Tag Archives: Kickstarter

Project: Gorgon Kickstarter – Third Time’s a Charm?

Project:Gorgon is back for a third try at funding through Kickstarter.

ProjectGorgonLogoI have found fault in the past with various aspects of how Project: Gorgon kickstarters have been handled, with little build up, low press coverage due to almost no follow up, and the name of the game itself.  Also, Eric Heimburg?

And this time around is no exception.  Why, for example, would you want to launch a kickstarter campaign at 9pm Pacific time (midnight Eastern time) on a Friday night?  Who does that?  9am Tuesday morning yes, 9pm Friday night no.

Still, the campaign seems better situated this time around.  The first time out Eric Heimburg asked for $55K and got $14K in pledges.  The second time around he went for $100K and got $23K in pledges.

This time though he is asking for a mere $20K.  That should be attainable, right?

Meanwhile the game is already green lit on Steam, people have been able to play early versions of the game for a couple of years now as it has progressed (go straight to the site and download it), and despite the rather depressing cave-focused starting area, the whole thing opens up into a beautiful world.

The Kickstarter itself is focused on raising funds in order to contract out some work on guilds, guild halls, and mounts.

Backing the project can get you a number of perks from Steam beta access to thanks in the credits to a mount with special saddle bags allowing you to carry more items, and titles up to that of Archduke, which will allow you to name and help design a small city in the game.

The Kickstarter runs until Sunday, August 23 2015 at 9:00pm… another bad end time, he should have waited until Tuesday… and is already past the 20% funding mark, so is looking good on that front.  Maybe the third time, with a low goal, will be a charm.  Of course, if he goes past that too soon, he’ll have to start in on stretch goals.

The project itself is now slated to ship in December of 2016.

The Return of Tunnels & Trolls

The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.

-Tom Cargill, The Ninety-Ninety Rule

While I know the pain of that in software development, I think it applies to most artistic endeavors as well… certainly any project with multiple people working together.

Back in March I did a run down of the Kickstarter projects I have supported over the years.  Not a huge list.  But one of the common threads on the list was projects running late.  Some of them were a little late… Defense Grid 2 missed their mark by a mere month, or almost no time at all in software development… while others were wandering onto the scene a year or so after being promised, such as Project Eternity and Planetary Annihilation.

But the champ for lateness looked to be Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls.  Promised “conservatively” in August of 2013, it was still off in the distance when I did that post.

But last night I received a note that the book was finally off to the printer.  So I still don’t have what I pitched in for yet.  But I did get a PDF copy of the rule book.

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls

It is nice that I have the PDF.  I can look through it, see the updates and what art was carried over from older editions and what is new to this edition.  But it isn’t very satisfying.  RPG rules are meant to be in a physical book form so you can easily flip between pages or find a table in the back quickly, something no electronic book format has ever been able to come close to duplicating.  It is a physical thing, where you can just feel in your finger tips if you have gone back far enough through the pages.

But at least I know the creative work is done and there is just a printer in Arizona and some delivery time between me and the live physical copy.

The next item on the Kickstarter list I expect to see is A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online, which was due in May and which is alleged to be close to done, though we didn’t get an update in June and here it is July already.

Addendum: And this just in, “We spent all week correcting minor typos (and adding page 31). Please get the updated version now. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Quote of the Day – Smart Money

To the rest of you, I only have this to say: stop buying virtual items for a goddamn game you don’t have. What in the holy phuck is the matter with you?!? You know how many indie games you could’ve bought and supported and been PLAYING by now?!?

Derek Smart, on Star Citizen

Derek Smart, no stranger controversy and visions unmet, weighs in with an epic post on his own blog about Star Citizen and getting to where it is headed and what the game will be when and if it gets there.

Yeah, there are bigger, headline quality, money quotes in his post.  Expect to see this one show up a lot, with or without context:

Without disrespect to anyone, I’m just going to say it: it is my opinion that, this game, as has been pitched, will never get made. Ever.

And yes, there is also a good deal of self-promotion in that post as well.

But he does cover a lot of ground on just how difficult it can be to get to where your vision wants to take you with an open world, multiplayer, “be all the things” space simulation, something he spent most of his own adult life trying to create.

Star_Citizen_logo

And it also opens up the discussion, picked up by Damion Schubert, about what something like Star Citizen, which has raised $85 million dollars so far, might end up doing to the crowdfunding scene should it fail to substantially deliver on its vision and promises.  A lot of people bought virtual ships that they really, really want to use.  The backlash could be bad.

