Pathfinder Online Interview

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! Today I am surprised to be bringing you Mr. Ryan Dancey the CEO of Goblinworks Inc to talk about his company’s Kickstarter Pathfinder Online. Thank you for joining us today Mr. Dancey it’s a pleasure!

Glad to be here! I love talking to those who want to know more.

This isn’t your first time to the Kickstarter rodeo as it were, the last time you brought Pathfinder Online to Kickstarter you ended up raising six times the goal amount. This time however you’re asking amount is twenty times your original goal as well as “returning to the well” as it were for the same project. How much has your prior experience with Kickstarter helped out with the launch of this latest one? Do you think having multiple Kickstarters for the same project hurts your funding at all or does having well defined “goals” for each of those individual Kickstarters alleviate any feeling of “double dipping?”

We worked very hard to make sure people understood that the first Kickstarter was for the Technology Demo; basically a small project that demonstrated our team's ability to use all the tools and middleware necessary to develop the game.

That Technology Demo allowed us to secure the funding we need to put the game into production. But if we can raise additional money, we can make the game bigger, better, and faster than we are currently able.

The second Kickstarter is a chance for fans to help us do exactly that. Reaching our million-dollar funding goal will knock a lot of time off our current production schedule, and we have even more chances to accelerate the timeline once we meet the initial goal and are hitting stretch goals.

No one has ever funded an MMO on Kickstarter at the scale that we're attempting. Nobody knows if the platform will be able to marshal the necessary support for the project. We're hopeful that the success of our first project is an indication that there will be enough support to succeed with the second.

Why should folks care about Pathfinder Online? Isn’t Pathfinder just a Dungeons and Dragons Spin off? Haven’t we done the “Fantasy MMO” to death already?

Most MMOs are what we call "theme park" games. The primary mode of interaction is between the player and the environment. Change is not persistent. Players have a limited (if any) ability to affect the game world. Since the release of World of Warcraft in 2004, we have seen more than a dozen high profile, big budget AAA theme park MMOs released, and they all follow the exact same trajectory - a big initial spike in play, followed about 3 to 6 months later with a big drop in players, and then server consolidations and downsizing of staff and support.

Pathfinder Online will be a different kind of game, which we call a sandbox. Sandbox games are primarily focused on the way players interact with each other. In fact, the foundation of our game design is "maximizing meaningful human interaction". Sandbox games offer a high degree of persistence. Players make meaningful changes to the game environment. They are responsible for making most of the items and buildings in the world, they define the borders of territory, and as they play the game, the game world itself adapts to reflect the actions they're taking.

Sandbox games have a long history in MMOs. One of the very first commercial games, Ultima Online began its life as a sandbox. EVE Online was released in 2003, and grew every year for 10 years after its release.

So you’re making EVE Online in a fantasy setting? What makes sandboxes better than Theme parks for future MMO’s?

Sandboxes develop in a different way than theme parks. A sandbox game needs to grow slowly at first to allow the population to spread out and establish a working economic and territorial system. Instead of trying to post a huge number of players on release, sandboxes start small, but grow steadily over time and can become quite large. EVE Online has more than 350,000 players!

Sandboxes are more engaging. Once you've done all the content in a theme park MMO, all that is left is repetitive play; either playing a different character type from start to finish, or playing end-game raid content. Neither of these things if very satisfying, which is why theme parks have that "boom & bust" business model.

Sandboxes engage you over a long period of time. They don't have "end games" so you never run out of things to do. As your time in the game increases you find yourself connecting with more and more people which gives you more and more chances to do something interesting. It's a positive feedback loop.

Do you think Pathfinder Online is only appealing to us older gamers who remember when MMO’s were MMO RPGs that actually involved role playing and not just gaming or are newer MMO players demanding a deeper experience as well?

I don't think Pathfinder Online has a target age demographic. It has a target player mindset. If you want to play a game where you can explore, adventure, develop and dominate in a fantasy world like that familiar to you from books, movies, tabletop and video games, and you're tired of theme park experiences, we have something new and interesting to offer you.

I see you’ve been using the term “Crowdforging” versus just plain old crowd funding. Is that just a fun play on words with the theme or are does it represent a major difference from normal crowdfunding?

Crowdforging is the term we've coined that reflects a development process we think is unique in the history of MMOs.

Crowdforging means that we are going to engage the players directly as a part of the design process. Sandboxes allow this level of deep integration because unlike a theme park, a sandbox game is not feature complete when people start playing it.

During the initial phase of the game, which we call Early Enrollment, players are going to be involved in helping select features to be developed, prioritize those selections, and give input on how they're implemented and how they are balanced against other game features.

Crowdforging represents the next step in game development; the idea that the players have a vested interest in how the game is designed and have earned a seat at the table where those decisions are made.

I’m going to preface my next questions with your standard caveat, that what we are going to talk about are proposed and planned systems and ideas that are completely subject to change.

With that out of the way let’s start off with a pretty bold statement at the top of your Kickstarter page. Are you really going to let players create their own settlements and eventually forming Kingdoms? Actually making a long term mark on the game world before launch?


Settlements are the key element of the game design around which all the rest of the systems orbit.

A Settlement is a collection of players who have joined together to pursue shared goals. But it is also a physical location in the game where they will construct a variety of buildings which enable them to develop characters as they see fit.

Settlements control territory. Once established, a Settlement dominates its part of the world (what we call a "hex", a nod to the days of tabletop games where hexagon graph paper was used to describe geography). In order to make a Settlement, a group will either have to find a Hex that is empty, or destroy an existing Settlement. That creates a powerful territorial dynamic as Settlements rise and fall on the basis of their social cohesion and economic, political and military successes.

Several Settlements can join together to form a Kingdom. Kingdoms will unlock the highest level structures, needed for the most difficult character abilities. Kingdoms will need to defend multiple Settlements and the internal politics will be deep and complex.

The initial Settlements are being seeded now, through the Guild Land Rush program. People who choose the Crowdforger Guild Kickstarter pledge level are eligible to have a Guild name posted on the Guild Leaderboard. Their guild members can indicate their affiliation by voting on that Leaderboard.

