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The Passing of Another Steam Summer Sale July 1, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment.
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14 comments

Another Steam Summer Sale has come and gone.

As others have noted, its regularity… and the fact that we get a Holiday sale in December… has taken some of the edge off of the whole thing.  Seeing a whole pile of games marked down was a huge deal the first couple of times we saw it.  Now, however, we have come to expect it.

Oh look, games on sale... yawn...

Oh look, games on sale… yawn…

Such sales have changed my behavior some.  If there is a game I have to have right away, I still buy it right there and then… unless the sale is around the corner.  Steam screwed me on that last year.  I bought the Brave New World expansion for Civilization V the day it launched, despite the summer sale coming up.  And then two days later the Summer Sale launched and the expansion was marked down, a gaffe that even Steam realized might have been a discount too soon.

Steam tries to make up

Steam tries to make up

So maybe I won’t pre-order anything that will launch close to the sales zones any more, but otherwise my behavior on must-haves has not changed.

But for things I am not sure about, games that are not “must have” but merely nice to have… the Steam sales process has changed my behavior quite a bit.  My wish list is now filled with things that I “sorta” want, if the price is right, and I am in a good mood.  The impulse buy aspect of Steam sales has been replaced by watching my wish list.  I look at what is on sale that day, then look at my wish list, ponder if anything is “must have” at their current price, and then move on, generally without buying anything.

This year I did end up buying a couple of games.  One was for the strategy group “next game” plan that I wrote about last week, and which makes a good example of how Steam has influenced me.

While we had a list of potential games, Total War: Rome II was the primary contender, backed by Loghound. (I had other suggestions, but I wasn’t sold on any of them.)  A not-too-old release, it still has a list price of $59.99, the current benchmark price for AAA games from major studios.  As the summer sale was already in progress, it was marked down to half off.  $29.98 wasn’t a bad price.  There is a whole lot of game there.

But Steam has taught me to always wait until the REAL DEAL has been offered.  So while Rome II was the prime candidate, nobody moved to purchase it until Friday, because it wasn’t until Friday that the REAL DEAL kicked in and the price dropped to $20.37.  At that price it was an easy purchase and all of us picked up a copy.  So that is the tentative next game for the group, once we finish up our Civ V game (at some point in August by my guess) and if it turns out to be suitable.  A quick look shows a battle style that gives you a budget to buy units in advance, so I suspect this could mean long lead times before we actually play.  But the single player campaign looks to be worth the investment, so even if we don’t play it much, it was probably worth the money with the deep discount.

So there it is.  Our next game has been chosen.

I did have two impulse purchases, one of which was Europa Universalis IVas it had been marked down to $9.99.  It has been on my wish list since it launched, so I am not sure if it is really an “impulse” buy, but I grabbed it.  It is one of those games… like its predecessors… that I really want to like, but which is so complicated and so deep that I can never get into it and actually play.  I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to do simple things, which quickly becomes frustrating.  I have no reason to suspect that this will be any different.

The other was Ticket to Ride, which I already own on the iPad.  I should have just stuck with that.  The iPad version is the game as it should be played and as it should look and perform.  The Windows version is slow, graphically inferior, and prone to buffering mouse clicks as you wait for it to catch up, leading to many a mis-played moment.  I regret this purchase and I could not recommend this on Steam even at its very low sale price.

And, in a sale related matter that isn’t really about Valve or Steam, I was just a tiny bit annoyed to see Planetary Annihilation early access up on the list of things on sale… or even available at all.  I backed their kickstarter, but not at a level high enough to get early access yet.  I get a finished copy and that is all, but I actually paid more for that than the early access sale, which also gets you a full copy.  And Uber Entertainment, the studio behind the title, hasn’t been the best about communication when it comes to actual progress towards release, they are a year late at this point, and  they are out there hawking early access at retail.  I realize early access is basically a retail pre-order, but it still makes me think, “Dude, remember me? I gave you money nearly two years ago?”  Just the nature of Kickstarter projects I guess.

And then there was the contest.

In order to spice things up… and get people to spend more money… Valve put everybody on teams and set us against each other for the possibility of getting something for nothing… assuming you didn’t buy anything for this gimmick.  Clockwork over at Out of Beta covers the whole thing better than I, I just want to grouse about the level of exclusion.

Summer Adventure Gimmick

Summer Adventure Gimmick

Anybody who wanted to participate got dropped onto one of the five color teams.  However, to actually do anything to help your team, you had to be level 10, at least as far as I could tell.  So despite years of Steam usage and owning over 100 games, I wasn’t able to play because I was only level 7.

