Evil Intent, Kraken Games, and How to Revive a Failed Kickstarter

The world of Kickstarter is rife with opportunity and tragedy. The independent crowd source funding site has gained widespread attention and popularity for the staggering money that developers across industries have raised by appealing directly to consumers.

Yet for every Double Fine Adventure and Zombicide there are dozens of projects that barely raise any money at all, and fall well short of funding goals. According to a study by Ethan Mollick of UPenn in 2012, only 3% of projects that fail get even 50% toward their goal. With all of the odds seemingly stacked against projects that don’t take off, it seems crazy to think that a company would go back to Kickstarter a second time after failing.

Enter Evil Intent, the first project from Kraken Games, a small Houston based gaming company currently operating out of a home office. In it you play as an evil mastermind with plans to takeover the world. Trouble is all of your opponents have the same idea. Players take turns trying to accumulate resources and assets to achieve their secret evil scheme all while trying to prevent their rivals from doing the same. The game calls for 2-6 players and scales in duration based on the number of players.

Evil Intent first was posted to Kickstarter in the latter half of 2012. It had a funding goal of around $55,000, but by the end of fundraising it hadn’t even reached 50% (the final tally was $23,439). Many people would have given up, perhaps moved on to other projects. Instead Kraken Games re-tooled, fueled by feedback from backers, and returned to Kickstarter with a vengeance – and a funding goal that was cut by more than half!

How did they do that? To find out we talked to Christian Strain, one of the founders of Kraken Games, along with Erin McDonald. Strain spoke to Castles and Cooks recently about the lessons learned from the first failed Kickstarter, why he doesn’t eat or drink near his games, and which X-men character’s superpower he would love to have.

Castles and Cooks:  What inspired your game?

Christian Strain: Every now and then, whenever you play games so much, there’s that conversation like “you know what would make a real great game?” The more we talked about it, the more real it became and so we said, let’s go do it.

CC: What about art inspirations? (Strain is the lead artist for the game)

Strain: Can’t really say that there is, but can’t really say that there aren’t influences in there. I will say that if there was an influence, it probably would be from The Incredibles. If you look at their character design, it’s that smooth, bigger head than body, typically, look. We weren’t saying that we needed to look like the Incredibles, but I remember when I was drawing Natasha I remember saying, “hey she looks like she could be an Incredibles character.”

CC: Were you always set on going to Kickstarter or did you have other ideas for funding?

Strain: Kickstarter was one of the reasons that those conversations kept happening. We had been looking at Kickstarter just for fun [for] ourselves, and after we talked about this idea, we said Kickstarter was the only way to do it, because we couldn’t fund it ourselves. With Kickstarter, the dream started coming real.

CC: Given that so many Kickstarters don’t get funded, what made you decide to go back and try a second time? What did you learn after the first Kickstarter?

Strain: We spent a year working on the game… It is a lot of work, there was no way we were going to say “oh it didn’t work” and just go on with our lives.

Natasha was the first drawing of the entire game.

We wanted to sit down and say why didn’t this work? The main thing we saw was that it just cost too much, the goal was too high. That came from the ignorance of us with printers. By cutting the volume in half, and making some printing choices that don’t affect quality, like we made the board 20 millimeters wider so it would fit a print they have and save us about $1000. We spent the last 3 months talking to printers and re-educating ourselves. We even found out how to get better shipping for us, for international.

We got a lot of notes from the backers near the end. A lot of people were excited about the game and saw it wasn’t going to be funded. It all comes down to just listening to what the backers told us before.

CC: Did you have any concerns that the funding still wouldn’t be available when you came back to Kickstarter?

Strain: We saw that our first attempt got us $23,000. They [Kickstarter] don’t take down your failure, so everyone that backed you, you can send them a notice that you’re coming back. We sent an update through there to talk to all of our backers before, and that’s why we got 40% of our funding the first day, and of that, 80% were people who backed us the first time.

CC: One of the unique things your Kickstarter is that it has is an actual playtest. What can you tell us about the playtest:

Strain: Backers wanted to see reviews from people other than us. We had also just finished a print version of the rules, and after a year of playing it and making all of our friends and families play it, we realize that we hadn’t tested out the rules with anyone who had never seen it before. So we went to 8th dimension comics and we said “hey can we playtest this?” and they were all for it. I had no clue how fun they would be. I was very pleased with their personalities on the video.

CC: Between now and July (the expected release date) there are plenty of conventions. Do you have any plans to take Evil Intent out into the world and show it off?

Strain: We are definitely going to go to conventions. We went to OwlCon held by Rice University and some people came by and said “hey I’m backing that!” which was great. Once the full game is out we will definitely take it around to different conventions.

CC: What’s your favorite gaming food?

Strain: Coffee, I just like having coffee and drinking it. Anytime I play a game, even if it’s not mine, no food or drink on the table. I’m afraid of getting crumbs on them. I treat board games like comic books.

CC: Any super power?

Strain: Mystique’s ability to turn into anyone I want. I could be any character from my game.

As of this posting, Evil Intent has reached its funding goal and now looks to raise more money toward stretch goals. There’s no better time to invest, since you are guaranteed that the project will be funded and you’ll be getting a return on your investment (the game is tentatively scheduled for release in July 2013). Below are links to the Kickstarter page for Evil Intent as well as the website and Facebook pages of Kraken Games.

Evil Intent Kickstarter Page
Kraken Games website.
Kraken Games Facebook page