Category Archives: Kickstarter

The Mineserver Kickstarter Campaign One Year Later

The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.

— The Ninety Ninety Rule, Tom Cargill, Bell Labs
Way back in October of last year the Mineserver Kickstarter campaign was wrapping up.

The campaign was being run by author, pundit, and former InfoWorld columnist Robert X. Cringely and his three pre-teen sons and the plan was to take some off-the-shelf hardware, some available Minecraft server software, combine it with an admin interface of their own, and create an easy to use Minecraft server that you could setup at home and that mom could admin from her iPhone.  The Cringely team had been working on this for a year and it was all done save for some details.

The campaign ended on October 21, 2016 with 388 backers pledging $35,452, well over the $15,000 the campaign sought.  Thus funded, the team was working towards wrapping things up and shipping out units to customers by the end of the year.

Full production will begin at the start of November and our goal is to deliver all Mineservers™ — burned-in and tested — by Christmas.

-Mineserver Campaign Page

The final line on the campaign spelled out the attitude towards their goal.

This is not rocket science… That’s next year.

-Mineserver Campaign Page

So it was off to production.  There were some updates through October and November about finishing up the admin software and sourcing parts and getting units ready.

And then things got a bit quiet in December, until on December 21st there was an update with the title “Man Overboard!

Their Linux consultant, needed to tie the whole package together, had gone missing and had to be replaced.  He was a rare person, being a very familiar with Minecraft, but they found another guy who was very familiar with the hardware, but wasn’t up on Minecraft.  Shipments, already a behind schedule, would be delayed a bit longer.

Again, we’re sorry, but shipping will be delayed about one week.

-Man Overboard update

And then began the long dark winter, as more than a month went by before the next update titled “Better Late Than Never!”  More problems had cropped up.  The compiler they were using for their chosen version of Linux wouldn’t work with the ARM based motherboards they had chosen, motherboards which they had purchased and were waiting for installation.

Mineserver motherboards - January 2016

Mineserver motherboards – January 2016

This was going took a bit of time to solve, but wasn’t insurmountable.  The custom admin software was moving along and they had support for the server flavors they wanted, except for Cuberite, which they expect to add soon.

Server flavor choices

Server flavor choices

While they worked on Cuberite support and a WiFi issue, they put up some test servers so people could try them out for performance and use the routing software to see if it resolved correctly. (It never did for me, I had to use the IP addresses to connect.)

Comments from backers, which started to take a negative turn after the last gap, got a bit darker when a month and a half went by before we heard another word from the Mineserver team.  On March 17th we got an update titled “The Devil is in The Details.”  There was a statement up front that they won’t delay between updates that long again.

Getting the Cuberite server software to work with the admin application had been problematic, it being the odd man out on the Minecraft server front as it is compiles in C++ rather than Java.  This however was what made Cuberite desirable, as it is way out in front of the other options in terms of performance and really needs to be on the box for the Mineserver to meet its supported players claim.

Meanwhile, the dynamic DNS system and a the WiFi support also had issues which needed to be solved before they could ship.  And, finally, there is what they think is an Ethernet issue causing the boxes to drop off the network occasionally.  But the mood was still upbeat.  These were solvable problems, solved already really save for the last one, so the update ended with optimism.

It’s the final bug, we’re approaching it with planning, gusto, and plenty of Captain Crunch, and fully expect to solve this last issue and start shipping next week when the kids are off school for Spring Break.

-The Devil is in The Details update

Three weeks later there was a small update that included a call to help test the Mineservers they have setup and a mention that the Ethernet bug may not yet be solved.

Then there was another month and a half gap, proving that they in fact would do “that” again, before we got the Science Experiments/Finally Nearing the End update.  Cringely’s son Fallon used the Mineserver setup for a science fair entry, which features at the top half of the update, which then goes on to the fact that the underlying management software still doesn’t support the Cuberite server.  Support for Cuberite will be available at some point in June, so they are going to wait for that.

Meanwhile Mojang has released Minecraft 1.10, which comes up in the comments as to how updates like this are going to be handled.  There is no response to that question or, frankly, any question ever that comes up in the comments.  Cringely doesn’t do comments, he just drops updates and goes away it seems.

An early July update said that the Cuberite support had been delayed, but that they continued to work on the product and that it will support Minecraft Pocket Edition at launch, which needs its own flavor of server.  There is a promise of regular updates.

At this point we’re going to start doing updates every Thursday with the idea of keeping you better informed. Thank you for your patience.

-Still waiting for AIM update

By July 22nd there seemed to be a breakthrough, with an update that says Cuberite support is now a thing, and getting it to work right is all that is delaying shipping.  Optimism still reigns.  They have only missed one Thursday update since making that promise  Again we are told, “This isn’t rocket science. ”

The next Thursday update has an admin interface issue solved, but there is still the Cuberite support issue.  A week later, on August 5th, things seem really close, plus now the Mumble voice server software will be bundled in with the Mineserver.

And then summer vacation ends and Thursday updates cease.  I expect that with three young boys heading back to school that the Cringely household has its hands full.

Finally, on September 14th we got an update that says the WiFi doesn’t work reliably.  WiFi hasn’t been mentioned since January, and the comments indicate that some people have been taken aback by this. (One person claims to have filed an FTC complaint.)  Apparently the part they chose isn’t compatible with Arch Linux, so they have ordered a replacement that should fix the problem.

No further updates have been posted, so the status of the WiFi and Cuberite support remains a mystery.

On September 23rd the one year anniversary of the launch of the Kickstarter campaign passed, and on October 1st it had been one year since campaign met its funding goal.

Welcome to crowdfunding.

Ah, but a project’s reach should exceed its grasp, or what’s a Kickstarter for?

