Kickstarter #5: Well THAT didn't work O_o

Today we're canceling all further Kickstarter funding for Legacy of the Elder Star.

You've probably noticed we're in pretty bad shape funding-wise: as of today we're almost 70% of the way through the campaign and only about 7% funded. Nothing short of a miracle is going to turn that around, and at this point it doesn't make sense for us to keep pouring effort into the Kickstarter at the expense of actually working on the game.

We've gotten some good things out of this experience, though! Our traffic stats show that our problem was discovery, not conversion. In layman's terms, that means two things:

  • We failed to make enough people aware that the game exists. We missed the mark on this by probably 10-20x, which means we need to significantly reassess our marketing strategy.
  • Of the people who did discover us, a higher-than-average percentage became backers. That tells us the game is good and the interest is there; we just need to figure out how to make a lot more people aware of it.

We have two options now:

  • We can back-burner Legacy of the Elder Star in favor of contract work, which would easily take 6-12 months or more to build up the funds we've failed to raise on Kickstarter, or...
  • We can reduce the scope of the game to fit the much-smaller budget we do have on-hand right now. This requires us to ship before the end of this year, much earlier than we originally planned.

We've chosen to go with option #2, in part because we hate the idea of putting the game on the back burner for as long as we'd have to otherwise, and in part because, like I mentioned above, we now have hard proof that the game is good and people are willing to buy it. Plus, the near ship date means we get to keep rolling along with what public momentum and awareness we've gained so far.

Here are the changes we're looking at now, in order to fit this much-smaller budget:

  • There will be fewer stages than we were originally shooting for. Right now we're targeting five, which despite the reduction is actually in line with most other contemporary shmups. Three are nearly done already and the fourth is well underway.
  • The episodic stage structure will become a linear stage structure, like how most other shmups work. While we like the episodic model a lot, it really only works if we can pump loads of unique stages into it, which we now can't.
  • The weapon unlock/upgrade system will be simplified. Now, you'll simply unlock new weapons by completing successive full runs of the game, rather than gathering a bunch of different crafting components and filling out a complex upgrade grid.
  • The collections and bounties will be cut. In retrospect, these were probably a bit outside the game's core focus anyway, and the design may actually end up being stronger without them!
  • The leaderboard design will be simplified to a more traditional simple global leaderboard at launch. (I'd really like to revisit this one post-launch, though, if we get enough sales revenue to allow for it.)

Importantly, here are the things we are keeping:

  • We still have 1:1 mouse control. That's the heart and soul of the game!
  • Enemy patterns will still change each time you play a stage, keeping things fresh.
  • You will still unlock new weapons and special abilities, and choose which ones to use to optimize your build.
  • You can still capture screenshots and animated GIFs from within the game at any time.
  • We are keeping our eccentric cast of characters. (The story, of course, will get some tweaks to fit the new structure.)
  • Erik's unique hand-drawn art style is still a crucial part of the game, and almost every piece of art you've seen in screenshots and videos since we launched the campaign will still be in the game in some way, shape, or form.
  • We will still launch on PC, Mac, and Linux.

To that last point, we do have a bit of happy news to share:

Today we were greenlit for release on Steam! That means we'll have PC, Mac, and Linux builds available via Steam once we ship. We're not yet ready to talk about which Steamworks features will be supported – hey, we only got our Greenlight email a few hours ago! – but we'll have more for you on that soon.

And if you're not a Steam fan for whatever reason, we will still aim for availability on other online stores as well, like the Humble Store, Mac App Store, itch.io, etc. and we're also looking into offering direct sales. Again, more to come soon!

We may be canceling funding today, but this project is certainly not over; it's just adapting to its new circumstances! \o/

And to those of you who backed us, retweeted us, wrote about us, and supported us this far: THANK YOU! <3

If you'd like to follow development from here on out, check out our dev blog, subscribe to our mailing list, and follow us on Twitter.