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November 27th, 2012, 15:55
I don't want to pick on Ghan, I know he has a fondness for this project, but I want to point out that this quote isn't quite accurate. I'll highlight the lines.

Your reply just confirms my point though - what sold you on PE were factors entirely outside of the actual pitch. And I am not saying that is wrong. (As a side my problem with it is not that I don't expect them to make at least a decent Infinity-Engine style game. My beef with them is that they decided to make a campaign straight out of the marketing department instead of using this opportunity to suggest and discuss something out of the ordinary, one of the dream games Avellone likes to talk about in his interviews).

As Asdraguuhl pointed out correctly an unknown team doesn't have that luxury.
There are two aspects to the "stuff outside the pitch" here. One is reputation. That, you're correct, is absolutely beyond the reach of an unknown team. But that isn't the only reason Dhruin talked about "knowing what the game is going to be". The other is that they said "it's gonna be like an Infinity Engine game", and Dhruin has played a ton of those.

This is essentially using a shorthand to convey the design goal in a few words. This is similar to what genre terms achieve, if I say "rogue-like" or "Action RPG" or "RTS" you are instantly up-to-speed on some of the basics of the design and how the game feels in play, and I can concentrate on describing what makes this particular one different.

And that aspect of it totally is within reach of unknown teams. Just recently, for example, Simon Roth pitched Maia as basically Dungeon Keeper in a space colony. And then showed footage that was instantly reminiscent of Dungeon Keeper's design patterns.

Now, fair enough, that trick is only available if you are going with an existing design pattern. But that's a choice. When you choose to announce that your design is going to be innovative and revolutionary, you gain the attention of people looking for something different but lose the ability to rely on short-hand to spell out your design. I think Sui Generis shows why this is a double-edged sword. Its popularity is almost entirely due to the originality of its combat engine design. But the hesitance of backers is also almost entirely due to that originality, and not knowing what to expect from the rest of the game (and thus not having a clear idea whether that is achievable or even desirable).

All in all there is quite a bit of info on SG if you look carefully through the (rewritten) KS main page, comments, Forums.
There isn't really though. What they've written is, for the most part, not design but goals for the design. Which is a fairly significant difference. For example, from the item update :

I'll put "HOW" next to every mention of a goal, not a concrete design for how to achieve that goal.

You will be able to customise many items in terms of appearance and some even in function(HOW). While we have no player crafting planned for an initial release of the game we do hope to include the ability for professional NPC craftsmen to adorn or create items to your specification(HOW). You may for example get a Tailor to make a garment with your choice of design, fabrics and colours. What you wear can significantly affect how people perceive you(HOW, and how does this perception system work in general?) and also provide useful disguises(HOW? Is there are faction/reputation system?). Dyeing or otherwise colouring items is something you may be able to do yourself. Some rare items will be predisposed to draw power from additional items that may be slotted in or combined with them.
The story unfolds in a hugely dynamic fashion(HOW) and events will transpire even without your intervention(HOW). Your lack of involvement may lead to truly disastrous consequences for the world(HOW), the game will not end but the world may become a very inhospitable place(HOW). Even if you try your best you may not succeed, the game does not revolve around completing tasks and progressing stages of the plot(So HOW does it progress?). Success or failure are of equal value, the aim is to have fun.

There will be a great many unique non player characters in the world(HOW will you achieve this without a gajillion writers?), whether they become friends or enemies or are simply indifferent is completely circumstantial(HOW? What circumstances?). The game is not specifically designed to have a persistent party of companions, though some characters may choose to follow you and may be predisposed toward this role(HOW does that work?). If they perish they will not return to life, or at least not as they were. Ultimately no character (or creature) is special, all are subject to the same rules and the physical laws of the universe(HOW does the plot continue if you kill an important NPC?).
Goals are easy to state. If I say "you will be able to conquer the world with necromancy" without explaining how that works in gameplay exactly, I'm describing a goal, not a design. And one that is so grandiose that you SHOULD be skeptical of it until I explain how it will work. Almost all their posts explain what they plan to do, rather than what they've implemented.