Level as of July 1, 2014

Level as of July 1, 2014

While that was up from where I stood last year, it still wasn’t enough.

The problem is… well one of the problems I suppose… is that I purchased most of my library before they got into the whole levels thing.  And one of the prime ways you earn points to level up is based on how much money you spend, so most of my purchases didn’t count.  The other problem is that I am not inclined to spend money just to level myself up on Steam.  But that probably excluded me from the Summer Adventure thing anyway, as Clockwork pegs the whole thing as a pay to win affair.

And, on the annoying front, one of the ways I could have earned a few badges and points was by voting on the content of upcoming sales.  Only you must be level 8 to earn anything by voting, so once again Steam failed to engage me by imposing what looks to be an arbitrary level limit on rewards.  Bleh.

So, the score for the event.

  • Purchases at the lowest possible price as Steam has trained us: 1
  • Impulse purchases: 2
  • Engagement in sale related events: 0
  • Games on Steam I haven’t even played yet: too many

Maybe I will be the “right” level for whatever event Steam has planned by the time the Holiday Sale comes around.

Shroud of the Avatar, Virtual Real Estate, and Keeping Control June 9, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Camelot Unchained, entertainment, Shroud of the Avatar, Star Citizen.
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5 comments

We do not, to my knowledge at least, have a live MMORPG that has started life financed via Kickstarter as yet.  There are a few on their way, such as Shroud of the Avatar and Camelot Unchained, but we still seem to be a long way from a state of “this is how these things work.”  A trend does seem to be forming, or two trends really.

The first uses Kickstarter as a marketing scheme and litmus test for the popularity and financial viability of a given project.  That a project can raise a given amount of cash from its Kickstarter campaign is used to secure further financing after the campaign.  You can often pledge money afterwards for the same reward tiers as during the campaign, but player pledges were not, nor were ever planned to be, the primary financing for development.  Oculus Rift is a good example of this.  It had a successful Kickstarter that helped the project get off the ground.  The ask was for $250K, and it came back with nearly ten times that much, falling shy of $2.5 million raised.  But other financing based on that success helped it carry on, and the project raised a total of $91 million in capital before it was bought out.  And while not everybody is happy that Facebook stepped in to buy up the whole thing, that is the way things work in what is essentially a very traditional way to raise capital.

On the Kickstarter MMORPG front, Camelot Unchained appears to be using this method.  Their Kickstarter was very aggressive, setting a $2 million goal which they achieved with less than a day left to run on their campaign.  But the promise was that if they could make that goal, other financing would be forthcoming, including Mark Jacobs himself kicking in a substantial amount of cash.  So there was the new Kickstarter front end to what seems to me to be an otherwise traditional financing process;  seed capital leads to further funding.

The other trend eschews traditional financing in a bid to maintain control over the project.  As much as John Carmack has tried to sooth people, the idea that Mark Zuckerberg has the final say on what Occulus Rift becomes drives some up the wall.  There is a great tradition of large companies buying smaller ones and just screwing them up and into extinction.  To avoid this, you don’t sell out and you don’t give up control.  That means after the Kickstarter campaign is done, you keep going after people to give you money.   You keep taking money for same pledge tiers you had in the Kickstarter.  You start up a cash store to sell additional special items to your fans.  And you keep banging the drum, marketing hard, selling a dream or what might be the result.

The poster child for this trend is, without question, Star Citizen.

Star_Citizen_logo

With $44 million already raised, Chris Roberts is selling the hell out of his vision of a space combat simulation RPG with MMO and single player elements, which is pretty damn good for somebody who hasn’t shipped a game in over a decade.  And while you may believe that this will be the killer space sim app that will destroy EVE Online and every other space game or that this is the most spectacularly public long con in the video game industry ever, Chris Roberts has been able to both get funding and keep control of his baby.

And, in what I take as a blessing on some of my posts from last year, Richard “Lord British” Garriott de Cayeux appears to be taking this route.  I spent some time comparing and contrasting Lord British and Mark Jacobs and their respective visions and Kickstarter campaigns because they feel, to me, like two very different personalities with different views.  And now I get to carry on with that as their projects head down their separate paths. (Though, to be honest, I am probably making more out of this that is really there, but it keeps me amused.)

