Entirely fair, but also I really liked Jolene. Hoo was super, super cute and my second favourite person to kiss.
Recent community posts
I'd love the option to hide games I've supported in my library (not delete them, necessarily, just put them somewhere so that they don't show up when I click on the whole collection). Obviously you can carefully curate your individual purchases, but buying bundles means you frequently get a lot of games you don't actually intend on playing, which make it harder to browse your collection for games to download. Steam has this feature, and I've also found it useful for hiding games I've already played and not enjoyed.
You can just create a whole new collection for "things I actually want to play" currently, but then you have the extra work of adding your new purchases to that collection each time instead of it being done automatically for you.
I live in China. The pandemic's been casting its shadow here since the New Year's celebrations, or what we managed of them before all events were abruptly cancelled and people began to panic. It was very strange then, speaking to my friends outside of the country and seeing how their normal lives got on, while dealing with this surreal experience of being both in the center of the epidemic and completely isolated from it alone in my apartment.
Now it seems like the situation is reversed. I read news stories about ice rinks being used as morgues and elderly patients being taken off respirators to save young ones because of equipment shortages. Then I go outside into the perfect spring sunshine, with children who are still off from school giggling, biking around, flying kites. Families are getting a rare chance to spend time together, and now that the immediate threat is gone there are more people smiling than not. That doesn't feel real, either.
So it's nice, you know, to have a game that pulls that weird, distant sense of death and panic and loss that's been looming overhead since January, and concentrates it down into something as small and tangible as what gets left behind. It's soothing to play something that reminds me that death is both painful and normal, that we can mourn the loss that the world's going through without turning it into a horror story. It's okay to be scared for the people you love and still find quiet enjoyment in the fact that the plum trees are blooming.
I already considered myself a "death positive" person, though I didn't have a word for it before. My friends humour me when I babble to them about burial methods and drag them to necropolises for sightseeing, but they don't quite get it. I never realized there were communities out there for people who do.
So A Mortician's Tale made me feel less alone during a difficult time, in more ways than one. Thank you.
Happy anniversary, RE Alistair++! You were probably my first otome game that was truly good and also not a deviantART flash game.
This is the cutest celebration post, I've got to make some of these.
Wonderful, thank you!
ETA: For anyone who, like me, wasn't sure where to get your backer ID, go to the project page and click on the tier you backed ("View your pledge"). It's at the bottom of the Reward section.
Would it be possible to make Steam codes available for people who paid for the Itch version during the Kickstarter? I assumed going into it that we were being given an either/or choice of Steam or Itch, but now Itch codes have been made available to Steam backers (for completely understandable reasons). Plus it looks like all new purchases on Itch come with Steam keys, but keys aren't available to the original backers for some reason?
I'm really not trying to be a jerk! But if I'd known we were the only ones who wouldn't be given the option of owning the game on both platforms, I would have waited to buy it on Itch post-Kickstarter instead.
Just got this in the Halloween bundle! Is there a way to fullscreen the game? I can't seem to find an options menu, and as it is right now, the bottom part of the screen gets cut off by my taskbar.
I know, right? I'm so used to watching Kickstarters for stuff I really care about barely eke through, if they get funded at all. It's refreshing to have one that seems to be doing well right off the bat!
I just pledged! Ahhh, it's doing so well, that's wonderful! The early bird tiers are almost gone. I'm glad to see the Kickstarter boycott hasn't affected things too much. (I've decided this will be the last project I back and promote before joining in.)
One small note! You mention that the Blackcross & Taylor Bundle comes with your other games, but it's not listed as one of them in the FAQ, which would probs be helpful just in case someone gets confused. (Yes, I'm an overly meddling and anxious person.)
Anyways, congrats on the launch! I'm looking forward to following the campaign and all the bonus content on Tumblr!
Hi, again! I'm so pleased that you've raised the game's price. I'm sure you were a bit taken aback by all of us protesting cheap content, haha.
I'm really happy you went with my TRoS suggestion! Adding it automatically to higher tiers was really generous, but this is more flexible and makes the cheap price of higher tiers much fairer to you. I've seen add-on tier FAQs before. I can find one for you if you want a template to use. :)
And the B&T bundle tier, yay! I know you must be tired of hearing this, but it's priced a bit low. I hazarded £45 at TToW's original price, £12. Now that TToW's £20, you're actually charging for less than the asking price of your games, which is £42. Don't forget they're getting the letters and wallpapers as well! At least bump it to break-even?
