Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Should you support MMORPGs on Kickstarter?

UnSubject is working on a project to find out whether Kickstarter video games actually deliver. Certainly some cases appear fishy. But many people see Kickstarter as being inherently a good thing, a "giving a chance to the underdog" or "sticking it to the Man" affair. I got a mail from a reader this week asking me why I didn't write a blog post in support of one specific Kickstarter MMORPG project from a fellow blogger. The answer is that I'm not feeling comfortable at all to recommend Kickstarter projects, and specifically not MMORPGs.

That starts with the deceptively simple question of how much money you need to make a MMORPG. From 38 Studios we know that it is possible to fail to even bring a product to market with over $100 million. Kickstarter doesn't deliver that sort of money, the record in the game category being $8.5 million for the Ouya. The often cited success story of FTL involved just $200,000 of funding. Star Wars: The Old Republic supposedly did cost $300 million, and while it did come to market, many people consider it to not have been a success. So if I see somebody promising me a great MMORPG on Kickstarter for under a million in funding, I can't help but being skeptical. Where are all the great MMORPGs that somebody produced for that sort of money?

I'm not saying that these Kickstarter projects are scams, although those certainly exist. But the difference between a scam and a simple failure is just one of intention. If you put money in a game and that game is never released, it doesn't really help if the project team's intentions were good. You still ended up paying something for nothing. And even if a game is eventually released, how sure are you that this will turn out to be the game you always wanted? The hype cycle of MMORPGs financed by traditional means suggests that people are a lot more enthusiastic about a game before they played it than after.

So I think I will continue turning down everybody who asks me to promote a Kickstarter project for a MMORPG. Maybe one day a great Kickstarter-financed MMORPG will come out and prove me wrong. Until then I'll claim that funding a good MMORPG on Kickstarter is simply not possible.

What about a project like Pathfinder, which is explicitly only seeking funding to produce a tech demo (which will then be used to pursue traditional funding), rather than to develop a whole MMO?

On the one hand, that seems far more sensible. On the other hand, even if the Kickstarter achieves its goals, there's no guarantee the backers will ever get anything because there's no guarantee that the tech demo will lead to traditional funding, or that this will lead to a successful release.
Mmorpg's were a nice fad.
The indie MMOs like Love and Golemizer could be made with Kickstarter money, but they don't have project scope to get people excited.

Both Pathfinder and Embers of Caerus using Kickstarter to fund 'investor demos' struck me as misusing the process. In both cases it felt a lot more like using Kickstarter as a promotions tool than a fundraising tool, something to show investors that there were a small group of people willing to put money into a game as though it somehow justified the investment of further millions.

FTL does appear to be a Kickstarter success story though. Thus far in looking through the list a strong lesson appears to be that if you want a game to appear at the end, back something that has already been in development and possibly entered in competitions.
I have to agree with Tobold on this one. With the development budget of modern MMOs, kickstarter cannot possibly fund even a small percent of the costs involved.
I agree with Tobold's statements. If we were trying to fund our entire MMORPG with Kickstarter it would not be possible. Citadel of Sorcery is currently on Kickstarter, but in our case, we have already spent millions on the game. Kickstarter is a way of adding some funds to speed us up, it was never meant to finance the entire game. That wouldn't be possible.
@ Philip Blood

Interesting project but, let me be honest here, maybe a bit unrealistic :) Let me take some quotes from your KickStarter page:

> Our world is so massive that no
> player will ever see it all ...
> Twenty years after this game
> releases, there will still be
> places no person has ever seen

Sounds cool -in theory- but that's just impossible. Unless you go "player-only side" (instances) with random generation to keep going on. And that would go against the concept of "persistent world".

> All of our NPCs live a full life
> and make new choices all the time

Again, you know that's simply impossible.

> Every single piece of equipment
> you obtain is valuable. There
> are no trash items CoS!

Again... this is pure utopia.

I understand your desire to impress people and get funded but the reality is... you cannot do what you promise, at all. Your concept of infinite and uniqueness does not apply in the gaming world, where limits are imposed as soon as you start coding.

Unless you go "player-only side" (instances) with random generation to keep going on.

I do think you can create a server-side procedurally generated world which is so huge that it can't be fully explored. It probably would be extremely boring though, and I can't see a "multiplayer" game happening when players are miles apart.
Loque Nahak

I understand you think this is impossible, and I can even understand why you think so, but the fact is that we have already built this technology, so we know it works. I would be GLAD to discuss this in more detail, though this isn't the place for it. Visit our Forums and I will go into details about how it is done, in fact, I will post an article about it by tomorrow there.

As for NPCs living a full life, again, already working. I can again go into how we do some of this if you like, but this isn't design, it is eight years of coding completed.

As for the final statement, no trash, it's absolutely true, just remember, just because no one else has done something doesn't mean it can't be done. We spent FAR more time on design than most other MMO games have time to do.

We welcome questions about the game, and are willing to discuss all of these things with the players.

You are again, correct. I don't dispute your statement at all. However, consider this. We built a full planet, but this does not in any way mean we have to distribute things far apart.

In fact, we don't. We concentrate game play areas into Territories, each one is about 40x40 kilomters, still as large as another typical MMORPG, but only a single territory.

