Tag Archives: Kickstarter

Crowfall Kickstarter Commences

It’s like Game of Thrones meets Eve Online

-Crowfall Kickstarter Tag Line

Today my post will probably echo a lot of other posts around our little corner of the internet in talking about the Crowfall Kickstarter campaign, which kicked off this morning.

Crowfall has gotten some buzz of late.  You can go look at their site if you need to catch up, but it is an attempt to get some new dynamic into the whole fantasy MMORPG thing we’re all keen on around these parts.  It is being led by Gordon Walton who, while not the household name of Richard Garriott or even Mark Jacobs, has MMO online gaming chops back from the late Kesmai era all the way through Star Wars: The Old Republic, and who might be the most famous person to ever follow me on Twitter…  I can’t explain that last bit, but I have a pic so I can prove it after he unfollows me… and J. Todd Coleman, who comes from Kingsisle Entertainment, famous for Wizard 101 and Pirate 101.

They, and a team of developers down in Austin, are making Crowfall.

CrowfallThey are currently on the “fan buy-in” step of the whole project, as they are running a Kickstarter campaign that is asking for a mere $800,000.

Yes, I know that Brad McQuaid couldn’t get there just a year ago, and he might be more recognizable by name than Gordon Walton, but I am not sure it was always recognized for positive reasons. (And then there is Project: Gorgon.)

The Crowfall team apparently paid attention to how successful Kickstarter campaigns work, which puts them ahead of a lot of others.  They built up just about the right amount of buzz, got another industry name (in this case Raph Koster, who is consulting, which stoked some SWG wishful thinking) talking about the game, managed to present some coherent ideas coherently, including business models, and were a bit coy, but not too coy, about where things were heading.  If you were paying attention, you knew they would be launching a Kickstarter today.

And they are off to the races.  If you watch the site refresh, the amount of money pledged keeps on going up and up and up.  I have no doubt that they will hit “Wilhelm’s Minimum First Day Threshold for Success” (the 25% funding mark) within a few hours and it seems completely likely that they will be able to declare success and start talking about stretch goals and alternative funding methods (for those that wish to use PayPal) before we get to the weekend.  The charts and Kicktraq should be fun to watch and I will be interested to see how they play the later campaign, when the inevitable slow down comes.  There is an art to that.  This has all the makings of a model campaign for the MMO genre.

I’m just not kicking in myself.

Wait, what?

Wait, what?

I know, right?

There is nothing wrong with Crowfall, or at least nothing to which I specifically object.  They are pushing a lot of the right buttons for me, I like the art style well enough, and things look fine in general.  I’m just not feeling it.

It might be because I am already waiting on enough Kickstarter funded games to finish up and deliver something worth playing. (e.g. Camelot Unchained or Shroud of the Avatar or Star Citizen or Pillars of Eternity… I was feeling generous at some past date.)  It might be that this campaign seems set to succeed, so there is no need for me to rush in, or how some previous games I backed ended up selling Early Access on Steam at a price below the minimum backer price to get the game. (Looking at you Planetary Annihilation!)  It may very well be that I have absolutely no interest in any sort of early access, so why commit money before I have to.  Or maybe it is just the gloomy February blues.

Anyway, it is me, not the game.  But you should take a moment to look at the Crowfall Kickstarter campaign to see what they are pitching.  It might be worthwhile to get in early.

But I will be paying attention and will be interested to see where the final take ends up.

Are you in for the Kickstarter?  I am interested to hear what the biggest selling point is for people.

Nebula Online – Running an MMO with No Visible Means of Support

No free-to-play limitations, no cash shop and no hidden costs – not even a monthly sub. Relax and play!

-Nebula Online Kickstarter Tag Line

I don’t really want to pick on anybody’s Kickstarter project, but sometimes they just raise questions that I then want to write about.  I appease my inner self-critic by telling myself that at least I am giving them a bit more visibility.

