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Hi ArtCraft,

 

After your posts this morning, our relationship has changed. I am no longer only a potential customer; I am a potential investor. So the kid gloves are coming off - I want to make sure that a product I might invest in will be able to ship. 

 

First off, I know you have pedigree and a strong initial team. That being said, game development is a risky biz, and even established teams can have trouble. This is especially true when developing an MMO, which tend to be the largest and most complex games. Here you have a new team, working on a new design, and given that design, you need new tech. I'll let Lars Doucet handle that one:

crowdfunded_game.png

 

Oof, Dire tidings. Now, I'm an optimist, and I'm working on a project right now that would score a 2 there, and it looks like it will ship - so like many rules of thumb, there are exceptions. So, per thread title, I want to do my due diligence:

 

These are best guess assumptions,

Current team size: 17

  • Per GW's post a few weeks back.

Launch team size: 50 

  • Staffing up to support full production, test, live ops, customer service, and administrative roles.
  • This is a conservative estimate based on the insinuation that much of the content will be proceduraly driven and re-usable.

Burn at 200k/anum/team member

  • Based on average industry salaries, including workspace, tools, and eventually growing into operating costs.
  • Later employees will cost less per year (test and cs) but operating costs increase as we go into alpha & beta.

Minimum 2 years to ship

  • It's a PC MMO about 1 year in. If you guys pull off launch in 3 years, every one of you is a rock star. 
  • A lot of the above risk can be mitigated by increased development time (which comes with its own issues).
  • Heavy PVP centric gameplay requires a long beta time.

Realistic 3.5 years to ship.

  • You guys have so many big innovative features. This stuff is awesome, but it comes with a lot unknowns. Just a couple off the top of my head could easily add 6 months of dev time each:
    • Server side physics - will take at least 1/4 of your server processing time
    • Procedural content - takes time off content production, loads onto engineering
    • Server transfers with differing rulesets - The player data models are going to be pretty complex, and rely on a central service that will need to scale really well.

So assuming an average team size of 34 over 2 years, that is a cost of $13.6 million. Over 3.5 years is $23.8 million. These are pretty conservative for a project of this scope, but since you are making a niche product, your revenue projections should be conservative. As an investor I can't ignore the cost of running the live service - with 50 people, you are burning 10mil a year. I'm going to make a big assumption that the model is F2P because that has proven to be the best way for a niche mmo to stay alive. A product like this I could see having a pretty healthy ARPDAU of $0.5 which means you need to have to have 60k active users to match your burn - that is certainly doable, I could see you guys floating at 100k.  However, to recoup your initial investment, that means running 3-5 years before profitability. That is hard to sell to a traditional investor, but crowdfunders would rather have a guarantee of servers being up for 5 years than a return on investment. 

 

So, questions:

Knowing that it will cost ~$20 million to finish this game, and that you have run probably $3mil so far, how much have you raised, and how much are you looking to raise in your next round? How much do you intend to raise from crowdfunding?

 

Can you share more detail about your development schedule? I would like to see milestone/release goals and launch dates. What kind of production methodology are you using? Do you plan on having crunch? How have past milestones fared against plan? (It looks like you've already slipped at least one by a month, missing the PAX South announce.)

 

What tools are you using? Is this proven tech that has been used to build MMOs already? How much experience does your team have with the tech? 

 

What is your business model? Will you be monetizing an early access or taking money during beta? If so, will you need to refund users on launch? 

 

What is your staffing plan? We have some idea of your current team, but how are you growing? Do you outsource work? If so, are you outsourcing Art, and/ or Programming.

 

What is your exit strategy? How many years do you plan on running the service? 

 

That is enough for now - time to go mitigate risk on my own project - aka, get some work done.

 

 

 

 

 

Can always count on BBC to catch the little details  ;)

Looking for Crowfall RP? Join us at https://eatcrow.slack.com/. Details here.

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21 days left to give more info :)

 

It will be good to know as much as they are willing to share but I don't expect any kind of total disclosure. Even with the successful CU kickstarter, which has had some of the most open dialogue between testers and developers in the history of commercial gaming,  a lot of the financials were still withheld.

Edited by oberon
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Hi ArtCraft,

 

After your posts this morning, our relationship has changed. I am no longer only a potential customer; I am a potential investor. So the kid gloves are coming off - I want to make sure that a product I might invest in will be able to ship. 

