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Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Half-time Report February 2, 2014

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

Not the Super Bowl half-time.

No, we have now reached Day 20 of the 40 day Kickstarter campaign for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.  It is half way through its run.

PROTF04

And looking at the raw numbers this morning, you might feel justified in some skepticism about whether the campaign will reach its goal.  Things currently stand at:

Feb. 2, 2014 - 9am PST

Feb. 2, 2014 – 9am PST

Half way through and not quite at the 40% mark.  In a lot of campaigns that would be a serious cause for concern. Kicktraq shows that the average pledge per backer is $131 and that the average pledged per day stands at $14,876, well shy of the $20,000 a day required to make the goal.

But this campaign isn’t unfolding in the smooth, inverted bell curve way that I described in an earlier post, the way that Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar did.  That it is different can be seen as something of a mixed bag.

First there was the campaign launch, which was preceded by very little fanfare.  This turned what might have been a psychologically useful big first day into a scramble to catch up and get the word out.  And while the work on that has been going apace, it would have been nice to point at a big opening day for that.

The campaign did get a couple of boosts.  The first came when SOE announced that Vanguard: Saga of Heroes would be shut down this summer.  If nothing else, that seemed to answer the musical question, “Why would I want this new thing when I am happy enough with Brad’s past work?”  That past work is going away.

Then there was the Reddit Ask Me Anything that Brad got through pretty well.  Those can be tough runs.  I recall the first one John Smedley did, where he had to go through the whole Star Wars Galaxies NGE thing again, along with a few other unfun episodes in SOE history.  If anything, I think the questions that Brad got were not tough enough.  There was a lot of fanboy questions about this feature or that and a couple about Vanguard and what happened at Sigil.  But he has that last down to a nice sound bite at this point, so it was a lot more kumbaya than inquisition.

I would have liked to have heard… and would still like hear… a run through by him about the evolution of EverQuest from its roots to today.  He wants to get back to the old school days of 1999, dispensing with the new crap. (For me, “new crap” is pretty much defined as “everything after Ruins of Kunark,” which was the only truly all good MMO expansion ever, in my rose tinted view of the world.)  But EverQuest didn’t change and evolve in a vacuum.  Things were done for reasons, and often to solve specific problems.  I would like to hear how Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen will handle this.  (And I don’t think “smaller audience” is a sufficient answer.)

And then there was the latest item to get out the pledges, a tie-in with Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtue.  If you support both projects at a specific level or higher… and you can still get in on Shroud of the Avatar, Lord British is past the $3 million mark… you will receive a cloak in each game with that features the crest of the other.

The Respective Crests

The Respective Crests

That is a nifty incentive.  But the real win for Pantheon is that it included a direct message from Lord British to all 27,000+ supported of Shroud of the Avatar about the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign.  That is some serious targeted marketing, getting the word out to that many nostalgia focused gamers.  And while the cross-over between Ultima fans and EverQuest fans won’t be anywhere close to 100%, even a 10% hit rate would do wonders for Brad’s funding effort.

So that is a big wildcard that won’t be fully played until we get to the final days of the campaign.  There is almost always a spike in pledges at the end, which can be all the more frantic if it looks like a last minute push can be make or break.  We shall see.

And I also wonder if there isn’t more to the talks between Brad and Lord British.  Only a fool would pin all his hopes on a single throw of the dice on Kickstarter, and I do not think Brad is a fool.  Could Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen end up under the Portalarium banner next to Shroud of the Avatar?  That seems like a long shot, but it would make Portalarium more of an adventure game nostalgia power house.  We shall see.  We still have 20 more days to go.

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and the Realities of Kickstarter Funding January 14, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Camelot Unchained, entertainment, EverQuest, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, Shroud of the Avatar.
Tags: , , , , ,
20 comments

Here we are, less than a day in and Pathneon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter project is just shy of the $50,000 mark.  That would put it at a little over 6% of the way to the first goal of $800,000.

39 days to go

No doubt higher now

As with Camelot Unchained and Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Title Brevity, I am interested in this project and Kickstarter campaign for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the personality driving it.  Brad “Aradune” McQuaid is an name to conjure with in the MMORPG world.

The guy with the flaming sword

The guy with the flaming sword

His is also a name tied with a pretty public meltdown of vision versus follow-through.

Vanguard at launch...

Vanguard at launch…

If you want to spin this from a particular angle, you can draw on the parallels between Brad and Mark Jacobs and Richard Garriott.  All three were key drivers for three of the early MMORPGs that were very successful, drawing in hundreds of thousands of players.  EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, and Ultima Online all left their mark on the MMORPG world.

