Plenty of panels at GDC are recorded and uploaded to the internet weeks after the event, including this one. It’s not quite the same as being there, as you miss a few things. For example, this year’s Ultima Online Post-Mortem panel was packed. It was international. It was fun, gross, nostalgiac, and sometimes groan-inducing.
And I’d hate to just summarize the talk, especially since some of you vets have heard these stories before, but since ya’ll couldn’t make it, I’ll do it. For you. But for this particular panel, not only will I try to summarize what was said before the panel will be viewable online in a few weeks, but I’ll dish out on the after-panel chat with Richard Garriott, Starr Long, Raph Koster, and Rich Vogel, including comments from the team on bad bans, kingslaying, VR, and the state of the MMORPG.
Let’s talk about money. Specifically, let’s talk about Crowfall’s money. ArtCraft is doing just that in a dev blog out today.
Referencing the $6M cash injection it picked up from investors at the tail end of 2017, the studio says it’s hired 10 new studio members in addition to a pair of contractors, all of whom were apparently “first choice” candidates for their jobs. That’s brought the studio up to 45 bodies.
“As a result, we now have more throw weight in Art, Design and Engineering,” J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton write, “and it also means we’ve started our ‘Live team’ hires (beginning with Operations, and continuing over the next few months with additional folks in Customer Service and Marketing.)”
Lest you be dispirited by the fact that Crowfall’s soft launch isn’t going to make 2017 as promised (after also not making 2016), ArtCraft has a post up today outlining all the things the team did accomplish this year. And one of those things happens to involve acquiring another chunk of cash from investors.
“After a lot of discussion over the summer, we decided to do a larger raise to expand our game content, cover all launch expenses and to have enough funds to drive a respectable marketing campaign at launch,” J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton write today on the official site. “We believe this is the right approach, so we pitched it to our investors. They agreed. We are delighted to announce that on December 1st, we closed another financing round for an additional $6 million. This money will be used to fund the completion, launch and marketing of Crowfall. This means we’ll be hiring a few more people, we’ll be able to invest more in our live infrastructure and support more players; and we’ll be able to get some real attention once the game is ready.”
With $2.7 million raised from fans and $12.5 million total in its pockets from multiple sources, ArtCraft has a wealth of money on which to build Crowfall. The studio also has a wealth of experience with crowdfunding, and in a new interview, Gordon Walton shares what he and the other leaders at ArtCraft have learned from running one of the more successful MMORPG Kickstarter campaigns to date.
The five key lessons that Walton shared were: Crowdfunding is a test of a product’s market viability, that it’s important to sell a product and not a dream, that different crowdfunding platforms require different approaches, that studios need to bring their loyal fans out for these campaigns, and that it’s vital to communicate clearly and often.
“The real trick is always about finding the right customers, who want to be part of your business, they want to support you,” said Walton. “A lot of entrepreneurs are more focused on their product than their customers. If I have any advice for people, it’s ‘always think about the customer first.'”
Last month, we included Crowfall among the games discussed in a Massively Overthinking roundtable that focused on MMO monetization running amok. Why? Because Crowfall has one of the spendiest cash shops in the genre, and it’s not even out yet; indeed, one of its palaces is $7000.
That subject is one ArtCraft has addressed today in a new dev blog, which argues that the price is fine because it’s intended for large guilds.
“The price is high because when 100+ players work together to buy something, the total adds up quickly,” J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton jointly explain. “That last part is key. These strongholds are WAY, WAY overkill for use by a single player. Much like in real life, purchasing a giant Imperial Palace doesn’t make a lot of sense if you intend to live alone. The purpose of these larger strongholds is to support large player groups. They provide a mechanism to centralize buildings and exist so that guilds, streamer audiences, or even a loose-knit collection of merchants and crafters can work together, pool resources and create social spaces.”
One shouldn’t forget that Crowfall’s various campaign worlds will be populated by more than just irate players looking to make the world burn (and loot your corpse while they’re at it). There are plenty of hostile critters roaming around, such as the hellcat.
This week’s bestiary entry looks at the powerful sabertooth cat-like beast… from the hellcat’s own point of view. A brief lore entry highlights the intelligence of this hunter as well as its playful side. Still, we’d probably give it a hard pass if someone offered one to us as a pet.
ArtCraft’s Gordon Walton is making an appearance at a panel today in Austin, Texas, to talk about the challenges and strategies in making money for indie games. To date, Crowfall has raised over $12.23 million in equity, licensing, and fan pledges.
