Friday, February 22, 2013

Kickstarter Updates and Review and Rambling

Time for the pre month Kickstarter observations. One of the comments from a previous update of this nature asked me to note why I backed the Kickstarter as opposed to just buying it at my local game store. I’ll cover that here as well.
For me, I’ve cut way back on supporting. For one, few of the companies or people I’ve backed seem to have any idea on what the realistic delivery date of their project is. For another, some of the companies I’ve backed are doing new kickstarters without delivering the material from the first. I’m not saying “fool me once shame on me” or anything but if you’re running another KS and haven’t delivered on the first one, why on earth would I support it? This is especially true if the new KS is in a very similar vein as the first.
It would seem that the whole concept of the kick start, to give something a boost at first, to give someone a hand up, a ledge to stand on, is not what companies are using it for, and instead, using it for full out financing. Good luck with that.
Another thing is my own person situation has changed. Because I’m not personally in the same situation I was when I backed a lot of these projects, my whole outlook is different. Most of this stuff I wouldn’t even buy in the store now. Sourcebooks for Pathfinder when I’m not in a regular game? Pass. Miniatures when I’m not painting? Pass. It’s taught me the value of actually buying stuff off the shelf on an as needed basis.
Hell, it’s JIT (just in time) buying! Mind you, I’ve always known that backing many of these projects would require patience. I’ve noted several times that RPG companies whose very livelihood is at stake, are notoriously late on their delivery. I’ve been to too many Gen Con conventions where product was being sent overnight to the convention so that the company could try and make its cost back. Thinking that material prepaid would be delivered is foolish.
On the other hand, I can’t help but think the quickly accepted meme of “no KS is on time. It’s standard.” Is the way I want to vote with my personal finances? For many people it’s not an issue and for me, if it wasn’t because part of the standard, it probably wouldn’t matter that much but it’s becoming a little blasé in companies just giving what I have to assume they know, are false delivery dates.
Red Box Games: I was a backer at a high level for the first Red Box Games KS. I found some of the levels to be a little confusing but not confusing enough that I didn’t pledge. I figured if I was reading some of the charts wrong, I’d simply get some bonus material. Red Box Games is one of those miniature companies that is bouncing in terms of its popularity. Sometimes they are carried at a wide variety of locations and sometimes there are huge sales that empty the stores of them.
I had three factors in backing them. One, I didn’t know if Games Plus would be carrying them. Two, there were some good deals to be found here. Three, I was in an ‘excited’ phase about the whole Kickstarter process. I was feeling as a consumer that I was making a real impact on projects that might not have made it. I was ‘high’ from the Bones project if you will. That it was part of the big community.
Then the deadline passed last October and continues to pass. Part of this was the success of the Kickstarter. Part of it was failure of some of the molds on the caster’s side requiring several of the molds to be worked again and again. Some of it probably lack of project management on this scope. Still waiting as of this moment.
On a side note, Tre decided to launch another Kickstarter to continue the funding switch over from metal to plastic. This was after several people informed him that they would not be supporting another KS while the goods from this one were outstanding but apparently he’s receiving such great deals from the caster that if he doesn’t jump on it right away, his long term business will be hurt.
From an outside perspective, it appeared to have been a disaster. Its initial goal of five thousand was met and for a time was even at fifteen thousand. Somewhere along the lines though, the stretch goals, which were all visible at the start of the campaign, were swapped out. In addition, the funding and number of backers never got as high as the first one. Some of the backers were in for stretch goals and as the stretch goals never got closer, they dropped their pledges. Then it was cancelled. Despite making its funding, mind you. Does that mean the initial goals were too small and it was counting on getting as high or higher than the first one? Again, to me, to a customer, to an outside, seems that the process isn’t being used as a Kick to get things going, but as a new business as usual. Mind you, it might have been a good thing as the campaign was below its highest levels and dropping.
Some very interesting discussion over on the Reaper forum about the how and whys of running a ‘good’ Kickstarter and I hope that Tre is able to learn from both the campaigns. Some of the stuff I thought might have been lacking, like surveys to the backers, were indeed there but may not have had enough depth. Showing all the stretch goals may not have been a great idea. Listening to the people who reply to those surveys may have tainted the silent majority may have just been thinking it doesn’t matter what happens until I get my original order I won’t be ordering again. Another potential problem is supposedly Tre lost money on the first KS so the ‘deals’ on the new one were not as exciting as the old one.
I think there are a lot of factors that are outside his control thought. For example, the ‘dumping’of a few companies Red Box Games stock before the campaign. If you’ve already bought the exact same miniatures in metal for pennies on the dollar, your need for a material you may not have seen yet is not necessarily going to be that high.
Tectonic Craft Studios: I was a backer at a high level for the KS. I did it because it appeared to be a good deal and as this is a brand new company, their presence at my FLSG was unknown.
The owner has done what several companies have. Smaller rewards at lower dollar pledges have gone out. In the meanwhile, the owner has been trying to expand the company by opening the store and selling material that’s not even been sent out to those of a higher pledge because you only get one shipment unless you want to make a separate order and ask for your items to be delivered at that time. The owner has also been working with other companies and expanding the business that way. In the meanwhile, those who initially paid to have product delivered are not getting it.
