I hope you've all been well over the summer or the winter vacation.
Again, I thank you for the patience you have for us, and
As the vacation draw to a close, I want to mention that I'd be attending the following events.
As mentioned in the previous updates, we have been working on another project to secure a large investment for Project Phoenix. We are now ready to announce that this project is TINY METAL.
Majority of the artists and creators involved in Project Phoenix has taken part as they empathized and experienced the troubles that we went through, and we have never given up on Project Phoenix. During the time it took us to develop TINY METAL, part of us continued developing Project Phoenix (textual, systems and some art) and part of us went head first to TINY METAL.
TINY METAL was funded by AREA 35, Inc., separate from the Kickstarter budget we received for Project Phoenix. This budget came from a group of private investors who had faith in our abilities to execute our game, however, since the asking price for Project Phoenix was quite large, they wanted to test the waters first with a much smaller project, TINY METAL.
TINY METAL has been already been praised within the development community and have received quite a number of support ranging from grants to services. If we keep this up and reach the expected sales target, our investors will be happy to help us with Project Phoenix.
This was a calculated risk on my part, Project Phoenix is not just our dream but also the dream of the rest of the creators.
I take all the responsibilities for the failure to deliver on time, but as I mentioned in the previous updates, I cannot issue refunds. So at the very least, if anyone is coming to PAX or SMASH!, I will offer a personal explanation or answer any questions that you may have.
My time is limited during the event and I know I may not be able to answer questions at length or talk to everyone there, but I will make best efforts to talk to as many of you as I can.
Again, I am happy to answer as many questions as I can, although I'll be flying out to Sydney tonight, I'll do my best to respond to most of the comments filed in the next few hours.
Thanks again for your patience.
Director / Producer of Project Phoenix
Again, I thank you very much for your patience.
In the past few updates, there has been some misunderstanding so I'd like to be clear about what we will be doing in the next few updates.
I was asked by many backers about how the game works. We have a basic game that includes itemization, navigation and other tools for creating abilities. However, it is nowhere close to the level where we can offer a proper demonstration for you to play.
From February of this year, we decided to explain what classes you can expect from our game, what their roles are, and how you will be playing with them.
We are not attempting to regurgitate old art or assets. We like to believe that the art we have showed you thus far expresses the overall look and feel of the game. I apologize to those who thought we were trying to make it seem the art is newly created. Currently, we have all the art we need to make these classes, and we have all the models for it also. We have included these in the previous updates because we've already completed and paid for these assets.
I hope to go back to explaining classes again from the next update, and for the time being, we would like to take a break from the classes and update you on what we have done on one of the cutscenes.
The Fallen Dragon
Last December, we showed you a silent animation of one of the cutscenes featuring the history of Titan's Peak, situated on top of the Dwarven cities. It is rumoured that a massive Dragon, which lost its way, is still trapped under the mountain.
The animation was created and directed by the legendary animator, Hidekazu Ohara, known for his works on Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and AKIRA.
The concept for The Fallen Dragon itself was designed by Yoko Tsukamoto, and the characters designed by Yasushi Suzuki, both veterans of the game industry.
Now Tomoki Miyoshi, our composer who had recently completed I am Setsuna with Square Enix and recently announced his involvement with Lost Sphear, finally finished adding the music to the cinematic only a few days ago.
The cutscene will also be used commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Eminence Symphony Orchestra. In the future, we'd be delighted to perform the music from Project Phoenix after launch.
I would like everyone here to understand that I am very committed to launching this game. We will be recording the performance on video for backers who cannot get to Sydney and will be distributing the performance through a Backers-only update.
Please take a moment to enjoy the cinematic and feel free to leave any comments. For a few hours I will be replying to many of your enquiries personally on this update.
Again, my sincerest apologies to everyone on the delay.
Director / Producer of Project Phoenix
Thanks for your patience. Today, we'd like to go through the Battle Mage. But first, we should clear the air to put aside a few misunderstandings.
We noticed that several of you are worried that we may have or might be using funding that we received from the Project Phoenix Kickstarter to fund a separate project of mine. I am writing to assure you that this is absolutely not the case, and we would never consider doing that.
A group of private investors was interested in a prototype of a strategy game that I had begun development on several years ago with Daniel. I used my own money to fund the prototype, and they offered to fund the project the rest of the way through. To be clear, we never mixed funds between this project and Project Phoenix.
There is a potential that Project Phoenix can get more funding from these investors if I prove to them that my team and I can ship a successful game. This obviously places an immense amount of pressure on me and my staff to make and ship the absolute best game possible for them, and the best news is that this strategy game project is coming together nicely. The worst news is that progress on Project Phoenix has slowed temporarily as a result.
I hope from the bottom of my heart that the resulting impressions and sales results from this strategy game catapult our development plans for Project Phoenix so far forward that we not only hit every one of our original Kickstarter targets—we outright dazzle everyone as a part of a new generation of Japanese developers.
Because frankly, although we are determined to prove to ourselves that we have what it takes to see Project Phoenix through, we also eagerly want to prove to you that we are not viewing your expectations from a rear-view perspective. We are determined to ship a game that will deliver on nothing short of what we have promised to you.
Now, for the update:
The Battle Mage
The Battle Mage is a hybrid magic DPS, highly suited to applying heavy single target or AoE damage against armored targets. Contrary to the common mages from other fantasy based games, the Battle Mage from Project Phoenix is not a glass cannon. Clad in armor and trained in the ways of combat, he is already a fearsome opponent before applying any kind of magical damage or enhancements. Battle Mages are found in the thick of the fighting along with the Berserker and Paladin.
The Battle Mage's equipment consists of heavy plated armour.
The Battle Mage uses enchanted melee weapons. Capable of magically buffing his equipment, choose wisely as to how you'd want him equipped as utility of his class will depend on it.
There are two major skill trees for the Battle Mage and it splits between Single Target magic DPS and AoE magic DPS.
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 Battle Mage, we are currently considering enchant damage or magic resistance for the whole squad.
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 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.
ArmourThe 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.
SkillThere 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.
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