I have no real opinion when it comes to the game itself. It might be the best game ever or allow one unique depth and perspective into the movie. It might be all they promise and more. I just know that it looks pretty sure that the campaign is not going to make its $900,000 funding goal.
Wilhelm’s Rule of Kickstarter campaigns is that if you don’t make 20% of your funding goal in the first 24 hours, you might as well go home. You haven’t rallied your base or given enough notice or come up with the right pitch or simply just don’t have the draw to get there.
The campaign sits at 18% and is at day 14 of 30. The prospects look grim. They even have a backer in at the $10,000 mark, but not nearly enough backers in at the sane funding levels.
I didn’t even hear about the title through the gaming news media. I stumbled on it by mistake on the Kickstarter site, and I was only there because I saw Bob Cringley had time to do another post on his blog so was wondering if he might have also found time to update people on when the hell their Mineservers might be showing up. (If ever.)
Still, when I found the campaign I had to laugh.
I wasn’t laughing at the campaign or what it was trying to accomplish. Like I said, the intent there might be pure.
Rather, I was laughing at what a perfect metaphor the movie was for the big ticket, grandiose plans, uncontrolled feature creeping, perennially behind schedule, and always over budget crowdfunded MMORPG market.
And lets face it, the grand champion poster child for all of that is Star Citizen. You could make this it several others, but Star Citizen is the big fish, so let’s just go straight for the jugular on that one.
Every Star Citizen fan boy about to tell me Chris Roberts is a great man…
How can you have this thought… this mixing of media minds… and not put Chris Roberts up there in the role of Colonel Kurtz? Surrounded by loyal followers who continue to give him money to driving a project that seems to have gone beyond being a viable venture.
I suppose if he could keep his posts a little more terse I might have to cast Derek Smart as Captain Willard.
They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.
-Capt. Willard, on meeting Col. Kurtz
That is a fun mental image to play with, but it is too much. The movie is too large, too dramatic, too bloody, too wrought with peril to really be a metaphor for Star Citizen. The real metaphor requires you to pull back a level, to consider the making of Apocalypse Now.
There is a great documentary about the making of the movie, Hearts of Darkness. It illustrates the parallel between the theme of the movie and the reality of making the movie, with Coppola himself taking on the Kurtzian role, out in the jungle, making a movie that nearly grew beyond his ability to shape.
I can picture Chris Roberts in that situation as well. He had a vision, but the scope may well have grown beyond his ability to shape and bring to fruition. Some of the problem is letting things grow because the wider scope is what he really wants. But not every problem is of his making. Coppola in the jungle face expensive problems with sets, actors unprepared (Brando) or ill (Sheen had a heart attack) and a range of studio execs back in the states wondering what he was doing with all the money and reminding him that he was past his deadline.
For Chris Roberts you can substitute in technology not up to his vision, the need to build some things from scratch, the need to change engines, and of course a whole range of people wondering what he is doing with the money and pointing out that the promised November 2014 ship date disappeared in the rear view mirror quite a ways back.
Coppola got an enduring classic for all his problems, explosions, and a million feet of film. We are still waiting to see what Chris Roberts will deliver.
And the irony is that the game that inspired this metaphor in my head, it isn’t going anywhere if it is depending on its crowdfunding run. But it has been a down time for video game crowdfunding, so they might have to go back to more traditional methods.
As down as I currently am on recommending any sort of video game related Kickstarter, I do have to mention the title that disappointed me the least over the last five years, which was the Defense Grid 2 campaign. As a project, it shipped the content that was funded just a mere month late and then went off to finish the unfunded content and sent it out to all backers as well.
Hell of a deal.
The only tiny disappointment was that Defense Grid 2 just wasn’t quite as much fun as the original Defense Grid. The problem with sequels and all that. Still, Hidden Path Entertainment did put out a pair of excellent tower defense games as well as doing the Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings HD update that brought that classic forward into the Steam era. (Oh, and they were involved with a little game called Counter Strike: Global Offensive.)
So I was interested to see that somebody is turning Defense Grid into a board game. Not Hidden Path, but Hidden Path has clearly signed off on and fully endorsed the project. And so we have a Kickstarter campaign for Defense Grid: The Board Game!
Tower Defense on your table top
If you want to see what a tower defense game might look like in board game form, you can give this a look.
The campaign has already funded at this point, so they are working on stretch goals. And physical games seem to have a better history with Kickstarter than video games. Coding is always more complicated than you think it is going to be.
Not my thing… I don’t have anybody to play board games with any more, and even if I did I came to computer games so that the machine would do the accounting for me… but I am interested to see how it turns out.
This annual post tends to be even more haphazard than my standard fare, an exercise in stream of consciousness writing as I add things to the list as they pop into my head. No links, no explanations, minimal punctuation, and lots and lots of bullet points.
Still makes tons of money, actually has several popular, profitable games
Just to reiterate, “Money, money, money, money, money!”
Celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding… and the 22nd anniversary of when it was first bought by another company
Shipped a WoW expansion, Legion, which sold well
the lead-in preview events before the Legion launch were pretty good
Actually appears to have a plan to keep content coming for Legion rather than the usual year long drought
Blizz still does a good job with new players and level boosts to let you jump straight to the current content with your pals
WoW Tokens haven’t destroyed the in-game economy or anything
Overwatch is totally a stellar success, you can tell by the amount of rage that comes from one character getting just an okay holiday outfit
Oh, and Overwatch got its own paid professional league
Hearthstone is doing pretty well, getting new expansions and coverage on Twitch as a casual alternative to whatever
Diablo III is getting some new stuff
Hell, even StarCraft II is still chugging along selling mission packs
If you are a fan of just ONE Blizzard game, you probably don’t think they give your game enough attention
If you are a WoW fan, you’re probably pissed about how much attention all the new shit is getting
The old instance group… totally not playing WoW, except for Earl who never stops playing it
Chris Metzen, Mister Lore Enthusiasm, retired
BlizzCon has become mostly a Blizzard eSports event
Legion made the long, long tradition of alts a pain in WoW
WoW classes in Legion are pretty much designed around a legendary weapon, so feel off until you get into the current content
Have you seen the path to get flying in the Broken Isles?