-Me, abusing Robert Browning’s quote

Last week over at Massively OP there was a post about 10 questions you should ask before backing an MMO Kickstarter.  In the comments I, along with several other, proposed some additional question, mine being focused on your readiness to accept that any dates promised during the campaign are generally blind optimism at best.  I mean, Star Citizen, right?

Being late is part of the experience.

About a year and a half ago I reviewed the Kickstarter campaigns I had backed, and those that had shipped were universally late.  Not all drastically so.  Defense Grid 2 shipped just a month after the promised date.  Go, go Hidden Path Entertainment!

In fact, I have been meaning to do a follow up on that post as time has passed and a number of promised delivery dates have gone by, but I was waiting for the Mineserver issues to get resolved, since it seemed like that would just been a few weeks off… for the last nine months.

Ah well.

I am not particularly annoyed by the delay.  This is not a rage post, but a summing up of the tale so far.  If I want something delivered on time, I order it from Amazon.  I did rather optimistically plan to move our Minecraft world to the Mineserver at a couple of points, but not being able to do that hasn’t really changed much.  Instead it got moved to different hosting providers.

This is more of a review post to look at how things were handled.  These days I am more interested in HOW people run campaigns as the campaigns themselves, having come up with my own success predictors and such.

The campaign itself went very well.  It got enough publicity, in large part because of the Cringely name, and hit funding milestones that indicated it was going to be a success early on.

No, the problems here have all been post-campaign.  Success is a problem everybody wants to have, but how you handle it can make any victory Pyrrhic.  For example, No Man’s Sky was a huge financial success (yes, I know, not a Kickstarter campaign, but work with me here), however the gap between what was promised and what was delivered will likely haunt the studio and key devs going forward.

For the Mineserver campaign I think there have been two obvious problems.

The first has been over-optimism, which is ever a curse here in Silicon Valley.  At several points during the campaign it sounded like problems were just about solved and we were told that units would be shipping soon.  And then they didn’t ship.

You cannot foresee all problems, and people will forgive you a couple of slips.  But after a while your predictions lose their credibility.

The second problem has been communication.  Updates have been sporadic and the comments might as well be turned off for updates section since they never get any sort of response.

At one point Cringely said he didn’t want to do updates unless he had good news to share.  In my experience though, any update is better than no update.  And that is doubly so when combined with optimism, when an update says there will be a week’s delay and then the next update doesn’t show up for a month.

I think the campaign was on the right track for a bit with the “every Thursday” updates.  But, as I noted, those fell by the wayside and now we are in limbo again, waiting for some news.

So we shall see.

At this point, with our current server happily chugging away on Mojang’s hosting, I will probably use the Mineserver to play with Minecraft mods.  When it finally arrives.

Addendum: We got an update on October 7, there are new problems, a possible solution, and shipping is still a few weeks beyond the horizon.

Hero’s Song Returns to Crowdfund Again

You might remember Hero’s Song, the John Smedley/Pixelmage Games project in development, which launched a rather poorly thought out Kickstarter back in January of this year.  The flaws in the campaign were manifold, and by the time I wrote a list of them up the campaign had been cancelled.

Hero's must face turmoil, it is what makes them heroes, right?

Hero’s must face turmoil, it is what makes them heroes, right?

The team found other funding and carried on development of Hero’s Song, which is currently described as:

Hero’s Song is an open world rogue-like fantasy game done in a beautiful 2D pixel art style. Create epic fantasy worlds uniquely shaped by your choices, the power of the gods, and thousands of years of history. Become a legendary hero in a dangerous and mysterious world of magic and monsters. Explore endless dungeons and ancient cities in long forgotten lands in search of knowledge, treasure and the power of the gods!

Well, as the title of the post says, Pixelmage is back with a new crowdfunding effort.

This time around they the goals are more modest, the pledge tiers are better, the details are expansive, Smed isn’t using the word “hardcore” all over the place, and there is a somewhat more realistic timeline for the project.

Dates quoted for truth... again

Dates quoted for truth… again

I still think that schedule is optimistic, but more than 25 years in software development has made that my knee jerk reaction to any schedule I suppose.  Still, it is better than the last one (shown in this post), which had launch in October of this year… so I was right in calling it out on optimism that time at least.

Also different this time around is the platform they chose to run their campaign.  Rather than going with the perennial favorite, Kickstarter, PixelMage chose to go with Indiegogo.

The choice of Indiegogo gives them at least one advantage; there is no minimum threshold to allow them to collect some money.  Unlike with Kickstarter, where you have to make your goal to get paid, even if PixelMage does not make it $200,000 stated target, they get to keep any money pledged at the end of the campaign.

If you pledge it, they get it

If you pledge it, they get it

There are, however, some downsides.

First of all, while Indiegogo isn’t exactly unknown, it still isn’t Kickstarter.  Kickstarter is more famous and, I suspect, more trusted when it comes to giving them payment information.  I mean, Kickstarter has been around a while, to the point that the verb “to kickstart” has practically acquired a new meaning largely associated with them.

NOT the official drink of Kickstarter

Verb also used for motorcycles and energy drinks, which is pretty powerful

The second downside, for me at least, stems from one of the advantages, the fact that PixelMage gets the money pledged even if they do not make their stated goal.

I mean, that is GREAT… for PixelMage.  But how great is it for those pledging money?  If a company says they need a given amount to complete a project, and they only get, say, 25% of that amount, what does that mean to those who kicked in?

Now, in the case of PixelMage, I suspect that, at worst, it will mean some delay in the schedule.  I have no doubt they will deliver the game whether they make their goal or not.  But, in general, I guess I have become accustomed to the Kickstarter method where you only get your funding if you can raise the amount of money you said you needed for the project.  There is a certain logic to that.

Finally, as something an adjunct to the previous item, the lack of a hard “must meet” funding goal also takes a bit of the edge off of the campaign.  Not having an “all or nothing” goal mutes any sense of urgency.  Let’s look at where the campaign stands today, a couple of days in:

September 9, 2016 - Morning status

September 9, 2016 – Morning status

The campaign is 23% of the way to its goal… which seems to be okay.

