Troubled Developer Asks Fans to Decide Kickstarter's Fate

Troubled Developer Asks Fans to Decide Kickstarter's Fate

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In the wake of employee layoffs, Gas Powered Games ponders whether to stop its Kickstarter.

"Today we laid off a substantial number of the team," says Gas Powered Games' Chris Taylor, as he outlines what has happened to his company's Wildman project. Fans of the project are asked to get in contact, and let him know whether they think the Kickstarter campaign is still viable.

On Friday, Chris Taylor revealed to Joystiq that roughly 40 employees were impacted by the layoffs. The Kickstarter's the problem, Taylor admits in his video. If it fails, it would take the company with it. Taylor was faced with the option of taking the risk, and potentially dropping his employees without severance or any other benefits at the end of the campaign; or he could let them go now, while he still had some cash in his pocket to cover their departure costs.

"In this economy," says Taylor, "[to] gamble with the people here, who are the most talented, and loyal people ... to play a card game with their livelihoods is not smart." Taylor opted for the layoff strategy, to give his people a kind of safety net, rather than - potentially - dump them without one.

Taylor asks fans of the Wildman project to get in touch, and let him know whether they think the Kickstarter is worth continuing. Theoretically, if it manages to raise the $1.1 million ask - and at time of writing it has over $250K and 25 days to go - Taylor could pull his company back from the brink, re-hire everyone, and get on with making Wildman. So far, many of the comments on the Kickstarter page are in favor of continuing.

Source: Kickstarter

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If they aren't even a quarter of the way there, they aren't gonna make it. I'd cut your loses. And I love GPG, but you have to do what makes sense.

No matter what becomes of it, that guy is showing ethical entrepreneurship by laying off his staff when he can still cover the costs.

Many would keep it on going, gamble on making a profit later on, and then run the company into the ground and leave the staff out in the cold if it failed.

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Fuck you Commodus!
These guys deserve a chance.

I don't really understand the question. You see, he layed everyone off already. If the only viable option to save the company is to continue, then why even pose the question. Of course you continue. He said some pretty strange things here. It doesn't cost the company money to run the Kickstarter, so how is Kickstarter the problem. The company was in trouble before the Kickstarter began if a week into it it has to lay off all the employees.

Mouse_Crouse:
If they aren't even a quarter of the way there, they aren't gonna make it. I'd cut your loses. And I love GPG, but you have to do what makes sense.

They are a quarter of the way there and they have 25 days to go... I don't really understand your line of thought. If that could save the company, why not keep going. Throwing in the towel literally makes no sense when it's perfectly viable they could make it.

Interesting.

With 25 days to go I think he should ride it out to be honest and see if he hits the mark. That's a decent amount of time, and to be honest it seems to me that Kickstarters tend to be in the roughest shape when they first start moving, once they hit the half way point you see more donations come pouring in. People being more likely to donate to a project they are pretty sure is going to succeed, for the benefits, than one that isn't doing so hot. This seems to be how so many Kickstarters "exceed expectations" because once they hit the success level people jump on it for the free stuff.

It doesn't seem to be a steady rate of growth, the more you get, the more your going to get (so to speak). I could be wrong here, but this Kickstarter seems to be doing okay.

I'll also say that I think what we're seeing here is the sign of a problem with kickstarters in general recently. Basically CT wound up hiring a team too early, when your basically begging for money, you shouldn't start out with the assumption your going to get it. The people with you at this stage shouldn't be paid employees if you have any.

this bid is really sour, it boils down to give me your money or i will have to shoot myself and these employees.

i dont know if i would hand him my money now.

for once, the power to save a company lies in your hand and you barely have a reason to save it.
and as a bonus he just shovels all his assets into a pot and practically tries to blackmail us, targeting at our sympathy to give them the desired amount of money, faster.

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desicions, desicions....

I wish them luck. They've made a misstep or two, but I don't think they remotely deserve to fall to pieces now; they've made plenty of good games, too. It seems like many of their more recent offerings have kind of fallen off the radar without much noise, though.

