Dear Lisa Stevens


Pathfinder Online

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The Exchange Goblin Squad Member

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"Q: Do you agree with the general direction Ryan set for the game?
A: When we first starting to think about making Pathfinder Online, Paizo hired Ryan to create a design document that would be used as a template for making the game. The Paizo team approved that document and that has been used as the marching orders for the team ever since. That won’t change now that Ryan is not with the company."

In all my years of supporting Paizo, the one thing that put them above every other company was their ability to adapt (closely related to their amazing customer service). There are TONS of people begging for a good MMO right now. WoW is bleeding players every day. SWTOR is a substandard game kept alive only because of the name on the box and the reputation of the publisher. No other true MMO even compares, but for the first time I've ever seen stubbornness is winning out at Paizo (Goblinworks).

Ryan Dancey once made the comment that he was confident 90% of the people who he was making PFO for would like the game. Apparently he only had a goal audience of about 20 people in mind. You're in a prime position to fix that right now. Don't just stay a failing course. Be Paizo. Adapt.

I absolutely want to support this venture. In fact, I've already put too much money into it as is, but there's no way I can support the game that's been created. If there was a worse vision for a game with the Pathfinder brand attached than an EVE Online clone I don't have the imagination to think of it (and I've been playing games with my imagination for 24 years, so I'm really practiced at it).

If you need inspiration for what I believe your current audience would enjoy try looking at original Ultima Online, Shadowbane, and Dungeons and Dragons Online. There's a sweet spot somewhere in between those games that would both make truckloads of money AND bring years of enjoyment to your most loyal supporters.

Goblinworks Executive Founder

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Demoyn wrote:
WoW is bleeding players every day. SWTOR is a substandard game kept alive only because of the name on the box and the reputation of the publisher.

SWTOR is in my opinion the most enjoyable casual MMO, and PFO could learn from it.

The Exchange Goblin Squad Member

Don't get me wrong, I'm playing SWTOR as we speak, but only because there are no better options. It's really just a gritty WoW clone with lightsabers and enough cut-scenes to make even the most avid story-lover sick. There are some enjoyable aspects. There are some horrendous aspects. I could never see myself playing this game for more than three months at a time, though.

Goblin Squad Member

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Demoyn wrote:
Don't just stay a failing course. Be Paizo. Adapt.

They set a course into the unknown, and then turned to stay close to shore before ever leaving sight of it.

Have the courage to turn back to the original course and leave the familiar coastline.

Let the folks who are rabidly pro-PvP put their money where their mouth is and actually risk something when they start a fight in-game. And the only thing that is worth anything to them is their Character Power, so you have to make that the thing they risk.

Goblin Squad Member

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The PvP full loot aspect of PFO was never something I relished but accepted as part of the overall design, and I think most of the players (at least in Forgeholm) wanted not only the social aspect of playing a game with like-minded fans of the whole D&D genre, but hoped to be able to create something really cool together, as a group that we chose to game with.

Stuff that is cool: Being able to change the landscape with stuff we built!

Having to make a long-term commitment to a craft or skill, making your character different and interesting

Earning experience even when I am not playing the game.

Building stuff. Living in a place "I" built (sort of, we are close to that). I love the idea still that I am responsible for the maintenance of my settlement. "I help keep this place open for business!"

Getting to play and socialize with like-minded gamers, forging friendships, and working with these same people to achieve a common goal that is impossible to achieve as a solo player.

Stuff that is not cool, at all: Random PvP. I think 75% (totally made up number based on the feedback in early threads after the PvP aspect was announced) of the potential backers walked away from the PvP style. There was no way to turn PvP off, and PvP is a very personal thing. Even if there was a bucket the player carried to put the gathered raw materials in and that could be stolen, that is somewhat less personal than being attacked and killed by some asshat ganker. Some organized PvP? Sure thing? Random PvP all over the entire map? No thanks.

The lack of actual content. Golarion is a rich world with thousands upon thousands of characters from hundreds of cities, dozens of cultures, varied landscape, page after page of lore, awesome and terrible monsters large and small. We saw none of that.

The pace of new patches. Yes, I know that is dependent of programming man-hours. But ugh! The slow pace has made me only log in maybe once every two or three days to see what was going on. I could queue up some smelted goods, chat with my fellow Forgeholmers, and maybe finish off an escalation, but that was about it. Content baby!

Goblin Squad Member

The PVP focus and the lack of Golarion content were both answers to the same question: How do you make a game for less than the $100M+ pricetag that modern AAA themepark games are clocking in at? Themepark content is extremely expensive; player-generated content is free.

Knowing that there are a whole bunch of tabletop players who kind of expect their characters' enemies to fight just hard enough to make things fun and then lose, maybe this wasn't the right choice. But if the other option is to come up with $100M, maybe the only winning move was not to play.