I have to say that among its disadvantages, Indiegogo doesn’t have the range of external trend and activity tracking tools that Kickstarter does, and also seems to be a bit coy with things like the actual end date.

Anyway, Hero’s Song seems to have made my rule-of-thumb metric for campaigns, which is that if you haven’t hit 20% of your goal in the first 48 hours, you aren’t going to make it.  However, they are going to get that money whether or not they get to $200,000.  The goal is just a line in the sand, more of a “we’d like” rather than a do-or-die proposition.  You can’t really call for a last minute surge if they are short of their goal because they are still going to get something.  And even the stretch goals seem like you might get them anyway, so why throw money down now?

Races and housing

Races and housing

But that might just be me.  I am ever the cynic and/or critic.

Then again, Bree over at Massively OP put it this way in the comments of a post over there:

They get the money even if they don’t get to the soft target. They are plainly using Indiegogo as a preorder system and publicity stunt; there’s no way the “we need 200k more” thing is legit (plus they really want more than that for the hardcore housing feature).

And I think I am a cynic!  The again, there is the “Smed factor” I mentioned when the Kickstarter campaign was going.  He has a lot of history and not everybody likes him.

Anyway, the Indiegogo campaign is on and running for… a month… again, end date on that?  You can check it out here if you are interested, pledge if you want to pre-order and get a T-shirt (or limit Smed’s diet), or wait until it hits Steam about this time next year. (My needlessly pessimistic prediction there.)

Or you can go to the PixelMage site and read up about the project itself.

Why Did the Hero’s Song Kickstarter Fail?

Well crap, I just wrote this whole post last night and they cancelled it this morning literally as I went to check to see where it stood.  But I am not wasting all these words!  I will be validated, dammit!  Most of this is still on point, and I am not re-writing it simply to tune it for what just happened.

“Whoa, whoa, hold on there Hoss!” I hear you say, “That Kickstarter campaign has like 22 days left to run.  How can you say it failed?”  Well, because of this:


But let’s just pretend that didn’t happen for the moment.

I must admit that this is true.  There is a long stretch of time left, leaving the campaign plenty of time to recover and make its $800,000 goal, and maybe even a stretch goal or two.  Hero’s Song might yet make its money.  Stranger things have happened.

Nor am I trying to root this campaign into failure.  I have no particular problem with it nor with Smed himself, who seems like a decent person, somebody you could have a beer with and talk about video games.

What I am running with for this post is what I shall declare here as “Wilhelm’s First Hypothesis on Video Game Kickstarter Behavior,” based on observations I have recorded on this blog, which indicates that if you don’t hit the 20% funding mark in the first 48 hours, the campaign is lost.  I was on this two years ago.

Here we are past day seven and the Hero’s Song campaign is sitting at 18%.  It needs to bring in more than $27,000 a day to succeed, something it only did on day one.  The average take per day is up to this point is just a little over $17K, according to the data at KickTraq.  Unless there is a miracle in the offing, things look grim.

Kicktraq Status - Jan. 25

Kicktraq Status – Jan. 25

Miracles, however, tend to be thin on the ground here in reality, and while Massively OP is clearly in Smed’s corner on this one, even they seem to be running out of things to say.

So why didn’t Hero’s Song make that 20% mark?  Why do I think it isn’t going to make its final goal, much less any stretch goals.  Well, as usual, I have a list… a list of reasons that I think may have had a negative impact on the whole campaign.

Confused Presentation

I happened to see Smed’s Tweet about the campaign starting just as it went out and immediately went to see what was going on.  Much to my chagrin, I couldn’t figure out what platform the game was even running on.   I assumed it would be on Windows, but the screen shots looked like it might be slated for the Nintendo 3Ds.

That eventually got straightened out, but I am still sort of lost in what the game they are pitching actually is.  It is hardcore, online, action RPG, so it seems in the Diablo vein perhaps, but then they say it is a Rogue-like at one point, and then it has so many classes and different magics and shared worlds  and the ability to host it yourself and a bunch of races and too many classes and no main quest and… hrmm…

It isn’t like I am against all of that.  I like a lot of it.  But I am still not sure what to make out of it.  It all sounds very MMORPG-ish.  Is that right?

And I am somebody who has gone back and re-read sections of the description and even skimmed through Smed’s AMA on Reddit.  What will somebody just passing by make of all of this.  It just doesn’t have a simple hook.  I mean, Lord British could say, “Remaking Ultima!” and Mark Jacobs could say, “Remaking DAoC!” and even Brad McQuaid could say, “Remaking EverQuest!” and you got what they were about.

I am not saying it has to be easily pigeon holed, but word of mouth is a lot easier if you can describe something simply and work from there.  I don’t know how I would describe this fairly yet accurately. Graphical Rogue? Pixellated Diablo? 2D Ultima Online?

Bad Tiers

Another item that was wrong right out of the gate were the tiers.  Or, to narrow it down, the base tier.  You had a game that was going to go to retail for $19.99, but the minimum you could pay and get a copy was $25.

When you’re asking people to front you money for some software down the road, also asking them to pay more now than they would later is a bit of a punch in the gut.

Yes, they fixed that before the end of the first day, but how many people came, looked at the tiers, did the math, and said they would check back when it was done, never to return again?

Meanwhile, there isn’t a lot of compelling reasons to pay more than $15.  The digital sound track… well, Syp is probably there for that.  There is no discount for the Collector’s Edition, so no reason to jump on that.  Wallpapers and strategy guides are non-starters while early access might rake in some hardcores who really, really want in, but that isn’t much of a mass draw.

They did throw in T-shirts and hoodies as an option, and that actually got a bit of a spike in the total on Sunday, but it seemed to be mostly from people going up a tier to get something, as the number of new backers was fairly small.

