"The logic centers in my brain say 'Signs Point To No,' but fortunately there's a lot more to the cosmos than the perception of a single person, or even a large group of people," Tilmann says. "Stranger things have certainly happened, and I've seen similar turnarounds in sporting events, telethons and of course Kickstarter campaigns. So, it's not over til it's over. We do not intend to throw in the towel until the very end."
Plenty of Kickstarter projects have reached the same point as Pixeljam – just hours left to raise a ridiculous amount of cash – and they end up calling it quits, canceling the project early. Not Dino Run 2, Tilmann says:
"I'm not really sure what the advantage is to canceling a project, except for freeing yourself from the obligation to promote it. We've put so much into this campaign, it would be a total disservice to ourselves, fans, backers and supporters to pull the plug. Like I implied before, statistical outliers are inevitable, and we have the same chance of becoming one as anybody else. Possibly more so. We have a pretty large following for the original Dino Run, and it could just be they are all the type of lazybones who doesn't take action until someone is blasting a horn in their face to get up off their butt. The final 48 hours of a campaign tend to be that horn."
Make that the final 29 hours.
The first Dino Run launched in 2008 as a Flash game starring a dinosaur as it outruns a wall of fiery, boulder-filled extinction. Dino Run 2 expands on the first game, keeping the pixelated art style but ramping up gameplay with randomly generated levels and multiple characters with specialized abilities. If the Kickstarter succeeds, it's due out in January for PC, Mac, Linux and Ouya.
Pixeljam gained fans with the first Dino Run and has since crafted a few games for Adult Swim, including Retro Unicorn Attack: Challenge Edition, and it's built oddly charming original titles such as Potatoman Seeks the Troof.
There are currently six people on the Pixeljam team, and they're each dealing with the potentiality of a failed Kickstarter in their own way, Tilmann says. If Dino Run 2 doesn't make its goal, they'll "mourn a little bit, take a deep breath and carry on," he says.
Pixeljam is taking a chance with Kickstarter – generally it doesn't put all of its (dinosaur) eggs in one basket, but this project depends on crowdfunding, at least for now. Dino Run 2 may not exist if the Kickstarter isn't funded.
"Maybe yes and maybe no," Tilmann says. "If it is, it will probably take a lot longer than it would if we got funded. We've been doing this for almost eight years though – we've learned the value of patience and careful planning. There are multiple ways to arrive at a goal."
If anything, Pixeljam will learn from the Kickstarter and push that wisdom into its future as a studio, and in that sense, it's all been a success. Given the opportunity to go back in time and do it all again, Tilmann says he absolutely would. But, he would launch it with an animation of a herd of Carnotaurus devouring an entire Thanksgiving parade.
"People, floats and all," he says. "That probably would have gotten us fully funded on day one."
Tilmann already has advice for other, non-dino-related developers looking at Kickstarter:
"Get your entire campaign – the entire duration of it, from launch to end – ready to go before you launch. By that I mean every single update you plan to make, every new reveal, every email, and reach out to press, friends and family. Get it all ready to go at the push of a button. And then, don't launch it. Delay your launch by a month. Send your campaign preview to everyone you know, your fans, etc. Get them to tear it to shreds.
"Figure out exactly why someone on the fence would end up not backing your project, and then tweak your project to convince the uncertain ones to back it as well. Pretend that your campaign is struggling. What crazy shit are you going to pull to get eyeballs on it now? Get that ready to go at the push of a button as well. Campaign for twice the amount of time that you intended to, except that half of it actually takes place before you even hit 'launch.' Hit the ground running and spend the actual campaign responding to things that simply were not foreseeable."
In a Kickstarter update visible only to backers, Tilmann gives a hearty thank you to Dino Run 2's supporters – regardless of how it all plays out tomorrow.
"It would be one heck of a swing if we were able to turn it around at this point, but deep down I can't deny that with fans like you, there's always a chance for magic. Let's make this happen!"