Goblin Squad Member

Nihimon wrote:
Demoyn wrote:
Don't just stay a failing course. Be Paizo. Adapt.

They set a course into the unknown, and then turned to stay close to shore before ever leaving sight of it.

Have the courage to turn back to the original course and leave the familiar coastline.

Let the folks who are rabidly pro-PvP put their money where their mouth is and actually risk something when they start a fight in-game. And the only thing that is worth anything to them is their Character Power, so you have to make that the thing they risk.

Nihimon,

How many players did the original course actually attract?

Before anyone clocked in their first hour, the game population was too low for PFO to ever be sustainable.

I believe it is safe to say that the only big bump in trial accounts in the game happened just shortly after the dropping of the box price.

All of the other issues of the game were still there, and still causing trial players to reject subscribing.

To look backwards to the original design document is not going anywhere. Any new investor, and certainly a new developer / publisher is not going to buy into that document at 100%. They will want to make their thumb print on the game they are pouring money into.

Looking forward, here is my suggestion for PFO's priority:

MVP Features need to be put in place, before anything longer term. Fortunately, some are coming in with 10.2, but there are others.

* New Player Experience must be near flawless in making the basic systems of the game understandable. Some improvement coming in 10.2

* Rivers need water. This may not seem like a priority but it is a glaring sign of incompleteness and after over a year (including alpha) it is embarrassing. Even more so because of the name of the setting, it does not go unnoticed.

* Company / Settlement Chat also coming in 10.2.

* Inventory Filters for Banks, Holding vaults, etc.

* Trainer Filters for features. Including the ability to see all features for a specific role, weapon, armor whether they can be trained or not.

* Combat animations fixed.

These are all things that should have been considered part of MVP. They are all things that a new, potential subscriber would experience within the first few minutes of the game. I can not tell you the number of posts I have read by people that wrote, I tried it for 20 minutes to an hour, and never went back.

Goblin Squad Member

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Bluddwolf wrote:

Nihimon,

How many players did the original course actually attract?

I get your point, and I don't disagree.

I think it was probably a mistake to be reliant on subscriptions during Early Enrollment to continue development.

I also think there was something fundamentally broken with the development team. The reemergence of old bugs and the mysterious loss of prior functionality were very clear indications that they were not properly using Source Control. I expect they also had corruption in their builds due to not properly controlling the Build Environment.

Goblinworks Executive Founder

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Nihimon wrote:
I think it was probably a mistake to be reliant on subscriptions during Early Enrollment to continue development.

And I will remind you that they pretended that our money was just to accelerate things, but that they had enough funding to support a 5 years development. Which was clearly a lie.

Goblin Squad Member

Audoucet wrote:
And I will remind you that they pretended that our money was just to accelerate things, but that they had enough funding to support a 5 years development. Which was clearly a lie.

From a post on the Goblinworks forums:

Nightdrifter wrote:

Was there any indication before Lisa'a announcement that funding had fallen through? If we go back to the kickstarter faqs:

Is the whole budget coming from this Kickstarter?

No. Most of the budget is being provided by our initial investors, but the money we're raising on Kickstarter is the difference between a 4 year development plan and a much faster, much larger plan.

Barring unforeseeable future complications we do not expect to have to raise additional funds or do additional Kickstarter projects after the successful completion of this project.

Based on that the funding sounded secure before anything got underway back in late 2012. So if an investor pulled out, when did it happen?

Note the actual language used:

Quote:
Barring unforeseeable future complications we do not expect to have to raise additional funds or do additional Kickstarter projects after the successful completion of this project.

Sovereign Court Goblin Squad Member

Nihimon wrote:
Audoucet wrote:
And I will remind you that they pretended that our money was just to accelerate things, but that they had enough funding to support a 5 years development. Which was clearly a lie.

From a post on the Goblinworks forums:

Nightdrifter wrote:

Was there any indication before Lisa'a announcement that funding had fallen through? If we go back to the kickstarter faqs:

Is the whole budget coming from this Kickstarter?

No. Most of the budget is being provided by our initial investors, but the money we're raising on Kickstarter is the difference between a 4 year development plan and a much faster, much larger plan.

Barring unforeseeable future complications we do not expect to have to raise additional funds or do additional Kickstarter projects after the successful completion of this project.

Based on that the funding sounded secure before anything got underway back in late 2012. So if an investor pulled out, when did it happen?

Note the actual language used:

Quote:
Barring unforeseeable future complications we do not expect to have to raise additional funds or do additional Kickstarter projects after the successful completion of this project.

It may have been unforeseen at the time of the KS, but what I was asking is when the funding fell through.