So what do you think is going to happen?

Crowfall Kickstarter Brings in over $1.7 Million

Early this morning… early for me anyway, here on the left coast… the Crowfall Kickstarter campaign wound down to its final timer, more than doubling their initial goal of $800,000.

CrowfallSuccess$1,766,205 is a mighty number.  I still think that, with the right mid-campaign publicity they could have hit two million, but that should not take away from their success.  Camelot Unchained made the two million mark, but with less that 13K backers, while Shroud of the Avatar made the two million milestone with 23K backers, which puts Crowfall about in the same league.

As with many successful Kickstarter campaigns, there was a decent boost in numbers in the last 24 hours, as is shown on the final chart from Kicktraq.

Daily pledges and backers

Daily pledges and backers

The last day doesn’t look that impressive until you remember that it was only a third of a day in hours, the campaign having wrapped up at 8am eastern time.  The last push wasn’t quite enough to bring in the last couple of stretch goal, which were based on total backers rather than dollars, so no

Crowfall Stretch Goals

Crowfall Stretch Goals

So that is done.

Only such campaigns are never done, as we have seen.  The Kickstarter was a success, but they apparently need/want more money and backers.  If you missed the Kickstarter and are now regretting it, you can head to the official Crowfall site… if it isn’t swamped at the moment… and get in on the backer deals.

More money, we would like that!

More money, we would like that!

And now we wait.  Some people will be keen for the early alpha access promised.  I personally don’t count anything as delivered until a game is actually released, and the current promise for Crowfall is December 2016.  We shall see if they can hit that mark.

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?

Does Crowfall Have a Mid-Game Plan?

So the Crowfall Kickstarter campaign has passed the halfway point and they sit at just over $1.1 million with over 12,000 backers.

Crofall13DaysLeft

They made it to their goal of $800,000 13 days ago and, since then, the fundraising has flagged some.  You can see that in the charts over at Kicktraq.

Daily pledges and backers

Daily pledges and backers

And that is totally expected.  A good campaign builds up interest and comes out of the gate strong.  A campaign that appears to be a winner is easier to back.  But once the goal has been met and the invested base for the game has backed you, it is time to move to the next stage.  The fight moves to the mid-campaign doldrums where a two pronged attack is required.

The first prong is to work the installed base.  People who gave you money already, who believe in you, are the most likely group to give you more money.  One way to get that is with good stretch goals.  So far Crowfall has underwhelmed me with their stretch goals.  They are not horrible, but they aren’t things that would get me to kick in an extra nickel.  And, while that is my subjective view of them, you have to admit that the announcement of those stretch goals hasn’t exactly set the pledge rate on fire.

The second path is the provide more backer tiers as part of the campaign that add new benefits that will get your invested followers to up their ante.   The campaign has a lot of people in the $30-$60 tiers.  About now they should be rolling out a new tier in one of the gaps they left in the dollar amounts… something at the $80 or $115 level maybe… that includes something really special, and in-game item that will set players apart or some such to get those at a lower level to boost their pledge.   You can give it to everybody above that level, no problem, but you want to bring up the average pledge.

Wait, what?

What would get me to give more?

The second prong of attack is to start the publicity drive to get people who haven’t even heard about the campaign… and, in this, you and I and most of the backers are the weirdos who pay attention to this sort of thing, most of the potential Crowfall players haven’t heard a thing about the game yet… to drive fresh backers to the table.

This… hasn’t done much so far.  I saw that Gordon Walton did a YouTube interview with long-time illicit RMT baron Markee Dragon.  And somewhere I saw Todd Coleman quoted about being surprised that they hit their $800,000 goal as quickly as they did and something else where he said some practical things about stretch goals.  But all of that is sort of playing to the installed base.  I mean, if you know who freakin’ Markee Dragon is, you’re already flagged as the odd duck, and while those Todd Coleman bits were interesting, they only seemed to play in the narrowly focused MMO press.

What the campaign needs is the big interview at some place like EuroGamer which, despite its failings, does get a lot of page views and does seem to be one of the sites that the mainstream press actually deigns to notice.  Of course, to get that, and to get enough buzz for the mainstream press to throw you a bone, there needs to be a story that contains some drama.

