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$57,366 pledged of $100,000 goal
By Guild Software
$57,366 pledged of $100,000 goal

Vendetta Online's new Kickstarter Goal: a Free To Play tier.

Many opinions have swirled around our game since our recent elevation of profile in the gaming press, but none repeated more than the desire for Vendetta Online to be Free To Play.

As anyone familiar with our industry knows, there are challenges and trade-offs in moving from an existing subscription model to one with a different set of parameters. From the viewpoint of a small and independent game company, there is great risk if the subscriber revenue should drop off before another form of revenue appears to replace it. Of course, many benefits are also apparent, in the form of greater player counts, with a more lively and populous universe that results, along with potentially higher long-term revenues.

But perhaps the most singular risk is to the gameplay, the soul of any title. Games are a fragile thing, a trust between player and designer. To allow players in a game of chess to simply buy all the pieces they desire would shatter this trust and gut the whole notion of the game itself.

In some corners it is argued that we must accept this new reality, that our MMOs must be designed more as an extension of monetization metrics than for the sake of the actual gameplay. This has never sat well with me; I design for what I want to play, and an experience peppered with carefully positioned opportunities to spend money is not one I desire. Nor do the mechanics or results of Paying To Win fit within my game-view. Many of us seek these games as a means of escape, and little violates that like the pervasive artificiality of monetization, or direct gameplay advantages granted by an opponent's larger financial outlay.

Thus, we may look for a middle path..

Vendetta Online with a Free To Play tier.

If our Kickstarter succeeds, we will offer a free-to-play access tier before the end of the year, following roughly this design:

  • Subscribers will still exist, entitled to the best game experience without limitations, including unfettered access to all current and future "endgame" constructs (ownership of stations, capships and territory, guild creation/command, high military rank, etc).
  • "Free To Play" characters will have a relatively low/mid level cap, and will be prevented from creating guilds or any of the other endgame content mentioned above. For instance, within the upcoming RTS advancements in our battles, only subscribers would be able to hold command positions, while F2P players could not advance beyond lower enlisted ranks.
  • Microtransactions, should they be added, would only be offered to F2P users. They would simply allow the F2P user to purchase access to equipment or features that would otherwise be available at their character level. Subscribers would have no such need, without any limitations on availability or level caps.
  • Even with maximum use of purchasing power, F2P users would ultimately be capped well below that of subscribers, and would have no faster access to level or equipment, as their character level progress would not be impacted by purchasing power. Thus, subscribers will always have the best experience, as well as the entirely "level" playing field.

It's my hope that this will bring both groups of players the experience they want, within the same game universe at the same time. This is certainly not the optimal revenue strategy, but it's my hope that it will give us the best opportunity to evolve while retaining the desired game experience for everyone.

To emphasize one point from the above for the benefit of our existing players: the subscriber experience does not change versus what we have today. The only visible difference should be a greater population of players.

How Can the Kickstarter Help This?

As I mentioned earlier, it's very risky for a small, independent developer like ourselves to make a major paradigm shift in business model. The wrong misstep can sink a company and game. Having an additional block of capital, like that offered by this Kickstarter, could give us enough of a "bridge" to span drops in revenue from changes in player profile (subscribers becoming F2P, for instance) while we expand the player base and tweak the business model.

Why didn't the Kickstarter include this from the beginning?

Although we have been tentatively moving in this "tiered" direction for some time, I only budgeted the Kickstarter as just enough to give some certainty that I could deliver the gameplay changes promised for VO 1.9.

Using those funds both for that development, while also transitioning business models is a higher risk for us. But, given the feedback and expectations we've seen from today's player base as a result of the Kickstarter and Greenlight experience, I'm willing to give this a shot.

John "Incarnate" Bergman, Guild Software


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    1. Espionage on February 19, 2013

      @David W. Stanbrough - Your last paragraph describes what is more likely to happen with Incarnates proposal.

      But boy, I sure as hell enjoyed reading the first couple of paragraphs. A war of Subscribers vs F2P'ers? OMG where do I sign up!!!!! You surely understand that this universe THRIVES on conflict.

      This sounds AWESOME.

      Imagine my squad of Serco warriors mowing down mark I centurions in SCP's and Serco Vultures, repairing in our fleet of tridents spewing out missiles left-right and center.

      Your post is predicated on the assumption that more pirates is a bad thing, more conflict is a bad thing. It's exactly what this game needs.

