Project: Gorgon – An Indie MMORPG by Industry Veterans
An indie MMORPG with the deep gameplay of the classics, all the features of a modern game, and a unique immersive feel.
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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
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