MUD's Ben Walsh on the female character stretch goal and Kickstarter ambition

The sandbox known as MUD -- not to be confused with actual MUDs -- launched an ambitious Kickstarter this week, provoking the MMO community to do what it always does when asked for money: be skeptical. Of note, many of our readers took umbrage with the idea that female playable characters are be tucked behind a half-million-dollar stretch goal (the published stretch goal chart has since been abbreviated).

We spoke with Pure Bang's Founder and Lead Designer Ben Walsh about the female character model and the game's overall campaign.

Massively Overpowered: So why not have playable female characters in from the start? What's the hold up? Are you planning to add female characters eventually, even if the stretch goal isn't reached? What about if the Kickstarter isn't successful? If so, when's the ETA?

Ben Walsh: Player aesthetics are important to us, but we are a small indie team of 6 people. We decided to focus on feature development and make sure the game is fun before anything else. Each new character model increases the cost exponentially. Not only do we have to make the model, but we also need to create animations and armor to fit. Having a female model would double the amount of armor models we need. This is not something we can take on lightly. We do plan on having female characters eventually and already have several concepts that we like, but we don't want to implement it until we know we can make it great. If we don't reach the stretch goal an ETA is difficult to gauge, but we will do our best to keep our fans updated and get the female playable character in.

Guilds are slated at the $1.6m goal. While you could argue that mounts and pets aren't strictly necessary, it's hard to do so for guilds; they are the glue that holds communities together. Are we to expect no guild functionality unless the dedicated MMO server goal is likewise met?

A traditional MMO setup with persistent servers is our ultimate goal. However, the cost of creating and managing a scalable MMO is beyond our financial capabilities at this time. We felt a good compromise was to release an Early Access version of MUD that is smaller in scale and let the players run their own servers while we continue working on the bigger MMO systems. The Early Access release of MUD will allow up to 8-16 players. We want to complete the core experience and make sure it is fun before opening it up to potentially thousands of concurrent users.

Do you think that you might be turning off potential backers or players with the stretch goals? What would you say to potential backers who are miffed about them?

We have already invested several hundred thousand dollars into MUD and we spent a lot of time scoping out our stretch goals to make sure that what we were asking for would be enough to finish the feature. We don't want to be another overpromised and underfunded Kickstarter that fails to deliver.

Project Gorgon has generated a ton of positive buzz and just finished out its third (and only successful) Kickstarter at $74,781. Yet your first stretch goal begins at 150k and scales up to over a million. How do you justify your ambition?

MUD is currently about 20% complete. Our goal though is to create a living fantasy world where players and NPCs react to changes in the world. To do this we have created a really fun game that adds RPG elements to the mining and crafting you see in games like Minecraft. We’ve done a lot of testing and people really love it. Our plan is to continue working on this and updating it. Unfortunately, the reality is that building great games takes time and money; reaching our stretch goals would allow us to hire more people and get these great features in earlier.

We love MUD and we want to see it get finished so I hope your readers understand our passion and what we are trying to accomplish.

We do too. Thank you for your time!

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47 Comments on "MUD's Ben Walsh on the female character stretch goal and Kickstarter ambition"

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Jaedia
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Jaedia

Eliot_Lefebvre MikedotFoster Yeah, we only have around 100 scuttling legs. Get with it, Eliot.

Eliot_Lefebvre
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Eliot_Lefebvre

MikedotFoster Well it's hard to model a thousand scuttling legs, whiplike antennae, and segmented sinuous bodies!

Wait, those aren't women I'm thinking of, they're millipedes.

MikedotFoster
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MikedotFoster

Hey look, it's another "women are too hard to model" argument.

Oleg Chebeneev
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Oleg Chebeneev

breetoplay AnnaBee Samizdat agemyth Unmodded Oblivion was one of the most georgeous games of its time. I remember I upgraded PC just to be able to play it since it looks so much better then other RPGs

Pepperzine
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Pepperzine

With the answers to the questions they gave, there is zero chance of them getting into my wallet anytime soon.  I'm honestly surprised they are at $10,097 on kickstarter at the moment.

cursedseishi
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cursedseishi

Eh, I really doubt they'll need to worry about the female model stretch goal. They need to actually hit their initial goal, and they've already committed one of the cardinal Kickstarter Sins -- Though Shalt Updateth Regularly. 

5 days in, a grand total of 0 updates even as the game hits the... 16.66666repeating percentile of its goal...? Its not always apparent, but developers/projects that at least even go so far as to say "Hey, we hit X amount, lets keep up the work and get this steamboat rolling!" have a much better chance of succeeding than someone who remains silent completely. They've slashed and burned their stretch goal list, obviously showing they know they aren't going to hit anywhere near 500, and likely to avoid more of the "WHY U NO FEMALEZ?!" comments, but even then they could of posted an update to further explain themselves...