The top-ranked Guilds will draft for land in the initial starting area of the game. Over time, they'll develop embryonic Settlements on that land. When territorial control is introduced (the ability to destroy Settlements and establish new Settlements) they'll have to fight for their lives! But until then, they'll provide a stable infrastructure for the development of Settlement-level systems as the game is built.

Your Pathfinder Online Character blog definitely lays out a different kind of MMO character that actually feels more like a pen and paper character. Are you really planning on us taking two years to have anyone get a capstone ability?

Yes. For context, 20% of the people who played EVE Online the first month it was released in 2003 are still playing it today. Players tend to go through a cycle where they are active, then inactive, then reactivate, that 20% isn't the same 20% all the time. But it represents the long-term stability of these kinds of games. Having long-term objectives is a key part of making the game meaningful and interesting for years, rather than months.

While I agree that really does bring personal accomplishment and notoriety to players reaching “max level” which is more in keeping with a Pen and Paper game are online gamers really interested in that kind of system?

The success of EVE Online indicates that they are. But there are other indicators as well, like the number of people who participate in high-end raiding Guilds in World of Warcraft, who dedicate years of time to staying at the top of the "server first" lists.

How is a player like my wife who is enjoying the sometimes play of Guild Wars 2 going to take it when there are literally years away from doing “the really cool stuff” as it were?

Ah! That's the key!

Your wife will be doing "the really cool stuff" as soon as she starts playing. There's no "end game" in Pathfinder Online. The "really cool stuff" happens because players need each other to accomplish goals. There are absolutely necessary things that new players can do that more experienced characters will want them for. Sometimes just having lookouts and scouts is valuable to a group operation like mining or harvesting, or transporting materials from one place to another. Sometimes it's necessary to keep beating back the incursions of fairly low-level monsters; work that more experienced characters don't have time or the inclination to do, but if they're left unchecked, matters can escalate all out of control; sending in new characters to control those incursions will be important to the security of many Settlements.

As a character ages, it doesn't become orders of magnitude more powerful like a World of Warcraft character. Instead, it maxes out the potential for one line of development, and then begins to pursue another. So old characters have a lot of diverse abilities allowing them to do many different things well. A new character is advised to focus on doing one thing, and that focus is rewarded by reaching a high degree of competence reasonably quickly.

Going back to the Guild Wars 2 reference, your “action bar” setup sounds very much like Guild Wars system. How much do you think the proposed weapon skill variations will differentiate you from the Guild Wars 2 system? For example having two different characters using the same sword but only having first three abilities be the same yet the next three be selectable based on skills or maybe not available at all!

We're not modeling our UI on any one game. What we're seeking to do is create meaningful choices that players make that define what they can do at any given point in the game. Being outfitted as a wizard means that you accept certain risks - there are strengths and weaknesses in the kind of gear you use to cast arcane magic. If you find yourself in a situation where you wish you were wearing heavy armor and swinging a sword, you'll have to retreat, find a place to change gear setups, and then return to the encounter later. Or you can try to figure out how to make your current gear setup work even in hostile environments.

We're also focused on the idea that gear should not define if a character is powerful or not. We're using a system of conditional keywords. High-level gear has a lot of keywords. That must means that such gear can do a variety of things if, and only if, the character using the gear has the requisite abilities to activate those keywords.

So if I give a newbie character a vorpal flaming humanbane weapon, in that newbies hands, it's just a sword. But in an experienced vet's hands, some or all of those keywords may match abilities that character has, and that weapon becomes much more powerful.

Those kinds of abilities are the things you'll be choosing to enable in the UI, and thus choosing to have available as you play. Different sets of abilities and keywords will give you different sets of options.

So making another obvious comparison, this time with EVE Online, how are you avoiding the whole “Spread sheets in space” problem EVE has with many.

I think that there's room for spreadsheets in the River Kingdoms, to be honest. A lot of people in EVE enjoy playing the market, and that means keeping track of all sorts of data from prices of commodities and finished goods to the various manufacturing processes involved, and tracking supply and demand. It's not everyone's cup of tea but there's a HUGE population of people who enjoy it.

Combat in Pathfinder Online will be more visceral and immediate than combat in EVE. In EVE, you can zoom your display out and just treat ships as icons on a radar display, firing weapons and using defensive systems in the very abstract. Pathfinder Online will require you to pay more attention to managing your position and facing relative to other combatants. It won't be "twitch" gaming like a First Person Shooter, but it will require your full attention on the details to become an excellent warrior.

Since the game allows PvP pretty much everywhere, as well as looting other players corpses how is encumbrance, transports, and storage going to be in game? Most MMO’s let you carry everything including the kitchen sink inside massive bags of holding, how different is your system going to be?

You will never be able to carry most of what you own on your back, once you've ceased being a "clueless newbie".

The rule in Pathfinder Online is "don't travel with what you can't afford to lose". In a classic theme park, you buy the best armor you can wear and the best weapon you can wield. In a sandbox game, that's folly, because if you're attacked you could lose a material portion of your wealth.

Instead, you wear amor that's a fraction of your net worth, and carry weapons with the same level of cost. When you are moving valuables from place to place you often do it as a group, with guards, scouts, healers, and contingency plans if you're attacked.

Transporting things in bulk will be a huge part of the emergent game play that fosters meaningful human interactions. You'll need vehicles and mounts, maybe several, to move large quantities of materials from place to place. That will attract attention. And if you have to traverse dangerous ground, you'll have to be prepared to defend yourself.

Back in EVE I enjoyed being a delivery guy now and then moving stuff for my corporations. Are you saying it will be important and rewarding for me to become a teamster in this game to support the player economy?

Yes, 100% correct. There will be characters who do nothing but move other people's stuff from place to place.

I haven’t seen this brought up yet in the blogs or such but what kind of system do you have in mind for Kill stealing? One of the things my wife enjoys about Guild Wars 2 is there isn’t any “marking” of a monster, every hit counts for everyone involved.

I think that when it comes to PvE type encounters we'll be using the best practices from PvE centric games. It's too early to comment on specific mechanics, but something like GW2's setup sounds quite reasonable to me.

