Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns - Crowdfunding Feature - Memory Decompression by Dark Green Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns - Crowdfunding Feature - Memory Decompression by Dark Green Games
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Campaign Title: Memory Decompression
Platform: Kickstarter
Creator: Dark Green Games
Campaign End Date: February 8, 2021
Campaign Funding Goal: $4000
Popular Pledge Tiers: Survivor: $24, Expert Survivor: $35

This is a review and feature of the Kickstarter campaign for Memory Decompression. Note that this is not a review of the game, just commentary on the game as presented on the campaign page and a review of the campaign itself.

Memory Decompression is a solo gamebook with miniatures, where you will paly as a girl who wakes up on the beach, unable to remember who she is or what happened to her.

You struggle to open your eyes. The light is too bright to open them normally. Slowly you recover your hearing. The only thing you hear is the sound of the sea. You can feel a light breeze, but the air is really hot. You are having trouble breathing.

The sharp rocks bite into your body. The world spins around you when you stand. You have a terrible headache... The head is unbearable. You don't remember anything. You don't know who you are. You don't know where you are. You don't know why you woke up on the beach. You can only hear the whisper of the sea. The waves hit the hull of the old ship stranded a few yards away from you. Half of it is sunk under water. It seems abandoned.

When you manage to stand up, you notice a rigid orange bracelet on your wrist. There are strange symbols on it you cannot understand. You approach the ship. There is a large breach on the hull. The shine of a blue light inside catches your attention. Strange sounds come from the ship. As you approach it, you peek inside.

When you lean over to take a better look, you suddenly slip and fall down the large air conduct. You fall into a closed space, dark and flooded. You have fallen almost the full length of the ship. When you raise your head above the water, you feel the ceiling right next to your face. You cannot stand on firm ground. The room is completely flooded. You can't see the air conduct you fell through. You are having a hard time breathing. Your ears are about to pop.

These are the opening paragraphs on the Kickstarter page for Memory Decompression, a new type of choose-your-own-adventure style solo gamebook. In the game you'll take on the role of a girl who can't remember who she is, where she is, or why she's there. As you explore the mysterious cargo ship you appear to be trapped in you'll encounter all sorts of mysteries and monsters.

The game promises to provide an exciting, tense experience through a combination of storytelling and gameplay that will provide you with a unique adventure. If this sounds interesting to you, read on to learn about my overview of the campaign itself. I hope this helps you in your decision to back this game or take a pass. And jump to the end for an overview of my criteria for reviewing a crowdfunding campaign.

Blooms are the campaign's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • The game looks interesting. I like the idea of a simple, solitaire style game and story that can easily be pulled out and played. Plus, the story summary, graphics, and other components look intriguing.
  • The campaign does a good job of explaining what the game is about in attractive graphics.
  • The price to back seems reasonable for what you get.
Buds are parts of the campaign that I'd like to know more about or want to watch closely. 
  • While the game looks interesting, I wonder more about the mechanics and actual gameplay. Also, how is replayability? Update 2 mentions four possible endings, so maybe there is some replayability?
  • Though this is a new company with no history, the investment to back the game is low and the game seems simple enough to produce and the funding goal seems reasonable. I'd like to know more about the company though.
  • Shipping seems reasonable and appears to be well thought out. Based on the updates they are actively working with shipping providers to find the best solutions.
  • There are only a few comments on the campaign page, so it's not a super active community. However, the creator or collaborator has responded promptly and informatively to all questions so far. Updates during the campaign could be a little more frequent, though.
Thorns are a campaign's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • No reviews of the game. There are only commentaries on the campaign, like this one. I was contacted on January 25 and asked to feature the campaign on my site. This is rather late to start building awareness and a community.
  • No gameplay videos, rules, downloads, etc. The page graphics cover some basics of gameplay, but are vague enough that it's not really clear how the game is played.
  • Both the creator and the collaborator have no record of backing a Kickstarter game, and this is the first creation. There is also no webpage for the company, just social media pages.
  • The game has no listing on Board Game Geek.
Final Thoughts:
Overall, the campaign page looks nice, but hastily put together from a company with no reputation or experience. The game seems simple enough to manufacture, so the funding goal and pledge levels seem reasonable. I'm going to give this campaign a rating of Bud, though I feel it barely maeks it into that category. There are a number of red flags with this campaign, mainly stemming from this being a very bland campaign page that focuses on theme rather than substance and from a creator with no visible experience. However the game looks pretty interesting and the price point is low enough that it's fairly low risk and you'll be helping a new creator, which is what crowdfunding is really supposed to be all about.

