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Todd Coleman on Being Funded

Red Thomas Posted:
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Crowfall blew right past the initial crowdfunding goal on Kickstarter earlier this week.  Red Thomas immediately reached out to the team to get their early thoughts on where they were with the game and what fans should expect to see next.  Todd Coleman was eager to take the call and chat a bit about what the team hopes to see next.

Red: Todd, congratulations on being successfully funded, and thanks so much for taking time right before you fly out for GDC to chat a bit with me about Crowfall.

Todd: Absolutely, Red.  Thanks, and glad to be here.

Red: How does being funded change your development going forward?

Todd: It definitely makes things more comfortable! 

This is kind of beyond what we expected.  We’re going to start taking a better look at where it makes sense to use that money to shore up the development, or to maybe move things forward.  Honestly, we haven’t done that yet.  We’ve been in the whirlwind of the last week so much that we haven’t had a chance to sit down and take a look at the overall plan.  We haven’t had a chance to say, “Alright, how does this change things for the better?”  I’m excited to have that conversation.  It’ll be a fantastic conversation to have, but we’re not quite there yet.

Red: I really like that answer, because it is a hard thing to determine where you put the money, and when you bring new people on board.  You have to decide if you pick up new talent, and which talent is first. You also have to question whether the money is better spent in hardware on the backend, or in adding people to the team.

Todd: Yeah, and we did put one forward for our first stretch goal.  That was to bring in a particle artist.  In fact, it was sort of an internal joke that got taken externally.  We said that we were replacing Eric, our character artist.  He’d sort of done it before, so we put him in charge of particles.  He’s done a good job, but there’s a lot more we could do.

That’s why the first stretch goal was [a particle effects artist].  It’s something we wanted to do anyway, I just want to do it better.  Also, it has a great side effect, which is that we can put Eric back on the job he was supposed to be doing, character art.  That allows us to do some things that a lot of people wanted us to do, like including the female centaur.  Getting a particle artist, we get a double win out of that.

Red: One of the things we’ve seen with other Kickstarters is feature-creep.  Other game projects in particular have had a problem with stretch goals that were more hype than content, and could have used more thought and planning.  They run into problems with how much things cost, or how much more time it’ll take.  It sounds like you all have thought ahead a bit, and have a plan for what you can do.

Todd: Well, I won’t go so far as to say that we’ve done a full breakdown, but Gordon [Walton] and I have enough experience doing this now that we can generally say “this” is going to cost “that much.”  We add a little to that and use it as a conservative estimate. 

Stretch goals have to be exciting, or they don’t serve their purpose.  We have to kind of mix things, so we’re going to try and leap frog them a bit.  We’ll do some that strengthen the base, and we’ll do some that are more rifle-shot additions that hopefully won’t break the bank.  There are also a handful of things like this next one, mounts and caravans, which we just really wanted.

We knew that if we included those things initially, it would make the kickstarter a bit more risky.  So we decided that we’d rather have the game without caravans, than to not have the game at all.  We chose to cut caravans out.  It was incredibly painful to do that, because it was part of the core vision, to me.  We still put it as the second stretch goal because mounts really impact how you build the game and the world.  It was one that we said, “If we’re going to do this, we need to get in front of it because it becomes incredibly expensive to fit it in later.”

Anyway, there’s a whole art and science to choosing stretch goals.  Basically, anytime we have an idea, we write it down on one of these sticky notes and stick it on the wall.  On the wall, there’s maybe twenty of these ideas, so whenever we hit one, and if we have the opportunity to do more, we go back to that.  Every time it’ll be a question of what will be the best bang for the buck.  We ask, what will strengthen the core, not extend us too far, is close enough that we can get it done, and will be exciting to the users?  We have to rebalance those things every time.

Without question, the one we do after this will be faction rules, though.  We have to do that.  We’re spending all this time developing the core foundation to allow us to do a bunch of different campaign rulesets, but we only have enough resources right now to do one or two.  So that’s what I want to do next, is build out the rulesets more.

Red: Is there anything in particular that you’d like the fans know going forward?

Todd: The biggest thing to me is that this is just the beginning.  We’re looking at this as if we’ve already launched.  Our job is to build this game, but it’s also to build the community, give them something to play as soon as we can, and to be constantly polishing, iterating, and adding to it. 

We’re going to build this thing into a service, and we really want to attract people who are into that as an idea.  We want to attract people who are into building a new game. 

It’s a very exciting and different model of building these things.  We get feedback so much faster.  It’s not like we’re off working in a cave for four years, and then we emerge like Moses bringing down the tablets from the mountain and saying, “Here.  We’re hoping you like these…” 

Instead, it’s more of an iterative process.  Like tasting in a kitchen.  They’re in there tasting it as we make it in real time, so we can make adjustments on the fly.  I think that’ll lead to a better product.

Red: I think your system is really going to lend itself well to this sort of development, and I’m enjoying the chance to see you put it all together.   I’ve really enjoyed our chat, Todd.  I’ll let you get going for your flight.  I know Gordon’s already out there at GDC waiting on you.  Thanks again for your time.

Well, Todd dropped so much information in that one interview, that I’ll have several articles to write out of it.  Keep an eye out for future articles that take a closer look at mounts and the caravan system, plus loads of other goodies.  In the meantime, post a comment below to tell us what you would like to see in future Crowfall stretch goals.

And another huge thanks to Todd Coleman for taking time out of his crazy schedule for an ad hoc conversation!


Red Thomas

A veteran of the US Army, raging geek, and avid gamer, Red Thomas is that cool uncle all the kids in the family like to spend their summers with. Red lives in San Antonio with his wife where he runs his company and works with the city government to promote geek culture.