brokenbadly_banner2

Be an evil Genius, rule the world, thwart your friends.Once upon a time there was a game called Evil Intent being funded on Kickstarter. Though the funding was successful, and though the printing went mostly well, there is a cautionary tale to be told from this experience.

Being our first game and our first success in Kickstarter, we were unaware of one very important lesson; a lesson I am here to share with you today.

The Lesson: Don’t offer anything but the game!

There’s going to be some debate about this. Probably even from others who have successfully added other items to their games like buttons, t-shirts, dice bags, etc. This lesson is for them as well. They were lucky. Most likely they didn’t even know it. Let me tell you why.

natasha-petrovaMeet Natasha Petrova.
She’s one of the characters players can be in Evil Intent, and she’s on the cover of the box. This is a 10 inch tall statue that we had made for Backers of a certain tier and up on our Kickstarter.

As you can see, she turned out pretty well. In fact, the final product was very nice. So “what’s the problem” you ask? The problem is we had to go through quite a bit to get it there. The following is why I ended up in goggles and a mask holding a broken Natasha figure.

The Start


When we were funded, we immediately started looking for a company that could make Natasha. The printing company making our game seemed the logical choice. If we could have everything made by them, then we’d only have to deal with one person for all of our needs. Our printing company was PandaGM, and despite what I’m about to say on the matter of the Natasha figure, they were perfect in their printing of Evil Intent the game.

Admittedly, PandaGM said that making a figure like this wasn’t something they did but they were willing to try. My guess is, they won’t try again. Not having any experience with this large of a scale figure, they reached out to an artist to sculpt the figure. From the image we provided below on the left, we received a model that looked like a figure from Gumby on the right.

natasha_sculpt_pandagm

bad_natasha

This was more like the Beavis and Butthead version of Natasha. It was clear from this point, that we’d have to reach out to another company.

Again, the game was wonderfully produced by PandaGM.

Eventually we found a Chinese company called Shenzhen Xin Ju Xin Toy Design Company. Everything seemed to go well and when we got the pictures of what was made, it looked great. Their artist was almost flawless in recreating the 3D file we gave them. 100 Natasha’s were assembled, painted and shipped to our shipment company, Greyfox Games (also known as CoolStuffInc).

In between we were ripped off by a Chinese scam artist named Dawn Dhen who had hacked into a yahoo mail account we were using. That’s another lesson off to the side. If you’re using Yahoo mail for anything having to do with business, stop it. Stop it right now. In the end the scam artist took off with over $2000.

Back to why I’m wearing a mask…

So, everything was on its way to our shipment company and everything seemed like it was going well. Until…

broken_bunch

The shipment company sent me an email saying that they opened 3 boxes and all 3 had both arms broken off. I got an email an hour later saying they opened 10 and all 10 were broken. Some were scratched up and the paint was all messed up on the faces and arms. I asked if they’d open all 100 and they did. Out of 100, only 9 were in good condition.

NINE NINE NINE

The Chinese company didn’t believe that 91 were broken. They required proof. We sent images, but they wanted more to prove that it was 91 that were broken. Eventually we had GreyFox Games open all 91 and make a video of walking down the line showing all of them broken. We had to jump through hoops just to get them to accept that we weren’t lying. Eventually they accepted that they were broken and said that if we paid for the shipping to send the figures to them in China and then back again, they would glue them. That cost to us was in the thousands.

Thankfully the shipping company, GreyFox Games, was much more pleasant to work with and offered to glue everything back together. I thanked them and asked them to go ahead. An hour later I got an email saying that it wouldn’t work.

The arms had sticks in them that went into the figure. When they broke, the sticks inside broke and shattered a little, making it impossible to simply glue together. We were told that each Natasha would take some heavy work to be fixed, and that they weren’t equipped to do that kind of work. We had to have them shipped to my house to be fixed. In come the masks!

masks

Thankfully I had friends who were willing to work on the statues with me! With drilling, paint thinner, and styrofoam in the air, we had to use some safety equipment. That’s why it looks like we’re running a meth lab out of my place. At one point we had plastic hanging from the walls, but I missed the opportunity to take a picture.

Masks for everyone!

And the work began.

