The Unchecked Optimism of Not Knowing Better

I want to say up front that I am not writing this post to be mean.  But, given that I am going to explore something with so many things wrong with it, I am sure that is the way it will come across.  Such is life.  I suppose I could just not make the post, but I just cannot let this pass, it being an object lesson on so many fronts.

l speak, of course, of The Flower of Knighthood Kickstarter campaign.

The Flowers of Knighthood for Algernon

I’ve been down the list of things wrong with past Kickstarter campaigns.  I was critical of The Fountain War, Hero’s Song, and The World of Warcraft Diary Kickstarter campaigns, calling them all problematic early on, because they all seemed to fail on fronts that seemed obvious to even an outside observer like myself.

But The Flower of Knighthood seems on track to outdo them all.

Let’s start with the asking amount.  As I have said in the past, the amount you ask for needs to reflect reality.  People with industry fame like Lord British and Mark Jacobs, they were good for $2 million.  Brad McQuaid, certainly famous in MMORPG circles, didn’t have enough pull for $800K, but came close to $500K.   Eric Heimberg, who could at least point to some successful MMORPGs he had worked on, had to take three runs at Kickstarter campaigns for Project: Gorgon before getting the mix of publicity and goals correct. to bring in nearly $75K.

Basically, a little bit of research can give you some baseline expectations when it comes to funding.  Those aren’t hard and fast numbers.  You too could possibly bring in a million dollars on a campaign without being Lord British, but you would have to do something else to bring attention to your efforts.  You could get media outlets interested in your project, have some sort of event, or maybe buy ads on Facebook.  I hear those can swing national elections.

What you shouldn’t do is just forge ahead with an ask you think you need but have no reason to expect you’ll make.  So there is The Flower of Knighthood looking for $600K.  No real publicity in advance… I mean, I pay attention to things better than most and I only heard about the campaign when Massively OP posted about it earlier this week.

Before that there was just a post about their project, but no mention of funding, no attempt to get people ready to buy in, just launch the Kickstarter without preamble and hope for the best.

This campaign is not going to make its $600K goal.

My rule of thumb, based on observations of successful campaigns, is that if you cannot secure 20% of your funding in the first 24 hours you are not going to make your goal.

The first 24 hours is when your installed base, the true fans of your plan, will show up and support you.

The Flower of Knighthood brought in just $351 in the first two days of its campaign, a dismal 0.006% of their goal, and I rounded up a bit to make that number look better.  If you follow the campaign over at Kicktraq it will give you the scale of how far they are off from their goal.  The campaign needs to bring in $20,000 a day to hit its goal.

$351 is such a ridiculously tiny amount that it brings into question how serious this team really is about their project.  Seriously, the base level of effort I would expect, the low end support they should be looking for is from their friends and family.  Surely they went out and at least told all connections on Facebook about this campaign to at least drum up some level of pity support.  If you can’t get your mom to kick in five bucks, just go home.

And yet in the first two days they managed to get pledged from just nine people.

Given the lofty goals and wide scope of their plan, I have to believe there are more than nine people working on this product.  Whose mom wouldn’t pony up?

So the whole thing is dead out of the gate.  No real publicity, no real effort to rally fans, nothing but a misguided belief that if they put up the project then fans will magically appear. (And, best of all, they have stretch goals already, out to $4.8 million!  Plan for success I guess.)

Somewhere they missed the news about how 20 new games popped up on Steam every day in 2017, a number that has continued to rise in 2018.  In the flood of new games that is our current reality, how did they expect somebody to find theirs?

Of course, that doesn’t start to get into some of the other issues hindering this campaign, like the game itself.

I know from long experience that any game, or any aspect of a given game, no matter how horrible and tedious you may find it, is somebody’s favorite thing.  That is the nature of the world.

