Gorgon Kickstarter is Coming!

Why Kickstarter?

The scene is my home office, about a month ago. Sandra is acting as producer for the MMO, looking over the schedule.

Sandra: “So you’re behind schedule… by… let’s see, six months.”
Eric: “Yes.”
Sandra: “Well, we’ll just have to cut some more features to make it fit!”
Eric: “What?! You already made me cut Dark Geology. And Meteorology with real meteors! And were-tigers! There’s practically nothing left to cut now!”
Sandra: “You could cut this dungeon… the one labeled ‘a dungeon more vast than any other MMO dungeon has ever been’… I’m not sure that’s even a selling point.”
Eric: “But it’s part of my Vision for the game! It has to stay!”
Sandra: “Okay, let’s look at the art requirements. What the hell, you added more stuff to the list! What’s this, Bugbear Troubadors?”
Eric: “It subverts all the bugbear tropes while bringing them back to their classic form, of a creepy bear in the woods. But now they play a banjo! That’s gotta be in the game. It’s just got to. I… don’t think it’s worth making the game without that…”
Sandra: “But you just thought of that yesterday!”
Eric: “… true…”
Sandra: “Okay. Let me explain it in terms you can understand: Star Trek. Our credit cards are like shields that protect against being homeless. And they cannot sustain this much additional damage without a hull breach. So you either need to make more cuts, or find more money.”
Eric: “Find more money! Right!”

Why Really Kickstarter?

Well, the above scene is exaggerated, but I really did have to cut all those things, and many more. But I guess the big problem is that the game can’t be too small or it will flop. While playing the early version, I’ve come to suspect there won’t be enough content. Not enough land masses, NPCs, places to go and people to stab. I fear it wouldn’t hold people’s interest long enough: they’d burn through everything within a month — maybe even just a few weeks — and be gone.

I want to do monthly updates for the game after it launches, but if there’s nobody left to see them, what’s the point? An MMO needs a certain scale before it can keep users hooked in.

To be successful, I think it needs to launch with more areas, more monsters, more… stuff. But I can’t afford that. So I’m working up a Kickstarter plan. If it works, I’ll be able to push the game launch out until late 2013, and hire artists to make content while I work on game systems, areas, and combat polish. If the Kickstarter was REALLY successful, Sandra could afford to work more on the MMO, too, instead of doing useful work to pay the bills!

And also, man it would be awesome to have voice-overs for principal characters… and bugbears with banjos. And I really want to do playable fairy princesses, but REAL ones, with a suite of fairy powers and a fae court… sorry, I got distracted.

I guess no matter how much money I have, there’ll always be a lot of hard calls to make in terms of what gets added. But the fact is right now, I’m cutting too deep.

Kickstarter Rewards?

So I’m brainstorming Kickstarter rewards. I’ll pitch you some of my more insane ideas later this week, but right now I’d really like to know what works for you in a Kickstarter.

There’s all the obvious things, like:

  • “Gold” access (gold users have access to all the skills in the game, whereas F2P players can only play a limited set of roles and skills)
  • Reserve your character name
  • Get into the closed beta
  • Get to vote on “what do I add and what do I cut”

Conor Brace (who’s doing the soundtrack for the game) has graciously offered to add a digital soundtrack album to the list of rewards I can give out, too. I also have a lot of crazy ideas for higher-level rewards, too — but let me get my thoughts in order before I talk about those. Probably later this week.

In the mean time, what do you look for in a Kickstarter campaign? And what would convince you to pay, say, $20? (Please don’t say t-shirts, please don’t say t-shirts, please don’t say…) I want to avoid physical items because I have no skill or experience in getting those done, and it will take a ton of time… longer than custom in-game items and systems would! But seriously, if t-shirts or other swag is what excites you, please let me know!

 

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27 Responses to Gorgon Kickstarter is Coming!

  1. Bryant says:

    I could probably be convinced to kick in $20+ if I’d worked with you in the past and had a lot of confidence in your skills, which I have and do, but that’s hard to replicate for a larger audience.

    In the Add More Work For Eric category, perhaps opportunities to write content for the game? I am thinking quest creation might be too big a task; NPC dialogue? Barks? I bet there are some people who would pay $50 if they could put ten barks (approved, of course) in the game.

    $1000 tier: one week login screen sponsorships. “Project Gorgon was sponsored by So and So this week.” I’m thinking the kind of thing you see on baseball-reference.com. Might be too much like advertising, since after all it would be advertising.

  2. Bill says:

    I’m in. Doesn’t matter what the rewards are, I’m in. I just kicked $100 to the D&D documentary, and more than that to OUYA; and this is much cooler than either one of those. So yeah, I’m in.

