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today I scheduled the publication of a video on Kickstarter requesting approximately $5,000 in order to complete the iPhone shooter game I started 1 year ago after quitting my job.

I invested more than $20,000 in the game so far (for artwork, music, legal and accountant expenses) and I am now getting cold feet about my decision of publishing the video.

The game is "nearly finished", in other words: the game mechanics are working but I still have some bugs to fix. Once I will have finished this (I hope will take me 1 or 2 weeks) I plan to start working on the actual level balancing (e.g. deciding the order of appearance of enemies for each level and balancing the number of hitpoints and strength of bullets that the enemies have).

Reasons for not publishing the video are:

  • fear that the concept can be copied easily: the game is a shooter game set in a different environment (its a pretty cool one, believe me :)) and I am worried that someone might copy* the idea (I know, its the usual "I am worried story.."). A shooter game is one of the easiest game to implement and hence there will be hundreds game developer able to copy it by just adapting their existing code and changing graphics (not as straightforward).

    It took me one year to develop this because I was inexperienced plus there are approximately 6/7 months of work from the illustrator and there are 8 unique music tracks composed.

  • The soundtrack of the video is the soundtrack of the game which is not yet published and has not been deposited to a music society. I did create legally valid time-stamps for the tracks and I am considering uploading the album on iTunes before publishing the video so I can have a certain publication date. But overall I am a bit scared and worried because I have never done this before and even the simple act of publishing an album requires me to read a long contract from the "aggregator company") which, even if I do have contracts with the musicians do worry me as I am not a U.S. resident and I am not familiar with the U.S. law system

Reasons for publishing the video are:

  • I almost run out of money (but this is not a real reason as I should have enough for one more month of development time)
  • ...I kind of need extra money as, even if I do have money for 1 month of development I do not have money for marketing and for other expenses (e.g. accountant)
  • It will create a fan base
  • I could get some useful feedback from a wider range of beta testers
  • It might create some pre-release buzz in case some blogger or game magazine likes the concept

Anyone has had similar experiences? Is there a real risk that someone will copy the concept and implement it in a couple of months? Will the Kickstarter campaign be a good pre-release exposure for the game? Any references of similar projects/situations? Is it realistic that someone like ROVIO will copy the idea straight away?

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Hackworth seems to have a solid answer. He is right, if your idea is truly good, people will try to recreate that success. Just make sure to have your legal stuff in order and when it comes to anything involving law make sure to consult a lawyer. Also, more importantly, do not skimp on these last few weeks of development. These gameplay "tweaks" could make or break your game from a business perspective. Playtest it like crazy and try to get all your friends and family of all ages trying it so you get valuable feedback data. Good luck with the rest of development and selling the game. –  Dean Knight Jul 3 '13 at 12:53
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As much as I understand that marketing your own game on gamedev stackexchange is frown upon, would the community consider it acceptable for OP to post a link to the kickstarter once it is in place? I'm curious now and I would really like to see the game. If no one objects, please post a link here once it is up (and link my name so I get a notification). That would be great, thanks. –  Jesse Emond Jul 3 '13 at 23:18
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@Jesse Agreed. A Kickstarter link rots only slowly and it would add further context. As long as there's no ad-speak, I'm OK with it too. –  Anko Jul 4 '13 at 9:46
    
Any reason in particular why you un-accepted my answer? –  Hackworth Jul 12 '13 at 21:51
    
Sorry for unacepping. I believe you answer is valid but I got an issue with some things on Kickstarter which I need to clarify. I contacted my lawyer to ask an advice on that and once things will be more clear I will either re-accept the answer or write with another one. Sorry (I still keep my upvote for it :) and will definetely keep this in mind in the next days and won't leave this question with an unaccepted and without any proper explanation). Sorry again! –  mm24 Jul 13 '13 at 19:44

2 Answers 2

up vote 17 down vote accepted

If you want to self-publish and sell your first game successfully, you will have little other choice than to create lots of attention, and a gameplay video seems unavoidable to do that. As for fears of plagiarism, having the largest possible upfront attention should actually be positive for you.

Ideas are cheap and plentiful, it's the execution that matters and that people are willing to pay for.

