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General: You Can't Always Kickstart Your Heart

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,596MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

Last week, PitchBlack Studios announced that it was shutting down production of Dominus and fans of the game began calling for a Kickstarter campaign, today's answer to funding woes. In our latest Developer Perspectives, we take a look at KickStarter projects. See what you think!

Sometimes, in the vale of tears we call the game industry, your startup shuts down before launch. Mine did, on Monday. I'm reasonably sure some of you reading this article are here today hoping for a post-mortem, or at least some juicy gossip. Fortunately for me, I was raised right. My mentors over the years have taught me that you never draw to an inside straight, you never pee outside on a windy day, and you never write a post-mortem until the body is cold. Instead, today I'm going to try and address the most common response to cancellation in this modern age: "Why don't you just try Kickstarter?"

Read more of Sanya Weathers' Developer Perspectives: You Can't Always Kickstart Your Heart.

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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

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Comments

  • comrademariocomrademario LondonPosts: 98Member

    Good article overall, I would honestly question anyone who looks to restart a project anyway. It depends on how the first one went down in smoke in the first I guess, but modern MMO players tend to verge on being overly negative about every flaw in a game. You see titles like LOTRO trying tto add a bit of life to the game with F2P, but lots won't give them a chance. You see Allods Online completely dismantling the majority of the reasons people left for in the first place, but you still have guys bad mouthing their company for things that happened two years ago.

    It's sad when a title dies a death, particularly when it never really came to full life, but often it's best to use it as a learning experience and move on to a new project I think.

  • TalonsinTalonsin Posts: 1,468Member Uncommon

    This is very sad.  I helped do some of the initial testing and everyone on the dev side seemed like great people who cared and wanted to make a great game.  Sad to see all that work go down the drain, they had some very nice artwork and other systems in the game.  Good luck to you all, I hope you find something you can sink your teeth into very soon.

  • fenistilfenistil GliwicePosts: 3,005Member

    Funds for MMO > funds needed for indie single player game

     

    By ALOT.

     

    Too much for a kickstarter.

  • VyethVyeth Fayetteville, NCPosts: 1,459Member

    Originally posted by comrademario

    Good article overall, I would honestly question anyone who looks to restart a project anyway. It depends on how the first one went down in smoke in the first I guess, but modern MMO players tend to verge on being overly negative about every flaw in a game. You see titles like LOTRO trying tto add a bit of life to the game with F2P, but lots won't give them a chance. You see Allods Online completely dismantling the majority of the reasons people left for in the first place, but you still have guys bad mouthing their company for things that happened two years ago.

    It's sad when a title dies a death, particularly when it never really came to full life, but often it's best to use it as a learning experience and move on to a new project I think.




     

    In our society, negative is so much more interesting than positive..

    In any entertainment medium.. A show about a bunch of people living in a house, going to church and saying nice and positive things about each other probably wouldn't have many viewers.. But a show about people living in a house getting drunk, having lots of casual sex and shouting curses at each other attracts the many..

    Just as..

    Death is more popular than birth.. Sure they have a few shows about babies being born and pregnancy, but I honestly would be willing to wager that the Investigation DIscovery (I.D.) channel and shows lke the First 48 have alot more viewers..

    So translating this mindset to the MMO industry, you will see why so many raise their torches and pitchforks with a mighty rebel yell when they see someones masterpeice burn to the ground.. It's just how we roll as a "people"..

    image

  • solarinesolarine IstanbulPosts: 1,203Member

    Yeah, an MMO is too big to kickstart.

    A single player adventure game, a turn-based RPG or a simulation game is just perfect for Kickstarter; as "niche" as they have become, these genre of games have dedicated fans with the power of nostalgia on their side - not to mention gratitude towards the pioneering names of the genres' golden eras.

  • ThorbrandThorbrand West Palm Beach, FLPosts: 1,198Member

    So sad that this game went under. I was so hyped to play the game and loved the stress test even without most of the game available.

  • OldsaltOldsalt Monett, MOPosts: 41Member

    There is so much out there now it is hard to pick the good from the bad. Best you can do is read site reviews(Then you see accusations from some gamers that those reviews have been purchased), and even better is to read what other gamers think,but that is getting harder because of so much dissension anymore. You young men with your tattoos and funny hand signals frighten me.  Get off my lawn.

    The sooner you fall behind the more time you have to catch up.

  • VowOfSilenceVowOfSilence wheePosts: 575Member

    Animators are hard to find? Oo

    Odd, I wasn't aware of that at all... Why is that?

    Hype train -> Reality

  • GeezerGamerGeezerGamer ChairPosts: 5,587Member Uncommon

    Even if they were to scrape together the most minimum funding absolutely required to finsihs the project through Kickstarter, you know the quality just won't be there. I'd really have to wonder if this would turn into another Earthrise. How could they not have to cut corners?

