Stallwood and Saint began a campaign
for Auditorium 2: Duet
yesterday, with a goal to raise $60,000 over the following 30 days. It generated almost $10,000 in its first 24 hours, which is a good start, but a long way off from the final goal.
Stallwood still feels as if Cipher Prime is rolling the dice on Auditorium 2: Duet
's Kickstarter, but after years of funding his projects with personal credit cards, racking up debt and stressing over whether the game will do well enough for him and Saint to buy groceries the next week, Stallwood said it's time to try.
"It's so utterly mind-bendingly scary," Stallwood said. "You just pray you don't go bankrupt."
Stallwood and Saint, headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, each made $24,000 in 2011 -- which is $12,000 less than the average household income for the county -- they're unable to pay off student loans and they both heaped up a ton of debt, Stallwood said. For two years straight, funding their own projects, they worked seven days a week from 10 a.m. to as late as 2 a.m. the following morning. Under the publisher, they obviously didn't get much respite either.
Stallwood faces a scenario that plagues many indie developers, where following his dream is financially draining, even though it can look like he's living a star-struck lifestyle. Even his friends think he lives lavishly, happily coding games by day and counting his money by night. Not quite, Stallwood said.
"Everyone thinks our life is the easiest thing in the world," he said. "In Philly, there are not a lot of game companies, so it's sort of seen as a hobby lifestyle. We've also had a lot of success with articles in the past. Every article that goes live on us just fuels the flame of 'God damn they have the best lives ever.' Of course, everyone also thinks we're totally loaded."
"The emotional toll has been quite high. It's becoming harder and harder to be creative when we are worried about everything else that is in the air."
- Will Stallwood
Not that a perfect publishing deal or more successful games would have generated enough revenue for Cipher Prime to roll around in piles of money. That's not how it works, Stallwood said.
As Tim Schafer made clear in a video for his own, wildly successful Kickstarter project
, developers generally don't make enough money off their previous titles to keep funding the future ones, and this goes doubly for indies. Eventually, you either get lucky and can live comfortably, or you get creative, which is what Cipher Prime is doing with its Kickstarter project.
"To be honest, three years of excessive risks has worn on us and we just want a break for a few months," Stallwood said. "When we started this whole endeavor we only had 50 bucks we used for Google ads, so we're certainly in a better spot financially. But, the emotional toll has been quite high. It's becoming harder and harder to be creative when we are worried about everything else that is in the air."
Not that any of this is going to stop Cipher Prime from following its passion -- developing games.
"Every success is just a chance to lead 'normal' lives for us," Stallwood said. "On the flip side, we absolutely love
what we do. We wouldn't have dedicated so much of our lives to this if it wasn't something really important to us. So, to everyone who thinks we have the coolest job in the world, well, they might just be right there."