Tag: crowdfunding

The Path to Playable Mockup

It’s been a swift and incredible journey to go from a humble petition to reboot Firefall (and create a new, unique style of multiplayer game), to a over 600% fundraiser, a website, forums, concept art and thousands more signatures.

The fans have shown incredible support for creating an MMO that never got a chance to launch: a open world, horizontal, go-anywhere, dynamic event driven game based on resource collection, customize everything, and open war against an alien race. Basically what Battlefield 1942 or 2142 would have been if it was turned into a bigger concept. A game that my World of Warcraft team wanted to make after WoW, and that was attempted by Blizzard with the now defunct Titan project (whose remnants became Overwatch).

We have the idea, we have the hard lessons learned with Firefall (and Titan) that will allow us to avoid all the past mistakes and focus on what worked and worked well. But how do we get from here to game? How can the fans help make this popular idea a reality?

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” is an old proverb. But we’ve taken it to heart here. We’re creating a process for crowdfunding that is similar to what publisher do for games: milestone based funding.

The problem with most crowdfunding is that it is billed as a one-time event, where backers pledge and wait years before seeing any results. A blind fire, hope and pray method for large projects. Milestone based funding, on the other hand, breaks up the goal into smaller pieces, delivered quickly. Each milestone is evaluated by the ones funding it before the next is approved.

We are doing this for crowdfunding. We’re taking our game, Ember, and dividing its funding and its playable deliverables up into small steps. By delivering tangible, game advancing goals that backers can judge for themselves, we can build a trust, a momentum, and a growing game step by step. You, the backer, will get frequent updates that let you decide if we are on track and growing the game.

Backers can do this for as little as $1 to participate, all the way up to larger rewards and perks. You won’t wait years for the results, as we plan to deliver milestones at least every two months.

The first milestone was:
* Launch a community and forums for Ember (DONE, and thriving!)
* Create key concept art (DONE, Thumper, Omniframe and Alien Tsihu DONE)
* Prepare for 3D modeling of THMPR (DONE, orthographics completed)

IMG_1573

We completed this milestone in record time and with very high quality equal or better than larger game studios. We exceeded 600% funding and used the funds to create all the key artwork we needed to start developing the game.

You’ve shown the demand is there for this game. The petition did its job and the fundraiser showed you were serious about Ember.

So what’s next?

We’re Committed. We’re Building the Game.

We’re going to build Ember. We’re going to make it real with your help. You’ve show we can do this, and we’ve shown we can deliver with our first, out-of-the-park, milestone.

Now we need to start the second milestone. And the secret is we’ve already started! Modeling of the THMPR has begun, and we’ll post some video soon when we release Milestone 2 funding goals on IndieGoGo.

I believe in this so much that I’ve started to fund the second milestone out of my own pocket, and we’ve started building it, confident you will be there with me. So let’s do this.

Here’s a sneak peak of what we’ve been working on:

Let’s Build a Playable Mockup

The ultimate goal of the current milestones is to build what we call a playable mockup. The mockup is meant to demonstrate the potential fun, marketability and playability of the game. We’re going to take one encounter, the iconic “thumper” encounter and build it to a high degree of polish in Unreal Engine 4.

In the playble mockup, backers will be able to suit up in an jetpacking, gliding, Omniframe with a default loadout of weapon and abilities. They will be able to call down a THMPR MEK-A and start mining for resources while waves of xenomorphs and the Tsihu attack to try and stop you. When the THMPR is finished it will run back to a target area where you will have to escort and defend it along the way. When it reaches its destination, the resources will be deposited as your “score” and the mockup will end.

This mockup will only be available to backers, but backers will be allowed to take screenshots and stream it to help build public support. This support will be used to fund our main Kickstarter to launch the company full-time.

Playing the Mockup in Just a Few Milestones

We’ve broken up the ultimate playable mockup goal into several funding steps. We may split or combine these steps into various funding goals depending on momentum and complexity.

Step 1:
Develop Key Concept Art – DONE

Step 2:
Model the THMPR mining MEK-A and get it into Unreal 4 with PBR shaders. Create and illustrate “vision book” that will define and guide the game’s development. (This will be the current funding round).

Step 3:
Model the Omniframe and player Character and get it into Unreal 4.

Step 4:
Model the Tsihu and get its shapeshifting working in Unreal 4.

Step 5:
Build a playable mockup using the assets we built in prior steps. Players can thump, pilot Omniframes, and fight Tsihu using the Unreal Engine.

We are going to try to get each goal done in 1-2 months from completion of funding. We do this by actually starting on the next goal before the last one completes (as we have with the THMPR modeling), and by taking on additional part-time staff. We want to deliver rapidly and keep the momentum up.

These mini-goals will be on IndieGoGo, until:

Have Playable Mockup, will Kickstart

Once we have a playable mockup of the THMPR encounter, we will prepare and launch our largest goal, a Kickstarter to launch the company that will build the game, full-time. By using screenshots, videos and streams from YOU playing the mockup, we hope to build enough momentum for a very successful kickstarter and start a real live game company, together.

Step 2 Funding goal and campaign will go live on Monday, Aug 29. Hold on to your butts, its going to go fast!

Ember Update & Poster Art

(It’s late, so sorry for any typos. I’ll edit as I re-read, but I wanted to get this out there as promised, once we hit the 500 signature mark.)

