Category Archives: Kickstarter

Empires of EVE Vol II Kickstarter

While I was sleeping in a bit this morning EVE Online Fanfest was kicking off in Iceland.  Expect a pile of EVE Online news to show up from various outlets.

The first bit of news I caught was Andrew Groen’s announcement that he was launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund another book about EVE Online.  Called Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online Volumne II, it picks up where the last book left off.

Book Title

I am really excited to see this come out because this gets into my era of null sec.  The first book was about null sec forming into factions and having its first great war.  After that is the era of fallout from the war, changing alliances, as well as the biggest battles and wars seen in the game.

Definitely of personal interest to me as I was in some of those wars and many of those battles.

Of course, Andrew Groen knows his stuff, both when it comes to writing such a book and promoting a Kickstarter campaign.  Having announced the campaign on stage at Fanfest earlier today, the modest $12,500 goal, as SynCaine noted, was reached very quickly, then doubled, and is past being tripled as I write this, with 28 days left to go.

That is how you get it done, parade it out in front of the core audience.  If that World of Warcraft Diary Kickstarter campaign from last month had been announced on stage at BlizzCon it might have succeeded even at its rather aggressive funding level.

Anyway, I was in with a pledge as soon as I could for a hardbound copy of the book.

This comes at a point when I was wondering what Andrew Groen might be up to.  The first Empires of EVE book was a success, selling over 15,000 copies in various formats, with the audio book version coming out last summer to help bolster that number.  (I own it as a hardback and an audio book, so put me down for 2 copies I guess.)  Not bad for a book about a niche title in a niche genre.

Since the book first shipped he has talked about other projects.  There was an Empires of EVE Lectures podcast series that was going to fill in some of the gaps left by the book.  Between September of last year and January of this, that put our five episodes then stopped.  There was talk of a project to expand it scope, to maybe talk about other games, but I never saw anything come of that.  So I was wondering if he had finally had enough of New Eden.

I guess not.

Now for the worst part, waiting for the book to be done.

Kickstarter – The World of Warcraft Diary

Note: See addendum at the bottom for campaign status.

I’ve been down on Kickstarter after my first blush of enthusiasm something like six years back.  Apparently just because you and a few hundred to a few thousand random people give some stranger money it doesn’t mean that they’ll do what they said they would and it almost assuredly doesn’t mean they’ll do it when they said they would.

Still, I have gotten a couple of Kickstarter deliveries this year, and on the MMO front no less, the least reliable projects from an unreliable source, so I am feeling a little more charitable towards the crowd funding idea I suppose.  Also, this involves MMO design and history, and I am all over that.

So I am going to put it out there and support The World of Warcraft Diary: A Journal of Computer Game Development Kicstarter campaign.

The quick summary is that this is an inside look at the development of World of Warcraft.  From the Kickstarter page itself

The WoW Diary provides a candid and detailed look at the twists and turns inside computer game development. Its author was WoW’s first 3D level designer and he writes about the people behind the game and the philosophy behind their work.

The WoW Diary will be a hardbound journal with over 95,000 words and 130 images across 336 varnished, full-color pages of high-quality paper stock printed in the U.S.A.

Sounds great.

The WoW Diary

So why am I suddenly keen to back another Kickstarter given the somewhat sordid history of my backing experiences?

  • The topic is one I quite enjoy. One of my favorite sessions from last year’s BlizzCon involved old hands telling stories from the early days of various projects.
  • Book projects are pretty reliable on Kickstarter.
  • The book itself is already done.  These are essentially pre-orders to get the publishing process in gear.
  • It is just $40

All good right?

Well, the downside is that I suspect that this Kickstarter will fail.

The groundwork to get this Kickstarter campaign into the public eye hasn’t gone very well.  I only heard about it due to a mention in a forum post on Icy Veins that I saw referenced on Twitter.

So Wilhelm’s rule of Kickstarter campaigns, that if you can’t line up your supports to get to 20% of your goal in the first 24 hours you aren’t going to make it, appears to apply here.  The campaign is three days in and, while the rate of backers is picking up, it still isn’t that much.

Project Status early this AM

Give that, Kicktraq has a rather glum trend line for the project.

I could not get both with the same dollar amount

And then there is the amount of money that is the ask; $400,000.