All three went on to another MMORPG that… failed to meet expectations.  Tabula Rasa closed quickly, Warhammer Online lingered, but closed as soon as it was contractually able, and Vanguard would have shut down a few months in had SOE not bailed it out.

And all three have come back to the MMORPG table pitching a new game based on lessons learned.

Well, sort of.

Mark Jacobs clearly had a “lessons learned” message with Camelot Unchained, and spent weeks talking about it before the Kickstarter was launched.  PvE is out, all focus of the game must be on PvP and RvR and everything in the game must in some way support those two.  The theme is about moving forward into a superior mix that will make for a game that is great within a limited focus and which can be sustained by appropriately small numbers.

Richard Garriott’s “lessons learned” were more along the lines of being true to what made his past single player RPGs popular.  Shroud of the Avatar will have a single player mode and it isn’t exactly clear to me how “MMO” the multiplayer mode will really be.  The theme here is about all the cool games from the past, Ultima IV through VII inclusive, and how to make that sort of thing come alive again.  We shall see.  But there is also a sub-current of focusing on what is important to make sure that gets developed fully.

And then there is Brad McQuaid.  He wants to remake EverQuest in a more modern image… which isn’t a bad thing.  After all, viewed from the right angle, Mark Jacobs simply wants to re-ignite what was great about Dark Age of Camelot and Richard Garriott is clearly after the spirit of the Ultima franchise.  The problem is that while Jacobs and Garriott spent many days before their Kickstarters talking about visions and lessons learned and what is important and where they want to focus, the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen preamble was pretty much this:

And I got what he meant by that, at least in spirit.  The problem is that this isn’t a big enough nail to hang a project on, in my opinion.  There wasn’t a lot of build up to the Kickstarter, the game details and tenets are bullet point lists (copied in my previous post), and there is very little on the whole “lessons learned” front.  I know Brad has said that he clearly bit off more than he could chew with Vanguard.  The game had way too many goals.  But what is the take-away from that?  How is this project, being taken on by a small team, going to pare down the possibilities to the key essentials so that they can deliver both to the vision and at an acceptable level of functionality and polish?

It is here I think that we see the key difference between Mark Jacobs and Richard Garriott, both long time game designers who founded their own companies, lead teams, and delivered many titles over the years, and Brad McQuaid, who has EverQuest (which got a nurturing hand from Sony and John Smedley), Vanguard, and a couple of small efforts he worked on before EverQuest.  This aspect of his skill and experience could be the make or break with the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter.

If Brad McQuaid cannot get people engaged by articulating both the vision he has for the game and how it is going to come together, then my guess is that the funding is going to dry up pretty quickly after the “I want another EverQuest” faction kicks in.  And that time is going to come very quickly.  The first 48 hours of a Kickstarter set the tone.  That is where critical mass is assembled, where you get your true believers to become your evangelists.  Because after that, every dollar is a fight.  Look at the patterns for Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar from Kicktraq:

Camelot Unchained

Camelot Unchained

Shroud of the Avatar

Shroud of the Avatar

Both of those graphs are very front loaded.  Camelot Unchained got 35% of its $2 million goal in the first two days, while Shroud of the Avatar got 55% of its $1 million goal in the same period.  After that, there was the long dry spell where Mark Jacobs and Richard Garriott got out and did interviews and spoke to everybody who would listen.  Hell, Mark Jacobs came HERE and left a comment on my first post about the Camelot Unchained Kickstarter, acknowledging my statement that it was going to be a tough fight to get to $2 million.  The man was a communications machine, and he continues to be one in the project updates.

Brad McQuaid will need to do the same, because the easy money will dry up soon.  Will he be able to take it to the streets and get people interested?  We will see.  He will have to do more than make comments on Twitter and Facebook supported by a company web site that currently does little more than act as a pointer to the Kickstarter page.  This needs to be a political campaign, a marketing event, and an old fashioned spiritual revival meeting all wrapped up into one to succeed, and Brother Brad needs to step up and testify.  If he is going to bang the nostalgia drum, he needs to bang it loud and often.  He cannot be the lone monarch on the throne.  He has to be out and about.  We need to see him in the press and doing updates and a dozen things in between.

The spirit can't pledge...

