Why I Don’t Support the Divekick Kickstarter

Boy, I’m a negative Nancy.

But before I say anything, let me say — I like Divekick. I like Keits. I probably like anyone who worked on the game. I love the humor, I love the gameplay, I love everything. I hope the game eventually succeeds… but I just can’t abide by things being said on their kickstarter. I’ve been crackin’ wise about this on Twitter for awhile, but I think I need to give my full thoughts.

I’m going to go right to the elephant in the room. 15,000 dollars in QA cost. Let me just say, I know many people with game’s on steam, of projects close to or smaller than Divekick in size and I’m fairly sure not a single one of them has spent a dime on QA costs. 15k is more than a lot of people ever even make on Steam. Do they not know this or are they lying? Who knows. Either way, it’s a huge oversight. Game’s get on Steam all the time that had no expense outside of time. Steam doesn’t have any fees to get on it. The process might be more complex for larger releases, but that’s not anything any of us are worrying about.

Now, I’m not necessarily against them setting the price at 30k for backpay but for the love of heck, be honest about it. Though that said, 30k just seems high. One of my biggest issues with Kickstarter is people acting like they’re obligated to have money now. You’re RELEASING A GAME TO MAKE MONEY. If your game is 90% done, release your game. Kickstarter almost seems to breeding this sense of entitlement to pre-money by developers. Everyone get’s dollarsigns in their eyes and they start making dumb decisions like setting their kickstarter so high that they risk not making it.

Is that even the best way to make money? A good example is Netplay. Netplay is a feature with a high ROR. A game like divekick would probably lose more money to people not buying it due to a lack of netplay then it would for developing it. Putting it behind a kickstarter wall seems like a great way to try and milk people (it was what, originally something like 90k or something? Now it’s down to 40k?), but it can bite you in the ass.

I also hear people frequently throwing out man hour costs and stuff. Yes, 30k would pay a bunch of people for the time they spent developing the game, but that was time spent willingly in the hopes of an eventual payoff. I know people who have spent years working on games. Those games didn’t cost them “Thousands of dollars” due to the time the spent working on them. No more than it costs someone thousands of dollars to watch videos on youtube. You COULD be working overtime at your job or having a second job, but instead you’re doing something else and that’s fine.

Now, making a game in your spare time IS an investment and something is lost and sometimes there is something that can be gained from it, but perspective is important. The Divekick people probably did at some point go above and beyond and make some sacrifices (look at all those two button sticks they’ve made!), but again, you’re going to be selling a game. If you want to make up for some of that loss and get a little cushion to help smooth things over to release? Do it! I WANT YOU TO DO IT. If the people are willing to give you money, TAKE IT. But set your goal somewhere reasonable so you might actually get it.

I’ll give Divekick a 50/50 for getting funded. It if fails, they’ll probably try again with a more reasonable goal. I hope it eventually works out, but their current kickstarter is the right mix of ‘manipulative’ and ‘greedy’ that I don’t want to see them get away with it.

Hopefully it’ll all work out in the end.

Edit

I just want to throw this out there since I’m having to explain a lot of stuff to a lot of different people.

This shit is hard. So to give the Divekick team some credit: This shit is hard. Pricing is nightmarish and Kickstarter is a thing that constantly sends mixed signals.

So second point I had to get out in the comments section…

It doesn’t matter how much the game actually cost to made. I’m skeptical about it. Sure, art could be expensive (which is an argument I’ve heard). To me, the art reads “We have one or two guys who do a lot of art for us and we probably don’t pay them yet because none of us are getting paid yet”. The style is high res, light on frames, but kinda loose. But let us assume they are contracting out work and the high prices that art houses usually charge… and ignoring the fact it doesn’t show up their kickstarter as an expense. The game could cost 100k to make (and in some business environments, it literally COULD cost that much or more!). Divekick could LITERALLY cost between 0 and 100,000 dollars. That is TOTALLY possible.

It STILL doesn’t matter. Unless they’re not going to finish the game without 30k, 30k is a bad number. If you set the value to 10k and make 30k, that’s AWESOME and very possible and looks good. If you barely make the 10k that kinda sucks but is still 10k in the pocket and the chances of making more were probably slim. If you miss a 30k goal, you look like a joke and any second attempt will, at best, do barely better, but probably do worse. That just looks bad and costs you money. If Modern Warfare 9 cost 200 mill to make and they had a kickstarter for it (while it’s like, 90% done) that was for the 200 mil dev cost, would that make sense? They’re going to make that up in sales!

For Divekick, making all your costs up if they’re really high isn’t assured, but doing a 30k kickstarter with shady itemized bills is NOT the way to maximize profits, regardless of cost. Any cost to make the game is sunk — all that matters is maximizing profits.