  3. Anjin says:

    You have got to sell NPCs in the game. You can sell tiers from names to dialogues and on up. I would love name one of your slutty elves.

    Also, DO NOT DO T-SHIRTS!!! From what I’ve seen in other Kickstarters, they are a lot more expensive than you would expect. That really goes for any physical item. Stick to game stuff if you can.

  4. Conor says:

    -> In the mean time, what do you look for in a Kickstarter campaign?

    Three things:

    1) Do I care about what the developer is trying to do?
    “I set out to make an MMO for people who want to explore complex game systems and make truly meaningful character choices…”

    2) Can they actually pull it off?
    “You may remember me as Citan from Asheron’s Call 2… I’ve worked on A, B, and C… I know a one-man MMO project seems hopelessly naive, but check it out: you can play an early alpha version right now !”

    3) Do they actually need my money?
    “As you can see, there’s a limited amount of content and the art is pretty basic. With the funds from Kickstarter I’ll be able to do X, Y, and Z…”

    For what it’s worth, if your Kickstarter page is as open, honest, and passionate as your blog, I think your odds are pretty good. :)

    -> And what would convince you to pay, say, $20?

    For some reason, $15 sticks in my head as a basic price point where I would expect to receive a copy of the game. (Or I guess in this case, a “gold account.”)

    Above that point ($20-25 or more), I would expect some kind of minor in-game acknowledgement. For an MMO that could be unique pet, an emote, a hat/cape/crest/tabard… or even just a title. (Oh god, the farming I did in GW1 to get for GW2…)

    $50+ starts to be “collector’s edition” material. Soundtracks, concept art, a book of lore… digital versions, physical versions, limited/signed versions.

    Then you can do the “make your mark on the game” stuff: pitch me an idea for a skill, write an epitaph for a tombstone, record a brief voiceover line, my artist will make an NPC that looks like you, my composer will sneak your name into the score as a musical cryptogram…

    Actually that would be awesome fun, you can totally use that if you want… :) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_cryptogram

    And then of course you need the “shoot for the moon” category — if some wealthy patron wants to give you ten grand, what kind of grand tour, fine dining experience, and/or wild party will you throw them? :)

  5. Conor says:

    Also, I second Anjin’s suggestion… people would LOVE to write slutty elf dialogue.

  6. Timulus says:

    Definitely one of the rewards should be the equivalent of pre-ordering the game. I find the idea of a “gold” account very enticing but nothing that impacts gameplay. Gameplay perks or advantages tend to draw resentment from other players and feel more like a curse than a boon.

    I would want some kind of subtle marking that distinguished me as an early supporter of the game like a different color name or an emblem next to the name. If you plan to implement things like titles or tabards, having it as a title/tabard is not as appealing because it forces you to choose whether an in-game accomplishment is more or less important than support of the game.

    Also I agree with Anjin. I’m a big fan of getting to name an NPC (subject to your approval).

  7. 3d Mark says:

    The short answer: I’d love to have my name on an NPC somewhere in the world. Nothing special, some random dude in some lonely corner of the world.

    The longer answer: I’ve been following this blog since the beginning. I’m still not really sure how this game is fundamentally different from all the other MMOs I’m bored with. I know that there are a lot of detail-level differences, but I’d love to see a really clear one paragraph explanation of how this is going to be a truly new experience.

  8. Kyre says:

    To put this into perspective, I’ve kickstarted Shadowrun Online, and they got my money for a game that interested me, and nice reward levels.

    My personal levels of ‘here’s how much my wallet can bear’ based on the game as I’ve heard it so far:

    $20: Pre-order of game.
    $40: Beta access to the game (+ Pre-order)
    $75: Beta access to the game, added extras (special in-game housing, skills, etc)
    $100: Beta access to the game, name a NPC / other major standing impact on world.

    $100 is about the most my wallet can ever bear for a game, so barring some incredibly cool idea that makes me abandon other Kickstarter campaigns in favor of handling it, I would barely look over the >$100 entries (aside from drooling over them), with one exception–a well done duo pack (Instead of $40 for Beta access, $70 earns 2 copies of the game with beta access) may draw not only myself in, but one of my friends to join in on the fun.

  9. Yeebo says:

    What I need to support a kickstarter project is something that comes in at 20-$35 that sounds like an extremely well priced pre-order. A bargain I couldn’t get if I wasn’t willing to support the game before it’s certain to ever actually exist. Hitting your kickstarter goal hardly guarantees that…many kickstarter projects that hit their funding goal and take my money will still fail. I accept that.

    However, in return for making a bet, I need a better potential return on investment than simply pre-ordering at Gamestop. At the very least I’ll want a client and some sub time/ store points. A token item no-one that didn’t kickstarter can get like a title, a pet, or some rad cosmetic gear would also be nice. Access to all the beta’s is also nearly a requirement.

