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David Braben turns to Kickstarter to bring back  Elite
David Braben turns to Kickstarter to bring back Elite
November 5, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

November 5, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
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    15 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing



Newsbrief: Elite and Frontier creator David Braben has big plans for a new game in his seminal space-faring franchise, and he's turned to Kickstarter to make that project a reality.

Braben and his studio, Frontier Developments, are looking to raise 1.25 million pounds to create Elite: Dangerous, a large scale, PC space simulator planned for release in March 2014. Building on Elite's legacy from the 1980s and 90s, Braben is looking to create a complex space exploration game that leverages today's tech.

If you're interested in learning more or contributing to the project, be sure to check out the official Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter page.


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Comments


Ron Dippold
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Brilliant. First Old School RPG overlaps and lags Project Eternity. Now Elite: Dangerous overlaps and lags Star Citizen.

Maybe nostalgia will carry the day, but a huge portion of your audience already have sizable funds committed (but not taken yet) to the first game in the cycle.

Jakub Majewski
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It's more than that, in this case. If you compare the pitch for Star Citizen with the Elite pitch, you wonder - who would want to put money on Elite? The Star Citizen trailer and presentation show a working prototype with some amazing features, while Elite... Elite has a wall of text talking about how procedural generation will enable them to make the game at a lower cost.

I fear this game will prove once and for all that you can't just dig up any well-loved brand, put it on Kickstarter and expect the cash to flow on. Though, I'll admit, they are doing well so far - 80,000 pounds for a project with this little info... maybe they'll squeak by after all?

(note: I'm a big Wing Commander fan, so I'm sure I'm biased. Then again, Star Citizen leaves me cold, it's not the story-intensive cinematic game I've been waiting for)

Jeremy Reaban
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While you have a point, Shadowrun Returns overlapped Wasteland 2, despite both being turn based isometric old school RPGs. One got 3.3 million, the other 1.9

^ And Elite is well, Elite. Where do you think hackers got that term from? While I agree the pitch is horrible, it has a huge name brand recognition.

Maria Jayne
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@ Jeremy

"And Elite is well, Elite. Where do you think hackers got that term from?"

Probably from the English language. ;)

Maria Jayne
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Maybe it's just me, but I dislike the target goal of 1.2million when there isn't even a pitch video. Get your stuff ready before asking for that sort of commitment. Plenty of examples of developers having pitch videos that don't show game footage so that's not an excuse. For the record I'd love a new elite game, I'm just not convinced at all by this.

David Navarro
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They had me at "Elite".

Alan Barton
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I agree the pitch is very thin. I would love to see a demo.

But this is Elite! Its great news!

I better get the popcorn ready, as its going to be very interesting to watch!

For example, I've just been clicking reload and in the past quarter of an hour, its gone from 94k to over 110k!

So imagine what's going to happen as the news of this spreads!

Jeremy Reaban
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Yeah, I've gone from "this is crazy" to "this might get funded". Up to 125k now.

Simon Ludgate
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As a gamer, I hope this gets funded so I can play the game.

As a person who pledges to Kickstarters, this pitch fails.

As people have pointed out, the wall of text is anemic and uninspiring. There's no demo/prototype. There's no screenshots. There's no concept art. There's no heartfelt plea video from David. There aren't even any real details about what the game is or will be like. It's just a brief and hollow sales pitch. Maybe that works for the back of a game box, but it doesn't work on Kickstarter.

The total funding requirement is outrageous. Obsidian said they could make an RPG for under $1mil, and they're asking for $2mil? RPGs have tons of expensive art, dialgoue, content; and Elite's procedurally generated content - which takes front-and-centre in the pitch - has none of that expense! Kickstarter's minimum funding is just that: MINIMUM funding. You should be able to make a rough, basic Elite for a tenth the asking price. That they're asking for so much makes me worry about the project being overambitious, which doesn't sit well in the Wake of 38. Conservative development is a must nowadays.

