Vague Patch Notes: Kickstarter shouldn’t be your investor demo funding

    
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Vague Patch Notes: Kickstarter shouldn’t be your investor demo funding

There are a few things that kind of make me see red about indie game studios. Generally speaking I’m of the philosophy that indie studios are very good for this industry. I want indies to get out there and succeed and so forth. But when I see something like Titan Reach failing at its Kickstarter and immediately announcing that it’s going to go on to Indiegogo, a site known for its flexible funding? My teeth start grinding right away about how the project was managed and the sheer basic level of “well, we could have made some money on this, so let’s go there!”

(Editor’s note: After publication, Titan Reach revealed to us that its Indiegogo campaign will not use the flexible funding option but instead will pursue a series of fixed goals through the platform. This was not originally stated in the team’s announcement but seems to be the case now.)

This isn’t really about Titan Reach, though. Or at least not completely. It’s more about why you shouldn’t give money to video games on Kickstarter… or, more accurately, why Kickstarter is a bad venue for funding part of a game which is what it is inevitably going to be. It’s about panhandling and rent-seeking and some ugly open secrets that we kind of need to admit about, well… every MMO crowdfunding effort. If not now, when?

Let’s not mince words: MMOs are expensive to make. Video games are expensive to make, and MMOs have all of that plus server architecture and obvious hardware overhead. They cost big money, and they cost the kind of big money that you don’t actually see from Kickstarter campaigns.

I don’t mean “except for the biggest ones.” I meant all of them, in general. I’ve had a hard time finding hard budget numbers on a lot of MMOs, but a lot of reasonable math puts the development cost for Guild Wars 2 around $60 million. By contrast, one of the most successful video game Kickstarter projects ever, Shenmue 3, closed at just over $6 million. That’s not even counting things like Star Wars: The Old Republic’s rumored budget… or the fact that most Kickstarters for MMOs come in around $1 million.

Remember, Crowfall brought in a lot of money, and it also had the developers explaining how in the heck the team expected to make an MMO on that budget.

This is not in and of itself a deterrent, however, because basically everyone knows that the Kickstarter money is not actually the development budget. It’s the seed money to make a demo for investors who will then decide that it sounds like some money can be made there. Your Kickstarter is basically how you hopefully attract bigger fish to give you real money.

This turned out super great here, guys.

Here’s the thing: Those investors are not assured of materializing. And that’s when you start getting into what makes me frustrated with a lot of Kickstarters, what I personally think of as the “panhandling” phase. Chronicles of Elyria turned to it pretty darn quick when it turns out that investors didn’t want to invest in the game without some significant changes that would, you know… make it likely for people to actually buy the game.

This isn’t scamming anyone. It’s not a matter of claiming that $50 will develop the game with no intention of ever actually producing the game. It’s more that the developers are genuinely trying to play a Ponzi scheme on themselves, using this infusion of cash for future intangible rewards in the hopes that enough work can be delivered to make the next ask seem more plausible.

I talked a little bit about the mental cycle associated with this particular process a couple of weeks back: You don’t want to be out all the money you already sank into the project, and you do like the ideas going into it. But the problem here is twofold. One, even though a lot of crowdfunding projects make it clear that what is being developed is a proof of concept and not a finished game, the onus is still on the developers if that concept is finished and no one bites. Two, sometimes the reason no one is biting is because the concept actually isn’t very attractive.

Like, I am admittedly a journalist and a fan of video games, not an investor. But if you tell me that your game is meant to be old-school, lack most modern convenience features, and reward “player commitment” (read: constant gameplay), my first instinct is not that this is going to be an absolute blockbuster. It’s that this game is a great way to lose exactly as much money as I put into it, given that it is eminently possible for games with modern convenience features to lose money.

And if I were an investor and didn’t understand most of these terms? Projects that appeal to the past rather than some nebulous “classic” concept make me anxious, and a new game doing so doubles that anxiety. Thank you, I’ll pass.

graft

What happens next is… well, begging for cash as described above. Keeping the lights on by moving the goalposts, changing the funding method, and so forth. Sometimes it even works! Project Gorgon has managed to keep itself going after failed Kickstarter projects via Indiegogo, although you could be forgiven for feeling like that waffles a bit on the line of “success.” (This makes me sad, as I quite like that game’s spirit.) We all know how much money Star Citizen continues to rake in, to boot.

But the thing is that it all belies a certain degree of that same basic cycle. Players want the idea of this game, but not enough players to fund it straight off… but the developers keep pushing for what they can get to keep things alive. Incremental progress is made, but the game just keeps limping along in a half-finished state. And what strikes me as saddest of all is that the sheer energy and motivation of the fans seems to drown out the reality of the problem.