While we have been getting updates on Camelot Unchained, money is not something that gets brought up.  They are much more likely to mention Nerf gun wars than money raised.  Not that you cannot give them more money.  They have that setup on their site.  But it isn’t being played up as much as it could be. (So they have “only” raised another half million dollars since their Kickstarter at this point.)

Shroud of the Avatar, taking the control path, is becoming more focused on raising money.  There is the usual running tally of funding.  The project ended its Kickstarter campaign with just over $2 million, but now boasts of having raised over $4 million total for the project.  And then there are the offers for backers such as the “add-ons” that people can purchase for use in New Britannia.  These were enhanced considerably with the latest “Epic” project update, which looks to buy heavily into the Chris Roberts approach to raising more money.  There are new pledge tiers, new stretch goals (ever the siren’s song with Star Citizen), and new add-ons.

And while the stretch goals (mounts and elves and boats and such) are supposed to help move along the funding, it is the add-ons that grab your eye.

Or, rather, it is the price of some of the add-ons.

Among the items added to the add-on store are whole towns, which run between $750 for a “Holdfast” to $4,000 for a whole “City.”

Your Town Options

Your Town Options

And while towns will be purchasable with gold in-game at some point (QFT: “There will be a path to achieve this in game via in game gold purchase but the ownership of the scene will incur a rental fee.”) there will be ongoing rental overhead for the in-game option.  So if you want to run your own town free and clear, real world cash is your option.  Money talks and bullshit rents month to month.

And what do you get for your $750, assuming you are a cheapskate and just want a Holdfast?  The add-on store says:

  • 12,600 m2 of player lots
  • A design session with the Dev Team to define details including:
    • Name of Town
    • Location: Roughly which quadrant of the map. (Exact hex will be determined by Portalarium, Inc.)
    • Biome: Forest, Mountains, Grasslands, Swamp, etc.
    • NPC Building Definition (inn, smithy, etc.)
    • NPC names and stories
    • Lot Selection: Determine which lots of which size you want. For example at this size:
      • 21 Village Lots
      • 5 Village Lots + 1 Castle Lot
      • 20 Row Lots + 1 Castle Lot
      • 13 Village Lots + 1 Keep
      • 13 Village Lots + 4 Town Lots
      • etc.
  • X Keys to X Locked Lots:Central Square with 1 NPC owned building
    • Keys equal to the number of lots chosen
    • Owner of the keys can lock and unlock lots at will so they can actively control who gets to live there
    • The key owner can evict an occupant and lock the lot using the key
    • Players will still need lot deeds to claim the lots once the town owner unlocks the lots
  • 1 Add On Store House

That is a considerable amount of “stuff” I suppose, including developer interaction.  I wonder if naming is going to be more flexible for those who pay in real world cash versus coin of the realm.  And, note, lot deeds are not included.

And while the comic/drama potential of being able to lock people out of lots in a town  is intriguing (do you get a title like “Dictator for Life” when you buy one?), the sticker price makes me recoil in horror.  WildStar plus a year’s worth of subscription ($60 + $180) is less than a third of that price, and will probably go down with time.  But I can be a notorious cheapskate.  I am sure somebody out there is happy/amazed/ready to lay down the dollars for a town to call their own at that price.

And real estate, done akin to the real world variety, as it is being approached in SotA, is a limited resource I suppose, unlike the fancy space ships and lifetime free repairs that Star Citizen is selling to an eager audience, so should be priced accordingly.  But that price makes me cringe. (Not to mention the “bought the farm” metaphors that spring up.)

What do you think?  Is this the right direction for SotA?  While I would bet that Lord British has greater name recognition than Chris Roberts, the Wing Commander series, on which Chris Roberts’ reputation is largely built, was the biggest franchise to come out of Lord British’s own studio.  The Ultima series was a clear second place. (Which one got an animated series? Hint: It wasn’t anything set in Britannia.)  You can say, “Chris Roberts” and get no response, but say, “Wing Commander,” which Chris Roberts does as often as is polite, and suddenly things are different.

With that in mind, can Lord British reasonably aspire to be a “sword and sorcery” Star Citizen in terms of funding?

Last Day for A History of the Great Empires of Eve Online May 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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2 comments

As I write this there are less than 24 hours left in the Kickstarter for the planned book A History of the Great Empires of Eve Online.

Age of Rentals - May 18, 2014

Age of Rental Empires – May 2014

There is little danger that the Kickstarter will not fund.  As it stands now, the campaign has brought in nearly seven times the initial asking amount of $12,500.  That was enough to add a hardcover option on top of the digital and softcover editions that were initially announced.

