Category Archives: Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen

In Which I Ramble About Being All Things to All People

Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man

-The Dude

If you asked me what the most egregious flaw in MMORPG development has been over the history of the genre, I would say it was a “lack of focus.”

All together now, "Stay on target!"

All together now, “Stay on target!”

Overreach, trying to have too many features, trying to appeal to too many different audiences, listening to too many voices saying that they will give you money if only you support their pet feature, has ended up with a lot of time wasted on features that did not enhance a given game over time.

Vanguard is probably the poster child for this, a game that launched with too much breadth and not enough depth. (Star Citizen could claim that crown from Vanguard, save for the “we’re still in Alpha” loophole that will be going on for the foreseeable future.)  All those races, all those starting zones, PvP and different types of PvP servers, huge landscapes devoid of content, all running on server code not ready for prime time.

The game wanted to leap past day one EverQuest and be EverQuest five expansions into its life.  Instead it jumped down a well and was on life support for the next seven and a half years, finally being let go when even a free to play conversion couldn’t make it economically viable.

That trajectory might have been different had the vision for launch not been so grandiose.  A few races, one continent, and a focus on content around that might have led to a different outcome.  Maybe.  They still would have needed more time on server code, but maybe with less emphasis on a huge world they could have spent some money on the underlying mechanics.

When Brad McQuaid showed up again with his Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign three years back, I was happy with his vision… back to the core of what made EverQuest a success… and doubly so at him saying that the plan was to keep things small and focused.  And then people started pestering him about features they wanted to see in his new game and vision creep seemed to have returned.  When he caved in to a loud corner of players and said PvP would be a thing, I gave up on following the game.  What attracted me to it was his statement about focus, and once that was gone the project ceased to be special to me.

Not that I am anti-PvP.  I have enough posts about EVE Online here to show a commitment to that as a play style.  But I am not convinced that PvP needs to be a feature in every single MMORPG.  It needs to be an integrated, core feature and not something tacked on in the hope of a few more box sales.  That is where it works, where it is good.  However, there is a loud group of players who will show up and rant about any game that dares not have PvP on its feature list.

EverQuest II is my favorite example of time wasted on PvP.  It is a game where the core feature set and audience is PvE that spent way, way too much time trying to make PvP viable by tacking it on to the game in all sorts of ways.  There battles with avatars, and arena battles, and battle grounds, and different servers with different rule sets over time, and eventually there was a point where they redid all the gear so that it have both PvE and PvP stats.  And, in the end, after attempt after attempt to make PvP a thing, they finally gave up and went back to focus on the core game play, the PvE questing and dungeons and raiding, that keeps its main audience going.

Of course, I have a flip side example for EQ2 in EVE Online.  There has always been a persistent rumbling from people about making New Eden more PvE friendly or making high sec completely safe from non-consensual PvP.  CCP has admirably stuck to its vision of the game on that front, but they nearly slipped at one point.

When we speak of the Incarna release, a lot of people jump straight to cash shops and monocles and the insider talk of selling “gold” ships or ammo ala World of Tanks.  But the cash shop still exists and monocles are just as expensive today as they were five years back.

That was all fluff.

The main issue was the captain’s quarters and the diversion from flying in space to avatar based game play.  That was what was rejected after Incarna, but only after a dismissive attitude from CCP about ship spinning… something that was even in their CSM summit statement…  and the like.

But results trump attitude, and after Incarna we got a renewed focus on flying in space with the Crucible expansion that started a long series of reworks of broken or ignored features that were part of the core game play, after which the game reached its subscriber peak.  They seem to get that they have a core they need to maintain. (Which they even mentioned in an interview today.)

And yet there remains a loudly vocal group of players who insist that EVE Online needs avatar based game play, the dreaded “walking in stations” crowd, despite it being such a non-core feature that to make it viable CCP would have to essentially develop another game within EVE Online in order to make it any sort of real attraction.  And to do that it would need to shift resources away from space, which is where everybody who plays the game today is invested.

Arguments about avatars attracting new players are all pie in the sky wishful thinking, while ignoring core game play and the primary audience for the game simply cannot be justified.  But still somebody brings up “walking in stations” every time the future of the game is discussed.