Like, realistically? I want the Titan Reach crew to be able to make a good game and be successful and happy. But the original pitch doesn’t seem to be attracting fans. It attracted exactly 839 people, which is not enough players to support an MMORPG. Part of that is probably due to a lack of advertising and outreach, but another part is that some of the basic design concepts aren’t necessarily resonating in the first place. And it’s that sort of thing that causes me to get a little bit frustrated, since re-evaluating the ask of players is one thing, but failing to re-evaluate the design decisions that made that initial ask fail is very much a “two steps forward, one step back” problem.

And it’s also kind of a reminder of why my continual refrain is that you shouldn’t invest in video game Kickstarters.

The vast majority of us are not investors, and appealing to the things we like as fans of video games should not be a quick and simple way to bypass the normal requirements of putting up money to make a reasonable pitch to investors. If I realize that it could cost me a million dollars to pitch something but can’t afford to put that much money toward it, the burden for that should not be offloaded to people who get excited by the idea of that pitch.

We all know this is what’s happening. We even all know why it’s happening. But at the end of the day, it leads to some pretty unhealthy business practices and highly dubious financial decisions. It might not be a scam, but there is a spectrum of non-kosher financial behavior, and this sort of stuff falls into that spectrum with gusto.

(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this piece said Indiegogo does not offer all-or-nothing funding; in fact, it now does. It’s simply seldom used by game studios, which traditionally and for obvious reasons prefer flexible funding. We’ve corrected our error.)

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.

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MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

The fact that people have convinced you it takes multi-millions to make a game is what’s funny. I just don’t even support Kickstarters/etc because it’s people who often have money, sticking their hand out asking for more, because you’re gullible enough to fall for it.

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Paragon Lost

Kickstarter should not be the tool used for mmorpg game development, it’s an ill fit and I think needs to go away.

To be more exact, public funding whether Kickstarter, Indiegogo or some other platform is not the best tool to use for mmorpg game development in my opinion. You need much to much money and the development time frame is much to long to use those platforms.

Reader
Jo Watt

It shouldn’t be used as a “main” source of the development.

However I see nothing wrong with it being used as a way to provide stretch goals or extra content in these cases it can actually help to gauge the communities enthusiasm potentially attracted more investments.

imo.. I kind of don’t think many true indie companies should try to tackle something as large as an mmo project on their first go. But that’s just how I would go about it. Build a background and then attract business.

Reader
TitanReach Admin

Hi, I’m the community manager for TitanReach.

The amount of misinformation being spread in this article is completely unreasonable. The article makes numerous assumptions which are not correct, and could have been checked with minimal research.

Here are a few examples:
“But when I see something like Titan Reach failing at its Kickstarter and immediately announcing that it’s going to go on to Indiegogo, a site that does not have all-or-nothing funding?”

Indiegogo does have all-or-nothing funding, we never stated any plans to not use all or nothing funding again. This assumption forms the entire basis of the rest of your article, and it’s simply incorrect.

Here are the actual types of funding available on Indiegogo:
– Fixed Funding: Keep Your Money Only if You Meet Your Goal
– Flexible Funding: Keep Your Money No Matter What
Here’s the link to their site if you want to check: https://support.indiegogo.com/hc/en-us/articles/205138007-Choose-Your-Funding-Type-Can-I-Keep-My-Money-

The decision to move to Indiegogo was actually made due to Kickstarter not accepting PayPal payments, which was requested by players, and due to issues caused by Kickstarter such as displaying the wrong information to some users.

“I’ve had a hard time finding hard budget numbers on a lot of MMOs, but a lot of reasonable math puts the development cost for Guild Wars 2 around $60 million.”

You explicitly state that you can’t find the actual numbers, then continue to treat them as fact, either you have enough information to make this point or you don’t.

“Everyone knows that the Kickstarter money is not actually the development budget. It’s the seed money to make a demo for investors who will then decide that it sounds like some money can be made there.”

“If I realize that it could cost me a million dollars to pitch something but can’t afford to put that much money toward it, the burden for that should not be offloaded to people who get excited by the idea of that pitch.”

We had already made a demo to show to potential investors before our Kickstarter campaign. We made this demo available to everyone for free alongside Kickstarter to give people an experience of the game, and to show people that the intention of this project is honest and that we are passionate about making our game. Why would we try to raise money to pitch to investors, when we already have something to pitch to investors?

The aim of the Kickstarter genuinely was to make the game. There’s no reason to assume secret motives, we aren’t aiming to make a $60 million dollar mmo, we’re aiming to make an indie game that some people will enjoy.

“But if you tell me that your game is meant to be old-school, lack most modern convenience features, and reward “player commitment” (read: constant gameplay)”

It’s heavily implied that this information is about TitanReach, and yet these aren’t things we have ever claimed. The concept of the game is to take the old-school features and add the modern convenience features and gameplay elements, not avoid them.
You’re also quoting “player commitment” as though it’s something that we have said, when it’s not.

