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Messages - Jon Shafer

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Conifer and the Games Industry / Re: Welcome to the Conifer Forums!
« on: February 12, 2013, 01:38:35 AM »
When would you get access to the design documents at the $125 level? After the kickstarter ends?
They'll be made available late March-ish. Have to do some cleanup work!

- Jon

Conifer and the Games Industry / Trials & Tribulations of Kickstarter
« on: February 11, 2013, 08:53:20 PM »

This post originally began its life as a humble comment on our Kickstarter page, but after writing for a bit I realized it would be even better as a full-blown article!

What Do You Have to Consider With a Kickstarter Campaign?

Many people don't realize creators ultimately end up with a fairly small slice of the Kickstarter pie. You can immediately cut 20% off the top due to processing fees and failed transactions. Then there's the cost of fulfilling rewards, marketing (yes, it's important), both planned and unplanned contract work, licensing multiple software packages - the list goes on and on.

Oh, and as with everything in life, the taxman always wants his share. It's particularly rough if you make a large amount of money from your campaign, and then nothing for the next two years, as you'll be taxed at a much higher bracket than you would if the same amount of revenue had been spread out. Suddenly that amazing $1,000,000 Kickstarter haul starts to look a lot more like 300 or 400 thousand. Yikes!

In retrospect, I'm very glad I did extensive research on all of this ahead of time. I can see how teams end up in big trouble by overestimating the actual funding they end up with, either due to a lack of research or worse, just sheer excitement. The cost of physical rewards can really sneak up on you, and this is why we've been so conservative about what tiers we're offering for ATG and the $ figures attached to them. This is a sad tale, and I imagine it will be one that's increasingly common. It's particularly depressing because I also have a personal connection with that project.

Kickstarter & At the Gates

In case anyone was wondering, yes, I have done my homework! $40k is not a large budget for a complex strategy game, but its possible because I know exactly where every cent will eventually end up going. Having a small, very talented team comprised almost entirely of your friends really helps! (Thanks again, guys!)

That's not to say success is guaranteed - for us or anyone else. There's risk with every large project. This is especially true for games, which can be both beautiful and well-engineered but end up being zero fun to actually play. It honestly surprises me how optimistic people are about the probability of most Kickstarter projects following through on their claims. The rate of failure here is likely to be in the same ballpark as traditional games development... and that number ain't good. It might even be worse, as large companies have staff paid to ensure projects do succeed!

This is why I welcome and even encourage folks to challenge us on not only what we're doing with ATG but also how we plan on doing it. (Yes, that is an open invitation - fire away, I promise I can take it!)

In my personal opinion, Kickstarter is neither charity nor even patronage. It instead serves as a means for customers to pre-order products directly from their creators, providing the funding necessary to develop innovative concepts. Patronage can be a part of that, but only when the chances of ending up with something at the end are very high. Accordingly, there's no way I would launch a Kickstarter campaign without having a fully-playable prototype ready to show off. In my mind you just have to be able to demonstrate what you're actually building, regardless of your track record.

This is also offers a built-in advantage to the developers. We're already about halfway down the road of development, and much of what remains is simply polish work. Not bad!

The Future of Kickstarter

I often wonder how Kickstarter will change once the first big failures hit. I have great faith in the model and believe it's how a significant chunk of future PC games will be funded. There are a large number of people who agree with me on this. But there's no guarantee the larger community will maintain that opinion after throwing thirty, two-hundred or a thousand dollars at vaporware.

What about you? If games you've contributed to go down in flames with nothing to show for it, will it lower the chances you contribute to future projects? And what risks associated with ATGs development concern you the most? Let me know what you think!

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Stats! Tell me about the stats!!!
« on: February 11, 2013, 08:44:45 PM »
Great idea Hunter. Definitely would like to work that into the game somehow. I'm thinking the Huns will also be very mobile, so we'll have to find ways to differentiate one "fast-moving faction" from all the others.

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Stats! Tell me about the stats!!!
« on: February 09, 2013, 10:15:24 AM »
Most of the faction abilities have yet to be designed, but I do have a few ideas in mind. A couple of the Germanic tribes will get bonuses relating to supply in the winter. The one I'm most excited about is the possibility that the Huns can't actually own any fixed structures of any kind, even Farms - meaning they have to stay on the move constantly and keep pillaging everything in sight.

Other suggestions also welcome! :)

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Ideas, Feedback and Random Thoughts
« on: February 09, 2013, 10:07:42 AM »
I've played the second one a bit and found that it's better than any of the releases in between.  I find the first one (still) good because it is sleek, or 'harsh' might be a compromise term we could agree on  :).  I find the simplicity and starkness quite a relief from unneccessary fluff which weighs down many games and the choices you are left with are strategic. It also fits the theme.   (I'm not much of a RTS battle player though, so I don't play it all that often.)

The sound effects were well done because they underlined what was happening in the game.  (I guess you could say that they were integrated into the design?)  Hitting the end turn button made you feel like the future was being decided.  Moving an army on the campaign map sounded like a moderately important decision, loading a game an important one, the cymbal crashing of catching a shinobi sounded mysterious and notable, etc.

