These are my rough thoughts on what a kickstarter to rewrite the game engine could look like. Feedback/modification is appreciated
Need for a Kickstarter
Currently, the game engine is heavily outdated (being in continually development by Teppy since inception of the game) and there are many key elements missing from the game's source files (damaged/lost models being one key example). Funding is needed to bring ATITD into the modern era of graphics, improving performance, and making the overall platform stable and maintainable (which it currently is not). Exact funding is to be determined by Pluribus, as he has insight into the financials of Pluribus Games.
Feedback on Goals
I honestly think the community can't really contribute here unless the goal amount is done, even a back of the envelope. Like, are we talking about adding another full-time dev for a year, plus a part-time artist for a year? -- Eimear
With the information I've gathered, from a single email response and what's in the Fireside chats and ENN, the rewrite would be pretty extensive and require significant developer time. It sounds like either a conversion from the existing Egenesis rendering engine to either a new rendering engine, or to use an existing 3rd party (which would probably be faster but carries its own issues). We'd need Pluribus's input on what is needed there, as he has the code. It's certain that artists of some sort (not my specialty, but modelers for certain) are needed to replace the lost files. I imagine at a minimum he'd need 1-2 developers for a few months to a year to do the upgrade, as well as a handful of artsy people of various sorts for graphic related things (not sure on time commitments there). Its definitely not "cheap" by any means, but it is needed, or T7/T8 might be it for this game (which none of us want). --Dresdor
I am horrified at the thought of no ATITD and am totally on board for a Kickstarter! I just think we need to know if we're talking $30K, $70K, or $100K. -- Eimear
Without knowing the state of the code and art assets, I think we're talking somewhere in the 50-70k range. If it were less than that, Pluribus probably would have funded it before things like the music changes and other aspects. Given the financial status of the game and the number of current subscriptions (and considering many of them are probably telling-length subscriptions).
We would need Pluribus to make the call on estimating the work needed and figuring out costs (so we need to lure him over here).
Pluribus's Stated Opinion on the difficulty of a Kickstarter
In a Fireside chat (2016-03-14 00:13:52), Pluribus stated:
Pluribus: A: A successful kickstarter requires more than just desire and clicking the "Start a Kickstarter" button. It requires a significant time and resource investment to develop the plan, make videos to attract donors, constant attention to providing feedback and changes as the campaign progresses. It ALSO requires a base of donors who are willing donate considerably above and beyond the average person who would play the game in order to properly fund it. Without EITHER the time and money investments to run the campaign or the donor base, then the campaign is a waste of time/resources. When I consider that fully 1/3 of the players who have quit and answered the exit poll have stated financial reasons for quiting, I am not convinced that there is good chance of funding an engine redevelopment.
This page is in part to help alleviate the planning portion of the kickstarter, and show that there is a base of backers who would fund this idea.
Community as a Resource
One of the consistent benefits that ATITD has going for it is the large community. This is a group of people who come together to help one another out and create each new telling. For players of this game, many names are household (going to shout out Ariella for helping me get started in T4) for players of the game. Who hasn't had a strain of Tedra flax or vines? Or an Ariella/Pascalito Lilly? There are dozens of players who have skills useful for this game and who are more than willing to contribute their skills if it means Egypt continuing into the future. Not to mention that we get passionate about this game, and that passion will drive others towards it.
User created assets ?
As asset losses is a problem. There is alot of creative people among the player base. And everybody will love to see his/her models in game. Why not fire up blender and make some models? If they accepted it can be sold for some free play or game goodies. --talos
Need for New Players
This game is in need of new players and drawing back in existing or former players who are no longer subscribed. Pluribus has said clearly that the financials for the game are not in a good condition (particularly if he and his family enjoy eating and living in a house). This game should be more than capable of supporting itself if its playerbase is built up with enough left over for Pluribus & Family to live comfortably.
Existing Client and Game as a Deterrent
I've read a number of reviews over the years (one published as recently as January) that bring to light some of the issues of new players. The ones I've seen recently are:
- Game Client looks like it is from the early 2000's (because it is).
- Performance is terrible (caused by the old render engine running in a fixed pipeline vs fully programmable pipeline)
- New players are largely left to fend for themselves with no real direction. The tests are guidelines, but honestly, very few players will attempt every test. There's so much going on that new players are left lost, unless they are picked up by a guild.
- Solo-player aspects of the game are minimized (getting stone, sheep, etc is difficult as a solo player). This is a community game, but it needs to still be fun if none of your friends are online (for example, I can certainly go have fun in WoW or SWTOR if none of my friends are online, even if I'd prefer playing with them).
- The game is a large collection of highly meta mini-games. Its taken 7 tellings of experience to fully figure some things out (and some are still guesses). This is off-putting for new players who don't want to have to check the wiki for every little thing.
