Kickstarter do's and don'ts: Pantheon vs. Star Citizen.

Mouser

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Alright, to try to get this back on topic, and since no one's really talked about it much - here are my initial impressions:

Pantheon: Brad Mcquaid's new baby. If you really took the time to read through all the stuff on the kickstarter and all his interviews (I was alpha testing Landmark at the time, so he was a frequent topic of conversation) he had very grandiose ideas of what could be achieved - all the way up to people hosting private servers for User Generated Content.

His Vision is very much about the old school mentality - long corpse runs, harsh death penalties, slow travel. There is a small but very vocal group of gamers who want an MMO like this. The problem, as I see it, is that people didn't do those things when Everquest first launched because they enjoyed them. They put up with them because there were no other choices out there (yes, you had The Realm and Meridian 59 and Ultima Online). Now, when there are many MMO's to choose from, people aren't so keen on waiting fifteen minutes for a boat to show up to take them places.

Brad brings something else to the table: His past. He did a great job with Everquest, but he had Smedley looking over his shoulder controlling costs and keeping production flowing. When he tried to replicate his success with Vanguard, he couldn't do it. Worse, he had several very public personal 'failures' along the way, the most famous of which is not having the balls to fire his own staff in the parking lot.

What I DIDN'T see in any of the videos or interview was a counterpart for him to act like Smedley. He did nothing to show how this project would be different than Vanguard part two. So what Zoltor alluded to came into play, at least in my mind, that he wouldn't be able to responsibly spend that money. His money goal was also way too low for the things he was talking about doing. If he promised less, and asked for less, then added those other things as stretch goals once the game was funded, it very well may have turned out differently.

Now - Star Citizen. This game is for all the PC Gamers that loved Freelancer, the X series (especially those that felt burned by X-Rebirth), and people who just want a kick-ass non-console PC game in general. The type of game he (and others on his team) have successfully developed in the past.

He was asking for a lot (I forget what the initial goal was), but that got blown by so fast it probably made his head spin. So he started listing stretch goals - each one making sense, showing how it would improve the game, while still sounding achievable. His videos show actual gameplay footage, so you can see how the game is progressing. He laid out his plan for how he was going to achieve everything he talked about from the very beginning.

Letting players 'pick' their in game ship by pledge tier was (and still is, since you can still do it) absolute genius. Since I first started this thread, he's gotten a little over 250k more from 'pledges' [Pantheon has gained about another 10k] - not really pledges any more as the money goes directly into the game development: no more waiting for the kickstarter to end for either of them.

My summary: Brad has set out to build a game that only a small percent of the gaming population want anything to do with. He's done nothing to convince me he's changed his MO since his last failure (and yes, I consider Vanguard a failure). If you're new to the scene, you have the same problem - you have to convince people that you know how to handle money and that you'll be able to deliver what you promised.

Roberts found a void in the PC gaming market - with the failure of X-Rebirth and the shut-down of SWG, they simply are no good new PC space sims out there. So he came out and said he's going to build what he was successful at before, but upgraded for all the new technology - no console considerations, PC ONLY. He got people interested, involved, and convinced that he knew what he was about and would deliver the goods.

If I had the money I'd give the pledge - I love X3:TC (it will consume all your time if you let it - one of the few games it doesn't feel like cheating when you leave it running 24/7). I built a 'doughnut' space complex in the ore belt that included forty asteroids and at least that many factories, all connected by tubes churning out products and energy in a self-sufficient closed loop. My plan was to peacefully build up a fleet, go through the plots, then obliterate all the Terrans - The first Terran I met was a mouthy cute who doubted my abilites. That was a good enough reason for genocide to me D:<

While Brad speaks in vague generalities, Roberts speaks in exacting specifics. And so the two projects go on...

Edit: At this point I'll also mention that momentum is coming into play for both of them. If you give to Pantheon, you're giving money to a game that by all appearances stands a very good chance of never seeing the light of day. I imagine this also seriously hurt his chances of getting any venture capitalists involved - not being able to fund your kickstarter goal isn't the way to inspire confidence.

OTOH, if you give to Star Citizen, you're giving to a game you know is going to be finished and launched, the only question is how many new cool features will get added in between now and then. Every new million gives Roberts more time to pay his staff, which gives them more time to work on the project, polishing and finishing it, and adding new stuff as they can.
 
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mlogan

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I've come back to this thread several times, but haven't commented for a variety of reasons.