I thought I was clear about this, but I guess it’ll help to be more explicit. While I question how much Divekick cost to make and know it could be made under the right circumstances for way cheap, I can be TOTALLY WRONG and the game could have cost a ton but my arguments hinge on that. It doesn’t cost 15k to do QA to get on Steam and 30k is a bad value for a kickstarter and is just poor business.

Edit 2:

Well, I scrapped with Keits a bit (who, to reiterate, I LIKE) and read their kickstarter’s new news post which shines more light on the situation.

The first thing I want to emphasize is that right now you are playing a prototype. This is our fault for not being more clear, but when we say “Get the game out the door,” we did not mean exactly what you are playing right now. When we started working on DIVEKICK, we never thought in our wildest dreams it would be as amazing as it is. The problem with this is that we made short-term design decisions when implementing the prototype. This resulted in two challenging situations:

1) We built the game on XNA, which worked out for our initial purposes, but balanced against our end goals no longer fits our requirements.

2) Our code was dive-kicked to hell and back as the project grew in scope. If we stayed with XNA, we’d be rewriting the game anyway…

I’ll take that. Obviously a lot of my criticism still stands. Obviously a lot of the Divekick development has been a mess and mistakes have been made, but it all makes more sense. Rebuilding a game (even one as relatively simple as divekick) is a big task.

This sorta shows the huge importance good disclosure, but what can ya do?

Edit 3:

I’m going to throw something else out there. Jose here wrote a really heartfelt comment and I think the Divekick guys are already trying to fix up some of their missteps, so hear him out.

Sup Kayin, I’m posting here to state why I support Divekick.

Keits has been a big part of the FGC for a while now with his tournament series UFGT has set the standard for running tournaments efficiently, as well as being pretty damn fun. Through these tournaments I’ve gotten to know him a little more than just “that one SRK editor dude”. He’s a hard working person, and having successfully run fighting game tournaments means a lot. Being a tournament organizer can be very thankless work, yet he always brings something memorable every year.

I personally went to UFGT8: hundreds of people came there, competed in fighting games, played Divekick, Kombat21 and Super Balrog Ball all weekend and had a blast. Divekick is fun, and having gotten into the top 4 for KOFXIII that weekend, I still wanted to play Divekick even though I should have practiced a little more for KOFXIII, oops. I can vouch that many people told Keits they would be willing to pay for the game once it became a finished product. There were lines of people forming to play the game at UFGT8, CEO and EVO.

This kickstarter marks the first time the FGC has been asked to support for an amount like $30k. The $15k for QA sounds exorbitant, but I trust it’s a necessary expense for their project, because he’s been honest with his work as an organizer for UFGT7 and UFGT8. If you believe it’s not a necessary expense, then why can’t this be turned into a good thing? You say you like Keits, and you like Divekick, then why not contact him directly? If you know how to avoid having to spend this much, then that’s 5,000 or 10,000 or 15,000 that can be cut from the initial goal. This raises their chances of success considerably by needing less from the community to achieve the same thing.

I think you’re underestimating your leverage on the community. As it is right now, you are casting serious doubt on the expenses, and I can’t help but think it ultimately hinders the chances for a Kickstarter like this one to succeed. As a programmer and a known person in the FGC (poor Floe..), your word can carry some serious weight.

Even if this doesn’t change anything regarding your reservations on the kickstarter, they need every little bit of support they can get for this to succeed.

Thanks for hearing me out.

16 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Support the Divekick Kickstarter

  1. Wasn’t it a gag game? Why would you give 30k for a gag game, ever?

    Your spot on with the how people spend their time thing though.

  2. It wasn’t a gag game in any form, there is some real depth to it. Sure, it was basically a compilation of memes generated by the fighting game community, but considering I get a copy of the release for donating towards the Kickstarter, I don’t see any reason not to donate $25 for something that my friends and I will play for hours, even if there is no netplay.

    I agree that under those circumstances, the Kickstarter is very greedy, but is it possible that Keits n’ crew are just under the wrong impression? Have you discussed it with any of them before? I don’t remember the Kickstarter ever being higher than its current goal of 30k, and I was linked this (and donated) very soon after it began.

    Wait, I beg to ask, whats a “gag game” anyways?

  3. You made me send off a sorta terse tweet to Keits instead of posting stuff passive aggressively. We’ll see how it turns out.

    As for it being serious or a gag game? It can be both! IWBTG certainly is!

  4. I think it is funny that it costs way more than the kickstarter to actually make divekick, and you think the kickstarter is too much!