With such a low funding goal, I suspect the campaign will be successful (they're already over 80% there). However, if it's not, I hope the creators take some time to learn more about the crowdfunding process, take the time to properly build a community and audience before a campaign, and include the elements necessary in their campaign to show a bit more substance. If they have to relaunch, or run a campaign for another game, there is a lot that can be done here to improve.

So, if you're interested in supporting a new creator, check out the Memory Decompression Kickstarter campaign today!

  • Interesting Product - Bloom! - Memory Decompression looks really interesting!
  • Reasonable Price Point - Bloom! - The price for what you should receive seems fair.
  • Creator Experience - Thorn - First created, zero backed, and an unknown company in the industry.
  • Track Record - Thorn - No past track record.
  • Community & Communication - Bud - Good response to comments, a couple of campaign updates, but very small social media presence and community surrounding the game.
  • Product Overviews - Bud - Product is described, but not in great detail. All images are computer generated renders.
  • Product Reviews - Thorn - There are no peer reviews and only some reviews of the campaign and speculative commentaries on the game.
  • Funding & Stretch Goals - Bud - Low funding goal seems appropriate for a new creator and for the scope of the project. Stretch goals aren't very interesting so far.
  • Board Game Specific Attributes
    • Gameplay Overview - Thorn - Very basic gameplay described in the grapics. No video, no examples, only very general and non-specific descriptions of gameplay.
    • Game Rules - Thorn - No rules provided, no how-to-play videos.
    • PnP or Downloads - Thorn - No downloads or samples provided.
    • Game Scope - Bloom - The game seems simple enough to produce, even for a first time creator.
    • Board Game Geek Listing - Thorn - No BGG listing.
Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bud!  This campaign looks pretty good, despite having
a few issues.  If the product looks like something you're
interested in, definitely check out the campaign page, but
be aware that there are a few red flags that may indicate
an inexperienced creator.  You may want to do some more
research to make sure this is a campaign you should back.

