BFF and Thorns of War - Update #5 - (Kickstarter Survey)


Hello all

Okay, so we’re almost a week on from my last post and I just wanted to let people know what’s been happening and what the plan is from here.

First off, I want to thank everyone who ‘liked’ my previous post or left messages containing feedback/support. It really means a lot to me that people would take the time to offer what amounted to a lot of very good advice on both Kickstarter campaigns, promotion and marketing in general, and other ways I may be able help my situation.

I also want iterate how privileged I feel to be in this situation at all. The studio might be on hard times at the moment, but I’ve been fortunate enough so far to be able to invest a lot of my energies into doing something I love, and I am aware that many people don't have that chance.

As for moving forward, I’ve created a survey to get people’s opinions on which game (if any) they would be willing to back in a Kickstarter. Whichever game is successful will be the one I next focus my work on, though that does not mean the other one is cancelled – it will merely be on hiatus until I have fulfilled my Kickstarter obligations.

The survey also mentions the projected time scales, and the one for ‘Thorns’ is over a year (a year and one month). I don’t think the game will actually take that long, but I do think it will be a while – though it’s estimated at two hundred thousand words on the itch page, I suspect it will be closer to 400,000, and that will take time to write. The last thing I want to do it promise the game in eight months and then have to delay it.

Of course, if people wanted, I would be willing to release a beta version of the game to backers route by route, though that is something that can be discussed more later if necessary.

Anyway, the survey is here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdKHO4gRVxOAdXN3Xe9j7n8A1IW4BUiNJlDdoxI...

I will announce the results when the survey closes on Sunday 22nd  September.

Many thanks for reading

Comments

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If you do end up doing a Kickstarter, I'll be glad to back it if I'm in a situation to, regardless of which game you end up doing it for. Personally, I think the Rose sequel might be more successful, if only because you already have the first game to point to as a sign if you can successfully develop and publish a game. And that way you could bundle the first game in with it for the mid-range tiers (£30-50, I guess?) or otherwise have it as a backers' extra they can pick on top of whichever tier they choose.

I've seen quite a lot of people recommend having a Tumblr blog to promote whichever game you choose, and I second this. Just one word of warning though - I know more than a few devs who've burnt themselves out answering asks on Tumblr in addition to working on the game at the same time. I'd recommend trying hard to balance that (because it can be surprisingly difficult), and potentially prioritising asks on updates (probably just linking to the most recent KS one) and other asks that only need a short answer. The Wayhaven tumblr is probably good for this, because the dev's answers to LI reacts asks is usually one sentence per LI, even if it's a Choice game instead of a VN. It's a quick and easy way of appeasing fans, from what I've seen, although I imagine it can be pretty useful from a writer's perspective too.

Also, most KS devs do well with a monthly update - Quantum Suicide is a good example of one that's been considerably delayed (the sole dev got divorced and had to stop work temporarily for legal reasons during the divorce), but most of the backers are happy because we get regular updates, even if it's "not much happened". Same with Zodiac Axis and Lake of Voices, since I backed both of them and found the dev-backer communication pretty satisfying. It also might give you some ideas for how to layout the process of developing to your backers, if that helps? 

Many thanks for your support and advice.

If it turns out that TTOW has enough interest in the survey that I go forward with the Kickstarter then I'll probably include a free copy of TROS at around one of the low-mid level tiers (around £20 ish) since the game is over a year old now and I imagine many people will already have a copy. 

Thank you for the insight on 'asks'. I'll certainly be aware now and make sure I've a system in place to balance my work with my update/social media obligations when and if I have a Kickstarter up and running, and of course, beyond. I'll take a look at the blog you mentioned and see how they do things for some inspiration ^_^

And, yes, I was thinking fortnightly to monthly updates for any backers, should a Kickstarter be successful. I would want to keep in regular contact with people who have put their trust in me and I know that, when it comes to delays of any short, not knowing the circumstances is the worst part.

Thanks again for your feedback ^_^

Kind of ran into this randomly while reading through a different VN devs postings.  Nice info in it for running a Kickstarter. They seem to be writing a  adult oriented game but the info hits diverse subjects.

Two and a Half Studios - Marketing your VN for Kickstarter

Ah, thank you! I'll certainly check it out when I have a moment. ^_^

I've only just seen this update and the previous one. I just wanted to echo some of the others in saying that your transparency is admirable! I think it helps us all understand the background process of what goes into making a game and appreciate how difficult it can be.

I definitely agree that marketing might be an issue. I personally found The Rose of Segunda by searching through one of the tags on itchio (it might have been female protagonist) & it immediately caught my eye because of the royal/historical setting (my personal favourite!), but I ended up buying on Steam because I like to keep my games together. I'm not sure how many people find games this way though.

