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Computer Science Doctoral Student Shares Kickstarter Success


Ryan Courtney, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University, raised more than 500% of his funding goal on Kickstarter for his new board game, Pipeline, at the end of 2018. Not only was his game funded to $20,000 in under one hour, but in less than a month, 2,234 backers pledged $144,893 to make Pipeline a reality.

PipelineRyan majored in Digital Arts and Sciences in his undergraduate career, which focuses more on video games. He originally moved away from creating games while working toward his PhD at Stony Brook, but ended up entering and winning the Sifteo Game Jam Competition with a classmate; this led to a contract to make a game for Sifteo.

Taking advantage of the New York City area Intercollegiate Doctoral Consortium, Ryan was able to take courses at various universities in the NYC area. Through a weekly meetup of game designers and Columbia University’s giant library of games, Ryan became interested in board games, which led him to create Pipeline.

Partnering with Capstone Games as his publisher for his first board game came with many benefits. Because Ryan was a first-time designer and Pipeline is challenging in nature (making it a more niche game), one of the biggest obstacles he faced was getting a publisher. After attending multiple conventions to talk to publishers and getting rejected many times, a volunteer who worked for Capstone Games finally gave Pipeline a chance — and loved it. Since then, Capstone Games has played a vital role in making Pipeline a reality by helping him through the process.

“In Pipeline, you start a company in the oil business. You focus on building a more efficient pipeline network in your refinery, hiring experts in their respective fields to provide valuable benefits over your competitors, as well as managing the logistics of purchasing and selling refined oil in the various markets to earn the most money in the game. You will need more than strong economic skills — carefully crafting an interwoven network of pipelines just might ensure your victory!,” described on the Kickstarter page.

Two other key people in Pipeline’s journey were Tim Kizer, the game’s developer, and Ian O’Toole, the artist. Courtney said that a huge component to making Pipeline a successful game was having a top artist, even if that meant he was across the world in Australia.

PipelineIn addition to great graphics, getting the word out about Pipeline was key to the successful crowdfunding campaign. “Because so many people in the community have played it, raising the money was easier,” said Professor Richard McKenna, advisor of the Stony Brook Game Developers group. This includes people all across the world — from here on Long Island all the way to Japan. Ryan also had YouTube personalities with thousands and thousands of followers play the game and spread the word. Having the game on was also important to getting Pipeline’s name out.

Pipeline comes out May 2019 to those who pre-ordered it and will be available internationally. The game can be purchased through the publisher, Capstone Games, after it is commercially released around June. It will be available in retail stores as well. There are multiple games in the Pipeline series so Ryan is now working on those. He is also in discussion with another publisher about a different board game and has been getting into the mobile world as well.

— Arianna Chen, Computer Science student

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