Kickstarter As Advertising Tool
At a minimum, running a kickstarter, successful or not, is a very cheap advertising tool. There's a story for a lot of video game blogs, news sites, etc, that an old MMO is seeking crowdfunding. Add in the fact that the existing game is available, and you'll see a surge of people logging in to see what the game is about.
Fund the rewriting of the Game Engine, recreation of lost models, recreation of lost art assets, and general game improvements to bring ATITD to a wider audience. The overall goal being to bring ATITD into the modern era of MMORPGs, improve performance, and improve the overall stability, maintainability, and ease of improvement. (note sure what of this should be stretch goals and what is the base. Probably the rewrite of the game engine and render engine should be the base as it is really needed, but the rest seem to be in support of that goal).
I've had a quick look at the Kickstarter pages relating to games development, and I see the need for a comprehensive plan before getting too far into the details. https://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/games?ref=footer
For example, the Goal looks good but needs to be related to concrete outcomes. We need to think through the market segments ATITD appeals to and what its value is to those who have chosen to make the experience part of their lives and identity. Yes, the game is deep and complex. That is what keeps me here to date. Yes, technology changes need to be addressed if the game is to have a future. Before I would feel confident about doing a solid breakdown, though, I'd need a good and thorough understanding of the $$$, costs and worth of the investment components. I can start with thinking through a decision tree for developing a project plan if that would help though I'm sure others have deeper knowledge of project managing in a gaming environment - mine is all a bit military. A useful thing would be for Pluribus to nominate a small group of trusted people with diversity of interests (sort of like a 'Senate Committee') to lead a timeline linked to critical decision points. It would be a brilliant platform for a player meet, but given we are a pretty global community that is probably not as feasible as I would wish. As we are (I estimate) roughly mid tale and investment proposals take a while to pull together properly and consider a range of alternatives this would need to happen fairly soon. - cate
- Special Thanks/Special Mention (Low tier reward, probably $1-5)
- T-Shirts, Ballcaps, some other physical merchandise
- See if any active players can make things ATITD related and partner with them (good publicity for them as well as ATITD).
- Subscriptions? Perhaps at a higher cost than what's in the store to support ATITD? I don't like this idea very much but its an obvious one. Maybe giftable subscription tokens that are good for the rest of the telling? I'd avoid T8 subscription pre-sales as T8 is not guaranteed at this point nor do you want to spend subscription money on the rewrite.
- Loot Crate-esque subscription, either in game or IRL. Monthly you receive a cache of goodies that are ATITD related (could tie in to donations from players who make real things). Alternatively, you receive an in-game crate that has a random reward in it from a small list (including rarer items like new plant genomes). Maybe something like an IndieBox?
Feedback on Reward Ideas:
Having organised a couple of Kickstarters, I cannot emphasize enough how much you want to avoid shipping physical goods. The overhead for *any* physical good is high, and the shipping is labour-intensive as well as spendy. It is also a nightmare to organize t-shirt sizes and genders. Baseball caps have their own issues. A monthly physical goods subscription box just takes this form of hell and multiplies it times 12. I would genuinely recommend doing one physical item, tied to the ATITD theme, and using it as a high reward level.
In-game items also have an overhead but can be variations on existing tech that do not require manual intervention from the developers in-game. They would have to be tied to the registration system, but it could be done. Some ideas:
- $10: A clothing pattern or outfit only for backers
- $25: A +1 stats boost on something (let's say speed)
- $50: An exclusive beetle colour/pattern
- $100: A game asset re-named for you, like an herb or a building or something
- $250: You get to name the horses at any CS (I would seriously pay for this...!)
- $500: See below. Make the physical reward available at this level.
- $1,000: I have not really thought through what you'd offer at these levels but you definitely want to offer them. Sure, a lot of people quit doe to the cost but you only need one player who isn't constrained by finances to make this reward happen.
I agree that physical rewards are a PITA, and I'd prefer to keep things in-game (which is why most of my ideas are in that area). The difficulty is that some people need/want a physical reward. We could take this into an electronic area, and make it something that doesn't need to be physically shipped (issue being, why wouldn't someone just propagate it so only one ever needs to be given away)? In-game only rewards are also a problem for anyone who wants to support the game, but doesn't want to play/doesn't have time to play.