Straying from your core audience can be a win, but only if you know the demand is there, and there is no evidence that an investment in avatar based game play would add a single player to New Eden.

You can point your finger at me and rightly say that I am not a game developer, so how would I know.  And it is true, I work in a different segment of the tech industry, enterprise software.  It pays better and is much more stable.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a sack full of stories about companies with solid products that bring in 99% of the revenue ignoring them to chase some pie in the sky vision because the VP of sales heard some analyst at Gartner say that the future was in “nano-plastic biometric IPv6 reporting schemas” or some other nonsense feature.

And let me tell you, the urge to stray from your focus is tested a lot more by a fortune 50 retailer telling you that they will only consider your product for their seven figure RFP if you support crazy feature X than by any number of gamers grumbling in your forums.

So I certainly have a sense of what happens when you lose focus along with a series of “no customer ever used” features I on which I worked for my resume.

All of which makes me a bit more optimistic about the MMORPG market these days.  WoW clones attempting to appeal to all demographics are dead for now.  Even WoW has felt the pinch for being too much of a bland reflection of early versions of the game.

Instead we have a range of “niche” titles in development, games that set out to be smaller and so can focus on what makes them what them special rather than feeling the have to have every feature ever present in any MMORPG ever shipped.  We wait upon Shroud of the Avatar, Camelot Unchained, Project: Gorgon, Crowfall, and probably a bunch more to validate once again that an MMO can be small and focused and successful.

But if you’re still out there shouting that every game needs to support your pet feature, you’re might want to reflect on whether you’re actually part of the problem that got us to the grim state of big MMORPGs in the first place.

The Coming Death of Deathtoll and PvP in EverQuest II

The story of PvP in EverQuest II is one of brief flashes of modest popularity interspersed amongst great stretches of general ennui.  It is an object lesson in lack of focus.

Because SOE certainly spent a lot of developer time on PvP when it came to EQII in an attempt to find a way to make it work.  But in what is almost completely a PvE oriented game, with classic level and gear progression, PvP never quite fit right.  Over the years SOE tried a number of things, limiting levels at which you could engage other players, nerfing stats when used in PvP, and eventually just giving all gear both PvE AND PvP stats.   They have had open world PvP, arenas, duels, and WoW-like battlegrounds.

And all of it was, in my opinion, a waste of development time.

PvP is not at all core to what made EverQuest II (or EverQuest) the game it is today.  I won’t say nobody played EQII for PvP, because there is always a small group that likes it and shouts loudly for it in the forums, but you would be hard pressed to convince me that all the work done on PvP over the last 11 years was a sound investment based on how many players it attracted.

Back in June when the legacy Norrath team started talking about nostalgia servers for EQII, I was pretty quick to discount the PvP idea.  Not core.

That is Daybreak's graphic for the idea

Generic TLE graphic

So it was a bit of a surprise to me when Daybreak announced not one, but two Time Locked Expansion servers, Stormhold for PvE, and Deathtoll for PvP.

I am not saying that people haven’t had fun with PvP in EQII, because clearly people have.  But it has never been a serious draw relative to the PvE side of the game, a fact proven once again by yesterday’s forum announcement:

Deathtoll will be merged with the PvE Time-Locked Expansion server Stormhold. This is currently scheduled for Tuesday, April 5, 2016. If you haven’t chosen to transfer your character before this date, we’ll be moving characters that remain on Deathtoll to Stormhold on April 5.

Deathtoll is dead, gone before it made it to the Secrets of Faydwer expansion.

And, in keeping with how these things go, that forum announcement has responses complaining about how Daybreak isn’t supporting the PvP community, completely oblivious to the fact that there apparently isn’t a big enough PvP community to even keep one server going.

If you have a character on the Deathtoll server… and are still subscribed to Daybreak All Access… you should be getting a token via in-game mail for a free transfer to any other EQII server.  If you are a PvP fan still on Deathtoll, I might have suggested transferring to that Russian PvP server… Harla Dar wasn’t it… but the Russian servers are being merged into the Splitpaw EU server.

Thus endeth PvP in EverQuest II… and good riddance to it.

Yes, I know a few people liked it.  And there will still be battlegrounds.  But in the end, non-core feature was non-core, and you cannot argue otherwise without creating castles in the sky built on magical clouds of “what if…” and “If only SOE had…” speculation.