Which is not to say that they need to spell out everything here. I'm ok with some things just being goals. But…they're asking for a lot of faith if they describe lofty goals, don't detail how they will achieve things that the AAA companies have not been able to manage, show very little outside a combat tech demo, and get defensive when people ask pointed questions.

Don't get me wrong, lofty goals are somewhat admirable, I know ALL about lofty goals. But I also have some experience with how unrealistic those goals can be too.

Another example :

Grand Theft Auto meets Morrowind in an original open world RPG.
This is extremely unlikely. Both those games are hand-crafted experiences, created by teams of artists and designers working over the course of years. You won't get that experience, not even by procedural generation. It concerns me that this is the starting point of their pitch, as I'm forced to conclude that they don't realize how unreasonable that goal is. And I'm disturbed by how many gamers see a combat tech demo, read these lines and go "ERRMAHGURD, IT'S MY DREAM GAME!!"

But let's tone it down and say the aim is for Daggerfall. I think the fact that most people aren't game programmers is biting them here. He mentions procedural generation twice in the pitch video, but not in a way that implies full procedural world generation. (Ghan, you're clearly aware of this, but let me go through it for other readers).

First when talking about the terrain (saying he can procedurally generate large land masses). But he's still talking about terrain here, that isn't actually hard, a bit of perlin noise will give you an ok natural landscape…until you try to actually procedurally generate town locations, towns, NPCs, Quests and routes/connections between them. As long as you're just talking ground height, texture and shrubbery and not requiring too much of a logically structured landmass, you're ok.

Beyond that you ain't in Kansas anymore. And they DON'T mention that even being a goal, from what I can see. Their hand-placement tools suggest otherwise, in fact. Which means they are simply going to do what a LOT of devs ALREADY do, which is use some procedural terrain generation as a nice base, then hand sculpt on top of that to build the world. That's not procedural generation so much as procedural-assistance, even Oblivion did that.

Which just brings us back to trying to build Morrowind without the dev resources.

(The other time he mentions procedural generation is the sky, but that isn't hugely important.)

Unless there is something on the forums to suggest otherwise, I think "I'm picturing Daggerfall!" is drifting off into the clouds, in terms of what they're talking about versus what people are imagining.

Again, I don't blame folk for thinking it, non-programmers won't necessarily be familiar with this stuff. And I don't think they're purposefully misleading people here. They're just too close to what they're talking about to realize how it sounds to the non-technical.

If unsuccessful, it will once again confirm that gamers want the same old. Contrary to the urban myth that gamers support evolution, that corporations are the bit that prevents innovation in gaming, gamers are extremelly conservative.
@ChienAboyeur That is not what this says. However small an amount of money it may be for each gamer, few people want to simply throw away their money just because someone asks them to. Most people don't support KS for devs to "just try an experiment to see if they can make something cool" with their projects. Most want to feel like they are backing a well thought-out project that has very good chances of delivering what it promises, but simply lacks the funding to do so.

This is why reputation, a solid design, reasonable scope for the monetary amount and showing a strong prototype are the 4 best ways to succeed, each inspires confidence in backers, whether you're talking investors or KS patrons. It's the same process, and the same concerns.

Sui Generis would, I feel, have had little trouble if it had simply outlined a combat arena game or dungeon crawler. There is little question about whether they can turn what they've shown into one of those. But there are HUGE question marks above what they are promising.

I'm fine with people personally gambling on hope. But acting like other people are silly for expressing very real reservations is…silly.

Back to Ghan :

Looking at Antharion recently, it's also clear that showing a working game is no ticket to funding even at the lowest level.
Well, only under the KS system. What this does is highlight the flaw in the "all or nothing" model of KS more than anything else. They got to 14k of 15k. If it was some self-funding initiative, they may have been able to use that money to get to 95% complete and then started pre-orders or something. If it was a traditional publisher offering them ~90% of their asked for amount, they might have been willing to settle for that and cut a feature or two.

It's not demonstrating that showing a solid project doesn't work in the general case.

What I would do there is take advantage of the fact that you can still update backers even after the project is unsuccessful or finished. Setup a paypal option on your own site, open alpha funding and ask backers to head there and pledge. You'll probably get at maximum 50% of them doing so, but it's well worth a shot while you have their attention, IMO.

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