The spirit can’t pledge…

While the project “only” needs $20K a day to fund fully, and it will no doubt make more that $50K in its first 24 hours, it has to do a lot better out of the gate to carry things forward.  There will be a last minute rush of people pledging, but that will only matter if there is a big enough base of funding in place.  In looking through a bunch of projects, the last day rarely ever exceeds the first.

What do you think?  Is Brad up to the task of getting out the faithful and getting them to pony up for another run at the EverQuest vision?  Are bullet points enough, or does this whole thing need more substance?

Camelot Unchained Kickstarter Campaign Complete May 2, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Camelot Unchained, entertainment, Shroud of the Avatar.
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2 comments

The 30 day run is over and Mark Jacobs and team have made their goal and then some.  The final count on Kickstarter is $2,232,933.

NOT the official drink of Kickstarter

NOT the official drink of Kickstarter

As I pointed out as part of the Kickstarter pattern, the campaign hauled in about as much in the last two days of the run as they did during the first big day.  More people showed up for a last minute contribution.  You can see how that played out with this chart over at Kicktraq.

Or you can just go with this.

Plus, once they met their $2 million goal, they were able to open up PayPal donations as well, which accrued nearly another $30K up to this point and which will no doubt remain open for those who want in on the founder deals.

And on top of all of that, there is the additional million dollars from other investors and the $2 million dollars that Mark Jacobs is personally kicking in, giving City State Entertainment more than $5 million to create its niche, RvR, no-PvE focused MMORPG.

So now it is time for them to go build a game.

And, as usual, I cannot help but compare how this campaign went with how Lord British and his Shroud of the Avatar Kickstart finished.  While the two games are different in substance as planned, they were both what I would call personality driven campaigns, Lord British on one hand and Mark Jacobs on the other, around proposed fantasy games that hearkened back to their roots as designers and which were both squarely aimed and their long term fans.

Lord British had a more modest goal, one million dollars, and ended up just past the two million dollar mark at the end.  Mark Jacobs set a more aggressive goal, one that was in question with only three days left in the campaign, but which ended up just shy of 2.3 million dollars.  (PayPal contributions as they stood at campaign end included for both.)

Lord British brought in more backers, with 22,322 pitching in on Kickstarter, compared to 14,873 for CU.  But the average pledge per backer was $151 for CU, while Lord British fans gave an average of $86.

Over at Kicktraq you can look at the Shroud of the Avatar and Camelot Unchained numbers to see how things shaped up in each campaign.

Both campaigns were examples of how is being viewed by larger projects.  Rather than being a primary source of funding, these were marketing campaigns that raised awareness, identified a core audience, got data and buy-in from them, and made a pile of money in the process.  How else can a company do that before they have actually made a serious start on a game?

And success in Kickstarter, and delivering on promises, can make a difference in funding.  I got a note… well, it was really a link to a video… last week from Hidden Path Entertainment that they got funding to go ahead with Defense Grid 2, largely based on their Kickstarter performance.  So it can make a difference.  And I’ll get a copy of that when it comes out for free, having been a supporter.

There are still plenty of small campaigns out there for projects that could otherwise not find funding along with fundraising efforts and the like.  Jason Scott wasn’t going to get funding any other way for his documentaries (or his storage unit), and Planet Money, a podcast I enjoy, is doing a T-shirt fundraiser on Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is just becoming more things to more people as time goes on and people get used to it.

Anyway, now comes the long wait for the games that were funded.  But at least I will likely shut up about Kickstarter for a while.

Shroud of the Avatar Comes in Just Over Two Million Dollars April 7, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Camelot Unchained, entertainment, Shroud of the Avatar.
Tags: , ,
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Lord British is no doubt celebrating this morning, having finished up his 30 day run on Kickstarter with a last minute surge of donations, bringing the grand total of donations to $2,030,676, averaging about $88 per backer.  That is double is initial $1 million goal.

NOT the official drink of Kickstarter

NOT the official drink of Kickstarter

That number includes the totals from the Kickstarter page and money raised on the official game site from those who wanted to use PayPal.

From the official site

From the official site

I am not sure why somebody would find Amazon payments objectionable, but then be fine with PayPal, but I guess at least 775 people could answer that question, and they have 111,401 reasons on their side.

Anyway, this means that the $2 million stretch goal has been met.

That is a long list

That is a long list

And, as these things now go, just because it is over doesn’t mean it is actually over.  Obsidian Entertainment’s Project Eternity Kickstarter funded, but then let people put in some money late with their “slack backer” program on their official site. so you can get in on some aspect of the action on a Kickstarter than funded back in October.

