Interview with Game Designer American McGee on His Recent Kickstarter and His New Game Akaneiro: Demon Hunters
Most Kickstarters involving video games either far exceed their goals—or fall far below them. American McGee’s Akaneiro: Demon Hunters project, however, just barely made it.
The upcoming RPG is finished and a number of gamers are already enjoying it. But with the Kickstarter complete, and funding raised, it’ll be available on more platforms and will include additional features.
I recently spoke with game designer McGee via email to discuss what’s next and what he was thinking now that the Kickstarter was finished. You can also see a previous interview I did with him here.
Congrats on hitting your Kickstarter goal! Did you guys start to get a little nervous towards the end?
There was a sense of nervousness throughout the campaign—largely driven by the fact that we were always heading towards a very close funding goal. Early on it was obvious that a lot of effort was required to push the thing towards success, so we were busy with daily updates and improvements to the campaign. It's like having 24 hours to push a boulder up a hill!
Even though you didn't make your stretch goals, will you still be able to maybe port the game to Ouya or accomplish any of the other stretch goals?
We certainly hope to accomplish ALL of the goals listed in the Kickstarter, even the Stretch Goals which we didn't hit. With something like Ouya, it's simply a question of priority compared to the other things we're trying to accomplish with the game.
It's very likely to happen, the question is just whether it'll be in 3 months, 6 months or more.
The game is out now—are you learning anything from some of your early players that might make you change parts of the game before it launches on other platforms?
We're seeing a huge number of players pour into the game with very high retention rates. The feedback we're hearing from players tends to focus on convenience features like sharing collected items across characters, broader ranges of sound/visual adjustments and requests for additional classes and pets.
All of these are relatively easy to achieve and will arrive in-game soon. Probably the biggest addition we'll make beyond that is giving players more places where they can spend Karma – as we're hearing lots of feedback on things players would be happy to pay for – like changing character names or gender after the initial character creation.
Do you currently have a roadmap for when the Android and iOS and Linux versions will come out?
Here in Shanghai we just entered into Chinese New Year, during which time the entire country (including our studio) is on holiday. We'll start the process of planning new features and devices once we're back in the office. Regardless, we expect most of the major features to take at least 2 months of development before they arrive—this is because we must completely replace the current in-game UI system.
The current system isn't compatible with the latest version of Unity3D (the game's engine). That means UI is blocking an upgrade of the engine, which is linked to stuff like the Linux port and tablet versions.
You offered a lot of additional features depending on how the Kickstarter went. Do you have planned updates beyond what you offered fans there?
We're hoping to build on Akaneiro in a big way over the coming years. If early reactions from gamers are any indications, we'll have a strong and supportive community driving us towards content updates, expansions and new features for many years to come. My hope is that Akaneiro will blossom into a well recognized IP in its own right—bringing to life variations in comic books, novels, art books and more.
What did you learn over the course of doing the Kickstarter? Would you do anything differently?
We'd probably do almost everything differently!
First off, if I were to start another campaign today, I'd spend 1+ month simply building a roadmap of artwork, updates, reward additions, videos and more, so that we were releasing 60%+ of our content per an existing plan and from a library of already finished content. That would free us up to focus on customer interaction and support, without having to juggle that with content creation and campaign adjustments on the fly.
Now that you've been through your first Kickstarter—any advice for anyone out there struggling?
If you're in the middle of a campaign and struggling, then it's probably too late unless you're willing to produce and present a ton of sticky content while the campaign is ongoing. The real trick, though we didn't exactly take this route, is to pre-plan and prepare as much upfront as possible.
We also found our PR team to be really helpful in getting exposure for the campaign. Reaching new eyeballs is really critical after the first week (that period being where you'll likely gain your more loyal backers). We saw our initial backers constantly increasing their support—but that sort of thing isn't sustainable.
A steady flow of new backers is critical and that requires significant effort to get the word out via social networks and news outlets. Personal networks are also important—I ended up saving mine for the final week of the campaign, at which point I sent out a blanket email to every person in my contacts database.
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