“Re-evaluating the ask of players is one thing, but failing to re-evaluate the design decisions that made that initial ask fail is very much a “two steps forward, one step back” problem.”

This is another assumption that isn’t correct. We’re not just running the same campaign, with the same information on Indiegogo.
We’re implementing whole new sets of features into our demo, developing and re-visiting gameplay design, asking for feedback from players to help improve and many other things to try to make the next campaign a success.

“We all know this is what’s happening. We even all know why it’s happening.”

It sounds nice, but you have assumed all of this information without even trying to research any of it. The entire article was all opinion, much of which was based on incorrect information about our game.

There is no foundation to centre this article around our game. If you wanted to write an opinion based article, it should have been written without spreading misinformation about us and our game.

You are always welcome to join our discord or contact us for more information.

Thanks,
Ghostflex

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

(We have already replied to an identical email, and as we note there, this article is an editorial that is explicitly not specific to Titan Reach, as stated in the second paragraph and emphasized throughout with multiple other examples; consequently, the “errors” identified are not errors, with the sole possible exception of what type of Indiegogo you specifically are undertaking. We’ve never seen an MMO fail on Kickstarter and then go to Indiegogo without flexible funding. We noticed this comment/email does not explicitly claim that Titan Reach will not do so, and so we’ve asked those devs to clarify.)

Reader
TitanReach Admin

We do not appear to have received an email from you, we’re happy to respond to you you via admin@titanreach.com.

We posted here to provide our point of view publicly.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

That’s exactly where I sent it. But to get to the point, the chief question I asked was this: “Are you telling us that you are in fact approaching Indiegogo with an all-or-nothing ask, rather than a flexible funding model?”

Reader
TitanReach Admin

Yes, we will be using an all-or-nothing approach to Indiegogo (fixed funding).

As we stated above, the reason to switch to Indiegogo was to avoid certain issues we had with the Kickstarter platform.

If the article really is not about TitanReach, as you claim (The qualifier “Or at least not completely” doesn’t really imply that) then why is there is a whole paragraph specifically mentioning TitanReach after the point in the article which you claim it isn’t about TitanReach?

If you want to claim that the article isn’t about TitanReach, and the only reason why we are included is based on a fact that wasn’t checked and is incorrect, why is our game mentioned at all?

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

Thank you for the clarification; we’ve added the new info about the type of Indiegogo plan you’re undertaking into the piece so as not to mislead anyone. I might’ve recommended leading with that in the KS post, given the MMO genre’s history with Indiegogo. Nothing in the public post about turning to Indiegogo suggests you won’t be using the standard flexible funding Indiegogo is notorious for, nor does it mention anything about hoping to avoid Kickstarter platform problems. It says you will fund the game incrementally, improve rewards, and boost marketing using Indiegogo. Hence this current confusion.

This editorial is as the title and body says about Kickstarter MMOs in general. We have almost a decade of them. TR and its issues constitute just one of multiple examples, and our opinion writer’s argument about MMOs on Kickstarter stands regardless of TR’s future funding methods.

We do wish you good luck with the project.

Reader
TitanReach Admin

Thank you for the update to the article.

We were not aware that it would be assumed that all Indiegogo projects would use a particular funding type.

We appreciate that the opinions of the author stand regardless.

Thanks for your input and feedback.

Reader
Bruno Brito

So, is it reasonable misinformation now?

Reader
G I G A B E A R

I was aware of your kickstarter, but days before you launched, another MMORPG game had launched into Kickstarter and I was already committed. However, you’ve convinced me to give your next campaign a look with this well-deserved response to this article.

Alyn
Reader
Alyn

“because basically everyone knows that the Kickstarter money is not actually the development budget. It’s the seed money to make a demo for investors who will then decide that it sounds like some money can be made there. Your Kickstarter is basically how you hopefully attract bigger fish to give you real money.”

These words aren’t news. However, we’ve not quite understood the truth of crowd funding. As Eliot has stated, there are precious few actual “releases” of successful games via Kickstarter, let alone an entire MMORPG. I’ve always believe there was really and truthfully “quiet money” that drove development. Often times this would dry up if the deadlines weren’t managed properly. We, as consumers, must show more restraint. After all it is on us really to make the decisions to back or to wait and see what actually happens.

What about the massive GIANT multi- billion dollar per year conglomerate, Amazon? A few years ago, I used to think they just might be the financial kick in the seat struggling MMORPGs needed. However, sit back and watch the drama that is now occurring with what is left of their RPG attempts with New World. Thus, it is bleak indeed. My enthusiasm has dwindled these past five or six years. The pain and embarrassment I still carry with me for crowd funding EverQuest Next remains. That fiasco should have warned us all, but apparently we continue to blindly support without first researching, I guess.

