It has been a while since my last Many Mistakes medium post. I guess until today, no project stroke this particular part of my brain that requires to write down what I think is wrong in a specific crowdfunding campaign.
But today, today, I will talk to you about… Nighthawks.
If you want, head to the campaign page now, before reading further: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/753131002/nighthawks-the-vampire-rpg-0
Or, you can peruse my comments and then go make up your own mind there. it doesn’t matter much.
I would like to insist on the fact this is purely a look at the campaign itself, I won’t be taking into consideration the game qualities themselves.
Mistake #1 — The Page lay-out
While it true that most visitors to page will already be familiar to your project in some ways, I think it is absolutely key to think your layout in a way that will make it appealing to someone who will discover the project for the very first time. This is what the top of the campaign page looks like:
Text. Text. More text.
The whole page is hard to read — I don’t mind the long-ish paragraph here and there, but there is nothing that jumps and tell me what kind of game it is and what to expect.
There are no gifs.
MAKE GIFS. Even for your low action, text-driven game. Show part of the games with interaction. It will convey what your game is about much more quickly than. A wall of text.
Ideally, you would make diagrams, or infographics to illustrate the key elements of your game too. Ones that can also be easily recycled on social media.
And talking of social media, an image to link to your twitter account would lead to more results than a link lost in a sea of text.
Mistake #2 — Show the gameplay first
This is true for both the video and the campaign page: it takes too long to show the game.
In the video, the live action introduction is very nice. It would do a nice launch trailer. But it will lose anyone not already invested in the game.
Ditto on the game page.
This is a paragraph that is before the in-depth description of the game:
It is not that this is superfluous… but this should come after the game has been described. This is too much fluff where I am still reading through trying to see what is cool and unique about this campaign.
I mean. You get to run your own nightclub? There is a strong life-management component? That needs to be presented much earlier on the page. it needs to be made sexy.
Back to the video. The gameplay video is quite… boring. It goes with the territory, there is a lot of text in the game, you need to give time to the viewer to read, not all options are with voice over. It screams to have a commentary-style gameplay video, with an explanation of what you are doing, your options, and what will be in the game in terms of mechanisms later on.
Mistake #3 —Rewards informations
It is quite customary to present the rewards in the main campaign page. the way Kickstarter present the different pledge level is not necessarily very easy to navigate. Making a simple table, summarizing all the rewards makes it easier for the backer to make a decision on what level to back.
This is especially frustrating as I like the rewards that were designed in that campaign.
Mistake #4 —Don’t be generous just for the sake of it
I like the rewards. I think you should be generous with your backers. I think Nighthawks is too generous though.
For instance, I am 100% in favour of having a $1 tier. However, putting the name of the $1 backers in the credits of the game seems like offering a lot for the smallest pledge possible. If you want to consider this, then put the credits into tiers, and state so on your campaign page. So, yes, at $1 you are in the credits, but that at the end of it, under “lost soul”. Whereas, maybe, at $10,000, you are the first in the list under “Patron of the Art”?
Then, the campaign offers to all backers at $15 and more to name an enemy NPC. That’s very nice. Maybe too nice again. First, that will require some good logistics management. Currently, the campaign has an average pledge of $30 per backers. If it gets funded, that’s more than 4,000 names to collect, check for inappropriate content, and to mix into the game. The last part, I am sure will be ok from the way it is described. But it also means you have a limited chance to run into the name you submitted.
To be fair, I think I would keep this reward, I would just try to make it “scale”. It says the name is for an enemy NPC, and it could be “ vampire hunters, crooked cops and monstrous underground abominations”. Well. Maybe at $20, you only get to name a crooked cop. Maybe to name a vampire hunter (much more badass), that’s for the $30 tier. And abominations (which I suspect you’d want to name differently than Jo Gumshoe) could be at $50?
The difference between the $50 and $100 pledge levels?
You have an in game gold plated credit card that’s purely cosmetic. Really?!? With all those cool “name a cool thing in the game” perks you have, what you get for spending twice as much as the previous level is a freaking, tacky, gold credit card? I am SURE the team could have found something a bit sexier had they tiered the “name an enemy NPC” reward.
Mistake #5 — Early Bird Tier
This is a small thing, but I think the Early Bird tier is limited in a too small quantity.
it is gone already, and it build a lot of the momentum. My usual rule is I try to have the total amount of all the Early Bird pledges (the low tier one, representing the core pledge at a discount) to represent between 10 to 20% of your total goal. Early Birds are here to get momentum at the beginning of a campaign, something everyone wants to see as it will make you more likely to succeed. With 200 Early Bird for Nighthawks, it gathered $6,000, or about 2.4% of the total. They are now gone, and they haven’t pushed the momentum that much.
A great alternative that is now available, if you are confident that the word will spread quickly in your community, is to do a time-limited Early Bird, for the first 48h of your campaign.
I understand why
I regularly do campaign reviews for upcoming campaigns, and my comments above are not very different from the ones I would do for them.
A studio is limited by its existing ressources and the skills they feel are their strong suit. So, here, the team has strong writing talent. And maybe visual design is at a premium from people in the team they’d rather not distract. You end up with a page that is way too wordy and not nearly visual enough.
The same goes with the video. Doing a commented gameplay video is a lot of time and energy, and not everyone is comfortable being recorded talking, regardless of their passion for the topic.
This is where it is important to step aside your own project and look at it through the eyes of your audience. I might love text-based games, but it doesn’t mean I will have the time and patience to wade through your campaign text. Unless you get hooked (usually by the visuals), you will go your own merry way rather than work towards understanding whether this game is for you.
As it stands, Nighthawks is very likely to be funded — it has a loving audience that is answering well to the campaign. But, I predict that the mid-campaign lull will be brutal, and many potential backers will be lost in a campaign that could have bought then in by being slightly more visually appealing.
Some of the mistakes above are too late to do anything about (the rewards cannot be edited), but there is still time to optimized how it is all presented. That would be a good move on the studio’s part.