That isn’t the biggest dollar amount ever for a Kickstarter campaign, but for a literary project that is pretty damn big.  Back when The Fountain War fiasco was unfolding as a slow motion train wreck, one of my main objections was that $150,000 was way too big of an ask.

Not only that, but Andrew Groen went on to write and publish Empires of EVE after getting $95,729 (on a $12,000 initial ask), a project that still needed to be researched and written.  So the pitch for $400,000 to get an already finished book published has problems to my mind.

Finally, there is the pledge increments.  Since the author has eschewed any special bonus give away things, there is exactly one pledge level, $40.  You can give more.  Some people have, as dividing the amount pledged by the number of backers will indicate.  But the average is still just $46, so the campaign needs close to 10,000 backers to succeed.

Currently that number is below 200.

And there are 12 days left to go, because… I guess the author felt 15 days was all he would need.

Also, he can’t ship to Canada.  So yeah.

This feels a lot like somebody’s theory of Kickstarter that they haven’t bothered to test against the data available.

Anyway, lots of problems and not a lot of hope of success unless the online game media picks up the story.  Still, I am in for $40.  We’ll see if it happens this way or not.

If you want to check it out, the Kickstarter page is here.  It also has links to the author’s own site which includes further details.

Addendum:  This was posted by the author as a comment on the campaign a little while ago:

Yeah, this campaign isn’t going to happen. LOL. I had some really bad advice. I’ll reboot it with 1/10th of a target and give it 30 days to clear. Thanks for your support. If you sign up to to my email list, I’ll send a notice to you when it begins again. (And I promise not to spam you with constant updates).

So it looks like this will be starting over again with a better plan.

Addendum 2: An update to the project has been posted.  For some reason the author is going to let this campaign run out despite the fact that the campaign page will not go away if he cancels it. (You can, for example, still find the failed Project: Gorgon and Pantheon campaign pages on Kickstarter.)   Anyway, look for this project to return in the next 1-4 months.

Shroud of the Avatar Goes… Whatever You Call It After a Long Early Access

When I saw the email from Potalarium… well, I saw it several times as I end up getting updates on three different email addresses… I was a bit taken aback at the message.  Shroud of the Avatar was on the eve of launching finally.

March 27 Launch – That is Today

I couldn’t remember if there had been some build up to this in the weekly email updates, which at this point I just skim for headlines then delete, or if this was a brand new twist.

Well, at least I moved Shroud of the Avatar to the “will ship” list on my predictions this year.  I am up at least five points today.

The suddenness flustered me a bit, and I half expected to see a follow on message announcing a delay.  But there was only a follow up about Release 52 that went through in detail what was going into this release build and linked out to the whole how to get started document for the release.

Of course here we are, just shy of five years after the Kickstarter for the project closed, having secured a little over $2 million, and I am trying to recall what this was all about again.

There was that whole Madness of Lord British season where he was talking at (not to) EA about wanting his IP back, thinking a line about great fondness might help I guess.  EA chose that moment to launch Ultima Forever, which seemed to answer the question.  So it was just Lord British talking about his Ultimate RPG, set in a land which could not yet be named. (His comment at the end of that about “ville” clones was doubly amusing given his then recent attempts to get into bed with Zynga, complete with comedy quote.)

Eventually though he seemed to get back on the rails in the right direction and launched the kickstarter to fund his project, Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar; Forsaken Virtues.   Aside from that whole “game designers suck and/or are lazy” thing (later he explained that when he said people he worked with were essentially shit he was taken out of context) the whole thing went very well.  Lord British still has name recognition and the whole nostalgia factor going for him and was able to haul in double the amount of money he was asking for.

From the official site

Since then however… I haven’t really been paying all that much attention.  By late 2014 there was something you could download and tinker with, but it was a very rough cut.  I tried it for a bit and then let it be.  There was also something about virtual real estate that came up at one point.  But other than putting it on my possible list of games to play every year for a few years, only to have it still be in development, I haven’t paid much attention to it.  Somewhere along the line I got a Steam key and activated it there, but otherwise it has just been news about the game coming along.  Even Lord British, with something to occupy his attentions, has kept his crazy side out of the news.

But today it is live.  The server status declares it ready.