Step 1

Drilling holes in the arms and in the figures.

nat_step1a
nat_step1b

Step 2

Gluing wooden rods into the holes and lining up the arms with the figure.

nat_step2a
nat_step2b
nat_step2c

Step 3

Fixing the paint. As you can see, there were some major problems with the faces.

nat_step3a
nat_step3b

Step 4

Finally packaging. Of course, the reason why they broke in the first place was the packaging didn’t fit correctly. We had to make room in the styrofoam, then wrap each one in bubble wrap to make sure it was secure.

nat_step4a
nat_step4b

In the end we did this for 50 figures.

end

We still have about 35 more, but most of them aren’t salvageable. The fixed figures are on their way to the shipment company as I write this. I wrote “Fragile” a million times on the large boxes and added Fragile stickers too. My fingers are crossed until they get into the hands of our Backers. If you’re receiving one and you’re reading this, just know that we put a lot of love and care into putting that back together for you. We hope it made it to you in one piece.

So, remember the lesson…

don’t do anything outside of the game!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that buttons aren’t that big of a deal, or that shirts are easy enough. The truth is the more complex you make a process, the more probable complication becomes. Adding shirts to a campaign could end up being a catastrophe. Why add the headache?

More importantly, the biggest response we got from Backers was that they didn’t care about anything outside of the game. If you’re adding something to the game through tiers or stretch goals then great, but if you can’t play the game with it, leave it out. Save yourself and the backers a pain you don’t ever want to go through.

Our next game hitting Kickstarter on May 21st called Asking for Trobils will feature only the game and game enhancements for stretch goals. We learned our lessons in some difficult ways, but we learned, and that’s the important part.

More importantly we’re not giving up. In the end we still got a great game out to a bunch of wonderful people that backed us and helped us along the way. We love gaming and designing and we’re here to stay. Hopefully, if you feel the same way, you’ll take my advice and avoid the same issues we had.

The following two tabs change content below.

Christian Strain

Game Designer at Kraken Games

Christian is a co-founder of Kraken Games. After releasing their first game, Evil Intent, Christian is currently working with Kraken Games on three other projects including their upcoming title, Asking for Trobils.

Latest posts by Christian Strain (see all)

19 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. dan smith on May 14, 2014

    It was admirable that you thought of such a cool incentive… when I did King of Crime, I wanted to do SHOT GLASSES but not enough backers opted for them to actually pay for them (They would have made a drinking game variant which was cool and within the game’s concept. Kudos to your dedication to the cause, perseverance and the team effort!!!!

  2. Eric @ Devious Devices on May 14, 2014

    Christian: I completely stand by this thought process. For me, as a frequent backer I am only looking for content. As a creator, every time I make the mistaken assumption that something should be straightforward, it ends up being 10 times more work.
    Probably my only caveat is for providing game-related accessories. I could maybe see in the future offering a logo’d dice bag for example that could be used with a Kickstartered game, but doesn’t necessarily add anything to the game and could be readily re-purposed. As a backer, getting something like that as part of a stretch goal would be just dandy.

    • Christian Strain on May 14, 2014

      Thanks Eric. We actually did dice bags with the Evil Intent logo and there wasn’t a problem. But there could have been. Read Peter’s post below about shirts. You never know where a problem will come from. Trust me, something as simple as dice bags could end up delaying or costing you more than you had envisioned.

  3. Peter Vaughan on May 14, 2014

    OMG – yes to this topic. Just make the game! All my add-ons were at a loss and distracted from the point. Now some of my backers told me it was like Christmas came early with all the little extras – those extras add time to the schedule, even if they go right!

  4. Peter Vaughan on May 14, 2014

    Btw, I have the t-shirt example! And ironically I even read your post thinking, t-shirts couldn’t go that wrong, but then I remembered the What the Food ladies tees. First, I compromised my ideal design to go black and white because I wasn’t sure we’d get enough order for the min order. (which in turn probably ensured not getting min order). Then, the shirt co told me (after the order was placed) my design had too many half tones and we needed to redesign. I had to scramble to REDO and keep the price point and I just barely dodged shipping those separate.

  5. Allen Chang on May 15, 2014

    Before going to Kickstarter, I had some experience making a few gaming accessories and most of which required production efforts between Australia, Taiwan and China. Suffice to say, it was a rather gruelling experience. This article definitely resonates with our experience.

