Sid Meier cautious about Kickstarter

Civilization designer says he is uncomfortable with locking into design choices from the get-go, praises 2K Games for handling business end so he can focus on good game design.

Kickstarter has attracted a host of industry veterans like Richard Garriott, Tim Schafer, American McGee, Chris Roberts, and Chris Avellone, but not all noted designers are on-board with the crowd-funding platform.

Speaking with Games Industry International, Civilization designer Sid Meier said he's not likely to launch a Kickstarter project anytime soon because he is uncomfortable with being locked into design choices early on.

"You've got to convince people to support it and create trailers or whatever it takes to get the support. I think you kind of lock yourself into a lot of ideas early," Meier said. "I really enjoy the luxury of changing my design and evolving over time."

"I'd be a little concerned with Kickstarter if I committed to X, Y, and Z and I found out down the road that Z didn't work very well, I kind of promised to do this," he added. "I think it's great for people who want that indie environment, but there are advantages and disadvantages to each situation."

Meier currently heads up development at 2K Games subsidiary Firaxis Games and recently released free-to-play iOS game Ace Patrol, which he designed alone. Meier explained that by working with a publisher, he is able to focus on game design while 2K Games handles the business end.

"They do all the stuff I don't want to do; they allow me to make games and really focus on that part of what it takes to get a game out there. I get to design games, I get to program games, I get to work with the artists and the sound guys and do the fun stuff," Meier said.

"They worry about testing it and publishing it and promoting it and selling it--whatever it takes to do that I would be really bad at, they do," he added. "So more power to Chris Roberts and the Kickstarter, but having a great publisher is a real asset and allows me to focus on the things that I can do and not worry about all the other stuff that needs to be worried about."

According to data released by Kickstarter in January, games drew more than $83 million in 2012, higher than any other category on the funding platform.

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Discussion

98 comments
BowmanKCMO
BowmanKCMO

I think Meier is hitting upon the real tension point of the tug-of-war.  The publishers free up the space for the creative folks to do their stuff.  They also make decisions-by-committee that baffle and sometimes infuriate customers (designers, and employees).  They are the good guy and the bad guy.  So it really is six one way, half a dozen the other.  I support the folks who make the Minecrafts and the FTLs, and I support the creative folks who make the Civs and Elder Scrolls.  It's when corporate runs amok (EA) that people flood to the indie scene.  But as more and more crap comes out of Kickstarter, and half-finished products, and promises unkept, people will flock back.  It really does go both ways, good and bad.

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

theres some games...I just wish that companys didn't change for creative purposes however like Counter Strike and X-COM :( because the originals WERE better in every way and would rather see them improved not changed.

The list of games that I cant stand now compared to what they were like when they were first released is to many to list.

ernelson1976
ernelson1976

It's a perfectly reasonable concern on his part. Of course, he could go on Kickstarter, post a video saying nothing more than, "I want to create a [genre] game. That's all," and the money would pour in. He has decades of solid game development behind him, and a deep fan base. He wouldn't necessarily have to do things the way everyone else is. He might be able to get away without making creative commitments early on. Maybe.

This is probably the best criticism I've seen so far of the Kickstarter process. A lot of criticism has been merely reluctance to see the industry change, but this is at least somewhat substantive to the game design process. It's too bad--I'd kick him some money to build a game this way, but I completely understand his reluctance.

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

Ooh, yeah

Kickstart my heart 
Hope it never stops 
Ooh, yeah, b-b-b-b-b-b-baaaaby 

xsubtownerx
xsubtownerx

LOL. Too many successful Kickstarter funded games to take any of this seriously. Civ 5 got casualized. What developer in their right mind would willingly do this? What a joke for him to say this...


pnakasone
pnakasone

He is at the point just his name can get him a lot of freedom in development from publisher of his games. 

Tseng
Tseng

I love your games Sid, but you aren't exactly on the front lines anymore.  You can basically write your own ticket (and it's not like you've really been pushing the boundaries lately).  Smaller, less well known dev teams have few options, kickstarter sometimes being the only one.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

Being locked into design choices from the get-go is a good thing. It means you can't promise the world and then deliver very little, Fable style.

cheese232323
cheese232323

i still dont get why his name is stuck to the front of Civilization, other game creators dont do that, why does he? can someone explain? legitimate question.

