Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Reloaded Black Box

I am the Warden!!

Before we get started today, what do you think of the new presentation? Maybe it's the graphic designer in me rising out of the ashes, but I wanted to revise this blog's visual appeal a couple of notches and make it easier to read. There are still a few tweaks to make here and there (I'm not overly satisfied with how this layout adjust to the mobile format), but it's a vast improvement from before in my book.

Now to the actual topic of the day: analyzing the wreckage that was the Killshot Reloaded Kickstarter. Trust me, I've been pondering on this a lot and there are two major issues developed from this project so far.

A Question of Impact?

I'm quite satisfied with the Kickstarter's reach and the numbers collected (other than the lack-of-hitting-a-goal thing). Here's what the stats say.

A breakdown of the total money raised through Kickstarter vs. external referrals and the average pledge amount.
A list of pledge sources ranked by percentage.

The number of times the Killshot Reloaded video was played & how many watched it to the end. Only 9.7% of the 577 viewers backed the project, leaving roughly 4% who didn't back it after watching the entire video.
There are a few areas standing out about these stats and how it relates to attracting the backers who were willing to invest their personal dollars. The BRG website pulled in a very nice portion (12%) but perhaps that could have been more. The biggest difference between the BRG site during the original Killshot Kickstarter and Reloaded's was the number of posts made to the website compared to updates on the Kickstarter. For Killshot, the focus was on the website. With Reloaded, the focus was direct updates on the Kickstarter. That could have been a fatal mistake and an important lesson to learn. Use your website to do the talking because you have greater control over the presentation, a kind of preview of the game itself. Check.

Including a mid-range backer level from the beginning ($30 or so) may have increased the collection plate, so to speak. For example, everything offered for Trackers and Ultimate Trackers may have been useful from the very beginning, as well as providing more PDF based rewards to attract smaller pledges ($10-$20) instead of hoping for the big ones. The funny thing is I had ever reason to feel confident on the expensive rewards as my most popular pledge amount for the original Kickstarter was $100.

Another interesting consideration comes from Roleplayers Chronicle, which posted a preview article of Reloaded and the five themes on June 8th. According to the publicly posted ranking of Top 20 Articles in June, the Killshot Reloaded article was 9th in a month with close to 30,000 page views. There may be math to figure that out, but my initial impression is something in the hundreds. This tells me there was enough interest in the name and title to attract clicks and readers, but not enough to take it to the next level and back the Kickstarter. Maybe the video turned them off (perhaps it was a bit overdone and lacking in vital information to many viewers), but that tells me people weren't convinced the game was something they'd enjoy as is. Something was missing.

Redefining the Focus: Crime, Spies, or Monster Slayers?

It's been two weeks since the campaign came to an end and while I've been fairly quiet about it online, my brain's been running circles trying to dissect the results. I've had some great feedback from some of the inspired backers - you can read them in the comments of Day 28's Video Update - indicating the issue may have been assassination specifically. Perhaps if the game were more open to crime in general, a sort of Grand Theft Auto style of game, it could attract a wider genre audience. (If you haven't seen this promo for GTA 5... watch it to get an idea).

On the other hand, there's also the individual themes to consider. Clearly, there is an interest in an international operative RPG and playtest feedback on the Wild West version was extremely positive. If Killshot was simply adapted to create a Cold War spy game, I think there would be enough interest in the genre alone to create a stronger demand.

So here's the catch. I'm crazy interested in both and one other project, also involving the Optional System. Which brings us to my third option: something new altogether. I have an idea for a gritty  fantasy game involving tactical dungeon crawls. In short, I'm seriously falling in love with the idea of professional magic/monster slayers working with militarized tactics, planned assaults, and intelligence gathering and the Optional System would be PERFECT for it. Why? Because Killshot demonstrated the system's strength is its reward for organization and teamwork, something players would need to excel at the game. And that's because the monsters/villains will put up one hell of a fight.

Three choices, two of them based on direct feedback and evidence resulting from the Kickstarter and the third brought on by a wandering mind and a gut feeling.

A Change in Approach?

Here's something else that's been burning smoke from my ears. Is it possible there's a better means of introducing a new system into the market than the traditional approach? If you watched my final Video Update, I talked about Kickstarter's inspiration to provide "innovation." Perhaps Killshot Reloaded's approach was not innovative enough to overcome any hesitation in backing. Or perhaps not, but the possibility set a small fire in my brain.

Learning a new game and running it for players, even as a one-shot, can be a daunting task and not possible for everyone who purchases indie games. Selling copies of a game is great, but I have to admit the real agenda is to get people to play my games. Buying the game means I can afford to cover my bills and provide more time to pump out more games; knowing that people are gathering around their tables and laptops and playing your game is reason, not the result. If I'm targeting players and GMs in my age range with the responsibilities and demands of an adult (or a parent, which I am not, but completely understand through many friends), time is a huge factor in playing time. Perhaps there's a better way for an indie publisher like myself to squeeze in with all the others and provide a faster, cleaner way to convince people to play.

This thought is still in development, but I want to get as much feedback as possible before taking it to the next step: mapping out the process. Everything's still in theory, but here's what I'm thinking. Quick-start adventures are an excellent tool offering incentive to pick up a game and try it before you buy it. But they're often condensed and simplified versions of the core game, something to offer a tease of what's to come. What if it was elevated to the next level?

What about quick-play adventures as a line of games onto itself? You don't need to buy a core rulebook AND an adventure, read, and learn a new game weeks in advance. Every adventure is part of a continuing saga or a one-shot script written specifically for pre-generated characters and every rule is provided on an as-needed basis. You don't learn about challenges until it's time to use one, just as it was in Killshot's quick-start adventure. The concept is to have EVERYTHING BRG publishes be in a quick-play form. Think of it like classic gamebooks. Many of them in the same line used the same mechanics, but each one begins with rules to play. This concept would assume every adventure is an introduction to the system.

From there, build a demand for the core rulebook. Work in reverse, make this Step 2. While I have no valid numbers or projections to back up this concept, I'm thinking that it allows to skip over the long and costly process of building a core rulebook without a strong demand to back it up. I wouldn't have to work as much to get the word out before its release, there would be dozens of samples kicking around to back it up.

It would also allow me flexibility to reach demonstrate the system's flexibility. I could release an Operation: Killshot quick-play campaign, a Wanted: Killshot game, and dabble in the fantasy concept at the same time. Watch and see which one builds the strongest following by offering online support, such as character creation guidelines and bonus downloads for players and Directors alike, maybe even convert the quarterly magazine into an Optional System product instead of just Killshot. Or simply release a new quick-play adventure every quarter and post all bonus material online to maintain web traffic.

It's not quite as easy as it looks. Reloaded's Rules chapter was 42 pages. Mind you, it included sample text and paragraphs throughout the entire chapter and that adds a lot of words. Regardless of that fact, there's a fair bit of material to the game, not the least of which is the use of the Tracker and the number of specific trained options available. In other words, the mechanics would need retooling. It will take time and energy, so I need to break it down and determine if the option is viable from a production standpoint and from a consumer standpoint. If you guys tell me that's a horrible idea and the majority would not be interested, considering the plan scrapped. But I need to know. Lay it on me. If you have any questions, ask away.