I have played and betatested MMOs since the year 2000. In this post I would like to write about my journey with CoE and explain why I got lured into it backing it with a mayor pledge in 2017.
I observed the original kickstarter being successful and read many articles and interviews about CoE in 2016. Then in 2017 I pledged for a mayor title to support this project and joined one of the virtual kingdoms.
So why did I pledge in 2017 and why didn't potential flaws and problems concern me too much back then?
1. I like small innovative indie MMOs and played and betatested many of them during the years. Games like World War II Online (still running after 19 years!), A Tale in the Desert, Gloria Victis, Dual Universe and many others show that there are niche markets for games like this and that indie studios on a small budget CAN make playable MMOs which can also last many years. Life is Feudal and Gloria Victis were able to make "minimal viable playable products / MMOs" on very low budgets. So no red flag here.
2. The hunger for new innovative MMO concepts. The features and design of CoE got me. A low fantasy medieval MMO with a player-run economy and political system, where player actions and interactions count and have impact on the game was something I was looking for for a long time already. I also liked the idea of player character life cycles and family dynasties and the payment model being tied into the character lifespan (sparks of life). I still think its a cool and innovative idea. And I was not alone. Apparently many other were thinking the same and supporting the kickstarter. So I thought this game and concept has enough potential and community support for being successful. And for atrracting additional investors! The game hit a sweet spot within me so my critical judgement was lowered.
3. SpatialOS was a new big thing in the MMO engine world back then and Improbable got huge and serious funding from investors. They offered support for new and indie MMO projects promising to help them build huge MMO worlds with thousands of players in huge gameworlds. CoE going for SpatialOS made sense to me and it looked promising. No red flag here.
4. Getting seed money from kickstarter to make a "minimal viable playable product" to show to investors for additional money was something I got mixed feelings about, but it didn't concern me too much back then because other projects did the same and were successful with it! Dual Universe did exactly the same! They explicitely stated that their kickstarter was just the beginning to show outside investors that there is enough support from players to make such a MMO and that players are willing to support it. So after the kickstarter of Dual Universe was successful Novaquark got many millions of private investor money. In 2019 they got another round of investor money, they are will 11+ million $s now and opened a second studio in Montreal and hired additional 30+ staff. That project is well on track...
So no redf flag here. It sounded plausible to me. If Novaquark can do it with Dual Universe, why not Sbs with CoE? And the community supporting CoE was even bigger than the community around DU at that time. In my opinion it shouldn't be a problem finding investors. And in the US there is this start-up culture with angel investors and investors supporting all kind of innovative projects, isn't it? More than in most countries in the world.
So I backed and supported CoE shortly after their successful kickstarter and pledged for a mayor package. It was my first crowdfunding pledge at all.
But after a while some questions arised. Why did european developer Novaquark got 11 mill $ private investor money for Dual Universe and us-based Sbs didn't?
The answer: NQ already had a working and playable game prototype for Dual Universe up and running with core features already in place. They had that developed before going for kickstarter and investors!
And i wrongly assumed CoE had the same! That was my big mistake!
I ASSUMED You normally have a working prototype of the game BEFORE going to kickstarter and that there is one for CoE as well. Probably I got also deceived by screenshots and videos on the CoE website.
The first red flag arised when they just started moving into a new office and hiring staff AFTER the kickstarter. Don't You do this before that? Didn't they show a staffed studio and gameplay footage in the kickstarter videos? Isn't there a game prototype already?
When they went to PAX East to show their game to investors and there was no result out if it and no investor showed up afterwards I got even more concerned. Because everybody knew they wouldn't be able to make CoE with the crowdfunded money.
Another red flag was feature creep and they talking about very detailled features in videos and dev blog posts. It was obvious that it all was way too ambitious for the studio, size of staff and funding they had.
And the biggest red flag for me finally was when they dropped SpatialOS. SpatialOS was supposed to make the MMO world possible. At that point and without having any additional investors or way more new staff I knew this project wasn't going anywhere.
So why did so many people back this project, me included? It was because we all want a new innovative MMO like CoE was offered in its initial game concept. A low fantasy medieval MMO with player-run economy, player dynasties, a player-run political system and land management. It was too ambitious, yes, but Gloria Victis and Life is Feudal managed to get a "minimal viable playable product" out the door on a very low budget, so I thought it was possible for CoE as well.
So You see why I backed it. Partly based on information available and visible at that time. And partly because on wrong assumptions and overlooking some early flaws and signs.
The question is: Is my pledged money completely lost? In the literal sense it is lost, obviously: There is no playable game and that money is gone. I can't buy anything else with it.
But on the other hand my pledge and the 8 million $s raised by backers are a clear sign and indication that there is a market for a game like CoE, that people want a MMO like CoE and are willing to support it with money and with their time building communities.
So if another developer will realize this, will pick up the idea and concept of CoE and will make a MMO with features similiar to CoE someday in the future, I won't consider my money being completely lost.
If done right by trimming the overloaded features and ironing out the flaws, a MMO based on CoE could be a huge success. The community and the hunger for new innovative MMOs like CoE is there and waiting for it!
Life is too short to play bad games.