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Exposited Unknowns

Tim Eisen Posted:
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HO! HO! HO! MURRY CHRISTMAS! MMORPGY CHRISTMAS! Tis the season so let’s all be jolly…or not…Another delay! This time the Exposition Store (link), boo, boo delays! Meanwhile on an alternate Earth Soulbound hit their deadline but put out a bad product, boo, boo bad products!

That is the conundrum which plagues developers sleep, or lack of. Do they delay or launch a subpar product? The answer in the short term if obvious, you delay. If you delay it upsets people but if said product later delivers those people will forgive. If you delay several times this does not work. If you delay once then put out a poor product you likely burned a bridge. If you don’t delay and put out a bad product you likely burned a bridge and the towns on each side of said bridge. You only get one launch, one first impression and if it's a bad one your ability to re-obtain a customer is seriously diminished.

By this logic, it's always better to delay, to a point. If you delay then wait too long or if a delay comes at a terrible time in development, you might be better off launching a poor product. To further complicate things an extremely late (but slight) delay might actually serve to create hype! The latter is harder to determine. It's a challenging game of minimizing losses and maximizing returns, to a point.

If you must delay, do it early and honestly. Soulbound has done this. Frankly I wasn’t surprised. As I’ve said, how can you ask players to spend points on things they have no ability to understand in terms of gameplay? (looks at all the MMORPGs he backed on Kickstarter) Ok, apparently, you CAN! In reflection, I’m surprised by some of the offerings of games I’ve backed. How could they have known those things would make it to launch? In many cases I don’t think they could have. Hoped yes, known, no. As time’s gone by it's become more apparent that Kickstarted games will change throughout their development and sometimes that change effects the original pitch.

You must be an optimist to be a game developer, unfortunately that leads down a path of promises and ideas that are believed but rarely held to the fire before they are stated, how could they be? New ideas are full of unknown unknowns that can only be known through development and testing. Change is a side effect of solving those unknowns. In many ways, the very concept of a Kickstarted game gets onto a collision course with change the day it funds. It’s part of the reason I’ve always been forgiving when the games I follow adjust. I realize it’s part of the process, not malicious, or deceptive but organic. I can’t demand new ideas then demean when those ideas force the extraneous change they require.

This is a broad observation of crowd funded MMORPG development, not pointed at Soulbound directly and certainly not meant to infer anything they have or haven’t done. We don’t always like it but it’s a base ingredient in a game that does things that haven’t been done before. There’s hundreds of games that code the known with little more than a new skin-all wrapped up in a shiny familiar intellectual property! We reject them for being boring, pursue these bedeviled crowd funded games and assume the frustrations that come with them, to a point.

“As we worked on filling out the items initially available in the Exposition Store, we kept running into issues where we could provide some information, but not enough to feel that we were providing the level of detail you would want in order to make the decision to spend your EP on it.” “We don't know what we don't know, therefore we don't yet have an expected date for when it will be released.”. Here we have the line that betrays exactly what I've described prior. Selling the cart before considering (let alone answering) questions that won’t be known until they are further along in development. Certainly, a mistake but Soulbound’s blunt honesty in defeat was as appreciated as it was respected. “It's not ready and we should have realized this earlier--probably before we said we were making it but, like I said, we sometimes make mistakes. This mistake not only took up a lot of development time that could have been spent on the game, but also set expectations with the community that will undoubtedly lead to disappointment.”

I’m sure I’ll be scolded for trying to spin the situation, I’m not. If I was spinning I’d just ignore it, not write a whole column about it! Soulbound dropped another deadline, but as always, I’d rather they drop a deadline than hide their losses and push out problematic material due to stubbornness, unwillingness to admit fault or desire for more finances - all of which are achilllion problems that have fatally wounded many other games. They failed, it stings, but they handled it respectably and forge ahead. So, I’m slowly realizing, goes crowd funded MMORPG development. All I can do is sigh and continue to wait, to a point.

Merry Christmas, thanks for reading! That reminds me, Chronicles of Elyria is scheduled to launch by this time next year! I hope they make that date, then I’ll have a Christmas gift that, like all the best gifts, I got for myself! (I gift me so well.) On top of that it will keep me from having to go out among the humans and do that social stuff they seem to enjoy for reasons I’ve yet to deduce! Happy New Year! Eggnog is life!

(Turns up his Christmas station then belly flops into a pool of Eggnog.)


Tim Eisen

I roleplay a wordsmith that writes about the technological and social evolution within the game industry