Extra Credits Indie Fund Thoughts


This has been weighing on me for some time, I’ve wanted to update you guys more frequently about the indie fund; I just have been barely staying on the bull that is my life.  Between EC, teaching, my business, trying to get out to every conference I can in order to talk about education and trying to get out to every college that wants me I’ve just been wearing a little thin, but here it goes.

Over the last eight months I’ve looked at a few dozen projects as possibilities for the indie fund.  In each case they were outside the scope of what I thought we could do with the resources we have available or they just didn’t fit the EC ethos: hence the video a few months back telling everyone that it might be a while until we find the right product…  Of course the day after that video came out I ended up seeing a project that may well be what I was looking for, but it comes with its own baggage, baggage which I’m horribly conflicted about.

About a year ago a student came through my classes, he was an excellent designer who has since been a finalist for the EC innovation awards, been in the PAX 10, had his projects called out by name by Peter Molydeux, and been mentioned all over the interwebs, but in his second semester with me he was struggling in my classes, and so we sat down and had a conversation.  I told him that he wasn’t living up to his potential and asked him what was going on.  He told me that he was just having trouble concentrating this semester and kept say how sorry he was.  In the end I ended up advising him to drop my class and take it again in the following year.  A week later we found out he had cancer.

He went home to get treatment, still building out games as he could remotely with his team.  I heard from him periodically, trying to give what thoughts I could to help him improve as a designer, always assuming he would beat this thing.  A few weeks back he asked me to take a look at something he’d been working on.  It’s not uncommon for my students to ask me to give them feedback even after they graduate, so of course I agreed.  He showed me a prototype for a game where at any point you can press tab to see the characters thoughts…and then use those thoughts to manipulate the environment they’re in. I was kind of blown away, it has a long long way to go, but it has the potential to be phenomenal.

He started to talk to me about the development process and their plans.  It’s 2D, it’s a platformer, it’s all within scope for what a small team could do… so I of course asked him about his team.  Randomly he happened to be working with Shannon Meissner, who many of you guys may remember from the Cutscene episode.  She’d been an EC guest artist.  I doubt I could find a better artist who’d be willing to work on a brand new indie project.

So I asked him to pitch me.  He and his programmer came back with a plan totally blew me away.  They told me that they don’t want to just put out a game: they’d like to really build something that they can sustain.  They took the 50% deal we’d been proposing every time we mentioned the indie fund and threw it out the window, offering Extra Credits a small ownership stake in their company if we’d be willing to invest the $20,000 dollars they needed to get the company off the ground and get them to the point where their prototype is ready for a kickstarter.  It would start as a three person company and the wages they’d be taking are kind of  a testament to their dedication…

So I’ve been wrestling with this a lot over the last few weeks.  I want to see something grow.  I want to create real jobs.  I want to get people working on a long term basis doing what they love.  I think the game has the potential to be awesome.  And you know what, I’d kind of like to say “go screw” to a system that pretty much ensures that no one will invest in them because the fact that their designer once had cancer is a “liability”.

If it didn’t come from a student of mine I’d invest in this project no question.  Heck I’d have invested in it just as a game, even if they weren’t thinking of it as a business.  But god, how can I avoid nepotism?  I’m sure I’d invest in it otherwise, but…bah…  I can’t help but feel weird about it it coming from where it does.  Bleh…

(I have no time to edit this, so sorry for the typos/stream-of-consciousness-blargh)

Recent Comments:

  • I say go for it. It sounds interesting and unique, two things that do not get done often. And when it shows up on Kickstarter, I will gladly throw money at it.

    But if you're still on the fence, put it to a fan vote.

  • So James is basically posting to get a permission from the viewers? That's nice of him. ;)

    Hey, dude -- if you'd support them if he wasn't your student then what the hell is the problem really? The problem is that you don't wanna appear biased towards people you've already sort of worked with. But that's just amazingly close-minded. :D No offence! EVERYONE lives their lives based on their subjective experience and you're actually talking about scrapping a beautiful project based on the fact that they happened to already know you. Nothing else seemed to fit and then the one thing that fits you go ahead and invent a reason why they cannot get what they deserve? :D

    I might come off as being a bit of an ass here, but I'm kinda writing this tongue-in-cheek. Anyways, you know what's the right thing to do as soon as you get over your "don't judge me!" ego. ;) I'm glad that you take the time to really think things through, but it sounds like it's time for action now.

    EDIT: I now realize I'm late as shit with this one. :D

  • You may want to ask him why he wants to use that method instead of the 50/50 method. There's a reason publishers don't invest for stake in devs, and it's that the devs don't normally need even a fraction of their company's value. Investing on a per-game basis instead of a per-dev basis is lower-risk for both parties and generally results in happier campers.

    In addition, I think this method of funding would be an even greater form of nepotism. You should stay neutral and treat all devs the same, because pretty soon all your devs will be looking to sell shares to you and you'll be at the center of the Shark Tank. Considering you don't have a ton of capital to invest, I suggest you stick to some initial investment with returns guaranteed or the IP back and a 50/50 revenue split as laid out in the video.

  • by away is the Extra Credits Indie Fund still going or have they shut up for scheduling reason?

  • Dear James,

    If you can honestly say that you would invest in this game and believe in this project regardless of whomever was behind it then you would actually be discriminating against this team if you didn't invest in them.

    If it were another team you would just jump in. But because it is a former student it's something you're considering more carefully. And that's great. You should really look at this and decided if it's what you want to do.

    But /not/ going with them because you already knew them is punishing them for something they had no control over at this point. It's not nepotism unless you are favoring them because you knew them. Nepotism is favor granted /regardless/ of merit. It's favor for another reason apart from being the best for the job. If they are the best project for the fund they should not be out of the running just because you know them.

    I can understand why you're being so careful, but don't punish a project and a team you believe in for fear of it looking like favoritism. It isn't. Do what's right, regardless of what you /think/ others might think of you.

    We wouldn't have donated to the Indie Fund if we didn't trust you to do the right thing.


    I'm totally with you Cathy :)
    James, I know it can be hard sometimes to decide whether you are wrong or not, or whether what every one is going to think. As I watched over some of the episodes, a notice that you are the kind of guy that see the game and its potential, no matter who they came from. This also could apply here - regardless if you know the author or not, I know you will see what it matters; "potential" and "will", not "names" and "faces".

    What I think is: If you think the game "has it", Go For It!. After All is all upon the main objective of the organization, no?, to help dreams come true.
    Now if there's no productivity, you should go to see what happen. May be you can help temporally, whether you know them or not. Maybe they require a little bit more push (not in funds, but in words of motivation). Who knows, the result can be greater that was planed.
    If you think more in depth, this is not Nepotism if the cause still stick within the main objective. neither is favoritism because they deserve the place, not because you put them there.

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