But just because you know somebody out there will like your game doesn’t mean that there is a big enough audience out there to support it.  The campaign states “the main point of our game is realism” and they are taking that seriously.  For example, I give you the summary of the crafting system:

Authentic craft system – thanks to Dr Stephen Mileson from Oxford University we are creating a maximally authentic craft system. It means that during craft activities you will accurately repeat the actions of 15th-century blacksmiths, carpenters, leatherworkers, tailors and other craftsmen.

I am sure this will appeal to somebody, but I already have a day job.  People found the old EverQuest II multi-level crafting, where you had to refine raw materials, build components, then assemble them into a final finished product, so I have to wonder how realistic they can afford to get.  Will things take literal days and weeks to create?  And what is everybody using until production gets under way?  There is something about NPCs being able to do some of the tedious work, but will they want to get paid?

To make thine axe…

And speaking of paying people, what about the economy to support this crafting?  They don’t say much, aside from the fact that there will be no instant travel and thus, I assume, no instant delivery auction house, so it sounds like people will be walking around from town to town trying to sell things.

Then there is the combat system.  They have rejected hit points and have declared for a realistic physics based system of attacks and blocks.

This reminds me of the post from back in 2010 from the dev at Undead Labs who was going to revolutionize MMOs by eschewing auto-attack and skills for the ability to just swing a bat and hit somebody.  That… and Syp’s reaction to it… got a long response from Brian “Psychochild” Green back then.

More telling, Undead Labs ended up releasing State of Decay in 2013, a single player game.  Even the recently released update, State of Decay 2, is four player co-op, so you’re only bashing zombies, not other players.  So much for fixing MMOs. (There is an Honest Game Trailers about State of Decay if you’re interested.)

And while games like Darkfall and Asheron’s Call have done positional based combat… you have to at least be in the arc of the attack to get hit… I am not sure they attempted to match up attacks versus blocks in a PvP world.  Latency is still a thing.  I can speak from experience in EVE Online, where it has been proven that the person closest to the London data center gets their attack in first.

Okay, you might think, but maybe their goals aren’t so lofty?  Maybe they are overstating things by declaring it an MMORPG?  Maybe this is really meant to be something small, like Medieval Engineers or some such.

Well let me disabuse you of any thoughts down that path.  They want all of that and they want it on a massive scale.  From the Kickstarter:

Talk of ‘massive’ does not mean 100 vs 100. We want to make it possible to gather armies of 1,000 people on each side of the battle. This allows you to implement diverse tactics and combat strategies. You can use archers to weaken your opponent’s army and then send heavy swordsmen with high shields in to attack, and in the most tense moments you can strike with your cavalry into the opponent’s flank.

Two thousand people on field?  I have been on internet spaceship battles in EVE Online of that scale and larger, but fights in New Eden are “press the button to shoot” level of complexity, where you just have to get hostiles within your weapons envelope, open fire, and let the server calculate the rest.  The system gets so slow and so unresponsive that the thought of having to do individual attacks seems ludicrous.  And, as a defender, being able to put up blocks to counter attacks… attacks you would have to see coming… seems like a pretty dicey proposition.

When questioned about this on the Kickstarter page, their answer expressed a confidence that it could be done given enough server computing capacity, which I know to be the answer to all performance issues, but which seems a bit smug given the level of funding they have achieved so far.  Server capacity costs money.

Meanwhile, they just sort of wave away the end user’s video card capability to render such a battle with the idea that first person view will help.

But when they are planning on “realistic” graphics and character movement based on motion capture, facing even a hundred live and active players seems likely to melt ones video card.

Basically, almost every aspect of this project, from funding to design to implementation, seems like pie in the sky.  They are even missing one of the key items of every MMORPG Kickstarter campaign, the list out of the veterans on the team and the projects on which they have worked.  If you’re going to do something this crazy ambitious, you want to at least be able to say you’ve got somebody on the team who has done something similar.  There is a reference to somebody with 21 years of experience, but neither the projects they worked on nor in what capacity.  If it was somebody with 21 years experience working on server side code for some big titles, I might be impressed.  If it is somebody with 21 years experience doing character models and textures, not so much.