Here we stand at 600+ signatures. More than twice what I thought we would get. It may not be enough yet, but its amazing and still growing. It’s nice to know there are people out there the still love the game as much as I do. Players who remember what it was like to gaze out on the landscape while a thumper signals ominous doom approaching and thinking “this game is unique.”

How we lost our way since that early beta…from the early PvP in OCT to the tiers and the constant chase of rare resources, or even the sheer mayhem of xp valley. You don’t have to remind me of what we’ve lost, or my role in it. I’m too painfully aware of what could have been. You all have lost a game you believed in, and I’ve lost a very personal dream. It was my goal to show that online games (I hate to call them MMOs) can be different from WoW…stand on their own, and give back some of the magic we thought we lost since we first played Meridian 59, Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call, Everquest, Anarchy Online, EvE and yes, even WoW. I still believe that.

I’ve read all your comments since I started blogging about the lore of Firefall, its original vision, and the Ember teaser we put together. I’m deeply grateful to my friends Tommaso Renieri (recon and T.H.M.P.R. artist) and Laura Post (Aero!) for their help in creating the video. When I first finished putting it together I must have watched it dozens of times.

It’s from your comments that I know I am a controversial figure (to put it mildly). But I think you should also know that I feel a profound sense of responsibility for what happened to Firefall, and the gamers who believed in it. If you didn’t believe so passionately in the promise of the original game, you would not be so angry at me now for its failure to materialize. For my own anger, directed most often and intensely at myself, I’ve tried to channel it here: To allow myself a second chance which I still don’t quite believe I deserve.

Maybe I don’t, but you do.

You, who played for hundreds of hours, who lined our booths at PAX, who bought hundreds of dollars worth of founder’s packs and grabbed all your friends to play alongside you…you deserve that second chance.

But Ember is like Tinkerbell. She’ll fade away unless you clap and truly believe. That’s what we’re doing on change.org by signing the petition, we’re believing again. And maybe, if enough of us clap, I can give you my apology. My apology in the form of the game that you all signed up for in the first place, the one you deserve.

It won’t be easy. Even Blizzard had to cancel Titan and give us Overwatch instead as they too tried and failed to tame the elusive Shooter MMO. And yes, it will take years to do right. But to me, the years I would put in would be worth it, if I can see that game again, but complete and whole and with thousands of happy fans.

So, let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?

Anyone who tells you they can fund an MMO with a single kickstarter is full of shit. Even if you raise 1.5 or even 3M dollars, you’re an order of magnitude off base from what it will cost to complete. At least, that’s if you’re trying to create a traditional MMO. But what if there was a way to get there in stages, starting small and growing the game, perhaps episodically, funding each stage as you go. Companies that are most successful serial Kickstarters do this. Their first game raises tens of thousands, then hundreds, then millions as they prove they can deliver. Only, what I’m proposing here is funding a series of playable milestones over the course of a few years. Each funding milestone would build upon the last, and have higher and higher fund raising goals as it proved its worth. (I highly recommend spending time on kicktraq.com for those into heavy analytics)

Even then we’re going to have to run lean. Just like Matt Damon in The Martian, we’re going to have to shed “a little weight” off the MAV launch vehicle. First, no marketing except word of mouth. Every dollar has to go to development and keeping the lights on. Riot has a (famously) framed check for their first marketing budget for League of Legends, which they never spent, for just about $10,000. They didn’t need it. The game spoke for itself. That’s what we have to do with Ember too.

Second, we’ve got to run remote offices, people working from home, and temporary and contract employees instead of huge offices and a gigantic full time staff. We’d keep a very small, tight knit permanent staff to keep the vision of the game centered and do the key lifting.

Third, we’re going to manage our scope carefully. For example, starting small and proving each step as we fund and go. The first milestone could be to fund a prototype of resource gathering being fun, with a smaller map, a single frame, and our new T.H.M.P.R. MEKA and a couple of baddies that work together in interesting combos. Prove things: show we can procedurally generate waves and scenarios that are interesting by themselves. Next milestones would be more and more ambitious and expand the on all the previous ones.

Fourth, no overhauls, no wasting work, no huge revamps. This was the biggest mistake on Firefall and one that I’m personally done with. Some of this is unavoidable, for example if we have a badly received milestone, but at all time we have to stick to the true core principles of the game, and not drift over to “WoW with guns” again.

Fifth, listen and work with our players. How many times has the community shouted at the screen collectively, like an audience in a horror movie, about what to avoid, what was working, and what wasn’t? But who to listen to when the community itself is divided? Ultimately I can only tell you that I would have to decide what is right in those cases, but by looking at the original vision and values of the game and staying true to them. It also has to be the game I was dreaming of creating, or there would be no passion upon the creator to make it, and you would get lukewarm results. If you buy into the game as I describe it, and stay true to it, then your feedback can help us achieve that game.

So, these are some initial thoughts. I think we can develop these milestones in parallel to the tabletop game, which will also provide a lot of the backstory and lore of Ember. Since people wanted a place to discuss it, I’ve created a group on my other site, www.leagueforgamers.com, where people can post, follow each other and comment https://leagueforgamers.com/group/ember Please let me know what you think there. I’ll be responding actively.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this large, poster sized version of the art you saw in the teaser video. Use it. Put it on your website, print it out, distribute it as you will. Just link back to the petition, okay? https://www.change.org/p/crixa-labs-make-ember-a-spiritual-successor-to-firefall

EmberPoster