  10. Elbrasch says:

    Well, what is with a town of Krickstarter (for legal reasons), where all funder, with a certain level of money given, life as npcs with their name, and all npcs have became homesick because they are forced to stay in this game since the kickstartercampaigne? You could even make it a minor/major questhub where everybody is complaining how awfull the game/world is and how the player should never check out location xy and do crazy stuff yz (some of them could really work, to bring player to try them all).
    Of course this town shouldn’t be in the newby area, won’t do you any good to demotivate them from the start ;)

  11. Elbrasch says:

    Ah, sorry for double post, but it would be, for obvious reasons, that the funder choose the name for the npcs. I for myselfe wouldn’t want my real name in a game, but my online identity (this name) is another thing.

  12. Harald says:

    We were looking into Kickstarter incentives a while back for our project (TBA) and I think actual physical swag sadly is part of a successful drive. While art prints obviously is the easiest. T-shirts and keyrings are nice.
    I’d recommend looking at alibaba.com for stuff such as goblets, key-rings and USB-sticks. (There’s always the moral aspect of probably using Chinese sweat shop labour, but if you want affordable swag “Made by actual paid adults in the USA” is probably not going to help you, sadly)
    For t-shirts I’d try to partner with an existing printer. My recommendation is Grumpy Clothing (http://www.grumpyclothing.com/) because not only is the company Canadian and uses high quality Americal Apparel shirts but Liam who runs it is a really nice fellow (tell him Harald from Sweden says so).
    I don’t know how he feels about partnering with someone for a kickstarter however, but the fine thing is that you can probably strike a good deal and not having to print anything until you actually have money in the bank and know how many items you need. And if he’s not up for it, there’s printers galore out there in t-shirt land.

    Also… I’ve analyzed kickstarter a bit. If you want to make money, especially with an unknown property and an non-established team. You’ll want a really good video. Don’t skimp on sound production. Bad direct to camera mic sound will kill you. Don’t skimp on lighting. If you sit in the shadows lit only by your computer screen like the sinister half-brother of Dilbert you’re dead.
    Make sure you have pretty art both on the kickstarter page, your blog and in the video. (Prints of these (or a digital pdf-artbook if you got enough) can be part of the incentive) Hire someone to produce some if you don’t have any.
    Try and put in short and actually meaningful game play clips but not too many or too long.
    Keep your initial kickstarter video under five minutes.

  13. Harald says:

    Oh… and don’t under-price your physical rewards. You still need to make more money off that reward level than you’d make if someone bought the non-physical :) But I guess that goes without saying.

  14. We wrestled with exactly the same issues for our kickstarter. We had no experience with physical rewards, so our approach was to treat the lower reward tiers as, essentially, pre-orders for the game with some Kickstarter exclusive in-game bonuses and then use physical rewards at higher tiers and limit their availability.

    I’d recommend against t-shirts and badges because they don’t justify a high price, but fulfilment costs and time will be a huge pain. Art prints haven’t been hugely popular for us (but art has been a major benefit in making the KS page look pretty).

    Ideally, you want something a bit out of the ordinary for a physical reward. Something that ties into the game but stands out. We hit on a custom deck of cards somewhere between inspiration cards and tarot cards, featuring words and images drawn from our games (which use a card-based UI). That seems to have been very popular.

    Aside from that, kickstarter-exclusive in-game content is probably where it’s at – particularly stuff people can show off to other players (clothing, weapons, musical instruments, exclusive quests they can invite friends on, exclusive areas they can invite friends into, etc). Especially it it focuses on Gorgon’s quirky, unique approach.

    At higher levels, the opportunity to for people to collaborate on content is very popular, but you need to be very careful to manage how you’ll handle it, set expectations for the level of collaboration, and realistically assess the costs of collaboration and implementation. Underestimating the time and cost of reward fulfilment can be devastating. You can make rewards limited-edition to help control this.

    “what would convince you to pay, say, $20?” I’d pay a fair bit over that for a pre-order of the game, even without anything fancy. A kickstarter-exclusive bit of in-game content would definitely sweeten the deal. Like a mantis-hat. Who doesn’t want a mantis-hat?

    You’ll definitely have my pledge – I’m desperate for Gorgon. I’m very keen to milk a cow (but not more than once per hour, obviously).

  15. mavis says:

    I’m not sure I can answer this without out knowing how I’m going to pay for hte game once it’s launched….. (sorry if I’ve missed/forgotten that blog post).

    Because an obvious sort of reward is to provide that at a cheaper cost. So if it’s subscription – 3 months for the price of 2. If it’s buying in game currency – have a bundle of that up front.