Instead this project is going to fail. I don't really care one way or another about it, but the trend says it will be lucky if it hits 50% by the end. They have zero presence, and if they don't change that soon they can kiss their kickstarter goodbye.

schmidtcapela
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schmidtcapela

From the Kickstart page:
MUD at a Glance:
(...)
Full-Loot PVP

Not for me, sorry. I wish them luck and all, but there is no chance I will even try the game.

fishtempura
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fishtempura

females are optional? ok thanks your game is even more optional, seeing the amount of existing games that don't, apparently, think this is an ok thing to say and defend.

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

DeadlyAccurate Samizdat agemyth 
Well, they never said it was double the workload, just double the amount of armor needed, and it would increase the costs, both of which are true.  I'm not saying I agree with their decision, but I do understand it.

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

They are honest and up front with their decisions, and it sounds like they've sat and looked at the costs of what they want to do and what they can believably do.  As for the game itself, it's not something I am interested in (large voxel-style games just do not interest me), but it looks like they've done a decent amount of work and I wish them the best.

ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

agemyth Samizdat Unliked so I could like it again :p

ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

So yeah, confirming that females are a nice optional thought, but not part of the 'core' concept. Welp, thanks for letting me know how welcome and 'core' to your playerbase you feel my gender (that is very roughly half the world's poulation) is. 

No. Just, no.

Omedon
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Omedon

I can't help but think that the target audience to back this game are people that have never backed another project before and/or just don't know their options in the existing gaming market.

melissaheather
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melissaheather

Azzura i confess the only time i've played a male avatar is Monster Play in LOTRO.

melissaheather
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melissaheather

Day by day the temptation to start a kickstarter kind of game with lofty promises of MMO utopia and features always promised but never delivered gnaws at me.  I feel like PT Barnum must have felt walking along the Boardwalk in Jersey, smelling opportunity everywhere.
"me, i want what's coming to me."
"oh? and what's coming to you, Tony?"
"the world, chico.  and everything in it."

MewmewGirl
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MewmewGirl

I'm not even slightly interested in a game that is all male characters and has female characters listed as a stretch goal.  There is no way I'd ever invest money in a game that was doing something like that.  And while some guys prefer an online snausage fest of a game, most do not.  This would be immediately turning away most female players (and yes it will just turn them away, not make them want to pay a bunch of money in order to get the female model in the game) and a lot of male ones.  

Heck this stuff they are doing is like a "What not to do" list when making a Kickstarter project.

Beyond that female armor can be done well without it being twice the work, unlike how they are making out it is.  They can wear most of the same armor that guys can with only slight variations.  They don't need to be all dressed up in their own smexy version of the clothes, and in fact they shouldn't be.  I've seen a number of games add female characters with very slight shape alterations and so it ends up being not much more work. 

I hate how these games add in hundreds of different models for monsters and all sorts of things but then make out as if adding in a female character is just so much work.  Other people figure out how to do it just fine that have small teams.  Again, it can be slight variations on the armor, it doesn't need to be an entirely different design.

melissaheather
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melissaheather

Equilibrium31 blackparrot89 Finish heavy metal totally rules.   Battle Beast, Burning Point, Nightwish, Korpiklaani, i love that stuff.

Jacra
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Jacra

Samizdat AnnaBee agemyth 
There is a difference in animation for voxel and realistic though. The MUD ones clearly are completely un-gendered in motion so swapping the head isn't a problem with animation.

Jacra
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Jacra

"Having a female model would double the amount of armor models we need."
But of course male model comes FIRST. Right? RIGHT?!?
I'm tired of this, it isn't even questioned.

Azzura
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Azzura

Games without a female playable characters are a turnoff to me - Having them is one of the things that attracts me to a game.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

AnnaBee Samizdat agemyth Unmodded Oblivion looks pretty terrible for just this reason -- they just tweaked the male skeleton for the female characters. It's really bad. Even if you aren't into Elder Scrolls soft-core pr0n mods, you pretty much need a body replacer.

James Westfall
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James Westfall

New Stretch Goal: We'll create a bag/inventory system!

blackparrot89
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blackparrot89

Equilibrium31 dammit every single time, finish*

Samizdat
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Samizdat

agemyth Samizdat I don't think they're asking money for a placeholder, it looks like their stretch goal was for a full, polished, player-facing version.