This sort of “must cater to all play styles” idea should die, especially now in this era of the niche MMORPG.  Like so many other unsustainable MMO industry trends, you can probably blame this is one on WoW as well.  They managed to carry it off through sheer size.  You can afford support a small part of your player base if the total numbers are big enough to staff up for it.  More people probably play on PvP servers in WoW than ever played EQII at any given time.

But it still persists.  Maybe Lord British has enough bandwidth to manage it with Shroud of the Avatar… color me skeptical though, no matter how much people love to talk about the good old days of Ultima Online… but when Brad McQuaid is talking about PvP as a feature for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, that is enough for me to write the whole project off.  That is too big of an additional feature.  But scope creep was his problem with Vanguard as well.

Addendum: EQ2Wire has a summary of EverQuest II PvP posted.

Reviewing My 2015 Predictions

Here we are, approaching the back half of the last month of 2015, making it about time for a few “I do this every year” posts.

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

First on the list is predictions.  Back on January first I published a post with a series of guesses at events of the coming year.  The first set were about specific things I expected to come to pass.  Each was worth 10 points, with partial credit possible.  How badly did I fare there?

Predictions

  • At BlizzCon we won’t hear about the next World of Warcraft expansion.  Blizz is going to avoid the year long run up to a new expansion and focus on what we’ll get in Draenor in 2016.  That’s the plan going forward; a shorter run up to the next expansion, more focus on the current one, same two year gap between launches.

Well, I was way off on that.  Due to the way that Warlords of Draenor was failing to hold the user base Blizzard couldn’t even hold out until BlizzCon for the announcement, so the year long run-up to launch remains, unless they launch a lot earlier than they have said.  Zero points.

  • Blizzard will also punt on its PLEX-like item idea as foes of the idea in the forums will keep screaming “Diablo III real money auction house fiasco!” until the idea is put back on the shelf.

Wrong again.  Blizz decided they were good with the idea, so WoW Tokens are a thing.  Zero points.

  • BlizzCon will also see the announcement of a new expansion for Diablo III, breaking the “one expansion” trend for Diablo games.

This should have been.  Instead the Diablo franchise was barely mentioned at BlizzCon.  Zero points.

  • Heroes of the Storm will go live, at last, after BlizzCon.

Well, HotS did go live… just about five months before I predicted.  Zero points.

  • Overwatch, though, will stay in closed, invite-only beta in 2015.  We’ll hear good things, but we won’t get anything until next year.

Okay, I seem to be on track with this one at least.  Invite-only beta and not going live until Spring.  10 points.

  • EverQuest Next will not ship in 2015.  At least not by any definition I would consider a real release.  Rather, it will enter the “pay to play our unfinished free to play game” state that has haunted Landmark for the last year.  And it won’t even get to that state until after SOE Live.

I wish.  No word on EverQuest Next… and no SOE live either this year.  Zero points.

  • Push is going to come to shove at SOE, with EQN and Landmark drawing on more in-house resources but not necessarily providing more revenue.  One of the two Norrath games,EverQuest or EverQuest II, is going to get shorted on the expansion front this year.  There will be a virtual box to buy, but it will really be just a features and fixes expansion with no new levels, races, classes, or overland zones.  A few dungeons/raids and the usual set of AA options will be all somebody gets.

You know, this one looked like it was going to be spot on… my prediction wasn’t even dire enough, as SOE-cum-Daybreak was ready to abandon the expansion idea for Both EverQuest and EverQuest II at one point.  And then sanity… and a desire to make money… returned and both game got an expansion.  Zero points.

  • Also on the SOE front, Dragon’s Prophet will get the axe in 2015 and some new Asian import will get its chance.

Well, Dragon’s Prophet got the chop, but no new Asian import has replaced it, so half right.  5 points.

  • GuildWars 2 is going to ship an expansion in a box, virtual or otherwise, that will be the classic “give us money and get new content” exchange that we are all quite used to.  It will be a big win, hugely popular with the fan base, have many jumping puzzles, and ArenaNet will grumble all the way to the bank about how NCsoft made them do it.