The "pre-order the game" pledge is almost double what other games ask. I see they took a lesson from Obsidian who did a limited $20 pre-order and a regular $25 pre-order. Except Braben is asking 20 POUNDS for the limited offer and THIRTY for the regular. Seriously? You're asking for over $50 to pre-order a risky venture for a game that might not get made and might suck when it does? That's WAY out of line with my expectations as a risk-taking backer.

All the high reward tiers are basically the same thing: you name something in the game. And presumably, since each one says "plus all rewards above" anyone who backs the top tier will have their name applied to two systems, a planet, a station, and a pilot named Jameson. Wow dude. I'll meet you in Simon Station, orbiting the world of Simon in the Simon system... no, the frontier Simon system, not the central one. OK, see you there Simon. Was that the best they could come up with?

David Navarro
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Sure, it may not inspire anybody unfamiliar with the IP, but for many of us a one-word pitch would have been enough.

Alan Barton
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@"$20 pre-order and a regular $25 pre-order. Except Braben is asking 20 POUNDS for the limited offer and THIRTY for the regular. Seriously? You're asking for over $50"

Undervaluing your product is just as much a problem as overvaluing it. Too many Kickstarter games are greatly undervaluing their products and that leads to an increased probability of failure to deliver. (I'm convinced they are undervaluing their product goals just to get some money, as they fear they won't get more).

As a price comparison, in the shops today, the average price for Halo 4 is 30 to 35, so 20 really isn't that much to ask for a game. You overlook the point of the different pledge amounts is for people to fund development of a game, not simply to buy games. The point being, Kickstarter isn't a shop. Kickstarter is to fund new projects and people get rewarded in different ways as the various pledge amounts show.

Simon Ludgate
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Kickstarter may not be a store, but a downloadable copy of the game is by far the most important reward people look for when backing a game:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/176839/gamasutras_kickstart
er_survey_.php

Furthermore:

"Pricing a game seems as important on Kickstarter as in retail and digital markets. One third said they declined to fund a project because a game was not available at a low enough reward tier. While no specific price was polled, 55 percent of respondents stated the game perk should be less than the final (retail) sale price followed by 36 percent who felt it should at least be the same."

Alan Barton
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Thanks for that Gamasutra Kickstarter article, I missed seeing that article on Gamasutra until now.

I know some will say pricing needs to be lower. Some will always say that, no matter how low we make it. Part of the problem for them and for us as developers is that some of our potential customers don't have a credit card, as they are not old enough. Others who could pay, simply don't want to pay. Some simply don't earn enough to pay for all the games they want to play and some simply don't want to pay, even though they could afford it. But the one thing they have in common is that they all want cheap, cheap, cheap or free. Fortunately not all customers are like them.

However for the ones who want free, that is why free to play is doing so well, as some can play completely for free and so they don't have to ask permission whilst others don't feel they have to pay, even though they could afford it.

This is also why piracy will continue to thrive, at least for non-free games, no matter what we do to try to stop it. But even if its a free game, it'll still get hacked and cracked so some can cheat etc.., so we are not going to stop that problem.

So the question then becomes, what is the right price for us to fund development of our games? The point is you can argue that "One third said" this, that and the other about price, but I can also counter that and play devils advocate by saying, but also two thirds didn't say what you said. So then the question becomes, how much lower does it really have to be, for us to get at least some of that one third of hold outs pitching us some money?. The chances are, even if we were to make the price much cheaper, some will still want it even cheaper (just look at Android to see how low price expectations can go). But if its cheaper then all pay cheaper so we still end up with less overall.

So the question then comes down to the economic principle of supply and demand. So at what price do we need to pitch at, to get the best overall return which will help us fund our games to completion?. For example we asked everyone to pay say $100 each, I doubt many would pay. But also, if we gave the game away for $0.50 (with the final price of $1) then we would need a lot more users and we would be in serious problems when it came to selling the game after it was finished. Plus no matter how cheaply we sell it for, free to play will always be *perceived* as cheaper.

Unfortunately we can't base our choices on what consumers tell us about price, because some will always want cheaper or free. So who do we believe? So what is the right answer? What is the right price? Some will never be happy, no matter what price we pick.