    When I went to Kickstarter for our game, Rise to Power, I was very conscious about doing anything that wasn’t directly related to the game. However, I really wanted to offer other kinds of rewards to spice up the campaign. For that that I devised a social stretch goal that unlocked chapters of a canonical short story that tied into the game. Hurray for digital content, which is something that content creators have a lot of control over!

    Thanks, Cristian for the article. While it’s unfortunate that you had to learn the lesson the hard way, I’m grateful that you’re able to share it so that others don’t fall in the same trap.

  6. Frank Branham on May 15, 2014

    I believe there is a caveat in that “no touch” addons might be sane.

    Damage Report just showed up, and the extra Kickstarter bits consisted of a “custom scenario” and “3D tokens” (I’m paraphrasing, and too lazy to look.) The reality is a POD-printed postcard for the scenario and a bag of random puffballs from a craft supplier that did not even require rebagging or counting. (The scenario is a riff on Trouble with Tribbles…)

    Totally lightweight. Stuff you can buy in short runs without altering from craft suppliers, POD printers, and advertising / marketing companies that is totally no touch is the only thing which really should be allowed.

    • Christian Strain Author on May 15, 2014

      I think for every “exception” to the rule one can think of, there’s someone who’s gone through a horrific experience with it.

  7. James on May 15, 2014

    Totally agree with this article… in my own Kickstarter I had a huge headache with a thin cardboard mat that was to be included in each game. It turns out that they costed a lot more than I thought, costed extra to fulfill with each game, and couldn’t be packaged with the game easily. Huge headache! I also saw a Kickstarter that added maroon t-shirts, but when they got them from the printer they were actually a really ugly bright red and the backers weren’t happy about that. And I hear over and over again that most backers just don’t care about t-shirts etc.

    • Christian Strain Author on May 15, 2014

      In the end, that’s what should really deter anyone from adding on extra bits, the Backers don’t want them.

  8. Haim Shagir on May 16, 2014

    Great story, great lesson, wonderful spirit.
    In one word: Focus!
    Good luck in the future
    Haim Shafir (Halli Galli)

  9. Keith Matejka on May 16, 2014

    Wow. Your dedication to fulfilling those statues is pretty awesome. I tried to keep my offerings for my recent card game campaign (Bullfrogs) as simple as possible. Whenever someone would ask about shirts or buttons or statues or anything else, I would just say “I want to be in the game business not the toy/button/shirt business”.

    • Christian Strain Author on May 16, 2014

      To be honest, having the statues now is pretty awesome. They turned out really well, but yeah. Toys are a whole other monster that we’re just not interested in pursuing either.

  10. Kim on May 16, 2014

    This is the best reason I’ve yet seen to keep it core yet.

    Drilling little arms and gluing stuff.

    Unfun.

    • Christian Strain Author on May 16, 2014

      We had music… and… there were lots of jokes about drilling…. yeah it wasn’t fun.

  11. A Curmudgeon on May 25, 2014

    I’ve yet to kickstart a game, and probably never will, but I’ve been on the sidelines and followed a few, and I’ve always felt that ancillary stretch goals are downright stupid.
    To my overworked mind, they indicate a lack of faith in one’s own project to fund. If your game isn’t good enough to fund based on its own merits, then perhaps it has no merits.
    As a backer, I never pursue stretch goals.

    • Christian Strain Author on May 25, 2014

      These weren’t stretch goals, they were additional items the Backers could add money to get on tiers. We actually didn’t run that many stretch goals on Evil Intent.

      On our game, Asking for Trobils that’s running on KS right now though, we made the stretch goals as improvements to the game; better, quality materials, plastic pieces vs. tokens, etc.

      If the game is funded at the base level without stretch goals, it’ll still be a great game in our opinion. We wouldn’t make it otherwise. So the stretch goals really serve to enhance the game. I think that’s the best way to use stretch goals. The more money we get, the better product you get, it’s a good deal for everyone.

  12. Carl Frodge on May 18, 2015

    I always hate when stretch goals add more stuff to the game, rather than enhancing the game. I’d much rather that extra money be spent on improved cardstock or improved components than I would a button or something.
    I like buttons and stuff, but make the game as good as it can be, and then worry about extras. You can always sell that stuff on you site, separately if you feel it necessary.

Have something to say?