So far they have just over 3,000 backers, which is impressive.  But the average pledge is just $45, which is even less impressive when you consider that somebody is in for that $10,000 tier.  70% of the backers are in for $25 or less.

Low Price

Part of the problem here is that the price of the game is going to be $19.99.  You have to sell a lot of units to get to $800K.  Furthermore, I am a bit worried about how they plan to run servers and such with no cash shop or what not and just the base price to keep things going.  I know he wants to keep away from the monetization tar baby, but I hope they have some additional revenue plan, like expansions.


Why did Smed have to run with this word?  Seriously, I think if you’re in tune with the gaming news sufficiently to have even heard about the Hero’s Song Kickstarter campaign, you qualify at some level as hardcore.

But Smed’s been on this divisive “hardcore” kick before.  Just last year he had that quip about those “disgusting PVE carebear servers” for H1Z1 which, while done in jest, still managed to annoy a fair share of people.

In the end, the word itself is mostly meaningless, serving only to divide players.  Those that don’t see themselves in the mold of the hardcore will turn away from the project, while those who self-identify as hardcore are as like as not to question whether or not Hero’s Song is hardcore enough.  Just having PvP doesn’t make something hardcore.

The Smed Factor

Smed has a name in the industry, people know him.  But his name also comes with a lot of baggage.  Not all of it is his fault, but he was the boss at SOE for a long stretch, and when you’re the boss, everything is your fault.  Hacking in PlanetSide 2, broken raids in the Planes of Power expansion, the NGE, letting Vanguard stagnate and die, closing FreeRealms, the failure of The Agency, the confused state of EverQuest II at launch, holding SOE Live in Vegas so many years running, forgetting to pay for the domain name that one time, you name it, somebody will blame it on Smed.

That’s a lot of potential grudges smoldering out there.

And on top of that, while he has a reputation based on running SOE, the games that SOE created tend to be associated with other people.  Brad McQuaid and the TorilMUD combo made EverQuest and he had Raph Koster there for Star Wars Galaxies and EverQuest II, Scott Hartsman there to rescue EverQuest II, Holly Longdale there to CPR EverQuest and EverQuest II back to life yet again, plus a few other names in the mix.  But I don’t really associate Smed himself with any particular game, except maybe PlanetSide, and only because he declared it his favorite at one point.

Which isn’t to deny that a lot of people, both inside and outside the industry, like him.  I like him.  And, to paraphrase Gag Halfrunt, Smed is just this guy, you know?  His name will get attention for the project, but not all of it will be favorable.

Development Timeline Credibility

This is more a reaction to my own career and the way almost every video game related Kickstarter has played out, but I have serious doubts about their October 2016 launch.  Another Kickstarter hypothesis I am working on is a standard multiplier for such timelines.  I started with 2x, but I think that may too optimistic.

Anyway, this one may be more of a matter of previous campaigns poisoning the well for Hero’s Song, if it is a factor at all for people.  I appreciate the detailed timeline, I just think that backers may have been burned too often on that front.

The Need Question

I’m not sure why they need my money up front.  I know Smed has said they are in for a million so far and believe they need another $800K to finish the game up, but do they need it from this Kickstarter campaign?  If they campaign fails, are they still going to make the game or are they going to fold up shop and go home?  Are we going to get fewer classes, fewer features, no self-hosting?  What is the downside of this campaign failing?  What is the compelling case for supporting this game with money up front nearly a year in advance?

That part of the tale should be very clear, in writing, on the campaign page… and it isn’t.

No Pre-Campaign Ramp Up

This is the part that really grinds my gears.  This was just plain dumb.  Smed literally announced his new company and its Kickstarter on Twitter the morning it started.

Yes, he had a couple of gaming sites ready to cover the launch.  But you know what would have been better than absolutely zero pre-launch news… literally ANY pre-launch news.

“Hey! Surprise!” is not the hallmark of a good marketing campaign.

Look at past successful campaigns.  Lord British had his big count-down and announcement before the Shroud of the Avatar campaign.  Mark Jacobs was talking about a Kickstarter campaign for Camelot Unchained weeks in advance.  The Crowfall team was in the news and getting people hyped up weeks before their campaign launched.

This is what successful campaigns… two million dollar campaigns… look like:

Shroud of the Avatar

Shroud of the Avatar – 55% in the first 48 hours

Camelot Unchained

Camelot Unchained – 35% in the first 48 hours

I am too lazy to go get the Crowfall chart, but they made almost 80% of their goal in the first 48 hours.  That is what success looks like.  17% at the seven day mark has the stink of failure all over it.

In my opinion what Smed should have done was have the big reveal and news stories and the AMA about two weeks before the campaign, during which time the team could gauge the feedback, clarify points of confusion, and generally get the word spread so that the opening day would be a big success.  Because success begets success, and when a campaign opens up and gets a huge spike, people will jump on board even if they aren’t sure because everybody else is jumping on so there must be something there.

The SOE Curse

I’m not sure if this is really a factor, but I find it amusing to trot out.

You see, almost exactly two years ago another well known SOE name launched a Kickstarter with very little warm-up, had a confused yet ambitious sort of “it will do everything” message, appealed to the hardcore, and was asking for $800K.  Yes, we are at the two year anniversary of Brad McQuaid and his Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign.

Okay, the parallels are not exact and a bit silly, but it is one of those things that makes you go, “Hmmm…”  We shall see if Hero’s Song can match Pantheon’s take.  Brad

What Next?

So I think the campaign is a forlorn hope at this point.  So what?  What should Smed and his team do now?

Well, they should either go for that double-secret backup publicity plan that will send pledges through the roof or they should fold up their tents and go home for now.

And I since I doubt they have such a secret plan, I will focus on folding.