But time is running out if you want in.  There is always the possibility that there will be a way to get a copy later, but there is no mass market appeal for such a book.  It is likely to be a special, one-off run and not something you’ll see on Amazon or at your local book store… should you still have a local book store.

So if you want a copy, time is running out.  The Kickstarter campaign ends tomorrow, May 25, at 8:51am PDT, or 15:15 UTC / EVE Online time.

Addendum:  You can still order a copy by going to the EVE History site.

A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online April 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: ,
5 comments

Andrew Groen, who has written for Wired and the late Penny Arcade Report, has decided to take on the history of EVE Online.

In order to fund this project, he has launched a Kickstarter campaign.  Of course he has.

The campaign is to fund the printing costs of such a book.  He needs $12,500 to print the minimum run of 1,000 copies.  Given that he is already past the $9,00 mark, just hours after the campaign opened, it looks like he will make his goal.

His introductory video, which is something that Kickstarter really pressures you to have, is actually worth a watch.  WordPress.com won’t let me embed video from Kickstarter (they only like YouTube) so here is an awkward screen grab from it.

Andrew tells his story...

Andrew tells his story…

He has been working on the history for six months and, while there is work still to be done, he is now setting himself up with an eye towards printing and distribution.

The book itself will focus on null sec, where the wars of sovereignty have created so many stories.  From the Kickstarter details:

This book will take readers from the very first day the servers switched on to the formation of the first regional alliances, through the Great Wars of 2004, 2007, and 2008, and into the modern era of huge power blocs of coalitions. It’s a journey through the politics, warfare, and culture that have shaped Eve into the game we read about in the headlines today.

This is, of course, the part of EVE that separates it from so many other games.  Raids, battlegrounds, quest chains, or even one-time events like GuildWars 2 has run for the last year, don’t garner the same sort of attention as the ebb and flow of politics and war in the outer ring of stars in New Eden.

Interestingly, for the “Risks” section of Kickstarter information, there is none of the usual “things might go south” or “I might just walk away with your money” sorts of statements.  Instead, Andrew seems more worried about the nature of the content he is trying to produce.

Deception: I’ve been warned by members of the Eve community that there are some who will attempt to deceive me into writing their own version of events to make their organizations look better. The Eve wikis are proof of this fact as they’re often rife with hyper-partisan history. The only way to counteract this is through extensive reporting and interviewing. Only by getting multiple perspectives on situations can you dig through partisanship. I’ve dedicated myself to doing dozens of interviews to make sure all information is as balanced as possible.

Jargon: When discussing the high-level events of Eve it’s easy to get bogged down in jargon that the average person – and even many committed Eve players – don’t understand. Some accounts of Eve history are so riddled by jargon that they’re illegible to anyone without years of in-game experience. In my work, I always place an emphasis on making sure everything is understandable for everyone without dumbing things down or making writing boring for experienced players. To that end, I’ll be working with a team of editors from both Eve and non-Eve backgrounds to ensure I’m getting a variety of input before publication.

We shall see how that works out.  That he already has endorsement quotes from The Mittani and Helicity Boson might make the first goal a bit hard to swallow.

The Kickstarter itself has only two tiers.  For a $10 pledge you will get a .pdf or Kindle version of the final book.  For $25 you will get a softcover book and a .pdf or Kindle version, though you’ll have to kick in a bit more for shipping outside of the US.  I am in for the softcover book.

The campaign is set to run for 30 days, finishing up on Sunday, May 25th.

Addendum:

Well, that didn’t take long.

But you can still pledge to get a copy of the book in either format until the end date.

Pantheon: Mostly Fallen… for Now April 14, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
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3 comments

A few weeks back I took a look at the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and the state of affairs since it failed to meet its goal on Kickstarter.

PROTF04

I was particularly interested in how crowd funding would work in and environment where there was no critical mass to achieve.  My guess was that people would feel differently about just handing money over versus pledging money in a system where it would not be taken unless some minimum value was achieved.

The Kickstarter campaign was pledged $460,657 from 3,157 potential backers.  As of last night the post-Kickstarter campaign stood a this:

PRotFApr13

That is half as many people pledging, and they are pledging almost a third less per person than during the Kickstarter campaign.   And the numbers have not been growing substantially since shortly after the Kickstarter ended, which lead to this announcement on the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen site yesterday.

In the past few months we have seen some of the most passion bubble up from the Internet than we have in some time; all for an idea of a game we all want to see happen. It has been an exciting time for all of us.

