Illo – Birth Of The Cool Kickstarter developer diary, part one: getting started

Illo - Birth Of The Cool: a Kickstarter dev diary

Illo - Birth Of The Cool: a Kickstarter dev diary

Well, we’re finally here on Day One of our Kickstarter US funding round, and I must admit we’re nervous and excited in equal measure. The journey of Illo – Birth Of The Cool has been a long one (the idea started in 2006) but in just 35 days’ time we could actually start to develop the game; not because a publisher said “yes”, but because thousands of Kickstarter backers from all over the world have decided they want to contribute to the project, and that’s hugely exciting.

The team behind Illo – a beautiful and quirky action puzzle adventure game which will be designed for Apple iOS and Android handhelds and tablets – is Raylight Games, Italy’s leading independent videogame developer, and we’re working with Edge to provide an insight into the entire process of funding a videogame production through Kickstarter – from concept to, we hope, launching it to market, and giving you a behind-the-scenes, warts-and-all look at the entire Kickstarter process. Over the next four weeks (and hopefully longer) we’ll share with you our experiences and insights into how we got started with Kickstarter, the processes involved, and ultimately why we chose this route to bring Illo to market.

We’ll also be inviting questions from Edge readers which can be about anything – from Illo itself to advice on your own Kickstarter project. But before we get into the Kickstarter process, you need to know a little about Illo’s humble beginnings…

Illo was created by Luca Eliani, an artist, videogame designer and voice-over actor for Disney based in Rome. Luca says: “I play many games and over the years have watched them become technically perfect but more and more similar to each other, and ultimately, less fun.  I began to imagine something different that enchanted me in the same way the bright and colourful coin-op screens did in the 1980s. But it was after the first few hours playing on the Nintendo DS in 2006 that the concept of illo really began to take shape. I was very impressed by the features the DS offered, not just the usual D-pad and a handful of buttons, but two screens, one touch and a microphone. A lot of things could be done.

“In 2011 I had just finished the game concept and wanted to show it to everyone. I felt confident in what I had done, so – in total ignorance of how these things are done – I wrote a covering letter with about two words on myself plus ten enthusiastic ones about the game and sent it to some developers and publishers I liked in Japan, North America and Europe asking for a meeting to present illo. In Italy I had known about and liked Raylight since 2002, when they proved what could be done on a Game Boy Advance with their Blue Roses engine, plus I knew they were official Nintendo developers. I thought that if they could exploit GBA hardware in that way, what could they achieve with a more powerful handset like the 3DS?

“Although Raylight was only an hour’s train journey away in Naples, I waited patiently in Rome for replies. These were few and far between, although the ones I did receive were very friendly. Then came Raylights reply. They were impressed by my enthusiasm about Illo and asked me if I could send them some images to get an overall impression of the game. I did, and soon after they invited me to Naples to show them the whole project with my artworks and concepts – some of which you see here.”

Raylight’s CEO Massi Di Monda liked what he saw. “When I first met Luca I thought he was a good chap with a unique idea and a very different approach to videogame concepts. I immediately liked the idea behind Illo; the concepts he showed me was so clean and precise in their design and the game mechanics he described were so cool. I was really excited by Luca’s vision, the graphical style, and the challenge to incorporate so many different gameplay mechanics and features into the game.”

But this wasn’t where the Kickstarter approach began. First, Raylight itself began the well-trodden path of pitching the concept of illo to its publisher partners. Massi explains: “We presented the concept to our partners and the answer was invariably that the idea was very interesting, the concepts were really cool but that they would only invest if the game was ‘almost’ complete, not a concept. One very famous hardware manufacturer even said ‘Cool! Can you do it on our platform without a budget?’ So, everyone liked the concept, but to take things forward they wanted to see a demo and we just weren’t in a position to finance Illo. A lot of videogame publishers are under enormous pressure to ensure each game they produce is a hit and unknown IP presents a risk, regardless of how wonderful and unique the concept is. So we started to look elsewhere for funding.”

In early 2012, Kickstarter was beginning to get a lot of press attention through the huge success of its videogame projects like the Ouya and Wasteland 2 so we began investigating crowd-funding as a possible solution. “We looked into a number of sites, but decided that Kickstarter had the highest profile and critical mass and was therefore the best option to propose our idea,” Massi explains. “Illo is ambitious so we needed to pitch it on the best crowdfunding site of the moment. We knew we had one shot at this, and so began our in-depth planning for Illo on Kickstarter.”

Next week, Raylight will explain how the Kickstarter project was put together, and reflect on their first week’s progress. For more, visit the Illo – Birth Of The Cool project page on Kickstarter.