Kickstarter-Funded Games: Are We Asking for Too Little?

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Matt Barton's picture

As someone who has been to bat for several Kickstarter projects lately, I'm becoming concerned with what's going to happen on the other end. After all this community support, will it be back to business as usual when the products hit the shelves? Will all this "fan outreach" end when they start worrying about maximizing their sales?

How will I feel when the games that I've not only helped fund, but--like many of you, have also promoted heavily with every social media tool at my disposal--how will I feel if those games end up on the shelf with the same kind of closed-source, DRM-encrusted, shrinkwrap-licensed bullshit that plagues the rest of the industry?

After some preliminary research, I've found that while most of the big game projects at least promise a DRM free version (at least as a limited option to backers), there are few promises that they will *exclusively* offer DRM free versions.

Let's consider how some of the Kickstarters I've supported are handling these issues:

  • Project Eternity. Raised 3.9 million. Offering DRM-free downloads. Nothing I can find about source code or sharing assets; looks like a traditional copyright model.
  • Double Fine Adventure. Raised 3.3 million. DRM-free; nothing about source code or CC licensing.
  • Wasteland 2. Raised: 2.9 million dollars. They are offering a DRM-free digital download, but I don't see anything about sharing the source code, assets, or alternative licensing.
  • Star Citizen. Raised 2.1 million. I see no promises anywhere about the game being DRM-free or sharing anything, despite a lot of talk about how they're rejecting the "corporate suits."
  • Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. Raised 400K. DRM-free; no source code or CC license.

Finally, I did an overall Kickstarter search for "creative commons" and "open source" and came up with zero results in computer games.

The way I see it, if you're reaching out your hand for community support, you need to consider supporting the community in return. That means, in my humble opinion, sharing your source code, using an alternative licensing scheme such as Creative Commons--so other people can BUILD on your work--and, perhaps most importantly, sharing assets to enable faster community development.

In the future, I will not be supporting any Kickstarter project that doesn't at least offer exclusively DRM-free versions and at least some kind of sharing scheme for source code and at least some assets. I don't expect anyone to put their work into the public domain, but they should at least make some of their source code and assets available to give back to the community that funded their work. Ideally, what I'd like to see is full access to the source code, CC-licenses, and a healthy library of shared assets.

I realize some of these folks are using proprietary engines and thus cannot share all of their code, but there's no reason they couldn't share some of it. I'd actually like them to go a step further, and not just share code, but offer some videos or resources to help aspiring game developers (in all areas) learn from the process. This isn't an "us vs. them" situation anymore between developers and gamers. This is a mutually beneficial situation where the community supports you--and you reciprocate by building up that community.


Joined: 01/21/2009
its coming?
David Nielsen wrote:

Since there is a desire to have code sharing from crowdfunded games I'd like to point out Train Fever which is not on Kickstarter (but uses Gamebitious which is similar). It is an investment, so you will get your money back plus a share of the profits. .

and i think this was part of What Matt was originaly going for.. NEW ideas.. we have the Standard publishing/funding methods, Kickstarter.. and it seems the many others.. different but the same.. only in the fact its about getting a game out to the public in some way. I had never heard of this one (Gamebitious).. in fact any of the others till kickstarter (and wasteland) increased the visibility of this type of system. This is very interesting, not because i want to make money of games.. but it adds a new level.. I know I want to play some games.. but I dont have a problem supporting IDEA's for games that I wont play.. if there is incentive .. and the possibility of supporting a game i wont play, but understand that its worth making and maybe getting my cash back.. I might just back it to further the idea into games I would like.. (example) The new X-com.. i would love to see it ported to a fantasy game .. so somebody is making a future tactical game I doubt I would play.. but if it succeeds, the possibility of it being redone on a fantasy theme makes supporting it worthwhile in my eyes. Adding the ability to "invest" money wise.. and to further the game is very intereresting.. and makes it much easier for me to throw some money at it..

so many good ideas... I must say.. with Some success Kickstarter and the others may just change the model of funding and publishing.. NOBODY would have guessed how huge STEAM got so quickly.. Im sure some people figured it might be the future of distribution games.. but STEAM is quite honestly more then just a simple platform to sell games.. its revitalized a stagnant PC game market in many ways.. WE see indy games, old game can be sold at cheap prices and revitalized, games I would never look at are in front of me and often I examine a bit closer then I would have.. and do buy them.. it was time for a change..

This new funding styles (I still think nobody has hit that home run ) are changing it all again.. And Matt has brought up the "what" what will make this the NEW standard.. or what ideas might change it all in a big way? I think a combo of several of these ideas will bei the BIG ON.. Kickstarter has been the media darling, but its nothing more than the old way (you just get a game).. its a good thing for sure as we vote with our wallet. but Its only a step.. something else will take it to the next level.. investing in a game .. that is very appealing.. but i think in the long run, much like actual publishers. it will be to hit an miss to attract gamer long term, yet one minecraft like success with 20-30,000 backers.. you might bank enough cash to make you "think" some more.. not enough to retire.. but say you put $50 into a game and got $200 back someday plus the game.. not a bad incentive to support and play.

we all say it.. amazing time for games.. we might be rehashing a majority of games.. but at no time have they been more affordabel, easy to get, HECK variety, and now.. we can decide how to support them to with more then just a purchase after they are on the shelf.. but before, during.. and maybe even after.. We are getting to be a TINY bit of the process, as they make as more a part of it , it will be easier to get interested and so on in the products.. the next step, so to speak.

Joined: 03/02/2012
Use the source, Luke.

Developers should release source code. What could they possibly lose? Super secret rocket science algorithms? Please.
Many great games' engines were painfully reverse engineered and reimplemented by enthusiasts to keep them alive. Just think of projects like ScummVM or gemrb.

Yet I am sceptical that we will see a creative surge if we force devs to release their sources. There is already a gazillion great free engines out there: Ogre, id Tech, Unity3D,…, you name it.

When Jordan Mechner relased the source code for Prince of Persia it was a great gesture to the fans, but I doubt we will see many PoP clones soon. Prove me wrong.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
I think ten years is plenty

I think ten years is plenty of time to hold on to source. After that, it's time to release. The benefits aren't just for programmers, but for Your fans! They may need patches or updates to even be able to play it.

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