 

First off, I know you have pedigree and a strong initial team. That being said, game development is a risky biz, and even established teams can have trouble. This is especially true when developing an MMO, which tend to be the largest and most complex games. Here you have a new team, working on a new design, and given that design, you need new tech. I'll let Lars Doucet handle that one:

crowdfunded_game.png

 

Oof, Dire tidings. Now, I'm an optimist, and I'm working on a project right now that would score a 2 there, and it looks like it will ship - so like many rules of thumb, there are exceptions. So, per thread title, I want to do my due diligence:

 

These are best guess assumptions,

Current team size: 17

 

  • Per GW's post a few weeks back.
Launch team size: 50 

  • Staffing up to support full production, test, live ops, customer service, and administrative roles.
  • This is a conservative estimate based on the insinuation that much of the content will be proceduraly driven and re-usable.
Burn at 200k/anum/team member

  • Based on average industry salaries, including workspace, tools, and eventually growing into operating costs.
  • Later employees will cost less per year (test and cs) but operating costs increase as we go into alpha & beta.
Minimum 2 years to ship

  • It's a PC MMO about 1 year in. If you guys pull off launch in 3 years, every one of you is a rock star. 
  • A lot of the above risk can be mitigated by increased development time (which comes with its own issues).
  • Heavy PVP centric gameplay requires a long beta time.
Realistic 3.5 years to ship.

  • You guys have so many big innovative features. This stuff is awesome, but it comes with a lot unknowns. Just a couple off the top of my head could easily add 6 months of dev time each:

  • Server side physics - will take at least 1/4 of your server processing time
  • Procedural content - takes time off content production, loads onto engineering
  • Server transfers with differing rulesets - The player data models are going to be pretty complex, and rely on a central service that will need to scale really well.

So assuming an average team size of 34 over 2 years, that is a cost of $13.6 million. Over 3.5 years is $23.8 million. These are pretty conservative for a project of this scope, but since you are making a niche product, your revenue projections should be conservative. As an investor I can't ignore the cost of running the live service - with 50 people, you are burning 10mil a year. I'm going to make a big assumption that the model is F2P because that has proven to be the best way for a niche mmo to stay alive. A product like this I could see having a pretty healthy ARPDAU of $0.5 which means you need to have to have 60k active users to match your burn - that is certainly doable, I could see you guys floating at 100k.  However, to recoup your initial investment, that means running 3-5 years before profitability. That is hard to sell to a traditional investor, but crowdfunders would rather have a guarantee of servers being up for 5 years than a return on investment. 

 

So, questions:

Knowing that it will cost ~$20 million to finish this game, and that you have run probably $3mil so far, how much have you raised, and how much are you looking to raise in your next round? How much do you intend to raise from crowdfunding?

 

Can you share more detail about your development schedule? I would like to see milestone/release goals and launch dates. What kind of production methodology are you using? Do you plan on having crunch? How have past milestones fared against plan? (It looks like you've already slipped at least one by a month, missing the PAX South announce.)

 

What tools are you using? Is this proven tech that has been used to build MMOs already? How much experience does your team have with the tech? 

 

What is your business model? Will you be monetizing an early access or taking money during beta? If so, will you need to refund users on launch? 

 

What is your staffing plan? We have some idea of your current team, but how are you growing? Do you outsource work? If so, are you outsourcing Art, and/ or Programming.

 

What is your exit strategy? How many years do you plan on running the service? 

 

That is enough for now - time to go mitigate risk on my own project - aka, get some work done.

You must be about to invest a million, no less :D

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GW posted that it's not F2P, which in many ways is more concerning to me.  So if we are talking about shipping units, we need a purchase ($50?) and/or a subscription ($15?).  Either way, for a niche pvp MMO, I'm going to re-evaluate my estimations to 50k active users, with 500k total units shipped. The initial units shipped there could cover the development cost but the subscription wouldn't match the live burn (even without figuring in platform costs). It would be cutting things uncomfortably close. They could try the arenaNet model, but those guys get away with it by paying their devs half of what they are worth. (some hyperbole there)

 

Edit: citiations

Edited by buhbuhcuh
 

Can always count on BBC to catch the little details  ;)

Looking for Crowfall RP? Join us at https://eatcrow.slack.com/. Details here.

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GW posted that it's not F2P, which in many ways is more concerning to me.  So if we are talking about shipping units, we need a purchase ($50?) and/or a subscription ($15?).  Either way, for a niche pvp MMO, I'm going to re-evaluate my estimations to 50k active users, with 500k total units shipped. The initial units shipped there could cover the development cost but the subscription wouldn't match the live burn (even without figuring in platform costs). It would be cutting things uncomfortably close. They could try the arenaNet model, but those guys get away with it by paying their devs half of what they are worth.

 

I'd also like to see you add citations to your post, where applicable. If you could, it would help for new people looking to confirm/contest your assumptions and the data you based it off.

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So a software engineer should be making $170k?