Launch version has launched

I checked over at Steam and the early access warnings have all been removed and there is a launch day sale for 15% off the $39.99 price, which keeps it higher than the $30 I pledged five years back.

It looks like the the four modes originally promised are there, offline solo, online solo, online friends, and online in an MMO-esque setting.  It is also available on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.  The reviews, however, are mixed, something that seems to come from the cash shop.

And now to see how big the launch will be.  I have speculated in the past that doing crowd funding and early access means that a game’s core audience has likely already bought in by the time that launch comes, so there is no big boost at launch.  That is what we saw with Landmark certainly, and H1Z1′s recent transition out of early access was pretty much a yawn until they made the game free.  And even that only got it back up to its December numbers as opposed to its peak over the summer.  But H1Z1 has better competitors now in PUBG and Fortnite.  Still, launch alone didn’t seem to do much.

So how will launch affect Shroud of the Avatar? 

Also, when am I going to find time to play it?   I am currently still noodling around with Rift Prime, and there is Project: Gorgon now available on Steam.  It seems like 2018 is the year of stuff from five years ago.  Maybe Camelot Unchained will stir this year as well.

Empires of EVE in Audiobook Format

Empires of EVE started off back in 2014 as the Andrew Groen Kickstarter project to write a book about the null sec wars of EVE Online.

I was in as a backer, as were more than three thousand other people from the EVE Online community.

Two years later, the book was out and I had my nice hardback copy, which is currently sitting on the desk beside my keyboard.  The title, originally A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online, had been slimmed down to Empires of EVE, but the content was in no way trimmed.

How much more black could it be?

The book follows the formation of the first null sec corporations and alliances from the launch of the game in 2003 through what is called The Great War and the eventual downfall of the Band of Brothers alliance in 2009.

The book went out to the backers of the Kickstarter as well as going up for sale in both physical and ebook formats.  At last update, Andrew Groen has sold more than 12,000 copies of the book.  Not bad for a book about an obscure game with an odd name in a small segment of the video game market.

To promote the book Andrew Groen has given presentations at various gaming event, such as PAX.  If you get a chance to see one of his presentations, you should go.  He is an engaging speaking and remains enthusiastic on the topic.

So I was quite happy to hear that he had produced an audiobook version of the work and that he was the narrator.  It is available from Audible.com.

Audible.com is a subsidiary of Amazon

Having had an “any two titles” per month subscription with Audible.com since 2000, I put it in my queue and picked up a copy with my August titles and just finished listening to it.

It is not perfect.  Having seen Andrew Groen present about EVE Online and Empires of EVE, the book does not live up to that sort of experience.  This is not Andrew in front of an audience gushing about a topic in which he is invested, this is Andrew reading a book in a measured and even tone.  That was a minor disconnect for me, though I did get used to it quickly enough.  It just doesn’t seem like him.

Then there is pronunciation, something that plagues just about every audiobook.  How do you pronounce things in New Eden?  I remember during the Casino War being confused to find that CCP pronounces the region of Deklein as if it were the work “decline” and not “Deck-lynn” as I had always heard it pronounced.  In Andrew’s case, among other things, he pronounces the region Venal, which I always say as though it were the sin (which seems appropriate for null sec), as though it rhymes with the word “fennel.”

Also, hearing a written work read aloud tends to call attention to awkward phrasing and word repetition.  That is why it is an oft used self-editing technique.  At one point Andrew uses variations of the word “history” three times in a single sentence.  Reading that to yourself you might not notice it, but on hearing somebody say it aloud and it draws a cringe and an audible correction from me.  I talk back to my audiobooks in the car.

Then there is the recording itself, which is not optimal.  It was not recorded in a professional studio by my estimation, given the minor echo that runs throughout the book.

Finally, with the audiobook you do not get any of the maps of visuals included with the physical book.  The reason that my hardcover copy is next to me was that I pulled it out a couple of times to look at maps. (I also spent time at DOTLAN looking at regional maps.)

Still, these are not insurmountable issues.  And there is something very helpful or comforting about having somebody telling you about these events as opposed to reading the text off of a page.  The events wash over you and the threads and overall arc of the story become more important than whether or not a fight too place in the system C-J6MT.

I burned through the book in a few days, mostly while playing Minecraft or doing things in EVE Online like tend my PI farm, move ships, and rat.  The work is solid and enjoyable.