In terms of pricing in general...it's better now! Beta access, Join the Cast and Budding Playwright are priced well. Fit for a Queen's great. It gives those "superbacker" types something to pledge if they like the project.
And I can get the Epistolary tier , yay!
I still feel like you're undercharging for Lady's Maid and the POV tiers. Anything that affects game content like that is usually at least $100! You, or your artist, will be putting a lot of time and work into collaborating with those backers.
The description for Fashionista's much clearer now! Being allowed to design an in-game outfit that's actually part of the world is rad. I still feel like it should be limited to one character, though, especially if you're not allowing any male options! That would give four people the opportunity of purchasing the tier instead of two.
Speaking of which, I'm assuming the reason male characters aren't included in Fashionista is for story reasons? If not, maybe consider having them as options? There might be people willing to pledge to dress e.g. Frederique or Leopold up, since they're quite popular! And again, having lots of characters available means more people can pledge for a high tier.
And unlike the POV tiers, you don't have to worry much about people picking the same characters to dress up. Few people pledge for tiers that pricey, and one character could theoretically get more than one special outfit.
For the POV tiers... I'm just kinda worried there will be someone who buys one without messaging you, or two people will back it around the same time asking for the same character before you can update the description, or someone will change their mind halfway through the campaign... People are terribly inconvenient that way.
FWIW, Kickstarter quarantines sold-out tiers it in a separate section from the available ones. So if you use individual limited tiers, the amount people would have to scroll to see all the rewards would lower over the course of the campaign as the tiers get taken. If you're really worried about having too many, I guess you could also double the price and combine the TToW/TRoS tiers, so there's just one tier with two scenes for each character?
So it turns out I was wrong about needing to click on the tier to see the price in your local currency! Whoops. It's actually displayed automatically, right beneath the actual price. So again, you don't need to worry about including that info in the description itself. :)
I'm not sure what price point you're thinking of when you say you can't afford a trailer, so I can't really offer a lot of specific advice, but I think that's one of the most essential components of a Kickstarter page. It's what people will look for first, and some will click away by default if it's not there.
I'd really, really recommend getting a trailer done, even just a cheap 30-second one like the freelance spot Y Press linked, if it's at all feasible. Better to invest a small amount now than to wonder if it would've helped after a failed campaign, right?
Thanks for listening to my other feedback! Hope we're not overwhelming you with all this. <3
I'm probably going to end up writing a lot, as always. So I'll split this into two comments. This one's solely about the reward tiers!
I agree that some of your tiers could definitely use a price boost, and that the cost of the game in general could be higher as well. It has twice the amount of words as Heaven's Grave! Please do consider it, even if it's just boosting the price up to $17/£13.5. Anything up to $20 would be quite fair, I think, for ~20 hours of gameplay and generously un-gated bonus content.
I also think you'd be justified for charging a little extra for the "fan disc" content, but it seems like you've already thought that one out and decided against it. You could still consider including the extra content for all backers, then releasing it as paid DLC or part of a "special edition" for non-backers post-release.
Remember, you're not being greedy, you're doing your best to raise money so you don't let down your fans. We want you to succeed! Being good to the people who love your games means trying to raise as much as you can, to make the best product you can.
I wrote a list of suggested tiers/prices below, rather than listing all the minor changes. Assume all of them include the tiers' perks unless it says otherwise!
- £2 Thank you/backer updates/name in credits
- £6 Wallpapers
- £7 Copy of TRoS (+thank you/updates/name in credits, no wallpapers)
- £10/11.5 Thorns of War Early Bird
- £12/13.5 Thorns of War
- £19/20.5 Thorns of War + TRoS Bundle
- £25 Three love letters
- £30 All love letters
- £45? Blackcross & Taylor Bundle Pack (A copy of Heaven's Grave, Thorns of War, TRoS, and The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, plus all previous perks. Not to be included with higher tiers.)
- £60 Beta access
- £80 Choose a POV scene (Thorns/Rose)
- £120 Fashionista (only one NPC outfit, not two!)
- £130 Lady's Maid (She's the main character, so changing her outfit feels more special!)
- £160 Join the Cast
- £200 Budding Playwright
I'm repeating myself from another comment, but TRoS should have a low tier at the game's regular price, so anyone who just wants to try the series for the first time can, without a major financial commitment.
Instead of automatically including a copy of TRoS in every tier above it, have the option to "add" a copy by pledging the combined cost of the two tiers (e.g. pledge £30 for the love letters + £7 for TRoS = £37).