 

http://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Facebook-Software-Engineer-Salaries-E40772_D_KO9,26.htm

 

http://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Google-Software-Engineer-Salaries-E9079_D_KO7,24.htm

 

I'm not saying either software engineer works harder, but I'd assume Google and FB can give out more in compensation.

Edited by headlight
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  • 2 weeks later...

With the announcement that Crowfall will be running on Voxel Farm, I feel revisiting this thread would be wise. Not only is this new tech for the team (I could be wrong about this) but it's also unproven tech in the MMO space (possibly unproven in general but I'm going to be lazy and not research this ATM). What we know so far about Voxel Farm in a distributed environment is that in Everquest Landmark, streaming the terrain alongside a few other players makes for a rough experience.

 

Given all those things in @buhbuhcuh's initial post, now we're also adding some new threats to this project's success under the "New Tech" heading:

  • The herculean task of streaming a deformed world.
  • UI and systems for player generated content.
  • Server-side physics for destructible environments. This is huge because the server can't offload much (if any) of the deformation processing to the clients because all the particles and objects affect the game world and must be propagated in a trusted manner.

 

I think the timeline for this optimistically expanded out to 5 years and pessimistically, at least 10 years. Given that, this recent announcement of using Voxel Farm changed my state of mind for this game from "Gee, some cool ideas here! I really hope they pull it off because I want to play it" to a more conservative and less likely disappointed mindset of "Cool ideas and I'll watch but I don't think this game will ever ship..." I wish the team luck and look forward to what they are able to accomplish but I'm not holding my breath =(.

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I trust the team to make a good game. The only real hot spot from that initial list is new tech. Although they are a "new team" they aren't "new" some have worked together for years. Some migrated from J Todd Coleman's other games, others from other projects. Plus, they are experienced, they aren't really indie developers. Point two, the second point was a new design. Which in retrospect, it isn't. It's the vision they had for Shadowbane years ago. They said they had the tech then, it was just out of reach, ten years later, I think they can pull it off. As for new tech, this is iffy, but I think they are smarter than Sony as far as voxel based MMOs go. From the looks, building and destruction will be limited and not a core feature of the game like Landmark and Everquest Next intends. Here it is merely something to add to realism in the game and add to the foundation, PvP. As you stated, PvP is a big deal and takes a lot of testing. However, if you want a comparison, Shadowbane could be considered a beta for example. If that worked, they know that this will work, they just need to add the new features and graphics. Again, I don't feel ArtCraft is acting like some indie studio begging for money (plus your numbers seem very oddly placed as far as money goes) and any money crowdfunded I am sure is just to make the game the best it can be so they don't have to cut boundaries. It is the little things people want like female centaurs and mounts and stuff like that, that is the reason they will need money. J Todd Coleman said early on, they have a plan with the money they have, they are just trying to spend it accordingly to put it in places where people are invested. The makers want this to be a game for people who listen to their vision. Money is an issue for any company, thing is, with crowdfunding, you usually get user input and not a crappy major dev company coming in with crap that they think people will like. I don't think the game is going to take 3-5 years like people are saying. It seems absurd. A game like this will have a 9 month beta, don't get me wrong, but I feel everyone is underestimating a team of people that have made great games in the past. For JTC, it is to make up for Shadowbane's flop, it is so he isn't know as "the guy that made the best kids games" he wants to show the world his vision, and I will believe in him cause I know this can be pulled off. Truthfully, fund it if you want, don't fund it if you don't want to, $50 for a game is piss money considering a typical yearly FPS is $60 so Idk about you all, but I am gonna buy it, and I'm already in Beta Group #1 so, oh well.

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  1. One is not an investor in a crowd-funding model. One is a project funder. The fundamental proposition of this thread is false.
  2. The rampant, off-base speculation as to the cost and timeline to produce this game, the scope and requirements of which aren't remotely known, makes one look a fool.
  3. Preemptive angst, while popular among the ignorant masses, is a telltale of ignorance to the knowledgeable.

Do try to wait for a reason to get your panties in a bunch before getting your panties in a bunch.

I mean, I'm assuming "fluffer" is just another pjorative term for carebears, whales, etc. Of course, I could be incorrect, but I doubt it.

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It's weird when I find myself both agreeing in large part with the OP *and* someone who is refuting the OP's stance.  These are really good questions to ask, but with so many unknowns trying to throw even ballpark numbers up there is hasty.

 

Rampant speculation, however, is the name of the game while we wait.  The countdown is almost up, though, and ACE has already told us that they intend to prove their case with the reveal, to share with us all the information we need to make an informed choice.

 

I'm really looking forward to that, and I have a feeling many of the questions posited here will be answered faithfully by ACE.  If nothing else, BBC did bring up all the questions any potential crowdfunder should be aware of.

