Category Archives: Kickstarter

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:

HerosSongCancelled

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.

Hardcore

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.

 

Kickstarter – The EVE Online Control Panel

Possibly the greatest Kickstarter project that I will never back: The EVE Online control panel.

EVE reduced to a 15 control interface

EVE Online reduced to a 15 control interface

I think this is both hilarious and completely practical.  I have no doubt that if this were on my desk, I would use it.

The only problem is that to get on to my desk it needs to be about $99.  That is the mental price/utility threshold for me.  Instead it is about $250 for a kit to build it yourself and closer to $300 for a pre-built one.  I say “about” because it is coming from Canada, so I have to convert from Loonies to Greenbacks to figure it out.  And, because it is coming from Canada, that also means a shipping charge, a fee from customs, and probably a visit from the agents of Homeland Security to inquire as to the purpose of such a device.  I mean, it says “weapons” and “drones” right there on the front panel!

Still, I do think the whole idea is pretty awesome.  And there are 20 days left to go on the Kickstarter.  Maybe there will be a demo version at EVE Vegas that will convince me that it is totally worth the price.

Mineserver – A Minecraft Hardware Solution

Having fled from the impending demise of NetherByte… which was still up and running the last I checked… and its “$22.50 for six months” pricing to find refuge at MCPro Hosting, which has a better reputation, but charges about that much a month if you add on the ability to do server backups, and for less RAM, the whole “buy or rent” question has surfaced in my head again.

At what point is it worth just buying some hardware and hosting the server myself?  Visions of Intel NUC boxes float through my head, but the cost even at that end puts the return on the investment a bit too far out in the future.  If I could just put together something that would handle our group, wasn’t a complete pain in the ass to manage, and had a ROI point of about 12 months, I would be very interested.

On to this fertile mental pasture… and remember, fertilizer is traditionally most shit… lands a post about the Mineserver Kickstarter campaign.

Mineserver, according to the campaign, is a hardware and software package that gives you a headless server that you can plug into your network, administer through a web interface, can be made accessible/discoverable outside your network (so your friends can play), and even has an Android/iOS admin app that allows parents to control access from their ever present phones and tablets.

For this, the three primaries in this operation Channing, Cole, and Fallon (ages 13, 11, and 9 if I have the names in the right order) want only $99 for a Mineserver capable of hosting 20 player, or $199 for a Mineserver Pro, which is billed as being able to host 50 players and still keep its cool.  Less if you order early.

Pull the other one, right?

The tale is more plausible when you bring their father into the picture, Mark Stephens, more commonly known as Robert X. Cringely.  A long time staple of Silicon Valley, his column in InfoWorld was a must-read though his primary claim to fame is his book Accidental Empires, a history of Silicon Valley and the early tech industry, very much a must read in my cranky old opinion (along with Rick Chapman’s In Search of Stupidity, which fills in some of the missing lore), which was turned into the PBS documentary Triumph of the Nerds.  His blog, I, Cringely, is a regular read of mine and is linked somewhere down in my blogroll.

Anyway, Cringely and his tech connections and knowledge and backing of the whole venture makes everything more plausible.  The kids have clearly had access to the right sources and mentoring from the right people in order to put this sort of project together.  This gives the project credibility.

Still, I look at it and I have a few doubts.  In this sort of venture it seems to me a good plan to emphasize your strengths and obscure your weaknesses.

The strengths they are running with are cost, ease of administration via their custom software, security and safety for your kids, and server speed.

However, on speed, they are focused almost entirely network speed because the Mineserver will be plugged into your local router. (Though there is a WiFi option for people who want the box to sit somewhere else.)  That is a speed boost for people in your house, maybe not so much for anybody remote.

Things they have not brought into the picture include any details about the admin software, the discoverability aspect, the Linux distro, the Minecraft server version, the long term viability when it comes to updates and support for ongoing Minecraft development, and most important to me, any hardware specs whatsoever.

The last to me is doubly vexing.  First, as I have learned fairly quickly that, at least for hosting services, saying a config will support X players is often hopelessly optimistic.  I refer back to MCPro Hosting where, during their setup I told them I wanted to be able to host 20 players for vanilla Minecraft and they immediately recommended a 30 player option where we are constantly at edge of processor and RAM usage with four players in-game.  So when they say a Mineserver can accommodate 20 players, whose measure are they using?

Second, hardware isn’t something this project should be competing on, yet when asked point blank about specs, Cringley has declined to answer because he says he doesn’t want to project to be reverse engineered. (Comment on his blog post.)  But the secret sauce on this burger is the software, the stuff that they clearly see as the strong part of their pitch.  Hardware is a commodity and ought to warrant two lines at the bottom of the page with basic specs simple to prove that the platform has the moxie to do what they say it does.  Doubly so because whenever I show the Kickstarter to anybody in tech, the first question they ask when they see the hardware is, “Oh, is that run on a Raspberry Pi?”

Screen grab from the project video

Screen grab from the project video

I hope it isn’t a Raspberry Pi, or if it is, that they have been able to really optimize their software as I am not sure that would run anything beyond 10 players very well.  Also, Raspberry Pi as a server has been tried and talked about before.

Still, the doubts I express might just be mine.  As somebody who works in enterprise software and frets about such details professionally, I tend to have a skewed outlook.  For somebody who wants a home server this may very well be an ideal solution.

The project itself looks like a slam dunk to fund.  They opted for just a three week campaign and here, a couple days in they are just inches from their funding goal of $15,000.  (The joy of having a father people listen to, something my daughter will never experience.)  That will get them cases to kick off production, as everything else is reported to be done, so that they can start shipping out units before Christmas.  That would have to be some sort of short turn-around record for a Kickstarter project more complicated than potato salad.

It looks cool, sounds cool, and I want to believe, all the more so because of the enthusiasm of the kids in their project video.

What do you think?  Worth a go or not?  Certainly something I will keep my eye on.

Mineserver Kickstarter page

I also wonder what the guy who did the Mineserver software distro thinks about the project.  So few good names to choose from.

Addendum: The project passed its goal somewhere between when I wrote this and when it posted, so congratulations to the team.  Now where will thing go with stretch goals and such?  I hope they stay focused where ever they head.