Some back and forth on the comments section. For one, the owner has spoken of getting instructions up. Hasn’t happened. At one point the owner mentioned that we, the initial backers were getting a deal. I had to call him on that one. A deal is only a deal if its delivered on a timely fashion. Don’t be almost a year late on your own estimated delivery date and tell me how lucky I am to be getting the product. Just don’t do it. You’re late. Suck it up. Don’t try to pacify me by letting me know that man, it is just so awesome of you the creator to give me this great deal. Sheesh.
I did place a separate order and have spoken of the material a few times on my miniature blog. Some nice stuff but I think its retail price is going to be too high for what it is and that his best bet will probably not actually be in the terrain but in the movement trays and tournament trays. When looking at companies like Games Workshop, who are known far and wide for their‘outrageous’ prices, their terrain compares very favorably to Tectonic and hey, is much more detailed and usually has some sort of instructions and lots of painted examples.
Steampunk Musha: The company doing this has been lax in its updates. This one was due last September. It could just be me but I’d prefer more than once a month, especially if that once a month only comes after being prodded with a public request for information. Because this is another small company, I didn’t know if it would be carried in retail stores so backed it. My whole feeling on it is m’eh. I understand that the person doing it is having or has had some issues. And these things happen.
The frequency in which they appear to be happening to Kickstarters is a clear indication to me at least, that one man operations are bound and determined to be delayed. The same goes for companies that aren’t actually following up on the individual projects within them, making these one man operations in all but name.
It Came From the Stars: Due last June. Updates about once a month. More frequently recently. The updates are generally the same and indicate very little progress done in my opinion. Still waiting on art ten months after the project was supposed to be in people's hands. What?
I’ve been hearing its almost done for quite a while now. This is another one, that due to the small size of the company, I was unsure of it being in the store. In addition, this one was not a runaway success so I felt that there was a real impact of being a patron of this project. At least the people doing this one just appear to be late as opposed to having suffered some illness or family related issues. Hoping that the book blows me away because at this point my attention has wandered away again. It would be nice to get the book and go, “Man, I need to play so I can use this!” as either a GM or a player. I suspect thought that onto the shelf it will go.
28mm Demons & Devils: I backed this at a high level. I did so because I’ve never seen the figures at the FLSG before. I also own one of the figures, the dracosilk and it’s a solid figure. I thought, what the heck. Now some time ago, I posted a thread on RPG.net talking about the end of metal in figures. The price is apparently very violitale. This doesn’t count the weight of the material and the extra shipping costs this can incur. Center Stage initially went with an all metal cast but some of these figures were very large, this might have meant some sever issues in terms of shipping cost and material cost. So a resin option was offered. Some grumbling on and off about it but also some cheers. Resin, despite some potential health issues, does have its fans.
Fast forward to some odd questions from CSM about what type of figures they can provide in terms of resin and metal and apparently some concerns about quality control in terms of the resin resulting in people getting the metal, or at least, that’s how I understood it; Some unhappy people about it and some happy.
Fast forward again and they’ve now acknowledged that they won’t make their estimated delivery date and that they never ‘promised’ that it would be out in March but that they would most likely manage to ship everything out to the lower level backers.
And bam, there’s the pattern. People who ordered small amount of material or existing material get covered before those who are putting down larger sums of finance. Mind you it’s a bad situation either way.
If you have enough smaller orders to make the fans happy, it’s a good thing. Mind you you may not get larger orders from the same backers next time because you decided it was better to make them wait,
but the majority of people are happy. If you make everyone wait till everything is ready, then the people who backed you and thought they were going to be getting it at X time will be unhappy, and if you’re late anyway, its not going to make the higher ended backers happy anyway.
Companies need a lot more clarity in terms of what they’re offering and if necessary, if they know that things will break down into different categories, to start including shipping and handling charges for those separate shipping events into their tiers.
On a separate note, they’ve started another Kickstarter despite again some minor vocal protest that people weren’t going to back until they had their previous goods. It has passed its required funding level but is nowhere near the level of the first KS.
Mind you this could be a wide variety of reasons. People may be waiting for the first order. People may have no interest in the subject matter of the new material. The pricing on the new material may not be attractive, especially after the good ‘deal’ on the first KS. To outside appearances, it has a little bit of the appearance of ‘scrambling’ as stretch goals have been changed and its momentum seems to have halted or peaked. Some interesting figures in the new KS but as I’m feeling rather ‘blah’ about the whole thing and having the company tell me that the material is not going to make the estimated release date and getting defensive about not ‘promising’anything, yeah, they’re not getting any more of my money.
 