    Keits should not have said what the game costs, because it creates more negative than positive in terms of responses

  5. First, I’m not sure that’s even true(though feel free to share any relevant info. I’d love to know otherwise. All I know is someone like Kicks could make divekick for nothing but the time investment). I’ve seen a lot more made for a lot less, though with how the itemized billing looks, perhaps Keits was that wasteful.

    Secondly, even if that is true, that doesn’t matter. They’re releasing a commercial product that’s already mostly done. It’s not like they’re recouping costs for a free game. They’re selling it.

    Third, unless not getting the 30k means they won’t release the game (which I HIGHLY doubt), 30k is a bad number to choose because it means they probably won’t ultimately get -any- money. That kickstarter isn’t exactly moving on a day to day basis, though maybe it’ll get some post-evo hype. Conversely, if they set the value to 15 or 20k, would they ultimately make less money? Not necessarily! Heck, with better arranged stretch goals that seem more achievable, they could actually make MORE money. Any money up front (since the bulk of the donations are basically pre-orders) is good money, even without the whole 30k.

    Get outta my house, pricing scrub.

  6. I dunno if I can quote, but here is the most important thing you said

    “It’s not like they’re recouping costs for a free game. They’re selling it.”

    This is what kickstarter does. Maybe it is the last little push to get things shipped, or whatever, but really kickstarter is an advertising campaign. Also, if they really, absolutely do need this money, then they have to make the goal that much.

    Anyway, I think a relevant example here is braid, which cost roughly 400k to make. Things cost money, and it is probably a surprise to learn how much it is

  7. You’re talking to an indie dev to talks to other indie devs who have sold games and made money and are on steam. Blow bought all his assets. He bought art, he bought music and he bought it in excellent quality. He also released on XBL, which -does- have expensive QA expenses. What’s the number people are throwing out there — 40k for a patch? Yeah. But on the same side of things, do you know how much this cost? ZERO. Just guts and effort. Lots of guts and effort, but guts and effort all the same.

    Shit can cost money. Shit also can sometimes be done for ridiculously cheap.

    Also by pricing their kickstarter how they did, they are at the risk of screwing themselves both in advertising and in money. So really this doesn’t hold together at all.

  8. I wouldn’t mind the 30K if all of that was going into gameplay, but spending 15K on QA testing when plenty of indies made it onto Steam with zero dollars spent there, makes it seem a bit shady.
    Hell, even IF Steam does require QA testing and there’s no possible way to get that other than spending 15K, they could’ve split that part off into a second kickstarter, “Get Divekick onto Steam”, if needed. They could release through HumbleBundle’s infrastructure or something.

    For another reference point, World of Goo’s budget was 116K, 96K of which is living expenses. QA was 5K there, though that also had a console release.

  9. Thank you for actually saying what needs to be said. I’ve had similar experiences of talking to friends who have gotten games on Steam before, and it really puts into perspective that this Kickstarter seems really misguided.

    As a programmer myself, the update today with the note from the developer sets me off something fierce. I bet the developers of Terraria and Bastion would be hella surprised to hear that their development platform of choice only allows releases at a place that destroys indie games. Never mind things like the dropin XNA replacement Monogame coming into its own and being supported on a wide variety of platforms, including phones, and even being used for native Linux ports of XNA games.

    The whole thing’s just setting off a ton of red flags to me. I don’t think it’s a scam but I do think they are pretty damned misguided about what developing indie games actually involves. It feels very misinformed, and I definitely think they’re doing more to hurt their cause than help it right now.

  10. Just as a reference, I had worked on the Skullgirls project for over 2 years without asking anyone for money. It had been in development much longer before me and then several years following that. We worked on in it during our spare time, while attempting work and school, in the hopes of creating a good product. Even though I wasn’t part of the released game, the developers eventually did get funding by creating a solid demo of what the final game would actually look and play like.

    What worries me is those who lack patience jumping onto kickstarter and harming what it is actually useful for. A good game takes time to make, and throwing money at it does not make that happen any faster.

  11. Haha, they way toned down the rhetoric about XNA since I posted that comment. No the longer spawn of evil, it’s just unsuitable. Okay then.

    Part of me really hopes they get their act together, but this is really just getting silly.

  12. First thing I like to say is nice article.
    One thing I fell that should be mentioned is the disconnect between indie/old school and mainstream game making. You got many acting that 30k is a drop in the bucket it is only to the mainstream companies like EA, Sega, Capcom, and Nintendo to just name a few. But 30k back in 1997 or to an indie game maker that is a lot that could go for translations to other languages, more artists, hell for the old school it could even be better hardware.

