It’s now been over three months since the end of the Ealdorlight Kickstarter campaign. I’ve deliberately been taking some time to think and learn from the fact that it didn’t reach the target, and to work out what to do next. Frankly, I was pretty upset that the campaign didn’t make it, and it’s taken a while to get over it.
It’s also taken a while to think through the campaign properly. Some things are obvious in hindsight, and others less so. A lot of post-Kickstarter analysis feels like a stab in the dark. Nevertheless I’ve given it a lot of thought, and these are my best guesses for why I think Ealdorlight’s Kickstarter failed:
I rushed the design
Sol Trader was barely six months out before I powered into a new title. I didn’t give the design enough thought before going public with it. If I’m honest, there were some big design holes in the pitch. I still believe that I can close those holes, but I was asking people to trust me to create a great RPG without much proof I can do that yet. The days of blind trust on Kickstarter are long behind us, and I should have closed those holes ahead of time and provided more evidence.
I overreached on scope
Ealdorlight promised an expansive procedural role playing experience in UE4. Doing this well requires a fair sized team with different talents: although I managed to pull together some great people, I didn’t have the cash to polish the prototype as much as I wanted. The screenshots and demo I rushed together just wasn’t ready for the gamers to see yet. I was asking for cash to make it prettier, but my demo wasn’t good enough for an 3D RPG to stand out on Kickstarter in the first place.
I misunderstood gamer expectations (again)
There are a very established set of expectations for a modern 3D RPG. If youre doing something different, then you need to clearly demonstrate how your game transcends established norms. This is hard enough with a clear design and a demo showing key principles. I found it impossible to do this at the stage of project I was at.
So what’s next?
In his seminal article Ryan Clark talks about making the game that’s at the intersection of at least three things: The game you want to make, the game you can make, and the game people want to buy.
I wanted to make Ealdorlight, I think people would have bought it, but I fell down on the “game you can make” category: I just don’t have the in-house team or the cash get enough of a prototype together for Kickstarter to get the idea, and I can’t self fund a game of this size.
Ealdorlight is on hold
I’ve talked to a few publishers, and whilst there’s some interest, I’m putting Ealdorlight on indefinite hold. As I’ve thought more about the design, there are some big inherent risks, combined with the very established set of gamer preconceptions about the genre (especially in a 3D title) mean that it’s too risky as a second title after Sol Trader.
Ealdorlight was an expensive prototype for me to make, and practically I don’t have the cash to embark on another full time project. My next game project will need to be of a more manageable scope, which means my next game cannot be Ealdorlight. I’m currently working hard to pay off debt accrued during the previous games endeavours, which is taking up most of the capacity I have for work right now.
Sol Trader is getting updates soon
Besides working hard to In the meantime I’ve been working more on Sol Trader here and there. Since revisiting it again after working on Ealdorlight, I was struck again at how good the core of the game is, and how a little extra work can make it even better. I’ve been improving some of the UI around notifications, and adding in a new ship type to play with. More information will be shared very soon.
I’ve also been thinking hard about what I actually want to do in the games industry. What types of games do I really want to make? How do I want to go about making them? These ideas are much more significant that simply the next game title, and I’ve become more and more excited about them as they’ve taken shape.
I’ve reached the stage where I’m starting to reach out for feedback from trusted friends and other developers in the industry. More when I’m ready to go public.
Thanks for all the support, messages and pledges I received around Ealdorlight - I’m very grateful! I’ll share more details about what’s next soon.