I don’t know if there were as many jumping puzzles, but I wrote that just to tease Syp.  Otherwise, I think this is mostly on track, enough for 8 out of 10 points.

  • WildStar will go free to play.  NCsoft has a deal for the China market, so they can’t shut the thing down just yet.  But to get to China I am going to bet they have to go F2P.  And if you’re going to do the work for China, you might as well apply it in the west as well.

This one seems like “well duh” at this end of the year, but back at the end of 2014 things looked pretty dire for WildStar.  NCsoft just shutting it down seemed like a reasonable guess.  10 points.

  • CCP is going to break sovereignty in null sec in 2015 and cause a great upheaval in EVE Online.  Most sov will effectively be dropped and chaos will ensue.  Much mocking will come from other quarters of the game, until the wise realize that all those null sec players need to go somewhere, and it is either leave the game or bunk with them.  Soon the cry to fix null will be universal, just to save the game and everybody’s sanity. CCP will take one of their full five week dev cycles to fix it, but there won’t be any roll back.  Instead they will have new sov mechanics in place and will declare a null sec gold rush/thunderdome.  Hilarity will ensue and it will become one of the great legends of the game we tell to new players.  Meanwhile, the sov map will look pretty much the same at the end of the year.

Okay, nothing that bad happened.  And yet there is a thread of reality in the midst of all of that.  Certainly some old null sec alliances bailed on the whole idea of holding space when Fozzie Sov rolled out and made it far to easy to troll.  And some of them did end up in low sec space, the face of which changed as well.  But the map does look different here at the end of the year.  I’ll give myself one point out of ten for that thread of reality.

  • CCP will sell, transfer, or otherwise hand off responsibility for DUST 514 to Sony, including the employees left working on it.  It will remain connected to EVE Online, so orbital bombardment will remain a possibility, but Sony will be running.  It will end up in the laps of SOE in San Diego which will prompt another round of “SOE is buying CCP!” hysteria.  (But that won’t happen until 2016.)

Nope.  Instead White Wolf got sold off.  DUST 514 still lingers on at CCP.  Zero points.

  • The Elder Scrolls Online will muddle along in 2015, fixing bugs and waiting for the console version to ship.  The console version won’t ship until after summer however, and things will seem somewhat grim as the push to get it out becomes an “all hands on deck” development task, leaving the Windows version to drift for a couple months.

The console versions shipped on time.  I really don’t have a feel for how grim things may or may not be, or if they are muddling along, going downhill, or have seen a resurgence.  Zero points.

  • Funcom will also be in a bit of a muddle as LEGO Minifigures Online continues to under perform.  This will cause a replay of the LEGO Universe fiasco, with LEGO HQ wresting control of the software from Funcom, as they did with NetDevil, leading to about the same result as LEGO runs the thing into the ground and shuts it down.

The Lego Group hasn’t yanked the license from Funcom yet, but LEGO Minifigures Online has continued to under perform.  3 points.

  • Hacking and cyber attacks will be on the rise, and a major MMO studio will be kicked completely offline for a full week at some point during 2015.

I think we got past 2015 without this happening to a major studio.  Zero points.

  • EA’s claim that Star Wars: The Old Republic’s earnings are disappointing is a sign of something.  I expect less voiced content, if any, and more features like Galactic Starfighter, things that can boost cash shop sales.  Double credit if they use my droid battles idea from last year.

EA has taken the opposite tack with SWTOR and is pushing story and trying to force people to subscribe again.  I suppose that says something about the fickle nature of cash shops.  Zero points.

  • At Turbine, things will go as they have been for the last few years, with a slow retreat into its core money making items.  Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 will go the way ofEverQuest Mac the first time they need an update for a vulnerability.  A WB exec will order the plug pulled before the end of 2015.  They will be gone along with the pipe-dream promise of running your own server.

I thought this one was in the bag at one point, with AC down for a few weeks.  But somebody fixed it in their spare time it seems.  Their days still feel numbered, but for now, zero points.

  • Likewise, it will be a slow year for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online unless Infinite Crisis is a break-out success in the MOBA world.  It looks like it will be lining itself up against Heroes of the Storm, so that looks like a vain hope indeed.