Over the first month of development through crowdfunding, we’ve been able to achieve what was needed to be done in order to gain investor interest. That is, we’ve shown there is interest in a game like Pantheon, we’ve built the term sheets and business plan, and now have a prototype we can show to potential investors.The downside now is that our initial resources have depleted, which regrettably means that development is going to slow down until finances can be secured. It’s not something we want to do by any means, but as we cannot guarantee paychecks to the team, they each need to be able to spend time on other things to pay the bills.Once we’re able to get that level of funding we can then secure much-needed studio space and be able to pick up the pace of production dramatically. We are deeply thankful to this community for getting Pantheon to this critical point, where we have been able to put together an attractive package to present to potential investors.

In the interim, any donations made at this point until further notice will be going directly to maintaining the website during this phase, and not towards development.

So there it sits.  You can now donate to keep the web site functioning while they seek further financing, but work on the actual game has pretty much ceased.  I suppose one must commend them for honesty, but it does make it difficult to see how Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen will progress from here.  A failed Kickstarter campaign followed by an unsuccessful attempt to crowd fund directly cannot be helping their case.

Is this the end for the game?

Obligatory Shock About Oculus Rift Post March 26, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
Tags: , , ,
11 comments

So yeah, yesterday after the markets closed, Facebook announced they were going to buy Oculus VR for $2 billion. Oculus VR is the company currently working on the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

And then a corner of the internet exploded.  I figured I ought to mark that moment in time so we can come back and revisit it later.

Sudden, and potentially rash statements were made.

A general revulsion with all things Facebook was expressed by some.

Basically, all the dislike of Facebook… and there is much to dislike about Facebook and it methods and its founder’s outlook… bubbled forth.  Answer this question: If Mark Zuckerberg asked you to strap this to your face…

Into the Rift

Into the Rift

…which movie would come to mind?  Aliens?  Clockwork Orange?  Lawnmower Man?

Would you envision fun things happening or bad things?  Or just boring things?

So we are currently in the shock phase of this announcement, which is making the whole “Disney buys Star Wars“thing look pretty tame, at least in our little corner of the internet.  After all, for a lot of people the Star Wars series was already ruined by episodes I-III, so what else could Disney do?  But a lot of people were pining some pretty big hopes on Oculus Rift being a step into the future of gaming.

And now Facebook has it.  Are we going to get Candy Crush Saga VR?  FarmVille 3D?  Are we going to get any sort of VR gaming experience at all out of this?  Zuckerberg isn’t exactly big on video games.  His past actions have been about extracting money from those games that choose to live in his domain.

Ars Technica already has a column up about what Facebook might do, which includes a lot of promises about what won’t happen… from the guy who no longer controls the company… so the brightest bit in that seems be the fact that Facebook bought Instagram and hasn’t destroyed it yet.  Maybe Zuckerberg will just leave them alone.

Then there is the Kickstarter aspect of the whole thing.  Oculus VR raised $2.4 million of its funding via a Kickstarter campaign… just before Disney bought Star Wars, to bring that back around.  People who gave money at that point forked it over for very specific reasons.  This was the way it was pitched:

…the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games.

For video games.  That is what they said.  Will they keep saying that a few months after the acquisition?  And will it matter if more developers step away because of Facebook?

While Oculus VR likely has no legal/financial obligation to do anything but send out the promised T-Shirts and early units that people were entitled to for their pledges, do they have any sort of moral obligation after taking Facebook’s money when it seems likely that the vision sold will not end up being the vision pursued?

And, finally, there is the “Why sell to Facebook?” question.  Why would Oculus VR sell to a company that has so little interest in video games and so much invested in collecting and selling our data?  Were things just up for the highest bidder?  Were there too many strings attached to other offers? Did current investors force the move to cash out?

Because there had to be other offers.

Anyway, among other things, this puts the whole “CCP moving closer to Sony” thing in a new light.  Was the word already out that Oculus Rift might be moving away from video games?  Was CCP hedging its bets?  Is Sony’s Project Morpheus the new leader in that arena?

The Sony project was interesting when Oculus Rift was there as well, but alone it seems destined to become yet another proprietary piece of Sony hardware.  Sony VR will require you to purchase a PlayStation 4.  And that may keep Oculus Rift in play even with Facebook looming large over it.

As the dust settles after the big shock, people are starting to muse about what this really means.  I suspect we will be doing that for a while.

Of course, every such announcement has its bright side.