Goblinworks Executive Founder

Nihimon wrote:
Barring unforeseeable future complications we do not expect to have to raise additional funds or do additional Kickstarter projects after the successful completion of this project.

http://www.engadget.com/2012/12/13/an-interview-with-pathfinder-onl ines-ryan-scott-dancey/

"The Kickstarter we're running now is to help us make the game bigger, better, and faster. We are in the sweet spot for game design where extra staff means shorter timelines and richer features. Raising money above what we've already had committed lets us add additional staff. Success in this Kickstarter accelerates and broadens the scope of the game; it won't determine whether it is completed. We are going to make this game no matter what."

Well, I guess you can pretend EE 11 is a complete game lol...

As usual, word play.

Goblin Squad Member

Yes, I had expected a longer breath from the initial funding myself. Though when they presented the figures some time ago, where it became clear they already had spent over 4 million, I was worried, since it seemed to me that any initial funding could not keep up for long with that kind of spending.

I have said a few times that I thought development was very slow: what Nihimon sais about previous bug returning certainly fits in my idea that this was a very unexperienced team, that also could have done better with a real veteran at the helm. Who are probably very expensive to hire. Then again, 4 million in 3 years is not nothing.

At some point they said they had 20 people working full time on this: I always found that hard to believe: not when you look at the spending, I guess, but definately when you look at what they managed to bring to the table in that time, with 20 people.

I know they had a playable game with network functionality and all in that time-span, but looking at a lot of Indy projects lately, I am starting to think this was not a very efficient effort.

Maybe Ryans projections about the financing of this game were all based on his predictions of how subscriptions and population would develop. That is marketing spin for sure. I always interpreted his words as that they could finish this game without even a single sub: it just would take longer.

Goblin Squad Member

I've read a recent misprint, on several sources, of the short fall. I'm fairly certain, I'd have to listen again (as tough as this is to hear) Lisa's fireside chat, that they had 75% of the funding and 25% fell through.

On some sites it is potentially misquoted as they fell short by 75% and only had 25% funded.

If the shortfall was 25%, then I believe they might have thought that subscriptions would pull them across the finish line.

Sovereign Court Goblin Squad Member

For reference here's the blog about how funding was spent as of ~6 months after the kickstarter. Anyone have any more recent numbers?

Edit: to first order the numbers seem roughly consistent with them spending $3.5 million since the start of 2013.

Goblin Squad Member

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I should not be reading old blogs; makes me mad and sad at the same time. :(

Sovereign Court Goblin Squad Member

Bluddwolf wrote:

I've read a recent misprint, on several sources, of the short fall. I'm fairly certain, I'd have to listen again (as tough as this is to hear) Lisa's fireside chat, that they had 75% of the funding and 25% fell through.

On some sites it is potentially misquoted as they fell short by 75% and only had 25% funded.

If the shortfall was 25%, then I believe they might have thought that subscriptions would pull them across the finish line.

Given that Lisa estimated that at least ~1 million more is needed then it's likely that 75% complete (ie. 25% short) is the correct interpretation.

0.75*5m = 3.75m

Goblin Squad Member

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1 million to bring this game to what exactly? A few extra barebone features in their first buggy iteration, while still no water in the rivers and stock-art bridges still clipping out of the landscape everywhere?

This game needs an entire new development team, a new engine, a new approach to the core mechanics and *at least* 20-40 million.

Goblin Squad Member

Demoyn wrote:
In all my years of supporting Paizo, the one thing that put them above every other company was their ability to adapt (closely related to their amazing customer service). There are TONS of people begging for a good MMO right now. WoW is bleeding players every day. SWTOR is a substandard game kept alive only because of the name on the box and the reputation of the publisher. No other true MMO even compares, but for the first time I've ever seen stubbornness is winning out at Paizo (Goblinworks).

No, what we now call the mmorpg genre is WOW ENGINE games.

I'm not optimistic about CU or Crowfall and I think EQN is somewhat already dead too? If anything PFO suggests that you have to out-WOW still eg SWOTOR to even stand a chance and then it could still go wrong.

What we're seeing is the bits that made mmorpgs potentially unique such as online pvp in mobas or big armies in Warhammer Total War in fantasy genre that is or FPS in Vermintide. Or CRPG Pillars and a new Pathfinder game or single player RPG in Witcher, Skyrim.

To adapt a whole different vision is needed. W whole new lineage leading to species radiation of a new genre from the bones of the dinosaurs.

Goblinworks Executive Founder

I'll repeat myself but : https://www.therepopulation.com/

Sovereign Court Goblin Squad Member

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Nightdrifter wrote:
It may have been unforeseen at the time of the KS, but what I was asking is when the funding fell through.

Not sure if quoting yourself is kosher, but after some digging I (may?) have a partial answer to my own question:

====================================================================

Based on the Duffy's recording, another >$1m is estimated to be needed for PFO. They've used ~$3.5m (source?), so that puts the full budget at around ~$5million. Those numbers are consistent with the 75% estimate as 75% of $5m is $3.75m. Their expenses seem to be fairly consistent over time (roughly ballparked at $700-800k/6months) if the $3.5 million figure for 2.5 years is roughly correct. Note: there's a lot of variability in what these numbers could be and expenses aren't constant due to new hires, one time fees etc, so perfect accuracy on my part isn't going to happen.