First, I didn't comment, because I wasn't even sure which Kickstarter projects you were speaking of. When I tried to search them, I found what I believe to be the Star Citizen, whereas several projects came up in a search for Pantheon, none of which seemed to be what you were talking about as they were either comic books or games with low limits that had already been funded. So, point #1 is that it would be helpful if you could post links to the specific projects you are referencing so that we could be on the same page.

Even still, I was trying to coherently form my thoughts when this thread got so epically derailed and I was trying to practice the saying "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all".

Last, my biggest hesitation is this: When I looked at Star Citizen it didn't hit home with me for this reason: It appeared that Star Citizen was being introduced by an already established company that had had previous successful games. Perhaps I'm wrong (without a direct link), but it didn't seem relevant to me, being a one-woman start-up, you know? I'm not saying that there isn't relevant information there, but it wasn't obvious. I would rather glean what knowledge I can from people like Seita who are in the same boat as I am. I feel like for me, THAT is where I am going to get the best information.
 
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Mouser

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This is the current homepage of Pantheon.

This is the current homepage of Roberts Space Industries (Star Citizen).

Here is the page with the funding info for Star Citizen.

I think both are relevant cases for everyone because there are many factors at work in both of them, but there are enough similarities to warrant a side by side comparison:

- Both have experienced teams.

- Brad is arguably one of the most experienced game designers out there, particularly for online games.

- Roberts has done successful work with space sims before.

- Both are using corporations created for their current project (so neither is an 'established' company).

- Both have the 'talent' assembled to complete a game: funding is the only real question mark.

If you want to be successful, study successful people. Even with his 'failures', Brad McQuaid is one of the most successful game designers on the planet. Roberts is no slouch either. Both are men driven to succeed, who set high expectations for themselves, and work to achieve them.

With all that established, now you can start to look for the differences between them, both as professional individuals and the teams they've assembled, the work they've done prior to the initial kickstarter, the work they've done since those kickstarters have ended, the differences in their proposed products.

I don't claim to have "the answer" for why one succeeded and the other did not. I don't even know that there is "an answer" to that question. I wasn't kidding when I said I seriously believe this will be an open case study in economics textbooks in a year or two. It isn't often that you get two 'business start-ups' so similar in many ways and happening in essentially the same time and place with such diverging results.

You may be a 'one woman startup' - but your goal is the same: to produce a profitable product at the end (I'm assuming that, you can correct me if I'm wrong, or not).

They are also more than just projects: the 'failure' of Pantheon may mark the final nail in the coffin of 'old school' MMO mechanics: the harsh death penalties, slow travel, forced grouping, etc... The success of Star Citizen may mark a resurgence in PC Gaming. There haven't been a lot of PC only titles rolling out in the last few years - certainly not in the AAA category.

Historically, games have been what has driven computer hardware improvements (porn drives internet technology, though a case could be made for Facebook/Zynga starting to take over some of that role), from the CPU's to video cards to sound boards. Without new games pushing the envelope, computer hardware development has stalled. We've been stuck with six core processors at around 4 Ghz with 16 Gig of RAM and dual SLI or Crossfire video cards for a while now. It's about time somebody came along and said 'that's not good enough'. We need more cores (maybe even dual or quad CPU's each with multi-cores), more memory (32 or 64 Gig of RAM) and GPU memory and power (multi-core GPU's with 8 Gig or more VRAM each) on more video cards (three or four-way SLI/XFire), better sound systems, etc...

Time was when Ultima released the next game in the series everyone went out and spent about two grand to buy a new computer so they could buy the game and play it. It's about time somebody started that cycle again. Once that happens, all software - from office type applications to video conferencing to whatever all start to take advantage of the new hardware. Everybody wins.
 
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mlogan

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You don't need to sound personally insulted at my remarks. I was just explaining to you why I hadn't previously commented.

"If you want to be successful, study successful people." I do agree with this, which is why I said, "I'm not saying that there isn't relevant information there, but it wasn't obvious." It is also why I've been reading a variety of stories with tips on the Kickstarter blog - from successful people and unsuccessful people alike (there always something to learn from others' mistakes), as well as looking over many projects. I just suppose I was expecting the games to be a bit more related to RM and what we do here.

I do thank you for providing the proper links, I haven't had a chance to look over them but I will at some point.
 

Mouser

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You don't need to sound personally insulted at my remarks. I was just explaining to you why I hadn't previously commented.

