The Phoenix Project is the effort to bring new life from a world laid waste, the name given to an idea that would not be silenced, an idea whose time has come. The idea that a game is more than just a game or a revenue stream. It is a community, a home. Missing Worlds Media, Inc. was the first element of this idea, founded by the project to provide the foundation, the structure for that effort.
Missing Worlds Media presents City of Titans, the superhero MMORPG being developed by The Phoenix Project in the spirit of City of Heroes. Our goal is to deliver a unique massively multiplayer online roleplaying game, created from the community of a lost universe, to build a new community for a new world. A brave new world containing a wealth of player choices, from costumes to powers, it continues the traditions found in its spiritual predecessor, daring to reach for new innovations no other game will touch, while standing firmly on the feel and spirit of the old. Players will be able to choose their own adventure, tell their own tales, and have their own agency in a superhuman world.
City of Titans is set in a world where there is always hope, even in the darkest of times. The tradition of brightly colored costumes, brilliant heroics, and daring struggles to stand against the shadows cast during times of darkness and corruption. New heroes, your heroes, rise to make their mark on the world while their villainous counterparts lurk in the corners of alleys, behind governments, and even in the boardrooms of the wealthiest corporations. Humanity honors the fallen, and takes inspiration from the selfless sacrifices of heroes who have gone before.
It is an age where heroic ideals stand tall, where words such as "truth," "justice," "freedom," and "honor" have never lost their meaning. And it is an age where a villain may rise to power despite the heroes, where epic clashes of good vs evil are as common as seeing a brilliant costume fly through the sky on the way to save a kitten stuck in a tree. The world stands on the brink of change, at a time when magic, high technology and incredible scientific feats bring out the best and worst in the everyday human being. Individuals with supreme strength of will and training can become forces of good or evil. Heroes with astounding powers patrol the streets and skies alongside those whose only special abilities are the dedication in their hearts. Villains scheme and plot with the help of scoundrels and rogues, caring only for power, wealth or control - their motives are their own and dynamic battles between the two sides are frequent.
One city has risen above the rest as a place where costumed heroes are welcomed, where devious villains seek to add to their roster of minions. In Titan City, the opening setting, an old guard stands watch on both sides. They have issued calls to action, welcoming new heroes to their ranks and inviting old heroes to return to duty. New villains mask themselves amongst the rich and famous along with the poor and destitute, while experienced evil-doers lure the unsuspecting with words of clever cynicism.
Do you have what it takes to join the ranks of good? Or will you choose to stand in the shadowed courts of villainy?
Bring the City of Titans to life.
They said there was no chance. They said we should find a new home. We have. We just made it ourselves. Because we dare to think the impossible.
We are heroes. This is what we do.
Kickstarter offers new opportunities for what would previously have been impossible without the demanding hand of a publishing studio. Thanks to Kickstarter, new ideas, new approaches, and new innovations can be developed, ones which do not fit the traditional model of investment. And, luckily for us, new studios can develop projects that no publisher would take on.
Through Kickstarter, the customers have direct access to the creative group, allowing new companies with fresh ideas to prove their concepts to their future customers. This in turn results in products which remain true to the vision of the developing studio, and true to the expectations of the players. The chance for a studio to make the game they know is ready to be made, that new and innovative idea, or an old idea which has been forgotten in the publisher push for the latest trend. Star Citizen. Shadowrun Returns. Even Double Fine Adventure. No traditional game funding source would have taken those on. But they’re coming, and so are many, many more.
If the customer does not want what is being offered, they simply find somewhere else to spend their money. But, as these other offerings have shown, people know what they want. And thanks to Kickstarter, they can speak directly to the studios. Gone are the days of conventions past, when publishers would taunt the audience. “Do you want Megaman? Show us twenty dollars!” And while the audience, their customers, would wave money in the air, it never came.
Now, it’s simple. Want to prove that your game has an audience? Put it to the test. If the public wants it, it will get funded. Mighty No. 9 is funded at nearly three million dollars, now. All thanks to people like you, who know when something deserves to be built.
When we lost our City, no amount of traditional investment would bring it back. The safe money for MMORPG investment goes to traditional titles, revamped versions of classic fantasy realms, grind-fests featuring pay-to-win, or ones tied to popular role-playing, movie, print or television properties.
The Phoenix Project is none of these things. It is a new home for the heroic spirit, but not a clone or replica. We have an opportunity here to build a modern game, respectful of the play style, lessons, and fun of the old game, while taking advantage of the more than ten years of industry development since our spiritual predecessor started development.