The financial model you’ve announced so far seems to be a hybrid Free-to-Play /Subscription model where you either pay the monthly fee to by “skill time” or you can just buy skill time from the cash shop. At the same time you’re going to allow skill time to be sold in game for in game money? That sounds a bit like EVEs “PLEX” system which I dubbed the Play-to-Play system. Can you elaborate a bit?

That's exactly right.

During Early Enrollment, we'll just be using subscriptions, because they're easy (for us and for the players). As we add more complexity to the game systems we'll also be building the groundwork for microtransactions and a cash store.

After Release, you'll be able to choose how to pay to play - either subscriptions or via microtransactions.

The core of the microtransaction system is buying skill training time. Unlike a lot of MMOs, but just like EVE Online, your character gains skill points in realtime - even when you're not logged in. Those skill points are pre-requisites for unlocking character abilities. You'll be able to purchase training time in increments ranging from a day to a month.

And here's the twist. Like PLEX in EVE Online, you'll be able to sell that training time on the in-game markets for in-game Coin. So by helping another player stay engaged, you'll be able to get extra wealth for your character!

We have not finalized the rules for how you'll be able to play when you switch to paying via microtransactions. There will be a period of "free play" for people to try out the game before they commit, but we have not decided how (or if) to let people "play for free" if they're not currently either on subscription or buying training time.

An interesting part of your Kickstarter campaign is that you are doing “daily rewards” that accumulate based on when you pledged. For instance my pledge started December 22nd, so am I really going to have like 24 items right at launch that are unique to the Kickstarter? How hard is it to keep updating the Kickstarter page with your daily items? How much of a problem is it going to cause fulfillment to add all those items to the accounts?

We try to update the page every day (although we're taking some days off for the holidays). There is a new Daily Deal posted every day though, no matter what. Updates are not hard, but they do require a lot of planning and thought. We could spam the page with all sorts of trivia, but if we did that it would not be very productive. instead, we put content on the page that we think might trigger someone who was on the fence about the project into being a backer, or giving people who don't know much about the game some depth of knowledge.

There's a constant tension between converting interested potential backers and educating folks who come to the project cold.

Adding the Daily Deal items to people's accounts will be reasonably easy. They're designed to be primarily "display" type items that you'll use to make your character look distinctive, rather than having meaningful mechanical benefits. So they don't have to be balanced mechanically like items we expect to be used in combat will.

One of the keys of a successful Kickstarter project is backer participation. How are you engaging your backers? What kinds of things do you have planned for updates? Interviews? Videos? Stories from the project?

We have thrown every idea we have at this Kickstarter, and then some. :)

We send a backer update out once a day (except during the holidays) so there's a constant flow of information. We also post every day to our Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts about that day's news.

We're running several promotions, including the Daily Deal and the Guild Land Rush to give people an incentive to back the project and track its success.

And we have parts of the project that get better as we get closer to the project funding goal, to help incentivize people to recruit their friends.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project? How are you spreading the word? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Youtube? Advertising? Are you using Kicktraq to help things along?

We've been featured on Fortune, CNN, Massively, PC Gamer, the Escapist, and other media outlets. We are also running advertising on Facebook, Penny Arcade, and ad networks that serve MMO players.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Kickstarter is a wonderful place to monetize an existing community. It is not a great place to try and build a community from scratch. All the successful Kickstarters spring from existing communities of enthusiasts. To be successful build or find that community for your category of products, and make them your champions and evangelists BEFORE you launch your Kickstarter.

Thank you for spending your time with us! Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Thanks for the chance to spread the word! If you're looking for an MMO that isn't just "another WoW-clone", we invite you to join the conversation about Pathfinder Online on our forums:

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!


King of Arcades Interview

Greetings and welcome to another exciting Kickstarter Interview! Today I’m joined by Sean Tiedeman of The King of Arcades Kickstarter project. How are you doing today Sean?

I'm doing great. Thank you James. I couldn't be better. The amount of support we have received so far is very exciting. It's been a lot of work over the past year and a half to get to this point. I'm thrilled that so many others seem to share the same passion that I have for this project.

So with so much good press, contacts in the industry, and interviews with video game legends already in the can why do you need Kickstarter?

When I first began filming this documentary in July of 2011, I had no idea how big the overall scope of the project would become. I never would have imagined I would be traveling to Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, or Washington D.C. The story just kept growing. Purchasing licensed footage, original music, hard drives, crew costs, artwork, and the travel costs began to add up substantially. Even when doing a film on the cheap, there are still many costs that you can not avoid. Financially, I began to get out of my league. I realized I needed a producer to help me take this film to the next level.

I actually shopped the film around a bit before launching my Kickstarter campaign. Surprisingly, I had a few producers step forward. As wonderful as it would had been to put their money to work, something just didn't click. I personally feel I needed to work with someone who understands these games, respects them, and understands the direction that this film is going in. This is a very important project to me, and I do not want to lose control of it. It's not like I needed too much money in comparison to what a feature film usually costs. Kickstarter quickly became an option and just made sense to me. The people who pledge obviously love this stuff as much as me. They can also benefit the production greatly because they know these games. It's a mutually beneficial relationship. They help me finish my project, I give them perks they can enjoy. The creative community should be very grateful that Kickstarter exists. It is a wonderful opportunity for filmmakers. Also, it is really cool as a backer to be part of a project you believe in. I know, since I started out that way supporting other projects.

So give us an overview of the kind of documentary you’re making here. Is it really just the story of one man’s arcade?

Richie Knucklez is like the 'Luke Skywalker' character of the Star Wars Universe. Richie is the center of the film, the thread, but there are so many other interesting places, simultaneous stories, and characters in the film. This may sound funny to you now, but I strongly believe the audience will have the same sort of interest and support for Richie Knucklez that folks gave to Sly Stallone with the Rocky character. There is so much to the story than you see in the Kickstarter video. That trailer is just the tip of the iceberg. There is comedy, drama, history, competition, and so much more. When this film is over, and the credits roll, I can not imagine a single person in the audience without a big grin on their face. I personally could not have written a better, more effective story if I tried. It's a good thing life is unscripted. I now that may sound funny, but I'm being honest. This story just happened and I was fortunate enough to hang in there for a year and a half to film it all as it unfolded.

