Some stats about my Kickstarter experience

Over the past few years, I’ve been a huge backer of Kickstarter Projects. The sister of a friend wanted to fund the debut album for her band, which made me make my first pledge in April 2011. The Album turned out to be an awesome piece of Indie Rock, well worth the money and wait.

Since I joined Kickstarter, I backed 121 projects, of which 98 were successful and 2 still running (but well over the goal, so make that 100 successful projects).

Of these 98 projects, 41 are fulfilled (I received the stuff I pledged). Another maybe 5 or 6 are in an uncertain state (no updates and/or no reaction from the project owner, but that doesn’t necessarily mean something bad, I’ve seen projects go dark for months as the owner was crunching to get the product done). Further 50 or so post regular updates and clearly seem to progress.

The remaining 2 projects were scams.

The first is “Authentic Chiptunes needs a new home!” which promised a digital download and vinyl, but never communicated and ended up deleting the account. Also, the Kickstarter account of “John Smith” was deleted, even though the Bandcamp site is still online and lists a different name. There is a high possibility that someone just used that guys music for the scam.

The second is SnapStylus, a magnetic stylus for the iPad. I actually received a product, but it didn’t actually work as expected (“Jack Malone” clearly advertises it as compatible with the iPad 1, but it turns out that the iPad 1 isn’t actually magnetic). Other people didn’t receive anything at all, and some digging revealed that the product is just a plain normal magnetic stylus from a Chinese wholesaler, available at Amazon for a dollar or two.

These two are so far the only two cases where someone did an obvious scam. There are a few other projects that have honest struggles, but nothing that I’m worried about.

Star Command made some big headlines when they posted how they spent their money, and had to admit running out of money and needed to do a round two Kickstarter. They have delivered the Wallpapers and Gameplay videos and I don’t see any foul play, just some issues that can be attributed to inexperience and naiveté.

Another interesting projects is IRONBUDS, which promised modular earphones. Over the course of 117 updates so far we can see someone who has the vision and technical ability, but was lacking the expertise. But Thomas Young is doing a great job making up for any delays and issues. In fact, he sent out 3-piece earphones (cable + two ear pieces) while he’s still working on the 6-piece earphones (the yoke in the middle is giving him trouble). Some people are a bit impatient, but those people really need to read Kickstarter is not a store. IRONBUDS is a great showcase product for Kickstarter.

The categories that deliver fast and good are Board Games and Books. I backed a lot of projects in each category and received physical goods within few months. There are one or two projects that haven’t delivered a physical book within a year yet, but they are still posting updates and showing progress.

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Technology Projects are hit and miss. B-Squares delivered a great product within a few months. A few people seem to find the solar powered squares a bit underwhelming and the use a bit limited, but the product delivered what they promised. Lens Loop is a really simple product, and absolutely delivered what was promised, great product. Same for Capture, a product that required a lot more engineering and was at the time one of the highest grossing products on Kickstarter.

On the other hand, some products take a lot of time with more or less progress. I already mentioned IRONBUDS above, which is a positive example. My second ever Kickstarter project was Teadrop, a tea timer/steep filter. This one went dark for a long time until Michael DiStefano finally started posting updates, detailing production problems. No foul play either (some of the postings that detail issues are backer only), just a long (18+ months) wait from funding to (hopefully) receiving.

The big topic these days is Video Games, thanks to Double Fine’s 3.3 Million Dollar Campaign. Over the past months, I backed a ton of Video Game projects, my #1 category. So far, only two products have delivered an actual game: FTL – Faster than Light is available on Steam and is a nice, fun, little game. It doesn’t try to be overly ambitious, has pixel charm and is fun.

The other game is Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams and was released today on Steam, GOG and GamersGate. I haven’t received any physical rewards yet (their focus is on the game, as it should) so it’s not one of the 41 fulfilled projects. The game is great, good controls, lovely art, awesome music, if you like Platformers I recommend picking it up.

There’s a few other games that aren’t finished but progressing. Core of Innocence seems like a nice little game, I actually watched Don James live-stream the drawing of sprites. Maybe not “Game of the Year” material, but the game looks fun, I can see that it progresses through regular updates and previous live streams.

Most other games are definitely far, far off. I don’t expect Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns, Double Fine Adventure, Jane Jensen’s Moebius, Tex Murphy or Project Eternity to be done before the end of next year, and that’s fine. Since I do usually pick the $100 Collector’s Editions (somehow, these are always the sweet spot between a reasonable amount of money and a ton of goods), Fatigue has set in. The small games have fallen off my radar a bit, and I’m waiting to actually receive some games to see how good they are.

The other category that has long waiting times are movies. Indie Game: The Movie delivered a charming documentation with fantastic music (although they needed a second push), while others are simply long in the making. Viva Amiga has posted some updates recently on their blog, Rogue Wing gave a sign of life after 16 months and Jason Scott was very upfront about the fact that it might take until the end of 2015 to deliver (As an owner of both BBS and Get Lamp documentaries, I trust him blindly on the documentation work, that man knows what he’s doing and also keeps people in the loop on things).

So yeah, that’s my experience based on almost 100 projects over the course of 18 months. A lot of fantastic products delivered in a reasonable timeframe, a wealth of insight into the struggles of newly created companies (that I helped founding, after all), some long delays with or without good communication and $35 lost in two scams.

Kickstarter is not a store, but I found it to be a great place to get some exclusive products that wouldn’t otherwise exist and to get in touch with many people that are actually creating stuff and going through all these. There is always a possibility for failure, but even a failing project can recover (e.g., Haunts and Open Locksport got hit by devastating blows but seem to recover, thanks to the help of people).

Know the risk, use your internet street smarts, and help fund some amazing products.

Video Game Voice Acting and Nationalities

Last week, XCOM: Enemy Unknown was finally released and apart from a few rough edges, it’s one of my contenders for Game of the Year. The subject of the game isn’t the game itself though, but the lady on the right. Dr. Vahlen leads the research division and has a few spoken parts in the game.

Her nationality isn’t explicitly stated, but it’s generally assumed she is German. In the first tutorial mission she has to talk to a German soldier, and I can confirm that her accent isn’t German, not even close. It’s eastern European, my best guess is Ukrainian, maybe Russian. She speaks English with an accent that is also not what I usually hear from Germans speaking English. During a later part of the game, she loudly exclaims “Nein!” which is German (rather than “Njet” which would be Russian). Now, the general consensus seems to be that it’s just the typical bad localized voice acting from AAA games (apparently the voice actress is British), but it got me thinking anyway.

I met quite a few people that spoke German like Dr. Vahlen did during the tutorial. These people were eastern European immigrants with a German citizenship. Immigration is the most normal thing in the world and even though we still associate accents with the country of it’s origin rather than the legal nationality of the person, in computer games we seem to expect a more clear-cut separation. When someone is German, we expect them to speak High/Standard German. If they speak with a Russian or Turkish accent (which, again, isn’t that uncommon) then somehow it feels “off” unless it’s explained as part of the story. Granted, the same is true for localized Games where accents are perceived as horribly out of place (the Saxony voice in the German Baldur’s Gate is legendary) or used for comedic effect (German StarCraft II’s Thor).

It would be interesting to see games that use foreigners with accents that are foreign to their nationality. I think this is usually done well with Hispanic accents on Americans, but those seem to be a sole exception.