Category Archives: Kickstarter

Kickstarter – Stay Awhile and Listen Book II

My fondness for video games and Kickstarter has cooled, this is true.  Except in special circumstances, it feels like making a game ends up being too sprawling of a venture to fund this way without inviting the inevitable delay and disappointment.  And doubly so (or more) for anything in the MMO genre.  I’ll buy games when they launch.  Or when I fail to notice they’re still in early access.

Books on the other hand, books seem to work out okay.  While the Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls campaign went way past their promised dates, that is pretty much a game.  But things like Empires of EVE have kept reasonably close to their timelines and deliver on what they promise.  And even the laggardly Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls ended up on my bookshelf eventually and was worth the wait.

And so it is that I have another book based Kickstarter on my radar, Stay Awhile and Listen Book II.

Of course, my first question was, “What happened with Stay Awhile and Listen?”  I mean, if we’re speaking of a “Book II” then it seems likely that there is an original out there.

And there was.

The author already has the first book out, Stay Awhile and Listen Book I, released initially back in 2013, which you can find over at Amazon.  While the title suggests that Diablo is the focus, the author’s description of the series says it covers more of the evolution of Blizzard as a company and has tales about other projects, including both those that shipped and those that never saw the light of day.

Stay Awhile…

The book itself is said to be essentially done and the funding is for editing and artwork to get the whole project wrapped up.  So the amount of funding requested is not huge when compared to some other projects, sitting at $12,000, of which $5,500 has already been pledged.

And while the campaign hit my benchmark of 20% funding in the first 24 hours, meaning that it has a chance of success, the pledges really dropped off after day three.  Like, off a cliff, to the point that I suspect the campaign won’t fund unless it gets some more attention.  So I want to help get the word out lest the campaign founder midway through..

This sort of behind the scenes book is something I enjoy, so I am in for $30.  That gets me a paperback of book II and ebook versions of both book I and book II.  If this sort of thing interests you as well, take a look at the Kickstarter page.  The campaign has about 20 days left to run and the estimated delivery date for the finished product is June of next year.

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.

Kickstarter – One Day Left for Empires of EVE Vol II

The eventual success of Andrew Groen’s Kickstarter campaign for Empires of EVE Vol II was never really in doubt.  The original was a success, selling more than 15,000 copies, so there was little in the way of surprise when the project funded quickly, making the modest $12,500 goal in just a few hours.

Fully Funded

Currently the total pledged has passed the $150K mark.

As the campaign went on, new tiers were added, including an option to get the original and the second volume as one package.  The latest update announced that backers would be getting a digital art book titled A History of the Great Memes of EVE Online as part of the deal.

However, the campaign is coming to an end.  So if you want to support the project and secure a first run copy of the next chapter in Andrew Groen’s history of EVE Online, the time to act is now.

It will be for sale through Amazon eventually, but to get it soonest, to support the project, and to get the book of EVE Online memes, you have to back the project before it ends.

Go here to pledge now.

Addendum:  The campaign is now closed, having exceeded the campaign for the first book by bringing in $169,160 from 2,643 backers.

The first book brought in $95,729, though it had more backers, the number landing at 3,116.  I guess we were willing to spend more this time around.

The promised release date for Empires of EVE Vol II is May 2019, so call it August 2019 at least before it is done.

Kickstarter to Play the Top Secret Game from the CIA

Another Kickstarter I think is worth noting.  Two in one month, what is happening?

Anyway, this Kickstarter campaign is from Mike Masnick of TechDirt, a site I should probably have on my side bar somewhere, and features a recently declassified card game used by the CIA to train their analysts.

Collect it All

From the Kickstarter:

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a CIA operative? The CIA designed a classified card game which they use to train their analysts. They recently declassified it and we’re adapting the game so you can play it too.

CIA: Collect It All is a competitive card game based on the CIA game Collection Deck. Players take on the role of agents who are collecting intelligence and tackling security threats over multiple rounds.

Drawing from a deck of over 150 cards, players start each round with a hand full of intelligence tactics and must devise strategies to successfully defuse various crises. The tactics and crises all contain aspects – Political, Military, Economic, and Weapons – and players can only tackle crises if they have tactics with matching aspects. However, rival players also have “reality check” cards that they can play to complicate their opponents’ efforts.

Color me interested, if only to see to gain some insight into how the CIA views the world.

The campaign kicked off today and is already more than $8,000 in towards its $30,000 goal so, given my usual first day rule of thumb (20% funded or bust), it looks like it is on its way to success if it can just keep its momentum going.  That means getting the word out, and since I want a copy, I’m helping with that.

The pledge options are pretty simple.  For $10 you can get a print-your-own PDF copy of the game and for $29 you get a physical boxed game plus the PDF version.

More details about the source of the game, once classified TOP SECRET, and how it came to be the focus of this campaign is available on the Kickstarter page.  Check it out.

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.