There's a certain art to designing the pledge tiers for any potential Kickstarter project. This is readily apparent when one peruses as many as I have over the last few months. Doing so, one begins to recognize the repeated patterns in many of them. They were born, I expect, from fellow Kickstarters who have done the same that I did, attempting to learn from both the successes and failures of other projects. In this diary, I'd like to discuss two of the core goals I had in mind while laying out our pledge tiers and then show you a sampling of some of the current digital-only ones.
My first goal was to embrace, not fear, the disparate nature of MMORPG gamers and to build tiers that consider this right from the beginning. The obvious issue with this was how best to deal with a potentially large and not particularly homogenous audience of players whose wants and needs are not only different from each other's but which are, at times, in direct conflict with those of their fellow MMORPG gamers.
Over the last few months, I have spent a great deal of time building the initial community for Camelot Unchained by talking with folks in a few key places, like here at MMORPG.com. More recently, I've asked for their help to hone in on what's important when it comes to Kickstarter rewards. While I let them know how crucial it was to me to get their feedback, I also placed a bounding box on some of their requests by not allowing items that could affect in-game balance (special non-cosmetic weapons, recipes, etc.) or requests that would harm realm pride by being a bit too elitist.
As one might expect, I received a massive outpouring of comments and suggestions. They were as disparate as the community itself, but fortunately, they also contained a decent amount of overlap along with more than a spattering of the “I love X but don’t do Y” and “I love Y but don’t do X” sort of responses. I distilled the hundreds of ideas down to a list of over 70 that were worth serious consideration for inclusion in our Kickstarter. Next, I shared those with the team here plus some other folks. Thanks to their input, the total was boosted to over 90 items while also eliminating a few that they felt were outside the limitations I had placed on the requests. Once I felt it safe to say the first of my goals was accomplished, I moved on to my second one, that of achieving a certain amount of flexibility in our system.
Most game-based Kickstarters follow the same basic approach of a limited number of pledge tiers followed by items that backers can purchase as add-ons. While this has been a part of all the successful Kickstarters I had previously reviewed, I wanted something that was not solely reliant on getting a pledge and then charging people for optional items. As our thread on MMORPG continued to grow, user Jostle suggested I look at the structure for a project called Data Hacker for inspiration. When I did so, I was blown away by the simplicity of the concept and excited about giving our backers tremendous flexibility with a RYO approach to the pledge tiers.
I was so keen on the idea that I even posted a poll on our subreddit to see how potential supporters felt about such an approach. Unfortunately, even though I loved it, the result only showed a 2:1 acceptance ratio. While that’s a pretty solid margin, I didn’t think it was enough to mitigate the potential risk of overcomplicating the Kickstarter process for so many potential backers, so I had to look in another direction for the best way to implement additional flexibility in our system.
What I decided to do instead was to use a system where each pledge tier comes with a certain number of “Founder’s Points” that can be spent inside the game in a backers-only store. This will provide more flexibility, since each tier can have fewer fixed reward elements (forum access, beta access, etc.), but once the game launches, our backers can go into the store and redeem their FPs for their preferred items (cloaks, hats, etc.). They can of course buy additional FPs, but even so, I have stocked the majority of our tiers with enough items that I imagine most backers will feel no need to buy additional FPs. For example, the $110 pledge tier currently comes with over 20 separate items, a discounted sub rate and 40 FPs that can be used to purchase as many as eight additional selections, depending on the points required for each one. ,
Having accomplished these goals, I then decided to respond to community feedback asking for more information on the tiers before our Kickstarter launches. Embracing the community aspect of CU, I decided that writing diaries before launch was the best way to go. Therefore, here is your chance to tell us what you think. If you feel that we should make changes, it is not too late to let us know what you think. Here is a sampling of the digital-only pledge tiers (we also have guild tiers) below $1,000. I invite you all to give me your feedback on them. Please keep in mind that these tiers are not final, and are likely to change before the launch of the Kickstarter. I’ll start with our lowest-priced tier that contains a copy of the game.