In CoS, you spend some time in a Territory, doing quests and other game play, but you can also go exploring outside that game play area... if you choose. Meanwhile, once you are done with Quests there, you may move to a new Territory.

We built the world to have endless areas to develop, in fact, we plan to have multiple GAMES take place on this one world, and let your character move on to those other games.

But, while you play in any Territory, things and players will be concentrated, yet in the end, we have endless area to work on and prepare for players.
Loque Nahak said:
I understand your desire to impress people and get funded but the reality is... you cannot do what you promise, at all. Your concept of infinite and uniqueness does not apply in the gaming world, where limits are imposed as soon as you start coding.

None of this is marketing hype, and you are making the assumption here that we haven't started coding... when in truth the coding for these areas is far along and working.

This was done by programmers that have worked on games like WoW and have previously written several other game engines. They know what they are doing, and have engineered this engine specifically to make this game and world. It's running, online, right now.
Is it any different to backing a racehorse? If it wins you collect, if not you're out your stake money.

So long as you know that going in, and are willing to take the gamble, I don't see the problem.
If you back a racehorse at extreme odds and it wins, you gain a lot of money. If you back a Kickstarter project at extreme odds and it comes through, you gain a T-shirt.
Actually, when the game gets done you get countless hours of enjoyment in a new world, and you helped create that place.
Phillip, I recognise that I'm a bit of a Kickstarter for video games cynic, but when I see that a title that has been in development for 8 years and still hasn't hit alpha build, alarm bells go off. Especially for a MMO.

But I will review your website more fully at a later time and re-assess my view then.

Also, there's no guarantee that you will get countless hours of enjoyment from a game you Kickstarted, even if it launched. MMOs have been notorious for sounding good on paper but the actual systems not working like they did when theorycrafted.
# Philip

8 years of development sounds a bit too much and you're not even in Alpha. And considering that *huge* companies with a *huge* budget and *tons* of developers never ever succeeded in something close to what you are suggesting (infinite world, living npc's, full dynamic environment, etc..) I honestly doubt you will be able to deliver it to the mass.

I've been reading about the game both on your site and Kickstarter. It sounds great on paper but -as said above- it's pure utopia.

8 years with no alpha, no gameplay videos, 2 developer interviews... and -sorry for being a bit rude- a horrible graphic engine... I don't see it working as intended, at all.

Well, MMOs make their profits from subscriptions, WoW and EVE being one of the few remaining examples.

So by definition a Kickstarter project will not be able to collect enough money as people will have to pledge $100 in order to have any realistic chance of covering the development costs.

One way to beat the odds, is to offer a much smaller MMO - a kind of AOC's first twenty levels in Tortage. Who would pledge 100 for that though...
I appreciate your positions, but really, you are judging things based on preconceived ideas, without doing research. What has eight years got to do with anything? How long does it take to build something that has never been done?

At first some of you attack the project by saying that it is impossible to do, then when I tell you that we have spent eight years coding the impossible, to make it possible, you complain that eight years is too long. I guess you just want to complain.

The fact is, we are spending however long it takes to build something new and different, and we will not be hurried, or change from our plan just because someone thinks it is not possible, or that we're taking too long.

As for the graphics, we've said all along, we would do final art last. We are pre-alpha in graphics, just in case you aren't in the game industry, this means not finished, incomplete, to be replaced.

You don't do graphics ahead of time because they are based on current computers. If you do final graphics too soon, you end up redoing them all later.

We made these placeholder graphics to test things like texture chunks, LODs, real time ambient occlusion, voxel to poly transition LODs and much more that comes with developing new technology from scratch.

I've been making and shipping computer games for nearly thirty years, as have others in my team. We know how to make a game. To compare CoS to any game you have seen, is ridiculous, since no other game has attempted what we are doing.

Every time someone tries to do something new and better, there are always the people who try to tear it down. You should be supporting us, or all you will get in life are clones.
@ Philip

I am not bashing the game, I am just giving my personal opinion. And my opinion is that you are asking real money for something that looks cool on paper but completely "utopic" in reality.

Every time someone tries to do something new and better, there are always the people who try to tear it down. You should be supporting us, or all you will get in life are clones.

As said above, I would support you if you were more convincing. From what I've read on your website and on the KS page I am not convinced at all. Again, a great idea on paper that I sincerely doubt will ever reach its goal (not in the form you are suggesting us, I mean).

Good luck anyway, of course, I wish you thte best.
If we had not already built the technology and generated a full planet, created the tools, and gotten thousands of NPCs already living lives, and pretty much created all of the risky elements, maybe I would agree.

But to call eight years of development "on paper" is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. It was on paper in 2004, today most of tools and tech is already working. All we have left to do is use them to make content, and add art. Neither of these are difficult at all, they just require time.

It is amusing to our team to read people telling us all about how we cannot do what we have already done.

You are, of course, welcome to your opinion. Fortunately your opinion cannot change facts. We have, and will continue to demonstrate this game and technology to investors and publishers whose opinions actually do matter.

Kickstarter was simply a way to try to speed up making content, not create technology. We have what we need to finish this already.

So, in the end, we don't need to convince you of anything, so have fun doubting. We'll see you in the game.
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