ways to ensure that the projects we want continue to get made, especially when "start up" costs would be too expensive to raise otherwise.  Pre-funding projects allows gamers to become a kind of venture capitalist, angel investor even, in some exciting products.

I was one of the first patrons of Wolfgang Baur's excellent Open Design Project.  I interviewed Wolfgang for my Geekerati podcast and am a long time subscriber to his Kobold Quarterly.  I think what Wolfgang has been doing for the gaming community with his "Switzerland of the Edition Wars" magazine and projects, is a great service.  He not only produces fantastic gaming products, but involves the community in those projects as well.  If only he would recognize me the next time I introduce myself to him at a con... ;-)

I have also been a long time customer of the Indie Press Revolution.  While not as "venture" oriented as the Open Design project, IPR has helped a lot of games that might otherwise have been overlooked get release and play.  It was the first place that I saw "Spirit of the Century," a fantastic game by Fred Hicks' company Evil Hat Games.  I like to think that my friend Eric's successful creation and launching of "Race to Adventure" started with my purchase of SotC and my excitement about the company.  I take no credit for Eric's game itself, I just imagine that I motivated a handshake that led to gold.

I really have to thank Ken Hite for pointing me in the direction of IPR and the games it offers, so ultimate credit for the handshake would transfer from me to him anyway.  I also have to thank him for directing me to Pelgrane Press and their Gumshoe product line.  I've been pre-ordering -- a kind of venture capital/patronage -- the games in their line for a couple of years now, and have been impressed every time.  I also have to thank James Maliszewski -- who I discovered at IPR -- for pointing me in the direction of a number of other independent projects in the Old School Renaissance/Revolution (OSR).  Thanks to James, I have ordered the White Box of Sword and Sorcery and Delving Deeper -- a product that I have been waiting for quite some time to examine.

And prior to Kickstarter, word of mouth through blogs and whispers at conventions and in game stores was really the only way one could find out about exciting projects that needed "pre-release" support.  In the past couple of years though, as Kickstarter has grown and along with it the number of successful projects -- Kickstarter has become a go to place for exciting gaming related products.

Which is why last March, my business partners and I at Twin Suns Entertainment decided to launch our initial product offering on the site.  Our vision was to make a documentary film that told a surprising tale about the people who play role playing games, a tale that broke stereotypes.  We wanted to show the world that gamers come in all stripes, from students to professors and from attorneys to screenwriters.  Gamers come from all walks of life, and the only real stereotype about gamers is that they enjoy games.  That had been our experience and we want to share that with the world.

We also want to do it right...which isn't cheap.  We want to follow a number of gamers (say four) in their day to day lives, gamers on different coasts with diverse backgrounds.  We also wanted to interview experts and visit the homeland of gaming...Wisconsin, as well as a couple of major conventions like PAX and GenCon.  Add visits to major publishers to this mix, and the travel expenses get pretty high.  But we want to do it right, and that means a pretty sizable budget of $41,000 or so.  That isn't huge by film making standards, but it's pretty big for a first Kickstarter project.  This is especially true when it comes to competing in a saturated market, by which I mean a market saturated with projects worth backing.  I would have to be arrogant and ignorant to think that our project was the only project worth backing.  I think our project is the best idea of all time, but I am still dumbstruck by the awesome that emanates from the minds of my fellow gamers.  Let me give you a few examples of what I have recently supported...if you are interested in everything I support you can check out my profile.  Oh...and not all of what I am currently backing is game related.  There really is a ton of great stuff out there.

So, here goes.  I have recently supported:

  1. Xombie: Death Warmed Over by Epic Level Entertainment.  Epic Level produces the very funny web series "Dungeon Bastard," and I loved the original Xombie stuff so this was a natural for me.  I would love it if Cindi Rice would participate in our documentary.  The Dungeon Bastard himself has agreed to let us invade his life, but to share with others the journey from game creator to television producer is one I would love to provide.
  2. Random Dungeon Generator as Dungeon Map   I think the coolness of this project speaks for itself.
  3. Dwimmermount -- I told you I love James Maliszewski's stuff.
  4. Free RPG Day Adventure from Gaming Paper -- I have supported every one of Erik Bauer's Gaming Paper forays.  He's one of the nicest guys in the industry, and a Friendly Local Game Store owner.
  5. Geek Seekers starring Monte Cook and Jen Page.  
  6. Tales of the Emerald Serpent -- A fiction anthology from Scott Taylor of Black Gate Magazine.  It harkens back to the old Liavek, Thieves' World, and Wild Cards anthologies.  I cannot wait.
And that is just a smattering.  There is a ton of great stuff out there.  You should support it.  

I'd love it if you'd support us in our project.  We've lined up some great participants who include the following:

  • John Rogers -- the creator of the Leverage TV show, author on the Blue Beetle comic book, user of unobtainium before Avatar, and player of Savage Worlds, D&D, and other games.
  • Ashley Miller -- screenwriter on Thor, and X-Men: First Class.  He and his group play an interesting mash up rpg that I hope I'll be able to share in more detail with you.
  • Cam Banks -- the creative force behind much of what Margaret Weis Productions is putting out these days.  His evolution of the Cortex system into the Cortex Plus system with games like Smallville, Leverage, and the Marvel RPG is quite remarkable.  
  • Matt Forbeck -- If credit for me even attempting a project in the gaming industry belongs to anyone, it belongs to Matt.  He is an incredibly nice guy, and is attempting a challenging project of his own.  He's trying to write 12 books in 12 months and to become a modern Walter Gibson.  Though he will have to become a professional grade magician -- you know card tricks etc. -- to truly match Gibson.
  • Ken St. Andre -- Not only was he the inventor of two of the earliest role playing games ever written -- Tunnels and Trolls and Starfaring -- he's offered to host a session of T&T at GenCon for us this year.
  • David Nett -- David is the creator of the entertaining webseries about gamers Gold: The Series.  It's not everyday that someone tries to make a dramatic comedy about our hobby.  He did, and with Night of the Zombie King -- the second Gold offering -- he accomplished that task with style.
We've got some great people involved in our project.  We are looking for more.  We hope that we can get Wil Wheaton or Felicia Day to participate.  They are in our neck of the woods after all, but they do have their own exciting projects lined up.  You might have heard of it.

It's pretty hard to stand out in a world of awesome, but that's what we are hoping to do.

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