Shallow Space dev gives crowdfunding post mortem


The real-time strategy genre sort of died a death in the mid 2000s. EA/Westwood (RIP) did their best to suffocate the Command & Conquer brand by first simplifying it for consoles, then making it free-to-play (and cancelling the latest). Blizzard Entertainment had been a bit preoccupied with some other game in their armoury. The genre was struggling to innovate, people stopped playing and it went dormant. Turn-based took over for a while. But then something happened… First, the long-awaited StarCraft II came out, reinvigorating excitement for real time strategy, and recently, Gearbox Software took some spit and polish to the now-legendary Homeworld series with Homeworld Remastered, a beautiful rebuild of the original two games. There’s also Shallow Space: Insurgency, 3D space RTS with a nod to games like Homeworld.

In a post-StarCraft II era, I’ve hoping we see a renaissance within the RTS community. It’s easy to fall into the rut that there’s nothing new to try within the genre, but that’s just not the case. Really, we saw a shift to multiplayer online battle arena type games like League of Legends, which, funnily enough, started life as a mod for Warcraft III called Defence of the Ancients, which focuses on the hero characters and their fights, rather than base-building and resource management. Now whether there’s renewed vigour within the RTS genre, or just that fans are taking more notice, there’s certainly more to play!

Shallow Space is a 3D Real Time Strategy game inspired by Nexus: The Jupiter incident and Homeworld.

Shallow Space is already looking promising. There’s a meaty alpha build offered up to convince you if the screenshots and busy YouTube channel don’t already. The game also got success on Steam Greenlight, paving the way for a full Steam release (or perhaps Early Access?). The developers, Special Circumstance Games, launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo, asking for $85,000, just before the Easter Holiday started. The campaign ended on Monday 4 May, hitting just above 10% of their target, at $9,047.

What went wrong?

There’s a decent post-mortem, written by the lead developer, over on their indiedb section, which is totally worth a read if you’re either looking to run a crowdfund campaign yourself, or like me, find these things fascinating. The crux of the matter can be summed up by a very bad decision made by the team at the very start:

So the launch was botched for a start, we made a bad decision. I enlisted the help of a marketing agency who said ‘do not launch on a weekend and do not launch near a holiday’ I spread those words amongst the team and we concluded that ‘hey it means there will be more people by their computers, lets do it anyway.’

As a PR professional myself, I know how tempting it is to clients to disregard tried and tested methodology, thinking it’s brave and edgy. It’s not. You’re paying people to make these proposals for you and you need to trust them. They’re based on a very long list of successes and failures: tried and tested formulas. So many of these campaigns get launched, powered by passion for their concept and a large dose of naivety.

Personally, I think the reality of a very crowded market for (ahem) crowdfinding sites like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter is starting to set in. We’ve gone past the honeymoon period (or gold rush, if you prefer) and there’s just so much going on now that your game has to really stand out, either by having a very slick and well planned campaign, being at the right place at the right time or having an already established catalogue. From here on out, successful crowdfunding (and this applies outside of games too!) is going to be even less forgiving than grafting off your own back. Sure, the payout might be bigger, but so will the pressure.

Grab the Linux, OS X or Windows demo for Shallow Space: Insurgency on indie DB and give it a whirl!


About Dan Morse

From the Atari 2600 right through to bleeding fast PCs, Dan's played on them all. One thing that's never changed is an unwavering passion for video games. Twitter: @happydan | Steam: happydan | GOG: happydan