Of course the so called "free to play" isn't really free and I strongly think there is a very big potential for a big backlash against free to play as players tire of it. Because buying the game is cheaper than this so called "free to play". But then for some, free to play is what they want, so I think its here to stay. But then the question becomes what longevity does a free to play game have? In some markets, its a very short turn over time indeed, as people are not investing much time into a game at all, so it lives and dies very quickly. That isn't great for in game advertising revenue (if we try to use that) and if they are not spending the time to build up their characters, then they are also not buying that many in game items, so again developers risk loosing out with that as well. All we end up with is the massive technical and cost problems of having to deal with a sudden initial inrush of new players and then next week, another game gets the big inrush of players and we loose out.

I don't have all the answers, I just have ever more questions, but the fact I have so many questions is highlighting to me just how much uncertainty it feels like in our industry at the moment. But the basic economic principle of supply and demand still remains. The Internet hasn't wiped that out. So we have to choose what the right pricing is and a race to ever lower prices doesn't look to me to be the answer. Some will always want cheaper, so we can't afford to do that.

Its like the old saying, you can't please all the people, all the time. But we still have to find ways to fund the development of our games and if some people are prepared to want to see our game developed, then some of them will try to help us, so they in turn can also become part of its development process. That sounds fair for everyone.

So whilst we want to keep it as low and inclusive as we can we also have to find the right balance and I really don't think 20 is to expensive for a game. For example, here's another angle to consider. Compare what the original 1984 Elite cost back when it launched and then add 28 years of inflation. It would be a lot more than 20 now and then add in the increased team size costs we now have in games companies and the amount of work we have to do to create a finished product these days. It means we do a lot more games development work now for a smaller percentage cut of people's monthly income, when they buy a game from us.

So we can't be afraid to ask a fair price for a game and 20 to 30 really isn't that much considering the scale of work that has to be funded to create most games these days. (Even just look at a three person team for a year, especially when adding up all their other business costs as well. It results in a 100000+ project these days. So even smaller games are expensive to develop when people work at it full time). The public hear of the millionaire developers, (and all developers dream of it) but we all don't hear of all the 10000 other developers for every millionaire who are all struggling to pay their bills. So we can't be afraid to ask for 20 to 30 for a Kickstarter funded game and company.

J Spartan
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I spent a large part of my childhood and teens in the universe of Elite and it's sequels (Oolite as well). So yeah a huge fan, but not huge enough that i can accept a kickstarter this 'poor' or one that gives no options for payment other than credit card details. Paypal? Amazon payments?

I really hope this does make it, but it needs a huge effort from David and the guys at Frontier Dev to make it as attractive enough as it should be. Once the hard-core fan base has chipped in (i would qualify as one, i even hex edited some ships from Elite III) there is nothing there for anyone else, especially in light of other similar types of projects currently running. That's the competition you need to at least match in your pitch.

So if David or anyone from Frontier reads this gamasutra article, please, please improve your pitch (lots of examples exist of really great kickstarters) and expand the payment options. Your just losing a bunch of potential investors otherwise. C- must try harder.

Joe Wreschnig
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What bugs me about this pitch is that I only see "it's Elite!" and not any evidence there's going to be something learned from the massive time in between.

If you tell me Doublefine is making a new adventure game, or Obsidian is making a new RPG, okay. I can tell from the games they have been working on that not only were they around in the formative days of the genre, but also that they're still paying attention to it. The Kickstarter is telling me "that stuff we do - we're going to do it in the way we like rather than the way the publisher likes - but you can look at our recent work and see we still know how to do it."

When I look at what Frontier have done recently - Kinectimals, LostWinds, RCT3 - I see some games I like, but not games that tell me what Elite is going to be like, or that Frontier understand where procedural design stands today. Show me something about how your game compares to Dwarf Fortress. Or FTL. Or Brogue. Or Minecraft. Show me you know how to make Elite (2013), not Elite (1984).


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