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Kickstarter made Tim Schafer “unafraid of being open”, talks transparency

Thursday, 20th December 2012 08:35 GMT By Dave Cook

The Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter has done more than simply fund Tim Schafer’s next game, or bring the idea of crowd-funding into the public eye. It taught the veteran developer the value of transparency, something he has compared to his comparatively shrouded work history at Lucasarts. Schafer has even compared the Lucasart’s method to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory during lockdown. See what he means by that below the fold.

Speaking with Venturebeat at the Rock Band 3 live gig fundraiser Umloud! Schafer discussed the ways in which Kickstarter gives developers like Double Fine a chance to break down barriers and give gamers greater access to studios than ever before.

“It made me unafraid of being open,” Schafer said. “I come from a background… Starting at Lucas, the most closed company of all. It’s like Willy Wonka when the doors are closed. He gets a lot of…Lucas is a very secretive company because of all the crazed Star Wars fans out there. And the regular game development is like, “keep everything a secret and release it when you’re polished and ready.

“The Kickstarter thing and the documentary that we’re doing with the Kickstarter has just taught me that there’s nothing to be afraid of. You release your stuff out. You show a piece of concept art that may or may not be in the game.

“It doesn’t matter. People are just like, “Oh, that’s cool!” People get on your side more, not get on your side less. The fear is that if it’s not perfect, you can’t show it to people because they’ll freak out. The fact is, they just feel more bought in. They feel like they’re part of the development team.”

The site then asked Schafer for his thoughts on being too transparent and making wild promises, even name-dropping one Peter Molyneux who just saw his Kickstarter title Project Godus funded in its 11th hour.

Schafer explained the dangers of over-promising, “I think, if we were like…listing out a whole bunch of crazy features. Like, ‘Hey, we’re going to have this multiplayer mode,’ and then we couldn’t pull it off. That would bum people out.

“But this is just, ‘Hey, we’re working.’ For instance, I showed the very first concept art we did for our main female character in the game. I just put the first one up, then, ‘Here’s the next one; here’s the next one.’ People were voting on their favorites. Some of them were happy with the one we chose in the end and some weren’t, but that’s just the way…They knew that that’s…Not everybody is going to like everything they do.

“But because you’re honest about it, they tend to not…People don’t like it when they feel like you’ve been dishonest with them. I feel bad for Peter because I’m sure, in his mind, he believed those features were going to be in his game when he promised them. It probably broke his heart that they weren’t in the game.

“But to the external viewer, they feel like, ‘You lied to me.’ Which is not what happens from his perspective, probably. I think as long as we’re really just being transparent, there’s no chance for something to be seen as a lie.

“You’re just saying, ‘This is early concept art. It might change.’ Now, Kickstarter makes you put a big disclaimer at the beginning. They didn’t do it with our project. But you have to state risks — ‘This might not happen’ — and all this stuff, just to make that clear to everybody.”

Granted, a large part of Kickstarter is getting investors on your side, so transparency is a vital part of the process. Over in the triple-a market, formally ‘closed-off’ developers are opening dev blogs and releasing dev diaries all the time. Is this a positive trend? Would you like to see more transparency? Let us know below.

Thanks PC Gamer.

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9 Comments

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  1. CyberMarco

    I’m not really fond of Tim Schafer’s doings, not after his kickstarter. He was bitching and moaning about how the industry works, that pubs don’t want to invest in a game if it wont make a said revenue etc. and thought to start a kickstarter project to create a classic point & click adventure game like the old days, for the sake of the gamers that want to experience a good game and the “Evil” industry wont let them. Good, no problem with that.

    Problem is that despite reaching more than 8 times his funding goal, he still wants to sell the game for profit or whatever. I’m not saying I want a free copy of the game, I don’t really like this kind of games.

    My point is that in the end of the day he is just another capital big that is interested more for the money than making games with the passion of creating them.

    *rant ends.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. RandomTiger

    @1 What do you want from him exactly?

    He needs to make money to keep his studio going and pay everyone’s wages.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. CyberMarco

    @2

    I just can’t understand why he gets so much praise for his “doings”, when he isn’t so much special compared to the rest.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. RandomTiger

    @3 Who are the rest?

    #4 2 years ago
  5. CyberMarco

    ^ The industry in general.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. TheWulf

    Tom and Ron have always had a hell of a lot of candour. Unafraid of being open? Tim has never been anything but, and it has caused a lot of controversy in the past. (Some of that controversy has been when he’s tried too hard to be funny or edgy and it’s backfired badly, but hey.)

    I like those two because you know where you stand with them. And that’s a really valuable thing, to be honest. I think that this is why the Kickstarter worked for Doublefine. There are so many… talking heads on Kickstarter that sound like they’re reciting lines from boards. They’re not really talking about something that matters to them. It’s rare that you’ll actually find that.

    And then you have the ones which are just smug or annoying, and want to create some hipster project and that comes over in their video. That just makes you want to reach through the screen and strangle them rather than actually funding their project.

    So yeah. I don’t think Tim (or Ron) has ever been anything but.

    It works for them.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. TheWulf

    Aaaalso… #1 doesn’t understand why Kickstarter exists, what it’s used for, or how capitalism works. Sorry, but this is all true.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. CyberMarco

    ^ lol, sure…

    #8 2 years ago
  9. RandomTiger

    Well hes pushing a new business model which is pretty exciting, crowd funding has been done before but I think its fair to say that Tim has taken it to a new level with his campaign. And now hes doing something similar with the prototype voting humble bundle gig. Its basically monetizing the process of development as well as the end product which is fascinating and scary.

    Its possible this is going to make up the middle ground which has suffered so much under this gen of consoles. AAA makes money by spending tonnes of money and avoiding risk, small indies can make money by taking risks but keeping costs to a minimum, but it seems really difficult to run a medium size studio with any stability or success without having to resort to work for hire.

    Publishers aren’t evil but don’t doubt for one moment that they aren’t turning away all kinds of interesting game pitches so they can focus on making a clone of whatever the market leader happens to be. Without digital downloads the industry would likely be in a sorry state right now.

    #9 2 years ago