It's admirable the choices they've made so far, playing it as safe as they can. The game does look pretty good and while I'm a little hazy on what RTS elements they intend to put into the game the dudes made Dungeon Siege, they can't go far wrong. I hope they make the cash they need and the company gets back on its feet, they're making new IP and right now, that's what we need.

I went ahead and wrote a long letter to Chris and GPG to answer their request about feedback from the community. To summarize, I told them that they should not try to continued with Kickstarter. I've followed GPG since their beginning, and Chris has never really been the best lead for the company. The company has always had money trouble, even since the beginning. In one of my many long-winded statements to Chris, I also said this:

"Chris, you guys had your day in the sun. I really think you shouldn't try to pin your hopes on Kickstarter. I was ashamed to see you try and beg the community for one last go at a game you'll probably drop even faster than the previous hot potatoes you juggled. Don't do this Chris, please. Don't disappoint more people. Write a book. Yeah, I mean it. Write a book. No really, I'm serious. Write a book about all of your experiences with publishing companies and the ins and outs of really trying to make an impact. Don't paint yourself as a white knight in a dark industry, just be real. Try to tell the story of the inevitable tragedy that is companies in the gaming industry that cannot focus themselves on one really good project and stick with it for the entire life of the company."

That's just how I feel about this whole mess.

Baresark:
They are a quarter of the way there and they have 25 days to go... I don't really understand your line of thought. If that could save the company, why not keep going. Throwing in the towel literally makes no sense when it's perfectly viable they could make it.

Because something like 75% of kickstarter funding comes in the first like 5 days (obviously paraphrasing from memory, don't take numbers literal). Devs have posted several times on kickstarters that they have data on when the big surges in funding fall in the timeline of the project. Vast majority is right away then a smaller serge right at the end. If they are that behind now, they won't even come close.

i like the fact Chris is honest, and gives a shit about his staff. That alone make me what him and gas powerd to stay alive. The ones that should go away and die are ppls like EA and Activison

This is tricky...

Chris Taylor is one of those "almost" characters of the games industry. If a couple of things had gone right for him in a few places, he would be considered one of those "auteur" developers like Peter Molyneux, Sid Meier or Tim Schafer.

Total Annihilation is still my favourite game. Excellent work. Technically Brilliant. A riot to play. Critically acclaimed.
Dungeon Siege. Fine work. Lots of great ideas. A brave attempt to hold back the Diablo clickfest.
Supreme Commander. Thoroughly enjoyed it, but in hindsight it was the last gasp of the RTS without the words "Blizzard" (*sigh* how I loathe thee) on it.

But for every big success he has, he can equally produce a "meh" or a down right flop (looking at you Supreme Commander 2). His company just spent 2-3 years on age of empires online. He produces great technical work often can't bring in the big money and has been without a big hit for quite some time.
And while I can look over the almost trademark light-to-non-existant story aspect of his games a great many can't.

Worst of all, he seems to have had his lunch eaten by Uber Entertainment. While I await merrily await Planetary Annihilation, I can't help think that Chris has every right to be hopping mad about another developer (admittedly with a lot of the ex-cavedog staff) basically saying "You like Total Annihilation right? We are gonna do that... with planets!" right down to re-hirring the original narrator to voice the Kick-starter.

I wish him and his staff the best, but I'll have to think on it before backing his kickstarter...

Gallium:
This is tricky...

Chris Taylor is one of those "almost" characters of the games industry. If a couple of things had gone right for him in a few places, he would be considered one of those "auteur" developers like Peter Molyneux, Sid Meier or Tim Schafer.

I wish him and his staff the best, but I'll have to think on it before backing his kickstarter...

I have to agree here. One of my fears though is that Chris Taylor may have not be capable of truly being the great leader that GPG needed. They had hits, mainly in their earliest years, but numerous duds have been a constant track record. Not to mention lack of continued support for older titles. We need to ask ourselves, is it really worth it if Chris Taylor and GPG endure? All they will do is continue to produce sub-par games that live in the shadow of their formal titles.