The best stories do “just happen” as it were. So why should people care about arcade games in todays day and age of mobile phones, portable consoles, computers and the like which all can play more advanced games than these?

These are the small steps that got us to where we are today. The success of gaming today was achieved on the shoulders of many other people. I'm certain that as time goes on more people will care about these games and their history. These games are so iconic because they get down into the most basic templates of puzzles, challenges, and fast reaction tests. Most of the pioneers of the gaming industry are still alive today and that needs to be taken advantage of. We need to hear their stories, to show them our appreciation while we still can. These old machines are getting harder and harder to come by. Most of the companies that created them no longer have access to even a single one. Richie has some games that are like one of two that are known to exist in the entire world. I don't just want my children to hear stories about arcades, I want them to experience that excitement first hand.

Of course, the closest I can get might be showing this movie, this slice of the culture. This is history and the people who lived it care about it. We want to share that. When I first started filming only a year and a half ago, if you told me that the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. would hold their own Video Games exhibit exploring the forty-year evolution of video games I wouldn't have believed you. Someone else recognized how important this is to our history. Games are museum worthy! And who would have thought that Disney would release a film like Wreck-It Ralph? The movie is a beautiful tribute to classic gaming starring several well-known arcade characters such as Q*bert. The stories behind these characters in these games are very entertaining and important and I want to preserve those stories in beautiful HD for future generations to enjoy. It is simply wonderful that people are beginning to care.

As a fellow old school arcade fan I have to ask, are there any pinball interviews? I know the focus tends to focus on video game classics, but for me arcades have always equaled pinball machines.

Richie's Arcade does have many pinballs machines and they are all beautifully restored. He sells a lot of them too. I still remember the first time I saw Richie lift up a Pinball machine panel exposing the electronics underneath. It was mind blowing. Thousands of lights, wires, cables, microchips, and electronics. It looked like an entire city at night hidden under there. It was fascinating to me. I do not think anyone can argue that pinball machines have always been a necessary ingredient in any arcade.

I'm a big fan of Brett Sullivan's film 'Special When Lit'. The movie tackled the entire history of pinball in great detail. I watched it several times before taking on The King of Arcades, but I knew early on my target would be the video games. I was born in 1972 and I was there for the birth of the video game age. Ralph Baer's Magnavox Odyssey (the first home console system) was released the same year I was born. I remember there were actually overlay screens that you would tape to your TV set that had artwork printed on them since there weren't really any graphics. Put like Mr. Baer says in the trailer on Kickstarter, being able to control something on a TV screen back then was unheard

of. It was magical. As simple as the graphics were even in the later systems such as the Atari VCS/2600, when I played Missile Command or Space Invaders as a child, in my mind I was saving the world. Still to this day, when I hear the startup 'twang' of Defender, or the missiles shooting in Space Invaders, or the Donkey Kong opening, the hair stands up on the back of my neck. I never got that feeling with pinball although I highly enjoy it. Pinball machines make appearances in The King of Arcades but they are not the primary focus. If you love pinball I highly recommend Special When Lit:A Pinball Documentary. Last I looked, the film is currently streaming on Netflix.

For me it would have to be the missile counts, the city thumps, and the “Dwoo woo woo” of Missile Command. There are plenty of challenges that go into documentaries, from setting up interviews, negotiating archive footage rights, to live shots, how hard is it to do all of those things while running an active Kickstarter campaign on top of it all?

I am taking a short break from editing and filming right now and shifting gears to focus primarily on the Kickstarter campaign. Since this project is my passion, I do as much as I can when I'm not committed to my "real" job. My next shooting date is in Denver, Colorado on November 16th at an event called The Kong-Off 2. My Kickstarter campaign ends the next day on November 17th. That day is also my 40th Birthday so it will definitely be a memorable day.

What did you do to prepare for this Kickstarter? Documentaries, even ones about popular subjects, strike me as a hard sale in our digital entertainment age. Have you spoken to past Kickstarter documentaries for some tips before you launched?

I did a lot of research last month before launching. Anytime you tackle something new, of course the more you educate yourself the better off you will be. There are always so many unknowns. Just because I feel so strongly about this film, doesn't mean anyone else will. People do not part with their money easily. I had to make sure my Kickstarter page presented what I was trying to do in the most effective way. That is by no means an easy task. I put a lot of thought into the perks as well. I usually will use myself as a test. What would make me want to be a part of this project if I was an outsider seeing it for the first time? It definitely helps to have a subject matter such as video games that you can directly market. For example, I can easily promote the film by posting in video game forums or asking videogame websites to take a look at my Kickstarter page. Just be honest when contacting other sites. If you believe in yourself, and feel what you have is special, take some pride in your project and the rest should come a bit easier for you.

So with just over 26 days to go in your campaign you’ve already reached your goal of $40,000 what happens now? Do you have stretch goals in mind? Plans to keep the excitement up? How can extra money even help your production?

I am so grateful and thankful for the support I have gotten already. I never expected to exceed my goal. All I know is I am going to stretch every dollar I get. I want every dollar that every backer spent to show up on the screen in one way or another. As I said, making a film and maintaining a certain level of quality is very expensive. We have one backer, Eric, that really surprised me with his generosity. He is our new Executive Producer. His energy and enthusiasm for this project is inspiring to everyone involved in the production. I want to be sure that all of our backers don't just feel like they're contributing to the funding, but feel like a part of the production. I want them to take more away from this than just the DVD. As the campaign continues, I'll be sure to share updates on the project to keep my backers in the loop and continue to build the excitement. I'll share behind-the-scenes sneak peaks, take the opportunity to meet new people, and spread the word through interviews like this one. I always said I would finish this film even if we didn't get any money… because finishing the film is for me. To do it right, I need support. So, this is for the supporters now. The more people who love this idea and support this project, the better this project will become. It's bigger than me now.

Are you really giving away an Executive Producer credit for $5,000? PLUS an arcade cabinet shipped for FREE? Are you crazy?

You know, I don't think it's crazy to give people something big as a thanks for making my dreams come true. I started out as a kid with an arcade machine in my closet and an old home video camera. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself, "Someday you will meet the man who invented these games and you'll be making a real movie!" So, I want to recognize my backers. I want them to know how much I appreciate each and every contribution I receive.