Back in Oct 2014 Ryan seems to hint the budget is closer to $4 million.

So either:

1) the budget changed between then and now (due to lower than expected sub numbers?)

or

2) ~$1m in investor funding had fallen through sometime before Oct 2014 (and presumably after the kickstarter ended in Jan 2013) and without more funding to replace it the current situation could have been foreseen back then.

The recent blog states: "we never thought that the Early Enrollment subscribers could carry the company to Open Enrollment". Note that even the earliest post-KS estimate of Open Enrollment was Q1 2016 which is still in the future, so I'm more inclined to believe it's #2

====================================================================

In order for subs to have made up the ~$1m difference you need pretty optimistic numbers to have it by now. Recall that EE was only supposed to be pioneer pledgers and pioneers got 4 months free. So even with the early estimates of EE starting in Q3 2014 the first sub payments would have begun around Jan-Feb 2015. To have that extra $1m by now would require about 8300 extra subs during that time paying $15/month for 8 months. And that's ignoring the staggered entrance of 2k/month (and assuming 0 attrition) as originally planned which would only increase the 8300 estimate. With more realistic attrition rates the number goes up even more. To be fair they wouldn't need the extra $1m right now, but at least a good chunk of it*.

It's been pretty clear for a long time that anywhere close to another 8000 EE peeps above the current numbers wasn't going to happen, so again we return to the fact that this current situation is something that has probably been seen coming for quite a while.

*I can model this if anyone wants, but for now dinner calls...

====================================================================

tl;dr/math is scary: Based on what I see the only conclusion I can reach is that the funding from investors fell through after the kickstarter and before Oct 2014. Sub numbers were too low to possibly make up the short-fall and this must have been clear to GW. Likely they kept searching for new investors up until the last minute before layoffs.

====================================================================

To be clear I'm not trying to lay blame. I'm just trying to use the numbers I am aware of to see when this current situation could have been foreseen. Obviously the numbers are only guesstimates and in some cases could be wrong.

Goblin Squad Member

Nightdrifter wrote:
tl;dr/math is scary: Based on what I see the only conclusion I can reach is that the funding from investors fell through after the kickstarter and before Oct 2014. Sub numbers were too low to possibly make up the short-fall and this must have been clear to GW. Likely they kept searching for new investors up until the last minute before layoffs.

The numbers match my thought processes, and I think they match something that Ryan communicated specifically. The one variation from what you said in your tldr is that the search didn't stop at the layoffs. Lisa is still actively meeting and courting investors and plans to continue doing so.

Sovereign Court Goblin Squad Member

Caldeathe Baequiannia wrote:
Nightdrifter wrote:
tl;dr/math is scary: Based on what I see the only conclusion I can reach is that the funding from investors fell through after the kickstarter and before Oct 2014. Sub numbers were too low to possibly make up the short-fall and this must have been clear to GW. Likely they kept searching for new investors up until the last minute before layoffs.
The numbers match my thought processes, and I think they match something that Ryan communicated specifically. The one variation from what you said in your tldr is that the search didn't stop at the layoffs. Lisa is still actively meeting and courting investors and plans to continue doing so.

They've been searching something in the range of 11 to 30 months already. I'd guess near the upper end of that (ie. sometime right after the kickstarter).

You've got a product where a chunk of your limited playerbase is jumping ship. It's not like the population is going to increase with players knowing that post EE11 there's going to be next to no development. Lots of people were holding out waiting for the game to improve, but with only one more release it's not likely they'll be joining the playerbase. Unless a deal is done soon the current population is sadly an upper limit on what to expect in the future.

'Tough sell' is a bit of an understatement. Sure there could be a miracle investor who brings in the money to revitalize the game and undo the damage done, but how often does that happen?

Sorry if I'm a little pessimistic. I just can't conceive of a realistic scenario where things work out well for PFO now that I know that their funding is much less than the kickstarter let on.

Goblin Squad Member

We were talking about how much this would take to finish and that includes polish and some iteration on existing features.

It would cost roughly 2 million dollars with an experienced team to finish the game to the point people want to play it and subs would bring in enough money to support a small team.

It would cost roughly 5 million dollars with an experienced team to finish the game to the point that a lot of original backers would feel they got what they backed.

It would cost roughly 10 million dollars with an experienced team to make this game exactly how it should have been made, with full polish, optimization, and several iteration of all game features.

So, basically we need around 2 million dollars and 15 months of game time to get the game to what they would consider open enrollment. Then they would need about 4x the current subs to continue development, and roughly 2 years after that to get to the 5 million dollar mark of development.

