Recommend checking out this article:
My own comments below:
These are all good questions. I would offer the following advice:
For point 1: “Who is the project manager for this development?”
To be fair, not everyone has a “General Manager” of a project. Indeed, that’s an oftentimes bad role in a creative enterprise; most subject matter specialists don’t like answering to a person who has authority just by virtue of handling the money. That said, if they use a better model, they should explain that model. So maybe what we should be asking is:
“Do you have an Organizational Chart for the team?” (Also, asking for workflows will sometimes yield some interesting information, but that’s a bit more advanced.)
The Org Chart should define the roles and responsibilities, and should also help in answering question 2 and to a lesser extent 3.
To further answer question 3, and to answer question 6 at the same time, the team should provide a preliminary Product Roadmap, featuring key milestones and staff ramp-up schedule at the same time.
Questions 4 and 5 can both be answered in the same budget breakdown document (even if the tools are free, they should still be listed and indicated as such).
Question 7 should be answerable both in the body of the pitch, but also in the aforementioned documents. Early Access and the like should be in the roadmap. Other sources of funding should be in the budget breakdown (as that shouldn’t just feature the Kickstarter money).
Two more things I would ask are:
* Where are you planning to get the additional staff from?
Quality staff are hard to come by. If you want the best of the best, you may have to use agents. Or at the very least direct approaches (which are time consuming), and then you have to expect to pay a lot more than you would for students out of Uni.
If they have a core team of relatively skilled and experienced people, sure, that can go a long way. But if they commit to a timeline for the additional hires, that puts them under time pressure. So I’d like to know if the future hires are scoped out already or if they will post a job listing or what.
* What happens if the project attracts unexpected investment?
People were none too happy with the whole Oculus/Facebook thing. Maybe explain the team’s philosophical stance on working with large companies, and what happens to the backers’ investment if and when EA steps in and buys the whole shebang.
Thanks to commenter Yachmenev, I’ve decided to take the time to briefly comment on the following.
What’s especially funny is that right around the time I wrote my general comment on the whole phenomena in this post, someone had written their own piece, putting this very cancelled project in its spotlight. It’s a good read, check it out!
The author also writes at length about other relevant topics that I’ve mentioned in the past. Like the whole Dead End thing.
Kickstarter keeps killing off game dev heroes. Wonder how many more have to bite the dust before people grow a brain.
Slowly, indeed far too slowly for my tastes, the mainstream games press and its clientele seem to be taking an increasing interest in games development. Granted, much of the interest stems from a desire for drama and controversy, and much of the time the wrong questions are still being asked (for instance “why does Peter Molineux promise too much” rather than “why would anyone even suggest a stupid idea like that in the first place”). But I’ll take what I can get – at least we’re getting somewhere, however slowly.
What I’d like to contribute is a unifying theme, a bit of a silver bullet if you will, that applies to many if not all of the stories of development woe we’ve been seeing lately. Thing is, even the well-researched and competently analysed stories are written in a bit of a vacuum; it seems like their authors don’t see the common threads between their own stories and the stories of others because of superficial differences, or because their own understanding of what game development entails is insufficient.
A small digression: before we get started, I wanted to warn that I do a lot of linking to relevant articles and other resources in this post. I do this because I think it’s important to have some case studies to reference. The articles are long, and I understand that getting through all of them would be quite a project. Rest assured that you don’t have to read them in any detail to get through this post. I do recommend watching the videos though.
Anyway, here are the questions I’m going to set out to answer in this article:
1.) What are the common threads between the articles below?
(And many, many more stories – most of which nobody will ever write about)
2.) How are the identified issues handled in the immediate term by developers and publishers?
3.) How does this all connect to the macro- and business-side changes seen in the industry in recent years, specifically the focus on online, episodic content, social, free to play and indeed indie development?
But while I do realize that the answers to these questions have merit in themselves, I also concede that stories and anecdotes are more interesting, or at least sexier, than facts. Especially bloody stories – metaphorically or otherwise. So here’s some blood in the water for you.
Reblogging because awesome.
Hey, remember this post of mine? Where I speculated the following might’ve happened for Irrational Games to be closed down:
1.) Ken approached Take-Two about making a new, risky, untried endeavor, still under the name of, and with the staff of, Irrational Games.
2.) Take-Two, looking at the development process behind their past projects with Ken, were skeptical.
3.) Ken threatened to leave and make the game himself. Possibly (probably, he’d be stupid not to) by securing funding from Kickstarter or some other crowdfunding avenue.
4.) Take-Two offered the compromise: “We’ll pay for the project, but seeing how you usually work and the development hell of Bioshock Infinite, we can’t afford to pay for anything other than a skeleton crew while the game is in R&D mode. Later, when the concept is proven, we can staff up again. Meanwhile, we can’t imagine this thoroughly broken team at Irrational making anything else, whether with or without you, so pick the ones you want from that team and then we shut the studio down”.
5.) Ken accepted.
Well, there was an article on Polygon just now. Among other things it said this:
“Briefly, Levine referenced his recent decision to close down his development house Irrational, along with the loss of dozens of jobs. Many of his former teammates were in the GDC audience. He said that the problem he has given himself demanded that he “go back to the drawing board” with “a smaller group of people.” He added that “we need time to fail. We can’t have 150 people asking for something to do.”
It doesn’t confirm the details of my theory, but I still wanted to throw it in for what it is.