And then there is the humor aspect.

We shall see how this all develops.  If nothing else, I have a tickler now to check back on this in a year.

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen a Month Past Kickstarter March 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
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6 comments

It has been 30 days since the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign came to a close.

PROTF04

In its 40 day run, the campaign managed to drum up $460,657 in pledges from 3,157 potential backers.  While shy of the $800,000 target of the campaign, that is still a fair amount of cash to have been pledged.  We tend to hear about things like Torment or Project Eternity, which brought in millions of dollars, but Kickstarter is full of little campaigns for $10,000 or less.  According to Kickstarter, projects that raise $100,000 or more represent just 2% of successful campaigns.

Basically, raising close to half a million dollars is a pretty decent achievement.  If the target of the campaign had been $500,000, we might even now be speaking of a successful campaign and stretch goals and, if not Chris Robert’s levels of post campaign funding, then maybe at least Lord British levels.  Shroud of the Avatar has managed to rake in post campaign donations to the tune of nearly 50% of what they raised in that first 30 days.

But the campaign was not a success.  The 40 day run wound up with Brad McQuaid and his team getting no money from Kickstarter.  So the question quickly became, “Where do they go from here?”  There was talk of relaunching another Kickstarter campaign a bit further down the road.  That would address some of the errors made early on in the initial campaign, like the whole “Hey, surprise! We have a Kickstarter campaign without any real press build up!” aspect.

The choice that was eventually made was to self-fund raise.  You can head on over to the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen web site and pledge money to the project.  Well, give money to the project.  This isn’t Kickstarter any more.  You let go of your money the moment you click the final button.  There are no goals to meet or critical mass to achieve.

That last bit seemed like an important tidbit to me.  There is an aspect of “we’re all in this together” when it comes to Kickstarter, where success means a lump sum for the team and failure means nobody gets billed.  It protects the early enthusiast from handing over his money too soon, only to find out that the project isn’t popular enough.

So I was curious to see how well Pantheon would do once it lacked that aspect of the Kickstarter campaign.  As of this morning, donations to the project are:

PROTF_Mar24

That’s not… bad.  Those numbers would still put the project in the top 2% when it comes to Kickstarter.

But it is also less than half the supporters and roughly a third of the money pledged at the end of the Kickstarter campaign.

So what happened?

Is this a failure of communication?  I am not sure how Kickstarter works when your campaign does not fund.  Are you allowed to continue doing updates to the project, or is it closed down hard?  Because the last update was at the end of the project, 30 days back, and nothing since.  If you missed that terminal “you can now give us money at our site” update, you might think things are done.  And it is pretty much a reality of the universe that some percentage of a group won’t get the message no matter how directly you send it out.

Is it the missing Kickstarter aspect of the fundraising that is holding things back?  Does being on Kickstarter give not only more exposure but also an adding sense of legitimacy?

Did the fact that campaign failed to hit its goal turn a bunch of people away from the campaign?

Or is this a matter of reality striking home, where we are no longer being asked to pledge to a funding effort that may or may not come to pass but being asked to part with actual coin of the realm in pursuit of the stated project goals?

MyDream is to do What to Minecraft? March 13, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment.
Tags: , , , ,
5 comments

First there was Minecraft, as it was good.

Minecraft

Or many people thought it was. It flourished and blossomed and jumped to different platforms and generally made Notch and his company quite a large pile of money.

It never really appealed to me, but I could still see the magic.  It was open and allowed you to do many, many things.  My daughter played it quite a bit, including on a PvP server.  I didn’t even know that was possible until she showed me.

Of course, where money flows, so do copy cats.  There were knock-offs like CastleMiner.  And, as time went by, bigger and more sophisticated players started into the market with their own spin on the Minecraft idea.  SOE’s Landmark is one and Trion’s Trove is another, both of which have a look and feel that sets them apart from mere clones of the original.

I know there are other examples out there, but since the genre really doesn’t do much for me, their names tend not to stick with me.  Fill in the blanks for me, because my writing things like, “And that one that people keep mentioning” doesn’t really work so well.

But even with all of that, there seemed to be room enough in the market.

Then, yesterday, I got a press release in my inbox… because PR people are a desperate sort and are happy when even when somebody so far down the food chain as myself mentions the product they are pushing… for a “Minecraft killer.”

Actually, it was (Minecraft killer), in parentheses, but it was right there in the subject line of the email.

And I actually groaned aloud upon reading that.