For me, no more blind faith in any product that makes too many
“promises”. If it is too good to be true–

Reader
Rndomuser

A few years ago, I used to think they just might be the financial kick in the seat struggling MMORPGs needed. However, sit back and watch the drama that is now occurring with what is left of their RPG attempts with New World.

I used to believe in that too, that Amazon with all their money would actually create a game which would provide gameplay for people with all kind of preferences and make it very long-lasting one through gameplay design, primarily by relying on player-generated content. Until I actually played the open beta and watched the streams. Then I realized that Amazon is not really interested in any successful games, doesn’t matter if it is a simple FPS shooter or MMORPG.

I’m still pretty enthusiastic about MMORPG genre, regardless of failures like New World, Titan Reach or Camelot Unchained – MMORPG genre can be very popular with wide variety of people with different preferences and can be insanely profitable with passionate and smart people responsible for creating MMORPG games, especially games which will have variety of gameplay for everyone with any preference. It might just take a little more time to see a company with enough budget and with passionate and smart leaders daring to create a good game instead of another failure like all current “clones of existing games” or “our game will only be for people with very specific preference” type of games.

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Bruno Brito

This is a great article and illustrates one of the problems i have with the gaming industry and the detachment of people who defend it: The stifling of creativity x the accountability of management.

Reality is, most people who back kickstarted games don’t back it for the “dream”. They RATIONALIZE an excuse for the dream. They back for the product. For what i can become. What it SHOULD become. No one wants their money to offer no return. Some people accept it, and to that i say: I worked on a lawyer’s office for a while, and a lot of the people who looked for us got either lazy or scared of running after their rights. People who actively fight to see their money back are a minority, and they have my respect.

What a lot of the zealotry doesn’t realize is that this posture is self-damaging. It was the lack of control and accountability that made companies behave like they could completely destroy the way good MMOs are made. It’s because the devil has so many free advocates that it can offer you all the fine print bs while shoving ESO’s cash shop down your throat. The only difference now is that instead of a board of directions, you have one rockstar developer who rides the wave. Anyone who’s watching the Pantheon saga, as someone below put it, realize how damaging this is: McQuaid, rest his soul, makes such a dent because it was his vision, that the entire studio now is lost. What happens if Chris Roberts one day decides “fuck it”? We saw what happened to Elyria.

This shit happens DAILY in the corporate culture, and it happens DAILY in non-regulated offices. The only difference is that corporate culture still has some mediocre modicum of accountability to follow. I repeat this all the time: There’s a reason Microsoft shut CR down when he was peddling SC. It’s because they had former experience with him and they knew what it would happen if he wasn’t reigned in. In the end, the only reason CR has no accountability, is because he’s protected by how crowdfunding operates.

People who defend these predatory practices with fear that stopping this unmitigated toxic freedom will “stifle creativity” should really start thinking reeeeeeally deeply about how they are spending their money. Because, using Star Citizen as a example again: Most development is now overseas/outsourced. CR’s main studio does most of the moviescenes and stuff, because that’s what he wants the most. The guy is a Hollywood fanatic.

Who’s to say that the other studios aren’t riddled with abusive work conditions? Do the rank and file of kickstarted companies even have job security?

People defend crowdfunding as a way of “getting away of corporate antics”. The way i see it, we’ve changed one bad master for the other. This is not a problem about personalities, is about the system. I’m way more favorable to stifle creativity in the name of job security, well-made planning and decent products.

And honestly? If a developer says that being withheld by law to provide a product is “stifling his capability to deliver a good product” then he didn’t want to deliver jack-shit to begin with.

I salute every single nameless worker in corporate and in non-regulated companies. These are the real heroes that makes the games worth playing. But these star-fuckers who didn’t touch a line of code for more than 30 years and get greedy when the money start flowing can burn in hell for all i care.

Reader
Rndomuser

I salute every single nameless worker in corporate and in non-regulated companies. These are the real heroes that makes the games worth playing. But these star-fuckers who didn’t touch a line of code for more than 30 years and get greedy when the money start flowing can burn in hell for all i care.

Yes, yes, and yes, thank you for saying this.

Strykerx88
Reader
Strykerx88

This article could be titled “The Pantheon Saga.”

Reader
Rndomuser

This could be titled many different ways, including “Camelot Unchained saga”, because of stuff like using Kickstarter backers to entice investment companies to do this:
https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/former-mythic-entertainment-founder-announces-75-million-financing-round-300583575.html

Reader
Mark Jacobs

That’s BS RU and you know it. During the KS I promised to put in $2.5M into CU. To date, I’ve put in 2x that number and before I couldn’t put in any more, I reached out to the same friends and family who invested in me/Mythic back in 1999. I thought that $5M plus what I had in reserve (which I then spent) would be enough to make the game. We were, quite obviously wrong. We spent almost five years working on CU/engine before I reached out to them to invest in CSE.