NebulaOnline

Anyway, there is the Nebula Online Kickstarter campaign.  They have 29 days to go on a 45 day funding run, want $130,000 (though in Canadian Loonies as opposed to trusty greenbacks) and haven’t even managed to garner 10% of their total in the first two weeks, which anybody who has followed my commentary on Kickstarter campaigns before knows does not bode well for success.  If you bring in less than 25% of your goal in the first 24 hours, you probably haven’t built enough support for your campaign in advance.  Their daily data looks bad right now.

The game itself is billed as “an old school hardcore Sci-Fi MMORPG,” and sounds a lot like a more ambitious EVE Online with maybe a bit of Elite:Dangerous sprinkled in for leavening.  But I have to say that space is suddenly becoming a crowded market of late, which probably isn’t helping them much.  Star Citizen looks to be grabbing the lion’s share of uncommitted money on the space game development front.

And the team… well… looking at their bios, they all really like MMOs, they just haven’t actually made one yet.  Yeah, they are doing the whole thing on Unity, which will give them a leg up in many areas, but going full on MMO is going to be a learning experience for them.

None of which makes the project particularly post worthy here.  I am sure I could find a new campaign every week that looked as starry eyed optimistic as Nebula Online.

No, the bit that sparked my interest was the quote at the top, which is a tag line for the project.

They plan to finance this whole thing based entirely on box sales.

Yes, I know, the “Buy” category in the whole range of “to Play” options is the new favorite option of the mob.  GuildWars 2 falls into “Buy to Play,” as does The Secret WorldThe Elder Scrolls Online is heading that way in a month and the new hotness that is Crowfall is talking about that as well.

The thing is, while those games are all in the B2P column, they all have optional revenue streams.  I could not think of an MMORPG … at least something I would call an MMORPG, which includes a persistent world and all that DikuMUD / EverQuest baggage, and not a lobby game like World of Tanks or League of Legends or Diablo III… that has made a go of it without some follow on plan to pay the bills as the years go by.  A cash shop with a special currency, an “optional” subscription (your definition of optional may vary), content or expansions, PLEX-like items in game, or just a straight up ability to buy in-game items from the web site.

There always seems to be something on the recurring revenue front to keep paying the bills after box sales eventually taper off.

So, of all the aspects of Nebula Online, I find this to be the most dubious, the idea that they will be able to keep a game… a real MMORPG… up and running on box sales alone.  It doesn’t make logical sense in my view of the world, which is abetted by the fact that I cannot think of another similar game making a go of it with that particular model.

But then, it is no longer 2004, back when it seemed like a mere mortal could know all you needed to know about the field of MMORPGs.  Today there is so much going on that I sometimes find it difficult to keep up with the games I am actually playing (thanks CCP “every five weeks” expansion schedule), much less what in the hell is going on in the wider market.

Has somebody else been successful… for whatever definition of success you care to pick… with a “box sales only” business model for an MMORPG?  Has somebody managed to keep the lights on for an extended time with only that revenue stream?

Two Paths Forward – Blizzard Watch and Massively Overpowered

Just a week ago we were being hit with the official news that AOL was shutting down its “enthusiast sites” on the Joystiq domain, including Massively and WoW Insider.

But within hours of the farewell posts for both sites, plans were already in action by the form staff members of both sites to bring new versions of them to life.

The WoW Insider crew struck a lightning blow and had Blizzard Watch up and going almost right away, starting up the site with a subset of the original team while they firmed up recurring monthly financing via a Patreon campaign.  So far that campaign has passed the $13K mark and the site is coming together, though they have more work on that front.

The Massively side of the house has been more conservative.

MassivelyOverpoweredThey had a Twitter account and a podcast feed and a Google+ page and a Facebook page and a channel on Twitch up pretty quickly, but an actual web presence took a while longer.  And once they were up on the web, the presence was a placeholder for the future, not an immediate launch into coverage the way the Blizzard Watch crew went.

I am not the one doing the work or putting my neck out, but the web site and written coverage of the MMO genre is what Massively was about for me.  But I gather that they know their own demographic mix better than I, so perhaps a Twitch channel and a podcast were vital first steps.