Some people who already own TRoS won't want a second copy. Having it as an "add-on" stops backers from feeling like they're paying for a key they won't use, gives you less work mailing out superfluous keys, and means that anyone who wants a copy at a higher tier can still get it. That said, I suggested a tier that bundles both TRoS and ToW to make it easy for the many people who will likely want to get that option.
Have a step-by-step FAQ about how to add TRoS to your tier, and mention it in the description of the TRoS tier (e.g. "a key for The Rose of Segunda can be added to any tier. Check the FAQ!") Once the Kickstarter is over, ask the backers to mention if they added a copy to their tier in the backer survey.
I recommended Tier 9 (a bundle of all your games) because it would be easy to fulfill and provide immediate backer satisfaction. They'll be getting three awesome games right away! It also advertises how you've made lots of games before, and it could provide extra exposure and reviews for Heaven's Grave. You can include a sentence or two about each game in the FAQ with links to their Itch/Steam pages, too.
For the Fashionista and Lady's Maid tiers, I was a bit confused as to when the outfit would appear in-game, and whether this included love interests. Will you write a scenario around the outfit to include it in the game? Or does it appear in bonus art?
For the POV scenes, it says "first come, first served," but you'd have to somehow make it obvious to anyone considering the tier which characters are still available, which could change over the course of the campaign as people swap tiers. Even if you try to do it in order of who backed first, I'm not sure Kickstarter provides you with the tools to keep track.
I'm not sure what the best solution would be. Personally, I think it could be fun, if a bit messy, to have separate tiers for all the characters. Limited to one each. So someone would buy the "Charlotte: Thorns of War" tier if they want to choose her scene. It would put pressure on backers to quickly snatch the tier of their favourite characters, plus it'll be fun for everyone to see which tiers get taken, dropped, switched around, etc.
At its current price, I'll be getting the Epistolary Romance tier because I know I'll desperately want all the letters when the game is released. £30 ($50 in my currency) is about as high as I can go on my current budget. I totally understand if you want to raise the cost of it, but I'd probably drop back down to the game-only tier if that happened. I'm not sure if this would hold true for other backers as well, but I thought it might be helpful for you to know!
It's really cool of you to share expertise with another indie dev!
I agree that the wallpapers should all come in one tier. I personally think the tiers before the game should be:
- Thank you/updates/name in credits
- Wallpapers (+ previous tier)
- Full-priced copy of TRoS (no perks, but have the option to "add" a copy of the game to any other tier by pledging the combined cost of the two tiers, instead of automatically including a copy with all of the higher tiers)
- Thorns of War Early Bird
- Thorns of War
And the highest tiers could definitely be more expensive than they are now, especially Lady's Maid. I've seen custom OC character insert tiers go for $900 before, without the promise of writing them into the game beyond a short appearance.
IIRC, she's avoiding an artbook/soundtrack because they aren't an option. I think a lot of the soundtrack is free to use.
I can't actually think of any game campaigns that had no backer-only updates whatsoever? Transparency is important for backers, which is why there are updates in the first place, but it doesn't change anything if they're the only ones who can see a post. That only affects people who chose not to back it.
I think it would be unusual to go digging through Kickstarter logs to figure out whether a game is for you. Once the game is out, people can judge the quality themselves by reviews or demos.
Ahh, so exciting! I've got an appointment to run to so I can't give in-depth thoughts for now, but a few brief things I noticed right away:
You don't need to put the approximate cost of each tier in dollars! Kickstarter shows you that automatically in your local currency when you click to pledge.
You need a trailer. IIRC, the difference in success rates for projects that include one and projects that don't is significant.
Backer-only updates should be available to everyone who backs, not as a special tier! Combine the thank you/backer update tier.
Love the Lady's Maid tier, that's so cute!
Make a tier that has both The Rose of Segunda AND a copy of the sequel! People are going to want to get both in one go, especially if they're new to the series.
Make an early bird tier for the game (e.g. the first 100 backers get it for ten pounds, the rest for the full cost of the game). Both tiers should come with all previous rewards, which helps backers justify paying the game's full price for that tier. The early bird tier encourages people to back the game early rather than wait until the last minute to see if it's already been backed, which is important because people are more likely to back a Kickstarter that's already made a decent amount of money because it looks more likely to succeed.
More thoughts later! Congrats on putting this together and I hope it's successful!
What does clicking the "I like it" or "I don't like it" buttons do? Does it change your personal feed, or which games are likely to be recommended to everyone? If it's the latter, is there a way to disable it so it draws completely randomly from a pool of everything on Itch?
