Kickstarter Controversy Hits

Kickstarter, and the mass of games projects looking for funding through it, has been a continued subject of discussion this year – but over the last few days that murmur has risen into a roar. Catalysed by the announcement that the Pathfinder MMO project is running a second Kickstarter funding round, MMO bloggers from all over the world are discussing the good, the bad and the implausible of crowdsourced funding:

  • Unsubject is fair but skeptical in a thorough discussion of the Pathfinder Kickstarter strategy“Here’s a studio with a lot of promises about what the game will contain when finished four years from now, and you can get in on the ground floor if you put your money in now. As an added attraction, if you spend $100 or more, you’ll get into early beta.”
  • Chris at Level Capped praises a Kickstarted MMO that seems to be getting it right – crafting MMO GreedMonger“My interest in this project has grown accordingly. Other projects that I’ve backed that have had fewer updates have more or less fallen off my radar.”
  • Adam at The Noisy Rogue finds that the second Pathfinder Kickstarter makes him extremely suspicious“If investors wouldn’t get your vision, why the hell would you start up the first kickstarter in order to secure funding from investors? “
  • Massively launches their new Think Tank column with a discussion of the pros and cons of Kickstarter“Philosophically, I love the idea of throwing a bunch of ideas at Kickstarter and seeing what sticks, but piles of failed MMO Kickstarters, most of which never had a chance anyway, hurt the industry and allow all the usual suspects to declare MMOs a failed genre.”
  • And Tobold looks at the ways Kickstarter games can turn out massively different than they were promised“I am sure that many games change a lot during the development process. Most of the time nobody even notices, because that all happens behind closed doors. “

Have you Kickstarted a game? Would you?

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“It’s Just A Game”, Sandbox Constriction, and more

It’s been a busy couple of days for the blogosphere! As a result, we’re going to break with our normal sequence of events today, and start with a few great posts from the last day or so that you might have missed!

  • Adam at The Noisy Rogue points to a great comment from the Pathfinder developers, explaining that just because you’re playing a sandbox game, there’s no reason you’ll be able to play whatever you want“You can’t play your character “any way you want”. You have to play a character that is constrained by the internal logic of the game world.”
  • Lewis at Stynlan’s Musings comes up with a particularly powerful comparison point against the old “it’s just a game” argument“I am also fairly willing to bet that many EVE players who are part of the Alliance Tournament teams – not all to be sure, but many – probably spend a not dis-similar number of hours practicing their craft as any professional sportsman or woman.”
  • Spinks at Spinksville writes a fascinating discussion of the ways in which we learn whilst playing MMORPGs“Learning in groups. You join a group, watch what they do and copy it. This is also known as social learning. Now, human beings will tend to learn all sorts of things in groups as well as boss strategies, such as how to behave towards other players.”
  • And Klepsacovic of Troll Racials Are Overpowered leaps into the “realism” argument, pointing out that most of the time, arguments about “realism” are actually discussing plausibility instead“Given the fantasy setting, fire may simply have different rules, so that it can be easily dissipated or the armor itself may have a very high specific heat, meaning that it takes a great deal of energy to raise the temperature of it. There are many possible reasons.”

Got a second? If you could tell us what you think of the Melting Pot we’d be much obliged!

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EVEning all! Deaths in EVE, battles in EVE, and games which will look like EVE…

I’ve been seeing something of a resurgence in EVE Online discussion on the blogosphere of late. Possibly it’s the way that WoW is quietening down, possibly it’s spacey-wacey spillover from the SWTOR Experience, possibly it’s just a zeitgeist thing.

Regardless, after last year’s rocky, monocle-filled flight path, it would appear that EVE is back.

  • The Ancient Gaming Noob writes an entertaining, rambling story of his first PvP death in EVE“I had the location for the delivery. I opened up the map, I found the system, and I made it my destination. I then undocked my ship, turned on the auto-pilot, and walked away from my computer to watch a movie with my wife in the other room.”
  • Syncaine has an extremely short but interesting post about a major EVE battle, which despite the snark does succeed in making the game sound intriguing.
  • And The Noisy Rogue has been following the announcements about the Pathfinder MMO, and wonders if we’re about to get the fantasy version of EVE“This is what makes an MMO; an online organic world that is always growing and evolving based on what the players themselves do and decide.”

Are you considering turning to the EVE side?

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How can limiting the Pathfinder MMO to only 5k players be a good business plan?

Everyone knows there’s only one way to launch an MMO, right? And that’s BIG. SWTOR big. 5 million players on launch, crashing servers everywhere, massive influx and immediate floods of cash. Anything else is a disaster!

Well, no, it isn’t. Bubbling under the MMO surface there have long been games that operate on a completely different model – Pot favourite A Tale In The Desert, for example, which only ever has a few thousand players. And today, the developers of the upcoming (and eagerly awaited) Pathfinder MMORPG have posted a fascinating commentary on their intended approach – which involves a low development cost, and tiny numbers of players – by design – at launch

“Lisa’s challenge to figure out how to make the game on a lean budget led me to the realization that the last thing we want is a huge spike of players followed by a rapid decline. What we want instead is a slow, steady growth of players—the same kind of growth that EVE Online has experienced almost every year since its launch. Since Goblinworks won’t have to pay off a huge theme park mortgage, our focus will instead be on making our virtual world as engaging as possible and sustaining that virtual world as the population grows over years of time.

But a sandbox needs a critical mass of players to interact with each other, or they may as well be playing a solo game. One part of the design that helps determine the amount of interaction is the density of the world—how big is it and how many characters are in that space?

We believe that we’ve solved that equation in a surprising way, which led us to what we think is a revolutionary plan.

At launch, and for the first seven months following, we will cap new paying players at 4,500 per month. Four thousand five hundred new paying players monthly. We expect to keep only about 25% of those players on a long-term basis, so after we factor in attrition of each month’s signups, we end up with 16,500 paying players at the end of that seven-month period.”

The blog post’s a little bit “corporate speak” – one gets the sense that there are facts being spun pretty hard as you read – but other than that, it’s a really fascinating read. As someone who has been involved in the games industry myself, I’ve long wondered why there aren’t more games exploring the “modest number of players / low development cost” space, and I’ll be very interested to see how they do. I’m a bit dubious if their optimism toward middleware (pre-written game components) will play out – my experience is that middleware, whilst great, doesn’t work nearly as “out of the box” as promised – but we’ll see. And obviously, as a sandbox fan, I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop.

I’m also looking forward to seeing how their developer blog develops – whether it ends up basically being a PR bugle, or whether we get to see real insights into the development process a la sites like Elder Game. But for now, have a read, and enjoy seeing the start of another possibly-great, possibly-doomed MMO adventure!

What do you think? Could the “only 5k players, please” approach be revolutionary?

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