Well, Infinite Crisis went down almost before it was actually live.  Content wise, it has been a slow year for Turbine.  On the LOTRO front we got a bit more of Middle-earth, but work seemed more focused on server merges and a new data center.  Still, that was more than I expected.  2 points.

  • Brad McQuaid, failing to find a reliable source of suckers funding, will throw in the towel on Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, leading wags to ask if this was supposed to be the rising part of the prophecy or if it was still part of the fall.

Brad soldiers on, continuing in his quest to relive 1999 yet again.  I just hope he has set his sites on a small target… a world that will feel alive with a few thousand people and a business model that will work for a similarly small number, because it just isn’t 1999 any more. Zero points.

  • Project: Gorgon will finally catch a break and gain traction via early access at Steam.  Some money will come in and allow development to move more quickly.

Well, I am going to declare a win on technicalities on this one.  Project: Gorgon did get green lit on Steam AND some money did come in… it just came in when the third Kickstarter attempt finally paid off.  For that I am claiming 8 points.

47 points out of 200 points possible.  Not a very good set of predictions.

No Shows

The other set from the predictions post was about which titles you might fully expect to ship in 2015, given past statements or promises given, which wouldn’t make it.  Those were five points each, pass/fail.

  1. Line of Defense
  2. Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtue
  3. Camelot Unchained
  4. World of Warships
  5. H1Z1
  6. Star Citizen
  7. EVE Valkyrie

Of that list, I think only World of Warships managed to go live in a form we would all agree upon.   Everything else on that list is still in some sort of alpha or early access or some form of not being actually done yet.  And of those that did not go live, EVE Valkyrie seems most likely to ship next, since it will be bundled with Occulus Rift when it ships.

The rest… I would be hard pressed to guess as to which one would actually cross the barrier and become a live, shipping, salable product.

Anyway, that gives me 30 out of 35 points there, for a total of 77 out of 235 overall.  Not a banner year for my guesses.  But that likely won’t stop me from making more when the new year comes again.

How did you do on your predictions?

Reviewing My Kickstarter History

With some Kickstarter campaigns of interest running of late, like the Massively Overpowered funding campaign and the much-talked-about Crowfall campaign, I decided to look back at the projects I had funded to see how the whole Kickstarter thing has treated me.

NOT the official drink of Kickstarter

NOT the official drink of Kickstarter

Fortunately Kickstarter has a nice little page that lists out the campaigns you have supported.  It was then just a matter of figuring out where everything stood.

Successful Campaigns

1 – Campaign: The Jason Scott Documentary Three Pack

  • Date Funded: November 11, 2011
  • Date Promised: December 2015
  • Project Status: Not late yet

My first ever Kickstarter.  Jason Scott, who did the documentaries BBS: The Documentary and Get Lamp had a plan to do three more.  He wanted to cover tape as a recording medium, the 6502 processor, and video game arcades.  What is not to love about those three topics?

I was a little annoyed when he went out and did another documentary after getting funded, but the man is like a force of nature and cannot be controlled.  And I have no doubt I will get all three documentaries.  We’ll see if it happens by December.

2 – Campaign: Defense Grid 2

  • Date Funded: August 14, 2012
  • Date Promised: December 2012
  • Project Status: Delivered January 2013

Hidden Path Entertainment wanted funding to do a sequel to their game Defense Grid: The Awakening.  They only made their initial goal, which was enough to fund an expansion to the original game as opposed to a whole new game.  That got delivered just a month behind schedule, which is pretty good for a Kickstarter so far as I have seen.

Then they went on to get other funding for Defense Grid 2 and eventually everybody who backed the Kickstarter beyond a certain level got a copy of that, including me.

3 – Campaign: Planetary Annihilation – A Next Generation RTS

  • Date Funded: September 14, 2012
  • Date Promised: July 2013
  • Project Status: Delivered September 2014

Here was the promise of a successor to Total Annihilation, one of the three great RTS games of 20th Century, along with StarCraft and Age of Empires II: Age of Kings.

Of course, the project ran long, Uber Entertainment thought it was a good idea to sell pre-orders on Steam for less than the cheapest Kickstarter backer price, and when the game finally showed up I found it kind of blah.  Still, not the worst $20 I ever spent.