There is a HUGE reluctance to call it quits in such a situation.  I have seen campaigns literally 99% shy of their goal ride it out to the bitter end in some sort of hope over reason play that the word will get out at the last minute and the campaign will be saved.

That isn’t going to happen.  The first day of any campaign is almost always the biggest day.  If it isn’t, then you’ve really done something wrong.

This is reluctance seems to be especially true if there is some response and you get some pledges.  How can you just walk away from $136K?

Except, of course, if you don’t make your goal you get nothing at all, so you aren’t walking away from anything because it was never yours.  And you cannot cut your funding goal once the campaign has begun, so there is no way to just get the money.

So in my limited perspective, amateur Monday morning quarterback point of view, Smed and company should just pull the plug.  They should get together a nice explanation of their shortcomings on the campaign, admit fault where it is true, and announce that they will be back for another run once they have addressed their issues.

There is no winning in letting this run out to the bitter end and letting people see just how far short the campaign ended up.  And there is no shame in admitting mistakes and coming back for another run.  I mean Project: Gorgon had to have three Kickstarter campaigns to get its extra funding.

Anyway, that is where I stand.  But just to be even more of a nuisance, I am going to make two polls to finish up this post. (Also, AdBlock seems to remove polls, so if you don’t see them, that might be why. Or it might just be FireFox.)

The first is what factor do you think has most hurt the Hero’s Song campaign the most?

And then, of course, what do you think the Hero’s Song team should have done this point?


We shall see what happens.

Okay, we saw what happened… so I suppose we’ll see what comes of it.

Smed Goes to Kickstarter for the Hardcore

John Smedley, formerly of SOE and Daybreak, went public with his new company and their first project.  The company name is Pixelmage (according to the trademark application), which is “Pixel Mage” and not “Pixe Image,” something that could be sorted out with a space or a capital “M” in the middle.  Or, just look at their logo.

Pixel Mage Games

Pixel Mage Games

And, in announcing this he has also pointed at the company’s first project which will, of course, be financed via a Kickstarter Campaign.  Pixelmage wants $800,000 minimum for their game Hero’s Song which is described as follows:

Sing this Hero!

Sing this Hero!

Basically a 2D retro-pixellated multiplayer action adventure RPG game thing… for the hardcore!

Hardcore action RPG for Hardcore Gamers!

It is a sign of my age I suppose that my brain always links the word “hardcore” with the word “porn,” which always makes this sort of discussion just that much more amusing.

Missing from the Kickstarter page at the moment is the platform it will run on, but I guess we can all assume Windows 64-bit will be required, though maybe it will run on the Nintendo 3DS.  It certainly looks like it could.

There are all the usual hallmarks of such a Kickstarter campaign, including dev bios, stretch goals, a range of backer options, some grand sweeping statements, and an overly optimistic time line.

Dates quoted for truth...

Dates quoted for truth…

Give the standard Kickstarter multiplier for multiplayer software video game projects, this ought to launch in late 2017 or early 2018.

Anyway, Smed and his new company are off to the races.  You can see the Kickstarter campaign here.  We shall see how things develop.  Pledge now ($25 minimum) or wait until it comes out and get it for $20.


The press embargo appears to have lifted so deeper coverage is available at:

Addendum: And a statement on supported platforms at last:

Addendum: Sanity kicked in and you can now pledge $15 and get a copy of the game when it is done, and if you pledge more you get a second copy now.

The Fountain War Kickstarter and Some Existential Questions

I expected transparency, which of old was one of the high standards of GSF— so my confirmation-biased mind believed that the Fountain War book was about how cool eve online was. That the primary reason for the idea was to cement the legacy of Mittens and the rest of us with a really cool sci-fi book that we could show off in a year, in 5 years, or in 20.

-Helmdacil/Kratisto, Reddit Post of Existential Meta Angst

That kind of sums up my feeling about the Fountain War Kickstarter, because in the end, that is all I wanted, just something cool about the game.  Something to put on the bookshelf, read through if it was any good, skim through if not, where I could find bits and pieces described where I was during the war.

My highest personal aspiration was to try and get a reference to my guns jamming at the battle of Z9PP-H.  Just a throw away line like, “over coms, Wilhelm in squad 14 reported his guns had jammed, but otherwise the fleet was set to engage” or something.  I sent links to all of my Fountain War posts in to the email address they put out for such submissions.  My personal wish was a long shot, of course, but I was sure that my posts would have something to add.  But who knows, maybe Jeff Edwards subscribes to the same philosophy as S.L.A. Marshall, as reported by David Hackworth in his book About Face, that every individual mentioned in a book was good for five more sales.

However, for now that hope is off in an uncertain future.  The Fountain War Kickstarter failed, being closed down a couple days early, far shy of its desired goal.

Done for now

Done for now

Why it failed is obvious.  The campaign simply asked for more money than the potential audience was prepared to commit.  You can slice that into some finer detail, but in the end the ask of $150,000, which had it succeeded would have made this the most successful literary based Kickstarter campaign to date, the current champion sitting at $118,000 (on a $12.5K ask), was way too much.

The Mittani put up a post on the Goonfleet forums (leaked everywhere by now) describing a litany of sins about the campaign, some of which I noted in my own first post about it (too much money, awful rewards), and some of which I hadn’t bothered to dig into, some explanation as to how the situation came about, and an apology to those who back the project for mishandling it badly.

The plan is to return to Kickstarter with a new campaign based on lessons learned in March.  It sounds like the first lesson will be a much smaller ask and much more modest goals.  A $90K advance for Jeff Edwards to take time off his day job just isn’t viable.

But can we all get back to normal after this?

The campaign seemed to unleash a torrent of drama, accusations, and a gratuitous misuse and abuse by all sides of the word, the idea, and the actual reality of “community” when it comes to EVE Online. (Hint: If you believe you represent, speak for, or otherwise “know” how the community feels, stop right there; you’re wrong.  Feel free to repeat the same to me should I ever do that.)