The whole Nostalrius saga, which really brought out some horrible people on both sides of the issue
Blizzard continues to steadfastly fail to understand why somebody would want to play an old version of WoW
Mark Kern injecting himself into the Nostalrius saga, which just seemed to make any progress forward less likely
Nostalrius expecting fast action from Blizzard and just relaunching when they didn’t get it… this will end well
The Diablo III new stuff is really nostalgia driven… which is okay for an older IP, but won’t sell many boxes as, say, Diablo IV would
Uh… Heroes of the Storm… you still there?
Daybreak Game Company
Really, things seemed to be well if you were a long time EverQuest or EverQuest II player; expansions, updates, free things, all good
DC Universe Online has a happy community and seems to be doing well, especially on PlayStation
H1Z1 King of the Kill seems to be popular on Twitch and is getting off of Station Cash
Some sort of publishing deal for LOTRO and DDO through the new Standing Stone Games… that should be worth some money, right?
Lots of job reqs on the Daybreak site, so they must be working on something new
EverQuest Next got the axe after the traditional SOE long silence
Without EverQuest Next, Landmark got shoved out the door, ready or not… mostly not
Has Daybreak hit the point of diminishing returns for special/nostalgia servers for EQ/EQII?
“Free to Play, Your Way!” became “There is a cover charge at the door and a two drink minimum”
If you think you’re going to buy a level boost for EQ or EQ2 in order to play the new content, think again! This ain’t WoW, the path through Norrath is not well marked
Haven’t heard much about PlanetSide 2 since its console launch
H1Z1 Just Survive might have a name that is too close to the reality of its situation
If Station Cash is so bad that they’re getting H1Z1 King of the Kill off of it, what does that say about the games left behind?
Pulled support for retail game cards; no more bringing your allowance to GameStop to pay your subscription, you have to pay online now
Good-bye Legends of Norrath
No more open world PvP in EQ2 (I’m sure somebody considers this a low point, even if I don’t really)
No more EQ2 Worlds mobile app either (That’s bad, right? Or was that just another distraction?)
With Russell Shanks gone, Columbus Nova doesn’t even have the pretense of a gaming exec running the show
Standing Stone Games
No longer part of Turbine or on WB’s balance sheet, so no more margin requirements… can actually spend money on development
Being able to just run DDO and LOTRO is probably the best thing possible for both games at this point
Mordor is in sight in LOTRO
DDO still seems to be in good shape
Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 have taken their final call and are being shut down
With nothing new in sight, SSG is playing through its own company end game as a caretaker
As their own company they gain the overhead for internal tasks that WB was likely doing for them, things like HR and payroll and such
LOTRO and DDO are both licensed properties, so SSG still needs to send out checks for that every month, which is more overhead than a fully owned property like EveQuest or Ultima Online has to deal with
Daybreak is now their publisher, which means they will need to get paid too
Despite the “nothing is changing” FAQ, this move will mean changes eventually
Able to run their own show, the first reaction seemed to be “revamp avatars!” which is code for “screw the current player base, I want new people around here!”
Can they even afford to make new avatar models that are good enough to make a difference to anybody?
They have the most popular VR app for the Oculus Rift in EVE Valkyrie
Two big expansions, Citadel and Ascension that changed the face of New Eden
A new New Player Experience in EVE; this time for sure!
Rorqual becomes the most popular capital ship in the game, figuratively if not literally
We had a great big war, a two year PCU high mark, and the most people ever in a single battle this year
CCP ends gambling, confiscates tainted ISK, and bans the RMT barons who fomented The Casino War after the Imperium called them out for being involved with RMT
Skill injectors let new players “catch up” to vets in training
The new CSM hasn’t been a distraction/embarrassment/hostile force this year
DUST 514 went dark
Rated 6/10 due to the shallowness of the game, EVE Valkyrie doesn’t have much competition and costs $99 if you didn’t get it for free
Being the most popular VR app in the Occulus Rift fragment of the market is like being the most proficient thumb sucker in pre-school, an honor that just isn’t going to last
F2P option boosted average PCU for EVE, but it is still 15K below the 2013 peak
Banning RMT tainted casino accounts came too late to save the Imperium, but a dish served cold was better than no dish at all
After the The Casino War Goons went to Delve while PL and NCDot started a rental empire at the expense of their erstwhile allies… nothing new in space, so just replay the greatest hits I guess
Ummm… no, really, citadels everywhere
Welcome to the new super cap arms race in null sec!
Suddenly becoming the most popular anything in New Eden is a sure sign of a balance issue
Not sure where the New Eden road map is headed next, and we probably won’t hear until Fanfest
Skill injectors pretty much made the powerful more powerful, as the rich now can have insta-trained alts
Not sure CCP is actually listening to the CSM
RIP New Eden solo industrialists
Still a loud faction out there that thinks walking in stations will “save” EVE Online
Rumors of CCP being sold… you may not love those vikings, but who else would have even tried to make EVE what it is today?
