Adventures In Wargaming: Kickstarter Multitasking

August 18, 2013 by brennon

It’s 1am.

I’ve been up since 6:30am this morning – no, wait, that’s yesterday morning now – and my alarm will be going off in another five-and-a-half hours. My body clock feels like it was drawn by Dali.

This isn’t the first time I’ve put my body through such rigours. I used to do it on a weekly basis when I was living in London, moonlighting as a DJ to pay the bills. That was only once a week, though.

Must be a Kickstarter.

Tired Deadzone Kickstarters!

Okay, so that was a bit of dramatic license. I’m not actually currently involved in any Kickstarter projects, as far as I’m aware. I just wanted to get myself in the right mindset! As a result, I apologise in advance if I struggle to maintain a coherent narrative. Just the act of remembering how exhausted we all were by the end of May has made part of my brain switch off in protest. Or maybe it’s fear.

I got a great response from my last article, about the lead-in to a Kickstarter campaign. I told you how I found myself swept into a crazy world of cameras and Twitter and… rodeo cowboys? Apparently? Go and have a read, if you missed it first time round. I’m sure it makes sense. Anyway, I finished the last piece with Launch Day. We looked really excited in that photo, so how did we go from that to being the sleep-deprived zombies you see in the picture above? (Seriously, look at how pale we all look. Except Ronnie. He’s a machine, fuelled by pure excitement.)

Kickstarter campaigns don’t happen in isolation. You can’t put the rest of the world on pause, much as you wish you could. In our case we had a gaming company to run! Much as I wish we had an army of robot ninjas poised to pick up the slack, it’s just not the case. (Yet.) When something big and exciting like a Kickstarter project is on the move, it’s really easy to forget everything else, which causes all sorts of problems down the line. Sometimes it’s not even a case of forgetting, it just comes down to not having enough hands to keep all the plates spinning.

To give you an idea of how much stuff goes on, during the month when Deadzone was live we had the following other things to think about:

• Models from our Kings of War Kickstarter needed to get painted and photographed.

• We had to deal with the backer surveys from LOKA.

• DreadBall Season 2 needed to be released and promoted.

That’s on top of the regular day-to-day stuff that keeps Mantic working. Of the four of us that were mainly involved in Kickstarter, we all had proper day jobs that are tough to squeeze into a 40-hour week as it is. I look after all the “social media” stuff – blogging, podcasting, YouTubing, Facebooking and so forth; Chris runs the website (and everything else); Curis is a graphic design ninja so does book layout and photo post-production; Stew manages our army of freelancers. None of those things can stop for a day without the proverbial manure hitting the large oscillating blade, let alone for a whole month.

You might recall that in my first article I shared some words of wisdom that were imparted to me in my first week: “Free time and sleep are luxuries for a month, but it’s one of the most exciting experiences you’ll ever have.” Looking back, I’d add “proper nutrition” to the list, as when you’re at the office all night it’s easy to forget dinner until every where’s closed except the local kebab shop. (Honest, that’s my excuse. Here’s a clearly unaltered photo of me in March!)

James M. 'Atlas' Hewitt

Basically, we just sucked it up and got on with it. We worked late, we worked weekends, we did whatever it took to make it work. (I almost managed to fit in organising a friend’s stag do, which is frankly astounding.) We had a great sense of camaraderie, with everyone pitching in to do their part. People who weren’t directly involved offered to share some of our regular workload. We helped each other out wherever we could, and we had a couple of awesome pub lunches.

The main time suck was replying to comments. I can’t stress this enough; if you’re thinking of starting a Kickstarter campaign, get ready to answer a LOT of questions! Just like having a decent opening video, I think this can make or break your campaign. You can have a really strong idea, but if you don’t engage with your backers, listen to their feedback and allay their concerns, you won’t get very far. Be ready to set aside time for it, because it’s not a quick process.

Because Deadzone had a large international audience, comments were being posted up all the time. Some were on the general comments page, some were at the bottom of the updates we put out. We took turns doing the “morning shift”, which involved waking up early, making tea, switching on the computer and answering all the messages that had piled up overnight. If you scroll down the Comments section of the Deadzone page, you’ll see massive posts from Mantic Games. Those were generally posted at about 8am! However, because a load of backers in the US were still on the previous evening, the comments would be coming in as fast as you could answer them… so a comment that you started writing at 8am might not get posted until 9am. I remember one morning, early in the campaign, where I answered about fifty questions in one comment. By the time I’d answered them all, I had another thirty to do! We did our best to keep on top of them, but a few slipped through.Thankfully the other backers were there to help out people we missed!

Most of the questions we got were pretty sensible – how much is postage to a certain country, are we planning X, Y or Z, and so on. Most of the time we were answering the same questions repeatedly – we just had to keep reminding ourselves that the people who were asking them weren’t going to have trawled back through the thousands of comments to find their answer. We also learned early on how important it was to communicate within the team. If one person gave one answer on the morning shift, then someone else didn’t see that and answered the same question with a different answer, all hell broke loose. This happened a couple of times before we worked out a solution!

One of the main reasons why the comments were so much work was because there was a hardcore group of fans using the thread to discuss everything from sports to films to recipe ideas! To be fair, it was actually really nice. We had a whole community of gamers across the world, united in their excitement for a new game. I spent a lot of time just sitting on the comments thread in the evenings, joining in the discussion and answering questions. At Mantic we’re pretty open about what we’re working on and why we’re doing things a certain way, and I think people really appreciated that.

That whole month was a blur, but I reckon I’ve got some great anecdotes, tips and dire warnings left. I’m going to leave it here for now, though, and pick that up in part three. Thanks for reading!

James M. Hewitt

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