I mean, some drama is always expected.  This is EVE Online.  And that goes double (or maybe quadruple) when The Mittani is a factor.  But this blew way out of proportion to the reality of the situation.  It is one thing when the drama occurs in the usual locations (Reddit, FHC, TMC, EN24, and blogs), but when it starts leaking out to the more mainstream gaming press you start to wonder if things have spun a bit out of control.

Were feelings really that hard?  Or are there other things in play here?  Is there even a “normal” to get back to?

We are, after all, in a new era in null sec.  Dominion sovereignty is no more.  The time of Aegis sovereignty is upon us with Entosis link modules and such.  This caused once great empires to recede and sometimes fade completely from the sovereignty map.  Goons and their allies, once underdogs in a fight against a seemingly unassailable power, now stand a decade later as the great power in null sec.  Secure in its northern holdings, no current combination of powers available can join together and take their sovereignty from them, should they rise up to defend it.

But as Alexander wept at the thought of no new lands to conquer, so The Imperium faces the existential threat of no new worthy foes.  Who do we fight?  People declaring that the purge of Cloud Ring and the expeditions into low sec were to promote the Kickstarter, or some sort of rage move against those opposing the Kickstarter, failed to answer the question, “What else was The Imperium going to do?”  Was there some other war we should have been fighting?  You take the foes that present themselves.

Meanwhile, the viceroy program, is just a thin veneer over a plan to just generally get people mad enough to fight us.  “Grr, Goons” is a resource, why not use it?  But will people fight or just fade away before us?

Inside The Imperium people are wondering where we should head.  What do you do when you are the remaining sov holding superpower?  Some wild plans have been suggested.  Splitting apart has been broached several times, but who and how is always an issue.  There was a plan to become a permanent invading force, just taking one region after another, moving in a constant circle around null sec, but the logistics of that are daunting.  Armies have been ground to pieces by simple movement.  And it is always easier to just sit on our asses in any case.  We like to have a home to come back to.

We face the existential question about our role in New Eden.  What should we do?

It has crossed my mind that maybe I should leave The Imperium and move elsewhere.  Listening to Asher’s podcast (must pimp senpai’s work) this past week with Garst Tyrell of Triumvirate  and how they are down south fighting the Russians and having a good time was inspiring.  Maybe I could run off and join that circus?

But I also have a lot of fun with Reavers and am already established there and would miss those ops if I left.  This is the essential problem with “The Imperium should break up!” scenarios.  We establish social bonds, and that is what keeps a lot of us playing.

So, like Helmdacil/Kratisto in the quote at the top of the post, and probably a good number of other The Imperium members, I am asking myself what I should do and how I really feel about where we stand. (I’m not really concerned about RMT-ish aspect of TMC, because I don’t really care. I have gotten more out of my time than I have likely put in.)  Are we all going to just get bored and fade away?  Will we break into pieces?  Will groups splinter off?  Are there no great crusades left for us?  Is there anything in CCP’s plans that will break this malaise and establish a new raison d’etre for us?  Should we be holding out in hopes of that or making our own plans?

The Fountain War – Not Winning Fast Enough and Other Issues

A week ago I wrote about the Kickstarter for the Fountain War novel, my desire to see a project like this successful, and a few of the problems I felt the project faced.  They key items, as I saw it a week ago, were speed, money, and The Mittani himself.

On the money front, the project has at least clarified why it is asking for $150K.  This is the breakdown that has been offered:

  • 60% Author Expenses (normally covered by a publishing house)
  • 20% Publishing and Distribution (including editing and proofreading)
  • 10% KS and processing fees
  • 5% to Merchandise
  • 5% to Marketing

The bulk of the money amounts to a $90K advance for the author (assuming they get exactly $150K) so he can take time off from his day job as a consultant and focus on the book.  Whether or not you feel Jeff Edwards rates that sort of advance, that is the plan as it stands today.

As for The Mittani, the project has at least removed some of the more obviously Mittens focused rewards.  You can no longer pledge $200 and expect to go on a roam with The Mittani.

Like I said, being in space with Mittens is special

Seeing The Mittani in space… you can’t even buy that now…

However the project still has his name stamped all over it, something guaranteed to raise the ire of many in New Eden.  Using that name for the original news/propaganda site, depending on how you view it, got it a certain level of attention that it might have otherwise struggled to attain, but it came with baggage that is now hindering this project in a way that it might not have had they been able to work out a way for CCP to at least nominally take the lead in this campaign.

And then there is how well the funding is going.  After a full day they had hit the 10% mark, which was a lukewarm start.  Not fatal, but nothing to write home about either.  A week in though, looking at Kicktraq, the campaign is hovering around 20% of its goal and does not appear to be going anywhere fast.

Today's early morning mark...

Today’s early morning mark…

Right now the project needs to bring in over $4,600 a day to meet its goal.  Yesterday it brought in $666.  The day before it was $475.  That is not the path to success.

And while these problems persist, more storm clouds have appeared.  Over at Reddit the EVE subreddit has become something of a hotbed of activity against the project.  There have been outraged posts about the project.

The Jeff Edwards AMA had to be moderated, quickly going from “Ask Me Anything” to “Ask Me What The Reddit Moderators Think Is Okay.” (AMWTRMTIO?)

And then there was the general ban on new threads about the book because The Imperium was sending out pings with links to Reddit threads about the project, including the AMA, which is against the Reddit rules. (This is vote brigading; though I never once saw a ping that explicitly said I should up/down vote something, I suppose that could be inferred.)  So we will speak no more about the project there unless it is something official from CCP… or, judging from what I have seen since the ban, critical of the project.  Posting about the project is apparently okay so long as it is clear you’re against it.  It isn’t like there is much of that, but if that is all you get, that is all you see.

And so goes a vocal corner of the EVE Online community.

