OtherSpace – Crowd funding a roleplaying game
In the last article about OtherSpace‘s upcoming story arc, I mentioned that the new story was funded by the members. This goes to funding the website’s hosting costs (not to be underestimated! I bet there’s many GMs out there who selfishly foot the bill of their hobby, whilst users get a free service!), marketing costs, player rewards, artwork. I thought it was pretty unusual for a roleplaying community to ask for money for the volunteers, so I asked OtherSpace’s Wes Platt about it:
Are the contributions mandatory or voluntary?
It’s worth noting that we don’t just have contributions coming from participants, although many of our sponsors do play the game. Several are just friends of the game or fans of the idea of collaborative real-time storytelling. Honestly, I’d prefer to see more patrons supporting our creative efforts from outside the playerbase. It just feels so unfair sometimes, going back to the same well and asking for help from the same people, time and again. I’ve been very lucky, though. We have some extremely supportive players. All that said: It is absolutely voluntary. There’s no price of admission and no membership dues. You can join the saga and never contribute a dime – you’ll still be welcome.
Other than the obvious expense of server hosting, what does this money also cover?
Hosting is a huge part of it, for both the website and the game itself. I spend some proceeds on marketing and advertising in venues such as Facebook, RPG.net, and even college newspapers. I also pay the hosting costs for a special Minecraft server for our players who love that game. Contributions also go toward prizes, such as Amazon.com gift certificates, which are awarded to players and staffers in special awards ceremonies after story arcs and other major game events.
What perks do members get for contributing money?
The major benefit that a player gets for contributing to OtherSpace would be Saga Points: 100 for every $1 they give to the game under normal circumstances. However, during special offer periods, we may give 2-for-1, 3-for-1, even as many as 30-for-1 when I’m feeling particularly lunatic. Saga Points are used in our crafting system to build everything from armor and weapons and robots to empires and player-created universes. Beyond those in-game benefits, we also showcase our sponsors on the main website at jointhesaga.com and in the chronicles of our story arcs – similar to the roster of patrons you’ll find in performing arts theater programs.
Does the crowd funding approach mean you can spend more time developing OtherSpace?
I wouldn’t say that this approach gives me more time to develop OtherSpace. I’ve got a full-time job as a journalist that keeps me plenty busy during normal working hours. But I will say that when this project pays for itself (and then some), it certainly justifies the time and energy that I put into it after hours and on weekends. In the end, the work I do on OtherSpace is a cross between freelance writing and Fantasy Island. I’m responsible for creating real-time narratives for players so that they can make the most of their characters and their adventures. Financial support makes it easier to give up time I might spend on a solo project to entertain players from around the world.
Honestly I was hoping Wes would tell me he’s rolling in the cash he collects from his members and earns enough that he quit his day job to focus his attentions on OtherSpace all day long, but sadly that’d be an unrealistic expectation. I think it’s great that his members contribute to the ongoing costs, but at best it’s a hobby that pays for itself, and not a way to make profit.