Often sound effects are just so much fluff and a couple of games I've found are actually better without them.  Okay it is good to know that your keypress has been registered but really the sounds should add to the game experience, for example, taking an important diplomatic decision should lead to a notable acoustic feedback for the player.  On the other hand having an impressive and intrusive sound for every time a unit moves is more than likely to irritate players and detract from the game (from the little I have seen about how ATG plays).  But the capture of a Roman city?  That probably should 'sound' significant.

Perhaps all this is worth thinking about for At The Gates?  (I'm not in a position to contribute to the game financially but ideas are free, aren't they?  ;))

No problem Peter, thanks for the suggestions! Everyone can contribute in their own way. :)

Sound is very important. I'll be tackling that side of the game myself (with some help from Kay), so any ideas there are definitely welcome. Does anyone know of any good sound libraries we could license for ATG? Obviously our budget isn't massive, so we probably can't use what most other developers do.

- Jon

Off-Topic / Re: In the meantime, what are you playing?
« on: February 09, 2013, 09:20:43 AM »
I haven't played any games in a couple months now (!) but I was in the middle of Persona 4 before things got crazy. I also have a HUGE backlog... Wanna get back to CK2, XCOM, Dishonored, Shogun 2, Unity of Command and so many others. I've bought CoE3 but still haven't played it. But first, gotta finish P4!

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Ideas, Feedback and Random Thoughts
« on: February 08, 2013, 07:20:55 PM »
I recently played Shogun TW again (the first one) and was amazed by the sound effects.  Particularly the load game sound and the end turn sound but also various other sound effects on the campaign map like the one for when you catch a Shinobi.  I am NOT referring to the dated voice overs...  I'm not one for flashy graphics and expensive sound bytes (prefer the effort to be spent on game mechanics/balance etc.) but the effect for me was remarkable. 

ATG has quite a different theme but you could do a lot worse than quickly revisiting STW sound effects when thinking about the ones for this game.
Wow, the first one? I tried playing it for the first time a year or so ago and it was... rough.

Have you played the second one? I bought it but never found the time to actually dig in...

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Ideas, Feedback and Random Thoughts
« on: February 08, 2013, 07:19:17 PM »
With the success of an Ironman mode in XCOM and Eador, and some very nice 'roguelikes', I would definitely like to see a default to ironman mode in ATG. This means that winning should therefore be a real success, and you should often lose, and still enjoy the game.
I've really gotten into roguelikes recently (whoa, tongue-twister) and I totally agree. I don't know about defaulting to ironman, but making it an option definitely sounds good. :)

Be nice if the availability of resources pushed you in particular directions strategically, without ever completely defeating you. If you can win with just horses and iron in one game, and stones and wood in another, but using quite different strategies, that would be interesting.
Yeah, this is something we're going to have to work out through iteration. I'm sure the balance of the game as it stands right now is awful, but that's why we're not planning on releasing until mid-2014!

It seems like the game MAY be simple enough that you could use a logical inference engine as one part of the AI. Maybe. I know this is hard, I've tried. At least the AI has to be TRYING to advance its own interests - it seems that AI design that assumes something else goes off the rails easily.
Jonathan and I have yet to decide what approach we want to take with the AI, but that's definitely on the table.

- Jon

Conifer and the Games Industry / Re: Like your ambition
« on: February 08, 2013, 07:15:51 PM »
We've got some fun ideas in the works - definitely looking forward to making more awesome games after we wrap up ATG. :)

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Announcing: At the Gates!
« on: February 08, 2013, 02:20:58 PM »
I like the art style - clear and crisp.

The setting is interesting. It has been a long time, but in my youth (maybe before you were born?) I played Decline and Fall, a boardgame at the grand strategic level on the same period. Have you played it?

I like the sound of the design elements as they are portrayed at the moment - supply, weather, resources, etc.

I expect that the AI and diplomacy elements will be critical to making the thing fun and replayable.

Best of luck with it all.

(and backed, of course).
Thanks Hunter! No doubt, the AI and diplomacy will definitely be a challenge. That's one of the reasons why our release date is still so far off. It just takes time to iterate and polish up a complex strategy game!

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Concerning the artwork...
« on: February 08, 2013, 02:18:22 PM »
Something we're considering is more of a watercolor painterly style as in the landscape and leader paintings, but it'll definitely still be clean 2D no matter what direction we end up going. I agree with you 100%!

- Jon

Off-Topic / Re: Introduce Yourself!
« on: February 06, 2013, 12:43:39 PM »
Thanks guys, and welcome to the forums! Can't wait until we can get the game in front of you!

- Jon

Conifer and the Games Industry / Re: Welcome to the Conifer Forums!
« on: February 06, 2013, 12:42:20 PM »
For $80, you'll be able to play in just a few short months! ;)

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Announcing: At the Gates!
« on: February 06, 2013, 12:41:51 PM »
Almost. I'll get back to you soon.

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Announcing: At the Gates!
« on: February 05, 2013, 09:02:49 PM »
Our team is very excited to finally reveal At the Gates!

Thanks for stopping by the forums, and let us know if you have any questions about the project!

- Jon

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