I have also seen several Kickstarter campaigns that let you upgrade your tier after the fact, raking in a few extra dollars.   And, even as I am writing this, people have added more money to the Shroud of the Avatar project via PayPal.  But I have updated the dollar amount above three times already.  I am just going to leave it where it is for now.

And speaking of now, now is when the wait begins.  The money is being collected.  The goals are set.

When will something come of all of this?

One of the more common complaints about Kickstarter is about projects not meeting their timeline.  The estimated date for the launch of the first of five episodes of the game is October 2014.  I guess we will see in about 18 months how accurate that estimate was along with how much communication continues from Lord British and company post-campaign.  Communication can alleviate some of the frustration people will feel when the project inevitably slips.

And, most important of all, with the unwieldy name of Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, can we just shorten that to “SotA” and pronounce is as “soda?”

Meanwhile, the Camelot Unchained Kickstarted campaign is five days in and just shy of the $900K mark on the path to the $2 million goal as I write this.  It is bringing in an average of $157 per back at this point, but appears to have hit that first plateau after a very quick initial run up.  We will have to see what Mark Jacobs and team has up their sleeve to keep that dollar amount climbing.

Camelot Unchained Kickstarter Unleashed! April 2, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Camelot Unchained, entertainment, Shroud of the Avatar.
Tags: , , ,
10 comments

Mark Jacobs and his team were wise enough to pass on an April 1st start date for his Camelot Unchained Kickstarter.

(Though I think the whole thing started before the timer on the Camelot Unchained home page finished counting down.  Probably a good idea to make sure it was going strong before sending people over.)

But the day of fools has passed, and now it is back to marketing as usual.

As Lord British and his Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter winds down its last few days, having crossed the $1.3 million mark, getting it to the interactive musical instruments stretch goal (did anybody believe that those stretch goals wouldn’t make it into the game?), Mark Jacobs and Camelot Unchained begin their campaign.

CamelotUnchained_450px

And Mark wants two million dollars.

He’ll see Lord British’s million and raise him a million.

SupportCU_450

That seems like an aggressive goal.  As I said before, I think Lord British has better general name recognition and is a bigger draw because of that.  So the City State Entertainment team is going to have to work hard to make that goal.

All of the now standard Kickstarter bits and pieces are in place.  There are tiers from $5 to $10,000 with splashy graphics to illustrate what you get with each tier and charts to compare tier.  It is a lot of graphics.  The page seems to go on forever.  But you pretty much need the picture to see what you are getting because the text about the tiers in the side bar is cramped and goes on forever as well.  And I have already spotted a couple of discrepancies between charts and pictures.  There is a game in that alone I think.

There are mission statements and what makes the game unique and, of course, the requisite “why Kickstarter” apologia.

As a “niche” and RvR-focused MMORPG, CU is a very risky venture for most traditional game publishers. Even if we did find one willing to take the risk, it would come with so many strings attached we couldn’t make the game we want to, or would face constant battling to ensure our vision remains intact. That’s why we’re attempting to fund some, but not all, of this project’s costs through Kickstarter.

While we at CSE believe in Camelot Unchained, we could be wrong about it having even enough appeal for backers to fund this Kickstarter. We will create this game only if there is a demand for it, so if we can’t get the partial funding we seek, we will not go ahead. OTOH, if we do successfully fund, Mark Jacobs will add $2M dollars to the development budget himself. This is covered in more detail below.

I suppose it is refreshing to see the founder, who in this case doesn’t live in a castle and hasn’t paid his way into space, publicly matching the funds raised.  I am not sure how meaningful that is, but it is there.

And there is a succinct statement about where the money is going.

Every dollar we raise from this Kickstarter campaign will go towards development. Our staffing plan includes hiring three additional engineers, two artists, one designer and one part-time writer immediately. The MMO engine will be developed in-house with one purpose, to make a great RvR MMORPG; the engineers will work with Andrew on it, and our existing programmers on the server tech. While this game won’t require the amount of content as Dark Age of Camelot, we still need to hire a few more artists in-house and a writer so, dragons be praised, Mark can go back to his day job and stop writing all these documents.

I think that is a pretty reasonable statement.

There is a chart that lists out what you can buy with those Founder Points you get for this and that.  That seems to be a mildly new twist.  I am still not sure how many points I would get for any given tier, or how I actually spend them, but at least I can see that there is a use for them.