20th Anniversary of Pokemon
Re-release of Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on Virtual Console
Pokemon Sun & Moon, a great new core Pokemon RPG, was a bit seller
Pokemon Go takes the world by storm, boosting Pokemon related sales on all fronts
Super Mario Run followed on Pokemon Go as a huge immediate success on mobile
Announcement of a new mobile console thing, the Switch
End of the line for the Wii U… but at least it outsold the Saturn and the Dreamcast
Pokemon Sun & Moon performance on old model 3DS units is laggy
They must Amiibo all the things these days I guess
Pokemon Go problems… it wasn’t ready to be a phenomena
Will the Switch be more of a handheld or a living room gaming console?
The “not a successor” designation for the Switch no doubt means no backward compatibility for any of your current Wii U or 3DS games.
Star Trek Online made its way to consoles
Star Citizen shook off Derek Smart eventually
Rift got an expansion out, as did SWTOR
Black Desert Online had the MMO spotlight for a while
The Elder Scrolls Online seems to have turned a corner to success/stability
Minecraft continues to boom, with new updates, high sales, and a happy fans
Project: Gorgon has been available and improving and got some more funding via Indiegogo
WildStar lives yet!
Dark and Light sputtered back into existence after an eight year server downtime
No Man’s Sky had everybody excited for a cool, new indie space exploration game
Stardew Valley shows one dev can make a compelling game
The usual array of F2P fuckery, as J3w3l would put it, in various titles trying to boost income; I think Rift and Black Desert Online get a special mention for 2016
A special bonus mention for SWTOR and its “new content is for subscribers” plan; can’t buy it ala carte, gotta pony up
Black Desert Online fulfilled its prophecy and pretty much a re-run of ArcheAge, but that seems to be the way of these things no matter what MMO launches
ArcheAge got an update, the main feature of which seemed to be killing the servers
Consoles seem to be the main focus for Star Trek Online, so if you play on the PC you are probably behind on new features.
Just because Derek Smart hasn’t posted about Star Citizen in a couple months doesn’t mean all is happy, as the whole package is still in alpha, still nowhere close to all those promised features, has moved to a new engine (which they forgot to mention for months), and still seems to be run in a haphazard and/or amateurish fashion
Jesus, did any fucking Kickstarter I back even ship this year? Camelot Unchained? No! Shroud of the Avatar? No! Project: Gorgon? No! MineServer? No! Even Jason Scott’s documentary trio hasn’t shipped a single video yet. Dammit people, you know when you promise and don’t deliver you screw over the people trying to get funding after you, right?
While I am complaining, early access has turned into something like, “We got the code to run, give us some money!” of late
If WildStar’s revenue drops any further the studio is going to turn into a tax write-off for NCsoft
Main line PC Minecraft needs to get off Java already
The return of Dark and Light hardly seemed worth the effort
No Man’s Sky was just the intersection of many bad things, with unmet promises, overreacting fans, and a level of post launch company support that might be best summed up with, “Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?”
Seriously Hello Games, if you go on TV and say people can play No Man’s Sky with their friends, and they cannot, you have earned a pile of negative reviews
The LEGO Minifigures Online closer punches Funcom in the gut yet again
The rocky ride and sudden end of Hero’s Song
Yahoo shut down Yahoo games, because literally anything Yahoo touches turns to shit… and then just gets worse from there
Rogue One, a new Star Wars movie, was pretty okay
Fantastic Beasts, a new Harry Potter universe movie, was pretty okay
Westworld kept me going for ten weeks
I am not a big super hero movie fan, but Deadpool did make me laugh
The end of Downton Abbey
Rogue One isn’t going to get anywhere close to $2 billion in the box office revenue, probably due to a lack of Skywalkers
Also, Rogue One continued the tradition of crying about a vast SJW conspiracy because a female got a lead part in an action movie
Akin to Rogue One, a lack of Potters does limit the appeal of Fantastic Beasts
The Warcraft movie was really a for-the-fans-only venture, unlikely to expand the player base of the franchise
I think super hero movies have hit saturation point… maybe we can do some westerns or something?
So many celebrity deaths… crap, I wasn’t going to mention that… but Jesus Christ, even Carrie Fisher?
The Blog and Blogging and The Internet
Continues to chug along with 360 posts this year, or almost one a day, up 7 from last year
I still enjoy writing
I still very much enjoy writing after I have writ and can go back and see what was up a year later
Still a decent rang of blogs out there to read
Massively OP still does a regular call out to blogs
Reddit does has some very good and informative subreddits
My enthusiasm for new and different MMORPGs has largely faded, so I tend to write about the same half dozen games over and over
My style… crank out a first draft then press “publish,” after which I start to find errors and typos… remains largely unchanged
I still have to fight the urge to start every paragraph after the first with, “And,” “So,” “Then,” and “Meanwhile.”
Readership is down to about 2009 levels, though I suspect the core regular readership is about the same, it is just less new people showing up… sort of like an aging MMO, which seems oddly appropriate
I still don’t link out to other blogs as often I think I should
Blog attrition and fading has passed the replacement level in our corner of the net, or maybe I am so out of the loop that I simply no longer see new blogs as they pop up being an old fart
Other MMO gaming news sites pretty quickly forgot about blogs after a flurry of paying attention to them last year
AOL killed the Massively and WoW Insider archives… or at least broke all the links going to them… At least we still have the Internet Archive
Reddit does make blogs feel redundant unless you are a fan of long form
Anyway, that is what I have in my brain here at the end of 2016. I am sure I left a lot out, so feel free to add anything you feel needs a mention in the comments.
A new year approaches, which at least implies two more of my yearly posts are yet to come, my outlook for 2017 and the inevitable New Years Day predictions post.
Roll over Beethoven, here we are again. There is still some time left in the year, but I pretty sure we are far enough along that anything I predicted back in January will have either come to pass or just won’t happen this year.
