For every Kickstarter campaign that succeeds in realizing its creator’s dream, there are many, many more that end up falling short. Some don’t stand a chance, raising little more than a few dollars thanks to uninspired ideas, lack of marketing, or lack of preparation and the proper respect for the kind of work bringing a crowd-sourced campaign to life entails. Others manage to gain a following and raise part of their funds, but ultimately fail to garner the support necessary for success even though they may have put a great deal of effort into realizing their game and researching the campaign. Most creators in the latter group usually call that the end of the road, resulting in a game unrealized, and a project creator that walks away from the table. For some, however, an unsuccessful campaign is an opportunity to step back and reevaluate their project, retool their campaign, and come back for hopefully successful seconds. So it is with Sebastian Bauer and his game, Cyntopia: the Future is Now.
Cyntopia launched on Kickstarter at the beginning of November, 2014, but was cancelled just weeks later after it became apparent the project was not going to reach its lofty initial funding goal of $125,000. The campaign certainly did not suffer from a lack of polish: the project page itself was very well done, and Sebastian had coordinated ahead-of-time with the Board Game Kickstarter Advice communities on Facebook to ensure the included graphics, layout, and content all looked professional and streamlined. The project page showcased the game well: a tactical, cooperative game set in a dystopian world that came complete with great looking miniatures, modular game boards, custom dice, a campaign booklet, and advanced optional rules for deeper RPG-based gameplay.
By all accounts, Cyntopia was and is a great looking game with lots of potential. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be and a combination of factors led to its cancellation mid-campaign. Determined to see Cyntopia hit your table, however, Sebastian has been hard at work the past few months retooling the game and manufacturing process in the hopes that its eventual relaunch on Kickstarter later this year will end with success. Sebastian was gracious enough to take some time out of the redesign process to answer some questions for us about what happened during the initial Cyntopia campaign, and to give us some insight into the approach he has taken to get the game fit for its second coming.
First, please give us a brief synopsis of the game experience you’re hoping to provide players in Cyntopia.
With Cyntopia I wanted to create a simple system, which allows everyone to start gaming within minutes, but can also be enhanced, for the player, who wants more depth. And in short: An easy to learn cyberpunk dungeon crawler.
What did you originally envision for the campaign in terms of project-scope and funding? What aspects of the game contributed most to the large initial funding goal?
The initial goal was very high, I knew that, but I wanted to try to create the game I had in mind – without any watered down aspects. That’s simple: the tools. Cyntopia had quite a lot of miniatures and strong cardboard tiles in it. We needed six molds for the spraycast miniatures and about eight cutting boards for all cardboard tiles, that was most of the calculated goal.
After a whole week without any new pledges or the real problem were pledges which were canceled again.
I’ve asked the backers, why they choose to cancel their pledge and most answers were “I don’t think we can reach it.”
Did you take any action during the campaign to try and save it?
During the campaign we shared more and more information about the game on the internet, asked our backers for help and tried to get a thunderclap campaign running, too.
At what point did you decide cancelling was the best idea, and why?
As mentioned earlier, after the harsh week of realization. I knew we had to make at least about 40% during the first two weeks and were not even close to that, so I thought it would be best to pull the plug and work with the community to reshape the game.
What do you think were the main reasons for the first campaign failing to meet its funding goal?
In hindsight: marketing and the high goal.I should have gathered more reviewers, to show more gameplay. Could have paid money for advertisement and shared more information upfront. Although I still stand behind initial goal, I can understand why people thought it was too much to ask for.
What was the process of figuring out what needed to change for a relaunch?
With the old calculation in mind I went straight back to the drawing board, trying to resize the cardboard tiles, thinking about a new overall design.
What are the changes that were finally decided on?
To lower the goal as much as possible I’ve decided, together with the producing company LudoFact, that it will be the best to start without the miniatures. We’ll replace them with cardboard standups and change the size and numbers for the floortiles and character boards, so that we will need less tools.
What specifically have you done to meet those goals for a relaunch campaign?
I flew over to Munich and met my partner from LudoFact, we’ve had a long meeting and worked on the game in order to decrease the initial funding goal. Also knowing the mistakes I’ve made the last time, I’ve cleared my mind and focused on the campaign itself.
Do you feel the first campaign’s cancellation ended up being a positive thing in terms of the experience gained, and the changes made to the game? Why/why not?
Totally, although it was a frustrating experience at first, it opened my eyes and the feedback from the backers is very important for me and the development. It showed me a lot of missing things in the campaign layout, people wanted to see more gameplay, wanted to see everything from the start.
Given your experience with Cyntopia, do you have any advice for first-time designers looking to Kickstart?
Entertainment, marketing and be prepared. If you think you have everything done for the campaign, think again and let complete strangers look over it. Also you have to build a community upfront – if you start the campaign and noone knew about the start, you missed something out.
What about advice for those who have experienced a campaign that did not fund, but want to eventually relaunch?
Find out the main reasons, why it didn’t funded and eliminate those. Also don’t take a failed/canceled campaign personally and don’t try to cling to the idea of your dream game, sometimes changes have to be made and sometimes you were just unlucky.
When can we look forward to Cyntopia’s fresh debut?
Currently I’m thinking about summer ’15, I want to get everything finished and shiny this time.
So, there you have it. Cyntopia from Sebastian Bauer will find its way back to Kickstarter later this year in its new leaner-and-meaner format, and hopefully to the public’s tables sometime after that. For those thinking of creating a Kickstarter campaign, or who have also endured an unsuccessful campaign, I hope Sebastian’s candor about the process will help guide and inspire you to try and try again, or will help give you some direction in the face of future project adversity.
If you’d like to keep up with Cyntopia, please visit the game’s facebook page. We’re also hoping to preview the game ahead of its Kickstarter relaunch, so be sure to check back with us here at COG Gaming for that! In the meantime, let’s all keep our fingers crossed those awesome dice still get included as add-ons 🙂