Meanwhile, on the financing front, Massively Overpowered has decided to go with a Kickstarter campaign in order to build up a war chest to get the web site going.  They are going with a 28 day campaign that is looking to raise $50,000.  As it is explained as part of the Kickstarter pitch, they want to do this right.

To make Massively Overpowered both profitable and sustainable and replace the corporate infrastructure we’ve left behind, we need to do it the right way, all the way. We’ll be a company with legal and bookkeeping support. We’ll have a professional web designer and tech engineer. We’ll have scalable, high-traffic hosting that can handle the hit spikes you send our way. We’ll have an ad sales person who is actually a person and not an algorithm. We’ll have a website that doesn’t burn your eyes and widgets that actually work. And we’ll have writers who are actually paid what they deserve for their considerable efforts.

And there is certainly a logic to that and more of what is up on the Kickstarter page.  They want a sustainable funding plan, something that Patreaon might not deliver.  More than 2,500 people appear to be happy to kick in every month for Blizzard Watch today, but will they all be as enthusiastic six months or a year down the road.

Anyway, by the usual Wilhelm Kickstarter Tracking Metric(tm), the Massively Overpowered Kickstarter campaign looks like it will meet its goal handily having already come close to the halfway mark within the first few hours. (Watch on Kicktraq as things progress.)

So I guess I will have to keep reading MMORPG.com for a month or more while Massively Overpowered gets their foundations set.  And, while I am not pitting one against the other, I will be interested to see how each site moves forward as things settle down and the day to day need to make money and pay bills becomes reality.

Project Gorgon – Not Dead Yet

Barring some sort of miracle, this Kickstarter attempt isn’t going to succeed. But that’s been pretty obvious for a while! The more important thing, to the team here, is that people are getting a lot more excited than they’ve ever been. We’re seeing close to a hundred people online, which is still tiny, but for a previously-completely-unheard-of alpha test, it’s great!

Eric Heimburg, Project: Gorgon Kickstarter Update #6

There is less than 24 hours to go for the Project: Gorgon Kickstarter campaign at this point and it sits about 22% into its $100,000 funding goal.  Unless somebody shows up ready to write an $80K check really soon, the campaign will not fund.

ProjectGorgonLogo

And the failure to fund comes for a few reasons.  I mentioned the name recognition issue in my post at the start of the campaign.  “Who is Eric Heimburg?” is a serious problem in a field where names can be a draw.  And the name of the game itself, Project: Gorgon has never struck my as very dynamic or descriptive.   While it doesn’t feel as weighed down as the labored Shroud of the Avatar: The Hidden Virtues or as nonsensical as Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, it also doesn’t have the zing of Camelot Unchained or the simplicity of EverQuest.  And it isn’t like all the good short names are taken.  Didn’t Bungie just go live with Destiny?  And wasn’t there Journey just a while back?

I don’t know.  I just look at that name and wonder “What is this Gorgon?  And why has it become somebody’s project?”  It doesn’t say “game” or “fun” to me… it trends more towards frog dissection in high school biology to be honest.  That might just be me.

And the whole Kickstarter campaign probably could have gone better.  While I am on the mailing list, the whole thing came up as something of a surprise to me.  There wasn’t a lot of build up or attempts to get the word out in advance of the campaign.  There was no attempt to build up a sense of excitement to make a big, first day splash.  Hell, I only happened to see the Kickstarter announced on Twitter, after which I went away for about 20 minutes, came back, logged in, and managed to be the first backer.

Me being first in line for something I wasn’t even aware was coming, that speaks to some poor prep work.  And there is a strong correlation between Kickstarter projects doing well in the first 48 hours (well as in hitting 25-50% of their goal) and successfully funding.  Project: Gorgon didn’t even make 10% of the target in that time frame.

