City of Titans Kickstarter is more fantasy than reality

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Kickstarter is inherently a risky way to spend your money. There’s always the chance the project you’re funding never sees the light of day. There’s always the chance your money will be wasted. Because of these risks, it’s very important to really look at a project and try to determine the odds of the final product reaching completion. Granted, this isn’t always an easy task. However, in the case of The Phoenix Project, I’m convinced there are better ways to spend your money.

The Phoenix Project, also known as City of Titans, is the spiritual successor of the now-defunct MMO City of Heroes. It’s being put together by a group of volunteers that make up Missing Worlds Media. According to the Kickstarter page, Missing Worlds Media contains over 100 developers. They came together after it became clear City of Heroes would be no more. In an effort to create a whole new world for City of Heroes players, a Kickstarter goal of $320,000 was set. At the time of this writing, the campaign has raised over $340,000 with 22 days to go. Raising that much money in a short period of time is impressive, but you have to consider a few things. $340,000 is nowhere near enough money to create and sustain a MMO. What’s worse is Missing Worlds Media acknowledges all the money won’t actually go into developing the game.

Of the $320,000, $70,000 goes towards taxes, perks, add-ons and fees to Kickstarter and Amazon. $70,000 more goes to Epic Games for the Unreal Engine license. There’s only $180,000 left to actually make the game.

“That $180,000 is mostly going straight to software,” reads the Kickstarter page.

“Autodesk’s Maya and 3DS Max. They’re not cheap, and we need them to do the work. Each of them has strengths and weaknesses, and we need at least 24 copies for the art and tech teams to be able to do their jobs. There are several different versions, each targeting different levels of needs, and the 24 total copies are split between the various members to their need, based on the tasks they have.

We’ll need multiple copies of a few tools like zbrush, Allegorithmic, 8DIO, Photoshop and Illustrator.”

There are more incidentals in there as well such lawyer fees, book keeping fees and additional hardware. It doesn’t stop there either. Stretch goals are needed to acquire, “middleware to help us make the game. Purchasing of assets, saving our team the time needed to develop. Licensing premade systems from other game developers.”

Should all of this somehow come together, you’ll be playing City of Titans in November 2015.

Listen, I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade, but we’ve got to be realistic about this. MMOs are extremely expensive to create and a lot of work to maintain. The people working on this game are volunteers and have no real obligation to see their work through. This money will be gone well before the final product is finished. Put your money in the pot if you must, but my gut tells me this game is not going to happen.


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  • Zombie Man

    Hi, “Zombie Man” here, the Online Community Manager of City of Titans.

    As noted, this is a volunteer effort. So, with no salary costs, and the licensing costs being covered by the Kickstarter, then how do you think we’ll run out of money?

    Besides, the KS is not going to be the sole means of revenue. There are plenty of examples of successful KS campaigns that continued with fundraising from various sources.

    We have both professional coders and business folk on our team of volunteers who have carefully evaluated the tools needed and the cost of funding. We firmly believe we will succeed. -zm

  • MikeB

    There’s also the fact that now that they’ve more than reached their kickstarter goal, they will have assets that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. In a year, as this venture DOES start to get more complicated, I fully expect that Missing Worlds Media will bring on a few full time workers, and they’ll likely be applying for a business loan to do so. At that point they will have over $350,000 worth of assets, a good chunk of the coding to show, AND a good case to make that there is a clear demand for their product. They will be in better shape than most initial start ups for getting a sizable business loan to see them through to launch and beyond. I say this as someone with family members who started their own business. This is just the beginning, and more than anything else it is just the point that moves them from people with a dream into a group of people with a legitimate business venture underway.

  • Zekiran

    “I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade” – um, yes, yes you are.

    The number of people involved in this project along with their sincere dedication means that even if the project doesn’t get fully funded with a single Kickstarter -something which it clearly was never intended to do in the first place – I still trust that they will *do their best*. The people creating this effort are fans, volunteers who have nothing but love to give back to the community which brought them together in the first place.

    Maybe you’ve never heard of Black Mesa Source? Labor of love, yadda yadda.

    If you don’t want to support the project by all means, feel free not to. But those of us who dearly miss the City which we called home for 8+ years know that we’ll at least find a group of like-minded folks happy to try hard and maybe even make this happen.