My original plan was to have a contest for all of our backers to win a restored Richie Knucklez arcade cabinet. Basically, for every dollar someone donated to the film, they would get a single entry. We would then do a live drawing on Richie's Arcade Culture Web Show to pick a winner. I scrapped that idea last minute after research proved to me that would most likely be considered a lottery by Kickstarter and is currently not allowed.

I did not want to risk my project being pulled down halfway through, so we decided to simply add an arcade machine as a perk at the $10,000 level. It's the perfect way to thank our biggest backers. Richie restores these machines to look exactly like they did on the showroom floor back in the 1980s. Richie's machines are museum quality. Myself and many others agree they are the best in the entire world.

So now that you have met your goal why should new backers join the campaign? I mean if I just sit tight I’m sure I’ll see it on Netflix in 2013 or at Penny Arcade Expo or some other gaming convention.

For one, this may be the only chance to get a hard copy of the DVD with all those other great perks. I love Netflix, but it's always a bummer to miss out on the behind-the-scenes stuff. So, some people will just want to take advantage of that. I really try to make sure you're getting something valuable for your contribution. I feel that people love the excitement of being a part of something like this. It is very gratifying to believe in something early on, support it, and then watch it take a life of it's own in the world. Everyone who has donated to our campaign is helping to get this film done and is a huge part of the film. I noticed a common phrase in the Kickstarter community. Backers will often be very modest and say something to the extent of they are proud to be a small part of whatever project they graciously supported. Small!? No way. For example, I myself, am just a small part of this project if you look at the big picture. I am the one simply telling the story of Richie Knucklez, Walter Day, and Ralph Baer as well as the story of the entire early history of video games. I mean this film is bigger than any one person. Everyone knows I couldn't have done this by myself. Every person makes a huge difference and everyone whose name appears in the end credits deserves to be there.

So besides a love for classic arcades, what possessed you to go on this trek through video game history to make this documentary? Do you think this is a topic that isn’t getting enough attention by the mainstream?

As I said, I've loved arcades and making movies all my life. It was only a matter of time before the two passions collided. My dad has a lot to do with that. He took me to Merlin's Magic Arcade on 25th Street in Easton, Pennsylvania regularly on Sundays when I was a kid. He showed me how to use a film camera and supported me every step of the way in my career, even though it seemed impossible at times. When my father passed away in October of 2010, I couldn't stop thinking about all the things we won't get to share in the future. I wished I could go back and capture those moments I had with him so I could replay them. I couldn't stop thinking about how we often use our talents for work instead of following our own passions, and how my father always encouraged me to pursue mine. I wanted to take on a project about a subject matter I loved, to follow my heart and try to deal with the loss of my dad. When I walked into Richie's arcade, it really was magical. Seeing these games now in 2012 just takes me back to my childhood. When I play a game of Joust, Marble Madness, or Spy Hunter, for that 5 minutes (Yeah, I am not that good at these games) all of my real-life problems just go away. I can be a kid again.

This project helped me reconnect with my past and prepare for my future. There were a few points along the way when I thought about giving it up, considered the fact that I might be crazy for thinking this could be as important to others as it is to me. It was a good thing I had my Producer to keep me focused. When I started this project, I was recently engaged. As if planning a wedding wasn't enough for us, I dove headfirst into filming. I'm lucky enough to have a wife that not only allows me to pursue my passions, but also does everything she can to help me succeed. This project became a big part of our relationship. It became a way for us to share our talents and work together. She quickly became the Producer of the film, because I realized she was much better at organizing and handling the project so I could focus on filming, editing, and directing. Krystle, as a librarian, also approached this project from a different angle. She was able to really grasp the historical and cultural importance of this project, to help me appreciate the aspects of arcades that I could never quite put into words. This project has become a part of our family, and it has expanded our family to include the great cast and crew we've worked closely with for over a year. It truly is a labor of love.

I feel classic arcade games have gotten a lot of attention by the mainstream over the years, but not always necessarily the right type of attention. The King of Kong is one of my favorite films of all time in terms of entertainment value, but I do not feel it presents a positive or honest light on the gaming community. Chasing Ghosts is a good film too, but very different from the story that I am trying to tell with Richie. Since this project started as a pursuit of passion, we want to capture the heart of gaming. That is something I don't feel has been explored. The people who play these games for days non-stop, who spend years perfecting their skill to beat the records, who devoted their talent to designing the games, who painstakingly restore these aging works of art, who spend their free time and spare change trying to recapture their past as I have… these people are the arcade culture, they are the heart.

This is their story...

So what are you doing to get the word out about your Kickstarter project? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Are you doing interviews with popular gaming sites or putting out ads.

I have to admit, the second I hit the launch button for my project I got a bit nervous. When you see $0.00 of your $40,000 goal it can be very intimidating. I realized within the next few hours that success wasn't going to come by itself. You can not launch a Kickstarter project and expect to just check it everyday and see the numbers go up exponentially. It is a full time job. The amount of work you put in will determine your success. Everyday I would spend an hour before going to work, a half hour on my lunch break, and an hour before I went to bed contacting everyone I knew and telling them to spread the word for me too. I emailed all of the big video game sites asking them to take a look at the project. Some helped me… some didn't. I owe a lot of thanks to sites such as yours, Kotaku, GMD Studios, Retrocade Magazine, and Gaming World United. These folks really supported my cause and helped spread the word. You need things like that to be successful. It is easy to get lost in the shuffle on Kickstarter. Before you launch your campaign, think of what you will do to get people to see it.

So besides donating, how can supports and backers help out your project?

I am open to anything. I met a few folks such as Acey Brimshore from the band Not Another Sequel, Just Another Prequel who donated a wonderful song called 8 Bit Superhero. We are helping each other out. He gets to promote his work in through the project and I get an awesome song to enhance the film. I have had people contact me to mail me footage they shot of historic gaming events, all kinds of stuff. Very fun. An artist named DJ Chribs just sent me a song called Attract Mode that is pretty cool. You never know who will step forward to help out the production. The important thing to remember is if this is something you want to support, share that excitement. We need to let the world know this is something we care about, something worth watching.

