What do you do as a Kickstarter creator when the public (your potential backer population) is telling you they want one thing, and every other creator you talk to (who has been there before) is telling you to do something different? This is where we find ourselves with Campaign Trail.
We want to include our backers as much as possible in the creation of our games. One of the reasons we love Kickstarter is because it allows for backers to have some input in the final outcome. We did this with Stones of Fate through backer designed cards:
Our plan for Campaign Trail has been to allow backers to pledge to name one of the candidate characters as well as have their picture on the card.
As we talked to our artist and we received advice from other Kickstarter creators, we started to realize that there were some inherent problems with going this route. So we did what we always do, we put the question out to our social media followers. We posed a poll on a number of different Facebook groups asking if people would prefer to have their picture as a character in the game or rather to help design a character in the game by giving description and backstory.
63% OF RESPONDENTS SAID THEY WOULD RATHER HAVE A REWARD LEVEL WHERE THEY COULD HAVE THEIR PICTURE IN THE GAME!
However, we decided to go with the other option.
Why did we do that? Why did we go against what seemed to be the majority opionion of our backers? We talked to our own artist as well as a number of other artist and creators who had done this. Overwhelmingly their advice was to not do the “have your picture in the game” option. They echoed some of our own concerns about doing this, which can be fit into 3 major areas:
- Backers (and others) being unhappy with our artist’s creative vision
This was brought to our attention by one of the artists we talked to. She told us how she received hate mail on BGG as well as the subject of her pictures received hate mail because of how her pictures were drawn. We want to save our backers from this. My guess is most people don’t expect this to happen or don’t think of it as a possibility. We definitely want to ensure that it’s not a possibility for Campaign Trail.
- Lack of diversity in characters
Diversity is a big thing for me personally. Too many games in the past (and still now to a large extent) have consisted of white male characters or the occasional female who was obviously just there for sex appeal. We feel like that needs to change. We want Cosmic Wombat Games to be a place where everyone can feel represented. Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games mentioned to us that one of his regrets was that all of the characters in Viticulture, Tuscany, and Euphoria are Caucasion. He didn’t have even one character submitted from a different racial background. This is something we strongly want to avoid.
- Insufficient quality of photographs for our artist to create artwork from
Another piece that we were concerned with and was also brought up by those we talked to was the quality of pictures and artist was expected to work with. Backers can’t all be expected to be professional photographers. Sometimes, they take pictures in low light or at the wrong angle. And that’s OK. We’re not professional photographers either. But we are working with a professional artist and he deserves to have some artistic license and not have to work from a picture that does not reflect his work. So we want to make sure that our artist’s vision can stand out in the project.
We have taken all this and tried to come up with a solution that fits these three concerns as well as tries to take our potential backer’s desires into account. We have decided to let the backers submit an image OR a character description (or both if they want). Our artist will use all inputs to create the character. However, we will make it clear that this will be an image that is loosely based on these inputs and we (Cosmic Wombat Games and the artist) have the final say over how a character looks. This was done pretty successfully on Harbour and came up with character artwork that was based on but not an exact copy of the original submissions.
We also feel like this allows for more creativity on the part of our backers which we hope they will like. If you are a man but would like to submit a female character you can. If you have a favorite politician you want to make a spoof of, you can submit that as well. We do want to fit our diversity goal so if we don’t get the diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds we desire, we reserve the right to modify some characters (however, we are saving some characters back and not opening up to backer input just for that purpose). This will be what the reward tier will look like:
We hope that our backers will still feel like they are making a valuable contribution to the game. We know we do. There will also be another smaller way to impact the game, through sponsoring a card as a SUPER PAC. With these we feel like we have met our goal of giving a voice to our backers. Let us know what you think of our solution. Thanks