They really only need between 6-8k subs to continue development in earnest with a big enough team. I think we have between 1500-2000 right now.

Goblin Squad Member

Nightdrifter wrote:

'Tough sell' is a bit of an understatement. Sure there could be a miracle investor who brings in the money to revitalize the game and undo the damage done, but how often does that happen?

Sorry if I'm a little pessimistic. I just can't conceive of a realistic scenario where things work out well for PFO now that I know that their funding is much less than the kickstarter let on.

It could be a tough sell, though I think that Ryan pulling away from the project, combined with Lisa being willing to sell it to a publisher, rather than Paizo doing it themselves, might make it more interesting to some. Ryan is a polarizing figure, whom a lot of people either love or hate. Lisa is much more easy-going and less likely to be a deciding reason for someone to avoid investing altogether.

I think that PFO will go in a different line from here forward, and that may also make it more interesting to some backers. On the whole, I feel a great deal better about the project than I did during the week+ of total silence last month.

Goblin Squad Member

@Cheatle: I'm not sure where all those numbers come from, but they seem fair enough.

Caldeathe Baequiannia wrote:
I think that PFO will go in a different line from here forward, and that may also make it more interesting to some backers. On the whole, I feel a great deal better about the project than I did during the week+ of total silence last month.

@Cal: I like these words.

Goblin Squad Member

You guys are talking like budgets are exact targets that will tell you when a project will be done. As a software developer, I can tell you projects almost always go longer than expected. At the outset, they expected their ~$4 million budget to get them to a self-sustaining project. IE, subscription revenue would maintain the staff and continued growth.

But MMOs are never "done". They aren't like single player games that get released, maybe one patch, and are forgotten. They are living games that need constant development, improvement. They are never done. Show me a done MMO, and you'll find it is dead.

Edit: And it's hard to knock WoW off the pedestal, because it has had 15 years of continuous development at this point.

Goblinworks Executive Founder

deinol wrote:
You guys are talking like budgets are exact targets that will tell you when a project will be done. As a software developer, I can tell you projects almost always go longer than expected. At the outset, they expected their ~$4 million budget to get them to a self-sustaining project. IE, subscription revenue would maintain the staff and continued growth.

There possibly also was the hope that out-of-the-box middleware could have brought them further than it actually did. And while I do have long-time experience in developing software, it's all in the corporate/business area, not in games development, but from my experience most if not all middleware packages come with their own caveats.

deinol wrote:
But MMOs are never "done". They aren't like single player games that get released, maybe one patch, and are forgotten. They are living games that need constant development, improvement. They are never done. Show me a done MMO, and you'll find it is dead.

Or barely alive. Take a look at Guild Wars (the original); it's running fully automated these days, with no development going on. And there's still some people there having fun in there (most of it is instanced anyway, so if you run it solo or with a group of up to 8 friends it could be a fun thing to pick up).

deinol wrote:
Edit: And it's hard to knock WoW off the pedestal, because it has had 15 years of continuous development at this point.

Indeed. And the idea that "WoW is bleeding subscriptions" might be correct. A better way to look at it is that WoW has become exceedingly swingy in subscriber volume: a well-targeted new expansion (like Warlords of Draenor was at the launch, and which Legion might become) could well drive the subscriber numbers up to over 10 million again, if only for 2-6 months (until people feel like they are "done"), and that might repeat with the next major patch and expansion. Remember that far over 100 million people have played WoW by now; it's a game on its own, not something to compete or compare with. And it brings in enough revenue to support its major amount of support in both developers as well as community people and servers.


Make a game that is WoW + UO + EQ. Profit. Why hasn't anyone done that yet? I cannot possibly imagine. The three most groundbreaking and popular MMOs(at least for their time) each had great things to pull from. It is relatively easy to see the things they did right.


I saw a lot of people complaining about PvP and not wanting that, and while I realize that it was a major turn-off for many Pathfinder TT players when they learned about a Pathfinder video game, it was Ryan's vision of a well-regulated, world-building, settlement-focused PvP sandbox that drew myself and all of my online friends to Pathfinder.

We saw this game as doing sandbox like nothing before it, with players able to join a settlement and not just be lone wolves out in the wilderness. In most existing PvP sandboxes players either belonging to a massive PvP guild (or "clan" as they are called in most existing PvP sandboxes) or they are just bait and quickly quit and leave. This results in a "clan-box" (sandbox variant) inhabited only by ruthless clans as the rest of the player-base quits before they can organize and defend each other. Ryan's vision of join-able communities meant that the average player (individual, small group, or even large group) could find a home and join a community right from the start, without having to join a massive guild just to survive. This was the unique and brilliant design idea in Ryan's vision. It is still unique and brilliant today.

