Sid Meier wary of crowdfunding hampering games' design flexibility

By Alice O'Connor, May 15, 2013 1:30pm PDT

Crowdfunding may be a fine way to raise money, but what if your vision for the game changes over the course of development? It's a sticky situation, luminary designer Sid Meier has said. Things are of course a bit easier when your name alone is enough to sell games, but he's pretty happy having a publisher handle the boring work for him.

One issue with Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites is that developers present a specific vision, often with as much detail as they possibly can, to lure in backers. Only, decisions made early on in development may end up being reversed or changed as the game takes shape.

"I think you kind of lock yourself into a lot of ideas early. I really enjoy the luxury of changing my design and evolving over time," the Civilization creator told GamesIndustry International.

"I'd be a little concerned with Kickstarter if I committed to X, Y and Z and I found out down the road that Z didn't work very well, I kind of promised to do this. I think it's great for people who want that indie environment, but there are advantages and disadvantages to each situation."

Meier's been working under publisher for yonks now, and the studio he-founded Firaxis has been owned by Take-Two Interactive since 2005, and it's working out quite nicely for him.

"They do all the stuff I don't want to do; they allow me to make games and really focus on that part of what it takes to get a game out there. I get to design games, I get to program games, I get to work with the artists and the sound guys and do the fun stuff. They worry about testing it and publishing it and promoting it and selling it--whatever it takes to do that I would be really bad at, they do."

He added, "So more power to Chris Roberts and the Kickstarter, but having a great publisher is a real asset and allows me to focus on the things that I can do and not worry about all the other stuff that needs to be worried about."

Of course, not many developers have as much weight as Sid Meier when it comes to getting their own way. While he may be free to do as he pleases in many ways, others are constrained by publishers perhaps as much as they would be by sticking to crowdfunding promises.

It'll be interesting to see what happens when, inevitably, a crowdfunded game does end up quite different to the original plan. HareBrained Schemes received a surprising amount of backlash when it announced it was using Steam for Shadowrun Returns's modkit so gosh, imagine what would happen with actual meaningful changes.

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