    2. David W. Stanbrough on February 19, 2013

      I'm not so sure the F2P experience is such a good idea. I would definitely like the game to grow, I would like to see the KS succeed, but I fear that just isn't going to happen, as evidenced by the fact that there is more than 60% of the required amount remaining to be pledged with 5 days left. This is especially troubling when one looks at the KS from an economic standpoint. There are very few investments one can make in a market, and be guaranteed a 100% + return. In this Kickstarter, the Dev's have offered that, and yet there are plenty of the rewards left still on the table. Which basically means that the subscribers to the game are as broke as the Developers of it.

      Putting the economics of it all aside for a moment, let's talk about how the game will change. Most likely, it will change for the worse. Human nature being what it is, I see the F2p players probably doing more pirating and griefing than can be tolerated by the subscribers. When the game is no longer fun, one no longer plays it. One can be a subscriber, for example, and build a capship. What would that matter if 50 F2P players suddenly attack it? Your Guild is only able to recruit subscribers, so when the F2P population overcomes the subscriber population, and forms up basically gangs with perhaps no formal structure, but a F2P vs subscriber mentality, then everyone with a Guild tag is a target. The capship would be basically indefensible to the current population of subscribers, and then there would be no advantage to subscription. Without capships, good luck building stations or more capships, and especially so if the F2P population decides "down with Guildies," which I can't say would happen for sure, but I think it's more likely to be the outcome.

      That being expressed, let's say that such an insurrection doesn't happen. That the F2P players are pretty much like the makeup of VO as is now. It still changes the game, and gets frustrating to subscribers. Guilds want to recruit people, mentor them, so on and so forth, but if the recipient is F2P after all the effort, they can't join the Guild, and perhaps the game mechanics will deny you a mentor point as well. That can be a grain of sand in the oyster's mouth as well. I'm sure you have thought all of this out, and perhaps it will all unfold, and everything will be rosy, but I need more convincing than just one day saying "Well look at that-VO is free to play now." And suddenly the Guild empties because no one wants to subscribe because of;
      a) The money-Check KS to see that the subscriber base is broke.
      b) The sudden persecution of Guilds.

      What could the outcome of all of this be? A free to play game with no subscribers, and less content than ever before in it's history, because the players want twitch-based content, and the field will seek it's own level. Enter a subscriber with a better ship, and it won't matter. He'll be chased down and killed.

      Don't you have experience with this in a superbus? Tell me I'm wrong, but please don't discount my opinion.

      One last option might be to offer a F2P experience with a universe less extensive, less detailed, with fewer options, and keep this as sort of a "minor league" VO, and keep informing them that they can have a better universe, better ships and equipment, have Guilds, stations, Capships and the like, and they can even try it for free for a couple of weeks. By the end of that time they can find an extra ten bucks to spend on a game like this is, and we can keep the integrity of the game, and grow it through the farm system.

      All the best for the game, all the time

    3. Missing avatar

      Rance Justice on February 19, 2013

      I find your refusal to treat the player like a money-filled washrag to be wrung tight as possible very refreshing! Thank you for putting game experience and ethics above the repugnant monetization strategies that infect the industry today. "Microtransactions" that are anything but micro, expensive attempts to nickle-and-dime players so that they don't realize they're paying more than a subscription per month but getting less, treating players that enjoy cosmetic content as second-class citizens worthy of additional surcharge, and all the other facets of average "Free2Play" MMO gaming (while even encroaching on subscription models as well, in a bold double-dip that shows their complete lack of respect for players) have caused me to turn away as soon as I see a title unveiled under such business models.

      Vendetta can thrive while maintaining respect for the playerbase and a larger reason I backed at the high tier I did was perceiving this respect from the development crew. Good on you!

    4. Missing avatar

      Jabberwok on February 19, 2013

      This seems like a good idea, as the F2P side of the game would remain almost like an expanded trial version, and the company wouldn't have to rely on microtransactions that might effect balance and immersion. Although i like that VO has stuck with the subscription model, a change like this might allow me to play more and contribute in a small way even though I don't have enough time to justify a subscription. I can't see that it would have any negative effects on subscribers, so I'm all for it.

    5. Missing avatar

      Everton Lazzari Fantin on February 19, 2013

      I understood where you are going with this F2P model, and it'll be really good.
      Could you be more specific about the possible roles that these Free2Players will be able to perform in Dynamic Warefare?