Based on Ryan's unique and brilliant idea, we followed this game heavily and many of us backed it. I was in the alpha test and, at one point, had 10 guild members all in and helping to test.

While Ryan's idea may not have been the right thing to build an MMORPG with the Pathfinder name around, it was a brilliant idea for a settlement-based, regional conflict sandbox.

THE FAILING, in my humble opinion, was the absolutely horrible implementation of a brilliant idea... There was just NOTHING done right in programming this game. After reading the development reports of progress, I was absolutely shocked when I first entered the world to see the extreme lack of development in game. It looked and played like a proof of concept - sparsely populated with objects, most systems not implemented, a barely functional bare-bones combat system, etc. At the time that the game was launched for Early Enrollment, it was obviously woefully incomplete and no where near ready for subscription play. The game was doomed for failure when it was obvious that a game not ready for subscriptions didn't have any money to continue development. I think most of the people watching the game wrote it off then and no news coming out afterwards ever gave people a reason to give it another look. This is my first visit to these forums since posting heavily in the summer of 2014.

Yes, many of the people still lurking in a Pathfinder forum will say that the game failed in concept as Ryan's concept wasn't what a Pathfinder-based video game should have focused on. However, I think it was a brilliant idea for a unique sandbox that wouldn't devolve into a "clan-box" or murder-fest. The problem for me, and for many others who will never return to these forums to voice an opinion was that this game just wasn't developed in a competent fashion. The content was as sparse and poorly implemented as it looked; which is why people so often commented on the decade-old-looking graphics - it was an indication of the poor coding and implementation. It reminded me of beta-testing Horizons, which was another game with an incredible idea that the developers swore was almost done when it was clearly just not going to make it.

Pathfinder Online just wasn't a fun player experience when Early Enrollment started, and that's the time when much of what would have been a potentially viable player-base turned away. There were warnings about the drastic re-defining of "MVP" and releasing in such a pre-mature state. Warnings that this didn't look good and that the wider MMORPG community would write the title off because of it. I think that largely happened. There were further warnings that having paid subscriptions would pull badly needed development resources away from development as they were forced to handle support issues for paying customers before the game was ready, which is something that I've seen posted about in this thread.

In the end, I'm not sure what went wrong. Things like this happen, and often, even to games with good ideas. Even well funded development teams sometimes make poor development decisions and games end up under-performing substantially. In smaller budget projects this happens all the more often. Mortal Online released as a buggy mess and didn't reach it's design goal feature-set until about a year ago - 5 years after release. By then, the player-base was all but non-existent and, even still, the game still suffers from a first-person interface that so clunky that it's a chore to even move around in the world. Other games like LiF have created beautiful proof-of-concept games (similar engine I think and it looks and works like a player would expect), but struggle with scaling the engine up to a MMO-level of concurrent players.

I've been a part of another alpha for an MMORPG with a FAR smaller, less-funded development team that (at a much slower pace) has created a beautiful alpha with functioning content that's a pleasure to navigate and they are using the same engine as Pathfinder, so it can be done - I just don't think Goblinworks had the right people to get them there.


tl;dr version of my above post:

I think that the feedback here is going to be skewed because the people still posting in the Paizo forum are major Pathfinder fans, who are most likely to feel that the game didn't match the expectations for a Pathfinder video game. While they are most probably correct, it misses the feedback from players who LOVED the concept and didn't really care what it was called (although I am ALSO a Pathfinder fan, but that's not what brought me to follow PFO).

Goblin Squad Member

Well, Leithlen, hardcore fan from the first hour here too (backed both Kickstarters) and I completely agree with your entire post.

In the past year I have been frequently calling out my frustration at the snailpace of development of this game, not only regarding pushing out content but also regarding bug-squashing, adding polish and updating graphics. So I was asked if I thought the development team was lazy?

No, but the team was obviously very inexperienced and probably could have done with better leadership. 3 years of development, 4-5 million in funding and a team of 20 people should have produced more then what we have now. I used to find excuses myself, like they are trying totally new stuf with the one-world Hex thing and such and I am sure those were major hurdles. But things like a workable UI, some water in the rivers, some more attention to graphical detail of the world always kept lacking. A more experienced team would have produced a new monster model every month. The fact that monsters and NPC's were still static and had no pathing also was a major downer that should have been adressed much sooner. Guards and trainers should have gotten actual names as to lessen the generic feel of the game, which was a big problem too. There are like a thousand fantasy-name generators out there, so this does not seem like breaking new ground that would have to take months to implement. No data-tracking tools so we ended up with knee-jerk changes to a lot of core systems like combat, nodes, escalations and such.

I also feel that the concept is still intact, and up for grabs. So my only hope is that a seasoned publisher can strike a deal with Paizo/Lisa and can put a seasoned development team to work on this concept.