I groaned because I have lived through the age of the quest for the WoW killer.

Did I say “lived through?”  I meant “live in,” since if you Google “WoW killer” you will see that the quest is still alive and well and crushing souls.

Still, I had to wonder who would have the audacity to make such a claim.  So I went to the Kickstarter for MyDream (which I mentally read as “MyDream is to KILL Minecraft!!1″) to see who was standing up to slay the beast.

MyDream

To the company’s credit credit, the Kickstarter page doesn’t actually say “Minecraft killer” anywhere.  Neither does the actual press release.  I suspect that the injection of the phrase into the subject line came at the insistence of their PR person and does reflect the elevator pitch mentality of our society today, where you cannot describe something from the ground up, so you have to jump straight to associations like, “Think ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ meets ”Aliens!'” or some such.

And, reading through the Kickstarter, the whole thing sounds much more like SOE’s Landmark, which I would imagine is neither well known enough nor far enough along to have attracted a “killer” yet, than Minecraft, with a bit more emphasis on creating content.

Think Landmark meets Neverwinter’s Foundry… if you must.

A bit of it does seem a bit blue sky naive.  This in particular stuck out:

The MyDream team is currently working on a leveling system based on the novel idea helping others. We would like to eliminate hating, griefing and other forms of abuse that run rampant in other MMO’s. By creating a reputation system that promotes cooperative team play and honest rating of others, we assure a self-policing positive environment for all.

That sent my cynicism spiking off the meter… they assure this… while at the same time making me think, “Oh God, don’t put it like that, you’re practically daring people to prove that they can grief and otherwise behave badly!  You don’t know their power!  Don’t make eye contact!”

I suppose I am a product of my environment, which does include EVE Online.  But rare is the multiplayer game where I haven’t seen some amount of bad behavior exhibited simply because it could be done.

Anyway, I thought I would bring this up because… urm  uh… I’ve forgotten now.  I don’t plan on pledging or even playing.  Variety? Something about “Minecraft killer” possibly?  Or maybe because their office is just up the road in Palo Alto.  Go local devs.

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter Campaign Winds Down February 22, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
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9 comments

The Kickstarter for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen finished up earlier today.

PROTF04

While there was a surge of pledges at the end, the final total came in at $460,657, well shy of the $800,000 goal. (But about where I predicted back on January 1st.)

PROTFfinalNumber

The daily numbers ended up looking like this according to Kicktraq:

Daily figures for the campaign

Daily figures for the campaign

With that result, Visionary Realms and Brad McQuaid are now moving into a new dimension of crowd funding, going it alone and asking for donations.  Their site is up and ready to take PayPal.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, going that route really changes, to my mind, the whole funding dynamic.  There is no minimum threshold for funding.  You pledge and they have your cash.  And while that has worked well for other games, Star Citizen has gone insane in it post-Kickstarter financing and even Lord British has managed to come up with another million for Shroud of the Avatar, I am not sure how things will play out in the absence of successful Kickstarter campaign.

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen – Kickstarter and Beyond February 21, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
Tags: ,
11 comments

Well, here we are with about a day left to go and the Kickstarter campaign for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is well shy of its $800,000 funding goal.  At this late date I think we can all agree that the project would need a Kickstarter Christmas miracle to fund.

PROTF04

A look at Kicktraq this morning shows the last 24 hours of the campaign faces a hill… well, a mountain… representing 46% of the funding goal.

PRotFOneDayLeft

And so it goes.

The campaign has been a mixed bag.  On the downside, I think that the groundwork done by Brad McQuaid and his Visionary Realms team before they set off down the Kickstarter path was woefully inadequate.  One does not simply *something something* into Kickstarter.

I also think (based on my 2014 prediction) that they asked for too much money.   I know that the idea was to set the groundwork for other funding by showing that the project had legs, but asking for $500K and getting it (which I think they could have) would have been better than asking for $800K and not getting much beyond the half way point.  There is also a tipping point after you hit your goal where you can open things up to other funding sources.

And I remain concerned about the focus of the project.  A key statement early on was that this was not going to be an attempt to be all things to all people.  But seeming acquiescence by Brad, both in the project stretch goals and the Reddit AMAs, to a variety of things I would consider out of scope for an initial release made me wonder if they could keep things on a single track.  The problem in software development never involves with coming up with ideas.  The problem is always paring things down to essentials so that the team can deliver quality.

But all was not bad.