Almost 5 years RU, that is one of the differences between CU’s KS and other games. We’re not perfect, but we set out in good faith to deliver the game with the KS funds + my money, and unlike other KSers, we never tried to raise any significant money via sales of digital goods other than our tiers.

We deserve heat for being late, but not for making a demo, since that was never our intent and we still haven’t done that. But hey, you know all this already but since it appears that anytime anybody says something you can tie to me/us in a derogatory fashion, you try to do that. Just like now.

Reader
Rndomuser

That’s BS RU and you know it.

Yes, the link I posted is definitely BS. /s

Regardless of what you say, the article describes the reality exactly as it actually is. Read it again, especially this part:
because basically everyone knows that the Kickstarter money is not actually the development budget. It’s the seed money to make a demo for investors who will then decide that it sounds like some money can be made there. Your Kickstarter is basically how you hopefully attract bigger fish to give you real money.

These are not my words. Those are Eliot’s words. And the link I posted just shows this was also true with CU, regardless of how long it took to find an investor who would agree to do this and regardless whether you personally want to admit this or not. And I am not saying whether this is “wrong” or “right” thing to do, I am just pointing out the relevance of CU to the article written because all evidence show this is exactly what happened with CU’s development.

Reader
Bruno Brito

Yeah, but you also hid the development of another game which then developed into a shitstorm of idiotic proportions. So, in the end it was as dubious as most Kickstarters are.

Also, the issue here is with Eliot’s speech, where he specifically said that KS is a gate for games to get bigger funding, and he’s right. Isn’t that the reason you are making Ragnarok and the engine?

That being said, i don’t think any of that takes out of your morality, Mark. You just need to be a bit less antagonistic about it.

Reader
Mark Jacobs

BB, agreed on FS:R. I was talking solely about the investment that RU was using. FS:R wasn’t even a glimmer of an idea in my mind back in 2018 when we raise the money. :)

And as to the engine, at the time of the KS, the plan was not to license the engine. We’ve had people reach out about it (prior to FS:R) and we turned out any discussion about it. Post FS:R, it’s the same thing other than we haven’t had anyone reach out about it.

As I’ve also said, FS:R is definitely a different situation entirely but not the KS and not the initial investment that RU referred to. We didn’t do a KSer for FS:R, only for CU and from then till the investment, we were making CU and were not reaching out for other investment. That changed when I saw the situation we were in terms of progress vs. my bank account and I made the decision to get additional investment. We never made the rounds of investors, like most companies do, I simply called the people I knew and had a few conversations. Part of my argument to them was based on Improbable getting $500M from Softbank and that once CU was done, we could talk about licensing the engine. That’s one of the big differences, we weren’t trying to do anything but make a game in 2013-2018 and I said the same thing many times: If CU is a success then we’ll think/talk about possibly licensing the engine. I know I said it here and on the Forums more than once or two. :)

I actually agree with Eliot. KS was not intended to do that. As per above, I thought with $5M plus my extra allotment, we could make the game. Other KS-backed games had to fund raise after their KS because they didn’t have enough cash to do it. We did have enough cash but we couldn’t deliver the game on time. That is our fault as a team but it was never our intent to raise additional money for making CU. Frankly, if I thought it was going to take as much as it has, I wouldn’t have launched the KS. My life is forever changed because I believed in CU and what we were doing and I was willing to spend my own money to make the game. Now, if we’re successful, it was a good bet. If we’re not, well, I gambled on myself, my team, and the concept and I lost a lot. Such is life but anybody who says our intent was to use CU to raise additional money to make CU isn’t telling the truth. I thought that CU was going to be a moderate success (as I said at the time and beyond) and then, once we had that success we would be able to make other games. That was the same plan we had at Mythic and it worked out really well for us. Hopefully it will be the same thing, albeit way late.

Now, if a developer says that their KS is going to be used as a demo or vehicle and they still need completion funding, then it’s up to potential Backers if they want to fund their KS. OTOH, if they don’t disclose it, that’s an entirely different story. And I think that at some point KS had/has language saying that it isn’t intended to be used to fund a demo but I could be wrong about this.

Reader
Bruno Brito

As always, i think you have good intentions and your heart on the right place.

I still believe that it’s too much power in the hands of one person, same as with corporate having too much power in the hands of a small board of detached individuals. I speak in generalistic terms here, not pinpointing you specifically.

After McQuaid passed, the Pantheon team now finds itself lost. If by any reason, Chris Roberts decides to drop Star Citizen, everything goes with him ( which honestly, would be beneficial at this point, since he also represents delays and overspending ).

If by any way, shape or form, you drop CU, CU goes with you. You know that.

I don’t think KS was supposed to do that, but i also don’t think KS was supposed to fund large games. MMOs are extremely expensive, as i’m sure you know. They also require pretty much “infinite” funding, because they’re supposed to not have a finite lifespan.

As always, i hope that you’ll launch a great game.