Rating Criteria:
OK, so you may be asking what kinds of elements a campaign should have in order to earn a Bloom status, and that's a valid point! Over the years I've backed dozens of crowdfunding campaigns and followed along with hundreds more. I wish my budget allowed me to back a whole lot more - consider supporting me on Patreon so I can! Anyway, in all that time I've only had one campaign I've backed fail to deliver and that was a very unusual circumstance. When I look at a campaign there are a number of things I consider to determine if it's a campaign I feel is worth backing. This is a list of some of the criteria I check, and these will help determine if a campaign receives a Bloom, Bud, or Thorn rating here. A Bloom doesn't necessarily require all of these elements, and a Thorn may have many of them, but this will give you an idea of what I'm looking for in a campaign. Also, keep in mind that my experience is generally with board game related crowdfunding campaigns (games, accessories, media support, etc.). Occasionally I may feature a campaign outside of board games that I find interesting and some of these criteria may not apply, but that'll be rare.
  • Interest - Does the product look interesting? This is the first thing that will catch my attention for most campaigns. If it's a product I find interesting I'll definitely be checking out the campaign, even if my budget doesn't allow me to support it at this time.
  • Experience - Is the creator an experienced creator? Usually this is easy to tell by checking to see if the creator has run or backed any previous crowdfunding campaigns. Sometimes this is a first campaign though and then things get trickier. Often someone with previous crowdfunding experience launches a campaign under a new account (for their business), or a company is new but componsed of industry veterans, or maybe this is a new creator but has the support of an experienced collaborator, or maybe the person really is new to crowdfunding but is an active member of the online board game design, publishing, and crowdfunding communities.
  • Track Record - Just because a creator has experience with crowdfunding doesn't necessarily mean they're good at it. What is the creator's past track record? Do they have funded campaigns or just a string of failures? Do they have a reputation for delivering their product? Have campaigns been on time or late? Have there been any other issues in the past? Does the creator have a number of unfulfilled campaigns that are still 'in process'? If so, this could mean they are running one campaign to fund a previous campaign, or it could just mean they're busy publishers.
  • Community & Communication - What type of communication does the campaign, or the creator's past campaigns look like? Is there an active commentor community? Is the creator and any collaboartors active? How frequently do backers get updates? Is the creator actively communicating outside of the crowdfunding platform?
  • Product Overviews - Does the campaign effectively show off the product? The campaign should explain the product clearly through good graphics, overview videos, etc.
  • Product Reviews - Does the campaign feature product reviews? Are they reviews or paid promotions or just customer testimonials? Are the reviews from reputable sources and recognizable names?
  • Funding & Stretch Goals - Do the funding and stretch goals seem reasonable and well thought out. A rediculously high funding goal for a simple game could mean the creator hasn't researched effective manufacturing sources. Likewise, a super low funding goal could mean this is cash grab. Stretch goals should also be well thought out and a it should be obvious how these will impact manufacturing and fulfillment.
  • Shipping - Shipping is notoriously tricky, so a reasonable plan for handling shipping should be apparent on the campaign page.
  • Board Game Specific Attributes - These are a few things that I specifically look for with board games. Some of these don't apply to every game, but if they're missing there should be a good reason.
    • Gameplay Overview - Games should have either a gameplay video, detailed overview of how the game experience, or both.
    • Game Rules - The game rules should be available in either a downloadable PDF, how to play video, or both.
    • PnP or Downloads - If practical, does the game offer a print and play trial? Are there any sample downloads so backers can experience parts of the game?
    • Game Scope - What is the game scope, i.e. is this a small, simple game or a large complex game. This in itself doesn't matter much, but a simpler game is more appropriate for a newer creator.
    • Board Game Geek Listing - Does the game have a listing on Board Game Geek? If so, is there any useful information about the game or the publisher, like ratings, reviews, videos, forum posts, etc.?

About Crowdfunding:
Crowfunding or Crowdsourcing is a method of funding a creative project by reaching out to the community for support. Crowdfunding is a relatively new way for creators to secure funds for their projects without going through the traditional routs of securing loans, finding traditional investors, or shelling out their own cash. Instead, creators creat a crowdfunding campaign on one of a number of crowdfunding sites. Then people who are interested in seeing the project succeed and come to fruition can support the creator. Usually this is in exchange for an early release version of the product, though most crowdfunding platforms state that you are supporting the creator and receiving a gift in return, so you aren't actually purchasing an item. This varies from service to service though, so be sure you are aware of the crowdfunding site's terms and policies.

Usually the benefit of crowdfunding to creators is lower risk on their part. Creators can guage interest in their product before actually manufacturing it. If they sell 300 copies of a product on Kickstarter they know that a manufacturing run of 500 or 1000 copies is reasonable. But if they can only get 20 copies funded then they know there may not be interest in their product or they have work to do to build awareness and an audience. Likewise, if a product is wildly successful and crowdfunds 5000 copies, they can plan accordingly and not be left without product to meet demand. Crowdfunding also serves as a good marketing tool to build awareness and hype for a product's retail release. Often, a successfully crowdfunded product will sell many more copies once the item reaches traditional retail outlets. That said, creators still have to invest a lot of time and money before even launching a crowdfunding campaign. In order for a campaign to be a success backers expect to see more than just an idea. They want to see a near final product. In the case of games, this means at least some finished artwork, well thought out rules, good gameplay examples, peer reviews, advertising, a brand and fan community, and more. All this takes time and money up front that may or may not be able to be recouped in a campaign. So even though crowdfunding mitigates some risk, there is still a substantial upfront cost.