Pledge Tier $25 – Comes with access to private forums, official “Thank You” email/letter, Bronze forum badge, 5 FPs, 1 digital copy of the game, 1 month free subscription, digital manual, special in-game title, an additional 5 FPs if you bought March on Oz, an additional 5 FPs if you are a subscriber to our newsletter, access to our Founder’s Store and Beta 5 Access to the game.
Pledge Tier $50 – Comes with everything above plus a special founder’s gravestone marker, founder’s app, ringtones and wallpapers, digital strategy guide, special thanks in the credits, founder’s crafting icon, extra beta invites (# TBD), realm-locked founder’s chat, Beta 4 access, 25 FPs and an additional 1 month of subscription.
Pledge Tier $110 – Comes with everything above plus special starter armor (cosmetic difference only), special starter weapon (cosmetic difference only), founder’s wall plaque, unique trophies, unique dyes, digital copy of the art book, special in-game thanks, extra character slots (# TBD), discounted sub rate ($ TDB), Gold forum badge, Beta 2 access, 40 total FPs and a total of 3 months of free subscription.
Pledge Tier $150 (a two for one tier) – Comes with 2 digital copies of the game, everything in the $50 tier, special starter armor (cosmetic), special starter weapon (cosmetic), wall plaque and an additional free month of subscription for each copy of the game, 40 FPs for each account, discounted sub rate ($ TBD), Beta 3 access and Gold forum badge.
Pledge Tier $200 (This is our “pure” alpha access tier) – Comes with everything in the $50 tier, alpha testing wall plaque, alpha access trophy, discounted sub rate ($ TBD), Platinum Forum Badge, Alpha testing access and 25 FPs.
Pledge Tier $250 – Comes with everything in the $50 tier plus special starter armor (cosmetic), special starter weapon (cosmetic), wall plaque, 3 year subscription renewable for $1 per year (Kickstarter has asked us not to have a lifetime subscription but a shorter one that renews for a small amount and well, $1 is pretty small), extra character slots (# TBD), Beta 2 access, Platinum forum badge and 60 FPs.
Pledge Tier $500 – Comes with everything in the $250 tier and also includes 2 additional digital copies of the game (these do not include the renewable subscription), the art book, special thanks in-game, extra character slots (# TBD), in-game founder’s statue for display outside your home, exclusive cosmetic housing items, statue in Founder’s Row, Alpha testing access, Mithril forum badge and 150 FPs.
Some of these tiers are limited (alpha access for example) and they will not be repeated even if they sell out. This is a departure from those game-based Kickstarters that simply add a cloned copy of most tiers and sometimes, not always, raise the price. In the case of our alpha access tier, if it sells out, we will not clone it because frankly, we need to limit the number of people who will have access to this stage of testing.
Here are some of the items that our backers will be able to spend their FPs on – reserving your character name, special proc, founder’s death animation, founder’s sit animation, founder’s weapon glow, founder’s leaderboards, priority login, priority appeal queue, founder’s hat (cosmetic), founder’s cloak (cosmetic), special crafter items (all cosmetic, things such as weapon forge, forge glow, apron, additional storage space, etc.) and many more. Right now, we have about 40 digital items that will be available in the Founder’s Store and I’m sure we’ll add more over time with the help and support of our backers. As per above, I wanted to, whenever possible, limit the Founder’s Store to items for which there wasn’t anything approaching consensus in the forums on rather than sticking them on our tiers to fatten them up and reserving the really good stuff to encourage people to spend more RL money. Maybe not the best business practice in the world, but I’d rather leave some money on the table than be seen as someone who is trying to wring every last dollar out of the Kickstarter process. That is one of the perks of being independent again and putting $2M of my own money into this game; I can darn well make the call to do this, so I did.
In closing, I want to be sure to thank everyone who has already helped me/us out during this process; particularly the wonderful people who have endured my eye chart of a spreadsheet in order to send me their comments on it. All in all, the creation of these reward tiers has been quite a collaborative process and I hope this is only the start of how CSE and our community can work together to help build CU from the ground and together, create a game that can take its place among the great MMORPGs.