  13. Sup Kayin, I’m posting here to state why I support Divekick.

    Keits has been a big part of the FGC for a while now with his tournament series UFGT has set the standard for running tournaments efficiently, as well as being pretty damn fun. Through these tournaments I’ve gotten to know him a little more than just “that one SRK editor dude”. He’s a hard working person, and having successfully run fighting game tournaments means a lot. Being a tournament organizer can be very thankless work, yet he always brings something memorable every year.

    I personally went to UFGT8: hundreds of people came there, competed in fighting games, played Divekick, Kombat21 and Super Balrog Ball all weekend and had a blast. Divekick is fun, and having gotten into the top 4 for KOFXIII that weekend, I still wanted to play Divekick even though I should have practiced a little more for KOFXIII, oops. I can vouch that many people told Keits they would be willing to pay for the game once it became a finished product. There were lines of people forming to play the game at UFGT8, CEO and EVO.

    This kickstarter marks the first time the FGC has been asked to support for an amount like $30k. The $15k for QA sounds exorbitant, but I trust it’s a necessary expense for their project, because he’s been honest with his work as an organizer for UFGT7 and UFGT8. If you believe it’s not a necessary expense, then why can’t this be turned into a good thing? You say you like Keits, and you like Divekick, then why not contact him directly? If you know how to avoid having to spend this much, then that’s 5,000 or 10,000 or 15,000 that can be cut from the initial goal. This raises their chances of success considerably by needing less from the community to achieve the same thing.

    I think you’re underestimating your leverage on the community. As it is right now, you are casting serious doubt on the expenses, and I can’t help but think it ultimately hinders the chances for a Kickstarter like this one to succeed. As a programmer and a known person in the FGC (poor Floe..), your word can carry some serious weight.

    Even if this doesn’t change anything regarding your reservations on the kickstarter, they need every little bit of support they can get for this to succeed.

    Thanks for hearing me out.

  14. @pkt-zer0

    Yeah. I mean, the game could get 100k in kickstarter money for all I care. They deserve whatever people are willing to give them. They could do something with it I’m sure…. and if not, I’m not against them getting money in the bank… but a lot of it just seems wasteful and kinda silly.

    And yeah, console releases have tons of associated costs.

    @muave

    Yeah, it’s weird as hell. I know a friend right now who’s developing in XNA mostly for PC and it’s working out quite well for him. I think their choice to move to Unity in the long run might work out better for them, but I think there experience is showing. Or not even experience — but research. Either way they seem to be on a better path. Still for me it came down to the same issue. Red flags. Red flags everywhere.

    @Zinac

    Oh snap, sup Zinac~!

    Yeah. There seems to be this two fold problem where people often don’t understand how much things CAN cost but also don’t realize how much you can buy with guts and effort. I was amazed by how much you guys got done on Skullgirls before things went legit. Sometimes when dealing with people in the industry, they’re surprised when I list costs for even things like IWBTG as 0. I can’t even put living expenses on their because the game was done in my spare time, not time I could have spent working.

    But yeah, throwing money at it seems like the type of thing that can lead to the same sort of oddity we see with things like the Mythical Man Month.

    @Jedpossum

    Yeah money is weird in these situations. I Broke down the “Divekick can cost anywhere between 0-100k” like this.

    Divekick could be made by one or a few super motivated people for 0 dollars.

    Divekick could be made be made by a smallish “company” of people for 30-60k.

    Divekick could be made for 100k+ by a division of capcom.

    It’s kinda crazy how that works.

    @Jose Llera

    Hoooly crap dude.

    That was heartfelt and more than fair and I understand where you’re coming from. But I do just want to say that the QA costs ARE bogus (I know people who have released games on Steam) but my current understanding is that they’re misinformed more than intentionally deceitful. I almost think they got confused by asking advice from people who work in big companies, which lead to a lot of overcompensation.

  15. There are only 3 people in their entire development team. I’m assuming the whole reason for this kickstarter is so they can have enough money to be unemployed for a while, or at least take a shit load of time off, and have nothing to do but get the game done and maybe pay some people to make it a little better. I don’t see any other reason. If Steam is free to get on then why even have a kickstarter in the first place? They could just continue as normal and develop it until it’s finished. Problem there is it might not get done, at least to their standards, for months or even years. The game is FAR from done. They said in an interview that they have plans to add many new characters, online and a lot of other content. That shit takes time. Time that they should be spending at work, hence the kickstarter funds.

  16. Yeah there disclosure has improved a lot since this was written and is partially why I wrote my followup piece. And like I said, I don’t mind if anyone wants expenses paid to work, I just wish they disclosed stuff better — which they’re honestly trying to do now. As Keits said to me, his biggest enemy was ignorance and I should have helped with that before saying anything.

    BUT OH WELL TOO LATE FOR THAT

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