I hope you’ve all been well.
Today, we’re going to go through the Pathfinder class, and let Daniel talk a bit about our progress / production and a notification about an announcement we’re going to make in May.
The Pathfinder in-game art reference
The Pathfinder is a ranged combat specialist, highly suited as a scout and applying heavy damage from range. With the ability to stay hidden in plain sight (stealth) and with a large vision range, the Pathfinder is capable of surveying the lay of land and possible threats for the main party. Even caught out in the open, the Pathfinder is more than capable of getting out of sticky situation by snaring enemies, laying traps and outrunning the enemy.
The Pathfinder uses leather armour for manoeuvrability and stealth.
The Pathfinder can be trained to use ranged weapons and one handed close combat weapons. The ranged weapons allows the Pathfinder to deal damage without the fear of being hit by a melee weapon and enables a quick getaway after attracting attention, perhaps for the main group to get past a tricky checkpoint. In the off chance that the Pathfinder is caught in close combat, he/she isn’t totally defenceless as they are more than capable of using one handed close combat weapons.
There are two major skill-tree for the Pathfinder and it splits between ranged damage and stealth / crowd control tree.
The leader skill allows each squad to be lead by a character and in turn, it is characterised by a passive buff affecting the whole unit. In the case for the Pathfinder, we are currently considering a runspeed increase for the whole squad or increase stealth attributes.
Sylrianah is a skilled Pathfinder
Daniel here, I have been working now just over a year at Creative Intelligence Arts. I want to be the one who presents our situation. There is lots for us to complain about but I am not going to play the blame game here. Instead let’s talk about money.
As everyone knows the headline figure received between Paypal and Kickstarter was 1.14Million USD. As we have mentioned in the past this figure is misleading because it ignores how 0.26M of that disappeared even before we received it. That 0.26M is split between Kickstarter’s fee, Paypal’s fee, and something we had not expect: unfulfilled pledges.
So now that leaves 0.88M right? Well not yet, you see we did not plan to give out cheap backer rewards. We planned to give physical rewards backers the best quality figures, boxes, and all fantastic things Japan makes. Which meant our planned expenses for backer rewards are significant. We set aside a further 0.35M to deliver these rewards. This money cannot, has not, and will not be touched for development.
Now it is important to note that being generous like this with backer rewards was common practice during our era of Kickstarter. It was common thinking that generous rewards were what motivated backers. While many other projects have said the same thing as if they failed to calculate the costs that is not what happened to us. We fully calculated the costs of commissioning high quality figurines and high quality prints. We set this money aside because we knew it was a major cost. In practical terms what this means for backers at high dollar values is a majority of their backing funds are locked up for delivery of the rewards.
So our development budget is a still pretty impressive 0.55M USD. That is about enough to hire 5 full time AAA developers for almost 12 months. Ok I will drop the sarcasm, we all know 0.55M USD is not a significant budget for developing a game like Project Phoenix. Instead we had a plan, and it was realistic plan, but it relied on a few things.
All the AAA developers we worked with were going to be contracted, many contracted at reduced rates with royalty share. The 3d assets were going to be done by the same company which later did work for Blizzard’s Overwatch. They are great modelers, and we are thankful they worked on Project Phoenix. Plus they did so at a work rate which can only be described as insulting. The programming was going to be done by a genius, once he finished up work on this other major indie game. I mention those two aspects because those are where we think production was the most troubled.
Now you might wonder what the budget would have looked like with the original smaller Project Phoenix envisioned for the 0.1M USD minimum goal. The truth is such a budget would have been easier to pull off, almost all developers were committed to working on royalty basis. The workloads for the 2.5d & reduced scope project would have required only partial dedication of developer’s after hours time.
Yet when the funding exploded we did the same thing every other project of the era did, we exploded the scope. Gone was 2.5d and instead the plan was multiple high grade 3d worlds each with unique environmental assets. Now there was an overworld and cutscenes. The game got longer, the story more detailed, gameplay more complex, and the world larger. What also got larger was the commitment required from developers. Thus the portion of labor the budget needed to cover expanded. Gone was the idea of developing after work, now Project Phoenix needed people to work full time in their office. More art and for every piece of art the project needed to pay more in cash.
This was not a failure, we had an expanded budget from the kickstarter and Hiro’s professional work. Accounting only for contracting outlays we have invested the 0.55M USD development budget plus 0.48M USD we earned from his professional work. To re-iterate, the 0.26M and 0.35M USD we mentioned earlier were not used for development. This 1.03M USD counts only out of company outlays, it does not include our own salaries or any rent. **Of every $1 of development money from your backing, $2+ was spent on development.** We have not taken publisher money, or sold interest in project phoenix to investors. Hiroaki Yura himself is Project Phoenix’s biggest backer to the tune of almost 500K USD. We are not complaining. Every game developer wants to do their best. Every developer dreams of a bigger budget and larger game. We expanded Project Phoenix because we were hyped along with our backers.
We are still hyped. We are still committed to Project Phoenix, but as you can guess the original production plan did not work. We know that production plan did not work because when we released the vertical cut players were not impressed with the art. Now of course not all of the 1.03M USD was invested on 3d models, we commissioned concept art for a full world. Yet if the 3d assets were not acceptable to our backers this left us in a hard spot. Building higher detail assets requires not only spending more money and time per asset but also throwing out the existing assets. Of course the loss of our original programmer means we must now finance all programming out of a budget which was never designed to accommodate this. Hence, even less professional revenue going towards financing art.
Which put us into our current position. We expect to make our backers happy will require higher quality assets and more programmers. To this end we stopped investing the returns from our music business into art assets and instead drove them into a different smaller production, with further assistance from private investors. Should this tiny product succeed those private investors have promised to invest significant capital into Project Phoenix. In this way we have been able to expand our in-house development staff and work towards a bright future for Project Phoenix. Instead of financing salaries and running costs out of Project Phoenix we have been building a team out of the budget of this tiny project.Work has continued on Project Phoenix, but only things for which budget existed. If you have been wondering why the past few months have had lots of story updates, that is the reason why. We are very excited for this tiny project which will be announced in May. It is fun to play and we are proud of that.
Should it hit the success we are hoping for it will set our team in a position to deliver Project Phoenix anything we had hoped for. This is not a plea to support that project, please consider it but understand it is not Project Phoenix.
In closing, the problems facing Project Phoenix have been the same problems facing other large kickstarters of the era. We have seen other projects release at quality below fan’s expectations and we are putting our all into avoiding such a fate.
Daniel Dressler – Lead Programmer