Mouse_Crouse:

Baresark:
They are a quarter of the way there and they have 25 days to go... I don't really understand your line of thought. If that could save the company, why not keep going. Throwing in the towel literally makes no sense when it's perfectly viable they could make it.

Because something like 75% of kickstarter funding comes in the first like 5 days (obviously paraphrasing from memory, don't take numbers literal). Devs have posted several times on kickstarters that they have data on when the big surges in funding fall in the timeline of the project. Vast majority is right away then a smaller serge right at the end. If they are that behind now, they won't even come close.

Actually the success rate in a 30 day Kickstarter is if you are able to raise 30% in the first week, you have a 90% chance of being successful. 50%+ of funding is usually added in the last week by people waiting to see if the Kickstarter will be successful or not.

Gallium:
This is tricky...

Chris Taylor is one of those "almost" characters of the games industry. If a couple of things had gone right for him in a few places, he would be considered one of those "auteur" developers like Peter Molyneux, Sid Meier or Tim Schafer.

Total Annihilation is still my favourite game. Excellent work. Technically Brilliant. A riot to play. Critically acclaimed.
Dungeon Siege. Fine work. Lots of great ideas. A brave attempt to hold back the Diablo clickfest.
Supreme Commander. Thoroughly enjoyed it, but in hindsight it was the last gasp of the RTS without the words "Blizzard" (*sigh* how I loathe thee) on it.

But for every big success he has, he can equally produce a "meh" or a down right flop (looking at you Supreme Commander 2). His company just spent 2-3 years on age of empires online. He produces great technical work often can't bring in the big money and has been without a big hit for quite some time.
And while I can look over the almost trademark light-to-non-existant story aspect of his games a great many can't.

Worst of all, he seems to have had his lunch eaten by Uber Entertainment. While I await merrily await Planetary Annihilation, I can't help think that Chris has every right to be hopping mad about another developer (admittedly with a lot of the ex-cavedog staff) basically saying "You like Total Annihilation right? We are gonna do that... with planets!" right down to re-hirring the original narrator to voice the Kick-starter.

I wish him and his staff the best, but I'll have to think on it before backing his kickstarter...

Sir, thank you SO much for bringing Planetary Annihilation to my attention! TA is my favourite game of all time, I still have my original copy of the game and still play it every now and then.

This is the best news I've heard in a long time

DSK-:

Sir, thank you SO much for bringing Planetary Annihilation to my attention!

No problem at all, glad I could help :)
I'm trying not to get my hopes up... (you know, Supreme Commander was good but not TA and all that...) but failing.
Of late RTS is a genre dead in the water, happy to wallow in Starcraft 2 and nothing else. The mere fact that somebody is trying something different (and my idea of different) is worthy of a little excitement.

Baldr:

Mouse_Crouse:

Baresark:
They are a quarter of the way there and they have 25 days to go... I don't really understand your line of thought. If that could save the company, why not keep going. Throwing in the towel literally makes no sense when it's perfectly viable they could make it.

Because something like 75% of kickstarter funding comes in the first like 5 days (obviously paraphrasing from memory, don't take numbers literal). Devs have posted several times on kickstarters that they have data on when the big surges in funding fall in the timeline of the project. Vast majority is right away then a smaller serge right at the end. If they are that behind now, they won't even come close.

Actually the success rate in a 30 day Kickstarter is if you are able to raise 30% in the first week, you have a 90% chance of being successful. 50%+ of funding is usually added in the last week by people waiting to see if the Kickstarter will be successful or not.

Yeah, this is about right, the game still has a decent chance of making it's goal, although as things stand I doubt it'll get very far over the 1.1 million asked. I'm personally not a fan of GPG so I'm not following that particular Kickstarter, but it still has a chance.

Gallium:
This is tricky...

Chris Taylor is one of those "almost" characters of the games industry. If a couple of things had gone right for him in a few places, he would be considered one of those "auteur" developers like Peter Molyneux, Sid Meier or Tim Schafer.