It has been a pleasure speaking with you Sean. Do you have any final thoughts for our readers? Any tips for others thinking of starting their own Kickstarters?

If you are thinking about it, just do it. If you look at the big picture, you can't lose with Kickstarter. Even if you don't get the money, you will learn so much and will most likely get it right next time. Within a few days of launching my project, I met so many people I never would have met otherwise. I even had some celebrities email me. Pretty crazy. It's a great way to network and get your ideas out there. You open a whole new door in your career that could bring anything your way.

Thank you for your time! I look forward to seeing “The King of Arcades” in some form or another!

Thank you James. Maybe I should go 100% old school and release the film on VHS.

I love your blog and really feel anyone who is planning on launching a Kickstarter campaign needs to poke through your site. Lots of priceless information in there. Thanks for your time and interest in the movie.


An Interview with Scrumbleship Kickstarter

Greetings my fellow Kickstarter followers, today I’m bringing you another interesting interview this time with Dirk, creator of the exciting new ScrumbleShip project. Thank you for agreeing to this interview Dirk,

My pleasure!

So my first question has to be, “Why Kickstarter?”

Nezumi and I have been taking care of an older couple for the past few years, which resulted in a rather cheap living situation However, the older couple’s health deteriorated past our help and they’ve moved into assisted living. With our living expenses more than tripling, we decided that we needed some funding to make sure we could still work on it full time.

Surprisingly to me, the kickstarter has been a real boon, drawing tons favorable attention to our game.

Now you’ve already received a favorable interview on Gamasutra why bother with Kickstarter at all? You could have pulled a Minecraft and just started selling the Alpha.

We’ve actually been selling the Alpha directly on our website for the past few months. The kickstarter’s primary benefit has been “discoverability” - People, including news reporters, have been discovering ScrumbleShip left and right. Our website income has roughly tripled, even with the Kickstarter siphoning off funds.

And the kickstarter is still helping! Roughly 1/3rd of all kickstarter contributions are generated from kickstarter itself, which is a huge number of people learning about our game.

So the “simple” descriptions I’ve seen is that this is Minecraft in space. Yet you’ve said you want to be known more as “Dwarf Fortress” in space why the change?

The vast majority of minecraft can be learned in an afternoon or two - Learn how to craft, how to place blocks, how to kill creepers, and you’re more or less set up. This is fantastic, and is one reason why it’s so successful... But it also means it can lack depth. Once you’ve built a small hut and crafted yourself a bow, the monsters of the world can’t really touch you anymore, and you are left to find your own goals.

Dwarf fortress, on the other hand, has the same basic goal (“Survive”), but makes that incredibly rich and detailed, simulating everything from forges to soapmaking to the breeding population of cats. The best and most secure fortress in the world still faces challenges, not only from internal threats, such as running out of alcohol, but external threats, such as sieges and other “Fun” events.

At its heart, ScrumbleShip is a simulation game like Dwarf Fortress. I am simulating dozens of behind the scenes events that affect gameplay, and many diverse elements will need to be managed to run a successful starship. For example, having a mess hall on the ship will increase Clone morale, and thus their productivity and movement speed. Feeding your clones nothing but ration blocks, on the other hand, will diminish their morale, making them more sluggish.

The major problem with Dwarf Fortress is that it has NO areas that are simple and intuitive. Once you start playing, you’re immediately over your head. These are the areas in which we endeavor to be more like Minecraft - Namely, graphics and user interface.

We’re trying to combine the best aspects of BOTH games, while adding more to create a fun new experience.

So what makes Scrumbleship the “Most accurate space combat simulation. EVER!”

Well, we’re certainly not there yet. But that’s where we’re headed.

Realistic physics is the biggest part of getting there - Fire a laser at a block of steel and it warms up a little. Fire it as a block of butter and the butter melts. Shoot a bullet at a thin strut of copper and it bends. Shoot it at a strut of ice and it shatters. Shoot it at a block of Tungsten and nothing happens. Movement physics are newtonian, and support for realistic inertia under acceleration is planned.

Through various sub-engines, we intend to simulate all these things and more. In fact, both heat and newtonian movement are already in place!

Butter? Why are there even butter blocks?

Back before ScrumbleShip was released I wrote a test program for the heat engine, learning how heat transfers through solids. I happened to run across an scientific article on the thermal properties of butter, put it in the engine on a lark, and never bothered to take it out. Now it’s an in-joke for the community, and a fun material to showcase the flexibility of the engine - If butter is a valid in-game material, what can’t the engine simulate?

So will I have to build inertial dampeners and the like in the game or are those systems more “assumed?” For instance if I decide I want a keel mounted railgun that shoots Volkswagen beetles what’s stopping my ship from flying backwards thanks to Newtonian physics?

Absolutely nothing is stopping that!

Player designs will need to account for basic laws of physics - You throw a large mass forward at high speed, you will experience backward thrust. A clever player will use these properties to their advantage - I can imagine a battle escape mechanic that works by breaking the ship in half and shoving each end away from the battlefield, for example.

So are you saying I can pull an A-10 by just making my ship slow down every time I throw those Volkswagens out the front?

Heck, you can do more than that - With a sufficiently powerful enough shot, you can completely reverse direction, using your weaponry as a form of thruster. In space, there is less difference than you think between an efficient propulsion system and an efficient weapon.

Some of our readers may not know this, nor you Dirk, but I do have some personal experience in the space industry so I’m always interested in seeing how games can be more realistic yet still stay fun. I mean are we going to have to worry about our ship hulls being heated and frozen in shadow and sun around planets? Do we have to worry about light speed radio communications or are we using some kind of “Subspace” instant communication. How much are you “bending” reality for gameplay here.

We have three main tenets for ScrumbleShip:

  • Be true to Reality
  • Be true to Science Fiction
  • Be Fun.

Any new feature should fit at least two of those criteria to be considered. Sometimes they come into conflict, and that’s when hard decisions have to be made.

One of those decisions is in the scale of the solar system. To quote Douglas Adams, “Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.”

Making players wait 40+ years to visit the closest star system would be an instant game killer, so we need to compromise. First, we’re making each solar system smaller by compressing the amount of empty space - What used to take years to travel will instead take hours.