  • gaeanprayergaeanprayer Somewhere Out There, PAPosts: 2,320Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by VowOfSilence

    Animators are hard to find? Oo

    Odd, I wasn't aware of that at all... Why is that?




     

    Animators aren't hard to find, qualified animators are. Everyone wants to be an animator but not everyone can create interesting animation, and for every one decent animator out there, there's 20 that think a stiff and standard walk cycle is enough to get them a job.

    Thought this article filled in some holes for me. I didn't think money would be an issue, yes Kickstarter isn't appropriate for the entirety of an MMO, but not all MMOs at 200mil projects, and they've got some of the work done already. Funding like what Double Fine got, I thought, might help them progress enough to get investors interested again (why the hell is Double Fine so popular again?), but the other issues are still there and that seems like the real stumbling block. 

    Cancels are always unfortunate. Shame :-

    "Forums aren't for intelligent discussion; they're for blow-hards with unwavering opinions."

  • SlampigSlampig Chantilly, VAPosts: 2,376Member Uncommon

    Maybe YOU can't kickstart your heart, but Motley Crue sure as s**t can!

    That Guild Wars 2 login screen knocked up my wife. Must be the second coming!

  • VelocinoxVelocinox Old Folks Home, CAPosts: 811Member Uncommon



    Originally posted by gaeanprayer




    Originally posted by VowOfSilence

    Animators are hard to find? Oo



    Odd, I wasn't aware of that at all... Why is that?


     



    Animators aren't hard to find, qualified animators are. Everyone wants to be an animator but not everyone can create interesting animation, and for every one decent animator out there, there's 20 that think a stiff and standard walk cycle is enough to get them a job.





    Thought this article filled in some holes for me. I didn't think money would be an issue, yes Kickstarter isn't appropriate for the entirety of an MMO, but not all MMOs at 200mil projects, and they've got some of the work done already. Funding like what Double Fine got, I thought, might help them progress enough to get investors interested again (why the hell is Double Fine so popular again?), but the other issues are still there and that seems like the real stumbling block. 





    Cancels are always unfortunate. Shame :-



    Most of the time, true. There are plenty of wannabes trying to get in the business. But, just as equally I've seen plenty of times a 'qualified' but passionless primary dev (art/anim, server programmer, whip cracker/organizer/cheerleader) goes from one faceplant title, on to another project without so much as a difficult question in their interview and proceeds to pump out more boring (but technically superlative) product. When that project faceplants he's off to another shoe-in job in the industry.

    There comes a time when you have to be willing to kick the burn-outs to the curb and invest in a wannabe with a heart. (oh no he brought passion up about game development.... what a noob. Time to stop reading his poat and get back to making WoW LXIV)



     

    'Sandbox MMO' is a PTSD trigger word for anyone who has the experience to know that anonymous players invariably use a 'sandbox' in the same manner a housecat does.


    When your head is stuck in the sand, your ass becomes the only recognizable part of you.


    No game is more fun than the one you can't play, and no game is more boring than one which you've become familiar.


    How to become a millionaire:
    Start with a billion dollars and make an MMO.

  • kishekishe aitooPosts: 1,978Member Uncommon

    You can make solid single player game with million dollars...ten million can roughly get a MMO to alpha stage.

     

     

  • Panther2103Panther2103 Edmonds, WAPosts: 2,356Member Uncommon

    Definately gave me a different perspective. I always wondered why they didn't just set up a kickstarter, I forgot about different code and employees that would have to learn whatever they coded, or work around it. I also didn't know that server programmers were so rare, why is that?

  • Games888Games888 Chicago, ILPosts: 243Member

    there is just no way ppl are going to play this game instead of gw2 WvW which is 100x better anyway.

  • dotdotdashdotdotdash Llandrindod WellsPosts: 364Member

    Sanya,

    My name's Matt. I made a comment on the Dominus Facebook page about this (a lengthy one at that). And by the looks of things, your article is an almost direct response to my Facebook message.

    IF that is true, thanks for the response. Whilst I certainly see your point, I obviously have counterpoints to make. I'm not going to make them because the conversation is fruitless when it comes to Dominus.

    Tis flattering that I got an article, however :P

    Matt.

  • TorvalTorval Oregon CountryPosts: 7,204Member Uncommon

    I'm sorry Sanya. I really am.  I hope better fortune comes your way soon.

