As with every videogame Kickstarter, the majority of backers opted for a basic pre-order of Legend of Dungeon. A few though, were “very excited” to spend a little more cash for the option to co-create an item, NPC or boss for the game.
“A lot of the coolest stuff that is in the game right now is backer content,” Calvin says. “One of the CEOs of PopCap Games asked to put a Plants vs Zombies character into the game. So, that was awesome.”
“Originally he asked for a unicorn, but we already had a unicorn in there,” Alix says with a laugh. “There’s [also] going to be a hat that’s a little gerbil which sits on your head and throws baby gerbils.”
The team had something else to attract potential backers: a playable, easy to access demo hosted on the RobotLovesKitty site.
Although the precise influence of that slice of gameplay is difficult to quantify, Calvin thinks it played a huge role in spreading news of the game and generating interest.
“There’s something about the viralness of it,” he tells me. “A lot of people sharing it with their friends and stuff like that. The demo in its early stages was pretty fun, so I think that got people excited.”
“It also confirmed to people that it was an actual project, I think,” says Alix.
With the money raised from Kickstarter, the pair can focus on full-time game development and delay a return to the Vermont-based treehouse in the woods where they’d previously lived to save cash.
“It cost us almost nothing to live [in the treehouse],” Calvin says. “We were able to take in a little bit of money from [previous games] Tiny Plumbers and Neverdaunt . This is a lot better because we can actually, you know, have power all day.”
At the treehouse, power came from a couple of self-built solar panels and water had to be carried up a cliff from a nearby source.
“Every day you wake up and it’s an adventure. So it’s amazing, but it’s also … it’s a lot of time … It’s very time intensive.”
“Having limited resources is hard when you want to work all day,” Alix says, “[But] it was fun.”
Away from the rewarding hardships of forest life, the most immediate issues are getting Legend of Dungeon feature-complete and navigating the mysteries of Steam’s Greenlight process.
“As far as [Greenlight] ranking goes, we’re doing pretty good,” Alix tells me.
“We’re in the top 100,” Calvin adds. “Apparently at that point, from what we know, that is the point at which Valve starts to look at your stuff. So that’s good.”
“People go [to Steam] because they have trusted, quality games … so to be one of those quality games would be really nice,” says Alix.
But both admit to some confusion about Valve’s new crowd-curation process, and describe a strange situation where their internal Greenlight stats page appears to show Legend of Dungeon with more votes than its ranking would actually suggest.
“It’s still a mystery to us,” Calvin says.
Despite the oddities of the system, the team feels its an improvement on the digital platform’s former approach. “Obviously this is far better than submitting something to Valve and have them turn you down flat out,” says Alix.
No matter how that Greenlight submission turns out, Legend of Dungeon will initially be released on PC, Mac and Linux, with Android and Ouya versions to follow.
Right now though there’s still “a lot” to get done, and the additional features funded by Kickstarter pledges have extended the development time in unusual ways. When you start to add special gerbil hats that fire baby gerbils to a game, it requires a fair bit of extra code.
“We’re just trying to get all the features into the game as soon as possible. And then we’re going to put the final polish and debugging on,” Calvin says. “I was going to make this Legend of Dungeon game just as a quick, little, you know … I had no idea that people would like it so much. There was just no thought in my head that this was going to be a big deal.”
It’s clear though that RobotLovesKitty has few regrets about taking on the challenge of a larger, crowd-funded title.
“[Kickstarter] was such an immense thing to do, and the fact that ours was successful kind of blows us away,” says Alix.
For more details on how RobotLovesKitty approached their Kickstarter, have a read of Alix’s post-campaign blog post.