Dabe Alan

Monaco creator discusses Kickstarter design implications, explains why stretch goals are “bullshit”

Monaco creator discusses Kickstarter design implications, explains why stretch goals are “bullshit”

Andy Schatz is the designer of Monaco, and he noted that he hadn’t had to spend a dime directly on the development of the game. That was back in 2010, however, and things have changed. I asked if he was ever tempted to launch a Kickstarter to support his long-in-development, but high-profile, indie game.

“I have a little bit of an unpopular opinion of Kickstarter,” he told the Report. “I’m really glad for the people that have been really successful on Kickstarter, and don’t get me wrong, I really like the idea of free money, but I’m of the opinion that designing a game around a variable budget is a terrible way to design a game. To be frank, I think that stretch goals are total bullshit.”

This is not the answer I had expected.

Good design, or incentive to draw in backers?

“This is the idealist game designer in me speaking now,” he continued. “When you’re designing a game, the way I think you should do it, and not everyone is the same way and I recognize that, but the way you should do it is you figure out what the game is, you figure out what the game needs, and you should make that.”

The goal is to create a strong idea of what the game needs to be, decide what features need to be included, and then make it happen. Stretch goals seem to flip this idea, causing people to add features in a way that seems less than organic.

“If you are adding in some optional thing to incentivize people to give you money… there’s a difference between allowing your fans to have an extreme amount of input on the game, which I do, the beta testers have an incredible influence on the game, but letting them design the game in the sense of ‘if the budget is this, then I’ll do this, and if the budget is that, then I’ll do that,’ that to me sounds like the perfect way to make a game that’s insufficiently complete or bloated,” Schatz said. 

“To me, you should decide if the game is incomplete without those features. If the game is missing a finger, add a finger, if the game is not missing a finger, don’t add one. That’s sort of my take on Kickstarters. That said, there’s the possibility that at some point I’ll try doing one, but I don’t like what it does to design,” he continued.

So how was Monaco funded?

Andy Schatz was given a budget of $100,000 through the Indie Fund to create Monaco, but the Indie Fund is an advance against future sales. The fund’s site lays out how the money will be dispersed, and also the repayment method.

“Once the game is released, you first pay back the investment and then share 25% of the revenue, until we double the initial investment, or until 2 years after the initial launch date, whichever comes first,” the site explains. Schatz isn’t worried.

“The money I borrowed from them, in the scheme of things, and with how games are selling these days, it’s pretty minor,” he explained. “It’s nothing to sniff at, it’s not pocket change, but I’ve calculated it out with how much money Monaco would have to make in order for me to pay back Indie Fund and have paid myself the opportunity costs of the past three years, and it’s a pretty high number. It’s about $600,000 or something like that.”

Luckily, the market has grown. “Successful games on Steam are easily making that. Take for example Dear Esther. It had an $80,000 Indie Fund loan, or somewhere along those lines? I think it’s somewhere around there, and they repaid their Indie Fund in the first day of sales on Steam. I think it was even in the first few hours. If I have numbers anywhere similar to that I don’t think it’s going to be an issue,” Schatz told the Report. [Editor’s note: it took 5.5 hours]

The issue of Kickstarter’s impact on design is fascinating, although I’ve talked to multiple developers who seem to have a handle on how to deal with scope and a limited budget. Development budgets, and how they’re raised, are a big part of how games are created. This has always been the case, but now these issues are much more public.