City of Titans is a game rising from the death of another, being built by the community for the community. Kickstarter gives the opportunity for such a project, one designed by the people who enjoyed the game, to see the light of day. It enables you to be directly involved with the making of this game, which ultimately is for you in the first place.
After all, a game without players is not much of a game at all.
The vibrant, thriving metropolis of Titan City is home to costumed crooks and crimefighters of every imaginable description, and some you won't believe until you see them! From the shining, sun-washed spires of its skyscrapers to the depths of its desolate slums, this city forms the stage on which these larger-than-life characters play out their adventures. As you explore Titan City, you’ll encounter beautiful vistas, from glorious Art Deco monuments to villain-dominated broken tenements to ultra-high-tech bio-domes to much more. Forged in the ashes of a devastating fire and tempered by decades of superpowered danger, Titan City enjoys a rich and engrossing history. It shines as a beacon of hope and opportunity to those who seek justice, a magnet for those who want to make themselves rich and famous - an irresistible lure to those who would do evil!
You never know who you might meet around the next corner in Titan City. It's inhabitants range from heavily armed gangsters to honor-bound dinosaur men to reclusive spell-slingers, not to mention plenty of “ordinary” citizens with their own mysteries for you to solve and stories to explore. Titan City is more than just a blank game board. It is a living canvas, rich in history and detail, and you hold the artist’s brush.
To support this, we needed a solid grasp of how to reach this ambitious goal.
Players will find their choices built around a flexible framework. Instead of the typical class based system found in some games, or the skill based system found in others, our focus has been on attitudes. How do you want to do, what you want to do? Pick that, and we give you all the powers we can. Players pick a primary power, with that power determining the options available for their secondary powers. Then as you progress, and level up, you grow these powers as well as gain new ones. And even further, we let you customize those powers with a signature style, your Mastery, that enhances and alters how all your powers behave.
That approach, a flexible framework, is how we approached most design decisions. Powers are split into effect and animation, allowing us to mix and match to offer more to the player. You pick "Fireball." You then pick how you want to throw this fireball, from the hand, mouth, a wand, or a 12-gauge shotgun. Same power, different look, all through the framework designed with our custom Socket System. Even two people with optic blasts can have their own unique look, depending on the powers chosen, the colors selected, the effects added and the animations picked for the power.
The goal in the end is to give you the ability to create your character. Want to be a vine swinging Amazon warrior who attacks by using her hair as a whip? We're working on that. Want to be the wizard warrior with a pet raven who can spit fire? It’s in the cards.
But, powers and characters do not an RPG make. There needs to be a story. Unlike a traditional CRPG, MMORPG's are notable for growing over time. What we have done is conceptualize what we want our game to be like at 5-years post-release, and worked backwards to our initial beta release, planned for in mid-to-late 2015. By having that years-in-the-future target, we can design the systems, stories and plotlines now with that in mind.
To build these plots, we have plans to build the tools necessary. But, our plans for these tools is to make them available for you to create your own stories, plots and schemes as well, and to share them with other players. The era of user generated content is here. Rather than try to integrate a system on top of the system used by the developers, our plan is to create a system which is used by both players and developers. Show us your creativity.
We will make the framework, you will bring it to life.
People have asked what the plan for the money raised with this Kickstarter.
We have been working together for over a year now. During this time, various tools have been tested, telling us what works, what doesn’t and what we need.
Our first expense is the cost of the Kickstarter itself. This goes to various companies such as Amazon, to Kickstarter, as well as the cost of the perks and add-ons. This comes to about 10% of the total.
Then there are taxes, which we estimate can run us up to 12% of the total.
So, before anything else, we’re out $70,000.
Since we are developing the game using the Unreal Engine, and the Kickstarter counts as revenue, we owe Epic Games, the company which makes the Unreal Engine royalties. That comes to about $70,000, as well.
We’re rounding up, of course, and estimating based on the best numbers we have available. By rounding up, we buy margin in case an unexpected cost, tax or fee enters the picture.
This cuts $140,000 right off the top, leaving $180,000 to actually build the project.
That $180,000 is mostly going straight to software.
Autodesk's Maya and 3DS Max. They’re not cheap, and we need them to do the work. Each of them has strengths and weaknesses, and we need at least 24 copies for the art and tech teams to be able to do their jobs. There are several different versions, each targeting different levels of needs, and the 24 total copies are split between the various members to their need, based on the tasks they have.
We’ll need multiple copies of a few tools like zbrush, Allegorithmic, 8DIO, Photoshop and Illustrator.
Then we have the costs for the website servers and bandwidth. The more you love us, the more expensive it’s going to get.