"If you want to be successful, study successful people." I do agree with this, which is why I said, "I'm not saying that there isn't relevant information there, but it wasn't obvious." It is also why I've been reading a variety of stories with tips on the Kickstarter blog - from successful people and unsuccessful people alike (there always something to learn from others' mistakes), as well as looking over many projects. I just suppose I was expecting the games to be a bit more related to RM and what we do here.

I do thank you for providing the proper links, I haven't had a chance to look over them but I will at some point.
Not insulted at all :)    The thread certainly took a sharp left turn at the start and didn't get back on track for a while.

I should've put the links up at the start: big omission on my part.
 
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i don't agree with the concept of Kickstarter. sure there are scams that take place but those are the extremes so i won't use them as a crutch for my argument.

i operate under the assumption that you don't deserve happiness or the perfect job; you have to earn it. the developers in the past had to donate their own time and money to make ends meet and they were hellbent on success because, again, if they didn't make a good game they lost everything. Kickstarter eliminates that completely and puts the responsibility entirely on the consumer. no longer is the developer going to take a giant loss if his project tanks. i'm sure you could see how this would effect the quality of games in the long run.

from a personal perspective i pour every single dime i make into my project, to the point where i actually gave up eating lunch. not only is this a huge motivator, but it feels...right. when my game's finished i can look back it and say "this was all me".

i really hope Kickstarter stops being relevant soon, for all of our sakes
 

Sharm

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But that's not how the gaming industry works most of the time. It's not a self investment, it's almost always an outside one. That's why things in gaming have changed so drastically since indie became a big deal. Yeah, Kickstarter does change who the developer has a responsibility to financially, but when you have an honorable developer that's a good thing. Shouldn't games be made to make players happy, not some investor or CEO?
 

Lars Ulrika

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@xxKilimxx : Good for you. Personally I can't allow myself making my two year old daughter skip her lunch, does it ring a bell? 
 
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But that's not how the gaming industry works most of the time. It's not a self investment, it's almost always an outside one. That's why things in gaming have changed so drastically since indie became a big deal. Yeah, Kickstarter does change who the developer has a responsibility to financially, but when you have an honorable developer that's a good thing. Shouldn't games be made to make players happy, not some investor or CEO?
sure i agree, Inafune and mighty no. 9 is a perfect example of this. they break away from the corporate shackles that bind them and make a game they want to make. however, this is a rare occurrence, much like the scams i mentioned in my previous post. generally the developer in question has no respect or "honor" because they haven't made a game yet, hence they're on Kickstarter.

i'm not saying you're wrong at all! my biggest gripe however is Kickstarter becoming the norm for every developer.

@xxKilimxx : Good for you. Personally I can't allow myself making my two year old daughter skip her lunch, does it ring a bell? 
? no one's asking you to do that your post doesn't make sense.
 

Sharm

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The point of this topic is to compare, contrast and learn from two of these game makers who are doing exactly what you're fine with, breaking away from the corporate model to make games for the fans. If you don't want to talk about that and want to derail the topic again with arguments about whether or not Kickstarter is worthwhile you should really be starting another thread instead.
 

Lars Ulrika

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Was answering to him but will open another thread instead.  :)
 

seita

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sure i agree, Inafune and mighty no. 9 is a perfect example of this. they break away from the corporate shackles that bind them and make a game they want to make. however, this is a rare occurrence, much like the scams i mentioned in my previous post. generally the developer in question has no respect or "honor" because they haven't made a game yet, hence they're on Kickstarter.

i'm not saying you're wrong at all! my biggest gripe however is Kickstarter becoming the norm for every developer.

? no one's asking you to do that your post doesn't make sense.
I don't agree, this is a very generalized statement in an industry that deserves to be recognized for its creativity and not for its money-making power.

The people you're talking about that have no respect or honor are on Kickstarter because it's an opportunity to make money, which is the same for every outlet where you can make money. They have varying degrees of successes and failures. As Kickstarter and other crowdfunding initiatives mature, people who donate their money will as well, and it'll be increasingly harder for those people to fool consumers.

