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Kickstart This! Anniversary Interview: Holden Boyles Talks About Qora
Spirit, as it was known then, featured in in March 2014’s Guinness Aftermath Edition of Kickstart This! At the time, the project managed to earn $10,692, more than double its $4,000 initial goal. Since then, it underwent a title change to Qora, and was released soon after in October 2014, making it one of the quickest turnarounds for a Kickstarter campaign I’ve ever seen.
We caught up with creative mind behind Qora, Holden Boyles, to discuss his game, as well as other projects he has funded through the crowdfunding platform.
Andrew Rainnie, Warp Zoned UK Correspondent: The first thing that attracted me to Qora was not just the pixel art (which we all love at Warp Zoned), but how you utilized the scope, making the character minute to give the world an epic feel. How important was that sense of exploration and adventure to you?
Boyles: I tried to force Qora players to focus on the environments and things happening around them rather than the actions of the protagonist or the mechanics of the game. Making the characters tiny and the worlds expansive and epic was my way of trying to draw the focus to these settings.
WZ – Andrew: The game featured in our Kickstart This! column back in March 2014. Did you design the project with Kickstarter in mind, or did you pursue other funding avenues before crowdfunding became viable?
Boyles: Cip (Ciprian Stanciu, Qora’s Cross-Platform Programmer) and I made the demo with my money, anticipating the finished game to not be much longer than the demo and possibly be doable with the rest of the money I had saved at the time. Kickstarter was a way to expand the game and insure we both wouldn’t come out completely broke or unable to finish the game at all. So crowdfunding was definitely in our plan from the near start.
WZ – Andrew: Shortly after successfully funding the game, you changed the title from Spirit to Qora. What was the story behind the name change?
Boyles: Since the game was lengthened and built upon due to its Kickstarter success, I added a lot more plot and back story. The name “Qora” comes from an element of the new plot.
WZ – Andrew: The game was completed seven months after your received the funding. Considering the development of some games takes years, how did you manage to do so much in such a short space of time?
Boyles: We had already done a lot of groundwork in completing the demo, but also just worked night and day on it with some help from Curve, who published it on Steam. Also, I think the game itself was on the simpler side in terms of developmental challenges, so it was an easier project for both of us in that regard.
WZ – Andrew: You ran the campaign under your own name rather than a studio. Were you worried that people might not invest in an individual developer rather than a studio team? Do you think you will form a studio at any point?
Boyles: I really didn’t know what kind of audience was out there when we launched Qora. I just crossed my fingers and hoped that there were people who liked the art style and the philosophy behind the game and would want to play it. Thankfully there was a large enough demographic of supporters to make the game happen, and in the end, that’s all that mattered. Maybe one day I’ll form a studio, if my games are pulling in enough money to justify it.
WZ – Andrew: Qora is obviously a very personal project, and while you done most of the work yourself, you listed Ciprian Stanciu as a Cross-Platform Programmer. What was the working relationship like?
Boyles: I don’t know anything about programming, so in order to make Qora, I needed to hire a freelancer to partner up with me to make the game. So after looking for a while, I finally came across Cip and everything unfolded from there. I live in the States, he lives in Romania, so we made Qora remotely, and are still working together (at a much slower pace) on getting Qora brought to other platforms.
WZ – Andrew: Back to Kickstarter. How important was the Kickstarter community to you? How did you go about spreading word about the game?
Boyles: I’d funded two films of mine on Kickstarter prior to Qora, so I was pretty pumped about crowdfunding in general. I had a feeling that for this project though, I would need the support of a lot of interested strangers to make it happen, opposed to people primarily within my own network. So when backers started rolling in from around the world, it got me really excited about the whole process and gave me some hope that there were like-minded people out there in the world. I contacted various game sites and reporters to try and get the news out, which definitely helped, but in the end, Kickstarter featured the game in their weekly newsletter which brought the most attention to it, and eventually carried it to its goal.
WZ – Andrew: What are the fundamental differences between running a game campaign and a film campaign?
Boyles: So far, I’ve funded a feature film, To Exist, and a short film, Torlo: Chapter 1, through Kickstarter, and both relied heavily on our own personal network. The demographic that watches indie films is way different from the demographic that plays indie games. Also, because they are two very different mediums, people experience them in different ways and therefore have a different opinion about funding them. I think most people don’t understand how games are made, or what it takes to make them, so they’re willing to put their money into a project they want to see succeed, trusting that the developers have skills beyond their comprehension. Film, on the other hand, is something that every person thinks they know how to do because they can shoot anything with their phone nowadays, so they can’t justify giving someone money for a film project, when they believe it’s such a simple and uncostly process. I’ve actually discovered these opinion through my own personal experience, friends and acquaintances constantly baffled at why this or that film cost so much to make, yet completely surrendering that doubt when discussing game development.
WZ – Andrew: Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites have changed the face of gaming forever. Do you think it will continue to be a creative hub for gamers and game developers, challenging standard conventions, or do you think it will diminish as the years go by?
Boyles: I hope that crowdfunding continues to grow and becomes more prominent in how products and ideas make it to the public. It’s so hard to find the funds for innovative and unique ideas, because they’re inherently risky from an investment stand point. So bringing concepts straight to the people who are going to be using them and experiencing them is the next best way to find that needed capital.
WZ – Andrew: Now that Qora is out in the world, are you going to be returning to video game development, or pursue the film projects you are working on? If you were to make another game, what would it be like?
Boyles: I’m actually doing both right now. I am currently working on the Qora follow-up, which will be a mobile game, and I’m also working on two film projects. The Qora follow-up is something happening on the side with a new programmer, and the film projects are larger costly endeavors that require a lot more time and attention.
WZ – Andrew: You have a Zelda tattoo on your arm? What games do you play as a gamer, and what games inspire you to be creative?
Boyles: I’ve got the Triforce right at the top of a sleeve! These days I look for unique art-minded games, mostly on PC, because I currently don’t own any consoles. Though I’m still searching for that Ocarina of Time of today. The only experience in my adult life that has come close to that initial magic and wonder of Zelda, has been playing Shadow of the Colossus and Ico. I do enjoy distracting myself with first person shooters and other adventure games, but I’m always being disappointed by the lack of imagination that is rampant throughout the gaming industry. I think the public and developers alike might be getting closer to understanding the potential of games as an art form though.
WZ – Andrew: Lastly, do you have any advice to give to prospective game developers and filmmakers seeking crowdfunding contributions?
Boyles: Honestly, I think it’s all very much luck-based, and who sees/decides to share your crowdfunding project at the right time, but that’s just it, you’ve gotta roll out your project anyway as if the whole world was watching and just cross your fingers and blast the news to every person you can possibly conceive might be interested or not. It helps to have a big network of supporters though, because even if it’s not big enough to fund your whole project, they might give you the initial push to reach a point at which more sources outside your network take notice and begin to spread the word. Most importantly though, make sure the project you want to fund is actually a good one!
Once again, my thanks to Holden Boyles, and we wish him well with all his future projects.
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