At best they seem to have checked too many boxes on their wishlist.  Maybe this is viable as a multi-player co-op.  Leave out the massive battles and cavalry charges and just have players join tournaments and fight off the odd bandit.

And, yes, I am sure I have just expended 1,500 or so words shitting all over somebody’s dream.  But the company, Eaglance (not to be confused with Swiss SEO firm of the same name), really hasn’t the groundwork to be taken seriously.  They’re an effectively unknown company with nobody on staff they can name with relevant experience, planning technical feats that have thwarted the likes of Blizzard in the past, with just a bunch of features, asking for an amount of money that manages to be both ludicrously large and hilariously small at the same time given their abilities and needs.

Anyway, I invite you to take a look at their Kickstarter and their web site to tell me if I have missed something that indicates that this project might have a chance.  To me it seems likely to simmer for years before either shipping something with little relation to their grand vision or disappearing altogether.

8 thoughts on “The Unchecked Optimism of Not Knowing Better

  1. bhagpuss

    I was going to quote a few choice lines from the Kickstarter page for comedic effect but you’re right, it would be mean. I can’t resist this outstanding example, though:

    “Nothing should prevent you from feeling yourself in the Middle Ages…”.

    Even if this game was somehow to come to market exactly as imagined, its potential audience would be infinitesemal. Many of these concepts would be very welcome and popular in the context of a live-action medieval reconstruction, something for which a sizeable audience does exist, but the concept of “authenticity” simply does not translate through a screen.

    Maybe when VR is finally perfected but even then I have my doubts.

    Like

  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – There is also very much a thread of eschewing the corrupt status quo as though they were doing the right thing for the noblest of reasons, and that this alone ought to be enough to attract customers, as though purity of heart could overcome the corrupt, revenue driven model of the industry.

    Like

  3. anypo8

    > Two thousand people on field? I have been on internet spaceship battles in EVE Online of that scale and larger, but fights in New Eden are “press the button to shoot” level of complexity, where you just have to get hostiles within your weapons envelope, open fire, and let the server calculate the rest. The system gets so slow and so unresponsive that the thought of having to do individual attacks seems ludicrous.

    To be fair, I have not seen that CCP has done so much in the last decade to improve their performance. They’re still stuck with running big battles on a single server. Even post Brain-in-a-Box they still do a lot of their calculations in Python, I think. As far as I know, there’s no real attempt to aggregate related combat calculations on a single core and process them as a group for efficiency. (Fighter groups, maybe?)

    But I don’t know why I’m being fair. I agree with your overall analysis wholeheartedly. Even the company name is a poor choice. Not only is Eaglance probably infringing on some Swiss SEO company’s trademark, they’re going to get a C&D from EA after a glance at it. Besides, it looks like a typo of “Elegance”, which is probably not the image they’re trying to project.

    Like you say, though, why kick them while they’re down? To be honest, they are fortunate to be cratering so thoroughly early on — better to avoid No Man’s Sky levels of grief for themselves and their potential customers after a ton of hard work. Honestly, I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better for everyone if Star Citizen had died young instead of going through this cycle.

    Like

  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    On the bright side, somebody pledged $1,000 today. Now they just need 23 more people to do that today, and every day, for the rest of the run of the campaign.

    Like

  5. HarbingerZero

    I mean, it could be worse, right? They could blow past their goals, miss their launch target by four years, and still not have a release date in sight. All while still taking money from people.

    Like

  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @anypo8 – Well, the combo of Tech III and Brain in a Box did have some impact.

    @HZ – This week’s email update from Star Citizen featured a fictional, in-game 50 Year Anniversary item and I figured that was about spot on when it comes to a realistic time frame for the game being done.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. wowstorylines

    It definitely sounds as if these folks have some pretty lofty goals to achieve and I can’t say that it is impossible to meet that, however, it seems like a lot of pie-in-the-sky dreaming at this point. I wish them luck and hope they make it some day.

    Liked by 1 person

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