I think that the overall message is one that a select group of players wanted to hear.  I think there is room in the world for a niche MMORPG focused on grouping and group content in the TorilMUD and EverQuest tradition. (Though I had to walk away from forum discussions when the “EQ PvP, Best PvP” squad hunkered down to stay.  Absolutely the wrong group of players for this, in my opinion.)

I think Brad handled the Reddit AMA’s well, aside from a couple of “I don’t see why not” answers to things I felt were really out of scope. (I will not get off the focus wagon, will I?)  There were a lot of good answers to question about views and details about Pantheon.  But I think the whole thing was best served by his answers around Vanguard,  what happened there, and how things are being run differently with Pantheon.

And, finally, I think that the cross-promotion between Pantheon and Shroud of the Avatar that came at the halfway point of the campaign was brilliant.  That was a really slick idea to find the cross-over appeal between two different projects.

The Respective Crests

The Respective Crests

Of course, once that was in play, any number of people wanted to know if Brad could work a similar deal with Chris Roberts to maybe get a boost from his Star Citizen funding success.  I am not sure that would see the same sort of overlap of interests as Shroud of the Avatar and Patheon: Rise of the Fallen, and it did not seem likely to come about in any case.

In the end though, it wasn’t enough.

Aside from looking for an angel investor, what now?

Well, it looks like Visionary Realms is going to take on the funding effort themselves.  They have updated their web site and have announced their post-Kickstarter plans.

The New Campaign

The New Campaign

And there are some advantages to going this route.  They are not beholden to Kickstarter and do not have to give them a cut.  They are not hemmed in by a time limit.  They can offer a wider variety of funding options.  Even now Visionary Realms has a subscription option listed with special benefits.

Will you subscribe to this theory?

Will you subscribe to this theory?

So the funding effort goes on.

The question is, will it have the same impact?

Despite the occasional pedantic view on the subject, the goal of funding efforts like this are not to obtain 100% of the money required to complete the project.  The idea is to get enough initial funding to demonstrate that there is interest in your project so that you can get further investment.  Brad McQuaid has said as much about Pantheon.

So Kickstarter is a funding exercise in part, but even more a marketing exercise.  But if you fail the funding part of Kickstarter, how much is the marketing exercise constrained?  And even if a company can turn around and go do their own fundraising effort post-Kickstarter, will that have the same impact?

And, the biggest question for me, how long will it take Visionary Realms be able to catch up to where they left off with Kickstarter and will people be as willing to pledge?  Because they have lost a few valuable assets that Kickstarter provides.

The first is, of course, the Kickstarter name itself.  People have a range of opinions about Kickstarter and the wisdom of giving people money through it, but they know what Kickstarter is and as a service it seems reasonably well respected.  There will be no Kickstarter cachet to bring people to the table any more.

Then there is the time limit aspect of the campaign.  While Visionary Realms won’t make their goal in the time frame, I would be willing to bet that the mere fact that there was a time limit got people to pledge.  There is nothing like a deadline to get people to focus.  Campaigns that succeed, or which are close to success, often have a large surge of pledges at the last minute.

Now though, there is no time limit.  There is no boundary to make people get off the fence one way or another.  I suspect that will hurt funding in the short term.

And then there is what I will call, for lack of a better term, the “Kickstarter Deal.”  In the case of Brad McQuaid and Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, the deal was that if he could raise $800,000, he would make this game happen.  You can believe him or not, but that was what he was offering.  So I put up some money along with about 3,000 other people.  But the effort will fall shy of the mark, so none of us will end up paying out any money.  Our pledge cost us nothing because the threshold for funding… the threshold at which Brad said he could make it happen… was not met.

Now that threshold is gone.

If I go over to the Visionary Realms web site and pledge $100 they have it that day, and if nobody else pledges I have just wasted my money.  It is much easier to throw in some cash if you think you are part of a group that will meet the threshold for funding.  But in the absence of that, I am probably not going to rush out on day one to give them some cash.  I am much more likely to sit on my hands, to wait and see how things are going, before I think about donating.

While Kickstarter does not in anyway guarantee that a funded project will actually do what it says in the end, it does at least give the illusion of a concentration of pledges that, if a pre-determined threshold is met, will make the project possible.  Unless I am missing something here, going to self-funding removes that aspect of the campaign.

So there we stand.  The Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter will run out the clock in less than a day and will not meet its goal.

Did you pledge any money to the Kickstarter and will you, in turn, donate to the self-run funding campaign for the project?

Is this the beginning of the end, or just the end of the beginning?