Back at the start of the year I listed out sixteen predictions for 2016, the sweet sixteenth birthday of the 21st century. And then somebody spiked the Kool-aid and the party ran out of control in a way that even a National Lampoon script writing team would deem too implausible to put to paper.
So my predictions look pretty tame compared to reality.
Anyway, here is what I predicted back then. As usual, the questions are worth 10 points each, with partial credit available.
1 – WoW Legion will ship on August 16th, which will give Blizzard both one of the fastest expansion release cycles in its history along with one of the longest content droughts, leaving few happy.
Pretty close on that one. Yes, I know that is two weeks off the actual date, but given the number of people insisting June simply had to be the date, not too shabby. And it was one of the longest content droughts, about which nobody was really happy. I’m giving myself about half credit on that – 6 points.
2 – WoW Legion will be heavily criticized for the small amount of content it delivers at launch. It will turn out that Blizzard can’t figure out how to make any more content than usual, so the plan will be to dole it out in more, but smaller, chunks over the life of the expansion.
Hrmm, not so much. I mean, you could argue that the initial four zones and the run to level 100 were pretty darn quick. But Blizz did have a bunch of level cap content ready, has rolled out the first content update and talked about future updates. So I think I get a nada here – 0 Points.
3 – The Warcraft movie will be a modest success, though after it settles down somebody will calculate that more people have probably played World of Warcraft than saw the movie in the theater. The movie’s impact on the game will be negligible.
I think modest success is about spot-on. The Chinese box office wasn’t all that profitable. If you saw the movie in the theater you probably live in China and being the best movie in a traditionally crap niche still isn’t saying much. As for impact on the game… meh. Did anybody subscribe because they saw that movie? And I think I saw that players vs. viewers calculation at one point in July. I’m giving myself full points on this one just to make you angry. If you disagree, go watch this then channel your rage into the comments – 10 Points.
4 – Diablo IV will be announced at BlizzCon. Really. This time I am serious dammit!
Blizzard, however, was not serious. We did get an announcement about a treat, a remake of the original Diablo in the game, plus something that sounds a bit like a new expansion vehicle for the return of the Necromancer class, but that was about it – 0 Points.
5 – Daybreak will get a new head honcho who will be selected from another company and will have little or no experience with the fantasy MMORPG genre that has kept the team in San Diego funded for most of its existence. Expect this person’s past experience to be the hammer and any Daybreak problem to be a nail. They’ll be just like that VP we once hired from Oracle, for whom every solution required a database. So if, for example, they have a history with first person shooters on the XBox, you’ll know what to expect.
How to score this? I wrote a whole post about this two weeks back. Long time SOE veteran Russel Shanks stepped in back when Smed got the axe… erm, stepped down… almost a year and a half ago. I wasn’t sure if that was an interim move back then. That lingered until October when Shanks stepped down and Ji Ham, a Columbus Nova Prime operative was put in the top slot, no doubt to make sure the spice cash was kept flowing. And while he has no notable experience with fantasy MMORPGs, he also isn’t exactly what my prediction implied either. Also, is seems that we was co-president or some such this whole time. Still, I suppose that appointment does mean we’ll know what to expect. I’m going to go with Bree’s call on the score here – 8 Points.
6 – It will be more tough times and harsh realities for Daybreak. The EverQuest/EverQuest II teams, which pull their own weight, will be safe so long as they can sell expansions, but everything else will be up for grabs. As a result I expect two of the following to happen:
EverQuest Next pushed out prematurely for early access dollars.
EverQuest Next and Landmark merged back into a single product/project, but you have to buy it again it you bought Landmark.
Legends of Norrath shut down.
Legends of Norrath turned into a stand-alone iOS and Andoid game, where it fails and gets shut down.
PlanetSide 2 shut down, relaunched with a new name as a buy-to-play title for consoles only, old version not compatible with the new one.
DC Universe Online shut down on Windows, left running on PlayStation.
H1Z1 basic package launched as a buy-to-play title, but seriously gimped unless you are a Daybreak All Access subscriber or plan to spend big in the cash shop.
New, console-only project announced.
You know, that list isn’t nearly as divorced from reality as I thought it was eleven and a half months back. I even got one on the nose, as Legends of Norrath went away back in August.
And I could make the case that some variation of the first two on the list came to pass as Daybreak kicked Landmark out the door into the cold marketplace for the few players that remained.
Meanwhile, bits of that H1Z1 prediction contained threads of reality, while DCUOmoving to XBox seems to confirm what was said in the past about the game being popular on consoles as opposed to being a big deal in the Windows market.
In the end though, I am only going to claim one, if only to off-set those ill-gotten points from the Warcraft movie prediction – 5 Points.
7 – Turbine needs a splash in 2016 with LOTRO. DDO rolls along as is, sharing the Dungeons & Dragons license with Neverwinter. But the contract with Tolkien Enterprises for LOTRO wraps up in 2017. While a renewal seems pretty likely, barring a complete disaster, it would go over much better if some additional cash were flowing in. So, after a couple years off… and perhaps learning from the market… a big expansion will be announced that will bring us to Mordor. Cirith Ungol or maybe just to the main gates, but the end of the journey will be in sight. Expect a special Blessing of the Valar level boost to be bundled in with it that will get you stuck straight into the new content. Yes, I know this isn’t in the current 2016 plan for Turbine, but this will change before the end of the year.
Poor Turbine. I don’t think they have it in them to get an expansion out anymore. They’ll just slowly update their way to Mordor and toss in the ring eventually – 0 Points.