Also I really appreciate your feedback and expertise, Eimear, as I do not have experience running a kickstarter and would not have considered the logistics of physical rewards :)
The rewards listed above means nothing to someone who never heard of ATITD or never played it before. ATITD might be a game with great game mechanics, suffering from old graphics to you and me but for someone who finds out about it from this kickstarter it's just an old game in a desert. This person has no reason to invest in the game. Even if the potential it has was explained well enough, the game just isn't pretty enough for todays gaming community to desire to play it. Not to mention they are giving their money to Pluribus Games which is a company they never heard of before in an era where developers take early-access money and build houses. The key to a succesfull kickstarter (for gaming) is wow factor. Unless some work can be done on graphics to demo what the game can become (or at least a cinematic trailer) before the kickstarter, the number of interested people will be very low. I have to agree with Pluribus on the difficulty of a successful kickstarter for atitd.
I'm sure if Pluribus was behind doing a kickstarter, and asked, members of the community could come together to help build a cinematic trailer, or some kind of examples of an art upgrade (though I agree there's a high barrier to exceed. I'd just like it to be openly discussed and considered instead of the entire answer being akin to "its hard"). ATITD is somewhat unique in the MMO realm, with the focus on cooperative gameplay and community building instead of combat. A kickstarter video featuring that viewpoint, as well as things like interviews with long-time players and hitting other key points could be useful.
I do agree that a kickstarter for an old looking game by a virtually unheard of company has a hurdle or ten to cross and its not going to be easy, but the very real alternative is the lights getting turned off as fewer and fewer players subscribe (and being pragmatic, the real reason there hasn't been more financial problems this telling is the number of telling-wide subscriptions that were sold). I feel that if the telling were to end after 18 months, and T8 to start, the subscriber numbers would be lower overall. So the decision for Pluribus becomes do something that is hard to set up the game and his company up for success in the future, or wait for the situation to get harder on its own.
Now, actually getting the web store up and running might mitigate that somewhat, but that's another thing that's been long promised and hasn't been heard about lately. I think one major challenge with a kickstarter in this environment is going to be effective communication.
In game rewards
It should be possible to select these rewards for T7 or T8 (or potentially T9 if the rewrite will take a long time).
- In game cosmetic items/clothes that are not generally available
- In game pets (cats, dogs, ponies)
- In game resources (e.g. crate of 10,000 flax or some other item. Maybe rarer gems (Huge gems) or already cut gems of hard to make patterns Make this purchasable multiple times as part of the campaign, as I think this would be a high demand item. I'm not a fan of this or any in-game functional items being available in the store permanently)
- Custom Emotes or Titles
- Extra cornerstones (you can't even have enough)
- Special Buildings only available for the event (e.g. a digger that doesn't take petroleum that runs automatically, a crematorium that perfectly burns ash/lime without tending, a firepit that stokes itself, a greenhouse that generates flax at a specific rate instead of just grass). Reuse of in-game art assets should be prioritized to reduce costs.
- In T8 have a region named after you/name a region (within limits).
- Camp Decoration (can be purchased multiple times, functionally equivalent to what's in the store, but maybe this one can add a few wood worth of trees or something).
- Pharaoh's Wine: a bottle of wine that can fulfill a requirement on a wine notebook (user's choice). Unlike normal wine, this cannot be tasted, only used as a menu item. This should have a cool in-game art asset and be placeable in a compound if not used.
- Pharaoh's Cuisine: A one-serving meal that gives a Gastonomy point. This should have a cool in-game art asset and be placeable in a compound if not used.
- Pharaoh's Hashish: A one-dose herb that gives a fumeology point. This should have a cool in-game art asset and be placeable in a compound if not used.
- Pharaoh's Ancient Map: A map of ore locations in a small area. This should have a cool in-game art asset and be placeable in a compound if not used. Since mines don't break anymore, this might not be as useful in T7, but could be very useful in the beginning of T8.
- Pharaoh's Secret Oasis: This should be a very rare and expensive reward. You are given the ability to work with a GM to drastically change the ecology of an area out in the desert. You can add whatever resources you want there, even special ones (e.g. add water/dirt/clay/limestone/white sand, red sand, etc). Downside is that it has to be far away from chariot stops, and has to conform to some decency standards (no spelling out bad words in limestone or anything)
- Pharaoh's Special Chariot: Reduces your TT consumption significantly (halved, quartered) when using various warps.
- Pharaoh's Student: halves costs of learning skills
- Pharaoh's Garden: Limited Edition/Special flowers that can be crossbred as normal (perhaps colors that are hard to do. A little superfluous with mutagenics being unlocked, but I'm sure there's people out there that want new flowers).
- Raeli Paintshop: Special building that allows you to combine paint colors and white raeli tiles to create colored tiles of that type.
The Proposal Comments
Before any crowd funded scheme can be launched you need to know how much you will need to achieve the goals. It cannot be a "wave in the air". Pluribus/Teppy know how much each aspect of the game costs and I would hazard a guess that the amounts are not trivial. It isn't just how many person-hours it takes to code X, it's all the stuff the goes with it, like graphic templates, 3D rendering, physix, world design (we can fly airships but we cannot jump) along with marketing and advertising.