Furthermore, the work maybe be just the start.  Andrew Groen wrote in his update about the audiobook production of Empires of EVE that it was a learning process as much as anything with an eye towards being able to tell more such stories in the format.  So this may be the start of something.

Anyway, my gripes all summed up were minor while my enjoyment of the book in audio format was huge.  I recommend it, and I look forward to what might come next.

Ashes of Creation Kickstarter Campaign Closes Big

Ashes of Creation has reaped Kickstarter success in a pretty big way.

Something about this logo says “Ashes of EverQuest Next” to me

The campaign brought in more than $3.2 million on a $750K ask, largely by running their campaign by the numbers… numbers which included a long run of pre-campaign news and updates and plenty of warning that the Kickstarter was coming.  The Choice/Change/Consequence message about the world they intend to create seemed to resonate as well.

The final tally when the campaign closed early this morning was:

  • Amount Pledged: $3,271,809
  • Total Backers: 19,576
  • Avg. Pledge: $167

That is a serious haul, representing 436% of the campaign’s base goal.  That number puts it ahead of other such Kickstarter campaigns like:

I actually wonder what Ashes of Creation brought to the table that let it out-pace some of those campaigns.  Part of my view of such campaigns is that a big name in the industry is needed to get attention and bring in the backers.  Certainly the top four campaigns on the list above were driven by the names involved.

And then there is Ashes of Creation.

Let’s be honest here.  There is nobody listed on that campaign that has anything like the history or notoriety of Mark Jacobs, Chris Roberts, Richard Garriott, or Gordon Walton (and Raph Koster, whose name was tossed around during the Crowfall campaign).  They don’t even have a Brad McQuaid level of name.  Not even a Mark “Sad Trombone” Kern to hang their hat on.

What does this mean?

Is the star power of famous names overrated?  I have always assumed that having the draw of a known name was a key aspect to success, but what should I think now?  Do such names come at a cost?  Certainly both Mark Jacobs and Lord British had to spend time explaining away past mistakes during their Kickstarter runs. (Jacobs gave us a mea culpa with some blame for EA, while Garriott just pointed fingers at EA and NCsoft.)

Without a name did Ashes of Creation just do a much better job of laying the groundwork for success before launching their campaign?  Certainly there was a long string of articles about the project before it hit Kickstarter.

Is Ashes of Creation really offering something different, something that would spark this level of success?

Or has the environment changed?  For a stretch there was a whole cloud burst of MMORPG Kickstarter campaigns, including the five I listed out above and more.  Since then things have quieted down.  Was the market just ready for another run at the fantasy MMORPG holy grail?

Personally, I have too many undelivered projects to consider investing in yet another one, but clearly others were not held back.

Whatever it was, it was certainly op success.  You can go see the Kickstarter campaign for details or look at the campaign on Kicktraq to see how the funding progressed.

Now to see if they will have anything to deliver come the December 2018 date listed.

And, of course, we shall see how far their post-campaign funding goes.  The asking for money never stops with these projects.

 

Mineserver – It Could Still Happen

But backers still don’t know when they will get one.

A regular reader… somebody like Jenks maybe… might recall my post about the Mineserver Kickstarter campaign back in early October of 2015.  The Mineserver was to be… and may yet be… an inexpensive and easy to administer Minecraft server you could put on your home network that would allow your friends to play with you from their homes.

It was all but done according to the Kickstarter.  Specifically, the money was just supposed to help them ramp up production.  Per the campaign:

All that still needs to be finished is the final case tooling, which is coming from a U.S. supplier. That tooling — and pre-ordering a large enough supply of other components at volume prices — is what the $15,000 is for.

That was the story, while the plan was:

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

That was Christmas 2015.

It seemed like a good idea, and was being driven by a Silicon Valley notable Mark Stephens, aka Robert X. Cringely.  Surely his public reputation would keep the project on track.  I went in for a Mineserver Pro.  I figured we could host our group’s Minecraft world there so I wouldn’t have to pay for hosting.

Of course, the devil is in the details… or the software.  Yesterday I chided Blizzard for complaining that something they had proved they had done already was too hard.  This was the flip side, the usual scenario in software development, where a goal as yet unachieved is considered to be trivially easy right up until the coding actually starts.