...

Dungeon Siege. Fine work. Lots of great ideas. A brave attempt to hold back the Diablo clickfest.

Interesting way to put it. I followed Dungeon Siege when GPG was first founded, and there were same great Molyneux-like ideas in there. It was initially meant to be more of a straight RPG with less diablo inspired stats. I forget most of the specifics but one early bullet point was that you could find random corpses to resurrect and find the resulting recruitable either thoroughly underwhelming or a stat-based powerhouse.

The end result was a dead average 5/10. Molyneux would hammer in his most brilliant ideas at the expense of the rest of the game, so you'd get flashes of brilliance in an ultimately shallow experience. Everyone would think different things, but at least his games stirred emotions.

Dungeon Siege took the opposite route where they simply threw away everything that didn't work in the time frame. End result was technically solid but completely bland and forgettable. I played DS once, it did it's job in a thoroughly uninspired fashion, but never gave me a reason to replay it. This really wasn't a game that had enough to develop a substantial fan base, I'm surprised it even got to the point of having 2 sequels.

Gennadios:

The end result was a dead average 5/10. Molyneux would hammer in his most brilliant ideas at the expense of the rest of the game, so you'd get flashes of brilliance in an ultimately shallow experience. Everyone would think different things, but at least his games stirred emotions.

Dungeon Siege took the opposite route where they simply threw away everything that didn't work in the time frame. End result was technically solid but completely bland and forgettable. I played DS once, it did it's job in a thoroughly uninspired fashion, but never gave me a reason to replay it. This really wasn't a game that had enough to develop a substantial fan base, I'm surprised it even got to the point of having 2 sequels.

I can't really dispute any of that, indeed I'd say a trait you look for in Chris Taylor games is technical achievement. Molyneux will give you emotion I grant you, but Taylor will give you the next big technical break though in a field. I still remember my mouth dropping open during a tech demo for Supreme Commander in about 2006 where he zoomed out from a small skirmish, then out, then out some more, then more again (at which point the whole map is in view), switched to dual monitor, placed the zoomed out world view on one monitor, then zoomed back into closeup a battle on the other side of the map in real time on the other.

Arguably that is why is best known work, Total Annihilation is as remembered as it is. Story? What story? Watch me fire 12 nuclear missiles into an army of 400 mechanical monstrosities! You can get away with that sort of thinking a lot more in RTS than an RPG.

Gallium:

Arguably that is why is best known work, Total Annihilation is as remembered as it is. Story? What story? Watch me fire 12 nuclear missiles into an army of 400 mechanical monstrosities! You can get away with that sort of thinking a lot more in RTS than an RPG.

True, but even TA and the Commander games are less talked about nowadays than Star Craft and Company of Heroes, which tend to be more emotion and player investment heavy.

It seems to me like Taylor needs to step down from game design, he'd be more suited as an engine or tools programmer. I really hate the cinematic heavy, interactive story direction that the AAA game industry is taking, but Chris isn't really the person to take the industry in the opposite direction.

As an Age of Empires Online player I have to say I am not happy with how they treated the community when they were in charge of running the game.

They always missed deadlines, hardly ever came onto the forums (and when they did they just complained about how doing X or Y will require coding) and in the end Microsoft community staff who had nothing to do with the project had to come and fix their mess.

Now because of their terrible support Microsoft has removed GPG from supporting the game and now the game will remain as it is forever thanks to GPG not understanding the basic idea of listening to the games community.

Age of Empires Online had great potential and GPG screwed it up.
We were promised content up to August 2013 and Microsoft clearly was fed up with working with them.

I mean GPG had been working on a bloody auction house for like half a year and still couldn't bring it out.
If they can't work on a game which had already been made, how on earth can I trust them to make their own and support that? Besides I am getting the feeling they used AoEO money to start making this project.

So no Gas Powered Games and Chris, I have no sympathy for you.

Shouldn't this be something left up to the employees who's financial situations are being gambled on rather than the fans who lose nothing if the company goes under?

 

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