Even if you don't get a lot of responses to this particular survey, most of the money you pull in with a Kickstarter usually comes from people who haven't heard of your project before, not preexisting fans! (Unless you're a big shot like Iron Spike with a ton of people following everything you do already.)
Very exciting! I'm glad this community could be there for you while you were figuring out your next step as a developer.
I just submitted my response. I suspect Thorns of War might win, though personally I'm happy to back both.
I'm sure you're already aware of this, but while all us devoted fans would almost undoubtedly back a ToW Kickstarter, the Kickstarter's success is almost definitely going to be dependent on newcomers who have never heard of your games before, not just us. So do consider having a tier where people can pick up a copy of the first game if it wins!
I actually actively went looking to see if you had a Tumblr page, but since it wasn't linked to on your official website (which is what popped up when I googled the company) or here on Itch, I assumed you didn't. Linking to your social media accounts wherever it makes sense is super helpful for fans!
Chiming in yet again to agree that social media presence is extremely important for any indie studio to be successful, even if it's just having a personal Tumblr or Twitter account people can follow where you also occasionally post news about the game. Aside from letting people find your work and giving fans a place they can interact with you, it makes the studio look more legit.
And you definitely don't have to update people on the game when you post! You can talk about other people's games, write about general developer stuff, drop little snippets about the characters, whatever.
I'm glad you found it helpful!
It would be unusual to do a Kickstarter with no physical rewards. But if that's the case, maybe check out The Masquerade Killer's campaign, which I believe used 100% digital rewards: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1022740540/the-masquerade-killer
You could also consider bundling your completed games together and offering them as a tier!
I'm really sorry to hear that! I loved Rose of Segunda and the only reason I haven't played my copy of Heaven's Grave yet is because I'm burnt out on VNs and needed a break to play something more traditionally game-y.
Thank you for being open about the situation, down to the finances. I think that kind of openness actually really helps fans realize how much support is needed, rather than pretending everything is a-okay and then suddenly folding with no warning. This is going to be quite a long response, but I hope you find some of it helpful.
General thoughts on Kickstarter: make sure you know what you're getting into when it comes to being able to deliver the rewards you've promised. I've heard lots of stories of people promising posters or something without realizing how much work they'd need to put into organizing, printing and shipping. Also think about the extra expenses you'll be racking up, e.g. money for a good trailer if you aren't making it yourself, the Kickstarter fees.
That said, lots of indie devs rely on Kickstarter to basically pre-sell copies of their games and gauge interest! You wouldn't be alone there, and if you only need a small amount, there's no reason not to ask for it. I'm actually impressed you never Kickstarted any of your previous games.
Kickstarters also double as a way of advertising your games, and I'd say an affordable otome that shows promise, especially if you emphasize that you're an experienced dev that's delivered previous titles without any issues before, could do pretty well.
Ask for more money than you need, because some people are not going to pay up when it's successful. Have both a good trailer and an obvious link to the demo for people to give a whirl. Advertise shamelessly on every possible avenue. Post links to subreddits like /r/otomegames and stay active in the threads. Steal quotes from some of the more effusive reviews to show how much people love your work in the trailer. Whatever it takes.
Kickstarter Rewards: I back Kickstarters regularly. The two reward tiers I go for in games are wallpaper packs, generally ~$5, and digital copies of the game, generally ~$10-15. In your case, BFF has solid art (the best of your games, I think!), but not spectacular, so I probably wouldn't buy the wallpaper tier. (I usually go straight for a digital copy for projects I'm excited about anyway, which I would in this case.)
I'm also more likely to support right away when there's an "early bird" tier for digital copies, where you get a discount if you're within the first X number of people to support that tier.
I know other games usually offer stickers, keychains, posters, etc., but since I don't buy those I'll let others chime in with what they'd want. What I would totally pay extra for is additional backer-only story content of some kind, using the same assets you already have. It would have to be a bonus, rather than gating away main story content, obviously. Maybe epilogues a few years into the future for each route (only if you don't intend to include those as endings already), or bonus scenes that backers get to vote on to choose, e.g. a scene from an AU where the accident never happened. Alternatively, you could use those as stretch goals.
Thoughts on Heaven's Grave: I can think of a handful of reasons why it wouldn't be selling well. One is price—at $17 CAD, you're competing with commercial VNs like WILL: A Wonderful World. That said, I don't want to encourage indie devs to devalue their labour, especially when Heaven's Grave has such a high wordcount.