Increasing your presence on social media could help a lot. Tumblr, lemmesoft forums, twitter, etc. Tumblr would be great for showing off artwork, answering asks from fans (usually stuff like mini scenarios for the ROs ("how would the ROs react if x happened, if Iolanthe did x" etc), in-character asks (people ask the characters qs & you answer how you think they'd respond),  or trivia about them (ideal first date, starsigns, nsfw facts, lol) are really popular, so it can be mostly text based), updates on the game & reblogging fanwork - this all helps keep potential customers engaged & coming back to your page regularly, keeping hype high for the next game. Check out the tumblrs of Seraphinite (currently doing COG/HG Wayhaven Chronicles but has done VNs too, has a v active tumblr) & Azalyne Studios (who did a successful kickstarter for Seven Kingdoms: The Princess Problem, but it was a few years ago so check newer Kickstarter campaigns too).

I'm not active on twitter but it would probably be a good place to give regular updates & network with other VN devs. Maybe offer to send free keys to VN lets play/review youtubers, VN tumblr bloggers, VN steam curators, VN twitch streamers, etc in exchange for a review? Or do some kind of key giveaway if people reblog you on tumblr/twitter? If you know any other VN devs you might be able to come up with an arrangement with them to both promote each others games (this can also work for the Kickstarter campaign). Make sure you promote other games/VN creators that you're a fan of too. You could do some cross promotion for your own games, like promoting HG on TROS pages on itchio, Steam, etc., nothing over the top but a simple update that you have another new game out for people that might enjoy it.

Kickstarter: I think this could work but it would require a lot of studying how other games did their marketing & what went right for them, comparing what went wrong with games that didn't reach their goal. Apparently the marketing for kickstarters can be time consuming so definitely be prepared to throw yourself into it. I think you have an advantage in that you're not a brand new random person, you have a proven track record of creating and finishing multiple games, so you should definitely highlight that because you'll be seen as more trustworthy. 

One thing is that even if life gets in the way or things are taking longer than you expected with the game development, it's still important to give regular updates, even if the content is just "I didn't get as much done as I wanted, but I'm still working on it". I've seen backers get frustrated when devs disappear for months because the game has gotten stuck & they feel too guilty to be upfront about it.

Anyway I'll do my best to spread the word a little & I'll definitely keep a closer eye on any future updates you have, we're all rooting for you & I hope everything works out!

Many thanks for your detailed response.

To be honest, the way you found my game is the way I find all my games. When I want to buy a new one, I just search on itch or Steam under the relevant tags. But I understand that this approach is not going to work for everyone - I guess I just got lucky with The Rose of Segunda ^_^

Thank you for the two blogs you mentioned - I'll certainly check them out and see how they are doing things. I have a few things planned along the lines of character profiles/interviews, showcases for fanworks etc to run over the course of the Kickstarter campaign should it come to it. I'll be asking for input from people who are interested in contributing once I know a Kickstarter is actually going ahead. 

That said, I've already begun working on Kickstarter campaigns for both games in the survey, doing research into which other games did well and what they offered in terms of rewards, stretch goals etc. Many people here on itch have helped with links to guides and other successful campaigns - I honestly think I have looked at every VN kickstarter since the platform launched now. ^_^

I agree that backer updates are key and I really wouldn't dream of keeping people guessing as to the game's status. I hope my record of replying promptly to any questions/comments on itch would vouch for me on this front ^_^

Many thanks again for your support (and for spreading the word - every little bit helps)

Ok - First of All: LOOK AT YOUR CROSSOVER ART - ADORABLE. <3 Iolanthe (Anabelle to me) and Saffron are giving me BIG/LIL SISTER FEELS I DIDN'T KNOW I NEEDED.

Secondly - I'm so Glad you decided to do this survey! As I suspected, there's a Very High Level of ENTHUS for TToW and plenty that seem More than willing to back the living Heck out of it. I saw in a comment below that the original RoS is going to be offered as a lower tier and that's Brilliant. Perfect way to showcase yourself to newcomers, and likely to increase Nostalgia Hype as well.

Anyway, just wanted to write that I'm so Excited for possibly 400,000 words (MY HERO~) and released beta versions - route by route - to backers would be Amaaaaazzzzing. Not gonna LIE - I'm so Thirsty for Sofia content you will likely develop a nice lil Studio Nest Egg from the Force of my NEED alone. lol And I'm Sure I'm not the only one of your fans who'll Stan Hard for their RoS Love~ ;)

Ah, I'm glad you like it. I asked the artist to go for a playful rivalry kind of vibe.

TTOW is leading the survey results at the moment, though I suppose it's early days yet. 

Yes, 400,000 words will be my longest game yet, though I would be surprised if I could write it to be shorter with the routes split as they are. You will have to tell me what you think of the kickstarter rewards when I release the draft, if it should come to that.  