    Is it a “maybe”? Of course. But is it “worth” doing? Of course.

  • Wills

    As someone who played City of Heroes for a long time, i’d like to comment on a few of the things you have written here.

    An outside observer could see the kickstarter and the whole project as being risky. On the other hand, i have been observing the whole process from day one. These volunteers have shown a great deal of dedication and thought throughout the last year and i trust them with my donation. Even if it does all come to nothing in the end, i am confident that they have tried their best. Also – as demonstrated with CoH – there is a risk that a well respected game, still earning money, can be cancelled by a company that cares little for providing a service but is much more interested in funding newer games with an emphasis on monetisation. As a player i could do nothing about the closure of CoH and the seeming refusal of NCSoft to address the issues that their paying customers raised and so the community is approaching a different style of game creation where customer inclusion is a much more important factor.

    It is easy to dismiss a new approach to…well anything as doomed to failure but if nothing new is tried then we are just destined to run in circles while increasingly uncaring megafirms wring the cash from us, confident that there is nowhere better for it’s customers to turn to.

    At first everyone was surprised at the extent of the protests at City of Heroes closing, then they were surprised by the organisation that we showed in attempting to salvage our game, their surprise continued as multiple efforts were launched to create a successor. Don’t be surprised when this all works out.

    The author of the article above says he is ‘convinced there are better ways to spend your money’ but does not suggest an alternative. I would say that if you feel that the big companies feel no loyalty to you in return for the money you pay them, think about putting a few dollars toward City of Titans and you may be surprised at the outcome.

  • Tor

    it might help if you did your reporting right. upon typing this they were at 364k with TWENTY SIX days to go.

  • MikeB

    One other thing: in your article you mention that 340,000 (by the way, it’s up to over 380,000 since the writing of this article) is nowhere near enough to -create and sustain- (emphasis mine) and MMO. Perhaps you didn’t realize that City of Titans will be run via subscription model, and purchase via digital download. It will not be free once it is developed. The maintenance costs will (hopefully) be covered via subscriptions, as will further development of the game.

  • L.S.D.

    It seems clear to me that the author of this article has never interacted with the community that he’s talking about. Has no idea how fanatically committed to CoH they were and how they are equally committed to seeing CoT become a reality. The author has discounted their passion and nothing of any value happens in this world without passion. If passion were money and time this CoT would already be live.

  • Angela

    How much did NCSoft pay for this hit piece? I hope it was enough to be worth it.

    • Jeremy Hill

      No. We don’t do that here.

  • Spyglass

    “Listen, I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade?”

    Really? Wasn’t that your whole “article”.

    Tell you what, it’s my money and I will spend it where I want. If I want to encourage independent game development, regardless of whether or not it succeeds then I will. If it works fantastic. If it doesn’t then maybe it will encourage the next person to give it go.

    How about you go rain on a different parade and let us cheer these people on. If they make it over the like: fantastic. If not then it was better to have tried than to have sat at your keyboard being negative and not contributing to creativity.

  • Ebon_Justice

    I don’t know if this person was paid to write a smear article against MWM and CoT, but clearly he hasn’t been following the nearly-one-year-old community conversation that has been generated. Also, the fact that there’s been no response from the author to any of the comments is telling for me …

    • Jeremy Hill

      It’s not a smear article at all. Just my opinion. If you’re interested, you can read the interview I did with lead developer Chris Hare about the concerns I brought up here.

    • Jeremy Hill

      Everything I wrote was my own opinion based on the information on the Kickstarter page. I don’t want the project to fail, I just have my doubts. That’s really all there is to it. I even spoke to the game’s lead developer Chris Hare about my concerns. I let him state his side of the story. I think that’s a fair way to go about this.

  • Winter

    Deeply unfair accusation. Never accuse a journalist of being bought until you’re sure or at least have very good reason to suspect it’s true. I want City of Titans to succeed with all my heart but I don’t let that cloud my judgement.

  • jimgleaves

    This is an ancient thread, but Jeremy Hill brought up some good points in his original post. Zombie Man dismissed these concerns, but he hasn’t been on the CoT boards for over a year. City of Titans might not have run out of money yet, but clearly their volunteers will eventually leave if they can’t ever release a game. I predict they still won’t have a game out by the end of 2016.