  • SanyaSanya Director of Community Undead Labs Fairfax, VAPosts: 44Member

    Thanks for the kind words, y'all :)

    @Matt - yours was certainly the longest and most reasoned response, but there were so many people suggesting Kickstarter that I really wanted to do a response. I couldn't on the Dominus page, because that would have looked like I was speaking for the company and as of noon Monday, I wasn't. As it was I was dancing on the line, but that's... what I do ;)

    It really made me (and the rest of the team!) feel good to see so many people saying they would have supported the concept out of pocket. But it's not my IP to Kickstart (#1) and we never did find a server programmer after months of looking (#2) quite aside from how many people might have supported us.

    There's a market for this game. There's passion for it. I hope the next team to take a swing at it gives me a call, because I'm SO THERE.

    Sanya M. Weathers
    Director of Community
    Undead Labs

  • ThorqemadaThorqemada BerlinPosts: 1,277Member Uncommon

     

    Kickstarter worked for Wasteland 2 and some others but a high profile mmo is beyond the limits what Kickstarter and crowdfunding can do.

    Sandbox games have the problem of being a niche with to many underfunded competitors releasing products that hurt the reputation more each time "proofing" that sandbox games do not work.

    Games like EvE seen as exceptions and EvE almost covering the size of the playerbase that would spend money on a sandbox game. (It covers only its specific niche of people who like technocratic Sci Fi game worlds with cuthroat competition, force and treason).

    With the success of Skyrim and Minecraft and others over the time of gaming history we know that there be millions of gamers/fans who would like to play a virtual world mmo, adventure, socialize, craft, be inhabitants of such a world if only it has a good quality and well thought game mechanics that do not favour the destroyers over the builders and thinkers, that offers regions of peace and security and is not a war torn appocalypse anywhere but having the possibility to take part on realm wars or adventuring throughplaces of low security.

    But the funds for virtual world/sandbox mmos be spread thin between some/many part time and start up developers who cover only the most hard core gameplay never realizing what tiny niche they work for.

    The Virtual World/Sandbox MMO Developers should gather together their stuff as long its compatible and work together on one or two games with higher quality instead of strugling to survie seperated.

    "Torquemada... do not implore him for compassion. Torquemada... do not beg him for forgiveness. Torquemada... do not ask him for mercy. Let's face it, you can't Torquemada anything!"

    MWO Music Video - What does the Mech say: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF6HYNqCDLI
    Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0x2iwK0BKM

  • maplestonemaplestone Ottawa, ONPosts: 3,099Member

    'Sorry, but "idea guy" is completely useless, here.'

    I feel like I need to get this engraved and placed over my computer so its the first thing I see every morning.

  • karmathkarmath Posts: 828Member Uncommon

    Pretty can be summed up in one sentence :

    Never give up or partially give up the IP rights to anything you came up with regardless of money invested/promised.

    Some of the best IP's have been canned early and let the IP die or its integrity destroyed by idiot suits that had nothing to do with the original idea wanting to milk the IP for every penny.

    Easier siad than done, true. But I'd rather work on the IP by myself than have some uninformed retard with big pockets telling me what I can and cant do with my own creation.

  • zymurgeistzymurgeist Pittsville, VAPosts: 5,211Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by karmath

    Pretty can be summed up in one sentence :

    Never give up or partially give up the IP rights to anything you came up with regardless of money invested/promised.

    Some of the best IP's have been canned early and let the IP die or its integrity destroyed by idiot suits that had nothing to do with the original idea wanting to milk the IP for every penny.

    Easier siad than done, true. But I'd rather work on the IP by myself than have some uninformed retard with big pockets telling me what I can and cant do with my own creation.

     You'll never get outside funding. No one invests a significant sum without leverage.

    "Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause" ~Victor Hugo

  • eyeswideopeneyeswideopen Fresno, CAPosts: 2,414Member

    So PitchBlack Studios thought they could run with the big dogs, and instead ended up with their tail between their legs like so many before them. Nothing of special note or interest in their story of failure. Just another chump company that bit the dust.

     

    -Letting Derek Smart work on your game is like letting Osama bin Laden work in the White House. Something will burn.-
    -And on the 8th day, man created God.-

  • dotdotdashdotdotdash Llandrindod WellsPosts: 364Member

    @Sanya - Aha. Yes, I didn't think I was the sole prompt for the article but I could certainly see the comments and points I'd made running through your article (especially the proof of concepts part). I don't fault that at all; it's nice for someone in the industry to recognise my "reasoned" comments every now and then.

    Certainly it's something I'd like to see more of in the MMO space, where community is a big thing; there seems to be a growing divide between developers and fans, with communication between the two becoming very impersonal in this day and age. It's part of the reason why I would like to move into Community Management in the MMO space, but I've yet to make any in-roads. Perhaps you could give me some pointers? ;P It appears that writing for large gaming sites - as I have done - and running larger forums - as I have also done - really isn't enough ;(

    Anyway, let us know where you go off to next.

