Our Patreon journey so far in review
Hello dear Patrons,

It's Rémi (Akien) writing to you for once -- it's been a while! Today's my birthday so I figured it would be the right occasion to spend some time off GitHub PRs and Issues and write to you instead :)

We haven't been very talkative on Patreon lately, focusing all our attention on releasing 3.1 beta.

I plan to address that and write short updates on what's cooking up on GitHub in the future, but in the meantime make sure to follow Godot's blog (which also has a RSS feed if you want), as well as Juan's Twitter account -- and mine if you're interested in lots of retweets of cool Godot projects.

First of all, a big THANK YOU from Juan and myself to all of you, current, past and future Patrons! Your support enables us to keep making the engine better everyday, as well as handle an ever-increasing community of contributors and users.
Godot's growth since the 3.0 release in January 2018 has blown our minds, and it keeps accelerating!

In this post, I want to do a short retrospective of what your support has enabled us to do since we joined the platform in August 2017, 15 months ago.

Before Patreon

How was Godot development's sustained before Patreon? Apart from a few exceptions (outlined below), we did not really have funds to hire anyone, so all developers were working on their free time. Juan (reduz) worked as a game development consultant for various companies in Latin America, and I as an energy engineer in Germany. We already did more or less the same tasks as we handle today, him as lead developer and me as project manager, but only on our free time (evenings, weekends). The same was and is still true of the hundreds of developers who donate their time and expertise to make Godot a great free and open source game engine.

The exceptions I mentioned is that we got an award from Mozilla and a grant from Microsoft that enabled us to hire Juan twice on short contracts in 2016 and 2017, as well as Ignacio (neikeq) to work on C# support. This sped up development of Godot 3.0 massively, but those were contracts for a few months, so Juan could not give up his other professional activities fully and was not available full-time. We also had some PayPal donations at that time from companies and users, but not enough to sustain a full-time developer.

Enters crowdsourcing

Godot 3.0's development was therefore with Juan sometimes working full-time on Godot (especially in late 2016/early 2017 while working on rendering), then a lot less available for a while, then part-time again for a few months, etc.

All contributors could really feel the difference, so we naturally started thinking of ways to get Juan to be available full-time for the project. Indeed, this did not only mean lightning fast implementation of new features and bug fixes, but also that he could help the other contributors understand the codebase and find how to make their own changes the right way.

We started our Patreon campaign in August 2017, with the sole objective to hire Juan full-time for USD 3000/month (a bargain for a developer with his expertise, but sufficient for him to drop his other consulting activities).

We expected that it might take a few months, at least until the 3.0 release, before we could reach this goal. How surprised were we to get over 150 patrons and USD 1500 pledged in 3 days! We reached our goal after one month, with over 300 patrons. And it kept increasing, with our first Gold sponsor Gamblify joining in, and later our first Platinum sponsor Enjin Coin, reaching 500 patrons and close to USD 6000/month by the end of 2017 (later on we also got GameDev.tv, Skirmish.io and Image Campus as corporate sponsors).
Thanks to all users and companies who believe in us!

(Source: Graphtreon)

Thanks to this, we could hire Juan full-time from November 2017, so one year ago. To be clear, all funds that we receive through Patreon go to our fiscal sponsor Software Freedom Conservancy, so Juan was hired for USD 3000 as planned, the rest of the donation income kept for future needs.

This was great timing as we were in the late alpha stages in 3.0's development, about to release our first beta (kind of like today with 3.1 actually). With Juan working full-time, we could progress much faster fixing bugs, and he also spent a lot of time writing documentation for the new features of Godot 3.0. We finally released 3.0 at the end of January 2018, after more than 18 months of development! Our biggest achievement, exhausting and delightful at the same time.

Who's next?

The extra income led us to think about potentially hiring more contributors to work on the project. In a community-driven project where almost all contributors are working on their free time, that's something that needs to be well thought upon and discussed, as you don't want contributors to see it as unfair that some are paid for their work while others aren't. Juan's hire was consensual as the benefit was clear for every single contributor and user, but who should be next?

As project manager it seemed logical that I should be the second "full-timer", since a big part of my work is also to support the work of the remaining contributors. Yet I wasn't willing to quit my job at that time, so we looked for other options.

Since we had already hired Ignacio on a fixed-length contract to work on C# support, and it was very well received in the community, we decided (together with other core contributors) to hire Thomas (karroffel) part-time to work on OpenGL ES 2.0 support and GDNative. The latter was a key feature of Godot 3.0 in need of more refinement, while the former was the most anticipated feature for all users disappointed with Godot 3.0's bad support of low end hardware. We hired Thomas as a part-timer in December 2017, and he did great work on both the new GLES2 renderer and GDNative features and bugfixes up to June 2018. Afterwards he landed a full-time job at a company using Godot, which is pretty cool :D

Second full-timer

Then in early 2018, my personal situation changed and I was ready for a change of job. On top of that, the months leading to the 3.0 release had left me exhausted, and I was basically working two full-time jobs (energy engineer by day, Godot's project and release manager by night). Handling the fast-growing and incredibly productive community of contributors was starting to be more than I could handle in my free time (the more people contribute, the more work I have reviewing PRs, triaging issues, etc.).

So I decided to quit the less interesting of my two "jobs", and to accept Juan's proposal to work full-time on Godot. We adjusted our Patreon goals accordingly so that we could sustain two USD 3000 salaries plus Thomas' lower part-time wage, and we reached our goal in late March 2018. Since we had some funds available thanks to previous months getting more funding than needed for salaries, I actually started working full-time on March 1st. I now have a lot more time available to do all the tasks necessary to sustain a huge community of contributors on a rapidly growing open source project like Godot.

Since April, as all our announced goals had been reached, the increase in number of Patrons and monthly income slowed down a bit, yet we can't complain! What we're able to sustain already has been a great boon to the project, and your unswerving support means that we can really raise Godot to the level expected of a major game engine, up to par with commercial, million-dollar engines.

You can see more stats on Graphtreon and see how our crowdfunding is faring. We do have plans for our next big goal (a new hire? :)) so stay tuned!

In this end this post was more focused on financial/HR aspects than I envisioned, but I think that transparency on how donations are used is very important. We did write a lot already on the blog about what we've been working on the past year and a half, so check there for devlogs and feature announcements. As mentioned in the introduction, I'll also try to do quick summaries every now and then (not making promises on the frequency yet ;)) about what's cooking up on GitHub and in noteworthy PRs and issues.

And again, THANK YOU for your support, you are all wonderful people <3