Covynant001
Reader
Covynant001

Regardless of your intent at the start, fact is CU and prit near every other crowd funded indie MMO has gone down the road of seeking investors to try and get to completion of the original vision.

Way back at the beginning I questioned you and other dev leads whether a full featured, relatively polished MMO could be released for less than $15M to $20M and was told by all they could do it, based on some very high risk assumptions. (In my view)

I was told I’m not a game developer (true) so who was I to question MMO delivery by the “experts.”

Apparently the smarter guy in the room, though I will confess to also being quite wrong, looks like it will take around $30M (CF) to $500M (SC) to get one of these indie games across the line, after ten years or so of development.

I should live so long….

Cheers.

Reader
Mark Jacobs

Covynant,

I still think an MMO can be made for $15m-$20m but it’s not easy. While this is *not* an excuse, the fact is that team costs for making MMOs have gone way up in the last 10 years, quite unexpectedly due to the changes in the industry. This does not account for the delays, nor for all the difference in costs, but it is a factor.

And I do expect some of the indie MMOs to get games out on a better than average timeline. I think Dual Universe is a candidate for that as a couple of others.

If Improbable or someone else is able to deliver on a backend that fits nicely with an existing engine, it will speed up development significantly. That’s one of the reasons companies like Improbable got serious investment. But, without that, making a game like some of us are making is going to cost more than we’d like it to be.

And I hope you do live that long, one way or the other. We’ve all lost too many people over the last year. :(

Have a good rest of your day/night.

Mark

Covynant001
Reader
Covynant001

Fact is many (most?) MMO KSers to date have misrepresented what the funding will let them accomplish, often saying a complete game can be delivered.

Almost every one I know of has either lied outright or demonstrated gross incompetence as they end up over running budget and delivery estimates many times over.

A full featured MMORPG cannot be delivered with any degree of quality in a reasonable time frame (say 5 or 6 years) on the shoestring budgets these indie dev teams ask for or have access to.

Ashes of Creation did state from the start having access to $30m to fund the basic game and might be the only team to provide a more honest estimate though like all of the others their timelines are totally blown out.

Reader
Syran

It seems to me like the mindset of this article completely misses the point of what Kickstarter is about, or at least what it should be about. If backers still don’t understand that they are not buying a product and are don’t get any sort of guarantee for the game to be released, that’s on them. The platform is about supporting something that likely won’t exist otherwise, not to place pre-orders and get some goodies along the way.

Developers should absolutely be upfront about how much the full development will cost and how they plan on financing the rest of it, but there’s no reason not to use Kickstarter to kickstart your development. If you want to single out campaigns for hugely ambitious MMO games, then sure, those are mostly extremely unlikely to succeed. But even then I wouldn’t generalize by saying never to support them, just be smart about it. And I definitely can’t support the premise of this article when we’re talking about smaller video game projects.

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Bruno Brito

If backers still don’t understand that they are not buying a product and are don’t get any sort of guarantee for the game to be released, that’s on them.

If you wanna develop something and want someone else’s money, then DELIVER that something. People are paying for the promise of the product, not to allow rockstar developers to play virtual god with money they don’t own.

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Syran

Again, if you think you’re paying for a product, you misunderstand the purpose of the platform. If you simply want to pre-order something, then wait until it’s available for pre-order.

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Bruno Brito

I don’t pay for unfinished stuff. I do wait. I still think it’s idiocy to allow unchecked people who lack self-control to oversee the money of others and have no accountability whatsoever about delivering a product.

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Syran

I don’t think it’s idiocy to support people in their creative endeavors if you think they are worth supporting.

Either way, it’s neither your nor my place to decide how people get to spend their money or how they are allowed to ask for money, as long as all cards are on the table.

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Bruno Brito

I don’t think it’s idiocy to support people in their creative endeavors if you think they are worth supporting.

I’m an artist. My process is simple: I get a commission, i work a sketch to show how it’s proceeding. It’s a quick conceptual sketch. I get paid half for the time i’ll spend. I deliver the product, i get the rest.

I don’t get money for ideas. Supporting people in creative endeavors goes beyond shoving money for them to sit around their behinds while taking 200k paychecks and the project itself suffering from delays and bad management.

Either way, it’s neither your nor my place to decide how people get to spend their money or how they are allowed to ask for money, as long as all cards are on the table.

It’s entirely my business how the gaming industry is poised to be. You wanna be negligent, so be it, but i won’t be. I vote with my wallet and i encourage everyone else to do the same.

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Syran

I worked with several freelance artists who could either not deliver in time, or did not deliver the quality you’d expect based on the work they showcase in their portfolio. One of them just ghosted me after I spend days briefing him on the project and preparing work material. Are you saying I should stop working with freelance artists and try to convince everyone never to do business with any of them again?