    Provided it's a decent MMO project, I'll certainly come along for the ride. You seem to have good taste, you're intelligent, and you're not afraid to actually talk to consumers (and fans, etc) about their ideas and thoughts (regardless of how reasoned or not they may be).

  • dotdotdashdotdotdash Llandrindod WellsPosts: 364Member

    Back to the topic in general:

    5 years ago if someone had told you that Wasteland 2 - the sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed RPGs of all time - would have been funded by fans and consumers, rather than through conventional investment channels and/or major publishers, what would you have said? Certainly many would have argued that it wasn't possible, that consumers don't have the "power" to facilitate the development of a game of any type, let alone a major (and huge) RPG. The argument for such an idea was strongly outweighed by the argument against.

    And then Double Fine happened. Part a product of a dedicated customer base, and part a product of industry hype, Double Fine managed to break the mould when it came to funding the development of a game. Publishers like EA and Activision lauded Double Fine publically, but behind closed doors there was an air of inevitability about the endeavour. The same was true of Wasteland 2, and Shadowrun, despite the success that Double Fine had. The prevalent thought in the industry was that Double Fine would not be able to secure the funding needed to move forward with DFA, or at least not all of it; when they did succeed it was widely considered an anomaly that would not (could not, and should not) be repeated.

    It's important to note that Double Fine weren't the first gaming project on Kickstarter. The service had been used to secure comparably small amounts of money to fund various gaming projects long before Double Fine popularised the platform. Nobody, not even the guys at Kickstarter, believed that a project would ever bring in over $3.3 million; there were so many obstacles in the way of such an ambition that it seemed outlandish at the best of times. Certainly Double Fine never expected to rake in that massive figure when they set out to secure the funding they needed, a fact reflected in the modest (in comparison) $400,000 funding goal.

    Thanks to Double Fine, Kickstarter has become the life blood of not-just smaller indie titles but also much larger, more ambitious projects in the gaming space. Certainly there will still be failures on the platform; a bad idea is still a bad idea, and will suffer for it. Kickstarter’s success – and its usefulness – isn’t measured by its failures however. It’s measured by the scope of its successes. When a gaming project seeking $400,000 takes away $3.3 million, when 3 different and distinct titles secure over $1 million in funding, the platform takes on a whole new meaning for publishers and developers. Kickstarter now has far more funding power than it has ever had before, and that is only likely to increase as more and more projects flock to crowdsourcing as a serious method of financing.

    Complications with IP ownership aside, Kickstarter isn’t the be all and end all of funding. Many projects on Kickstarter have used successful crowdsourcing to attract outside investor interest. As Sanya pointed out, being able to go to investors with hard figures is a boon. I’ve had the pleasure of working with investors before as a consultant (not related to actual investment, but to opportunity assessment (by which I mean I looked at investment opportunities in the gaming industry and “rated” them so that the actual fund managers could make informed decisions without having to spend too much time researching), which I did for about 9 months). I can tell you that having hard figures related to consumer interest is a big boon, especially when you can demonstrate or show what people are willing to pay. Kickstater is starting to gain traction in investment circles, so being able to say “10,000 people donated $25 to our project” is a massive plus when trying to secure additional funding. That’s only $250,000, which obviously isn’t that much… but it’s MORE than enough to get the ball rolling.

    So can (and will) Kickstarter ever be used to fund the development of an MMO? It’s doubtful, I admit, that the platform will ever be used to fund an MMO in its entirety. MMOs are perhaps the most expensive games a developer could chose to make (although the actual costs vary wildly from developer to developer, with some costing a few million and other costing a few hundred million). Kickstarter is only just becoming a mainstream service, and most people will only part with their money for a project they have a vested interest in, rather than simply for a “good idea”. However if a strong, established IP found its way onto Kickstarter, courting consumers for the part-funding of an MMO, there’s really no reason at all that why it couldn’t work out well. If a project managed to pull $3 million from 80,000+ people, as Double Fine did, that would be more than enough to attract a vast amount of investor interest.

    In short, to suggest that Kickstarter will never be capable of funding an MMO – either in part or full – is a tad short-sighted. Previously people would have said that Kickstarter wouldn’t have been able to fund a major gaming project like Double Fine Adventure; obviously it has. People said DFA was an anomaly, and yet developers continue to secure huge sums of money through the platform. Kickstarter’s ceiling for funding hasn’t even vaguely been hit, and as more and more people are brought to the platform, more and more money will go into projects. Eventually that sum may well – and probably will – hit the figures needed to at least part fund the development of an MMO.

    A famous quote sums up the sentiment here nicely: "No one will need more than 637 kb of memory for a personal computer."

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