Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Kickstarting niches

Spinks has a brilliant post up on the difficulty to use Kickstarter for a niche product like Camelot Unchained. Only 8,350 people backed that project up to now, and in spite of some willing to donate thousands of dollars it looks as if the funding goal might not be met. It appears that if you want to make a PvP game that in any case will attract only around ten thousand players, you're better off relying on government funding (and indirectly funding from the European taxpayers): Darkfall 2.0 just came out (and apparently still sucks).

As Spinks remarked, (Quote: "He (Mark Jacobs) had a very strong focus on how fun it will be to make your enemy suffer, watch your enemy suffer, lay traps and inhabit monsters to inflict misery on your opponent. ie. Have fun griefing the dungeon!"), you can't build a game which relies on griefing as main source of fun and attract a lot of people with it. Even the meanest player will get bored of that, and will probably have driven away lots of other players in the process. Empire-building can sell, but just torturing other players for fun isn't a viable design concept.

I got a mail this week asking me to promote the Kickstarter for Worlds of Magic, an indie turn-based 4X game claiming to be the "genuine spiritual successor" to classic 4X games like Master of Magic. For very different reasons this again is more of a niche product, and again there are just 1,500 backers; of course the goal is set much lower than for Camelot Unchained, so Worlds of Magic has a better chance of reaching its funding goal of a modest £30,000.

But even with Worlds of Magic I felt a kind of disconnect between what I think that the cost of making a game like this to high quality standards is, and what I think how many people are willing to pay how much for. How much of a game can you make for £30,000 (especially with 3D graphics animations)? How much of a MMORPG can you make for $2,000,000? And if you increase the budget to make a better technical quality of game, how are you going to finance it if there are less than 10,000 people around who would want to play it?

In the interests of clarity:

1. The quote you excerpt from Spinks is specifically about the "Darkness Falls" style dungeon, not the whole game. I happen to agree that making a set-piece dungeon that revolves around griefing other players isn't a particularly attractive concept, but it's just one dungeon. The rest of Camelot Unchained doesn't appear to follow that model at all.

2. Mark Jacobs has $2m of his own money and $1m from investors set aside already, so the total available to make CU, should the Kickstarter succeed, is $5m, not $2m. Whether five million is enough is another question.
I found Warlock to be a "good enough" successor to Master of Magic; not sure another one's needed for a long time.

I've been thinking a lot about Kickstarter. I've been wondering recently how it might be doing the opposite of what we'd hoped. It was initially praised as being a way to get away from what the giant corps want to do - please the masses. Yet, KS is fundamentally a popularity contest, where better sizzle, and not steak, is rewarded. I only donated to a few things there - an diversity art project for fantasy art and Ferrel's various books - and I think I'm happy I kept to just those.

Interesting post, and thanks for the link to Spinks's; it was excellent, as you said.
I think the statement that there are only 10K people interested in playing a game like Camelot Unchained is based on faulty logic. How many people do you know that even know what Kickstarter is let alone have funded projects? I got a closed beta account for World of Warcraft just a couple months before it released, but prior to the day a friend gave me that account I had never even heard of it. And I've always been amazed at the number of people I play games with who never read any kind of gaming news or spoiler type sites. If nearly 10K people have actually heard about and funded Camelot Unchained you can probably count on there being another 4 or 5 times as many other people that would buy it and try it out at a minimum. I'm still on the fence about funding it myself simply because I haven't paid for a subscription based game in years and I don't know if I could really bring myself to do so again.
Forgot to mention in previous post:

I've recently discovered Eador: Genesis as a great 4x strategy game. They just released an updated much prettier though apparently bug laden version on Steam. But the original is very good, I've got 140 hours into it and haven't finished the campaign yet.
A game soley for pvp? Better for it to burn in development hell for all I care.
I agree with George, there is a large (enough), pvp population out there waiting for a decent pvp focused mmo... Even is out there but people want more then that and characters more tangible than a metal box.

To say there is only 10k is rather faulty reasoning, there is a myriad of reasons why it only has that much. Yeh not knowing about it could be a big deal but I think the main issue right now is that Camelot Unchained is merely ideas and principles. People want something real first, at least part of a product and right now it doesn't have that. It's also a little to do with Marks reputation, in particular screwing over a large pop who bought into the War hype.

One thing to note in all this is just how passionate and dedicated this population is. Great pledge amounts per person, massive comment spam, and the general exuberance for the project by those that have backed it is overwhelming. Maybe it is a smaller group then originally thought but this sounds like the kind of population that would be very loyal to the game if choice.. And make a very sustainable long term mmo.

Also to compare Darkfall and this new project is a little snide. Two different development companies, engines, mechanics, goals, and overall completely different game.

Also pls don't misrepresent my articles again to further your own agenda. It's great getting the views as a newbie blog but I'd rather not get them this way
You call Darkfall, and I quote "a half assed game at best". I don't think I misrepresented your article. If you were planning to give a more positive view of Darkfall, I'd say you failed at it.
sorry I should have explained that comment. It was more how you said "darkfall still sucks" when that was not my overall impression...mechanically yes but their are some surprisingly raw and brilliant moments of gameplap hidden away within.

It was also how you used it's failure as a way of discounting Camelot Unchained (yes getting defensive as I have a bias), like somehow by association every pvp game will always "suck". I here that comment a lot and it always irks a little, hard day at work and I took the bait...I Apologise

The thing about Worlds of Magic is that as a turn-based strategy game, its success will depend more on gameplay and balance than on production values. Make the game good enough and few will care too much if the graphics are uninspired.
Camelot Unchained will probably not live up to expectations. PVPers are really demanding and haven't been satisfied with anything in the last few years (Aion, TERA, WAR, GW2). The game I've heard most people harken back to is DAOC, and even then it's split about 50/50 between people saying DAOC was amazing or an unbalanced mess.
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