I previously suggested a tell-all, what-went-wrong interview about SWTOR or Shadowbane or something along those lines.  Everybody loves to watch somebody confess their sins and admit their hubris and announce how their new and humbled selves have come through all of that wiser and better able to make a great game.  They don’t have to go full-on Lord British nuts, but there needs to be a story beyond “Hey, we have a Kickstarter!” to get two second/third tier famous names from a niche genre in the gaming industry a front page story.

And I know I have said all of this before.  But that was in the theoretical, when the need for this sort of thing was still a future possibility.  Now though the trend is clear, the numbers are in the doldrums, the rubber has hit the metaphorical road, and while the little bit they have done seems to have generated a small bump in interest, there has been no big mid-campaign surge in activity.

As I said before, I think they could easily hit $2 million and beyond in this campaign if they could find the right mid-game message.  I am just waiting to see if they can do it.

What do you think would work?

Crowfall Makes its Funding Goal, The Campaign Continues!

At some point while I slept the Crowfall Kickstarter campaign crossed the $800,000 mark, which means that if you don’t reneg on that bid you made in the next 26 days or so, you’ll end up having to pay them some money.

Crowfall800KSo we’re done, right?  Of course not!

Crowfall800K_bannerThe marketing aspect of this campaign has only just begun, plus more money is always good.  Any detail oriented person probably noticed, it says right on the Kickstarter page itself that you cannot make an MMO for $800K.

So where will this campaign head?

I could see the Crowfall campaign hitting the $2 million mark, which would allow it to finish up in the neighborhood of titles like Camelot Unchained, Shroud of the Avatar, and Star Citizen.

Of those campaigns, this one feels the most like Shroud of the Avatar at least superficially.  Lord British asked for one million dollars, hit that at the 10 day mark, and then went on secure just over two million in funding.

The Crowfall team has 26 days left to go raise another $1.2 million and hit that respectable mark.  And they can do it, if they can negotiate the mid-campaign doldrums.

Wait, what?

Wait, you never said anything about doldrums!

If you look at the charts at Kicktraq, the amount of money raised and the number of new backers signing up is dropping off day by day.  The early rush of enthusiasm is over.  The pent up and eager backers are already on board.  In about a week it is going to get very quiet on the campaign if they don’t have a plan.  To progress further they have to capture the fence sitters and the unaware while continuing to engage their core supported.

On top of that, they have already met their goal, so the tension on that front is over.  This campaign will fund (barring any mass defection) so there is no need to rush out to pledge or up the ante on what you have already opted to give.

To catch the unaware will require more press coverage.  But more of the same “hey, look, a game” sorts of stories probably won’t cut it.  The campaign will need something that will attract fresh eyes.  I am not sure that the Lord British tactic of getting out on the stump and telling people that most game designers suck compared to him (and then claiming he was taken out of context) is necessarily the right route to take.  After all, Lord British has spent years laying the foundation of being an erratic nut case when it comes to talking to the press.  You can’t just get that reputation in a day.

What I expect we will see in the next week or two is a few interviews where Gordon Walton or J. Todd Coleman offer to dish the dirt on what REALLY went wrong with Shadowbane or The Sims Online or Star Wars: The Old Republic.  We love that sort of thing.  You can bet we’ll be blogging about that if it comes up, because a good interview on that front will echo all over the place.  Admissions of failure play very well to a wider audience.  And such tales can easily be turned to teaching moments about how much they learned and how the Crowfall plan has taken those lessons to heart.

CrowfallMeanwhile, there are those fence sitters and those who have already pledged.  There are all sorts of ways to entice them to get on the bus and then give even more money.

One way is stretch goals.  And, frankly, the current stretch goals stink in my opinion.  You are never going to convince me that they weren’t going to do both anyway.  But that is the problem when you present a tight plan, anything you suggest seems either tacked on or was assumed to be part of the plan anyway.  I don’t know how they are going to do it, but they need to step up their game on that front.  Yeah, you want to hold off on the really good stretch goals until the very end to help drive that last 48 hour push, but right now they aren’t playing for me.

But more importantly, they need to tinker with the pledge tiers.  People who were in at the start will up their game if a new tier with a special shiny shows up, while those on the fence may be swayed by a tier that gives them just the right mix of things.  Expect a regular re-rolling of new tiers as they seek out sweet spots and special deals that will bring in more money.

And I expect that they will open up pledges via PayPal and other sources on their own site for people who do not want to use the Amazon funding system that Kickstarter rests on.

At least that is my ignorant, outsider’s view of the world.

Do you think they will make it to two million?  Maybe more?