This project's funding goal was not reached on November 3, 2012.
About this project
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Project: Gorgon is a 3D fantasy MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) for PC & Mac with a quirky, original feel. It freely mixes ideas from older MMOs, newer MMOs, and a whole bunch of new ideas never before seen in any MMO.
It's designed for players who want to explore a deep world with complex game systems and a tight-knit community that is friendly enough to actually chat while they group. Think Asheron’s Call crossed with EverQuest crossed with the emergent gameplay of NetHack.
To make the world feel more immersive, Project: Gorgon revives some great ideas from older MMOs that have been forgotten. For instance, if you have items you don't want, you can toss them on the ground - maybe somebody else will want them. If you sell something to a vendor, those items are available for other players to buy. If you’re on fire and near a lake, jump in the lake to put the fire out!
We’re also taking a cue from older MMOs and not holding your hand quite so much. There are tutorials, of course, but once you’re playing the game we don’t want to tell you exactly where to go - we want you to explore. The world is full of intricate game systems, connected in unusual ways. Project: Gorgon heavily rewards exploration. Go poke in corners, try out weird ideas, and see what you find!
At the same time, this is a thoroughly modern MMO with a robust combat system, quests, guilds, and all the other stuff you’ve come to expect from the genre. We’re also working on new ideas to foster the community. We want Project: Gorgon to have one of the friendliest communities out there.
Yes, Yes, But What Are The Cool Features?!
How about words of power, combat combos that change daily, programmable battle golems, player-created treasure hunts, player werewolves subject to the real-life lunar cycle, NPCs with fun interactions, permanent curses as death penalties...
That's just a sampling. We have a ton of new ideas and mechanics to help make MMOs less stale, less repetitive, and more immersive. Here's a dev diary video that explores a few of them.
You can find lots more on our blog at ElderGame.com, where Eric has been blogging constantly about this project every step of the way.
Here are some blog posts to get you started:
- Permanent Character Choices in a Classless Game (or, “Werewolves!”)
- A Psychologist, a Fire Mage, and a Dickweed Walk Into a Bar...
- Project Gorgon’s Death Penalty
- On Fire, and Wolf-Talk, and Competitive Systems
- Optional Ways to Play
Making an MMO is harder than making most other types of games. That’s why a lot of indie MMO’s never make it to launch. But we have a secret weapon: us! We're Eric Heimburg and Sandra Powers, a husband-and-wife team with over two decades of online game experience between us, including programming, design, and production credit on games like Asheron’s Call 1 & 2, EverQuest II, and Perpetual's Star Trek Online. We have really deep experience doing exactly this type of work: designing and coding MMOs.
Plus, we're using extremely powerful middleware, Unity 3D, which reduces the complexity like never before. We're also keeping the server design as simple as possible to avoid surprises. (For instance, the game world is zone-based, with loading screens between each geographic area, rather than a continuously loaded map. It's a little less elegant, but a lot less code.)
Oh, and we've been working on this for three years already. That's why we're confident in our ability to do this: we've already done much of the heavy lifting, and we know there aren't any huge technical surprises ahead.
The game has come a long way already. It's been tested by our pre-alpha community, and we'll be ready for alpha testing (with several hundred players) soon.
We’ve been working on the game part-time for the past three years, taking just enough contract work to keep us housed and fed. But we’re a little over a year away from launching... and we’ve run out of money.
If it were just a matter of supporting ourselves, we’d suffer through it no matter how long it took, but part of what we need is art and audio – things we just cannot do ourselves. We’re not artists, and you know what they say about programmer art. (It sucks.)
We’ve come this far on our own, and no matter what, we are not giving up on this project. But funding from Kickstarter backers like you will make the difference between Project: Gorgon 2014 and Project: Gorgon 2024.
It may seem like we're asking for a lot of money, but actually, we're not – not for the things we need.
Most important is character art, like heads and hair and armor for the playable races. Good quality character art is expensive, especially if you’d rather not have people bursting into laughter every time they see a player character run by. It would also be nice to have more than one or two sets of armor. So nearly half of our funding goal is allocated to character art.
We also need more custom monsters, as well as world pieces like buildings and points of interest. We’re currently using a lot of licensed commercial artwork, and we’ll continue to use some of this off-the-shelf art in the final game, but obviously there are lots of things that need to be custom-made just for us.
Next up is audio. A wonderful sound artist, Conor Brace, has already supplied us with theme music (in the video!) and a pile of great sound effects. But we need a lot more sound effects for all the quirky skills that Eric keeps implementing, not to mention more ambient music for the world.
A chunk of the money will go to technical things – like paying for servers during alpha and beta. (We need multiple dedicated computers and lots of bandwidth.) We also need some more software licenses and a bunch of other bits like that.
Finally, we decided that if we were going to do a Kickstarter campaign, it would be great if we could cut down on the other work we do, so we can focus more time on Project: Gorgon. Otherwise it would take an extra six months to a year to see the project come to fruition. So the final piece of our funding goal is about $10,000 to help cover the gap while we focus more heavily than ever before on Project: Gorgon for the next year and a bit.
