Thoughts on Kickstarter


For those of you unaware, the Fountain War Novelization Kickstarter began fund-raising earlier this week. The project is backed by CCP, The Mittani Media, and will be written by Jeff Edwards. Who, by all accounts, is a solid writer with a military background that should prove useful in the pursuit of this project.

As you all know I am a firm believer in the power of the Eve community and one of its biggest fans, supporters and instigators. As such I believe strongly that the Eve community as a whole will ultimately decide the fate of every project put in front of it. It is, in so many ways, the final judge and jury in every case. Personally I like that. It is very democratic, majority rules authority. Power derives from the people kind of stuff. So far be it for me to tell you if you should support this campaign with your own hard earned cash. I don't have a dog in this project. If a book gets written I will buy it and read it. It is going to be about Eve after all. And I love Eve.

I do worry that it might not succeed. And that its potential failure might have long-term consequences down the road for other possible projects. Projects that your friendly neighborhood blogger might have a hand in for example. (As an example, cough cough) There is a strong component of wanting it to succeed simply to keep the ball rolling on all the progress that has been made building bridges between CCP and the fan/player base. I would hate to see us all take a step back from that progress. It has been hard won.

It reminds me of something that happened to me once on set. I was just getting started in the world of television production. I was serving as an art director for a series of commercials for Campbell's Soup. There was close to a million dollars in production on the line for 4 commercials, so about 250k each. One of the senior art directors was complaining about the constraints he felt the budget was putting on him. He was used to much bigger budgets and he said something along the lines of, "250k is peanuts!" in an angry voice. The senior account person, who was much older and more experienced, looked at him sternly and said, "Never ever say that out loud again. 250k is someones ENTIRE HOUSE you idiot!" Or words to that effect. It was a lesson that I would carry with me my entire career. Money comes from somewhere. It belongs to someone. And no matter what, we have a certain responsibility to honor that knowledge.

And maybe it's because of my most recent experience with the generosity of the Eve community, perhaps that is tainting my view. But 150,000 is a big ask. And for such a big ask it seems, at least from the outside, that this project wasn't given the kind of planning and forethought that one might expect. Early mistakes were made with the rewards, which were quickly rectified. And, for such a big project, transparency seems to be an issue. Although after some back and forth last night on Twitter, it seems progress is finally being made on that front as well.

I've been watching and learning about Kickstarter for awhile now. It is a fickle beast. But crowd-funding is a powerful and exciting tool, especially for those of us with big ideas and shallow pockets. It has a heart that beats to a certain drummer, and I think it is important to understand that music if you are planning to play with the band. You don't want the band you're in to start playing different tunes. (I learned that from Dark Side of the Moon)

Ultimately the community will decide. As it should. There are those that are immediately against anything that has anything to do with "grrr goons" and I respect that. I'm no fan either. But this isn't about that to me. All I see is the future. A future with a novel written about real events that happened in our sandbox... or a future in which no such novel exists.

And despite the mistakes, despite the source, such a project seems worthy of due consideration. In the end I will leave you with a piece of sage Eve advice, "Only fly what you can afford to lose."

The question all of us have to ask is, what can we afford to lose?



PS: The Ancient Gaming Noob has a good post about this as well.

29 comments:

  1. +1 for the Pink Floyd reference.

    I have not yet donated to this Kickstarter project, mostly because I had no part of the Fountain War and frankly don't have a strong interest as a result. But like you, I am very interested in seeing this project succeed, as I think it is healthy for the EVE community to have these kind of player-driven creative initiatives supported by CCP. I'm concerned that the goal is so large - that seems like an over-reach to me. Look at Groen's History of EVE project and how the community rallied to exceed his modest goal - it's a success by any measure, clearly. Better to set a reasonable bar and blow it out, I think, than to set a high bar and fail, as that will taint perception of the result.

    I will throw a few dollars at the project today, and will be watching it closely. I hope it does not fail, and thereby make future cooperative projects more difficult.

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    1. Andrew did the right thing and approached the community humbly and reasonably, it is one of the big reasons I supported his campaign and his book. Heck I spent a good 80+ hours putting a map together for it, just because. And while this campaign smells a tad like hubris from a source we all expect hubris from, I still fear that its failure would mean bad things for other collaborations in the future.

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    2. I'm probably not going to back the project, and I probably won't buy the book.