4 – Campaign: Project Eternity

  • Date Funded: October 16, 2012
  • Date Promised: April 2014
  • Date Delivered: March 26, 2015

Obsidian Entertainment said that they were going to make a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate and a few other great single player RPGs.  What is not to love about that.  And, again, $20, what the hell, right?  And while it is nearly a year late, it got there and I should get my Steam code next week for Pillars of Eternity, as the game has been christened.  We’ll soon see how it turned out.

5 – Campaign: Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls

  • Date Funded: February 5, 2013
  • Date Promised: August 2013
  • Project Status: Soon

Tunnels & Trolls was the first RPG rules set that I spent a lot of time with.  We started with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but getting all three books was expensive back then and there was Tunnels & Trolls all in one book at less than half the price of of the TSR tomes.  Also, you could plunder that copy of Risk in the back of the hall closet and have all the dice you needed.  Anyway, I’ll write more about the rule set when I get the new edition.

Getting the new edition though…  The promised date was August 2013, and that was viewed as conservative because they were sure it would be done by July of 2013.  Well, here we are in March of 2015 and they keep sending out updates, but it is still somewhere over the horizon.

6 – Campaign: Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues

  • Date Funded: April 7, 2013
  • Date Promised: October 2014
  • Project Status: Alpha releases available to backers

The Lord British successor to whatever aspect of the Ultima series he is speaking about at the moment.   Clearly optimistic on dates, it is still in an unoptimized alpha state that does not run very well on my CPU.  But it is there and you can poke at it if you want, and it has been in that state for more than a year, improving slowly while trying to raise more money.  I am still waiting for it to get more solid before I devote any real time to it.

7 – Campaign: Camelot Unchained

  • Date Funded: May 2, 2013
  • Date Promised: December 2015
  • Project Status: First alpha just available

At some point Kickstarter became “spiritual successor” central.  Anyway, like the previous entry, I have written a few posts about Camelot Unchained, Mark Jacob’s run at capturing all the good of Dark Age of Camelot in an updated package.  Promised for December of this year, it just had its first alpha last week if I read the update correctly.

8 – Campaign: Planet Money T-shirt

  • Date Funded: May 14, 2013
  • Date Promised: July 2013
  • Project Status: I got a shirt in December 2013

Planet Money is one of the few podcasts I listen to regularly, in part because it covers a wide range of interesting financial topics, and in part because shows tend to run 20 minutes or less so I can listen to a whole episode during my rather short daily commute.  Their Giant Pool of Money episodes on the financial crisis were great stuff.

Anyway, Planet Money decided to do a practical project on how T-shirts are made, starting with the basic materials, raw cotton for example, and ending with people actually getting a shirt.  So there is a series of shows in their backlog about this.  The shirt showed up late, but it is nice.

Men's and women's versions of the shirt

Men’s and women’s versions of the shirt

I wear it around the house on weekends because, while it is soft and I like the graphic, it is a bit snug on me.  I am not sure anybody at the office needs to know that much detail about my body contours.

9 – Campaign: A History of the Great Empires of Eve Online

  • Date Funded: May 25, 2014
  • Date Promised: May 2015
  • Project Status: Still has two months to run.

Andrew Groen’s epic attempt to write the story of the null sec conflicts in EVE Online.  The campaign, which only asked for $12,500, funded in seven hours and hit nearly $100K.  I am not sure we’ll get the books on time, but his monthly updates have covered his progress in some detail.  He is even now up in Iceland, having given a presentation about his work.  But when we do get it, you can be sure I’ll review it here.

Failed Campaigns

And then there were the campaigns I backed but which did not fund.

1 – Storybricks, the storytelling online RPG – May 2012

I am still unclear as to what I was actually getting in exchange for backing this project.  They were working on a development tool, which doesn’t translate well for end users.  Believe me, I know that pain.  I have been working on development tools for the last 17 years.  But Brian Green was part of the project, so I kicked in before the campaign ended.  Eventually Storybricks got in bed with SOE for the whole EverQuest Next project, then the buyout happened, Daybreak ended their contract, and they folded up shop… dropping a final bit of crazy on us on the way out the door.  I am not at all sure what the trajectory would have been had this campaign succeeded.