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Bruno Brito

Are you saying I should stop working with freelance artists and try to convince everyone never to do business with any of them again?

Freelancing doesn’t move millions. Most freelancers need to eat, so being a shitstain of a person doesn’t pay. It’s actually rare to find bad freelancing because anyone who actively WANTS to live out of it, needs to deliver. Which, by the way, is the SAME CASE AS DEVELOPERS. Except they realized that they can sustain themselves by selling dreams on Kickstarters and having people like you defending them for free out of fear that leashing their quasi-imperial powers on these projects will leash their creativity.

And i’m highly sure you wouldn’t pay a freelancer for bad work. That’s not the case of Kickstarters. Again, how it is right now, is that the developer has the right to sell you a concept, and fuck you if they don’t deliver. Nothing should be like this.

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Syran

Of course I pay a freelancer for bad work. I may not pay him for any additional work, but unless he delivered something that’s so far below expectations that it can be considered a breach of contract, I’m absolutely going to compensate his time.

You know why? Because I’m not a cynical, entitled, dismissive ass who always expects the worst in people. I know, from experience, that most artists are doing their best to deliver something that meets expectations. But creative work isn’t always that simple. Being disciplined and organized means nothing if you’re having a creative block.

And you know what’s even less simple? Making games.

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Bruno Brito

Of course I pay a freelancer for bad work. I may not pay him for any additional work, but unless he delivered something that’s so far below expectations that it can be considered a breach of contract, I’m absolutely going to compensate his time.

That’s called being a sucker.

You know why? Because I’m not a cynical, entitled, dismissive ass who always expects the worst in people. I know, from experience, that most artists are doing their best to deliver something that meets expectations. But creative work isn’t always that simple. Being disciplined and organized means nothing if you’re having a creative block.

I’m not a friend of Chris Roberts. I’m not a friend of Kotick. I’m not a friend of corporations. I have absolutely NO empathy towards people who move mountains of money and i have no empathy for people who defend this shit.

Artists are, normally, doing their best. I completely agree. That’s not the point here. I’m not paying an artist for subpar work, if i’m paying ( WELL ) for good work. They can simply COMMUNICATE THAT and we can get a new deal going, unless i’m constrained by time. It has NOTHING to do with being an ass, it has everything to do with the fact my money doesn’t grow on fucking trees. If you’re the kind of person that thinks that having protections in place towards your own assets is being an “dismissive ass”, then you will be preyed upon like the sheep you are.

And you know what’s even less simple? Making games.

Exactly. Hence why just shoving untold ammounts of money on rockstar developers collective’s assholes and expecting them to crap a good game is normally NOT HAPPENING.

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Syran

Heh, yeah, we clearly have very different idea of what it means to be a decent human being. I definitely don’t subscribe to the delusion that having a shred of empathy will lead to “being preyed upon”. Mind sets like these definitely explain the current state the world though, both in general terms, as well as specifically relating to toxic gamer-developer relationships.

Your generalized view of game devs on Kickstarter is so far off the mark that it’s not even worth commenting about. If all freelance artists would behave as you do, I’d definitely never want to work with anyone again. Luckily, I’m capable of differentiation.

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Bruno Brito

Heh, yeah, we clearly have very different idea of what it means to be a decent human being. I definitely don’t subscribe to the delusion that having a shred of empathy will lead to “being preyed upon”

Any self-respecting artist won’t allow themselves to turn in half-assed work. We are perfectionists by nature, even me, and i have a really messy style.

And this is not empathy. You want to be held to a glorious standard because you pay incompetent people. Fuck that. I’m all for helping, but there are proper channels for helping. Art isn’t charity, and if it were, i would be out of it. I wanna be judged by my work and competence, not because some bozo has pity on me.

Mind sets like these definitely explain the current state the world though, both in general terms, as well as specifically relating to toxic gamer-developer relationships.

The fact that you’re blaming me for how the world is right now shows how dishonest you actually are at debating.

“Toxic gamer-developer relationships” Star Citizen got almost 500million bucks. It’s eight years in. They have a tech alpha with bugs and are selling concept art for ships that aren’t even in the game.

Is that your concept of healthy relationships? Because mine are simply having developers develop, being well paid and having a good job. And having MANAGERS manage. There’s a reason why Microsoft didn’t accept Star Citizen’s pitch and the project is literally NOWHERE done. Roberts is a known delayer and a known spender. Do you really think established corporations want anything to do with dubious projects?

Your generalized view of game devs on Kickstarter is so far off the mark that it’s not even worth commenting about. If all freelance artists would behave as you do, I’d definitely never want to work with anyone again. Luckily, I’m capable of differentiation.

My view is completely correct. You just like the smell of your own farts and clearly can’t be wrong. Losing this internet debate must be taking a toll on you.

You keep saying to yourself and others that Kickstart isn’t a platform to expect a product delivery. Kickstarter own page says it’s literally “turning ideas into reality”. Do you know how to read, or is your life only enabling bad worksmanship?

