10/26/13 10:45:45 AM#1
Hi guys I am new on these forums and have been following the development of this game for quite a while now (am a massive fan of SWG). I would like to bring up some points raised on another forum about the future of this game which hopefully one of the devs can answer. Some people believe this game won't succeed because it has an indie dev team with not enough resources for content and overall game development. Once the game is released there are also doubts over the ability of the team to deal with any issues arising due to the lack of funding and therefore manpower. For a game of this complexity how does the dev team plan to deliver a high quality game (I am hoping for a modern version of SWG without the bugs) without the kind of resources enjoyed by other game development studios? Is there any way for fans to invest in the game or does A&B already have plans to obtain the necessary funding?
The Repopulation Dev Responds with:
With regards to support, it's almost certain that we will sign with a publisher prior to launch in order to handle the support, backend, localization, billing, etc. That just makes a lot of sense for everyone involved. I say almost, because it's also possible that we piecemail this approach to third parties, but the most likely route is via a publisher.
With regards to budget, we'd certainly like to have more money available. It would make certain things (content primarily) a lot easier on us. We currently have the early adopter program (https://therepopulation.com/index.php/early-adopter ) which allows players to purchase preorders or perks now at a discounted rate and aids the product significantly. Generally if you get an investment from a publisher, they are most often going to insist on creative control or owning the IP. There has been quite a bit of publisher interest in the game, but we need to find a situation that is best for the product and for the players. Receiving a larger budget, but losing control of the product and seeing a publisher turn it into a theme park game, for example wouldn't really benefit the player base. So if we do receive any external capitol, it would need to be on terms that we can agree to. Otherwise we would pick a publisher based solely on marketing, hosting, support, and localization, and fund through crowd-funding or privately.
That having been said, Repop was designed with a small team in mind. Art and feature wise the game is already way too far along for that to really be an issue. What the game is lacking at the moment is polish and content. And those are areas where a larger budget would be helpful. We have designed the game to minimize the requirements needed in a lot of areas. A lot of what we do is generated, which allows us to get by with less stories and than a theme park would need, because we can reuse a lot of them. Same applies across the board, many of our engagements, dens, etc are shared but randomized in many areas. I'm certainly not saying that having an extra million dollars to play with wouldn't be very beneficial, it would trim the development time, and allow us to pack in more content into launch.
It's very common to hear people say that you need a $5M+ budget to make an MMO. It's a fair conclusion to make, most MMOs do generally cost between $5-30M to produce. But the bulk of that money is spent on offices, hardware, utilities, and salaries for hundreds of people, as well as a million or so generally in licensing fees. Those titles have the budget to spend and the solution is often to throw as many people at the problem as they can, which unfortunately causes some loss of efficiency. Some games have spent millions on videos that the average player will watch once, if that. If you have the budget, why not? If you don't, that's the first thing you cut.
WoW has over 12,000 quests, yet the bulk of them are using a few basic templates, with a storyline holding them together. Each storyline is hand-created for every area, and the quests are primarily done one time and never used again. Yet, 90% of the players don't even read the mission journals, they just hit the accept button, follow the waypoint markers and do whatever it says on the Quest Tracker window (talk to, kill, click, etc). Using a generation scheme you could do that with far less work. Instead we focus on creating 500 templates with randomized NPCs, items, steps, etc. You can still have regional missions, and one-time storylines, but you don't need as many of them. Instead of hand placing every single monster into an area we focus on creating regions of areas which are dynamically spawned based on criteria. It's a different way of approaching the same problem, and a way that scales a lot more efficiently.
You also need to have a staff that is willing to work for below market value or as volunteers. Some of us have poured a lot of our own personal money in the project. Many of us have worked without pay for years on this project, simply because we believe in it. Through crowd-funding we have been able to maintain a small budget for salaries on key people, but anyone who is paid on this project is being paid well below market value. If we had a monstrous budget, people wouldn't be willing to do that, we'd all pay ourselves fair market value. There wouldn't be any volunteers, we'd hire anyone who pulled their weight. From that change alone, even without an office or anything else you'd be looking at a quadrupled (roughly) budget. And there's a lot more to it than that, which larger studios do pay (the aforementioned office space, hardware, licensing costs, marketing).
There has never been a better time to be an indie developer than there is today. Fifteen years ago game developers would go to a publisher, receive an up front investment (at that time something like $500k-$1M, part of which might go to licensing costs), and the publisher would own the rights to everything. The developers would be lucky to see 25% royalties on their product, and they would only see that after they had paid back the initial investment. Meaning if a publisher gave you $1M, you had to clear $4M to ever see royalties. Most titles never made enough money back to ever see royalties. Instead they'd make a game, launch it, then immediately start on a new project and a new up front investment. Developers generally lived off publisher funding. This was pretty much required, as digital downloads were not yet viable, and shelf space was in high demand. If publishers didn't like the direction you were taking, they would step in. They would determine the launch date, as well.
The last couple years have been very friendly to indie devs. New age publishers are available which handle the specific needs of indie devs, while allowing them to protect their own interests, and the developer cut has steadily increased over the years. In the early days you used outdated engines, interns or volunteers for everything, and you had to keep your games as simple as possible. It's why most indie games were so simplified, they had to be. The engines which were always far out of your price range are now available for free or a small up front cost. Yes, you will pay for that in royalties later, but that's an acceptable tradeoff. This did a lot to level the playing field. There are also tons of licenseable tools that simply were not available before. Tools which focus on providing a generic implementation that can be placed into many engines. Traditionally this was all done in house. Things like Umbra (reduces overdraw), Facegen (allows the facial and body customizations you see), FMOD (handles audio mixing), Storybricks (Desire driven NPC and quest system), Physx or Havok (physics), Awesomium or Scaleform(in-game browser and flash implementation), Speedtree (trees and foliage), etc. These products often have years of time already invested into them, and they save developers a ton of time and money. Many of those engines also have indie friendly options that allow for small payment with an additional deferred payment later. It's still an uphill climb as an indie developer, but it's a manageable climb now.