Crowd funding isn't any better than private fund raising. Crowd funding can be hazardous too if the project fails to satisfy the funders. Most crowd funded sites have a "refund" option and the monies are not distributed in a big lump to avoid fraud. There's plenty of fraud anyway on those sites or near-fraud where the scheme fails but the majority of the money got distributed. But it would be disastrous for Pluribus if the scheme failed and refunds were demanded after they had already been spent on development.
- Old Adage: 80% of the task is done in 80% of the time allocated. The next 20% of the task take another 80% of the time.
Game funding is popular if the scheme has a popular "image" or comes from a "big name" developer. Niche games with no combat and no micro-transactions and no big name developer behind them may not garner the amount of money needed to cover the overhead of setting up the scheme.
Past chats with Teppy about crowd funding or private funding all revolved around the cost and that players have no concept of the costs involved. It's not fund $1,000 and we're good to go. In one popular combat game a Cosmetic Armour set cost $50,000 dollars(1) for the artwork alone. Then the artwork has to be stretched onto the avatar manikin frame. Next it has to have a "place" to acquire the armour such as a quest line or placed in a micro transaction store.
- (1)$50,000 was the cost several years ago.
Game development isn't cheap. Even a non-combat game like ATITD isn't cheap to produce.
So, how did Teppy do it? From T4-T6 it was pretty clear. Pluribus is likely spending "Sweat Equity" hoping to make enough to keep the lights on. Could he use some cash? I'm sure he could but getting $10,000 probably isn't going to be much help. If you want to make a dent in development the amount raised would likely need a few extra zeros on the end of it. Consider the cost of hiring just one Full Time Game Developer @ $150-300K or paying the existing "volunteer" staff. Would the crowd funding raise enough money to hire one Full Time Game Developer for 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? Because a one-time small cash infusion isn't going to make the game sustainable.
If you want more sustainability, then you are looking at adding more Marketing. Trade Shows and such. Those aren't cheap either. A single booth at a small show can be more than $10,000 and upwards from there. Where's the funds for that? That has to be part of the plan. Add in travel and expenses and having something ready to show (newest updates) and marketing swag. Even our tee-shirts aren't cheap to buy. Yes they are cheaper by the hundreds but they still cost a lot. And you need to put staff in the booth too. More payroll.
So, if you are going to attempt crowd funding the amount raised needs to be a Huge Mound of Loots. Zhukuram 04:30, 30 June 2016 (EST)
(So first of all before I start, I dont actually know what language ATITD is coded in but since its from 2000, I will assume its C++, even if its not it does not really matter, high end Object-Orientated Programming jobs usually pay around the same amount anyway.)
Per Annum Development Costs
- 1 Developer = £57,500 ($76,100)
- 1 3D Artist = £24,886 ($32,935)
- Maximum Cost = $109,035
I'm sorry to say this but there may be times when Pluribus would need to work extra hours, beyond what he really wants too, welcome to the world of business, sometimes its hard and you have to put in more effort than you would like to but that is how you make yourself successful. So with 1 additional developer, Pluribus and a 3d artist... along side all the developers and artists that play this game who are attracted to it for its unique style of play, this game could be fixed for a maximum cost of $109,035 as it stands right now. Ofcourse there are marketing costs to add to that if you want to re-advertise the game once its been fixed but lets take things one step at a time.
These costs will not develop you a new game, but it will develop you a stable game that people will actually have the desire to play and want to pay for which is a better starting point than the state of the game currently allows for... something along the lines of "one small step for Pluribus games, one giant leap for ATITD". This will inturn, bring players back and assuming the system is brought up to standard properly, add hints and tips for new players to help them learn the game and it will attract more players, allowing for further developments to continue happening cause the game will generate revenue from being stable.
The Defeatist Attitude
I'm just going to go ahead and say this because its about time someone did.
Comments from Pluribus like:
- "When I consider that fully 1/3 of the players who have quit and answered the exit poll have stated financial reasons for quiting, I am not convinced that there is good chance of funding an engine redevelopment." are just redundant, this is just another way of saying "This means I actually need to make an effort and show some care so lets not bother".
- When people put on the poll for quitting "financial reasons" they do not mean, "I cannot afford to play this game" they mean "I see no developer input for things that have been broken for years so there is no justification in paying to play a game where the developer does not appear to care".
- I personally have offered to do art work for this game free of charge just because I like the game and the response i got via email was quite literally "whats the point".
Until this attitude goes away, this game is not fixable. The style of game that this is requires constant input from a developer, it requires world events and gatherings otherwise it cannot survive.
There are at least 5 new crafting style mmo's that are due to release this year so the type of game is still very popular, someone just needs to actually make an effort to promote atitd again