Finally, Eric Heimburg just isn’t a bright beacon for the project.  Not only does he lack name recognition, but he is just not the tireless showman that Mark Jacobs is, or the shameless self-promoting egomaniac that Spaceman Richard “Lord British” Allen “father of the online gaming industry” Dennis “most game designers really just suck” Garriott de Cayeux comes across as, or even the snake-oil selling charlatan that Brad McQuaid can be on a bad day.  Eric Heimburg is just too focused on the game itself… which is the right thing for an engineer, but doesn’t work so well when you need publicity.

Such is life.  I certainly wouldn’t be any better in the role.

And so, for whatever mix of reasons, the Kickstarter will almost certainly not fund.  And here I was all ready to name an NPC as part of my pledge.

However, as a follow on to the quote at the top, there is this:

We’re working on other ways to get the funding we need to make the game. I’ll share more of our plans as soon as I know them! In the mean time, if you’re enjoying the alpha, fear not: it will remain up and running for at least a few more months while we try to figure out a way to bring the game to completion.

And here is one of the key bonuses that Project: Gorgon has as a Kickstarter project.  You can go to the Project: Gorgon site right now, download and play in the alpha.

And there are things to see.  I only ran around the initial starter cave… it has been one of those month’s where “go play more Project: Gorgon” has been the 4th or 5th item on my list of things to do on any given night, and I rarely managed to get past the 2nd item… but there is a lot more to see, a world to explore, and I am sorry I haven’t gotten there yet.

Bhagpuss put up some screen shots of what he has seen, and I will add in some of the shots that have been posted as part of the Kickstarter campaign or on the game site at the bottom of the post.

But the essence is that there is a game here, an MMO, and if you are too busy whining about how World of Warcraft “ruined” MMOs to peek in on some of the niche projects like this or Camelot Unchained or Shroud of the Avatar, that are catering to concepts that just are not possible or practical in a mass market “must appeal to as many people as possible” MMO, then I am not sure I can take your rants very seriously.  Put your money where your mouth is.  If you want these sorts of things, go support them.

How often do the really interesting things in life line up with what works in the mass market in any case?

 

Defense Grid 2 Coming Online

A little over two years back the team at Hidden Path Entertainment, the creators of Defense Grid: The Awakening, ran a Kickstarter campaign with a slate of goals.

The baseline goal was to raid $250K to create a new set of levels for Defense Grid: The Awakening.  Being one of my favorites in the tower defense genre, I was in just to get a few more levels of the game.

But Hidden Path Entertainment had a grander vision.  They had their eyes on Defense Grid 2, a sequel they hoped to fund through the Kickstarter.  For everything they wanted to do… new engine, multiplayer, level creator/editor, support across multiple platforms… the target was one million dollars.

DG2_Short

However, sometimes our reach exceeds our grasp.  In this case, 30 days of Kickstarting only came up with $271,727.  That was enough for the basic goal, more levels for Defense Grid: The Awakening, but nothing else on the list.  And they delivered on that… almost on time.  The promise was for December of 2012 and we got it in January of 2013.  Not much of a slip at all.

But Hidden Path also promised us Defense Grid 2.

You’ll Get DG2

We’re working to cross the minimum and fund Defense Grid: Containment.  But please also understand that by joining the team as a backer, you’ll also get a copy of DG2 when we release it.  We’ll need to do extra work on our end to earn or raise the remaining funds in order to complete DG2, but when we do, you’ll still be a part of the team.  Crossing $250,000 gets you DG:Containment this December, and DG2 when it is complete.

They were going to have to go find another way to fund it, but it was still part of the plan.

Time went by.  I played through all of the levels in the new expansion multiple times.  Hidden Path kept us up to date on funding, which they managed to secure through a couple of sources.  Kickstarter backers were allowed into the beta on Steam earlier this year.  And, today, Defense Grid 2 becomes available on Steam.

Defense Grid 2

Defense Grid 2

At least the Windows version is available today.  Mac and SteamOS versions are slated for mid-October.

Those of us who supported the Kickstarter got our keys this past weekend, so I have already spent some time with the game, and it is good.

