Tag Archives: crowdfunding

Introducing ‘The Last Door: Season Two’

This time around, we’re not ready to start working on the next episode right away. We feel that you guys deserve a detailed explanation of why we took this decision. So here we go:

For starters, as you may know, our team recently lost one of the main programmers, this mean we are no longer able to create new chapters as fast as we used to. At least, not until we expend some time optimizing our creative process to be more efficient. So we have made that our new ‘top priority’: we need time to analyze all the processes involved in the creation of a chapter, and find valid optimizations that finally enable us to achieve the ‘two month’ per episode development cycle we’ve looking after all this time.

Secondly, we’ve been running late on delivery some the things we’ve promised you guys in the past, so we time to focus on these (and try to solve what caused the delay in the first time, so that won’t happen again). In talking mostly about the ‘Hall of Fame’ which we’ll be finally updating in the upcoming weeks to reflect the contributors from the two past campaigns.

Finally, after four episodes published and a bit more than a year working in ‘The Last Door’ it feel like the right moment to make a brief pause to take reflexive decisions in terms of story, and game design and features. Going into production of a new episode right after the previous one, leaves you with only so much room for improvement. We tried our best to include new features and little design improvements with each new episode, but this time around it feels like we can achieve a so much more if only we could have some pre-production time before going deep into production of episode 5.

In summary, we’ve decided to wait until all the funds for the next chapter are collected, just like in a regular crowdfunding campaign. We estimate that, at the current donation rate, we’ll have around two months to focus on these open fronts, and we’ll be ready to start working in chapter 5 by the end of April, therefore aiming for a grand return during summer. We will be disclosing exact dates as we approach these milestones. As usually, we will be reporting every step in the way there, through the forums.

We’ll do our best to make the wait worth it, so the first episode of Season Two feel really fresh and meet all your expectations.

A note on the conclusion of the funding campaign of ‘Ancient Shadows’

You guys are amazing! We’re sincerely humbled by the amount of support we’ve been getting through this tough times! As you probably know, the funding campaign of ‘Ancient Shadows’ has been the most successful one so far, we collected the amazing sum of 13305.8 € (at the time of writing this article) which feels like a world record for us. Thank you!!

Also, we’ve been a lot of fun the last couple of weeks with the Stretch Goals. You guys managed to unlock a few of them:

– Pilot Chapter OST free for everybody: which is already available in the soundtrack section of the website.
– Download & play offline for Premiums: Episodes One and Two already there. Episode Three will be up in a couple of days.
– Server upgrade: We didn’t have the time yet to do it, but we will soon.

Unfortunately we didn’t achieved the last of stretch goals: ‘Open source the game engine and assets’ so we will save that for the next campaign, in the meantime we will figure out the best way to do it.

‘Ancient Shadows’ finally available!

Despite all the issues we endured while creating the fourth chapter, we’re proud to announce the immediate availability of the fourth chapter, ‘Ancient Shadows’. We apologize for running a little behind schedule with this last episode, but as we explained we wanted this episode to be as good, or even better, than all of its predecessors. One more time, thank to our helpful legion of beta players who flooded us with their awesome feedback and suggestions, we believed we managed to outdone ourselves once again.

Hope you guys like the result, we are really proud of how it turned out. What are you waiting for, ‘Ancient Shadows’ is now waiting for you to play!

NOTE: Soundtrack of ‘Ancient Shadows’, as well as the Spanish translation, will be available early next week.

‘The Four Witnesses’ now free to play

As in all previous occasions, with the release of the new chapter, the previous one becomes free for everybody. If you haven’t yet, you can play it now.

Also, we’ll be pushing this episode to kongregate, armorgames and all other major free flash game sites in the upcoming week.

About the mobile version of ‘The Last Door’

Some time ago, we launched episode 1 and 2 of ‘The Last Door’ in the App Store. It was an experiment: we invest just the right amount of effort to port the game to the iPad and launched it, to determine if it would work in this platform as well as the browser version does.

The experiment was not a huge success, to say the least. On one side, we hit a few technical issues that revealed that the way the game is made for the browser, is not immediately compatible with the mobile platforms, and thou further R&D would be required to decently port the game and deliver an experience as good as the one’s present in the browser version.

Despite all that, we were able to achieve some really impressing good reviews in the App Store: mostly plain 5 out of 5 stars in almost all countries, for both episodes. Woah! Definitely players using the iPad loved the game as much as the browser version. But, in the other hand, the attention the game was getting but way lower!

The browser version of Episode 1 for instance has found more than one million plays (combining the ones from thelastdoor.com, kongregate, armorgames, and other sites). The iPad version fall nowhere near this numbers, despite being a free app. Episode 2, as a paid app sold very modestly. In summary, it proved for us that the same business model we we’re using for the browser version doesn’t work for the mobile version.