Secondly, we’re providing FTL gates between solar systems, allowing players to make journeys of thousands of light years in minutes.

We’ve made similar decisions in the heating engine - Even for a copper block, waiting for heat to travel from one side to another is agonizingly slow. So we’ve speeded it up by a factor of 1,000, which will help space battles finish more quickly. For hardcore players, features like this are likely be toggleable.

Yes, you’ll need to worry about both the heat of the sun, the coldness of space, and, for ship-to-ship chatter, lightspeed delays in communications.

In short: We do bend things when we need to, but we make this obvious to the players, and try to provide a way for them to switch to the realistic method when we can.

You’ve only got a goal of $8,000 and you have a playable alpha right now, are you getting people bugging you about doing a Kickstarter at all with the project in this state? Or questioning if you can really pull it off with only $8k?

The majority of the feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with people saying they’ve waited years for a game like mine. But you can’t please everyone, and people have brought up both points you mention.

Half the people who complain about the state of the game suggest I should have waited longer, and half suggest that I waited too long before starting a kickstarter. *grin* I suspect this means we’re actually about on target!

People seem to budget a lot more than I do for basic living costs. I spend about $500/month, which includes food, rent, utilities, fun, transit, and a small amount for savings. Between the ongoing alpha sales and the odd computer job for friends and family, an $8,000 kickstarter ought to keep me programming for at least the next year, possibly more!

So You’ve announced some of your stretch goals: more music and sound, AI ships, and then....

And then I’m not sure! I will discover these stretch goals right along with my fans.

In fact, the AI ships stretch goal was suggested by a fan just a few weeks ago. It was a good idea, but would increase development time by a month or two, making it the perfect stretch goal.

Well you can’t blame me for trying to get a hint. So at this point what do you plan to do to continue to gain momentum to get you past the last half of your campaign? More videos? Screenshots? A Demo? What else are you going to do and what can we do as followers of your campaign?

We’ve got a fan-made tutorial video coming out soon, and another fan has volunteered to make us another trailer. I expect he’ll be able to do a better job than I was able to do.

We’ve been having Nezumi, our artist, draw lots of concept art showing off features that aren’t in the game yet, and we hope to continue with that.

I have yet to send out a message to the ScrumbleShip website users, which should generate some interest. Many of them already have the game, but I am constantly surprised by the closeness and generosity of our community.

Our campaign as a whole has been anything but ordinary - If you take a look at our Kicktraq graphs, they have very little in common with the average Kickstarter project. I’m curious to see how much of a mid-month slump we’ll have - I could easily see it being more or less than the average project!

Anyone following the campaign, backer or not, can help immensely merely by talking about it. Post on a forum, tip your favorite news site about us, or post on reddit, facebook, or twitter. Tell your friends, acquaintances, and even your enemies about ScrumbleShip! After all, how great would it be to grind your enemies’ spaceships into dust?

I’ve noticed most of your rewards seem to be digital only but you do have some physical stuff in there. How prepared are you for the shipping nightmare you have ahead of you?

Reasonably. The physical rewards are all relatively expensive, which helps to keep the volume down. Even if we triple the number of physical rewards by the end of the kickstarter, that still leaves us with less than 20 packages to send out - Tricky, but hardly a nightmare.

Is providing you with all the information and metrics you want to keep track of your campaign? Is there anything you’d want them to add? How is Kicktraq working out for you as supporting your campaign?

Not quite, but Kicktraq fills in the majority of the gaps in the system. It gives me trending, tentative projections, and some daily breakdowns, all of which helps me understand what’s going on better.

One thing neither Kicktraq nor Kickstarter provide me is a graph of referrers over time. I’d love to see the spike caused by the Gamasutra article, or how long the tail on the RockPaperShotgun mention was.

Any tips or warnings you’d give for anyone thinking of starting a Kickstarter?

Warnings, I think. Two of them:

1. Only 25% to 30% of your funds are going to come from Kickstarter users. The rest will need to come from external referrers, which means you’re going to have to work hard to get mentioned in a lot of places.

2. Seriously, you’re going to have to work HARD to get mentioned in a LOT of places.

Between Kickstarter, ongoing game development, and packing for the move, my average work day has been 15+ hours - If I’m awake, I’m working. It’s a lot harder work than I expected, but it’s been very rewarding to see the community grow so quickly.

Well thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just to thank YOU for your time. I’ve been answering a lot of interview questions in the past month, and these have been easily among the best thought out and most enlightening.

You flatter me sir, but thanks again for your time Dirk and I look forward to seeing a final completed campaign!

My pleasure! I look forward to it too.




Play 2 Play?

Play 2 Play?

So one of the big deals in the MMO world is the argument between Pay 2 Play and Free 2 Play which is no small thing, but I've recently noticed a wrinkle between these two business models: Play 2 Play. A quick recap for those not in the know, traditionally there are two major business models when it comes to MMO's, there's the basic monthly subscription model known as Pay 2 Play. In Pay 2 Play there is normally an up front box price, and then a monthly subscription after that. If you don't pay anything you can't play at all, hence Pay 2 Play.

In the Free 2 Play model the concept is simple, you can play the game in some way without paying anything. Where the controversy comes in is what can you PAY for? In some games you can buy XP bonuses, hats, decorative items, more bank slots, more character slots and other things that don't directly effect gameplay. In the more controversial payment systems you can buy actual in game items that effect gameplay like guns, bullets, and tanks which has given rise to the derogitorry "Pay 2 Win" moniker. The big idea behind Free 2 Play is that while only a small percentage of your player base will pay anything, those that do pay will pay more per player and hence offset any general subscription losses. So far it seems to be working and the idea of time = money really works for many like my wife and myself who may have more money than time to play a game.

So now we know the two elephants in the room what is this Play 2 Play nonsense?

Well quite simply it is a system where in you can earn more game time by playing the game. I've seen the basics of this system in Free 2 Play games like Legue of Legends (which I don't play) and Team Fortress 2 (which I do) that let you use in game money to buy "premium" items that you could buy with cash or randomly through play earn as "drops," but it wasn't until I got a bit deeper into clan wars in World of Tanks did I see a Free 2 Play game allow the players to earn "gold credits." (I.e. in game money that can normally only be bought with real money) Since then I've seen Star Trek Online and a few other games create ways of earning "gold credits" through in game actions.