The single player game is an expansion on the original Defense Grid: The Awakening, with story missions that carry on from there and all the variations on how to play through a given level you have been lead to expect.  There is still multiplayer co-op and the whole DG Architect, which allows players to create their own levels and share them through the Steam Workshop, still to discover.

Here are a few screen shots I have taken of the game.

The art style has changed, the turrets have all be redone, and the levels are part of a wider landscape now.  The aliens are a bit less interesting so far… though I haven’t made it that far into the game.  The turrets do seems to have more well defined roles now.  And, of course, there are a pile of achievements.  But for the most part it feels like a good, solid tower defense game.

As part of my Kickstarter pledge, I ended up with an extra key.  I am going to give it away to somebody who comments on this post.

All you have to do is leave a comment indicating that you would like the key and make sure that the email address you use when leaving the comment is valid (nobody by me can see it and that is where I am going to send it, so if it bounces you lose) within 24 hours of this post going live (by 15:00 UTC, 8am PDT, or 11am EDT September 24, 2014) and I will use some sort of random number generator to decide who gets it.

I can still do something like “/roll 1d100″ in WoW can’t I?

The winner will be notified by email and I will append the result to the post.

And if you don’t win, well, the game is only $25.  And if that is too steep, there is always the Steam Holiday Sale in December.

But so far I recommend the game if you liked the original or enjoy tower defense in general.

Addendum: Prize Roll straight from Ironforge in Azeroth.

PrizeRoll

The roll was 13, which I guess means spoutbec wins the Steam key.  We’ll see if his email address is legit shortly.

Free Realms Inspired Family MMO Raises Seven Dollars on First Day

The upside for Wonky Seasons, should they be able to carry this first day momentum, is that is that their Kickstarter campaign is trending to raise a grand total of $109.

WonkyTwoDaytotal

The bad news is that if this trend continues, it will only get them to 0.13% of their $85,000 goal.

Looking pretty happy considering...

Looking pretty happy considering…

Okay, I am being snarky or sarcastic… or maybe both.  Heck, I couldn’t tell you for sure if Free Realms was their inspiration.  This is all they really say on the subject:

Wonky Seasons started because it’s creators saw how the closure of a popular family MMO game affected it’s players. We followed many stories of kids that were heartbroken and the big void the closure of this game created.

While the characters in the logo made me think of the now shut down Free Realms, they could as easily be referring to the dearly departed Toontown Online.  Or it could be some other game.  So take your pick.

I am not bringing this up to be hurtful or to have a joke purely at their expense… though that will probably get them some attention, which they desperately need… but because this sort of thing almost makes me weep for the almost boundless sense of optimism that this sort of project requires and how it is going to get smacked down by the harsh reality of the world of game development in general, and MMO development in particular.

Just last Friday I was bemoaning the fact that the Project: Gorgon Kickstarter campaign seemed unlikely to succeed largely, I felt, because it had little name recognition.  No major media outlet is clamoring for an interview with Eric Heimburg just so he can promote his new Kickstarter.  But Eric Heimburg at least has standing in the MMO game developer community and has worked on actual MMOs that have shipped, are still running, and could be considered successful… not to mention actually having a working alpha version of his game that you can download and try before you decided whether or not to kick in any money.

And with all of that, he only rolled out of the gates on the first day with $4,500 of the $100,000 he is looking to raise to hurry up the production of his game… a game that is already a tangible thing you can play.

In that context, what chance does a team with no standing and no game development experience listed have showing up with no fanfare and looking to build momentum and get the ball rolling after they have already started the clock on their campaign?  It isn’t like they are making something that will capture media attention or is likely to go viral.  Another MMO?  Who needs that?  We’re looking for the next potato salad campaign. (Which, depressingly, brought in more than Eric Heimburg’s first Kickstarter.)