      It's not going to be an account of EVE history. It's going to be ~fictionalized~. The last time that happened, BoB got turned into a mining corp and one of the founding (if oversold) stories of political EVE was reduced to something that read like a slow day in Niarja.

      And most of the scenes were rendered as mannerist avatars talking in seedy bars, you know, just like EVE.

      That project set the bar low enough that I expect nothing from this one. $150,000 is a crazy ask. I understand why they need that much money. I don't understand why they think it makes sense to ask for it. On top of all that, their rewards were cringeworthy and embarrassing.

      My hope is that the failure of this project will get future project leaders to step up their game. This is not the impression of EVE that I want people to have.

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    3. They have to ask big for a quality product, and sure, it's going to be fictionalized, but it will be a good read from a good author and hopefully bring in new players.

      The unfortunate truth is that failure of this project will ultimately destroy further projects to push EVE into books and movies. If an event as big as this with backing from CCP and a whole host respectable and/or famous people can't get enough support, then there's not much point in other content creators trying to do the same.

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  2. I have mixed feelings about this project. I mirror much of what you said regarding the community and support, but I have bias against mittens involvement (not to the extreme of Greedy goblin mind you!). The 150K goal seems steep, but I assume the largest cost is from the IP license. Will I buy the book? Probably. Will I fund it? I don't know yet.

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  3. I have the same feelings described by Vi'ana above. Im not sure if I'll fund it but most probably will buy if becomes reality.

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  4. I hope to see some budget info added to the campaign description. If you start listing observable expenses, it is fairly easy to see the costs add up:

    -- Author full-time compensation
    -- CCP license fees
    -- Kickstarter fees (10%)
    -- Taxes (KS income is 100% taxable in the US, offset by expenses when you file taxes)
    -- Marketing costs (ads, printed collaterals, travel, etc)
    -- Fulfillment costs (physical item production, postage/packaging/labor costs, etc.)

    The only concern a backer should have with a funding goal is how it might impact the chances of the project actually being funded. It's a fine line to get that number right. Ask too much, you risk missing the goal. Ask too little, you must shoulder more of the cost burdens of fulfillment if the project is funded. On an individual backer level, the only consideration I have is "What would represent best value for cost for me that I can or am willing to pay for?" That is the ONLY thing that drives my choice when backing any Kickstarter. I backed for the $25 serialized digital level because I don't care for paper books and want to read the content sooner rather than later. That represents the value for cost price point for me.

    Goons have an image "problem" among the playerbase and The Mittani is reviled by many (not me, for the record) for various behaviors over the years. It'll be a challenge to open minds and wallets in light of that, but I think it can be done by focusing on the author, the project process, and its content. If there was already some kind of rough chapter outline for content in the book, making that known might get more people interested in what will be said and how it will be presented. Draft excerpts would also be helpful. Broad-stroke transparency about where the money will go would be helpful. The discussion on Twitter was good and open last night. I'm curious to see where it goes.

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  5. Thank you for the link.

    Looking at the project today, they have cleaned out the silly/Mittani focused rewards and tried to explain generally why they are asking for the money at the top of the page. However we are now into day three, that essential first 48 hours have passed, and the momentum is slackening. Sitting 15% in towards the goal at this point isn't a death knell, but it isn't cause for optimism.

    Meanwhile, as Dave Andrews (Marcus Scaurus of old) pointed out yesterday, the most highly funded literary campaign on Kickstarter brought in $118K (on a $14K ask) so this campaign was already pushing into uncharted territory.

    I hope this does not kill the project outright, but I am starting to feel that they may require a new plan in order to see it through.

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    1. Don't worry about that. goon line members will be instructed to cough up 10 bucks apiece if this project looks like it will be falling short. And of course, this "completely voluntary" donation will completely onboard with the EULA and CCP.

      Here is how it will work:

      goons announce via the kickstarter page that a new $10 reward will be created, and you will get a "thank you for helping Eve!" snail mail sent directly from the failed lawyer and this "great author", regardless of whether you play eve or not. Of course, these thank you letters will be uniquely identified with some kind of numbering scheme.

      goons will then announce of their internal web site that every goon should post on some internal goon site their unique identifier. It is some simple programming then for goon leadership to figure out what line members donated to the cause, and which ones did not.

      You can then extrapolate what "moral suasion" will be used on those that do not.