There are, however, no explicit stretch goals yet, though there are several statement about other platforms depending on making such goals.  But I get the feeling it will be a stretch to get to the main goal.  And it is easier to communicate a specific goal rather than a series of hurdles past what people thought was the finish line.

And there is a nice new graphic of the team.

City State Entertainment

City State Entertainment

I like that a lot.  And now I am even more likely to think of The City State of the Invincible Overlord every time I see that company name.

I also like that the name of the product is just two words, Camelot Unchained, and didn’t end up as Mark Jacob’s Camelot Unchained: Conflict of Three Lands Who Have Been At It Before or some such.

And the estimated delivery date for the final product?  December 2015.

Now, the big question is, will Mark Jacobs and the City State Entertainment team make it to $2,000,000 by Thursday May 2, 11:56am EDT?  We’re at the fast out of the gate stage where the true believers kick in, so the numbers are rising fast.  The $300K mark is close as of this time.  But when will that first plateau arrive?

And will we get an interview from Mark Jacobs where he insults people in order to draw attention to the whole thing when pledges do slow down?

The Kickstarter page is here for your viewing pleasure.

This Kickstarter and That Kickstarter March 29, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Camelot Unchained, entertainment, Shroud of the Avatar.
Tags: , ,
4 comments

Lord British carries on, but his Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter project is coming to its close.  There are just nine days left to go at this point.  He is past his goal and sitting around the $1.2 million mark.

ShroudoftheAvatar

I have said in previous posts that this Kickstarter project is more of a marketing exercise than a financing necessity.  That it is being run to a plan.  And that even Lord British giving a controversial interview was part of that plan, though that seemed to go off course a bit.

And while I am sure I sound cynical at times… during waking hours is generally when this is so, though I am told I sometimes snore in derisive tones… I do not see this who process as not necessarily a bad thing.

Not a bad thing at all, really.

Lord British… and since he is putting his name at the top and playing the role as primary spokesperson, I’ll keep referring just to him… has availed himself of a useful publicity tool that brings with it many benefits, not the least of these is that it can turn a profit while getting the word out and getting his real fans to self-identify and invest themselves… emotionally and economically… in his proposed game.

And the plan continues.  They hit the checkpoint the other day where they announced additional benefits for each of the different pledge tiers.  This was not spontaneous at all.  This was a method to get people already on the hook to up their pledge.  Who doesn’t want an immortality fruit for just a few dollars more?

Available only to backers, you will receive one Immortality Fruit seed. With the Farming Craft you can plant the Immortality Fruit seed, which will bear a single fruit. When eaten, this fruit will fully heal you, and leave you with a single seed which can be planted and harvested, over and over, for all eternity. The Immortality Fruit seed can be transferred between players.

As far as I can tell, this did manage to shake a few more dollars out of people’s pockets, as I am sure his opening up pledges to PayPal users.

The plan though seemed to be based on a specific tempo.  The philosophy behind it appeared to be to make this as much of a spectacle during the 30 days of the project, with minimal information available before the kick off.

Every concrete detail we know about Shroud of the Avatar… including the name… has come since their Kickstarter has launched.  It has been a concentration of focus.  No warning.  Shock and awe, if you will.

And this interests me because not only is another industry veteran, Mark Jacobs, planning a Kickstarter campaign, but he is doing it in a very different way so far.  He and his company, City State Entertainment, have been talking about what they are planning for a while now.  They started their pre-Kickstarter awareness campaign back at the beginning of February.

CSEx450

We know the name already.  Or at least we think we do.  It is Camelot Unchained, with a faint “working title” scribbled in along side.

CUworkingtitle

Mark Jacobs has laid out a series of design principles around the game cover things such as balance, crafting, socializing,  and taking chances, even bringing in another team member to cover graphics and the looks versus performance aspect of design.

They are already previewing and getting feedback on the backer’s tiers they plan to offer and some of the incentive concepts they plan to run with as part of the planned Kickstarter campaign, including something called Founder’s Points.  Those were mentioned in the Camelot Unchained newsletter if you subscribed to the mailing list.

I also said that that would be prizes and pie for all. Well, maybe I did not mention pie but I know I mentioned prizes so here is the first one. Everybody who has subscribed to our mailing before the Kickstarter launches will receive additional Founders Points. What are Founder’s Points you might ask? Well, stay tuned for the developer diaries to find out.