8 – In EVE Online, citadels will be big. (Ha ha!) Everybody will want one, which will cause a boom in construction and a spike in mineral prices and a rise in concurrent users. It will be the new shiny. This will wane as the close of summer comes to an end and we all figure out the flaw in the citadel plan and the game grinds to a halt while we argue about how CCP should fix it.
Well, I was certainly right on the “everybody will want one” side of the equation, with more than 7,000 of the things having been deployed across New Eden. We never did get to the horrible flaw in them. Some small ones, but no game breakers. Then again, I think that part of the prediction might simply have been premature. Wait until they want to kill null sec stations and POSes – 4 Points.
9 – CCP will either close down the CSM or change it so drastically that it is essentially a different beast. We’ll get CSM XI, but it will carry on the now familiar tradition of institutional animosity from certain sectors within CCP, something that won’t be helped by the fact that most CSM veterans will decline to run for election, leading to a fresh CSM with Xenuria and DurrHurrDurr (or a reasonable facsimile of the latter) as the permanent Icelandic duo. That will force CCP to act.
I am claiming a few points up front for predicting Xenuria on the CSM and the whole “veterans decline to run” thing. As for change, the most drastic was pulling CCP Falcon and CCP Leeloo off of CSM duty, as the pair of them seemed to be a major part of the drama creation machine that had been the CSM for a while… CCP Falcon especially, as he seems to thrive on building a reputation of being combative and confrontational… and putting in the ever-chill pair of CCP Guard and CCP Logibro. After that and the election, the CSM almost disappeared into obscurity as they simply tried to get the job done.
So not a drastic change, but CCP seems to have succeeded, for now, in turning the CSM back into an asset rather than a public relations nightmare – 7 Points.
10 – The return of The Fountain War Kickstarter will succeed when it kicks off in March, being better thought out. Drama will be way, way down compared to the initial run.
Ha ha ha ha! Ever the optimist am I! CCP ran away from The Fountain War book idea like a scalded cat after the disaster of the first attempt. We shall not hear of that again – 0 Points.
11 – Black Desert, the new anticipated hotness, combining an Asian MMO import with the word “sandbox” yet again, is going to be a replay of ArcheAge, with a big rush, overcrowding, disappointment and recriminations, before settling down for the core audience that will remain after everybody who pinned sky high hopes on it storms off in a fit of pique.
I mean, pretty much, right? For a bit it was all anybody could talk about, then it pretty much fell off the map when it comes to the blogs I read. I see update posts about it over at Massively OP, and it had a server merge recently, so it seems to fit in the ArcheAge mold well enough – 10 Points.
12 – Project: Gorgon, after being in the shadows for so long, will have a banner year in 2016, with early access success on Steam leading to the game going live for real before the year runs out.
Not quite there yet. The game is on its way, but everything always takes longer than you think when it comes to software – 0 Points.
13 – NCsoft will announce that WildStar is closing down, it’s free to play conversion having been a brief flash in the pan.
I keep expecting this as WildStarsets new revenue lows in the NCsoft quarterly reports, yet it is still around. Congrats to a 2016 survivor I guess – 0 Points.
14 – Despite all the back and forth and talk of lawyers and lawsuits and who is going to sue who for what and where, the Derek Smart vs. Star Citizen brouhaha will fade away without a metaphorical legal punch being thrown.
Okay, maybe I was looking for a gimme trying to get to 16 predictions. No lawsuit, no how – 10 points.
15 – Somebody will buy Funcom… for cheap… to rescue a couple of their titles, but Anarchy Online won’t be on the list of the saved. LEGO Minifigures Online is the prize there.
16 – Crowfall, will still be in development, allowing only limited access for backers by the end of 2016. It won’t really be a thing until 2017.
I don’t think Crowfall is even that far along now. It certainly won’t be a thing until late 2017 at the earliest – 0 Points.
Special Bonus Prediction – A big Pokemon announcement to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the series on February 27, 2016.
My make up gimme prediction. We got the Pokemon Sun & Moon announcement and the launch of Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on the 3DS Virtual Console on the anniversary. I think the former counts – 10 Points.
Big 2016 Question – Will VR be interesting enough to spur people to spend money upgrading their systems in order to spend more money to buy an Occulus Rift rig?
Pretty much no. VR is a fragmented niche market without a killer app currently. Not a scored item, since it wasn’t a prediction but a question.
70 points out of 170 possible, including points for the extra credit question, which at about 41% would be a failing grade in any class I ever took. But in the land of prognostication, that is a positively stellar record… or at least in the land of my own blind guesses at the future. And so ends the year.
As for others scoring their predictions, this is what I have seen so far:
Way back in October of last year the Mineserver Kickstarter campaign was wrapping up.
The campaign was being run by author, pundit, and former InfoWorld columnist Robert X. Cringely and his three pre-teen sons and the plan was to take some off-the-shelf hardware, some available Minecraft server software, combine it with an admin interface of their own, and create an easy to use Minecraft server that you could setup at home and that mom could admin from her iPhone. The Cringely team had been working on this for a year and it was all done save for some details.
The campaign ended on October 21, 2015 with 388 backers pledging $35,452, well over the $15,000 the campaign sought. Thus funded, the team was working towards wrapping things up and shipping out units to customers by the end of the year.
Full production will begin at the start of November and our goal is to deliver all Mineservers™ — burned-in and tested — by Christmas.
-Mineserver Campaign Page
The final line on the campaign spelled out the attitude towards their goal.
This is not rocket science… That’s next year.
-Mineserver Campaign Page
So it was off to production. There were some updates through October and November about finishing up the admin software and sourcing parts and getting units ready.
And then things got a bit quiet in December, until on December 21st there was an update with the title “Man Overboard!”