That said none of these are really Play 2 Play since they are in Free 2 Play games which overrides this concept. EVE Online has once again created an odd way of doing things, and with it the Play 2 Play idea (at least the first I've seen of it). Since just about everything in EVE can be made and traded by the players, CCP decided "why not game time too?" So now there is an in game market for PLEX (Pilot Licence EXtension) which is quite literally 30 days of game time. As with everything in EVE markets determine the price and I've heard PLEX costing anywhere from 400 Million ISK on up which sounds like a lot, but to many corporations and high level pilots that's pocket change. Heck I've got a brand new account and I can pull in almost 1 million an hour just doing low level missions. In EVE making ISK is a science and there's lots of ways to earn that money if you put in the time, and that's how Play 2 Play works. You can either pay your sub like normal, or you could play the heck out of the game and EARN more game time. It's an intersting game cycle that I'm not sure would work in any game outside of EVE as it's been around for 9 years now and is used to doing things "differently."

So which do I think is better? Honestly I'm not sure if there is a "better" overall. At the end of the day the models are all designed to make the companies money, and that's a good thing for them. As consumers we have to decide what's the right model for us. For instance my wife and I payed $65+$15 each ($160 total for the math challenged) for at a minimum of 60 days of Tera Online. We played 2-8 hours a day for most of those days so yeah that was cost effective. On the other hand I have put in less than that into World of Tanks and I've played it for much longer. Then there's games I used to play but I stopped because of the subscription, they have since become Free 2 Play and I've gone back to them. Here with EVE I haven't played that game for almost 5 years but thanks to PLEX and their latest update they've got me back for another 30 days or so to see what's going on. If I can earn it in game I'll probably be around even longer. In the end it's a very subjective thing and personally I'm just going with whatever system gives me the entertainment I want.


World of Tanks at E3

 So I'm back from E3 and I enjoyed my brief stay there.   
I heard some of the Giant Bombcast from E3 and besides a brief joke about the name of World of Tanks they said nothing about the game.  I should write a review, but for now I have to show you what they didn't mention:  
That's right.  MOTHER FUCKING TANKS! They brought real WWII tanks to the convention center.  It just screamed "Giant Bomb should do a video or joke about these" but nope.  Nothing I've seen/heard yet. (They're still posting things and I haven't heard everything yet so if they have done something I apologise.)  

E3 here I come!

So in a crazy stroke of luck I get to go to E3 again! (I went about five years ago the first time.)  I'm sure Giant Bomb is going to do a great job of covering the event, but they're only so many guys and so many hours of the day.  So I feel I should put in at least a little work and see about getting some information from E3 as well.  To that end I have two questions for the Giant Bomb Community:  
1.  What NOT MAJOR thing would you like see get a bit more attention.  We all know the big names and such are going to be covered by everyone, but what smaller company or niche game or idea would you like to see more on?  An MMO you've heard nothing about in a while?  New imports?  Controllers?  I know we don't have the best idea what's going to be there yet, but we do have an exhibitor's list: 
2.  I'm sure I'm not the only Giant Bomb user who's managed to finagle a pass to the event, my question for you guys and gals is what are you going to do at E3?  You planning putting any info from the event here at Giant Bomb? 

Why must I drag on touch screens?

Okay so touch screens are here to stay.  I'm fine with that and in fact I enjoy being able to touch my UI to activate things.  We're all good so far.  My biggest complaint is:

Honestly, dragging?  Isn't it bad enough you're forcing me to touch my display you now want me to smear it to do things?   
Think about it, on your computer how much do you click and drag?  Now think about how much you don't need to if you don't want to.  (I.e. instead of clicking and dragging to copy something you just CTRL+C or what not?)   Why must I drag to do something that is just as easily done by selecting and selecting?  ESPECIALLY on something like an iPad where the entire bloody device becomes a giant smear with all the click and drag?  
Also if you're going to do a D-pad on a touch interface couldn't it be a DIGITAL pad and not an analogue?  Because an analgoue stick just doesn't work too well because of dragging on the touch surface.  Why not a tap pad?  You still get the "controler" analogue without having to have a crappy analogue experience.   
I know they can try and make these work out bettter but so far I have yet to enjoy a single drag experience or not see it done better by a simple select and select interface.  (COme on in Tower Defense games why must I click and drag from a menu?!?  Seriously?  Even your MOUSE BASED version of the game doesn't require that!  I'm looking at you Plants vs Zombies! )


Giant Bomb Quest System!

OMG I'm not normally so easily distracted by simple game mechanics like Achievements and such but this quest system is silly fun! 
Update:  Finished a MESS of quests and there's still more!  OMG! 

First Impressions

Now I highly doubt I'm the only gamer out there who doesn't play games for a long time.  Either you rent them (Thank you gamefly) or you buy and trade-in you just don't play games all the way through.  They've got your attention for a while but it's a rare game to keep your attention long enough to want to finish the game.  It is to my fellow "shot attention span" folks, or as I like to call myself "a gamer with a wandering eye" that I plan to start posting a few "first impressions" reviews here on Giant Bomb. 

The idea being is that even if you're not a short term gamer like myself, most people make their biggest impressions of a game in the first 30 mins or so of game play.  Oh sure many games take a lot longer than that to get interesting, but will everyone want to put up with long cut scenes, boring tutorials, or horrible voice acting long enough to get that far?   Long gone are they days of computer games with huge manuals that required 30 minutes just to prepare to play the game.  Now a days we want to jump right into a game and "get to the good stuff." 

Fallout 3 is a recent example of an awesome game that doesn't fare too well in the first impressions area.  Oh sure, if you're a fan (like me) of the genre and the humor the inital "birth" sequence and growing up in the vault is quite interesting.  But if you're like my wife you won't get through the first segment of the game because there's just nothing to it.  Even if you get past the initial vault segment the way the game dumps you into things will put some players off.  It is these initial impressions and early gameplay that I would like mentioned a bit more in general, but until then I figure I'll give my "first impressions" of early gameplay as I come around to them.