 

As for use of the term 'investor', it works just fine.  Some words take on a different meaning in common use and the rise in crowdfunding is redefining the terminology a bit.  I'm a pretty big grammar and word choice gummy bear, and even I can see the intent with which the word is used.  It's in the context, and the dictionaries will catch up soon enough, hamopeche :).

 

 

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  1. One is not an investor in a crowd-funding model. One is a project funder. The fundamental proposition of this thread is false.
  2. The rampant, off-base speculation as to the cost and timeline to produce this game, the scope and requirements of which aren't remotely known, makes one look a fool.
  3. Preemptive angst, while popular among the ignorant masses, is a telltale of ignorance to the knowledgeable.

Do try to wait for a reason to get your panties in a bunch before getting your panties in a bunch.

 

 

With Kickstarter, as a company you are entering into a contract with every backer. While they may not be investors, there is a legal contract to deliver what was promised to the backer. Kickstarter does not enforce these contracts, but it does leave the door open for legal recourse through class action lawsuits.

 

 

 

When a project is successfully funded, the creator must complete the project and fulfill each reward. Once a creator has done so, they’ve satisfied their obligation to their backers.

Throughout the process, creators owe their backers a high standard of effort, honest communication, and a dedication to bringing the project to life. At the same time, backers must understand that when they back a project, they’re helping to create something new — not ordering something that already exists. There may be changes or delays, and there’s a chance something could happen that prevents the creator from being able to finish the project as promised.

If a creator is unable to complete their project and fulfill rewards, they’ve failed to live up to the basic obligations of this agreement. To right this, they must make every reasonable effort to find another way of bringing the project to the best possible conclusion for backers. A creator in this position has only remedied the situation and met their obligations to backers if:

  • they post an update that explains what work has been done, how funds were used, and what prevents them from finishing the project as planned;
  • they work diligently and in good faith to bring the project to the best possible conclusion in a timeframe that’s communicated to backers;
  • they’re able to demonstrate that they’ve used funds appropriately and made every reasonable effort to complete the project as promised;
  • they’ve been honest, and have made no material misrepresentations in their communication to backers; and
  • they offer to return any remaining funds to backers who have not received their reward (in proportion to the amounts pledged), or else explain how those funds will be used to complete the project in some alternate form.

The creator is solely responsible for fulfilling the promises made in their project. If they’re unable to satisfy the terms of this agreement, they may be subject to legal action by backers.

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there is a legal contract to deliver what was promised to the backer

 

Quite obviously, this is not the case. The details of any implied contract between a project creator and the project's backers, even whether there is such an implied contract, are ambiguous until a judge agrees with the position of a party to a suit. What a project creator agrees to is Kickstarter's policy, which is purported to be understood and agreed to by project backers. It is possible that there is a contract between the project creator and Kickstarter to honor that policy, but it is quite literally impossible for a party to enact a contract between other parties. Moreover, the Kickstarter policy makes it quite clear that the obligation the project creator is agreeing to honor is to complete the project and fulfill the rewards or fail to do so after making every reasonable and good faith effort to do so and thereafter provide reasonable explanation of the reasons for failure and proportional reimbursement from remaining funds. Failure of a Kickstarter-funded project is not, in itself, grounds for any sort of legal recourse whatsoever.

 

In any case, Kickstarter is but one commercial crowd-funding platform, and, no matter how likely or advisable it may seem to some people, we have no indication that ACE will even use a commercial crowd-funding platform.

Edited by hamopeche

I mean, I'm assuming "fluffer" is just another pjorative term for carebears, whales, etc. Of course, I could be incorrect, but I doubt it.

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With Kickstarter, as a company you are entering into a contract with every backer. While they may not be investors, there is a legal contract to deliver what was promised to the backer. Kickstarter does not enforce these contracts, but it does leave the door open for legal recourse through class action lawsuits.

Then damn Yogventures really screwed me over...they literally delivered nothing that they promised...they compensated with different game codes but no, apparently, the actual Kickstarter contract doesn't imply they need to deliver anything. I've seen this on a lot of kickstarters, if you back them, it is likely you will get a reward, but if they don't, there is nothing kickstarter can do. When you invest in a crowdfunding site, you are taking a risk and doing that, investing, however I hardly would call any one on these forums "future investors", you are still just customers. Investors are the people that will buy stock in ArtCraft, that will donate thousands to promote a company, just because you donate an additional $20 on top of your $50 to buy the game, you aren't some tycoon that they need to make this game. I think crowdfunding in this sense is more of "they need everyone to preorder, not necessarily invest in the game"

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