Which would probably mean scrapping what we have now. Maybe not, since good stuff *can* be done with the UNity engine. Not so sure if the whole Keyword concept is salvagable though.

Btw, one of the things that worries me is the fact that Lisa said that they only fell short of the last million or so in funding "which would have brought the game to Open Enrollment".

Personally I do not see how one more million would salvage this game with the way they were developing it when they had 20 people. So this tells me that they are still looking rigidly at some sort of "feature-milestone" where all the core-systems are implemented and the "Game of Thrones" can begin. Exept that those core systems obviously are not enough to get enough traction with the populace.

I guess one lesson to be learned is that Graphics, UI and polish are important for an Indy project too.

Goblin Squad Member

The quantity and quality of patches they were pushing out for an indie MMO was rather good. I expected complete and utter brokeness for most of EE; I'm talking unplayable or completely non-functional aspects for significant periods of time. That never really happened aside from the short Monstergeddon incident.

You aren't going to see $50 million and a team of 60+ developers work on this sort of game over 2-3 years. There's not enough money in a startup Sandbox like this, there's no massive hype train to ride to guaranteed sales.

PFO could be a very unique and fun $10 million game made by a dozen or so developers over 5 or so years. That's pretty possible if they can secure the funding. This was always a boostrap effort for the long haul. Unless they secure funding from some source that really doesn't care about throwing $50mil their way for the lolz of it, I would not expect very much to change in terms of development pacing, unless of course they stripped the scope down to a shadow of their original intentions.

Goblin Squad Member

One place I don't feel like Ryan succeeded was in managing expectations. He was clearly in love with the idea of the game, and too eager, often creating inflated expectations, when the reverse would have served them better.

Goblin Squad Member

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I think the biggest let-down in PFO has been the utter lack of courage to follow through on the "funnel of suck".

Ryan was extremely clear for a long time that PvP "isn't what the game is about." But in Early Enrollment, they made a heedless dash to implement PvP systems that let the very folks Ryan said he was "especially concerned about" be driven from the game, only to be told by Ryan that they were "playing the wrong game for the wrong reasons".

During all of that time, the "funnel of suck" systems were completely ignored, and then we were told that they didn't want Characters to lose the abilities they've paid XP for, so it sounds like they're completely abandoning even the pretense of being anything other than just-another-PvP-game.

It's been excruciatingly frustrating.

Goblin Squad Member

I always hated snowball systems and was very happy they never implemented them for competitive mechanics. They always end up creating feedback loops that cause issues in competitive games or sometimes even worse, they force reliance on 'dumb' or 'cheese' tactics. A negative feedback loop is fine if your punishing toxic behavior, it's another thing if it's part of what's supposed to be a balanced competitive mechanic.

Clear win/loss conditions and mechanical limitations can achieve the same effect without the hopeless feeling that comes from snowballing. They definitely need to add a bunch of restrictions (they were slowly moving that way) and fine tune PvP mechanics no doubt.

Goblin Squad Member

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It might well have proven to be a "bad" mechanic - we may never know for sure. But it was a mechanic that Ryan spent a lot of time talking about, and the consequences of that mechanic (and that mind-set) were the only things that made me willing to spend a couple thousand dollars supporting a PvP game.

Watching so many of my friends and allies stop playing because of the way the game was actually developed (as opposed to the way Ryan spent years saying it would be developed) was one of the most demoralizing things I've ever experienced.

Goblin Squad Member

There is always that possible disconnect in expectations which is just all around unfortunate when it occurs. Current in development mechanics versus final is always a fickle and tricky thing with these sort of early access projects. Even when you don't learn new things that make you want to change your implementation the trickle of features and demand for content can cause problems.

My mentality when gauging something like a snowball effect is why it's happening and how I would react or affect my playing if I was on the negative end of the equation. In a straight competitive sense I don't like it very much, one of the reasons I don't like competitive RTS play or even Chess that much, especially when you might not just be able to concede cleanly.

But as a behavior modifier or punishment I'm much more tolerant of such ideas.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Arturus Caeldhon wrote:
Make a game that is WoW + UO + EQ. Profit.

You need to define that question before it can be answered. Given how much overlap between all three of those games, you need to define what is in the latter two that needs to be added to WOW. There's also a practical limit to how much development you can do for any game. Throw in too much to any software and it will become an unworkable mess. You need to choose a happy middle ground.

Goblin Squad Member

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Duffy wrote:
There is always that possible disconnect in expectations which is just all around unfortunate when it occurs. Current in development mechanics versus final is always a fickle and tricky thing with these sort of early access projects. Even when you don't learn new things that make you want to change your implementation the trickle of features and demand for content can cause problems.

I'm perfectly willing to accept the possibility that my reading comprehension failed me. I've even asked some Very Smart People that I know to read some of the same posts I read that gave me the expectations I had. They didn't tell me "you read it wrong". Instead, they told me "that won't work". Given how adamantly Some Folks were insisting it wouldn't work three years ago, and how adamantly Ryan told them "you're wrong, this is what we're going to do", I really expected Ryan to at least try.