We know, because many of you told us, that you guys want to play The Last Door in your mobile devices, and believe me when I say that we want you to. It just didn’t make sense, from a business perspective, to continue to do so on our own. So, to that end, we decided that we need to team up with a publisher in order to bring The Last Door to the App Store and Google Play the way you guys deserve.

For the time being, for pulled the iOS version of episode 1 and 2 out of the App Store, and we’re focusing on solving the technical issues we know of. Let’s hope we have exciting news to share with you soon, regarding the mobile version.

Financing “The Last Door” in detail

Honesty and transparency have always been our priority, particularly in regard to our finances, so this message is a long time in coming. But before we get to that, I’d first like to give you an introduction to our vision and culture as I think this is relevant to your understanding why we made the decisions that we have.

Money is not the ends, but the means.

We at The Game Kitchen aren’t businessmen. For us, starting a business wasn’t the objective but just an absolute necessity toward reaching our aim of being able to create video games. In these games we’re committed body and soul to helping make the world a more beautiful, more enjoyable place with our modest creations.

It’s very important to us that our company structure is focused on fostering creative synergy between the various talents of our team members. Toward that end The Game Kitchen was established as a flat structured firm with no bosses, no hierarchy. We’re a group of like minded individuals who are all driven to achieve the same dream.

We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far as a small indie game studio, all without resorting to financing or bank loans. As you may be aware, our home country of Spain has had a difficult time coping with the worldwide economic recession. We’re very happy that our success so far has enabled us to remain independent amidst this crisis.

Funding the First Chapter

It was an easy decision to choose crowdfunding as our funding source for The Last Door. Each of our team members has had some experience working on crowdfunded ventures in the past and we were all very happy with the results. This system appealed to us not just as a means of generating capital but also in enabling us to communicate directly and at an early stage of development with the people who are the most interested in our work. This was very important to us but there were difficulties.

In spite of over two years as a developer, we’d failed to establish a very strong brand in The Game Kitchen. Because most of our effort was in contract work published under the name of another developer, very few people had ever heard of us. That limited our ability to attract media attention and guaranteed that our audience of potential supporters would be small. We were going to have to work hard to build confidence. Consequently, we knew we couldn’t ask for a very large sum of money.

Ultimately we decided on a target amount of £3,852 (4.500€ or $6,240 USD). After an intense month of campaigning, we managed to raise £4,690. Not a very large sum when it comes to game development but we knew it was enough to get us on our way toward getting the pilot chapter of The Last Door made.

And so we spent that money on acquiring the needed licenses and development tools. We paid our composer, Carlos Viola, whose work we knew would play a key role in making The Last Door a memorable experience. We even bought additional instrument libraries to ensure that the soundtrack would be of the highest calibre. After that we focused our budget on marketing activities to help build awareness for The Last Door once it was ready for release. Then we distributed what remained of our budget among the team members for their living expenses.

As a business move, developing The Last Door wasn’t a very profitable enterprise. Each of us received only a symbolic salary for our three months of effort. But we were making the game of our dreams and that was what was important, what we were committed to.

Fortunately, in addition to the generous donations of the 285 backers who chose to support the development of The Last Door, it was the unconditional love of our families that supported us in this period. We don’t have any other job to do, any other source of income. We’re completely focused and invested in seeing The Game Kitchen succeed. That could not have been made possible without them.

Funding the second chapter

With the outpouring of praise we received with the release of Chapter 1 we knew that we had made the right decision. Our risk in developing The Last Door had paid off, morally if not yet financially. In addition to our original 285 backers, the public was starting to show interest and we were encouraged to keep going.

But now that we were working on our second release, it wasn’t enough just to make a game, we had to make the production of that game financially viable. Our families would only support us for so long, it was time for The Game Kitchen to stand on its own two feet. In estimating the funding goal for the second chapter, we tallied our projected development expenses and added to that the cost to hire our team at Spain’s minimum wage law for the duration of the production cycle. Our total came to 7.500€ (about £6500 or $10,000 USD).

Because we had lost our contact in the United Kingdom, we could no longer seek to fund future chapters on Kickstarter. Instead we relied on our own in-house crowdfunding effort over PayPal. Since we had now released a tangible product in Chapter 1, we could offer it for a voluntary “pay what you want” fee rather than ask for donations.

Unfortunately our second crowdfunding effort raised only 3.000€, less than half our goal. It was enough to get Chapter 2 produced but we would have to depend on our families for a little bit longer.

At this point we had to accept that our business model simply wasn’t working. In looking back we recognize a number of areas where we could improve. For one, even though we had released Chapter 1 it was still only available to people to had paid a monetary contribution. We did not yet have a free demo available for people to get a taste of the game we’re developing.

