Who Deserves Your Money: Big Guy vs Little Guy

Double standards are everywhere you look. By this, I mean we as human beings can never be truly objective. We have biases of all kinds, and often we seek out ways to justify our decisions and opinions. Sometimes we contradict ourselves. We can’t always explain our reasoning well, but we may try. So perhaps we end up posting about our decision. Maybe because we feel the Internet is a forum of free speech?

In the topic of Kickstarters, this can certainly lend itself to a good source of input and criticism. If you are doing something incorrectly, promoting yourself poorly or otherwise projecting the wrong image, someone may helpfully clarify this for you.

But sometimes this lends itself to… well, not making much sense. For example, consider Auro: The Golden Prince. The original Kickstarter campaign for this game failed rather miserably for any number of reasons. Some opinions offered said they seemed to be raising too much money for such a simple thing, or that they were going to use this money to live off while working on the game, not just to purchase things they needed for the game.

The irony, in all this, is that while Auro went on to succeed in Re-Kick, (Don’t you love how that never used to be a thing?) Obsidian Entertainment Kicsktarted a campaign dubbed Project Eternity and raised over 1.1 Million dollars in the first 24 hours.

Their initial goal of $1.1 million was to ‘fund an experienced team to do this right.’ Fund..? As in pay for people? As in, paying the salaries for those people. And those people are what? Going to use that for living expenses? Food? Entertainment? Wait, I’m going to give you money so you can pay some guy to work on a game so he can go home and spend it on Pizza Hut?

To me it looks like a fraud.

(This line was actually taken from one of the comments to Auro’s original Kickstarter. I’m grabby like that. So anything centered and italicized like this is shameless sarcasm.)

The project originators themselves even wrote about this phenomenon. Yes, Obsidian is attempting to break out of the traditional Publisher-Developer system. Yes, they want freedom to create what they want or what their fans want. And yes, YES! I absolutely support this. I want them to stop talking so they can better obtain my currency. This is what the game industry needs, at least for a little while. A creative shakeup so explore other avenues of game publishing and have the opportunity to reevaluate the market. (Do people really only want Call of Duty 12: The Next Call to Duty?) Or would enough people actually pay for a game that plays like something decades old to actually pay for the game’s marketing and development and turn a profit?

We’re still a ways off from seeing how this all plays out. For one, the big studios have a long development cycle still ahead of them. And with more freedom to share with their community, we may see more beta testing and feedback gathered during the iterative process. Obsidian mentioned in an interview that their game will take at least a year and a half to develop.

Can anyone explain what exactly makes a project like that cost $1,100,000? Are they going to be working 8 hours a day for 12-18 months, and it’s their salary?

Of course it’s their salary! And their software/hardware fund. And their pizza fund. If any indie developer needed to contract additional help, where do you think that contractor’s pay is coming from? Just because the original indie is willing to work for free in their spare time doesn’t mean they’re going to find other people to work for free. Double-Fine Adventure set their initial game budget at $400,000 and some thought they were asking too much. They intended to work a team of about 3 people for six months on that game. With the $3 million budget they instead managed to wrangle in, it’s become 11 people for a year.


Let’s face it. Yes, many people do get the game development thing, and they can offer valuable feedback. And not everyone is biased simply because ‘It’s Obsidian Entertainment’, or simply because ‘It’s Chris Avellone.’ People cited the lack of detail as a deterrent on both Auro and Project Eternity’s Kickstarter pages, upset that they weren’t showing enough of what the game was going to be to warrant deserving their money. And both projects use some inside jargon – our habit of using other games to describe our game. Project Eternity’s claim that it ‘blends the combat and exploration of Baldur’s Gate, the dungeon spelunking of Icewind Dale, and the powerful narrative of Planescape: Torment‘ doesn’t make sense unless you’ve played those games.

People still want to see the little guys as the hobbyist and the big guys as the professionals. That’s fine. Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that its work even when it’s a hobby. It takes a lot of time, money and energy. And big studios like Double Fine and Obsidian Entertainment are going to budget all sorts of things into their game development – even entertainment and food – because it’s all a part of what a good studio does for its people.


One thought on “Who Deserves Your Money: Big Guy vs Little Guy

  1. I’d love to be able to design computer games, but nope. Writing is my thing. Hope one day that I can work with the right people. Kickstarter is awesome, at the right time you can raise the cash you need. Hope to see and read more 🙂

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