Greedy Goblin

Monday, April 24, 2017

I'm afraid that was 70 Euros wasted

I promised a new game today and I attempted to deliver. I failed. I paid E70 for the cheapest Crowfall packages to test this well anticipated and very highly regarded game. I shouldn't have. Before everything else: this is not a don't play Crowfall post. Those are reserved for rigged and corrupted games. Crowfall was upfront that they are "pre-alpha 4", which clearly means that much work to be done.

However what I've found was extremely little. I mean a "2 people working on it from 200K" content and not a professional MMO developed by a whole staff for at least 2 years (successful Kickstarter campaign 2015 March) from 12 million dollars:

There isn't any form of tutorial, newbie quests, guide, mouseover tooltips for spells, not even a text screen with an OK button to explain the basics, which would be more than expected from something that you release to the general public. There is a graveyard, a landscape which looks about the same as WoW 2005, a bunch of trees to cut, stones to harvest and some empty buildings, with some random mobs. Oh, and 1000+ms lagspikes.

While they indeed promised no release date, so I can't blame them for lying, I was shocked how little I got for a price of half year of WoW subscription. Also, while they are free to monetize their pre-alpha game any way they please as long as they are giving honest information for decision making, I find this ... a bit of Star Citizen-ish:
I'm looking forward to getting updates about the game, maybe I'm totally wrong and they just need a little work for everything to click together. But I'd bet no release date before 2019 and wouldn't be surprised if they go bankrupt before releasing anything. Again, I'm not blaming anyone but myself.

But I've learned my lesson: no more pre-released games, unless they are in final beta with release date set. Albion was technically and content-volume-wise fine, I expect no less from any publisher before I give him a cent. If you want to support Crowfall or any other early access games, fine, I'm not going to stop you. But I'll be damned before I do this again.


Trees said...

We'll be seeing more situations like Crowfall in the coming months; Similar to the burst of LoL/Dota clones that have come-and-gone without interest. These projects probably start sincere by charismatic devs with a dream, and then devolve into marketing feedback loops when it becomes obvious that "release" is the end of the money train. Then again, this has worked so well for the """"success"""" of Star-Citizen, who can really blame them, it's still a business after all.

Anonymous said...

I am very skeptical of Kickstarter anymore, especially for MMOs. So I agree with a lot of what you are saying.
However, my expectations of pre-alpha Kickstarters is different than yours. First, Kickstarter donors do not buy a game; they donate. Same as if you donate to Greenpeace or Hillary 2020, you have no control or recourse and just have to hope you like how the recepient spends your money.
$12M is a small fraction of what it takes a real company to produce an AAA MMO. Now CF is trying to do a lot less than an AAA MMO (less PvE, being a lot closer to a lobby shooter where the PvP worlds only last 1-3 months so people can start over.)
If I had donated, I would want the CF team working towards final ship, not making tutorials or explanations for the pre-Alpha players. This is not currently a saleable product; it is not released to the general public. Pre-alpha testing is not the time for spending resources on polishing, but especially for a game so late.

I found it ironic that their home page has "Most Anticipated" awards listed for 2015, 2016, and 2017. They clearly will win some more "Most Anticipated" awards in '18 and probably '19.

Looch said...

With 12 millions in the bank I would expect a team of hundreds working on it since 2 years ... would be interesting to know how are they spending the money :)
That's reason why I don't look at kickstarted games ... it is very easy to do an MVP nowadays, nice footage and put online a website ... it is definitely not a proof you can deliver or you know how to spend it.

Anonymous said...

Star Citizen model should be forbidden. 7000€ for a package ? how do they expect any financially sound person to pay thiss much for something that doesn't exist in real life. I wouldn't even spend that much on vacation with my family

Gevlon said...

@Trees: indeed.

@Anon: I understand what donation means, that's why I wrote that I blame no one but myself. But I strongly disagree with the $12M. Completely playable games are developed from much less. Think of Minecraft, Albion Online or Playerunknown's battlegrounds.

@Looch: indeed. However, backed a game once, shame on them, back game twice, shame on me.