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

Why, of course.  When you backed up by the best big publisher out there, you have nothing to worry about.

obsequies
obsequies

Crowd fundings for the people and projects that need it. Pisses me off when you get high school graduate girls making a movie about being teased for playing games filmed with a camera their parents got them or a bunch of rich corporate devs looking for a new scheme coming to kickstarter. Although there are great projects, some of the worst aren't the failed attempts but the complete douches behind them abusing the system.

Spitz6860
Spitz6860

not to mention some of those kickstarters seem pretty shady.

Saketume
Saketume

Not everyone has the luxury of doing that Sid.

Btw when you make your kickstarter you don't have to promise more than you know you can keep. It's your kickstarter you can make whatever goals you like.

Also I wonder what kind of visionary you are. You've made plenty of games in your life you should know what's possible to include and you should know before hand what kind of game you want. You just make it up as you go along? No wonder you haven't done anything particularly interesting since the early 90's

Zid96
Zid96

The next sim.... Sim FU (You pop in the game) Why this game about a cat trying to get a mouse? Sid: well i didnt want to feel locked in:p

hardeddie
hardeddie

Kickstarter suites more physical goods to fund research and inventions than digital formats such as movies and games. There are better investment options than being rewarded a meal with the team or attend their grand opening.

DrKill09
DrKill09

Kickstarter is great... for games at least  Road Redemption and Carmageddon Reincarnation got their funding this way.

My only gripe with Kickstarter are rich assholes like James Rolfe e-begging for money, when they clearly have enough to fund their project.  James, a movie does not need to cost 300,000+.  El Mariachi was made for $7,000, the soundtrack to Clerks was more expensive than the movie itself, and countless other good movies were made for less than what your sell-out travesty costs.

James could've made his movie simply by selling a few of his most rare games, and his merch.  He did not need to beg.  He makes big money.  Every camera he has is nicer than mine, and yet he claimed he needed new ones for his film.  I use a Sony Bloggie and Vegas to make YouTube vids, and it looks just fine.  Writing and acting quality make a video, not video quality.

R_Mckay
R_Mckay

Its his opinion, and really he is entitled to it, from a designer's point of view I can see his point. But lets be honest here, people talk about "successful" kick started games because of the people that pledged their support... but until we "actually" SEE any of these games and play it, I think I will reserve judgement if kickstarter does actually produce great games sans publisher support like Sid talks about.

Timmy_Gwar
Timmy_Gwar

And I want a toilet made of koalas so that when I poop my ass is being hugged by koalas. Only a select few will get that right however. I may be koalified for said toilet, over-koalafied even. However, I have no notoriety or recognition in the world of marsupial lavatories. I still will never be one of the lucky few to know koala toilet ownership.

vault-boy
vault-boy

To all the people who are planning to decapitate Sid Meier and plant his head on a stick, first lets look at what he is saying. Yes, you can make some changes and yes you still have a lot of freedom with what you make, but anything that is a drastic change (for example, the change in style in Team Fortress from beginning development to the end, which is about as big a change in style humanly possible) can't be done with crowd funding because it would kill the project due to bad publicity and the potential off being sued for false advertising. Also, he is saying that he would prefer a good publisher that lets him do his thing than having to handle it all with one team... and who the fuck wouldn't? A GOOD publisher takes the weight off a developers shoulders, not the opposite. And third he isn't condemning crowd-funding, he is just saying he thinks he's better off with a good publisher, which just makes sense.

iknowthepiecesf
iknowthepiecesf

I respect Sid Meier. He's one of the pioneers of gaming history. But i disagree him.

Kickstarter is not a platform of promises. His name is not mentioned but Brian Fargo had a very impressive success there. He did not promise anything, he just wrote down the games he made earlier, he said that he gathered the old team up and they want to make new games in their old style. Planescape: Torment, Baldur's Gate and Fallout; i really wanted these games to have sequels but by the old and original team, not some Bethesda sh*t. And now we have Torment: Tides Of Numenera, Wasteland 2, Project Eternity on our hands and i think it's great just to know that the old team is gathered up and jamming. This was not about anything near "locking to promises" or smth else. This was about funding a game designer who made extraordinary games in the past and now is seeking help to get back to work again.

deathstream
deathstream

@ernelson1976

The guidelines on their website state:

"Show your work

Projects must be clear about their state of development, and cannot be presented as preorders of finished products. Projects must show details (photos, videos, sketches) of their progress so far, along with a prototype demonstrating the product's current functionality. Projects must explain how the final design is likely to differ from the prototype, and include a production plan (i.e., how you're going to make it) and an estimated timeline."