2 – Project: Gorgon – An Indie MMORPG by Industry Veterans – October 2012

The first Project: Gorgon campaign.  Eric Heimburg wanted $55K, but barely got past the $14K mark.  Too obscure to get the backing it needed, the project soldiered on without it.

3 – Tinker Dice from Project Khopesh – June 2013

Tesh makes some dice.  While this first campaign did not fund, he later went on to have success in subsequent campaigns.

4 – Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen – January 2014

Brad McQuaid decided he was going to get into the whole spiritual successor funding thing with a throw back to EverQuest.  He asked for too much money… at least more than his name and reputation could draw… and spread his focus too wide in my opinion.  The project is theoretically still going, but post-campaign funding has been problematic at best.

5 – Project: Gorgon – A new approach to MMOs – August 2014

The second coming of the Project: Gorgon kickstarter campaign.  By this point there was a solid, playable game to be supported.  Asked for $100K, got just over $23K in pledges.  Eric Heimburg just isn’t a name with much draw, and as has been discussed before, the project name itself isn’t doing him any favors.  The project doesn’t even have a page on Wikipedia.  Still, Project: Gorgon lives and you can go play it right now.

Summary

Overall, Kickstarter has worked out pretty well for me.  I have managed so far to back only projects that have come to fruition. (I don’t count the failed campaigns.)  I like to think that I have chosen wisely, picking only campaigns run by teams with a track record of success.  But it is probably more likely that, in backing just a few projects, I managed to get lucky.

There was clearly a stretch of time where I was more enthusiastic on the whole Kickstarter thing.  That has faded somewhat, and you will no doubt notice some omissions from the list, popular projects I opted to pass on.  There is no Crowfall on my list, as an example.

The only project I have mild regrets about not backing is the Ogre Designer’s Edition campaign from Steve Jackson Games.  I played Ogre and G.E.V. back when they came in a zip-loc bag, so there was a strong nostalgia factor present when the campaign launched.  That said, I am not sure what I would do with the 29 pound box that resulted when the campaign raised nearly a million dollars when they only asked for $20K.  I don’t have anybody to play table top games with and I have more than enough stuff around the house I do not use, so another huge box in a closet probably wasn’t necessary.

So that is my Kickstarter tale.  I am still waiting on some projects to finish, and every single project I have backed has been late to one degree or another, but things have still turned out okay so far.  How have you done with Kickstarter?

Pantheon: Just Brad has Fallen

Money is always an issue.

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This link was sent to me by Kaderre and I am starting to see it pop up in a few other places, so I will add it to the tale of Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.  The central quote in the post:

The money- It’s widely agreed upon by all parties that this project took in roughly 145 thousand dollars. A large chunk of that money, 35k, came from a single individual who promised another couple hundred thousand once he cleared it with his trust. Brad was having personal problems at the time and needed to take a cash advance from the project. He took roughly three months pay in advance which equaled roughly 38% of the funds that were left. Brad thought the rest of the money would come in, but the trust supervisor declined without even looking into the project.

-Over in the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen forums on Rerolled.

Basically, the fear of donating to a failed Kickstarter that cannot make critical mass continues to bear itself out.  Well that and those who had a low opinion of Brad will feel vindicated in their belief.  This looks like a bullet in the head for the game at this point, what with Brad making sure he got paid first and apparently valuing himself as worth $220K a year in a company in start-up mode.

As the news cycle goes, one day up on a forum, next up on Reddit, and the next after that it will be on the gaming news sites.  Look for a fun comment thread over at Massively soon.

Pantheon: Mostly Fallen… for Now

A few weeks back I took a look at the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and the state of affairs since it failed to meet its goal on Kickstarter.

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I was particularly interested in how crowd funding would work in and environment where there was no critical mass to achieve.  My guess was that people would feel differently about just handing money over versus pledging money in a system where it would not be taken unless some minimum value was achieved.

The Kickstarter campaign was pledged $460,657 from 3,157 potential backers.  As of last night the post-Kickstarter campaign stood a this:

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That is half as many people pledging, and they are pledging almost a third less per person than during the Kickstarter campaign.   And the numbers have not been growing substantially since shortly after the Kickstarter ended, which lead to this announcement on the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen site yesterday.