But to completely abandon the idea without so much as talking to us about why, and then to turn around and blame the folks who supported this game in its infancy for not wanting to put up with the things those systems were meant to discourage... well, it rubs me the wrong way.

And I should probably stop harping on it for a while...


:I

Liberty's Edge

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Caldeathe Baequiannia wrote:
One place I don't feel like Ryan succeeded was in managing expectations. He was clearly in love with the idea of the game, and too eager, often creating inflated expectations, when the reverse would have served them better.

Ha, the last time I heard the name Ryan Dancey he had big plans for Living City, when his company Organized Play bought the license from Wizards, but ultimately he ruined it as his plans were much bigger than could possibly be enacted.

Note to Paizo - those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Goblin Squad Member

Nihimon wrote:

I'm perfectly willing to accept the possibility that my reading comprehension failed me. I've even asked some Very Smart People that I know to read some of the same posts I read that gave me the expectations I had. They didn't tell me "you read it wrong". Instead, they told me "that won't work". Given how adamantly Some Folks were insisting it wouldn't work three years ago, and how adamantly Ryan told them "you're wrong, this is what we're going to do", I really expected Ryan to at least try.

But to completely abandon the idea without so much as talking to us about why, and then to turn around and blame the folks who supported this game in its infancy for not wanting to put up with the things those systems were meant to discourage... well, it rubs me the wrong way.

And I should probably stop harping on it for a while...

Yea it's tough call. Implementing something that probably won't work as a test or proof of concept can end up being a huge waste of time, resources, and player goodwill; especially with a small team. Aside from the actual coding work itself you got the overhead to support any bugs with it, discuss any conceptual or mechanical issues that come up internally and externally, and deal with any ramifications of the feature on your static world/data if you need to change it (not always applicable).

It makes a lot of sense to start with small bits of each system and build upon them as you puzzle out how well they work or don't work. This is particularly true for a game based on mechanical player to player interactions and competitive conflict.

The other major problem in my eyes is the nature of public discussion, the public half of the conversation may not always be trying to reach a mutual resolution which delays and drags the conversation in different directions. That can happen internally too, but a good team can disagree or have different ideas and still work through a problem cohesively, that rarely happens among strangers on a forum debating a contentious mechanic. When you start adding so many voices and opinions from the outside lots of messages get mixed and the intention of them is not always easy to track which starts to reduce the value of the public conversation very quickly.

By engaging the public in open debate about a topic you open yourself up to a lot of perception issues that will come back to bite you; fairly or unfairly. Feedback is good, but directly engaging too much has it's problems too.

Much like some of the Ryan quotes we're discussing :-P

Goblin Squad Member

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I'm still down for a fantasy SWG. Can we try that now?

Goblin Squad Member

@ Nihimon

I admit I am not up to date on this thread. If you have some spare time could you elaborate on where the funnel of suck has failed? IMO it isn't a complete game and that funnel really needs lots of features to be realized.

I feel like the Funnel of Suck was destroyed with the implementation of "Universal Support to 20".

*Compounding the problem, we have a fairly swift regen rate on reputation.
*No way to deny training access to our worst enemies.
*No reason to PVP except "I want to kill" and "I don't like those guys".
*No win or lose conditions.
*Feuds implemented as WAR mechanics.

Goblin Squad Member

Make a fantasy EVE. Id sub for life! (its kinda what I was hoping PFO would be :()

Goblin Squad Member

Bringslite wrote:

@ Nihimon

I admit I am not up to date on this thread. If you have some spare time could you elaborate on where the funnel of suck has failed? IMO it isn't a complete game and that funnel really needs lots of features to be realized.

I didn't say the Funnel of Suck failed.

Nihimon wrote:

I think the biggest let-down in PFO has been the utter lack of courage to follow through on the "funnel of suck".

... the "funnel of suck" systems were completely ignored...

Bringslite wrote:
I feel like the Funnel of Suck was destroyed with the implementation of "Universal Support to 20".

Me too.

Bringslite wrote:

*Compounding the problem, we have a fairly swift regen rate on reputation.

*No way to deny training access to our worst enemies.
*No reason to PVP except "I want to kill" and "I don't like those guys".
*No win or lose conditions.
*Feuds implemented as WAR mechanics.

I couldn't agree more, except I'd add that they never did a thing with Alignment, which was probably one of the most significant factors players considered when deciding which group to join during the Land Rush.

Goblinworks Founder

Gol Tigari wrote:
Make a fantasy EVE. Id sub

Agreed

Goblinworks Founder

Nihimon wrote:
It's been excruciatingly frustrating.

This +1


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
:I

100% this guy gets it.

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