I would interpret that as Meier does with X, Y, and Z.

Relvar
Relvar

@xsubtownerx The kind that want to make oodles and oodles of money? Sid used to be a legend..... He's sold out and lost his passion in recent years and while firaxis still makes good games, they sacrifice a lot to win over the causal player.

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

@xsubtownerx That's... Really awful logic. How in the world do the number of successful kickstarters dictate whether a publisher can be in any way useful?

Some people are just too damn dense... All he's really saying is that Kickstarter isn't the 'be all, end all' of the industry, and that while it works well for some, other methods work too. That's it. And there's really no rational argument against that point.

Conker1985
Conker1985

@MooncalfReviews You don't know much about design if you think that's true.

Please,  spend 3 years on a project, and see if the end result is exactly what you envisioned at the beginning. It won't be.

blackothh
blackothh

@cheese232323 I believe he is trying to sell games based on his name. A lot of writers put their name bigger then the title of the book. Seems that people are interested in whatever the author writes and dont really care what the actual story is. I think he believes his name will sell whatever he makes.


Personally i dont care for his work, i remember my ironclad battleship being sunk by mounted calvary with lances and uninstalled right then and there never looking back. dont remember what civ that was. but i got civ 5 free on steam and have not installed it.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

@cheese232323 I think way back in the day he had a few good games under his belt, so his name became a brand. Those were different times.

Kayweg
Kayweg

@Ripper_TV Agreed. I have a lot of respect for Sid Meier, but i think he'd have a slightly different opinion if his games were published by EA or Activision.


Kickable
Kickable

@Saketume I too think it sounds a bit strange the kind of freedom he's talking about, but what do I know I'm no developer.  I'll assume he's not literally talking about flying by the seat of his pants.

I guess it depends on developer, some really should be very cautious.  It's still a fairly new idea, they warn project leaders that they could be liable for legal damages to sponsors.  and being a gamer I know we are fickle idealistic unforgiving bastards when it comes to our expectations not being met.  I know at least one of the developers mentioned above is so filthy rich(the guy's been to fucking outerspace) a failure would be a different story for him.  Assuming Meier isn't close to that guy's level of success i think he's got pretty sensible concerns

JRLennis
JRLennis

@Saketume Civ 4 and Civ 5 don't count as interesting?  I wonder what kind of gamer you are, no offense.

I respect Sid's opinion.  Kickstarter isn't for everyone.  Fortunately for Sid he seems to have a great working relationship with 2K, so he can keep producing the games he wants with little fuss.  We should envy such an arrangement.  The reason everyone is swooning over Kickstarter in the first place is that most publishers have no vision and have stopped giving us the games we want.  A GOOD publisher is a much better alternative, creatively, than being forced to Kickstart your own project.

blackothh
blackothh

@hardeddie I Disagree totally for games, kickstarter is an awesome platform for games. The benifet is that the developers get to find out what the customer base wants focus to be put on. Its a great opportunity for gamers (customer) to be included in the development process. Ive seen a bunch of times where the features of the game changed based on feedback we give them. Now include the possibility of live streaming development sessions on twitch and we have a way to directly communicate what we would like to see in the game. One of the problems that comes up is that ive noticed that this generation has acquired this entitlement mentality that they want things NOW!! and if things dont happen instantly they piss and moan and throw things, in that case then kickstarter is definitely not for you.

1. Customers sort of becomes the publisher

2. Developers can be pretty much guaranteed sales before the game comes out

3. Development can be steered by customers to help reduce wasted efforts

4. No egg headed suit and tie people who know nothing about making games monkeying with development.


The only thing im waiting to hear now is a game that becomes funded then fails to be released which will be a huge stink of a story.

BlackBaldwin
BlackBaldwin

@R_Mckay 

I agree with you man I feel that kickstarter is just the new way to scam people out of their dough.  Until I actually see something on a platform I play on that works then I'll be on board with it but to me kickstarter just looks like a pipedream...

vault-boy
vault-boy

@Timmy_Gwar Start a kickstarter if you want it that bad, I'll pitch in a few bucks. I'd love a koala bear to warm up my ass after I'm done shitting.

Zeran_kariashi
Zeran_kariashi

@vault-boy Yeah I agree. Kickstarter is nice for those times when you want to make a game completely free of executive meddling...but if you've already got a cushy position and are happy with the way things are, then why bother. 