    6. Eliot Eshelman on February 19, 2013

      F2P Vendetta Online sounds completely different from every other F2P game I've seen. It's not pay-to-win or even pay to get a leg up. It's just a chance to pay less (or nothing) if the subscription doesn't work for you.

      I think this will be great! It gives students and others with limited budgets a chance to participate.

      Guild Software has already demonstrated how carefully this has been considered. I know they won't let it harm gameplay.

    7. Dan Serik on February 19, 2013

      The unnfortunate fact of life is that there will be as many different opinions, wants and complaints about anything as there are people on this poor sick planet called Earth! It is also a fact there is no one that can please everyone! So, you can only please those that you want to be part of your game...You have to think hard and long at whom do you want to attarct? Saying that you want everyone to play your game and trying to please them all will be your own doom! Now, that out of the way, here is my thing: I hate games where you have to grind to level up! In fact, there should be no levels at all...What should be important is to give players a feeling of achievement. I have played many space shooter and space empire building games where there is NO LEVELS! However, you have to mine, you have to buy and sell, you have to even work for other players or NPC, or even do quests but the rewards are not exp but currency or items that you can use to enhance your ships, stations or just sell them for more credits...Now, That is a true game paradise...There are many players who want and demand levelling system as that is all they know...In a really good game, quests, battles, mining, buying or selling should only give you satisfaction of achievement and reward you only with currency and items...That is the best way to make a game a fair and equalise all players and not penalise those who cannot play as much as kids,students or anyone who is not burdened with duties like work and family...
      As far as F2P versus Subscription, there should be a clear and distinctive difference between those two...mixing both in a game demands a HIGH LEVEL of BALANCING! If you make a mistake of allowing F2P to buy its way to suucess to catch up with Subsribers then you will loose the second group! Like I said earlier, there has to be a clear and set difference between these two groups that cannot be bridged with money! I support the idea that only Subscribers are allowed to own Capital Ships, Space Stations and Hold Top Command positions....F2P should be allowed to own any structure and positions on the planets ( if they exist, as I have not played this game for a very,very long time...) and can obtain them in the same way as everyone else...Only cosmetic changes should be allowed to be purchased and access to some areas can be purchased BUT with a time limit to their access....I know there are many oponents to allowing any F2P into the Subscription game...To you I say: Grow up! Games are business and if business is not sustainable then game will close! Maybe that is your preferd option for this game? So, Developer just ignore those who criticize without giving any constructive solutions! Now, I can go and annoy someone else...LOL

    8. Guild Software Creator on February 19, 2013

      I'm really not understanding you. We currently ONLY have subscribers, this allows free-to-play users to participate to some extent. They can still play with their subscribed friends, joining with them in whatever gameplay. Free to play users just can't directly own capships and stations and such, along with the other level caps. But they'll be able to participate in most common gameplay. I don't expect this to be a drastic barrier, and it should allow more friends to get involved in the game..

    9. Missing avatar

      Lucas Brunton on February 19, 2013

      The "free to play" model suggested here made me remove my pledge. locking them out of the game while pretending to allow them to play is going to hurt the subscriber experience more then you think. Running in to people, making friends, who cannot participate because they've in all likely hood spent more money on free to Play but are not current subscribers....

    10. Brian Levinsen
      on February 19, 2013

      Personally I very much dislike "Free-To-Play" games.
      Especially on the app-store, If a game is in the "free" section I expect the game to to have no additional cost to be able to play the game fully. I don't want to buy X amount of Coins, Berries, etc. in the game to be able to play it normally.
      Then I rather have demos, trials, etc.

      I also dislike the style that for example World Of Warcraft use, where you pay for the game and it's expansions, but it is impossible to play without a subscription.
      If you have require a subscription, then the game should be free, only exception is for example where it is possible to play in an "offline" mode. For example single player. The you can charge both for the game and the extra for subscription.

      I do however accept that games have some kind of extra income, but then it should be to buy none game changing items, For example skins, faces, perhaps gaming time, (So for example, I have less free time to play, than another person since I have kids, and the other person is a kid), giving that person an advantage. Then I could for example pay for the game to progress while i'm not there. So that when I log in again, I can play on the same playing field as the other.
      In some games for example WOW, it was often that the person you played with the day before, has leveled so far beyond you, that you can no longer quest together.
      In this case, I would not mind to pay to "catch up".
      But it would need to be made in such a way that it can't give an unfair advantage. So that you can't play and pay to progress.