Eric Heimburg has over a decade of experience as a Senior and Lead Engineer on such products as Asheron’s Call 2 as well as being Producer for AC2. In addition, he has impressive credentials as an MMO systems designer, such as for an early version of the MMO Star Trek Online.
Sandra Powers started out at Turbine working as an engineer on Asheron’s Call 2, but quickly moved to Asheron’s Call 1 first as Lead Engineer and later as Producer. She also took on the role of Lead Game Systems Designer during development of the AC1 expansion, Throne of Destiny. After leaving Turbine, Sandra joined the EverQuest II team as Live producer.
For the past six years, we have contracted on a number of other online games, from Flash games to Facebook games to full-scale MMO games. Three years ago we began work on our own dream – Project: Gorgon.
Risks and challenges
We've noticed many Kickstarter projects aren't using the "Risks and Challenges" system to list their ACTUAL risks. They offer platitudes instead of details, making it seem like there are no dangers at all.
But that's not respecting you as an investor. EVERY project has risks.
Our risks are modest, given our experience with building MMOs and our extensive prior research for this game. But it's always smart to know any dangers that may creep up.
1) Will the underlying engine continue to work for us?
Because Project: Gorgon uses the Unity game engine for the client, there is always a chance that something drastic could happen to Unity Technologies or that the Unity engine could change in some way that renders it inadequate for our game. If that happened, we would need to find another client infrastructure or write our own. That would delay the launch for many months.
We’ve been working quite closely with Unity for a few years, however, and have a high level of confidence in their continuing ability to meet our needs. And to be on the safe side, we’re being conservative in our projections about what the engine can do for us. For instance, the next version of Unity is expected to support Linux games, so the odds are very good that we’ll be able to have a Linux game client. But we can’t promise things like that until we’re 100% sure it’s going to work out for our game.
2) How many concurrent users can fit on one game world once?
The answer to this question will determine how much hardware we need. If the servers don’t support enough concurrent users, then we will need more hardware to run the game - possibly more than we can afford.
We haven’t overly optimized the server yet, but even the un-optimized server is pretty strong, so it shouldn’t take too much to reach our goal. This is also something we’re really good at: we’ve optimized server code before and are very comfortable with what this entails, so this really shouldn’t be a problem.
3) Have we budgeted enough money?
If we’ve budgeted too little money, then we will have to cut some features, or if we've really screwed up, delay the game while we gather more funds.
Art and music direction aren’t our strongest areas, so we’ve spent a lot of time this year talking with artists and audio people to make sure we understand what’s involved.
There is always a risk that things will go over budget, but we’ve left ourselves a bit of padding in case we’re a bit off, and we can cut features if other things turn out to be more expensive than anticipated.
4) Have we budgeted enough time?
If we’ve budgeted too little time for this project, it will still launch – we can afford to keep working on the game from our home office for a long time if necessary.
For the technical aspects of the project (such as optimization), we are pretty confident in our estimates. It’s a little harder to accurately gauge the amount of time it’ll take to get the game systems and content in good shape. We’ve allocated lots of time for beta-testing, but our game has so many systems that it’s very hard to tell if that will be sufficient.
But if we completely miss the mark on the beta, it’s not that bad: we’ll just remain in (free) open beta for a few extra months while we finish up.
Regardless of these risks and challenges, we are confident in our ability to bring this project to completion and launch Project: Gorgon. And we will keep all our backers up-to-date on the latest project happenings, even – especially! – if that involves bad news.
We will do our best to justify the trust you put in us with your backing.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
We haven’t pinned down the exact payment details for Project: Gorgon yet. We’re still having nightly debates about a tiered subscription vs. a more ala-carte payment system vs. some combination of the two. Regardless, we do expect to have several levels of access – from free-to-play to a super-VIP-all-in-one-and-the-kitchen-sink pass.
At the Gold level, your account will have access to the entire game world and all of the game mechanics. Gold is the regular tier. There may be higher and lower tiers, but Gold is what we'd expect most people to pay for. If we use a subscription model, we expect that Gold access to Project: Gorgon will cost about $5 per month. Therefore, three months of Gold access is worth about $15 and six months is worth about $30.
And if we’re wrong about the final monthly cost of Gold access? Then we guarantee all backers will receive: for a $10 pledge, the greater of 3 months or $15 of game access; for $25+ pledge, the greater of 6 months or $30 of game access.
The estimated delivery dates for the pledge rewards are based on our target launch date in March 2014. Some of the rewards, however, can and will be fulfilled before launch: alpha/beta access or the opportunity to design a rare weapon, for example.
Alpha and beta are the two main testing phases that a game goes through before launch.
During alpha, the game is still pretty rough: some game mechanics may be incomplete, and completed mechanics may be broken in unfortunate ways. There may not be very much content and polish is still a distant dream. Players who volunteer to test during the alpha phase must be adventurous and strong of heart.
Alpha testing is expected to start in February 2013.
During beta testing, the game comes together in its final form before launch. Mechanics are fixed and balanced; content is added and polished. Although early beta testing can be a little rough, late beta gives you the opportunity to see the game in full flower while still having the opportunity to suggest changes and see immediate feedback.