We haven’t gotten that developer diary entry yet.  These points will be redeemable for something, and you’ll get a few extra if you bought their March on Oz game, though they will be tracked based on the email address you use… and crap, I used a different email address for iOS purchases, Amazon payments, and signing up for email lists.  So I’m probably going to miss out on some points on that front.

But we still do not know when this Kickstarter campaign is going to kick off.

All of which, as I said above, is very different from how the Lord British campaign went.

Part of it is, I am sure, due to the asymmetry of the situations.  At one level it is two industry veterans playing to their fans and trying to revive what they felt was great about some of their past. And, oddly, both sold past companies to Electronic Arts and are now building on IPs similar to what they did in the past.

But Lord British has better name recognition and probably a bigger fan base built up over time.  This was no doubt helped by his Lord British character being part of the games and by the fact that his Ultima series of games spanned two decades.  We tend to remember that and not Tabula Rasa.

Meanwhile, Mark Jacobs, whose last great work was Dark Age of Camelot, has to live in the shadow Warhammer Online and a fashion designer.  So he has to build up some momentum in advance that Lord British could probably achieve on name recognition alone.  And then there are the teams behind the games.  Lord British shows all the games that his Shroud of the Avatar team have touched on the Kickstarter page, while Mark’s lineup is… a little more whimsical.

Still, even with the different relative positions and project goals, it is hard for me not to compare these two projects, at least when it comes to their Kickstarter ambitions.

Lord  British has made his million dollar goal, though he hasn’t exactly sped through the stretch goals.  Still, he can claim victory.  And he still has more than a week left to go, so there could still be a big surprise reveal on the plan.

Meanwhile, we do not even know how much money Mark Jacobs will be asking for.  Or when he will start asking for it.  And given how front-loaded all of the work has been so far, I will be interested to see how the Camelot Unchained 30 day funding campaign will unfold.  What is he holding back?  What reveals does he have in his pocket, waiting for just the right time?  Who is he going to insult in a controversial mid-campaign interview?

I can hardly wait to see how it plays out.

Oh… and if a good game or two comes from all of this, so much the better!

Anyway, expect that I will follow Camelot Unchained as vigorously as I have Shroud of the Avatar.

Addendum:

This just came in email, indicating at least that the Camelot Unchained Kickstarter is closer than I thought.  Also, they updated the CU web site since I wrote this.  Things look different and all links may not work.  Also, “working title” appears to have gone missing, so it looks like it will be Camelot Unchained.

Pardon the Delay!

Folks,

The bad news is that Kickstarter campaign for Camelot Unchained is not going to start today. The good news is that our project is currently in review. As soon as Kickstarter approves our project, we will announce the official Kickstarter launch date. We have no reason to expect that it won’t be approved next week but our project is rather “complicated” as there are a ton of moving parts, including 30 very detailed reward tiers, all the individual rewards, Founder’s Exchange (the store), etc. Due to that complexity, the holiday and the typical studio issues of weather/illness/CPU going boom/etc., it took us just a little bit longer than we thought it would to put it all together so please accept our apologies for this brief delay.

We are going to take advantage of this “downtime” to post material from the campaign, starting with our pledge tiers. Our plan is to break up the tiers into multiple blog posts with the first part going up, on our brand new website, later today.

We will let you know the Kickstarter campaign’s starting date after our project is approved. Again, sorry for the brief delay but when you see our Kickstarter presentation next week, I hope you will agree that it was worth waiting for, even if the wait is just a wee bit longer than expected.

Mark

Lord British Says He Was Taken Out of Context! March 21, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Shroud of the Avatar.
Tags: ,
12 comments

Mistakes were made and the gaming press took advantage!

Lord British points to his Facebook page, which in turn points to a PDF document, where he back peddles about what he really meant when he said what he said.

What he meant was game design is difficult and hard to learn.

What he apparently did NOT mean was that he was the best game designer he ever met, that game designers are, by and large, unqualified for their jobs and “suck,” and that every game designer he has ever worked with has been lazy.  Any phrases that might have indicated such were taken out of a context not apparent to you, the reader.

Please do not let the fact that Lord British was made to appear to call most game designers lazy, unqualified scrubs deter you from supporting his Kickstarter project.

(Document saved locally here, just for posterity: Words Taken Out of Context)

Lord British Knows Controversy Gets Attention March 20, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Shroud of the Avatar.
Tags: ,
17 comments

He has his Kickstarter campaign.

He has made his initial goal.

But success now is really measured in how far he can exceed his million dollar line in the sand.  How can he explain that he already had pets and weather as part of the design if you won’t give him money for these stretch goals?