Their Linux consultant, needed to tie the whole package together, had gone missing and had to be replaced. He was a rare person, being a very familiar with Minecraft, but they found another guy who was very familiar with the hardware, but wasn’t up on Minecraft. Shipments, already a behind schedule, would be delayed a bit longer.
Again, we’re sorry, but shipping will be delayed about one week.
-Man Overboard update
And then began the long dark winter, as more than a month went by before the next update titled “Better Late Than Never!” More problems had cropped up. The compiler they were using for their chosen version of Linux wouldn’t work with the ARM based motherboards they had chosen, motherboards which they had purchased and were waiting for installation.
Mineserver motherboards – January 2016
This was going took a bit of time to solve, but wasn’t insurmountable. The custom admin software was moving along and they had support for the server flavors they wanted, except for Cuberite, which they expect to add soon.
Server flavor choices
While they worked on Cuberite support and a WiFi issue, they put up some test servers so people could try them out for performance and use the routing software to see if it resolved correctly. (It never did for me, I had to use the IP addresses to connect.)
Comments from backers, which started to take a negative turn after the last gap, got a bit darker when a month and a half went by before we heard another word from the Mineserver team. On March 17th we got an update titled “The Devil is in The Details.” There was a statement up front that they won’t delay between updates that long again.
Getting the Cuberite server software to work with the admin application had been problematic, it being the odd man out on the Minecraft server front as it is compiles in C++ rather than Java. This however was what made Cuberite desirable, as it is way out in front of the other options in terms of performance and really needs to be on the box for the Mineserver to meet its supported players claim.
Meanwhile, the dynamic DNS system and a the WiFi support also had issues which needed to be solved before they could ship. And, finally, there is what they think is an Ethernet issue causing the boxes to drop off the network occasionally. But the mood was still upbeat. These were solvable problems, solved already really save for the last one, so the update ended with optimism.
It’s the final bug, we’re approaching it with planning, gusto, and plenty of Captain Crunch, and fully expect to solve this last issue and start shipping next week when the kids are off school for Spring Break.
-The Devil is in The Details update
Three weeks later there was a small update that included a call to help test the Mineservers they have setup and a mention that the Ethernet bug may not yet be solved.
Then there was another month and a half gap, proving that they in fact would do “that” again, before we got the Science Experiments/Finally Nearing the End update. Cringely’s son Fallon used the Mineserver setup for a science fair entry, which features at the top half of the update, which then goes on to the fact that the underlying management software still doesn’t support the Cuberite server. Support for Cuberite will be available at some point in June, so they are going to wait for that.
Meanwhile Mojang has released Minecraft 1.10, which comes up in the comments as to how updates like this are going to be handled. There is no response to that question or, frankly, any question ever that comes up in the comments. Cringely doesn’t do comments, he just drops updates and goes away it seems.
An early July update said that the Cuberite support had been delayed, but that they continued to work on the product and that it will support Minecraft Pocket Edition at launch, which needs its own flavor of server. There is a promise of regular updates.
At this point we’re going to start doing updates every Thursday with the idea of keeping you better informed. Thank you for your patience.
-Still waiting for AIM update
By July 22nd there seemed to be a breakthrough, with an update that says Cuberite support is now a thing, and getting it to work right is all that is delaying shipping. Optimism still reigns. They have only missed one Thursday update since making that promise Again we are told, “This isn’t rocket science. ”
The next Thursday update has an admin interface issue solved, but there is still the Cuberite support issue. A week later, on August 5th, things seem really close, plus now the Mumble voice server software will be bundled in with the Mineserver.
And then summer vacation ends and Thursday updates cease. I expect that with three young boys heading back to school that the Cringely household has its hands full.
Finally, on September 14th we got an update that says the WiFi doesn’t work reliably. WiFi hasn’t been mentioned since January, and the comments indicate that some people have been taken aback by this. (One person claims to have filed an FTC complaint.) Apparently the part they chose isn’t compatible with Arch Linux, so they have ordered a replacement that should fix the problem.
No further updates have been posted, so the status of the WiFi and Cuberite support remains a mystery.
On September 23rd the one year anniversary of the launch of the Kickstarter campaign passed, and on October 1st it had been one year since campaign met its funding goal.
Welcome to crowdfunding.
Ah, but a project’s reach should exceed its grasp, or what’s a Kickstarter for?
-Me, abusing Robert Browning’s quote
Last week over at Massively OP there was a post about 10 questions you should ask before backing an MMO Kickstarter. In the comments I, along with several other, proposed some additional question, mine being focused on your readiness to accept that any dates promised during the campaign are generally blind optimism at best. I mean, Star Citizen, right?
Being late is part of the experience.
About a year and a half ago I reviewed the Kickstarter campaigns I had backed, and those that had shipped were universally late. Not all drastically so. Defense Grid 2 shipped just a month after the promised date. Go, go Hidden Path Entertainment!
In fact, I have been meaning to do a follow up on that post as time has passed and a number of promised delivery dates have gone by, but I was waiting for the Mineserver issues to get resolved, since it seemed like that would just been a few weeks off… for the last nine months.
I am not particularly annoyed by the delay. This is not a rage post, but a summing up of the tale so far. If I want something delivered on time, I order it from Amazon. I did rather optimistically plan to move our Minecraft world to the Mineserver at a couple of points, but not being able to do that hasn’t really changed much. Instead it got moved to different hosting providers.
This is more of a review post to look at how things were handled. These days I am more interested in HOW people run campaigns as the campaigns themselves, having come up with my own success predictors and such.
The campaign itself went very well. It got enough publicity, in large part because of the Cringely name, and hit funding milestones that indicated it was going to be a success early on.