More importantly we understood that while we had created a good system for making games, we had underappreciated the importance of marketing and sales. These were the keys to turning a good game into a profitable one. If we could improve on those aspects of our business then The Last Door would truly be able to shine in the light of its own merit. This epiphany gave us the optimism to forge ahead in developing Chapter 3.

Funding the third chapter

In projecting our costs for the first two chapters we realized that our estimations were based on a two month development cycle. In practice, though, it took three months to produce a chapter from start to finish. Realistically we had to raise our target goal again, this time to €10.000. Another reality we had to face was that we could no longer personally afford to continue living on the amount of money raised if our campaigns continued to finish underfunded. So we set ourselves a milestone. If we were unable to raise €6.000 by July we would be forced to end development.

Aware that marketing was not our strong suit, we searched for outside help in this area. We were fortunate enough to find Mary Kish of IndieViddy.com and she helped us considerably in raising worldwide awareness of The Last Door. This combined with the free release of Chapter 1 really helped catapult our little game into the public eye. In the first week alone nearly a quarter of a million people played The Letter, many giving us positive reviews and an overall rating of four out of five stars.

This attention brought with it unexpected rewards. In addition to hosting the chapter on our website, we also published a “wild release” on many free game sites. The volume of traffic The Last Door saw on these sites helped provide us with a source of extra income that we hadn’t anticipated.

While the funding period for Chapter 3, The Four Witnesses, hasn’t ended yet, the numbers are strong enough to guarantee continued operation of the project. As you examine the details of our budget in the follow section, you will see that the present cycle marks the first time since development of The Last Door has begun that we’ve managed to fully cover our expenses.

Third chapter budget in detail

Income:

 - Donations: 8.800€ (after Paypal commissions)
- Pilot Chapter “Wild Release”: 1.254€
- Other projects:
- Contract work during this period: 2.300€
- Sales on AppStore: 150€
Total Income: 12.504€

Expenses:

 - Development Team:
- 6 people x 600€/month x 3 month, total: 10.800 € (including taxes)
- Other:
- Music: 500 € (per chapter)
- Marketing: 377€
- Office: 1000€
- Other operational costs: 550€
Total Expenses: 13.227€

Time for some analysis

As you can see, each team member is making 600€ per month. After taxes, that comes to about 450€ in spendable income, which comes to about £385 or $620 USD. That’s much less than what could be typically earned by someone in our line of work.

But we’re not complaining. The Last Door is a true labor of love. We’re proud to have made a product relevant to today’s market. Moreover, we’re happy to be employed during such a difficult recession. Though we made a few mistakes along the way, we believe that our decision to pursue The Last Door was the right one, and your support has borne this out.

Nevertheless, we mustn’t become complacent. While we managed to sustain ourselves in this current cycle, our model still depends primarily on the generosity of the people contributing to our crowdfunding effort via PayPal. We need to look at more ways to sustain development of The Last Door and then to grow.

Financing future chapters

So far our supporters have been a great resource for ideas and suggestions in how we might improve the game or our business model. So we’re coming to you with some ideas on how we intend to continue raising money.

– First off, we need to keep doing what we can to grow our user base. We need to continue raising public awareness about our game by trying new and more sophisticated marketing experiments..

– Next, we need to aim for a shorter publishing cycle. Right now we need about three months to build, text, and release a chapter. It we optimized our production pipeline without compromising the quality of the game then we would reduce the cost of labor on a per-chapter basis. Not only that but by releasing more frequently, our fans would be able to enjoy our work that much sooner.

– Raise the funding goal for each chapter: Currently, we’re spending more than 10,000 (the current goal) to develop each chapter. We may need to carefully quantify our other sources of income, and try to set a funding goal that reflects the project budget more accurately.

– We can optimize our “wild release” of chapters on flash game portals. By deploying chapters more strategically we might be able to more effectively use these sites at a source of income.

– Finally, we can start to sell The Last Door as a standalone product. As much as we love building this game for your web browser, spending resources to build and version that users can install and run offline would open up new venues of sales, such as Steam or indie game bundles.

Closing words

We’re very happy to be able to share with you both the story of our journey from a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to the release of our third chapter as well as our vision of what we want to achieve with The Game Kitchen and The Last Door. We hope that you’ve found this post informative in giving you an appreciating the funding goals that we set for ourselves and why they have increased with each passing Chapter.

We would love to hear what you have to say about this so please don’t be shy. We closely follow the forum and will he happy to answer any questions that you may have. We are eager to receive your feedback.

We could never have created The Last Door without the support of our backers. No words of our can adequately express our gratitude to you in allowing us to pursue our dream job of making games. Thank you so very much. We hope to continue meeting, and hopefully exceed, your expectations with each new Chapter.

Mauricio.