@Anon: why? Did anyone went to jail for selling Lehman Brothers papers for 1000000x more?! As long as there are stupids, there will be clever guys who stay at the edge of the scamming laws.

Ulrik said...

You won't get hundreds of programmers for $12 million, but you could get something like 40, if all you paid for were programmers. A quick google search says a good silicon valley programmer costs $120k-$150k for a year. (Note that salary is only a part of this cost. Maybe half?) If you got all of them on the cheap you'd have a team of 60 for two years. But maybe you're not lowballing them, and you're also paying for project managers, not to mention various other costs of doing business (renting offices? probably not, but are they really making them all work from home? hardware?). So $12 million pays for 40 over two years. But if they had 40 people they would have been broke now. So maybe it's 20.

How much can 20 guys do over 2 years? I got no clue. But it's a fact that they don't have hundreds of people working on this project.

Ðesolate said...

I don't know in what engineer buisness you are in, but at 120k$... usually don't recruit the highest paid industrial "standart" (S-valley) for independent software development (or startups).
Anyway, since there are several side-costs there may be 20 people actually working "on the game", there is also art(work), marketing, etc. (and maybe base-work like engine, etc. or licensing) so, who knows...

But, selling digital assets for several thousand dollars is pretty "strange"... that is the main reason I haven't purchased the early access yet, nor invested anything in the Kickstater.

Halycon said...

Lehman Brothers isn't a good example. People should have went to jail for that whole debacle. Some of the fallout of that was learning how broken and ill equipped the SEC is for policing the big banks. They do okay for singular violations, but are useless for systemic problems. They don't have the budget, staff, or backing of DC for those types of investigations. Their subpoena powers for interviews are laughable.

Anyway, that's far off topic.

MMOs are a stagnated genre. Everyone tossed too much money into chasing WoW and not enough into chasing Eve. I don't mean literally chasing Eve btw, I mean aiming for singular visions. Even now, years after the term WoW killer stopped being a thing, even on the most scaled back and modest of games, they all have the trappings of WoW.

There should be full fledged AAA RTSMMOs. FPSMMOs(Planetside barely counts). Spy/StealthMMOs. There shouldn't be calls for industry standards of tooltips on hover over or things you've mentioned in this article. It should all fit the game being designed. But again, we're all aiming for WoW. It's the everyman MMO. It made everything boring because it set a benchmark. There hasn't been a truly interesting MMO announced in 10 years.

Looch said...

@Ulrik ... remember, 12 millions investments are purely for CrowFall development, not for the game company and its staff:

The problem with kickstarters is it's relatively "easy" to get the money, but with 12 millions, 500k per MONTH!, I would like to know exactly how you're going to spend them and how long will they last.

Tithian said...


Project Gorgon is developed by less than half a dozen people (started only by a married couple, I think they got a few more people along the way) over a couple of years now, and from what I've seen they have made more progress on their game than Crowfall. Their total funding is probably less than 200-300k, and that includes their own saving.

Halycon said...

@Ulrik They can do more than you'd think, and less than we'd like. Developer tools have come a long way. But the expensive part isn't development per say anymore. It's polish. Players expect a lot now days, reading about something as simple as UI development makes it sound like a nightmare in fiddly b*******. They can go through multiple iterations and the difference between a perfectly usable UI and a good UI can make or break a game. And that's not even the game, it's the presentation of the game. We're a lot less willing to deal with UI to play games than we used to be. Expand that into game systems themselves and it just gets outright bonkers. A lot gets written about dumbed down gameplay of now compared to yesteryear. But I played EQ. Some of the systems in that game were so simplistic compared to today we wouldn't even qualify them as game systems anymore. We're mistaking time investment to accomplish something with complexity of accomplishing something. Simple fetch quests now days can be more complex than in component parts than epic quests were in EQ, they just seem simpler because the fights are more well rounded and presentation is better. Complexity has overall gone up, and complexity costs a lot of money in development time to get it right to where players don't complain about a wonky bit.

Anonymous said...