      BTW, this new kickstarter format can, and will, be used in the future to extract more real cash from people that want to join goons, or are current line members.

      "we are now introducing a new kickstarter project to brand goon sex-toys, and for the low reward plateau of 50 dollars you will get one sent to your home, plus a letter with a new unique identifier" (or any promotion you can think of).

      CCP has proven once and for all that there are different rules for goons when it comes to the EULA, and this kickstarter project was just the test run to monetize Eve in another way for goon leadership.

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    2. Wow Vince, my own deviously cynical mind hadn't even thought that far down the rabbit hole yet. Well done.

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    3. Wait, wait... let me write this down... this is pure gold...

      Seriously though, anybody whose theory rests on the idea of compliant and obedient goons has never spent any time in their forums. Like any tribe, they unite against outsiders, but bicker loudly amongst themselves. There isn't even a thread about the book in the forums last I checked because TMC media is a small subset of goons. Hell, the TMC feed into the forums has been broken for a couple months and I'm not sure anybody has noticed. That's how tight they are with goons as a whole.

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    4. Let me get this straight...you are suggesting that this kind of thing won't fly on the goon forums, while the basis of this alliance is based on a forum where members have to pay 10 bucks to follow it.......Plus, we are talking about an organization that demands and tracks activity levels via PAP links, with banishment if members don't meet standards....


      The irony is so rich here.

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    5. Your ignorance outs you yet again. First you confuse voluntary behavior, joining SA, and coercion, being forced to pay $10 to stay in GoonFleet. I guarantee you that would not fly and no amount of foot stomping by you will make it so. Plus, didn't you see what happened with Admiral Foxbolt?

      Second, actual Goons, those in GoonFleet, aren't tracked by PAP links at all. They are exempt and can do whatever they want. Christ man, don't you even read Gevlon's blog? It's like you're not working at being anti-Goon at all some days!

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    6. My ignorance of the prefect details may be off, but the overarching high level facts remain the same. You want to participate in the head sociopath's party today, you pay 10 bucks, and the majority of his sycophants deal with mandatory ops which are tracked religiously.

      But hey, do what goon propagandists do all the time, try to shoot the messenger, or anything else to derail from the topic.

      Bottom line, Eve would be a far far better place, and more profitable in the long run, if anyone with goon affiliation of any kind was removed from the game, permanently.

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    7. Vince, your ignorance isn't of the "prefect details", it's of everything. You've got unfounded tinfoil and a clear hatred of the goons clouding your judgement. By the way, if you pay the $10, you do so for SA forum access and that makes you an actual goon, which means you have no mandatory ops. If you choose not to you can join one of the other alliance corps which means you fall under the same rules as the other coalition alliances. They do have mandatory ops - just like every other reasonably sized nullsec group.

      The reality is that if the project needs a boost towards the end, Mittani is likely to just dump it in himself, since the guy is loaded.

      If he doesn't, I'm sure goons will be asked to donate towards it, but it won't be for in-game rewards, it's more likely to be exclusive out of game rewards, something like "donate $20 and come along to a goon only party".

      If everyone with goon affiliation were removed from the game, EVE wouldn't exist. CCP couldn't afford to lose that many subs. I'm amazed at how much your hate for goons prevents you seeing basic realities such as this.

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  6. I don't think it will affect other Eve projects if it fails. It's so much got its own unique situation and baggage.

    Also it's entirely possible that they could fall short of the £150k and still get the book published.

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  7. I'm worried about the project.
    As you've said - early mistakes were made. I feel like CCP wasn't asked about those rewards and those responsible to decide what rewards will be included didn't know about CCPs EULA at all. While "strategic consultion" was a grey'ish area, the corpse was 100% against EULA.
    Now I'm sure CCP will have -zero- influence in what is going to be published or not. If it ends up being a pure propaganda book glorifying a single player and community is begging CCP to remove the book from the market as it will damage the community and reputation of EVE they won't be able to do it.
    Given the sample piece published at kickstarter the CFC of 2013 will be called "The Imperium" while TEST ist called TEST. Now I may have played EVE for too long, but I somehow expect former members of TEST to make the claim to be called "Clusterfuck Coalition". Just for the giggles. Will Jeff respect that? Or is history written not only by the winner but the winner who is paying his salary?