Then there is Gevlon, who makes the claim that there is a non-zero chance that he killed the project, though he is still annoyed at his fair weather friends on Reddit.

But perhaps the most troubling thing to come up so far has come from the team running the campaign itself.  They have released some sample excerpts from the book, which you can find linked on the project page, bonafides of the fact that there is actually working already going on.

They aren’t objectively awful or anything… they are certainly better than anything I could crank out.  But they are… well… how do I even put this?

In one sense we all share New Eden together as a joint venture and what we do and how we interact weaves the story of the game.  That is the over-arching view of the EVE Online.

However, on a more personal level, we all experience the game in our own way.  Some of us just push buttons to make things happen, it is a game on a screen and nothing more.  Others immerse themselves in New Eden, imagine ourselves really undocking from a station and flying through space.

And how that does or does not play out in our minds is uniquely our own very personal experience.  It lives inside of us and no matter how many details we wrangle about… are the ships fully automated or do they have crews… if they do have crews, how big are they and should we care about them… how do skills really work and how am I learning them… or what is it like in a capsule and how do I really control my ship… or even when we come to some agreement, the sensation within us as to what these things mean are likely nowhere close.

So my vision of boarding a ship… injecting my control capsule into the hull so that I may take command… doesn’t really align with this description:

Captain Darius Yaaah lowered his body into the pod, feeling the warmth of the semi-liquid amniotic gel enfold his limbs and torso. He gave a final encouraging nod to his bridge crew as the door of the armored capsule swung down to enclose him.

I mean, I can see this as perhaps an accurate representation of somebody’s view of what taking control of a ship might mean.  And for a novel about a war that takes place on an individual level some sort of transition in and out of a ship is required.  I get that.  But I have never once in over nine years of playing EVE Online sat down and considered that my capsule is more like something from The Matrix than, say, Star Wars.

And, in having to take that in and reconcile it against the story my brain has been concocting by itself for most of the last decade is… distracting.  It is, in a way, like Tom Cruise being cast in the lead role of a film version of a favorite book.  Tom Cruise does many things well… nobody can sprint on screen like he can… but becoming a character is not one of them.  Meryl Streep is amazing because she disappears into so many roles, becoming the person she is playing.  Tom Cruise is generally just Tom Cruise thrust into the middle of a story.

And it goes on and on, my brain stumbling over every variation from what it has built to make the New Eden experience a thing.  A bridge crew?  Getting into the capsule after getting into the ship?

Piling on top of that is the decision to sanitize the book.  I understand that, when it comes to individual names, perhaps the story can do without Pedobear69 or whoever.  But when the plan includes retconning the CFC to make it The Imperium during the war… I’m not sure why you can’t say “clusterfuck” for an organization but can have dialog that declares an operation a “giant fucking trap” elsewhere… and my brain is going to trip over that and mentally try to correct for it every time.  But I am somebody who shouts revised sentences or correct pronunciation back at audiobooks in the car when they trot out and awkward turn of phrase or say something wrong, so this might be just a “me” thing.

Still, I do wonder if I, as somebody close to the story being told, am going to be able to read the resulting book and not find a mental burden to get through or end up feeling alienated from it due to the way it had to be put together to work as Jeff Edwards’ vision of the war.

I do like hearing tales of the Fountain War.  In fact, this week’s Asher Hour podcast has former GIA head Endie as a guest and includes a few “now it can be told” tales from the war.  Great stuff.  I could listen to that sort of thing all day.  And I would pay for a lecture series by Andrew Groen about null sec wars after having seen his presentation at EVE Vegas.  But I am feeling a little queasy about the novelization at this point.

All is not dark clouds though.  I was told specifically that this kickstarter campaign will succeed and how this will come about.

Vince Snetterton (Has anybody determined if this is the same person in comments on various blogs as Dinsdale Piranha or somebody else with very similar views and an appreciation for the same Monty Python sketch?) responded to a comment of mine over on Rixx Javix’s post about the whole affair explaining that, when he has a moment free from telling CCP how to run EVE Online, The Mittani will merely tell his followers that they need to pledge some cash or they will be kicked out of The Imperium.  Looking at the coalition tallies, there are over 42,000 characters in The Imperium.  Call that maybe 5 characters per actual forum account… a surprising number of people only have one or two characters, and past surveys have put the ratio at 2.5 character per real life person… so maybe 8,000 people total.  You just need to get them to pony up $20 each and op success!

The logic behind this is that the pilots of The Imperium, being a solid block of non-dissenting robots, trained by either by being “forced” to pay $10 to join the Something Awful forums or by being required to click on participation links in fleets, will obediently and without complaint do what Mittens tells us.

So pretty much a done deal then.  I will see you all at the mandatory spontaneous demonstration of support when the goal has been achieved!

Hail the Fountain War Kickstarter campaign!

EVE Online, Kickstarter, and The Fountain War

One of the things talked about at EVE Vegas was the Fountain War book.

Author Jeff Edwards, in cooperation with The Mittani Media, and fully endorsed and licensed by CCP, is set to write the story of the Fountain War of 2013, the conflict between the then CFC and TEST and its allies as the CFC attempted to wrest the moon-rich region away from its owner.  The war ran from June 6, 2013 through to early August of that year… longer if you want to include the cleansing of Delve.

The war saw regular large and often bloody battles including The Lazamo, the node reset fail at Z9PP-H, and the final epic confrontation at 6VDT-H, the latter which remains the largest battle in EVE Online history, with more participants than the supercapital slaughter at B-R5RB a few months later.

Reinforcements bridge in

6VDT-H station during the battle

I addition to the battles, there was a simmering build up, where war seemed likely at several points, the painful need for the CFC to change up doctrines after the war started, along with spies, politics, personalities, alliances of convenience, betrayal, and propaganda, all things that make for a spectacle in New Eden.