In the past few months we have seen some of the most passion bubble up from the Internet than we have in some time; all for an idea of a game we all want to see happen. It has been an exciting time for all of us.

Over the first month of development through crowdfunding, we’ve been able to achieve what was needed to be done in order to gain investor interest. That is, we’ve shown there is interest in a game like Pantheon, we’ve built the term sheets and business plan, and now have a prototype we can show to potential investors.The downside now is that our initial resources have depleted, which regrettably means that development is going to slow down until finances can be secured. It’s not something we want to do by any means, but as we cannot guarantee paychecks to the team, they each need to be able to spend time on other things to pay the bills.Once we’re able to get that level of funding we can then secure much-needed studio space and be able to pick up the pace of production dramatically. We are deeply thankful to this community for getting Pantheon to this critical point, where we have been able to put together an attractive package to present to potential investors.

In the interim, any donations made at this point until further notice will be going directly to maintaining the website during this phase, and not towards development.

So there it sits.  You can now donate to keep the web site functioning while they seek further financing, but work on the actual game has pretty much ceased.  I suppose one must commend them for honesty, but it does make it difficult to see how Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen will progress from here.  A failed Kickstarter campaign followed by an unsuccessful attempt to crowd fund directly cannot be helping their case.

Is this the end for the game?

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen a Month Past Kickstarter

It has been 30 days since the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign came to a close.

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In its 40 day run, the campaign managed to drum up $460,657 in pledges from 3,157 potential backers.  While shy of the $800,000 target of the campaign, that is still a fair amount of cash to have been pledged.  We tend to hear about things like Torment or Project Eternity, which brought in millions of dollars, but Kickstarter is full of little campaigns for $10,000 or less.  According to Kickstarter, projects that raise $100,000 or more represent just 2% of successful campaigns.

Basically, raising close to half a million dollars is a pretty decent achievement.  If the target of the campaign had been $500,000, we might even now be speaking of a successful campaign and stretch goals and, if not Chris Robert’s levels of post campaign funding, then maybe at least Lord British levels.  Shroud of the Avatar has managed to rake in post campaign donations to the tune of nearly 50% of what they raised in that first 30 days.

But the campaign was not a success.  The 40 day run wound up with Brad McQuaid and his team getting no money from Kickstarter.  So the question quickly became, “Where do they go from here?”  There was talk of relaunching another Kickstarter campaign a bit further down the road.  That would address some of the errors made early on in the initial campaign, like the whole “Hey, surprise! We have a Kickstarter campaign without any real press build up!” aspect.

The choice that was eventually made was to self-fund raise.  You can head on over to the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen web site and pledge money to the project.  Well, give money to the project.  This isn’t Kickstarter any more.  You let go of your money the moment you click the final button.  There are no goals to meet or critical mass to achieve.

That last bit seemed like an important tidbit to me.  There is an aspect of “we’re all in this together” when it comes to Kickstarter, where success means a lump sum for the team and failure means nobody gets billed.  It protects the early enthusiast from handing over his money too soon, only to find out that the project isn’t popular enough.

So I was curious to see how well Pantheon would do once it lacked that aspect of the Kickstarter campaign.  As of this morning, donations to the project are:

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That’s not… bad.  Those numbers would still put the project in the top 2% when it comes to Kickstarter.

But it is also less than half the supporters and roughly a third of the money pledged at the end of the Kickstarter campaign.

So what happened?

Is this a failure of communication?  I am not sure how Kickstarter works when your campaign does not fund.  Are you allowed to continue doing updates to the project, or is it closed down hard?  Because the last update was at the end of the project, 30 days back, and nothing since.  If you missed that terminal “you can now give us money at our site” update, you might think things are done.  And it is pretty much a reality of the universe that some percentage of a group won’t get the message no matter how directly you send it out.

Is it the missing Kickstarter aspect of the fundraising that is holding things back?  Does being on Kickstarter give not only more exposure but also an adding sense of legitimacy?

Did the fact that campaign failed to hit its goal turn a bunch of people away from the campaign?

Or is this a matter of reality striking home, where we are no longer being asked to pledge to a funding effort that may or may not come to pass but being asked to part with actual coin of the realm in pursuit of the stated project goals?