No, the problems here have all been post-campaign. Success is a problem everybody wants to have, but how you handle it can make any victory Pyrrhic. For example, No Man’s Sky was a huge financial success (yes, I know, not a Kickstarter campaign, but work with me here), however the gap between what was promised and what was delivered will likely haunt the studio and key devs going forward.
For the Mineserver campaign I think there have been two obvious problems.
The first has been over-optimism, which is ever a curse here in Silicon Valley. At several points during the campaign it sounded like problems were just about solved and we were told that units would be shipping soon. And then they didn’t ship.
You cannot foresee all problems, and people will forgive you a couple of slips. But after a while your predictions lose their credibility.
The second problem has been communication. Updates have been sporadic and the comments might as well be turned off for updates section since they never get any sort of response.
At one point Cringely said he didn’t want to do updates unless he had good news to share. In my experience though, any update is better than no update. And that is doubly so when combined with optimism, when an update says there will be a week’s delay and then the next update doesn’t show up for a month.
I think the campaign was on the right track for a bit with the “every Thursday” updates. But, as I noted, those fell by the wayside and now we are in limbo again, waiting for some news.
So we shall see.
At this point, with our current server happily chugging away on Mojang’s hosting, I will probably use the Mineserver to play with Minecraft mods. When it finally arrives.
Addendum: We got an update on October 7, there are new problems, a possible solution, and shipping is still a few weeks beyond the horizon.
You might remember Hero’s Song, the John Smedley/Pixelmage Games project in development, which launched a rather poorly thought out Kickstarter back in January of this year. The flaws in the campaign were manifold, and by the time I wrote a list of them up the campaign had been cancelled.
Hero’s must face turmoil, it is what makes them heroes, right?
The team found other funding and carried on development of Hero’s Song, which is currently described as:
Hero’s Song is an open world rogue-like fantasy game done in a beautiful 2D pixel art style. Create epic fantasy worlds uniquely shaped by your choices, the power of the gods, and thousands of years of history. Become a legendary hero in a dangerous and mysterious world of magic and monsters. Explore endless dungeons and ancient cities in long forgotten lands in search of knowledge, treasure and the power of the gods!
This time around they the goals are more modest, the pledge tiers are better, the details are expansive, Smed isn’t using the word “hardcore” all over the place, and there is a somewhat more realistic timeline for the project.
Dates quoted for truth… again
I still think that schedule is optimistic, but more than 25 years in software development has made that my knee jerk reaction to any schedule I suppose. Still, it is better than the last one (shown in this post), which had launch in October of this year… so I was right in calling it out on optimism that time at least.
Also different this time around is the platform they chose to run their campaign. Rather than going with the perennial favorite, Kickstarter, PixelMage chose to go with Indiegogo.
The choice of Indiegogo gives them at least one advantage; there is no minimum threshold to allow them to collect some money. Unlike with Kickstarter, where you have to make your goal to get paid, even if PixelMage does not make it $200,000 stated target, they get to keep any money pledged at the end of the campaign.
If you pledge it, they get it
There are, however, some downsides.
First of all, while Indiegogo isn’t exactly unknown, it still isn’t Kickstarter. Kickstarter is more famous and, I suspect, more trusted when it comes to giving them payment information. I mean, Kickstarter has been around a while, to the point that the verb “to kickstart” has practically acquired a new meaning largely associated with them.
Verb also used for motorcycles and energy drinks, which is pretty powerful
The second downside, for me at least, stems from one of the advantages, the fact that PixelMage gets the money pledged even if they do not make their stated goal.
I mean, that is GREAT… for PixelMage. But how great is it for those pledging money? If a company says they need a given amount to complete a project, and they only get, say, 25% of that amount, what does that mean to those who kicked in?
Now, in the case of PixelMage, I suspect that, at worst, it will mean some delay in the schedule. I have no doubt they will deliver the game whether they make their goal or not. But, in general, I guess I have become accustomed to the Kickstarter method where you only get your funding if you can raise the amount of money you said you needed for the project. There is a certain logic to that.
Finally, as something an adjunct to the previous item, the lack of a hard “must meet” funding goal also takes a bit of the edge off of the campaign. Not having an “all or nothing” goal mutes any sense of urgency. Let’s look at where the campaign stands today, a couple of days in:
September 9, 2016 – Morning status
The campaign is 23% of the way to its goal… which seems to be okay.
I have to say that among its disadvantages, Indiegogo doesn’t have the range of external trend and activity tracking tools that Kickstarter does, and also seems to be a bit coy with things like the actual end date.
Anyway, Hero’s Song seems to have made my rule-of-thumb metric for campaigns, which is that if you haven’t hit 20% of your goal in the first 48 hours, you aren’t going to make it. However, they are going to get that money whether or not they get to $200,000. The goal is just a line in the sand, more of a “we’d like” rather than a do-or-die proposition. You can’t really call for a last minute surge if they are short of their goal because they are still going to get something. And even the stretch goals seem like you might get them anyway, so why throw money down now?
Races and housing
But that might just be me. I am ever the cynic and/or critic.
Then again, Bree over at Massively OP put it this way in the comments of a post over there:
They get the money even if they don’t get to the soft target. They are plainly using Indiegogo as a preorder system and publicity stunt; there’s no way the “we need 200k more” thing is legit (plus they really want more than that for the hardcore housing feature).
And I think I am a cynic! The again, there is the “Smed factor” I mentioned when the Kickstarter campaign was going. He has a lot of history and not everybody likes him.