And, finally, a little cash to put a tax lawyer, book keeper and legal professional on retainer. Purely fee for service, but they will pay for themselves in troubles solved and money saved.
There are a few smaller items, such as RAM for some rendering, some 3D mice, drawing tablets, depending on individual artist needs.
Anything that makes us produce better and faster.
If we go beyond that with stretch goals? Additional middleware to help us make the game. Purchasing of assets, saving our team the time needed to develop. Licensing premade systems from other game developers. There is a world of options out there, and all of it means we make a better game for you.
But what about the flipside, how do we expect to support this game once it ships?
This game has to pay for itself. As an employee owned and community driven effort, we had a meeting and came to some conclusions. There were a few people that felt the game should be free for all, but the numbers just do not work for it. Once the game ships, it will need people working full time to support it, and it will cost us in hardware, software, and bandwidth. It is unrealistic for any game company being developed and promoted in this way to deliver the option of a free game for everyone, forever. It had to be put aside.
We do not, at this time, have any plans or ambition of putting this game in physical stores. The costs for doing so puts that out of reach of independent game developers. However, a collector's edition is possible down the line.
To support the game, we will be charging for what we call 'the box.' It may be a purchase via an online service such as Steam or through our website, but there will be a fee for the game itself. This fee, however, will effectively cover the first three months of subscription. There's some simple reasons for why. First, it means that people who come into the game to grief or farm gold, are essentially paying us to ban them. And if they want to come back again and again, they're limited by the costs they incur. Secondly, and more pragmatically, it means the people playing the game will, at least in theory, be able to use our cash shop.
Yes, we are going to have a cash shop, but we're going to hold very tightly to certain rules. 1: A good value for money. 2: No Pay To Win. 3: Something for Everyone. We're going to want you to use it, but we're going to want you to want to use it, too.
As for Subscriptions, yes, the plan is to offer them, but not require them. Once you have purchased the game, you can play the game. You will get a few months of the VIP Subscription with your game purchase off the bat, and will have the option of continuing to subscribe, or to play as a free player and purchase from the cash shop a la carte. The final details of the VIP Subscription are not hammered down, but some areas are settled: At no time will you lose access to something you had access to and VIP Subscribers will get a stipend for the cash shop of greater value than the cost of the subscription.
One of the ideas we have passed around is that Subscribers get assured access to issue betas. They might get earlier access to new powersets as well. We're going to find the right thing to do, and we're going to make sure it's fair for everyone.
At all points in the budgeting and the post-launch support, the goal is to focus on results, what will give us the most bang for the buck. Autodesk software is expensive, but offers plug-ins, extensions and tools which greatly improve the speed at which we can work. By selling the initial install of the game for the price of a few months subscription we can keep the servers running once we launch without forcing a monthly subscription on to our players.
Because in the end, that is who we are making this for, you, the player.
Missing Worlds Media is a virtual studio, staffed entirely by volunteers. We met online, shortly after it was announced that the doors were to close on the game which we had played and enjoyed for years. When a campaign to prevent the closure was sadly unsuccessful, we turned our efforts to creating a new home, where those heroes, vigilantes and villains left homeless could once again defend – or take-over – an entirely new world.
We have over 100 developers on our books, working on everything from organisation, business, marketing, artists, modellers, composition, coding and programming, PR, web development, law, social media, forum moderation, community outreach, HR, music, financial planning, gameplay, sponsorship, mini-games, powers and combat, progression and rewards, world-building – including the history of our universe, city districts, factions, and NPCs, graphic design, language translation and localization, accessibility, user interface, props and places.
We are headed up by S. Quinn, our elected president, the glue who holds us all together. She has 15 years of Process Efficiency experience, and has a passion for making systems work without sacrificing the human element. She is also a longtime comics and superhero fan, who has been attending fan conventions since she was fifteen years old.
She is supported by Chris Hare, our lead developer. Chris has a long pedigree of both comic fandom and video games, from working behind a comic shop counter to being involved with a company called InVideo Systems back in the days of Nick Arcade - kinect style gaming back in 1990. Chris’ connections all over the world have helped fill out the studio, as well as the ability and desire to help people work together that resulted in Paragon Studios making Chris a founding member of PERC (Player Events Resource Committee). Chris was a part of City of Heroes(r) from beta to shutdown, and has gone on to embody the vision of the Phoenix Project.