So what is the stand-by Lord British plan?

Go to the press!

The gaming press falls over itself when he offers up an interview despite the fact he is using them to pursue his own goals.  Remember his “great fondness for EA” press campaign?  Suddenly he loved EA when he wanted to get his Ultima IP back.  Pity he didn’t actually speak to them directly.

Of course, when they gave him the big “up yours” he suddenly remembered some bad bits about EA.  Funny that.

And he sure had nice things to say about Zynga when he was looking to get into bed with Mark Pincus.

You're right, these helmets are great Mark!

You’re right, these helmets are great Mark!

And not an ounce of irony showed from his previous scolding of the industry for not following Zynga… over a cliff, as it turns out.  Bag game design I bet.

To be fair though, he does always give the press something they want.  He delivers up a good quote or two that they can run with to draw in readers.  Lord British guarantees page views.

And today he has delivered.  The headline for the interview over at PC Gamer includes the quote:

most game designers really just suck

He hits it out of the park!

#winning

#winning

Of course, what he really said was:

But other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I’ve met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am. I’m not saying that because I think I’m so brilliant. What I’m saying is, I think most game designers really just suck, and I think there’s a reason why.  It’s really hard to go to school to be a good designer”

Which I guess mitigates the statement a bit.  It isn’t easy to become a game designer.  That is why you suck.  Oh, and you aren’t a good artist or a decent programmer, so what else can you do besides menial work like QA or community management?  So you end up in game design.

Still, just to make sure things are clear… and generate controversy… he puts the boot in a couple more times.  The article is a mine of inflammatory quotes, which he hands out with a knowing wink.

And every designer that I work with… I think, frankly, is lazy.

Boy, I sure hope you didn’t have a Game Designer entry on your resume for a Lord British project, you lazy bastard!

But he got plenty of attention.  And while there is such a thing as bad publicity… ask the SimCity 5 general manager about that one… tripping over your own lies is never good… controversy often works if it doesn’t inherently taint your own product.  Lord British said other people suck.

And PC Gamer threw him his bone, mentioning and linking to his project at the end of the article… if you got that far.

Now, how much of a bump on Kickstarter will this interview give one of the industries least lazy game designers?

Meanwhile, what happened to that quote about being stupid if you’re not making an MMO?  You remember, the one from right before Tabula Rasa.

Lord British – Kickstarter by the Numbers March 19, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Camelot Unchained, entertainment, Shroud of the Avatar.
Tags: , ,
6 comments

Richard Garriott de Cayeux, aka Lord British, has made his million.

ShroudoftheAvatar1mil

The count at ~03:00 UTC

The Kickstarter for Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, to give it its awkward full name, passed the one million dollar mark this evening, with 19 days left to go on the 30 day run.  This means Lord British and his company will get some money.

What they do with it remains to be seen.

As a funding necessity, I remain skeptical of the need for Lord British to resort to this sort of thing.  The idea that a million dollars will make a huge difference relative to what he is promising or that he could not get that sum of money without retaining his independence seems patently silly to me.

But as a marketing exercise… well, on that front his effort seems to be quite the success.

I was actually kind of surprised that his team jumped straight from a count down… which felt somewhat stale… how many such count downs have we endured in the past… right into the Kickstarter without any sort of introductory preamble or warm up.

I compare this, of course, to Mark Jacobs and his Camelot Unchained posts, which is just that sort of build up to a Kickstarter campaign.  Mr. Jacobs has been building up to a Kickstarter, laying out founding principals and such in attempt to create enthusiasm in advance of the kick off.

Meanwhile, Lord British has been running his Kickstarter… or somebody has been running it for him… like a pro.

He has had new updates, new rewards, or new reveals every day since the the fund run started.   It was all planned well in advance, but it gets put out there like it was a spontaneous new surprise.  This past afternoon, in obvious anticipation of passing the million dollar mark, the first stretch goals showed up.

Room for more goals...

Room for more goals…

If Lord British hits the 1.1 million dollar mark, players will get social and combat pets as part of the game.

At the 1.2 million dollar mark, there will be changeable weather.

Actually, looking at those, I am not sure he is keeping up standards.  Can you picture him holding back these features if somehow these goals are not met.  Meanwhile, the 1.3 million dollar stretch goal has yet to be revealed.  People will have to donate to find out what is up.