So what do you tell somebody who sends you a note asking you to please do a post about their Kickstarter campaign?  Being one of a dozen or so messages in the blog inbox, I nearly passed over it.  I only looked at it because it was flagged to indicate it was sent from the feedback form on the About page here at TAGN, which meant somebody came here and pasted it in themselves rather than just using an email spam service.  And I only decided to do a post because… seven dollars?

Do you tell them to give up, go home, get a real job?

I don’t know.  I don’t know what they really have.  I don’t know where it may end up.

All I could recommend is that they get themselves a copy of It’s a Long Way to the Top by AC/DC… I am partial to the Jack Black version at the end of School of Rock… and to play that loudly every time life comes around to kick them in the teeth as they try to move this project forward.  If they want to get this done, they’ll be listening to that song a lot.

You can find their Kickstarter page here to read all about the project.

The Return of Project: Gorgon

Actually, Project: Gorgon never went away.  About two years ago there was Kickstarter to help fund some of the development.  That was not a success, but the project soldiered on.

I felt like I needed a picture here

The logo remains the same

Porject: Gorgon is back with a new Kickstarter.  This time around Eric Heimberg, the lead developer, is looking for $100,000 so that he and the two key artists working on the project can focus on it full time and bring it to a level ready to release.

And, to be brutality honest, just one day after the Kickstarter launched it looks doomed to fail.

The problem is name recognition.

Mark Jacobs was able to meet his two million dollar goal only on the last day of the Camelot Unchained Kickstarter, even with his name and a serious promise to match what was raised out of his own pocket.  Richard Garriott, was able to parley his Lord British persona and a load of nostalgia for his games into a couple of million dollars via Kickstarter as well, so his Shroud of the Avatar project could go forward.  They were both the public faces of games that have a legion of fans.

And even Brad McQuaid, mired as he was in the problems with Vanguard, was nearly able to hit the half million dollar mark with Pantheon, even if he did not make it to his $800K goal, based in large part on the fact we know who he is and that he is associated with a successful project, EverQuest.

Eric Heimberg worked on Asheron’s Call, which was a success.  But we do not associate his name with that project.  Sandra Powers, his wife, also worked on Asheron’s Call as well as EverQuest II, but her name out of context would just draw a blank for me.  So you can get a couple of bloggers writing about the project and a specialty MMO news site or two, but the mainstream gaming media won’t pick this up.  PC Gamer or GameSpot or Polygon are not clamoring for an interview with Eric Heimberg. His is not a name that draws any attention. There is no story that they can sell.

So while Space Tyrant Roberts is out there using the more than fifty million dollars thrown at him by adoring fans to create space bonsai, Project: Gorgon is going to have to do this the hard way.

But at least the project is prepared for that.  See, you can actually go download and play the early alpha version of the game.  It is there.  It is an available, downloadable, tangible thing that you can go try today.  So, unlike any of the examples I have list above, you can do so BEFORE you hand over any money.

And kill a skeleton or three

And kill a skeleton or three

It looks a bit awkward… the pace of walking doesn’t quite match the movement to my eye, as an example, and I have problems judging depth and distance in the cave… but there is quite a bit in place, and the whole thing has moved forward dramatically from the first access nearly two years back.  There is the groundwork for a serious game here.  The intuition system, for example, is interesting and used in an amusing way for an example.

Keeps you from turning into a cow

Keeps you from turning into a cow

And if you hang around in the starter cave while looking at screen shots in another window, you can even die.

Death comes...

Death comes…

Death does not hold much sting now, but this is still early alpha.

The Kickstarter page lists out the vision for this game.  Some of it sounds like other, similar ventures.  But here there is the bedrock of a game, a foundation already laid, that you can go try yourself before you pledge anything.

Because that is the only way this Kickstarter is going to is going to succeed.  Without name recognition as a draw, Project: Gorgon is just going to have to win people over, one at a time, with its demo.

So if you feel inclined, go give it a try.  The download is quick, the package is small, you do not need to register, you can just enter a character name and play.  Then don’t just go “yuck” and close the window.  Run around a bit.  Click on things.  There is a surprising amount of “there” there in Project: Gorgon.