It might also help to upload the demo to Steam, if you haven't already!
This is a game about helping people with Jeff Bezos's money. If you do not, in fact, enjoy the fantasy of having enough money to help people, then yeah, I imagine it wouldn't appeal. Though I do kind of wonder why you didn't quit once it became obvious the intent was to be charitable.
I was expecting to enjoy this, but it still managed to pleasantly surprise me! For a game set over the course of a few weeks, the romances are astonishingly convincing. (It helps that Iolanthe's home life is pretty unbearable, so all the eloping feels reasonable.) The dialogue was frequently quite clever, and I especially liked how the romance was understated without becoming lifeless.
I usually avoid otome games that allow too much MC customization, because that generally seems to mean either inconsistent characterization or a binary choice between being a pushover or a jerk. I like leads who have strong personalities, rather than self-inserts, so the more defined the MC is as a person, the better. But Iolanthe was somehow clever and refreshing no matter how I played her, which was lovely. (Even though I never could quite bring myself to make her leave her toothbrush behind, or sit around admiring posteriors when she could be helping the stablehand, so I'm sure I missed out on some options). It helps that no matter what you pick, she's never stupid or shy; it's just a matter of how willing she is to play the Court's games, and why she chooses to or not.
And for once the flexibility of character actually feels necessary—the love interests are quite different sorts of people, so it seems fitting they'd have different types. Leopold, for instance, almost requires the "strong, cunning hellion" that's happy to speak her mind and wreck tea parties for fun and profit, while the more reserved "commanding, diplomatic scholar" feels like the woman the Prince needs in his life to help him navigate treacherous political waters.
I really liked the subtle changes based on your chosen traits, like how being commanding means you get an additional layer of badassery at the tea party when the servant fetches a chair for you without you needing to ask. I think the only time what I chose and what happened didn't match up was on Guillaume's route. I had Iolanthe say she didn't love Guillaume, but wanted to be queen still. Then in the next scene she promptly agreed to marry him even if he renounced his title, which felt...off. But fair enough, really, since picking that option feels OOC in the first place, given everything that comes before it on the route!
This is already too long, but I'd feel weird reviewing an otome game without mentioning the actual routes, so in brief:
Bastien: Adorable. The scene where he realizes that, even if he stays a steward, Iolanthe will eventually leave him, was wonderfully heartbreaking. I would have maaaybe enjoyed more opportunities for Iolanthe to deliberately fluster him, because his reactions are so cute when she does.
Guillaume: I'm a sucker for shy kids who are forced to act like the opposite. And his argument with Iolanthe is handled just right, by which I mean it's good that she gives him the cold shoulder until he apologizes properly. She deserves as much. Overall, I enjoyed watching the MC slowly draw him out of the mindset of a figurehead.
Charlotte: Darling. I just want to spirit her away from everything and make all her dreams come true, which is exactly how the route ends, so yay!
Sofia: Nicely bittersweet and realistic in how they resolve the main conflict. Sofia's a good counterpoint to Charlotte. I made Iolanthe a scholar for her route and it was wonderful seeing two intelligent, classy ladies bond inside the gilded cage they share.
Leopold: I am here for Mr. Tilney types, who know how dumb the social rules are but play to win anyway. His reactions to Iolanthe's troublemaking are priceless; the two of them are a power couple in the making. I did feel like Iolanthe got talked into participating in his plans too quickly, but eh. He's worth it.
Secret Route: A perfect finale and deliciously angsty. It really felt like they were off in their own world together. In terms of chemistry, it might have been the strongest of the romances.
In conclusion: great job! Now I'm going to hop on over to the sequel page and see what's cooking there.
Aki. (I'm weak for soft boys with controlling elders, okay? But given there are only three romance options and Arha sort of runs off at the end of the demo without even checking if he's still alive, I'm gonna guess this isn't an option. XD )
Kien sounds most like my type based on the descriptions on the homepage, but when I was playing I liked Tai best!
Another problem with the "it's okay, I'm adopted/just a step-sibling" trope is that it somehow implies that someone not related to you by blood isn't a "real" sibling. I say if you're going to write a forbidden romance, commit to it!
The art and music are fantastic, this is a lovely way to spend time. It took me a while to figure out that the toys dropping from the top were a sign that you've unlocked part of a series, not a random event! I wish there were a bit more depth to the events that happen, but I like the concept that how you choose to "spend" your time determines the path you eventually take.