Early this afternoon, ArtCraft Entertainment’s J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton answered investor questions about Crowfall’s equity crowdfunding venture, which closes out on Monday. We’ve collected some of the highlights.
Coleman says investors are “making a bet” that there’s an “eventual win” in terms of an IPO or buyout or some other way. In the gaming business, he says, most companies that have a win, “get acquired.” He wouldn’t say that’s even remotely in the works, but it’s a possibility for companies like ArtCraft and is one way investors might profit from their investment.
When asked whether the raise was initiated because the company needed money, Walton explained that the company didn’t realize they’d be able to do a raise like this (because it was enabled by a brand-new law last fall); in fact, ArtCraft ended a different raise to open this one and had run one prior to the Kickstarter as well.
“Do [we] need more money? Yes, we do,” Coleman says, but he stressed that every company needs and wants more money. He said he now believes the game will cost in the $11M-12M range, up from the original $8M estimate, thanks to mistakes, new features, design changes, and the Travian localization partnership, among other things.
When you follow the development of MMOs, do you ever find yourself wondering who these people are making the games and what is their story? After all, developers’ backgrounds and experience is carried forward into these new games.
Crowfall fans will not find themselves in the dark about Gordon Walton. It turns out that he’s pretty chatty when the subject is his own life. In the second part of an interview series, Walton traces his game development career through the 1990s. Even if Crowfall isn’t on your radar, you might want to give this a watch to learn more about the life and times of a game designer.
Give it a watch after the break!
Crowfall has a lot to cheer about this morning: ArtCraft Entertainment just announced that it has “amassed more than $3 million in crowdfunding to bring [its] flagship MMO title, Crowfall, to a total funding amount of $10 million.”
The PvP MMORPG raised over $1.7 million through Kickstarter a year and a half ago and has continued raising funds on its own platform since.
Most recently, the devs have shifted their focus from fun match-based tests to larger-scale foundational testing on the permanent persistent server, which the team is calling its “Big World” milestone. Last May, the team retooled its test cadence entirely to prepare for an unspecified soft launch of the game for early backers while major features continue to be iterated.
Crowfall fans are in for a long, tall drink of information this weekend, poured straight from the minds of creators J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton. The pair sat down for a lengthy Reddit AMA on Friday, tackling dozens of questions from the community.
Coleman said that the team is currently working on the core of Crowfall: “Our next milestone is focused on making the foundation of the MMO work: large scale world(s), persistence across days (…then weeks, then months), scalability of the game service. There are some new systems coming online (harvesting and crafting, revised chat, revised skills), but MOST of the next milestone revolves around the theme of ‘laying the foundation for the real game.'”
In tracing the history and pre-history of MMORPGs in this column, we’ve spent a lot of time outside of the 2000s and into the explosive ’90s, the experimental ’80s, and even the extraordinary ’70s. Early pioneers like MUD1, Dungeons & Dragons, bulletin board systems, Habitat, Island of Kesmai, and even Maze War have all contributed to the development of these games we enjoy today.
But I think we’re going to outdo ourselves this week. We’re going to go back further than ever before in the The Game Archaeologist time tunnel. When we arrive at our destination, we’ll see that MMOs started germinating within a decade of computers being able to talk to each other.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you nineteen-freaking-sixty-one.
It became one of the most infamous moments in MMO history — and perhaps one of the most misunderstood.
For all that the MMO community references Star Wars Galaxies’ New Game Enhancements (NGE) as a synonym for devs breaking a game with a horrible patch, expansion, or business decision, the actual details of the referenced events have become blurred through time, retellings, and a sort of weird mythology.
It’s been 10 years since the NGE damaged a game’s reputation, embittered players for life, and made the mainstream notice that not all was sunshine and daisies in MMOs. So how did this disaster occur and what was so bad about it?
Well, it happened a long time ago in a studio far, far away…
Ready to drink from Crowfall’s information firehose? That’s good, because Artcraft has published a few more updates for its throne war simulator. First up is a founder’s update from Gordon Walton, which talks about everything from Kickstarter pledge package upgrades to t-shirts to legalese tweaks. Which is really important since you always read each and every wall of lawyer text before clicking “I Agree,” right?
Next up is an animation-focused blog from Thomas Blair entitled Animation Techno Mumbo Jumbo. Since mumbo jumbo is exactly what I see when I read tech-focused dev blogs, I think I’ll just provide you with the link rather than a summary.
Finally, there’s a new Crowfall video and it’s called Meet the Animators. I bet you can guess what it’s about! See if you’re correct by viewing it after the cut.