Midgard Tales: Another one I'm basicaly M'eh at this point. Updates about once a month? My own situation has changed, the project is late, seems pretty par for the course for an RPG product. Maybe March? 
Tentacles and Eyeballs: Let’s see…. Good deal in terms of what you get for the price? Check. New company whose availability to the FLSG is not known? Check. Supposedly soonish shipping date initially? Which was last October? Check. This guy was hit with a C&D by WoTC for infringement on several of the figures. WoTC also hit the CMS guys but they able to deal fairly quickly.
Dark has been working to put together replacements for the larger figures that were lost. Bad news is that again, the smaller orders have been shipped out so the people who again, paid the most get the sharp end of the stick. Can anyone see why I’d be thinking, “Yeah, this backing isn’t for me.” Communication isn’t bad but I personally feel that the replacement sketches, at the very least, are overdue and that this should have wrapped up already in terms of what we higher end backers will have the option of getting.
Pirate Goblins: Another one that’s late as it was due last October. The guy running it has claimed personal issues. Other people are not quite so willing to believe as he’s been posting on facebook at times when he’s claimed to have no internet access. In addition, he’s claimed to have sent out many a package but no one that’s backed it has claimed to have received them. There’s essentially nothing the guy can do at this point to get me to pre-order from him again. Buy in the store? If I see it and it looks cool, sure. Buy direct and support it? With the level of communication we’ve seen and the lack of actual product in hand that simply isn’t going to happen.
 
1650s Rulebook: If I saw these figures in the store, I'd still buy them. They impress me that much. Communication from the guys running it? Not so much. The core book in PDF format has been sent out and we have been seeing some updates but chances of me actually playing this once it comes out due to various factors is down to wiff factors.
 
Dwimmermount: Too much drama to really go into here. Shame too because it seems like a solid concept. The thing I found most interesting is when I asked Tavis if he's actually spoken to James the answer was no. So remember, we've seen two 'updates' from 'James' that Tavis actually hasn't gotten in person. Hope James is able to get his spirits in the right order soon.