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    1. Jeff has made it clear on Twitter this week that the book will be written with a mind toward younger audiences and that certain names will be "tweeked" in the interest not only of that consideration, but also from a storytelling one. Let's be honest here, not all Eve character names give themselves easily over to good storytelling, "SurpriseButtSex101 leaned back in his chair and consider the upcoming fight against AnalProbeMonkey..." leaves something to be desired.

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    2. Fair enough. The whole story should be written using "tweeked" names not existing in EVE if the target audience reaches for more than the players of EVE (and trying to attract new players to EVE as a side effect). While some of the new players would like to join the losing side the majority would try to join the winning team. No matter if the losing team sacrificed itself to break a blue HBC donut of stagnation (and that's how I experienced the Fountain War - but I don't expect TEST to get the "cool guys" role in the book).

      Could we please get Chribba as 3rd party reading the story and having a "veto" on publishing parts? ^^

      Anyway - if this book turns out to be healthy for EVE Online and I'm just overly sceptical I'll bow my head and buy it.

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  8. I would like to see it succeed, but at this rate I doubt it will. Changing rewards and talking about adding a budget break down after the campaign started are admirable attempts, but the lack of planning and thought put into the overview and the rewards screams insincerity. I do not feel that you can appeal to the masses with such glaring insincerity. The Mittani should have done more to improve his image prior to this campaign and had an objective third party help develop the rewards. You only get one chance at a first impression right? I hope I'm wrong but I think they blew it.

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    1. They certainly got off on the wrong foot and played right into the "haters" hands from the beginning.

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  9. Here is the breakdown of how the Kickstarter funds will be spent:

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1318670671/fountain-war-book/posts/1405367

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    1. $0 or 0.00% for IP licence. Seems legit. If CCP didn't manage to get a share of the profit for each copy sold they got scammed pretty hard :D

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    3. I very much think CCP is using this as a chance to see how it'll all work out on someone else's dime.Their own contributions to publishing were... not great. They did an absolutely horrible job of marketing though. So who knows. If Mittens can get the money for the book, he may do a better job at the back end that's so important for publishing small books like this. I think he did it a disservice of only talking to gaming media and a couple authors. For something like this some of the larger book review websites may have been willing to do a write-up about the experiment. For this to be successful, really successful, it needs the normal book buying public to be interested in it.

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  10. The assumption that a player base could be easily monetised to the tune of $150,000 without some explanation of why such a large investment is needed is a fundamental oversight.

    I respect that TMC what’s to product a high quality product and that does require hiring high quality – and expensive – talent.

    It’s surprising to me that someone as good at mass communication as The Mitanni didn’t realise this and his team appear to have hoped the players would just stump up the cash; maybe it was ~~hubris~~

    I wish the project well, if it gets funded I’ve no doubt it’ll be quality job - shame the launch wasn’t.

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  11. I had high hopes for this project at first. Yes, I know, a "fictionalized" approach to the Fountain War can't and won't capture all of what was going on around the conflict, especially in the metagame. But the filthy roleplayer in me gets giddy at the idea. The problem is, in order to get true suspension of disbelief, the author will have to.... "sanitize" some things. Silly names like BoodaBooda will be changed. CFC, which is what it was called at the time, will simply be called The Imperium. I'm sure he will include some sort of index explaining what characters in the game were actually behind the actions of which characters in the book and so forth, but it just loses a certain degree of connection with its target audience, which is the community who already plays the game.

    A week or so ago a snippet of sample material was posted on Reddit by the author. I've read some of his other work - he specializes in naval military fiction, like a sort of generic Tom Clancy - and it's pretty solid, if not my particular taste. He's done a good job of maintaining a degree of neutrality; I listened to his interviews with various leaders on all sides of the conflict, and he didn't treat any one party different from any other.

    I hate to say it, but I was disappointed. What was presented was, of course, a rough draft. But the writing was honestly pretty weak, even amateurish, with a lot of unnecessary flowery prose that sounded more like a first-year English Lit student's attempt at noir. And the fudged details that I'm sure he intended to widen the appeal of the story just made it glaringly obvious that this was someone who had precisely zero experience with the game itself. To be blunt, it was akin to reading erotica written by a virgin. It wasn't bad per se, but it was certainly lacking a certain je ne sais quoi.

    My only real hope is that this doesn't torpedo the chances of other projects in the future, from those who are more deeply and personally invested in the story (and stories) of New Eden.

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