And so a year after the Kickstarter I wrote a post about project, the ups and downs, the over ambitious statements, the long silences, and most of all, the lack of delivery when it came to the Mineservers.

There was a quick update just after my post, which I linked to as an addendum, holding out hope before the backers that maybe the last problem had been solved and that perhaps we might see Mineservers delivered in 2016.

I haven’t written anything since as there has been nothing to write about.  No Mineservers were delivered, though there was faint hope of that, and between early November and this week there were no updates posted about the project.  More than six months of silence on a project only 19 months in… and 17 months past due.

And then finally Cringely stepped up to the podium and posted an update on his blog.

The gist is that while they raiser over $30,000, they have spent $90,000 on the project and it still isn’t done yet.  Rather than folding up shop and leaving us all hanging forever, Cringely decided to push forward, get more funding, and turn the whole thing into a real business.

This meant negotiations and business development and finding funding and so on, stuff you cannot do in the public eye.  You can go to his post for details.  And there is the promise that those who backed the Kickstarter campaign will get their servers.

Yet I find some of his post irksome, and not because we are again left to guess when we might see the hardware or even if the software is done.  I think it is more a matter of having seen some Kickstarter campaigns run well… campaigns that shipped even later… that it is difficult to be tolerant of an alleged industry expert who clearly doesn’t get it.

I think the issue stems from his mode of operation over the years.  He is somebody who tells you things or repeats stories or other items he has heard and thinks are important.  Sometimes that leads to interesting works.  His main claims to fame, the book Accidental Empires and the InfoWorld column from which he took his handle (though he was neither the first nor the last to use that name there) involved retelling the anecdotes of others.  And he has continued that with his blog, where he ranges from personal tales to the trials of IBM to the non-issue of “buffer bloat,” something that led him to endorse that useless LagBuster product. (I own one; it is snake oil except under very specific circumstances.)

That has all been very much a one-way street of interaction with his audience.  He talks, we listen, and no discussion or interaction is welcome… unless you’re somebody in the industry and drop him an email directly.  But then, that is fodder for future posts to keep the cycle going.

Backers on Kickstarter expect interaction though, and that was something Cringely just wan’t going to give us.  Backing a project is a leap of faith.  The project can take the money and run and there is very little available by way of recourse.  Because of this, backers expect to be heard, and it wasn’t clear anybody was ever listening once the campaign closed.

So his post scolds people for being impatient about long delays and few updates and expects people to be grateful for even as much as he has done.  He ends up trying to make backers feel guilty by claiming that the average price paid was a mere $63 for something that cost him $99.

That number is a few flavors of bullshit from where I stand.  First, he set the price, not the backers.  If he set the wrong price, blaming the backers is bullshit.  Second, doing simple math, the average paid in was just over $70 for basic Mineservers.  I will assume he isn’t bad at math and he is trying to exclude Kickstarter’s cut, as though backers somehow didn’t pay that.  That is bullshit.  Third, blaming a whole group for the average when some people ponied up $99, or even $109 in one case, is bullshit.  Using the average was just a transparent attempt to make people feel sorry for him.  Fifth and finally myself and 52 other backers paid for Pro models, so paid at least $179.  From that vantage point having that average price paid for the base model thrown in my  face becomes an extra special brand of bullshit.

And then there was the sop to backers at the end, the suggestion that he might look into us getting some sort of equity.  I suspect that this was added just to make him look like a good guy and so he didn’t have to end on a note that involved trying to make his backers feel like ingrates.  I also suspect that if we ever hear of this offer again, it will be to explain how it just couldn’t be managed.  My experience in Silicon Valley tells me that doing this will involve way too much work to be likely to happen.

And the final item, the clincher to “Cringely doesn’t get Kickstarter” is that he posted this update to his blog, but not to the Kickstarter updates.  So unless, as a backer, you follow his blog… and perhaps his ego dictates that we all must… you might still be sitting in the dark thinking the November 10, 2016 update was the last word on the project.  Part of the reason you use the campaign for updates is that it sends the updates to backers via email.

Of course, some of that is me being my grumpy old self.  This is hardly the worst or longest delayed project, Kickstarter or otherwise, that I have been involved with.  I have been on the developer side of some bad ones, so I am not unsympathetic.  But I also know bullshit when I see it.