We expect beta testing to begin in September 2013.
The number of players we need during alpha and early beta testing may be limited. If more backers volunteer than we have available slots, we will randomly draw the backers to be invited first. We guarantee, however, that everyone will have the opportunity to participate in beta before the game launches.
As we build Project: Gorgon, we have been careful to keep the system requirements as low as possible – although until we get final art and subsequent optimizations done, we won’t know exactly how low we can go. So we don’t have any specifics to share right now.
At the moment, however, we can tell you that our in-house low-end testing uses a very basic 3yr-old PC and a somewhat sluggish 1yr-old laptop.
No, sorry. We’ll work with you to find something we are all happy with, but reserve the right to edit or reject any text you send us that gets included in the game. In addition, any character names that you reserve have to meet our character naming guidelines … which we haven’t invented yet but will be pretty standard for a fantasy-themed game. Pun names and Star Wars references are right out, though.
As simply as possible: we’ll solicit your vote through e-mail, then post the (anonymous) tally of the votes for the whole community.
Advanced Portal Magic lets your character summon a portal that others can use rather than just teleporting yourself. This skill is eventually available to all characters, but pledges of $75+ will have characters that know this skill right out of the gate!
A Word of Power is a word that causes an instant effect when you speak it out loud in chat. For example, saying “SlakTraWhue” in chat might cast “Immense Strength” on your character and make you very strong for half an hour. (Watch the video for some other examples!)
Because Words of Power are only invoked when you speak them out loud in chat, you can whisper them to a friend who needs help. Be aware, though: Each word can only be used once.
Now the Certificate of Appreciation for a $100+ pledge contains a *unique* Word of Power. That’s important because a character in Project: Gorgon would normally learn a Word of Power through research – and two characters can occasionally unknowingly research the same Word. At that point, it’s a matter of who uses the Word first.
But with your unique Appreciation Word of Power, you are guaranteed that no one else will ever, ever learn or use your Word. Unless you tell it to them, of course.
The Patron's Hat is a stylish hat that also grants you a bonus to the Art Appreciation skill in the game. This will give you a leg up on tasks like appraising a stolen painting, figuring out who might want to buy a poem you find on a dead goblin, or detecting illusory forms. (Illusions are really just forgeries of reality, after all...)
It's possible to find other items that boost Art Appreciation, but few items will have a buff as large as the Patron's Hat until you reach very high level. And, of course, none look as classy.
These boots slightly increase your movement speed, plus they significantly reduce the cost of sprinting, so you can keep running at high speed longer. They're great for traveling long distances!
We've heard this rumor a couple of times and figured we'd better quash it.
No, we aren't using the Turbine engine. We've written our engine from scratch using Unity 3D for the client and Java for the server. No Turbine engine has used either of these things, so you can rest assured there is absolutely no code shared.
The artwork isn't stolen, either. Every single scrap has been diligently licensed. Much of the existing artwork comes from indie-friendly licensing companies like http://3drt.com and http://arteria3d.com. (Most of this licensed artwork will be replaced by custom artwork if the Kickstarter succeeds.)
It may seem impossible that just two people can make an MMO engine, but we have. (With a big helping hand from Unity3D, to be fair.) Nothing is stolen, so please don't worry about that.
Yes, your first character gets one. The weapons will be designed for max-level players, though, so you'll need to put it in storage for a while until you level up and can use it!
PvP (player-versus-player combat) exists, but it doesn't play an important role in Project: Gorgon. You'll be able to duel players, and there may be arenas and other recreational fighting areas, but there aren't any land-control mechanics or other advanced PvP systems.
We don't have the resources to do both PvP and PvE well. Actually, even most big teams can't do them both at the same time. And we don't want to do a lot of half-assed PvP systems like most MMOs do. That's worse than useless because it doesn't make PvP players happy, and it annoys PvE players when they're pushed toward player killing. A PvP game needs a lot of thought and care. And so does a PvE game... so we had to make a tough choice.
We decided to focus solely on PvE (player versus environment) because it's what we understand better. We also see a big need to bring the fun back to PvE. It's been devolving in recent MMOs, and these days, being in a pick-up group in WoW is a downright miserable experience. That's as much due to game mechanics as it is to the people. We want to really show how to do PvE right, which will take all of our focus.
If you only like PvP games, we realize this means Project: Gorgon isn't going to be the game for you. We're sorry about that. We hope to "do PvP right" in a future MMO, but unless we get a ton more funding than we expect, we just won't be able to do that in this game.
Very likely, but we can't promise it yet. The next version of the Unity 3D engine we use will finally support Linux as a development platform, and we intend to use that to make a Linux version.
We'd love to announce it officially, but we don't yet know if there are going to be hidden surprises that make it impossible.
So we DO currently expect to have a Linux version at launch, but we can't 100% promise it'll happen.
Not initially. We have been thinking about how the game might work on large-size Android devices (such as Samsung tablets and maybe crazy devices like the Ouya).
We'd love to do a port to those devices, and we're keeping the design open enough that it's possible. But we don't have solid plans or a timeline for an Android version right now.
- (30 days)