Crowfall is a scam, it's the same thing as Star Citizen. It will never be released or it will be released in a stupid long time... You should not be allowed to ask people to give that much money and get nothing in return in a reasonable time frame. Otherwise, it would be called investment and you should hope for returns and have a contract. As far as I remember Squadron 42 (Star Citizen single player campaign) was promised for 2015, its still not out. I can bet you Crowfall will stay in alfa/beta for a couple of other years.

At least Albion was in a playable state, and had a real world

For instance, there no part of a pyramid scheme that is considered illegal, but doing one is still punished by law.

Anonymous said...

Just finished writing the comment above and I found this:

Star Citizen is holding a referal contest, and everyone getting 2942 lifetime referals will get a free trip to their GamesCon... at current minimum pledge that's $131,940 (2932 x $45) to get the prize

They are literally begging people for money when they already pledged 147mil.

Gevlon said...

@Anon: you don't know if Crowfall/SC are scams. They can be honest fails. The pyramid scheme is different from a startup (most startups fail with all investors money lost) by the owners knowing that there is no product and they get to jail if the DA can prove to the Court that there was no other activity than collecting money and paying the first divends from it.

Anonymous said...

Even you fall into the early-access trap. Now, imagine people that dont know much about game development and stuff. This is gold mine for scammers/incompetent morons.

Herman said...

Crowfall is in bloody alpha. And a proper alpha, not a "marketing" alpha. It's not done yet by far.

I've been following the development, and there are many pieces of the puzzle still to be finished.

If you want a look at actual "failed" development, take a look at Pathfinder Online...

TokenLLC said...

Did you check out when looking for a new game?

From that page:

Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues is a fantasy RPG that combines a single player narrative with a sandbox MMO created by a team that includes: Richard “Lord British” Garriott the creator of the Ultima series, Starr Long the Director of Ultima Online, and Tracy Hickman the author of Dragonlance

Player Driven Economy: Deep crafting system where the best items are made by players and player items are the main source of loot found in the game.

Gevlon said...

@ TokenLLC: "Shroud of the Avatar is currently available for Early Access Testing for all Adventurer level pledges and above, and all Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues game access pass holders and above. The estimated launch date is 2017. Please note, however, that all dates are estimates and subject to change due to the complexities of development."

As I wrote, no more pre-released games, unless release date (exact date) is set. Otherwise: looks very interesting, though I'm not sure how much competitive features will be in.

Hanura H'arasch said...

Does this mean you've crossed Life is Feudal, Naval action and Cameloth Unchained of your list as well, since they're all alpha?

That would make Archeage next in line, wouldn't it?

Gevlon said...

@Hanura: LiF is talking about 2017 release, so they might publish an exact release date. But yes, I won't risk another X euros thrown out for a big nothing.

I'm intensively looking for another game, I'm not intending to sit here and whine.

Anonymous said...

I am closer to Halycon than a lot of the above posters.

If this were not KS, then I would look at $12M and say half goes for promotion and marketing leaving $6M for development. In California devs average $100K per year. Fully burdened (business-speak for taking into account overhead, rent, everything non-salary) tends to about double that. So $6M is 30 person years - so ten people a year for three years. KS may be able to do this cheaper, but not by that much. Blizzard has 74 people in the department that works on cut scenes. $12M is a tiny amount for a AAA MMO. You can do fine card games or non-AAA mobile for $12M, but not MMOs. I have a hard time thinking any Kickstarter MMO will make it and be something I like. IMO, people who think $12M is a lot for a MMO are going to be quite disappointed with crowdfunding.

@Tithian Eric has been working on Project Gorgon for over a decade

Anonymous said...

I assume ArcheAge was #2?

Back when you were "looking for a Project", an unusual suggestion would have been WoW for Overwatch players. I.e. using intelligent, unsocial behavior in WoW economics for not-MMO-skilled, FPS players to make gold that is RMTed into Blizzard balance that is used to buy OverWatch items.

Anonymous said...

Stay away from Shroud of the Avatar, I burned myself with that one. It is just another half-assed MMO littered with "micro"transactions.