    And for the higher tier rewards you can offer this bonus over the lifetime of the account.

    I’m opposed to the “gold account” idea on general principal. Nothing game wise should be avallible only to those kick starter people.

    I also like…..

    Naming something (subject to profanity rules) – NPC’s, Mountains, historical figures, Bosses.

    Beta access is also key.

    If you are going to have housing – a special picture/ornimant would be nice.

    At the momment – I’d not really want the physical stuff – since for overseas people (UK based) it tends to be a much worse deal.

    But what ever you do – I’ll be throwing some money your way – breaking my “no more kickstarters” rules!

  16. Jason says:

    Please, for the love of all, don’t let just anyone write in-game dialogue unless you plan on editing it first. Or quests. Or create items. Most people like to think they are good at that sort of thing, but the majority are not. They are, in fact, quite bad.

    I think a kickstarter is good if you need the money. However, the one thing that always concerns me is that you don’t then get money from the later purchase of the game at release.

    As far as what you get, don’t give away too much for too little. $50 may sound like a lot, but when funding a game (as you well know), $50 is just pennies. If you want to really give away some serious stuff, make it a lot more like $250 to $1000.

    For $20 – $50 you might give early access, acknowledgement in the credits, and maybe run a contest for NPC name or region submissions.

  17. Aaron says:

    I’d drop at least 20$ on this without even thinking about it. I’ve been following this blog for too long not to. Typically something at that level gives a copy of the game, which I guess would translate into early access in this case. Ideally I’d want an “early access and bring a friend” reward. Oh, and people that donate to kickstarter should be able morph into a large floating bag of money once an hour in game.

  18. mooklepticon says:

    One of the things that made me bump up to a higher level on the PA kickstarter was the certificate. I was originally planning only on tier 1 support, but the cert made me up it to tier 2. Just a personal anecdote.

    Physical things are harder, but they’re scarce, so it makes them worth more. Here’s my favorite post on scarcities, which add value: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100125/1631147893.shtml

  19. mooklepticon says:

    Also, I’m totally on board with the “voting for direction of game” thing. I’ve always wanted more input on a game because, obviously, no one makes the perfect game that exists only in my head.

    PS: I’m totally gonna vote for golem-related stuff.

  20. Rauxis says:

    I definitely will support a kickstarter event

    I’d like to have a one of my old RPG characters included as NPC :)…

  21. Servalan says:

    Some ideas that other Kickstarters have used:
    Your Name in Credits
    Special Forum Badge
    Special in-game cosmetics
    Your likeness in the game, either NPC or monster
    Create a quest, quest item, or piece of equipment
    Alpha and/or Beta Access
    Create a Point of Interest (statue, fountain, etc)
    Name a Town

  22. Simon says:

    Milk the Asherson’s Call angle.

    So many of the Kickstarter campaigns are based on geek nostalgia for geeks who now have lucrative and soul-crushing jobs, and (non-lucrative, but also soul-crushing) family obligations. They would easily pay you $50 for the nostalgia of reliving the freedom of their MMO-immersed youth.

    Not sure how you would do that, but tap the feeling somehow.

  23. Dakre says:

    I would say add special items like something you can keep equipped regardless of level or skill to show you donated. Something that adds to your customization. Another idea would be be to include special access to certain things like the skills you mentioned, but maybe a little more like a daily exp boost like +50% exp for X time X times a day. I may come up with more later

  24. Eric says:

    Thanks for the ideas and support! I’ll definitely work in some “create NPCs/dialog/names” type things, among other stuff.

    I would never have thought of “write slutty dialog” — but it IS fun to write their dialog… I’d have to edit it, though, which is time-consuming. Probably in the $100+ range, but doable.

    And yeah, I should probably mention the AC2 thing.

    Chris Gardiner – thanks for the insight, I’ll mull unusual physical-item rewards for the higher tiers. And congrats on your Kickstarter!

  25. Ancaritha says:

    As Simon said:
    “Milk the Asheron’s Call angle”.

    I remember reading your “Letter to the Players” whenever they came out (was it every month?) and enjoying them. Years and years later someone linked your blog and said “Hey, it’s made by Citan!” If they had said, “Hey, it’s made by some random developer!” I wouldn’t have bothered reading it. Now I subscribe to your RSS feed so I don’t miss any posts.

    In review, milk it. Milk it good :)

  26. Ian Whitchurch says:

    Hi, Im Ian and Ive done, and do, things that can be described as ‘VC things’.

    Dont be afraid to ask for a lot of money. If you dont have a “ten grand” level, no one will give you a 10k lump. If you dont have a ‘thousand dollar’ lump, then someone with a law partnership and an ill-spent youth cant give you a grand.

  27. Christina says:

    I will kick in 20 dollars no matter what <3