Stretch Goals Explained
After taking a full day to analyze the players' poll and compare the results against development costs, we've come up with what believe is the most logical, most rewarding set of stretch goals possible.
Before we reveal them though, I wanted to take a moment to explain the logic and rationale behind the ordering of the stretch goals. Why? Because I believe there will be some concern about the ordering and I wanted an opportunity to address those concerns before people see the list. So here goes...
Launch Value vs. Delayed Introduction
The first thing we did when looking at the poll was to take the items and analyze the actual launch value of the rewards. What I mean by launch-value is, how much value the item provides at launch vs. some time after launch - or if it even makes sense after launch. Those things which we felt were more valuable (or only valuable) at launch, were weighted higher.
Right off, we noticed that the following things provided no less value some time after launch than they do at the beginning:
- Tunneling - could require technology
- Mounted Combat - requires advanced skill
- Natural Disasters - shouldn't happen right away anyways
- Heirlooms - requires 1+ generation to be at all useful
Meanwhile, we felt these things were really only valuable if they are there from the very beginning. In some cases (*), they can only be released at the beginning:
- Gaming / Gambling
- Wards of the State*
- Limited-Edition Pet Phoenix*
- Backer Exclusive Mount/Breed/Gender*
- Angelica's Tears*
- Religious Shrines*
While Gaming / Gambling can be released post-launch, we felt it would be to the detriment of the game. Gathering in inns/taverns not only to eat/drink but to play games, be social, etc... is vital to creating the type of community within the game we want to create. For that reason, we felt it would be significantly less valuable introduced later, once social conventions are established in the world.
After weighting the items based on whether or not the reward tier needed/should be at launch, we took into account developer resources. In order to release the base version of the game requires 100% of our current resources. That is, the programmers, animators, artists, and designers are 100% booked up. So adding even one more task to their schedule could cause them to fall behind. Think of adding even a single drop of water to a glass that's 100% full.
So that means that adding new stretch goals to the game requires the addition of new resources. At Soulbound Studios we generally break our resources up as follows:
- P - Programmers
- A - Animators
- C - Character Artists
- E - Environment Artists
We say that sitting down to schedule our tasks is to PACE ourselves. Of course, we have designers, UI/UX, and Sound Engineers as well, but then it becomes "Paused", "Spaced", or "Sauced" - none of which are appropriate acronyms for a planning meeting.
In any event, since we know that new stretch goals require hiring new resources, it makes even the smallest stretch goal "appear" expensive. For example, adding on the "Seeds of Anglica's Tear" means hiring a new environment artist, who probably shouldn't be fired after the task is complete, so must be employed for the next 18 months. That means there's a cost of (after salary, insurance, hardware, morale events, etc.) about $150k to hire the environment artist.
So the stupid seeds and trees cost $150k!? Yep. But the good news is, after finishing the seeds/trees, they're free to move on to other tasks for the next 17 months. That means that any stretch goals beyond the first that require an environment artist, don't require additional costs for a new environment artist.
The reason I'm telling you this is because if you take Tunneling, which requires a new Programmer, Environment Artist, and some UI/UX, it comes with a cost of about $400k in new employees/assets. So if we set that as the first stretch goal (per the vote), it would mean that the first stretch goal wouldn't happen until $1.3M. That's a huge gap from $900k with no rewards/new features for backers.
So rather than put Tunneling first, we put other stuff first that requires a new programmer, environment artist, and UI/UX, thus allowing for more frequent stretch goals, while making Tunneling significantly less expensive (since the new employees have already been hired for previous stretch goals in the list).
Priority vs. Stretch Goal Order
The next thing I wanted to touch on is order of stretch goals as a matter of priority. That is, it's natural to perceive things at the beginning of the stretch goal list as having higher priority than stuff that comes later. However, that's not true. Per the previous discussion, the ordering is based on ensuring a good spread of rewards, making sure that we're more likely to get in features that *have* to be in at the beginning, and making sure that the items people voted on appear as soon as they can, given the previous two points.
But, and this is important, if a later stretch goal is achieved, it can (and often does) take a higher priority than lower rewards in terms of which order we implement things. So don't assume that we're connecting the order of rewards with either the order we implement things, or the amount of time/energy we plan to spend on things.
Stretch Goals Beyond Kickstarter
The final thing I wanted to touch on is that the stretch goals will continue beyond the Kickstarter. We'll be putting PayPal up on our website so that people can continue to support us, upgrade their reward tiers, etc. This means that even if we don't hit the higher stretch goals within the next 19 days, it doesn't mean we won't hit them.
Also, there's some items left off of the stretch goal list. We still plan to add them to the list, but figured we might as well wait until this list is near completion.
With all that said, here are the stretch goals:
- ($1,050,000) Reward: Seeds of Angelica's Tear
- ($1,300,000) Feature: Wards
- ($1,350,000) Reward: Religious Statues
- ($1,500,000) Feature: Gambling / Gaming
- ($1,650,000) Reward: Backer Exclusive Pet/Mount Breed & Customization
- ($1,750,000) Feature: Tunneling
- ($1,800,000) Reward: Pheonix Pet
- ($2,000,000) Feature: Digging / Burying / Sensory Map
- ($2,100,000) Reward: Mac/Linux/VR Support
- ($2,250,000) Feature: Mounted Combat
Expanded Stretch Goal Logic
As stated before, Seeds, Wards, Religious Statues, and Gambling are put as high as they are because we felt if they didn't get released as part of the launch-product, they probably wouldn't be added in at all.
Also, by having those in, it gives us a reason to hire a Programmer, Environment Artist, Animator, etc... making the later goals less expensive.
Religious Statues in particular are where they are because we believe people under-valued what they add to the world. Think 7 Wonders of the World. People will travel across Kingdoms to be near the shrines. And it makes the starting settlements stand out significantly from the other settlements.
Backer Exclusive Pet/Mount/Breed & Customization is higher than Phoenix because it applies to more people. The Phoenix pet only applies to people Beastmaster & higher.
Tunneling is where it is because it's the first place where we could put a non-required launch feature. We wanted that to be as early as possible, and wish it could be higher, but didn't feel it was worth sacrificing any of the features to see it at launch.
The rest of the features are where they are because beyond Tunneling/Phoenix we have to hire a new programmer again. Given that, the costs go up again.
EU Beta / Alpha Server
One feature that's notably absent from the list are Alpha / Beta servers for EU. We're planning to add those back to the list, but on a different metric. We're planning to add EU Alpha / Beta test servers back based on the number of EU backers.
We spoke to a number of EU folks and they said they've always tested on NA servers in the past, and are more or less ok with that. The added benefits for having an EU server are obvious, but there's an added cost to us. Even a small world can cost thousands of dollars to run as a test environment, and if we're only going to have a couple hundred testers, then the amount of bugs we'll uncover relative to the cost is quite low.
So once we know more about expected server costs, we'll plan to open up an EU Alpha / Beta server if we can get a minimum number of European backers. That seems to be the best compromise.
Well all, that's officially the longest update to date. Thank you again for your continued support, and while we know we can't please everyone, we hope you at least understand and respect how the decisions were made. Thanks again!