Monday, August 6, 2012

Kickstarter Project! (And NWN Fail)

Okay, part of the title is called 'NWN Fail'.  Gonna get that right out of the way now before launching into the bigger and better news.  That part of this entry's title isn't really meant to come off looking like it does, because the discussion was actually a lively one.  New World Notes had a thread going that posited three ways to salvage SL, only two of which the author thinks are even worth trying to get Linden Lab to change its collective mind about.  That third way, lowering tier prices, is actually about the only way Linden Lab will be able to save not only Second Life but also any future prospects for its own, non-SL projects.

Okay, to sum up, the SL land barons that provide LL with the majority of its revenue are steadily closing up and leaving the grid for greener, more affordable pastures.  With the economy still in the toilet and no sign of emerging any time this decade, Linden Lab's outrageously high tier prices have got people deciding that they just can't afford SL anymore.  Builders and scripters can't peddle their wares on the grid itself, where most SLers congregate (the marketplace revamps haven't allowed sellers to make up the losses enough to justify using that as their primary business home base), and gamers can't afford to create vibrant, sustainable roleplaying experiences because land is prohibitively expensive.  The blog author thinks that by converting SL into a spiffy gaming platform, people with money to spend will come.  And he can't seem to understand that what's preventing people from coming is the very finite financial resources that are less and less at their disposal every day that passes.  Sinply put, SL is degrading into a haven only for the monied elite who can afford to toss away $295.00 USD a month on region tier, and even they're waking up and starting to realize that there's no more profit to be had renting virtual land since fewer and fewer people can afford to rent it.  So they're leaving while they still have a chance to get out and not lose a ton of money.

You can have all the ideas for gaming engines and pathfinding and mesh and every other Next Big Thing you want, but at the end of the day, if people find it too expensive to use they're not going to buy it.  That's just plain common business sense.  It's all about the money, and when demand is low you need to price low to increase demand.  Otherwise you'll price yourself out of business.

So, having gotten that out of the way, I'm going to tell you about a project some friends of mine are trying to pull off using Kickstarter.  Back in March I read about a tinies group in SL that wanted to build a roleplaying region in SL with plans for expanding it to other media as well as doing charity work.  So they created a project on Kickstarter with the fund-raising goal of $8,500.00 USD.  They exceeded it to raise a total of over $11,000.00.

That gave us the idea to try it ourselves.  Hell, if a bunch of people who enjoy roleplaying tiny forest creatures can raise that kind of money, maybe we can do it for what we want to do.  Now, it's no secret that Bloodlines doesn't exactly have a pristine reputation in SL.  The idea started out with merit: create a vampire RP system that lets players be vampires, and later werewolves (or lycans, as the game calls them) were added.  Only the system quickly earned a bad rep, and I suspect it has mostly to do with the failure to properly account for the casual noobs who get the system, go around annoying people with bite requests, and then leave once they get bored (or banned enough times that they give up).  Worse is that with blood barrels and lumen prisms (the werewolf equivalent of blood barrels) being transferrable (albeit no-copy), people realized they could buy at rock-bottom prices from departing or desperate players and sell at a profit with prices that are less than what the Bloodlines official stores sell.  Similarly, players trade the "souls" they collect within the system for profit and to stack their stats.

In other words, Bloodlines quickly devolved into a money-making scheme that saw the intended gameplay dry up except for the dedicated RPers who have money enough to own their own regions but for various reasons haven't tried expanding those sims the way the tinies group is doing.

That's where the Nocturne Project comes in.

The backstory is a post-apocalyptic tale that sees the human race conquered by vampires, werewolves, demons, fallen gods, and other creatures of myth and legend, following a global environmental disaster.  Society quickly returns to a feudal system under the rule of their supernatural overlords, with modern technology gradually giving way to medieval-style tech and methods.  This roleplay region is designed to cater to dedicated Bloodlines players, complete with a war arena (based on the capture-the-flag model), a social area for hunting and partying, and a shopping area for vendors to sell themed wares.

But beyond the Bloodlines aspect, the Nocturne project will also cater to general roleplaying needs, with an involving backstory lending itself to the atmosphere to create an experience that will keep people coming back.  If this works out we'll be able to expand to other media as well.

We've already got $251.00 pledged so far, but our goal is $10,000.00 with a deadline of September 16th.  That's now just over a month away.  Can we do it?  I'm confident we can, but we need your help — and your donations.  Please visit the Kickstarter page and pledge as much as you can afford.  The fund-raising goal was set to allow us to keep the sim running for its first year.  If we can raise the money necessary we'll have the sim up and running within a month.  Check us out and come back for updates!

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