Samizdat
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Samizdat

AnnaBee Samizdat agemyth I recall some early demos of Mass Effect 3 used male animations for female Shepard. It looked terrible and there were quite a few complaints, despite it being clearly a placeholder. You should be able to find some videos making fun of it.

karmamule
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karmamule

Snky I occasionally participate in Kickstarter or Early Access projects, but *always* with that sort of risk in mind.  I see it as offering support to a project that sounds intriguing to me that I hope will lead to something playable and fun in the future.  But, it's definitely not the same thing as a pre-order, and it's wise to not invest unless you're comfortable with the possibility of failure.

agemyth
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agemyth

Samizdat agemyth If your team is making it much more complicated that than for a placeholder, they are doing it wrong.

modulooblongata
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modulooblongata

Damonvile Mind Flayer AngelBlack  You do realize you're making a straw man argument, right? Nobody said they expected "top notch graphics" and "full features." They're saying the basic features of the game should not be a stretch goal.

DeadlyAccurate
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DeadlyAccurate

Samizdat agemyth I have messed with rigging and weight-mapping characters, and while it's not 100% simple, it's also not double the workload to do a second gender. It's also not double the workload to make clothing/armor models work for a second gender, unless you're changing the style up between the two. When I make male and female versions of shirts, I usually make the male shirt, then modify a copy of it for the female body. Takes less than half the time.

DeadlyAccurate
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DeadlyAccurate

Good thing about living in a world with so many MMO choices is that I can ignore the ones that consider 51% of the population a stretch goal.

AnnaBee
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AnnaBee

Samizdat agemyth I'd love to see an example, if you've got one.

Madda
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Madda

Especially if that game is SW:TOR.

Samizdat
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Samizdat

agemyth I find that the ones that say "just use the male skeleton/animations" whenever this come up have never tried it and seen the results. It's really not so simple.

crawlkill
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crawlkill

so now we have MUDs, MUD, MUSHes and Mush. names muscling out older hobbies' googlespace is distressing.

agemyth
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agemyth

wjowski Project Gorgon has also been in development for years now. But most (all?) of that was paid for out of pocket by the developers.

agemyth
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agemyth

You're an Early Access, Kickstarter, Greenlight game. Put in a placeholder female model using the male animations. The hip sway and jello chest can come later. That isn't good enough for the long term, but it is better than asking $500k on Kickstarter to even have you attempt it.

Damonvile
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Damonvile

Mind Flayer Damonvile AngelBlack When you say most other mmos I assume you mean AAA titles with multi million dollar budgets ? The explanation was " we don't have the budget for that yet " and so far the reply has been... but big budget mmos do!

When your attitude is I want a full feature game with top notch graphics before I put money into a KS... you're not really looking for a KS project to get involved in .You want the game isle at best buy.

wjowski
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wjowski

Project Gorgon was somehow miraculously able to produce female models among multiple races with two devs using nothing but their own resources. Just sayin'.

Equilibrium31
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Equilibrium31

blackparrot89 Yea, I don't know of many Finnish MMOs.  (couldn't help myself!)

Mind Flayer
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Mind Flayer

Damonvile AngelBlack 
...and that "something different" would be not including basic features like female characters and guilds?
Because that's pretty different from most other MMO's, I'll give you that.

agemyth
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agemyth

Oleg Chebeneev Online and Offline RPG combat animations/reactions and effects look awful in most games. It is like two people hitting each other with balloon swords. I'd say this can be excused until later in the development cycle.

Snky
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Snky

Some people might think it's cool to support these small development teams but it just sounds like that much more of a risk to me. Spreading your workers so thin across such an enormous project is an easy way to lead to burnout. And losing just one member can be crippling in this case. No thanks.

blackparrot89
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blackparrot89

These kickstarter mmo's are becoming a cancer. I am still waiting for one mmo to you know actually Finnish. 
And then starts the really interesting part : monetisation .

Damonvile
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Damonvile

AngelBlack You could say that about any KS project though. But like any Ks project you support it because it's trying to do something different.

modulooblongata
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modulooblongata

TLDR: if you want basic features in the game, expect to pay for it.

AngelBlack
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AngelBlack

Hey want a female char? Give us half a mil! Guilds? 1.6!

No, you will get $0.00 :3 Why the hell would I donate in hopes of something like this when i can pay for other games right now that already have those features or something similar.

Oleg Chebeneev
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Oleg Chebeneev

No matter how I look at this I see nothing but minecraft clone. Persisten universe could make it different but they wont hit this stretch goal.
Also is this how combat will be? Man, these slashing traces look horrible.

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