The Tides of Murkport Kickstarter came to a close at ~$9500 of its $50,000 goal. The experience was incredibly educational. In this postmortem, we’ll share what we learned and talk about where the project is going next.
Build it and…
We came to Kickstarter with a rather naive presumption about its inner workings. As two guys with a mild hatred of social media, we neglected the importance of building a following ahead of our launch. “Build it and they will come”, we figured. We came to understand how the platform really worked when we started talking to other creators and to companies who specialize in Kickstarter marketing. Let’s break it down.
Start early. One company reached out to us, only to point out that they couldn’t help because we had already launched. This was on day 4 or 5 of our 60 day campaign. They explained that their work starts 3-4 months ahead of launch, at which juncture they help creators build their mailing list. “You’re supposed to fund on day 1 or 2”, they said, so you can benefit from promotion directly on Kickstarter. As a brand new publisher with zero social media presence, it would’ve been extra important to start laying down the foundation early.
Your goal might not be your goal. Given how critical it is to fund almost immediately, it’s customary for creators to set a goal that is lower than the amount they actually need, to maximize chances of day 1-2 funding. In our case, $50,000 minus Kickstarter’s fees was about exactly what we needed to produce Act 1 of ToM. But it would have made sense to shave that down and focus on stretch goals.
Influencers are influential. This was eye opening. Our most successful promotion effort was our partnership with Colby on the d4 Optimized channel. Colby’s viewers are fond of the kind of long-form, in-depth content that he produces, and it makes sense that they would be a great fit for our game format. Compared to players that we picked up through Reddit and Twitter posts or Facebook ads, the folk that discovered RPGW through Colby completed the game at a significantly higher rate and were more likely to provide feedback, engage on Discord, and back the project. It’s clear that we should’ve lined up three or four more of these partnerships as the centerpiece of our promotion strategy.
We reached out to over 40 content creators in the D&D space and beyond, and only got a handful of responses. The average response time was in the 10-20 day range. Most creators we were able to get in touch with had no availability until 6+ weeks later. Conclusion: content creators are in high demand, and we should have orchestrated those partnerships months in advance. Rookie mistake.
Kickstarter’s not the only thing we learned a lot about. Over the last 60 days, over 1500 people have played Tides of Murkport. We received a ton of feedback from our Discord members and backers and noticed clear trends in the game data we collected. Most importantly, many of you had awesome things to say about the game and are excited to see it grow. We came into this project with the belief that there was a clear, passionate niche for this take on the TTRPG hobby. We might’ve not funded our Kickstarter, but we were able to confirm that theory undeniably, and that’s all the bardic inspiration we need to keep trucking along. Besides that, here were our key takeaways:
- We missed the mark with combat. More than 20% of players drop out of the game during the first or second combat encounter. A number of those cases are because of mobile incompatibility, which we failed to clarify upfront. Some others are TPKs. Oops. But the majority are, presumably, because combat wasn’t where it needed to be. Several mechanics were missing, what’s there wasn’t presented in the most elegant or intuitive ways, and there was an insufficient amount of hand-holding for an engine that expects the user to handle so much of the rule execution. At the time of this post, we’ve already shored up some of those issues. We’ve implemented resistances, damage types, advantage/disadvantage, explicit Rage support, overhauled damage and healing menus, and made general visual improvements. More changes are on the way, including better tutorials to help medium-to-low familiarity players navigate the game.
- Character management needs more love. After combat, the most common feedback relates to character management operations. Multi-classing, leveling up and importing characters are all things that were either unsupported, or in the case of character imports, not working perfectly. We’ve made progress there, but need to do more.
- Lukewarm excitement about multiplayer. We were surprised by how few people asked about multiplayer or mentioned the feature. We still plan to do it, but this helps us decide where to slot it in our roadmap. Updates to come on that front.
- The narrative portions worked. The feedback about the artwork, music, writing and adventure design was very positive. The main area for improvement is freedom & volume of choice, which is going to improve naturally in upcoming chapters as the narrative begins to open up. This is an important proof of concept that we can build future content around.
As a side note, huge thanks to everyone who took the time to share detailed feedback with us. We’ve had a blast brainstorming with this community already and we’re excited to keep expanding it. If you haven’t already pinged us on Discord or emailed us, please do, we wanna hear everything you have to say.
So what’s next?
This is merely a setback! (For the WoW nerds out there).
We’re going to finish producing chapters 2 through 4, which we refer to as Act 1, and distribute them directly on our site at a price of $18 for the entire act. Chapter 1 will remain free indefinitely, meaning that this “Act Pass” is priced on the basis of $6 per chapter. Chapter 2 is going live May 2nd, but you can already get your pass. If you were one of our Kickstarter backers, look out for a special 20% discount, applicable on all current and future Tides of Murkport content. We might have not hit the goal, but you guys had our back from day one and for that, you’ll always be the OGs. Don’t see the discount? Make sure you’ve redeemed the Backer code we sent you via Kickstarter messages. Cast Sending on us via email or Discord if you can’t find it.
Separately, we’ve turned to Patreon as a way to reward our most engaged players with extra content. We’ve settled on a simple two-tier structure, one of which also grants you access to future chapter releases.
We might take another, better stab at Kickstarter in the future with everything we’ve learned. Whether it’s for Act 2 of Tides of Murkport or for another adventure within the same setting & format, we can’t say yet. For now, we’ll be focusing on finishing Act 1, continually improving the platform, and building up our player base.
We want to continue building RPGWanderer with your input. If you haven’t already, join us on Discord and let us know what you think about Chapter 2!
Thank you for your support,
Aaron & Alex