Probably the most interesting update so far was update #10 about the various play modes that will be available in the game.  They will be:

Single player offline:
This is the DRM free, completely off-line version of the game.  Your character is stored on your computer and can not be used in any of the online modes.

Single Player Online (SPO)
In the SPO mode you connect to the server, receive content updates, and can see the long term changes others are having on the world.  However, you are not visible on anyone else’s screen, nor for grouping, and you don’t see anyone else in the world.  You can switch from SPO to FPO or OPO modes whenever you like while in a city or overland map.  Some parts of the main storyline quests may temporarily force the player into SPO mode for some parts of the quest.

Friends Play Online (FPO)
In friends play online, you only see people you have flagged as friends in the game and only they can see you.  Like single player, this is just a server side filter.  For those who prefer the quieter game with friends or maybe for those who prefer a more focused role playing experience, this lets you enjoy a more limited online experience. You can switch to SPO or OPO modes whenever you like while in a city or in the overland map.

Open Play Online (OPO)
In OPO players will see everyone that the server thinks they should see.  This will not necessarily be all people in the area but should be people you care the most about based on what we believe is their relevance to you.

I find the last bit the most interesting, in that you will see “everyone that the server thinks” you should see.  Also, it is odd that they make a point of saying that single player offline will be completely DRM free.  I wonder what that implies.

Anyway, Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues has met its minimum goal.  We shall see how far along it progresses from there.

And we will see, eventually, how the Mark Jacobs strategy works in comparison.

Kickstarter as Just Another Marketing Tool March 11, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Shroud of the Avatar.
Tags: ,
16 comments

I think we all sort of get the idea of Kickstarter.  It is a way to fund a creative project via “crowd funding,” an off-shoot term of “crowd sourcing.”

KickStarter450

More specifically, Kickstarter is viewed as a way to fund such projects that are unlikely to be able to find funding through more traditional means or which are too small to attract institutional investors.  At this point, the most “funded” Kickstarter project, the Pebble watch, raked in just over $10 million.  That is a lot of money, but it is the outlier as far as projects go.  Most projects fall under the $10,000 mark.

Or at least they did up to this point.  Now Kickstarter seems to be getting cachet as a “place to be” for funding.

And so we have Shroud of the Avatar. Lord British is asking for a million dollars to help fund his return to his RPG roots.  That seems like a lot to you and I.  But when you are paying salaries and such, you can run through a million dollars pretty quickly.

It is likely that Mr. Garriott de Cayeux has invested his own money into the project.  But even if Lord B is merely adhering to the start up code of Silicon Valley (never use your own money… and I bet Curt Schilling wished somebody had mentioned that one to him earlier) he could get a million dollars invested via other means (and still keep full control) based on his name alone.  But a million dollars isn’t going to make this project.  The Kickstarter page says that there is already a good deal of money invested in the game.

The telling piece is the response to the “Why Kickstarter?” question at the bottom of the page.

Kickstarter has really changed the landscape for game developers. It allows us to connect directly with you, the players, and it keeps us from being so dependent on the traditional publishing model. It gives us a direct feedback loop with people who like our game and have decided to back it. We can hear what you like and don’t like and can make additions and changes based on that feedback, before the game is launched. Kickstarter has opened up a new era of game development that really benefits gamers.

While there is something to be said for not being dependent of the traditional publishing model, I get the feeling that funding and independence isn’t the key here.  Rather, it feels like Kickstarter being using as a marketing campaign that pays for itself.  It identifies people who not only have interest in the game, but those who are willing to put up money in advance and lets them pay for the privileged of  testing and giving feedback.  For just $400 they will give you access to a special developer forum!

And, of course, it also lets the team get a sense of how many really interested fans they have out there waiting for the project.  It is a very effective trial balloon.

So it all works very well for Lord British, giving him a pile of things he wants besides money.  And, of course, there is the money.  He is past the two thirds mark for his million dollars at this point, so he’ll get some cash, as will Kickstarter, which gets 5% off the top.

And Lord British is hardly alone.  He just happens to be the Kickstarter of the moment and can hardly be blamed for making effective use of such a popular tool whether or not his project really “needs” the money.

I just wonder what this increasing wave of popularity for Kickstarter as a funding platform.

Does using Kickstarter for publicity purposes defeat or diminish Kickstarter?  Do projects like this help other games that might really need the funding by drawing more attention to Kickstarter, or are they just taking dollars away from such projects?  What becomes of the small projects now?

(Of course, Wall Street is unhappy with this whole crowd funding thing on general “where’s my cut?” principles.)