Great Thing is - whether TToW or BFF wins out -- you're a Winner because enough fans are willing to back you. We Love you BT. <3 And I'd be happy to(if/when it comes to that)! Added some additional suggestions in the 'other' option in survey, but what you had listed was great. Very Excite~

I love TRoS and recommended the hell out of it to a friend a while ago (I don't know if she bought it yet, but she was really interested also!), and I was deeply intrigued by the TToW demo, so I chose TToW in a survey as it's my preference :)

But if you decide to go for BFF first, I'd want to support it too — I'm not sure if I'd give the same amount since I'd be way more hyped for TToW, to be honest.

I haven't chosen any scenes as reward tiers, not because I'm not interested, but because I hate being locked out of content just for not being on time or not being able to give as much. But I think that, e.g., special romantic content would be appealing to a lot of people, so that's just my two cents.

Thank you for recommending TROS - I'm glad you enjoyed it enough to encourage others to give it a try. 

Yes, locking people out of content is something I really didn't want to do and I am trying not to do so in any significant way (or certainly not in a way that cannot be purchased later with DLC if people so choose.) It's hard when I am trying to keep all my rewards digital and low-ish cost - content is one of the few things I can offer since it mostly just involves time. 

Where there is content, I have tried to keep it at the lower tier rewards, though, if you have the time and it gets that far, perhaps you can give feedback on the draft copy of the kickstarter once the survey is over. 

Same here! I'm very interested in TToW, but not really in BFF. I would still back it (maybe at a lower amount), though, because I want to support what you're doing, since you make great games. I hope whatever you decide to do works out!

Thank you for your support and kind words. I means a lot to hear that people will be willing to support games they perhaps aren't so keen on just to help the studio. ^_^

Re: giving feedback on the draft Kickstarter copy: I'd certainly like to!

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I would support the hell out of a Thorns of War kickstarter. And honestly take as much time as needed with it. I would be incredibly sad to see the project die as Rose of Segunda is my absolute favourite English otome. When I saw the other post I rushed to buy Heaven's Grave. I really want to play that too but had been holding off on buying since I have so much of a game backlog. I sincerely hope things work out for you and you have my support.

Ah, thank you for your kind words. 

I'm very happy to know you enjoyed TROS and I appreciate every sale I can make of Heaven's Grave, of course (though I sincerely hope people don't feel pressured into buying it. If they think it's not for them or want to wait a while, then I understand completely.) 

I hope you find Heaven's Grave to your liking and many thanks for your support - I'm excited to see what results the survey brings ^_^

400,000 words!!! That would be amazing, I feel so spoiled!!  I'll definitely fill out the survey now and I reblogged the tumblr post as well.

Ah, I'm glad you're happy. I estimate at least 50,000 per route (though it may well be more) and then subtracted a little for potential overlap (though again, that may not be the case).

Thanks for re-blogging it on tumblr - the more ppl who see it the more chance I have of getting enough respondents.  ^_^

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I think building extra time you think you won't need into the timeline is a great idea (I don't think anyone's ever been disappointed that a game released early...).

I will say that in general KS backers are usually understanding of delays so long as there's clear communication about it (although on time or early are always preferable ^_*).

Ah, well, that's good to know. 

I know delays can be unavoidable sometimes, though I would certainly keep in communication with backers and let people know as soon as I did if there were any problems. ^_^

I have personally never backed a game on Kickstarter that didn't have delays (and I've backed a fair few), especially if they hit their stretch goals.

I'm sorry to hear about your financial troubles after Heaven's Grave and I hope it will be solved. It was a very good game, and quite unique in my opinion at least so I hope more people will find it eventually. I've enjoyed all your games greatly so far so I'd definitely back all your coming games on there.  I'd also suggest Patreon, although I understand if the concept isn't for you. 

Thank you for your kind words - It's always nice to hear that someone enjoyed the game.

As for Patreon, I think it's a great platform, I'm just not sure how I would utilise it when I make games as there would be such a gap between meaningful content I think I would end up feeling guilty. It's likely irrational of me, but I can definitely see it happening, lol ^_^ 

Many thanks for your support

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Very exciting! I'm glad this community could be there for you while you were figuring out your next step as a developer.

I just submitted my response. I suspect Thorns of War might win, though personally I'm happy to back both.

I'm sure you're already aware of this, but while all us devoted fans would almost undoubtedly back a ToW Kickstarter, the Kickstarter's success is almost definitely going to be dependent on newcomers who have never heard of your games before, not just us. So do consider having a tier where people can pick up a copy of the first game if it wins!

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Yes, the response from everyone has been overwhelmingly positive - I was honestly touched by the number of kind comments I received. 

And yes, a copy of TROS is on one of the lower tiers for the TTOW campaign. ^_^

Though it may seem premature, I've already begun working on reward tiers etc for Kickstarter campaigns for both games (and brushing up my CV, lol) so I can be prepared for any outcome. 

Once the survey closes and I have a result, if I have enough responses to warrant one, I can give the Kickstarter page than won a couple of extra layers of polish and then open up a draft copy for general feedback.  Or that's the plan anyway ^_^