If Sid gets the itch to make something out of the ordinary and doesn't think the company will let him do it his way, he has the freedom to start a kickstarter for it.You don't need specifics...you can just name the base premise...hell the best games are often the ones build around a single idea, rather then trying to hedge your bets to reach a large and varied audience.

That's all it really is. Kickstarter is a means to an end, if you don't have other options or those options want to impose their ideas on your work (Activision's do as little as possible, do it fast, and try to sell it for 20x what it would reasonably be worth..at minimum...not that EA or Capcom is much better).

It gives you the freedom to make the game you want to make, though yes...it does take a bit of work on making sure your original vision is possible within the resources you want to put forth (otherwise you get Star Command).

xsubtownerx
xsubtownerx

@parrot_of_adun @xsubtownerx If it wasn't for Kickstarter, I would be getting Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns, Torment, Divinity Original Sin, etc... There is ZERO bad in crowd funded games. And to think there is, is where lies the true awful logic.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

@Conker1985 I'm an indie games developer, and my recent indie MMO took me 2.5 years, and is on course for being exactly what I wanted. Nice jumping to conclusions though! 

JRLennis
JRLennis

@blackothh @cheese232323 I'll bet it was Civ III.  I hated the combat in that game precisely because things like that could happen.

Civ 5 has a MUCH better combat system and is well worth installing if you have the space.

Saketume
Saketume

@JRLennis

Inlex kind of answered it.

As for what kind of gamer I am I'm an old school gamer. I've been here since before Sid's first game and I'll probably be here after his last game.

Inlex
Inlex

@JRLennis @Saketume 

the fact that they are "4 and 5", makes them pretty much automatically non-innovative. I'm not saying they're bad games, hell I clokced a couple of hundres hours myself, but they are just imporvements on the former. Nothing really new.

R_Mckay
R_Mckay

@Vojtass @R_Mckay True FTL is a good game, but it was made if you've seen the article in Penny Arcade (posted link below), the game as it stood when they started its kick starter was almost finished... they just needed the money to put some polish into it (get over the final hump so to speak) and it does not carry the same "price tag" as the other high profile kick starter games recently. 

which if I've read enough articles about it, were starting from scratch literally... just waiting for the money from kick starter to actually start game development.  So yeah, FTL is a good game, but I'm waiting for the release of those "multi-million dollar" funded games to see if it is indeed a viable alternative to publisher funded games. That is why those (high profile) games will make or break crowd funding if they don't meet expectations or sell well...  a good game is a good game no matter where the funding comes from. :)

http://www.penny-arcade.com/report/article/two-men-200000-and-a-successful-kickstarter-how-ftl-did-everything-right

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

@xsubtownerx @parrot_of_adun Oh, and there is abundant evidence that sites like KS and indiegogo can both be seriously abused, and that funded projects can definitely go wrong.

Like anything, crowd funding is more complicated than simply being "TH3 BEST THING EVAR". For context, I have supported crowd funding projects, though only one was through KS, so I can definitely appreciate the potential in such a platform.

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

@xsubtownerx @parrot_of_adun So... Because you're getting games you want, Kickstarter is the best option for everyone ever? That hardly makes sense, and you seem to be making rampant assumption about the intent and subtext in what is being said here. No one said "there is bad in crowd funded games".

It sounds to me like your ramblings are just a knee-jerk reaction to anything that doesn't blindly praise kickstarter.

Conker1985
Conker1985

@MooncalfReviews

Well, if that's true, then you're a very rare exception, but props to you for sticking to the same idea for 2.5 years.

I would say indie is a tad different than a full scale production. You have more control, and my guess is that there were less people you had to engage or compromise with. A lot of these Kickstarter projects are pretty ambitious, and from what I can tell, require a pretty large team if they have any chance of succeeding, which in my mind ultimately means there will be change along the way.

What was your game btw?

blackothh
blackothh

@JRLennis @blackothh @cheese232323 Thanks sir for the optimism, i shall pull it out on a rainy day if that sillyness was not par for the series because i dont even think i was playing for more then a half hour and that happened and was very dissapointed

Saketume
Saketume

@edinko @Inlex

I still prefer the first game over any of the sequels. I play it every once in a while.

edinko
edinko

@Inlex @JRLennis @Saketume 5 is more like an antimprovement. I liked that 1 tile=unit but generally the game feels dumbed down specially vanilla without the expansion. I liked 4 more in more ways, I would take 4 with the 1 tile units from V without dlc milking the hell out of it