Showing off your game seems to be a necessity, since as a new game developer you don't have the exposure or the fan base to create attention without showing actual game footage. A company like Blizzard could put out the most cryptic and nondescript announcement about a possible future announcement, maybe, when it's done, and still get everyone into a feeding frenzy. You don't have that choice yet.

As for copying a game: It is already illegal to commercially copy and use your actual assets, or make assets that are extremely similar. As for your ability to sue in that case, I don't know, but if you have a case, you can easily generate a lot of negative press for the offender for free by turning to various gaming web sites, kind of David-vs-Goliath style. For that, however, you first need a public record that you are indeed the original author, and a successful Kickstarter is about as public as it gets for newcomers nowadays.

So in a way, being the first to the attention market can actually provide more protection from outright plagiarism than if you released it quietly and it turns into a sleeper hit.

As for copying game concepts, or ideas: You already mentioned that the shooting genre is highly derivative, like many others. Copying mechanics is really part of the industry; without it, 99% of all games simply wouldn't exist. A "setting" is a pretty broad term, if we are talking about the same thing: something like Steampunk, or SciFi, or Medieval, that's a setting, right? In that case, I'm not even sure there is much left to truly innovate, but even if you do, there isn't much to stop others from exploring the setting further, and there shouldn't be!

If you have found a truly innovative and cool setting, awesome! Be the first to exploit it for what it's worth and accept the fact of life that others will follow your success to try and repeat it.

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I agree with this. Sadly, after your game comes out, and assuming your idea is as innovative as you say, it may be pretty likely for someone to make a direct copy with corporate resources and coding slaves. You may feel like a sleazebag for doing it, but make sure all the early attention is on you. In general, you can also be sure that companies are going to just rip the core idea, then completely misunderstand the way the core mechanics interact. Then add non-fitting monetization, etc...Good luck to you!! –  Katana314 Jul 3 '13 at 13:06
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Ok, I accepted the answer as I decided to publish the project. I am editing the project on Kickstarter right now and will be submitting it for publication in the next few hours. –  mm24 Jul 4 '13 at 9:48
    
I have unaccepted the answer as I got some issue with Kickstarter that will explain after I clarified with my lawyer. Will keep everyone up to date and if things get sorted out I will re-accept the answer. I prefered to unaccept it as with the information I got I do not feel 100% comfortable about using that website. –  mm24 Jul 13 '13 at 19:46
    
Ok, I have re-accepted the answer. Personally I regret having choosen Kickstarter as platform to lunch an iOS game under development and sold normally at 0.99$. My campaing did not attract many people: 7 out of 8 backers where my close friends and in 9 days I collected only 3% of the amount needed 3. I tried to offer cool things (e.g. credits, studio edited soundtrack, character name choice) but the main problem is that the game is normally sold at 0.99$ and hence I might have not choosen the right marketing strategy. –  mm24 Jul 17 '13 at 12:00
    
Over 140 people played the video but most of them (if not all) found the video thanks to my Facebook share spamming, the project has not been picked from Kickstarter as "staff pick" (at least as far as I can understand from reading the stats). There could be several reasons.. for example the video I did was not the best ever but still, took me more than a week of work to put the video and the project description together. The bottom line is that, as I said in my question, there doesn't seem to be many successfull iOS games on Kickstarter and hence choosing it in my case has resulted in.. –  mm24 Jul 17 '13 at 12:04

I would suggest filing for an LLC if possible in your case, if you do not already have one. An LLC grants you protection among other things and is really ideal for someone in your position. Don't waste any more time and get it public to help bring in a fanbase; especially with it being close to being published, now is an ideal time.

Keep the video short, concise, and engaging; break the gameplay up with headlines about the game-- include part of one of the tracks in the background of the video. All of this at the very least will likely land you an interview at a cool place to work; while failure would be a loss financially and emotionally, putting off project completion is worse as you may miss your moment.

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I assume that LLC is the U.S. version of a limited liability company. I have already registered a Limited liability company in the UK (Ltd.), thanks for your encouraging answer. I do not see how LLC/LTD. will protect me against other people copying the idea but I see how this project (and getting public) will give me a kick start to a possible new career :), thanks –  mm24 Jul 4 '13 at 4:02

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