The Fountain War is also somewhat recent in the History of New Eden, at least compared to the Great War and the destruction of Band of Brothers, which culminated back in 2009.  Plenty of articles about it remain on new sites… except EN24, which at some point purged its posts from that era.

For me the book sounds great.  I was there and very active throughout the Fountain War.  I wrote a whole series of posts about the war, which I summed up in a list here.  I would very much like to see a military sci-fi novel telling the tale of the war.

Yesterday, the Kickstarter to fund the project went live.  The goal is to raise $150,000.

As is usual for Kickstarter campaigns, there are a wide variety of support options.

For a mere $10 you can get an ebook version of the whole thing once it is done.

Ten Bucks...

Ten Bucks…

And if you have $10,000 burning a hole in your pocket, you can have a whole chapter in the book about you and your character and what you did during the war.  I would love somebody who just scammed people out of ISK in Jita during the whole thing to sign up for that.

To be a start you must spend like a star...

To be a start you must spend like a star…

There are some rewards that seem more than a bit dubious. One got declared RMT.  You cannot give away The Mittani’s in-game corpse for real world money. (Waiting for the Gevlon post on that.)  And I am not sure who would be motivated to lay down $500 for a virtual pizza party with Jeff Edwards and The Mittani.  But I thought I saw that John Smedley was in for $1,000 for the dinner and private party at next year’s EVE Vegas.  Can’t find where I saw that through, so maybe I just dreamt it.  Wait, no… there it is.

And Smed brings up another aspect of the Kickstarter, the support from both within the video game industry and without.

Supporters graphic from the Kickstarter

Supporters graphic from the Kickstarter

In addition I have seen people like Lord British, Gordon Walton tweeting their support for the project.

So we have a well supported Kickstarter campaign on a subject about which I am both familiar and enthusiastic; I’m in.  I pledged last night, though my donation to the cause is far closer to the “Digital Copy” end of the spectrum than the “Your Own Chapter,” or even the “Virtual Pizza Party” end of the spectrum.

However, even after my own enthusiasm, all the external support, and all the effort that has gone into setting up this campaign, it does not look like it will be a slam dunk success.  Jeff Edwards and The Mittani Media are going to have to work to make their goal.  Here are some of the hurdles I see facing the campaign.

Not Winning Fast Enough

While that didn’t apply to Dominion Sovereignty campaigns, Kickstarter campaigns are a different thing altogether.  Support for Kickstarter projects tend to look like an inverted bell curve, with a large spike in the first and last 48 hours of the campaign.  My own, admittedly limited, observation of Kickstarter indicates that campaigns are won or lost during those time frames.  Rare is the Kickstarter campaign with a strong mid-game.

In the first 48 hours your true believers pile in and give their support.  This is the measure of the core fan base, the people you can depend on.  The Fountain War campaign managed about 10% of its goal in the first 24 hours.  That isn’t bad.  Nobody should be folding up the tents and heading home yet.  But that wasn’t a really strong outing either.  20-25% in the first 48 hours would make me more certain.

Follow The Money

For his Kickstarter campaign, Andrew Groen, a professional journalist attempting to tackle the history of null sec in his Empires of EVE book, asked for the modest sum of $12,500.  He exceeded his goal almost immediately and finished his campaign with $95,729.  That allowed him to expand the scope of his project and produce a better end product.

Jeff Edwards and The Mittani Media are asking for $150,000 to write what I will unfairly call “some fan fiction” about one war in null sec.  So tell me why they are asking for 50% more money than Andrew Groen got and twelve times as much as he initially asked for?

On that Kickstarter page there are all sorts of wonderful endorsements and rewards and blue sky forward looking statements, but there isn’t a word about why they need that specific amount or what it might be earmarked for.

And when I see somebody associated with the project responding to questions about the money with retorts about not knowing how the publishing business works, my gut response is, “You’re right! I don’t know about the publishing business, and your response didn’t increase my knowledge one iota!”

I think there has to be some statement about where the money will go.  And if it is because Jeff Edwards will be devoting his life for the next six months to this project so we have to pay his mortgage and utilities or because publishers require a big deposit to setup printing of a third party project or that the team had to provide coke and whores for the head of Random House in order to get the project going, that is still better than telling me I’m not in the business so I wouldn’t understand.

The Mittani Himself

Has there ever been a more divisive person in a multiplayer video game?

I think you literally have to go to Derek Smart to find somebody who can command more knee-jerk rage than The Mittani.  I don’t think Smed could match him, even in front of an audience of SWG fans.

For every dedicated follower I would be willing to bet there are two EVE Online players who hate him, even if they cannot figure out exactly why.  Let me help you.  He’s arrogant.  He’s smug.  He scams people, even using his position as chairman of the CSM to further his efforts.  His followers blow people up in high sec, scam, and bring war and destruction wherever they travel in New Eden.  And not only is he in the null sec club, a group that thinks they are THE game in the game, he also runs an elitist organization that you cannot join.  You can be an affiliate, a partner, an ally, but if you’re not one of Lowtax’s chosen, you can’t get into GoonWaffe.  And he barely even logs into the game.  He just likes to play the meta game.  Seeing Mittens in space is quite a thing.  And a couple of the rewards being offered reinforce some of these views, like:

How soon until he mutes you though?

How soon until he mutes you though?

Like I said, being in space with Mittens is special

Like I said, being in space with Mittens is special

Naming a media site after The Mittani certainly got it past the obscurity barrier, but it still faces the stigma associated with that name.  But at least it still gets people who go there just to be enraged.  But asking for $150,000… that just feeds the hate.

Well, we shall see.

I personally want this project to succeed if only because of my personal attachment to the events in question.  The campaign is into day 2 and has passed the $17,000 mark.  I will be watching it on Kicktraq to see how it is trending as time goes by.

If you missed any links above, you can find the Kickstarter page here.