The benefit for backers or supporters is usually the ability to get in on a product

Below is a short summary of some of the more common crowdfunding platforms used for funding board games and what sets them apart.
  • Kickstarter - Kickstarter is the behemoth in crowdfunding, especially for board games. With Kickstarter backers' funds are not collected until a funding goal is met. If the goal is not met no funds are collected or distrubuted. Kickstarter takes about 5% of the funds a creator raises for successful campaigns. Usually with a Kickstarter campaign there are stretch goals that provide additional content as funding levels beyond the initial goal. Kickstarter is well established and recognized, especially within the board game community, and is typically pretty reliable, though there are plenty of stories of unfulfilled projects, creators going bankrupt due to poor planning, etc.
  • Gamefound - Gamefound is a new crowdfunding platform designed specifically for board game related campaigns. While it doesn't have the huge audience that Kickstarter has, it was first a pretty popular pledge manger and is run by Awaken Realms, a fairly successful board game publisher that has previously run several multi-million dollar campagins on Kickstarter. Gamefound campaigns should be pretty reliable, especially as the service seeks high-profile, previously successful companies to run campaigns on their platform to gain a bigger foothold in the crowdfunding space.
  • The Game Crafter Crowd Sale - The major difference between The Game Crafter's Crowd Sales and other crowdfunding platforms is that the games availble here are ready for immediate (or near immediate) delivery. Rather than funding an idea that still has to be developed and manufactured, The Game Crafter utilizes their print-on-demand capabilities to allow creators to sell larger production runs of their games. Rather than funding and stretch goals, a Crowd Sale is successful if even one copy of a game is sold. But, as more copies are purchased everyone gets to benefit from a larger print run. Discounts increase as more copies are sold. Once the campaign is over The Game Crafter will print and ship all copies of the game. Since the games are already made this is generally the lowest risk for both creators and backers, though the creator must have a completely finished product before running the campaign.
  • Indiegogo - Indiegogo isn't used very often for major board games, though it is sometimes used to increase funding after a game's previous run on Kickstarter. One of the big features to consider for Indiegogo, for both creators and backers, is that the platform is not an all or nothing model like Kickstarter. Once a backer pledges the creator has access to that money. The creator does not have to wait for a campaign to end before they can use money that has been pledged. This, combined with Indiegogo's less stringent policies about who can create campaigns and what for, make Indiegogo a riskier option for backers.
  • Others - There are a few other crowdfunding platforms as well. A few publishers have their own, in-house crowdfunding platforms that are more like pre-order systems (most notably Hasbro's Pulse site). Sites like GoFundMe, Fundly, Causes, LendingClub, and even Facebook can also be used to raise funds for various purposes, often charitable causes or business ventures, too. There are also a number of sites, like or Buy Me a Coffee that are great for helping content creators, like me!

Did you like this crowdfunding campaign feature?  Show your support: Support me on Patreon!  Also, click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Disclaimer: Crowdfunding products often comes at a risk.  Depending on the platform being used, you may be investing in a company or idea rather than a product.  Not all crowdfunding platforms guarantee that you will receive a product in return for your support.  A feature on GJJ Games does not mean a campaign is low risk, guaranteed to deliver, or a good investment, regardless of the rating received.  Always do your own research and make a wise decision.  GJJ Games is not responsible for the outcome of any campaigns featured here.

GJJ Games Crowdfunding Features are a replacement to my previous Eye on Kickstarter series.  Instead of featuring all the campaigns that I find interesting, I'll highlight one campaign at a time.  Sometimes these are for campaigns that have reached out to me to be featured (often in exchange for a copy of the game and will include a link to my disclaimer page), and sometimes they are for campaigns that I personally find especially interesting and would like to share.  These features are a review of the campaign itself and not necessarily a review of the product, though I'll often include comments on my impression of the product as well.  It's important to know that most of the time I will not have played or used the product being crowdfunded.  If I have experience with the product I will mention that in the feature.

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