When dealing with complex systems, it is good to have a rocket scientist onboard, or at least someone who has worked with them. We are lucky enough to have Nate “Doctor Tyche” Downes, our tech lead – one of the founding developers of Gentoo Linux, his technical background includes UI systems, operating system kernels, and yes, he has even worked with rocket scientists, helping to design launch system proposals. This is complemented by work he has done in the the world of film and TV, with several credits to his name including Time and Fate, Phobia and December. His beard has managed to achieve a cult following of it's own amongst our community, even without the help of our PR team.
Our husband-and-wife team head up our game design and art departments, ensuring a close relationship between both departments at all times. David Bolack is a programmer and systems administrator, which comes coupled with his experience as a role playing game designer. He has worked on titles including Mage: Dark Ages, the Exalted Player's Guide, True20 Adventure Roleplaying, and Nobilis. Jen Bolack has served us beautifully as art lead, as her eye for detail and perfection, based in her experience in set design, heterodynes with her skills with 3D art programs. Her vision, and the talents of those under her command, have helped to give City of Titans a familiar but evolved look that will set it above the other superhero MMOs currently on the market.
Our composition team is one of our largest, and already they have been prolific enough that we have years of content just waiting to be bought to life. We're very proud to have Kaylan "SithRose" Lyndell-Lees on the team, who spent years as a leader in White Wolf's live action roleplaying organization, the Camarilla, but she's only one among many. We've got more, and they all have their stories to tell – we have published authors, experienced role players, journalists, even college professors, all working together to create a world with a carefully-woven history, populated by unique characters, even before our players get to start creating their own tale in-game.
Our funding and support team – well, that'd be you. From the outset, Missing Worlds Media have done everything we can to make sure we're building a game that you'd like to play, and a world you want to be a part of. Our community have done everything they can to support us, and to make sure that we're on the right track. They have told us if there's something we haven't got quite right. They have cheered for us when we've hit the nail on the head. Many of them have gone on to become signed-up volunteers on the project, because their advice has just been THAT good.
We are not legends - we are not rock stars of the gaming world - we are players, coders, writers, artists, technicians, engineers. We come from all walks of life. We are motivated. We have the capabilities, the skills and a growing community behind us. And with your help, we are going to make a new world, and then we’re going to let you save it - or try and take it over.
The future is in your hands.
Risks and challenges
As an all-volunteer effort, we have already had our fair share of mishaps. We have had setbacks; from game engine licensing to loss of precious volunteer hours, we have persevered past them each and every time.
From the beginning we've worked towards a professional outlook, always keeping in mind that every person involved is doing so at their ability to do so. This does mean that we have to prepare for the eventual loss of availability for any volunteer, from jobs, new responsibilities in their home life, school, etc. As a result we have people able to pick up for any single person at all times.
It also means we have a larger than average group of volunteers, which we have sorted into central volunteers, those who have the time to dedicate dozens of hours per week to the project, and community volunteers who have time to help out every so often or who have talents which we have too many volunteers for, but otherwise are simply more active members of the community. Any single person may move between the two, and many often times do. We have had artists who were able to volunteer heavily in January who then had school pop up in February who became available again in July. We have writers who suffer from writers block for months on end but then inspiration hits and become writing machines. At every point, we have a large pool of people who are available to pick up slack.
To manage this balance, we have a pool of people who act as coordinators, managers of the volunteers. These core people have been with the project for a long time, who understand the goals, and who have the time to dedicate to a full-time volunteer effort. For many, this is a second job, occupying as much time as full-time employment while others have this as their main focus. And they do this not for a paycheck, but for the drive to get this completed. This core group is the heart and soul of the project. While some have had to step back, every one of them works with a second, someone able to step in should the worst case happen. We jokingly call it "Bus insurance" as in, if the person steps in front of a bus, there is someone able to step in at a moments notice. We have only needed to use this a few times, not for anything so drastic as a death, but due to unexpected events in our real lives such as paying jobs taking over free time that had been set aside for the project or an illness in the family.
Delays can happen in any project. We had hoped to be further ahead now, but things happen. We have always been honest when issues arose, such as when we had to change our game engine due to licensing issues. We come from a larger community, and are here for you, the player. Life happens, it stinks when it does, but we understand it, and adapt to it.
We are learning to find a balance without hurting the progress of the project. We learned to roll with the punches, and incorporate the changes in a way which made us better for it.
The key is communication on all levels. It is when communication breaks down that the real problems happen, and that is why we work our hardest to keep up the flow of information. Things happen, everyone knows that. But when something does happen, we figure out why it happened and how to address it. Then we let the community know. We don't hide when issues happen, we just persevere to make sure it does not happen again. It is how we've handled it until now, and how we will continue to handle it going forward.
We are volunteers, driven with a passion to deliver the best game we can for you.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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