Elite: dangerous / Frontier Developments

Why I’d Rather Not Back Physical Kickstarters

Kickstarters? Is that even a thing? Am I one of those awful people who have gone full circle from verbing nouns to nouning verbs?

I’ve backed a modest number of projects in Kickstarter — it works out to about thirteen (with twelve funded) and around $320 in total.

What I’ve learned from the projects I’ve backed, and what’s been shipped and delivered, is that I’d much rather back a video game project that a physical project.

Physical Goods

With a physical project, you are basically buying something a year in advance. The updates and information from the backers are usually about their production process and testing.

You get lots of pictures of machines and LEDs and circuit boards. It’s nice and all, but it’s pretty much “seeing the sausage being made.” I was sold on the end product as outlined, and that’s what I want.

So you get some updates, you wait a year, and then finally it arrives. And it’s version 0.8 of why you backed it in the first place (sorry Pebble Watch). Or it doesn’t work and you’ve to wait another few months for a replacement (sorry Nifty Drive). Or Apple releases a new phone with an incompatible docking socket. (Sorry, every aluminium/oak monolothic docking station ever.)

You are basically buying a surprise future present for yourself, because by the time it actually ships, you’ll have forgotten you bought it. And it’s a year older, cool-new-tech wise, so you’re not that excited about it anymore.

Video Game Projects

With video games, it’s not like watching sausages being made. It’s making a cake. For your birthday. And you get to lick the spoon every once in a while.

The backer updates are filled with concept art and ideas, the kind of stuff gaming fans always pay extra for on launch day as part of the limited edition pack.

At higher backing levels, there is the actual opportunity to change and have a voice in how it turns out — probably because there’s more going on in the product and more opportunities to change what’s in there.

The backing process is just so much more immersive — games are stories, and you are being told the background and history, and becoming involved in the meta game months before you even start playing.

The two games I’m backing — Planetary Annihilation and Elite: Dangerous — have both been fantastic, showing me artwork and previews in their backer emails.

I’ve learned about procedural texturing and why car racing games don’t show damage on cars (it’s more about file size than fussy brands).

I’ve learned that in space, your exhaust patina is white, not black.

I’ve seen units develop, and discovered that creating a line of spaceships for a certain faction is a lot like creating a brand — theme, tone, shape and colour uniting across a spectrum of sizes and feature requirements.

Follow me

If you want to see what I’ve backed or can recommend new stuff for me to buy instead of wasting all my cash on nappies and baby’s shoes, this is me on Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/profile/irishstu.

Obviously this is based on a very small sample set, so if you’ve had a completely different experience, I’d love to hear it.

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