Anyway, the Indiegogo campaign is on and running for… a month… again, end date on that? You can check it out here if you are interested, pledge if you want to pre-order and get a T-shirt (or limit Smed’s diet), or wait until it hits Steam about this time next year. (My needlessly pessimistic prediction there.)
Or you can go to the PixelMage site and read up about the project itself.
Well crap, I just wrote this whole post last night and they cancelled it this morning literally as I went to check to see where it stood. But I am not wasting all these words! I will be validated, dammit! Most of this is still on point, and I am not re-writing it simply to tune it for what just happened.
“Whoa, whoa, hold on there Hoss!” I hear you say, “That Kickstarter campaign has like 22 days left to run. How can you say it failed?” Well, because of this:
But let’s just pretend that didn’t happen for the moment.
I must admit that this is true. There is a long stretch of time left, leaving the campaign plenty of time to recover and make its $800,000 goal, and maybe even a stretch goal or two. Hero’s Song might yet make its money. Stranger things have happened.
Nor am I trying to root this campaign into failure. I have no particular problem with it nor with Smed himself, who seems like a decent person, somebody you could have a beer with and talk about video games.
What I am running with for this post is what I shall declare here as “Wilhelm’s First Hypothesis on Video Game Kickstarter Behavior,” based on observations I have recorded on this blog, which indicates that if you don’t hit the 20% funding mark in the first 48 hours, the campaign is lost. I was on this two years ago.
Here we are past day seven and the Hero’s Song campaign is sitting at 18%. It needs to bring in more than $27,000 a day to succeed, something it only did on day one. The average take per day is up to this point is just a little over $17K, according to the data at KickTraq. Unless there is a miracle in the offing, things look grim.
Kicktraq Status – Jan. 25
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.
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?
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.
Part of the problem here is that the price of the game is going to be $19.99. You have to sell a lot of units to get to $800K. Furthermore, I am a bit worried about how they plan to run servers and such with no cash shop or what not and just the base price to keep things going. I know he wants to keep away from the monetization tar baby, but I hope they have some additional revenue plan, like expansions.
Why did Smed have to run with this word? Seriously, I think if you’re in tune with the gaming news sufficiently to have even heard about the Hero’s Song Kickstarter campaign, you qualify at some level as hardcore.
But Smed’s been on this divisive “hardcore” kick before. Just last year he had that quip about those “disgusting PVE carebear servers” for H1Z1 which, while done in jest, still managed to annoy a fair share of people.
In the end, the word itself is mostly meaningless, serving only to divide players. Those that don’t see themselves in the mold of the hardcore will turn away from the project, while those who self-identify as hardcore are as like as not to question whether or not Hero’s Song is hardcore enough. Just having PvP doesn’t make something hardcore.
The Smed Factor
Smed has a name in the industry, people know him. But his name also comes with a lot of baggage. Not all of it is his fault, but he was the boss at SOE for a long stretch, and when you’re the boss, everything is your fault. Hacking in PlanetSide 2, broken raids in the Planes of Power expansion, the NGE, letting Vanguard stagnate and die, closing FreeRealms, the failure of The Agency, the confused state of EverQuest II at launch, holding SOE Live in Vegas so many years running, forgetting to pay for the domain name that one time, you name it, somebody will blame it on Smed.
That’s a lot of potential grudges smoldering out there.
And on top of that, while he has a reputation based on running SOE, the games that SOE created tend to be associated with other people. Brad McQuaid and the TorilMUD combo made EverQuest and he had Raph Koster there for Star Wars Galaxies and EverQuest II, Scott Hartsman there to rescue EverQuest II, Holly Longdale there to CPR EverQuest and EverQuest II back to life yet again, plus a few other names in the mix. But I don’t really associate Smed himself with any particular game, except maybe PlanetSide, and only because he declared it his favorite at one point.
Which isn’t to deny that a lot of people, both inside and outside the industry, like him. I like him. And, to paraphrase Gag Halfrunt, Smed is just this guy, you know? His name will get attention for the project, but not all of it will be favorable.
Development Timeline Credibility
This is more a reaction to my own career and the way almost every video game related Kickstarter has played out, but I have serious doubts about their October 2016 launch. Another Kickstarter hypothesis I am working on is a standard multiplier for such timelines. I started with 2x, but I think that may too optimistic.
Anyway, this one may be more of a matter of previous campaigns poisoning the well for Hero’s Song, if it is a factor at all for people. I appreciate the detailed timeline, I just think that backers may have been burned too often on that front.
The Need Question
I’m not sure why they need my money up front. I know Smed has said they are in for a million so far and believe they need another $800K to finish the game up, but do they need it from this Kickstarter campaign? If they campaign fails, are they still going to make the game or are they going to fold up shop and go home? Are we going to get fewer classes, fewer features, no self-hosting? What is the downside of this campaign failing? What is the compelling case for supporting this game with money up front nearly a year in advance?
That part of the tale should be very clear, in writing, on the campaign page… and it isn’t.
No Pre-Campaign Ramp Up
This is the part that really grinds my gears. This was just plain dumb. Smed literally announced his new company and its Kickstarter on Twitter the morning it started.
Yes, he had a couple of gaming sites ready to cover the launch. But you know what would have been better than absolutely zero pre-launch news… literally ANY pre-launch news.
“Hey! Surprise!” is not the hallmark of a good marketing campaign.
Look at past successful campaigns. Lord British had his big count-down and announcement before the Shroud of the Avatar campaign. Mark Jacobs was talking about a Kickstarter campaign for Camelot Unchained weeks in advance. The Crowfall team was in the news and getting people hyped up weeks before their campaign launched.
This is what successful campaigns… two million dollar campaigns… look like:
Shroud of the Avatar – 55% in the first 48 hours
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
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.