It’s exactly because corporations were working without restrictions that we went to crowdfunding. People are finally realizing that having absolutely no accountability, either for devs or for corporations ( considering that not one person makes a game, and most of these MMOs have one rockstar developer as a face ), is BAD.

But hey. Keep paying people so they ghost you. Considering the way you talk, i’m not surprised they don’t want to see your face anymore.

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Tanek

It is true you are not buying the guarantee of a product, but in a “normal” scenario the lack of a product would mean the kickstarter had not funded and the money did not go to the creator.

In this case, the project can fully fund AND you get nothing except maybe a request for even more money.

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Dug From The Earth

I think your comment, while aimed in the right direction, doesnt quite hit the mark here.

You are absolutely correct in that kickstarter is funding to make something have the possibility of happening. It still may not happen. Plenty of companies get funded by investors and fail… kickstarter isnt any different.

The problem here, in this article, however… is that many people fund kickstarter projects because it allows the developers to move forward without a big Company publisher telling them what to do. The kickstarter backers want games to be made without someone like Activision or EA calling the shots, and many devs want the same.

When a dev kickstarts their project, and then later into the development of the game decides to get a real publisher, they are basically spitting in the face of any backers who backed the project so that the devs didnt have to work under the control OF said publisher.

It would be like going to a very specific mechanic because you knew they were an expert at fixing your car, and then, a week after having your car, finding out that they shipped it off to india somewhere to be worked on. Even if it didnt cost you any additional money, you didnt go to that specific mechanic to not have them work on your car.

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Syran

That’s just an issue with not telling the entire truth in the campaign though. If the developers are upfront about needing X amount of money and only seek part of that from crowdfunding, then that shouldn’t be an issue.

Like you said, giving money to something on Kickstarter is never a guarantee to see it finished. Weighing the chances of success is always a part of it, and the chances of the devs getting the remaining funding would be just another variable to consider.

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Dug From The Earth

Right… and I think what most people want is developers to be upfront.

If they said “kickstart our demo so we can pitch it to a publisher” then anyone who didnt want this, would simply not back it. But many that do this, arent up front.

Devs know that being upfront about some things will possibly cause their kickstart to not be successful… so they hold that info back on purpose.

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Bruno Brito

That’s just an issue with not telling the entire truth in the campaign though.

If your system allows for devs to not be completely truthful about their project aims and still get funded, then it’s not a good system.

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Kickstarter Donor
Ken from Chicago

Yep. The track record is grim for mmos in general. If only there was an awesome mmo news site that could report on the rates–and failures? Hint hint.

Wide(r)-eyed enthusiasm for crowdfunding to save the day a decade ago has been weathered and beaten down by the reality of trying and many people not doing so well.

Even kickstarters that have funded haven’t been immune to games closing down and those still running, there have been struggles and delays.

Even when there has been progress there has been delays and missteps in discussing and explaining those issues.

If Amazon, the company led by the world’s richest man, has failed twice over to release an mmo, you know it’s hard.

So, if you’re an investor and can be truly sober and cleared-eyed in hearing the pitch, looking at the devs’ track record, weighing the cost and have the disposable income to invest …. Keyword: disposable.

Even then maybe rethink it. As much as some might look to STAR CITIZEN for its massive crowdfunding success, how many others have replicated? Similar was said about WORLD OF WARCRAFT’s success. WoW fans have had frustrations with the long wait between expansions and game design choices and how that’s communicated. So too with SC, if not moreso since the game officially still in alpha.

So, even at it’s best, a crowdfunded game could be a very long wait before launch.

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Anstalt

What you’ve described is one of many reasons I’ve never funded through kickstarter or others: the devs simply aren’t asking for the correct amount of money to build their game.

If it’s gonna take $30m to make, ask for $30m. Not $3 mil to make a proof of concept so you can pitch it to “real” investors. Like you said, that introduces extra risk, plus from my point of view it makes it more likely that the finished product, if it ever arrives, will have been twisted by investor demands.

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Hikari Kenzaki

While I think it’s okay to do crowd-funding for an alpha, beta, or demo stage, I agree if the pitch is that “We’re doing this because we feel once a magical investor sees it, they’ll throw money at us.” is a setup for failure.

If you don’t have a business plan for what happens when the money runs out, you never had a business plan.

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G I G A B E A R

No kickstarter game has ever made even a fraction of the amount needed to fully create an MMORPG during kickstarter. Under your standard, nobody could ever make an MMORPG with kickstarter backing.

It’s all about having a proper crowdfunding plan, with KS as just a component of that.

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Anstalt

How many have even asked for the full amount? All the ones I’ve seen / read about have only been asking for under 3 mil. So, I’ve no clue whether it would work or not because it doesn’t look like anyone has tried.