Here's an example of a scammer who has tried multiple times:

First Attempt:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2024564809/oceania

Kicktraq: http://www.kicktraq.com/projects/2024564809/oceania/

Second Attempt:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1400130230/oceania-online-mmo-rpg

Kicktraq: http://www.kicktraq.com/projects/1400130230/oceania-online-mmo-rpg/

You can see that there's a lot of red flags in this project. Initial red flags include:

  • Unachievable goals with a very modest goal
  • Horrible english (many scammers are located in countries that cannot yet use Kickstarter, going through US proxies)
  • Immediate PayPal support (they get the money immediately, but this is a horrible practice for real devs because it does not count towards the Kickstarter goal)
  • generic graphics, screenshots or videos that show little to no gameplay. (You'll notice the video is essentially all scripted, and quite frankly, it sucks).
If these red flags are more difficult to read, you can use the rest as possible indicators.

  • Comments by the developer that promise but don't deliver. (You'll notice they comment but they never follow up on some questions or concerns)
  • Little to no updates. No visible responses to backer comments, questions or concerns.
  • No progress throughout the campaign.
  • Large infusions of cash coming out of nowhere. These are made by the creators of the project themselves to hopefully get it funded, They'll receive everyone else's money including their own (-10%) (use Kicktraq's Daily Data to see these).
You'll notice that their second attempt looks much more convincing. It's headed by a convincingly-named group, they've lowered the project goal to help it succeed and added assets that make it seem more like a game and less like vaporware.

At the same time, those same types of people are the ones who are keeping the gaming industry from innovation, repeating the same old success story again and again or copying others to line their pockets. They're often in high positions not because they're honest but because they're successful at playing the industry. Kickstarter allows the consumer to bypass these people and spend money on the games they actually want.

The majority of successful game projects on Kickstarter are spearheaded by people who have been working in the industry as content creators and creative minds, not the corporate heads we all love to hate (for good reason). They've often created many free to play games online, Flash games, or they've worked in a traditional studio funded by publishers and they want to make their game now.They usually know what they're doing. Unfortunately a lot of them don't know how to market their idea very well, and some of these projects that deserve the money simply don't get funded.

As for the rare occasion when an unproven developer such as myself gains success through Kickstarter, that's exactly what it is, a rare occasion, and I'm not taking it lightly. All I know is, I'm giving my project my very best, like no one ever has.

edit: I realize this is a pretty big tangent. To stay a little bit on topic, I think that Pantheon looks way too rough to ask for the amount it did. To anybody that has an eye for 3D modeling and animation, everything shown in the pre-alpha footage can be done fairly quickly by a small team specifically for the Kickstarter. Not saying that it's a scam, but it would have been enough to draw skepticism from me.
 
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Shaz

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Can we please stop giving our opinions about Kickstarter and limit the discussion to the subject?
 

Tsukihime

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For the space game funding, are they just collecting the money themselves?


It's a nice website though. Very clean and well-presented.
 
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Reynard Frost

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I don't agree, this is a very generalized statement in an industry that deserves to be recognized for its creativity and not for its money-making power.
Games are a business. Kickstarter is a means to an end of creating a game to make a profit and entertain the masses. Idealism is irrelevant. If a game doesn't make money, then the game dev will not be able to make more games. This isn't a charity being run. Creativity is to be encouraged, but only if it can be profitable. If it can't turn a profit, (or in the case of kickstarter) justify the investment, then it's an improper use of the funds available.

Now to be on topic and not totally disregard Shaz's shiny blue text, the proper way to do your Kickstarter is to encourage trust in your investors. Try to provide as much information as possible that will convince people that you will be able to deliver what you promise. Making a video is almost mandatory both to connect your idea with a face, and also to show that you're competent at presenting an idea. If you don't understand your game well enough to communicate it clearly in a few minutes, how can folks expect you to be able to communicate it effectively with gameplay?

If you're an unknown and you haven't made a game before, then providing a free to play demo is ALSO highly recommended if not mandatory. This shows you have the ability to not only come up with a cool idea, but see it through to some form of completion. If you can show a chunk of gameplay that speaks for itself and convinces folks that it's fun, then you can convince people to give you money to continue iterating this idea into completion.

Above all else, don't be a dick (As Wil Wheaton is so fond of saying) and don't put forth anything you wouldn't be willing to pay for yourself. If you're just churning out garbage to make a quick buck, then you have been nothing more than a scam artist, and I shall spit on your grave. However, if you work as hard as you can, and put those donated dollars to their best use, then more power to you and I wish you success in your future ventures.

This is a business folks, we are here to make enough money to make more games. If I didn't have to pay bills and rent then I'd totally make games for free to the end of my days. But until that day comes, I need to make a game that makes a profit so I can continue to follow my passions and pay to maintain my mortal frame.

Good luck and do your best.
 

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