And the question remains as to what kind of product the Mineserver will be.  Once I get one I will most certainly use… our Minecraft world, hosted on Minecraft Realms, still gets regular use… and will write about it here.  If it works as advertised I will no doubt have good things to say about it.

But all these Mineserver plans still have to come to fruition to get to that point.  Perhaps for Christmas 2017 I will find one under the tree.

Who is Backing Ashes of Creation?

What makes the Hottentot so hot?
What puts the “ape” in ape-ricot?
Whatta they got that I ain’t got?

-C. Lion

The Ashes of Creation Kickstarter seems to be a rousing success so far.

The ask was $750,000 and, with nearly a month left to go until the June 2 end date, they have already passed a million dollars and are talking about stretch goals and the like.  Op success.

One million dollars and change so far

And this didn’t happen by magic or anything.  Intrepid Studios went by the numbers for this success with a long build up over time and clear advance notice that the Kickstarter campaign was coming so fans of the title were ready to go.

You can go over to Massively OP and search on “Ashes of Creation” and see the series of articles that they posted about the game, like stepping stones leading to this day.

This is the way it is supposed to be done.  That whole, “Hey, surprise!  We have a Kickstarter!” thing is generally a bust.  Amateurs run out half cocked, professionals lay the groundwork so that the success which follows isn’t really a surprise.

And the team at Intrepid Studios has industry experience, even if they seem a bit young.  If you show me a dozen people and say something like, “There’s over 40 years of MMO experience here in this office…” I am going to point at a co-worker of mine and tell you the pair of us are past 50 years experience in our industry combined.  But youth can mean vigor and the desire to tackle problems and older hand might just dismiss with, “we tried that before, it didn’t work.”

The experience of the team seems to be a bit focused on SOE/Daybreak, which is probably why some of what they are talking about has an air of EverQuest Next about it.  Again, not necessarily a bad thing.  EQN certainly got many people excited back in the day.  And the whole “node system” also seems to have a bit of EVE Online null sec in its mix as well.

All of this adds up to an enticing package and ought to spark the embers of hope that maybe there will be something new under the sun when it comes to the Fantasy MMORPG genre.

So why am I not excited about this?  Why isn’t this helping me shake off the MMO malaise?

I have been watching that march of articles at Massively OP for a while now, yet the fact that the Kickstarter was on and doing well really didn’t hit me until Bhagpuss posted about it.  Maybe I just pay more attention to him than Massively OP? (Also, not many of the bloggers I follow have weighed in on the Kickstarter.  What does that say?)

Meanwhile, I think I may have had my enthusiasm for Kickstarter projects weighed down by past projects.  I need to do another summary post about my experiences with Kickstarter.  That might actually be a good one for next Wednesday due to the timing of a particular campaign.  It won’t be a tale of all sunshine and lollipops as some of the projects in my post from two years back are still not done, with MMORPG projects being the most likely not to have wrapped up.

Complex software projects are complex.  It is known.  So any dates given for such projects… and in the case of Ashes of Creation, December 2018 is being bandied about… are automatically suspect in my book.

And then there is my capacity for enthusiasm over long periods of time, which is essentially zero.  As I noted in a comment on Syp’s post about backing or not backing the project, I lack the wherewithal to pay close attention to/care about such a project as it winds its way through development, alpha, early access, beta, pre-release, and whatever other gyrations the creation cycle takes.  (Cue footage of me collapsing from feigned exhaustion at the idea of a project that has an “Alpha 3.0” target some six years into the development cycle.)

From my investment in the genre about a decade back to now I have regressed to the point where I really just want to exchange money for some entertainment.  Keep your development laundry to yourself.  I can’t even bring myself to pay much attention to expansions for games I follow, at least not beyond the barest details, like ship dates.   You have to have something really, really, and I mean really, special to get me to jump on the pre-release bandwagon at this point.

But I am jaded and cynical and in that state of malaise I keep talking about, all of which tends to add up to a hammer of an emotion which makes every new MMORPG project look like a bent,  mis-aligned, and somewhat rusty nail.

So what is the fresh and enthusiastic perspective here?  Am I missing something special?  If you are backing this, what is the selling point for you?