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The Dragon King, an innovative open world RPG

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Aloha everyone, my name is Captain Andrew Brewer of NeoGenesis. We are an independent video game development company whose goal is to pioneer techniques that combine education and entertainment via the video game industry. As Captain and lead Imagineer of NeoGenesis, I head project development and fund everything out of my pocket. 

Edited by Captain Andrew Brewer

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You seem to be long on text and short on actual game. I saw a video on the Kickstarter page, but I wasn't sure if that was for your game or for the artist's portfolio reel. (I suspect the latter). In the absence of anything concrete, there really isn't a whole lot to actually give feedback on. You can write all the textual plot synopses and rough outlines you want, but they're not of much use for feedback purposes until there is an actual gameplay prototype. I'd say, start with your renderer. You make some claims of strange new rendering tech, so give us some screens and videos of that.

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Thank you for the feedback, it did inspire me to remove any info related to my renderer. The whole point of using Kickstarter was to get money to complete a creative project and right now my renderer is a jumble of theory and code that is not ready for demonstrations. With that out of the way it becomes less theoretical and more "concrete".

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Well, it's still not very concrete. Here's the thing: writing text is easy. Making a game is much more difficult. Without a gameplay prototype, all you have is an idea, and I doubt very many folks would contribute to your campaign with just an idea. I recommend that before you launch your campaign, you get a playable prototype up and running, something you can use to show the world that you can complete this thing if you just have funding, and that what you are working toward will be fun and engaging. If people can see progress beyond the idea stage, they will be much more motivated to contribute. Kickstarter isn't just "free money"; like any other money, it has to be earned. In this case, you earn it by building confidence that your project will succeed. You can't do that with pages and pages of plot synopsis and area descriptions; you can only do that with actual gameplay.

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I have to disagree with you at this point. A game design document is usually the first step in the development process and what you see on Kickstarter is the abbreviated GDD. The game itself is not impossible by any standard and there are numerous examples that can testify to this. It sounds like a catch 22, I can only get funding if I have produced something, but I can only produce something if I have the funding to do it. I do have people working on the proof of concept animations, but we won't have a demo to show until we can get additional funding. The goal is to leverage what we do have against the known capabilities of today's leading edge companies and produce something that is completely plausible. I do appreciate the feedback as it is helping us to evolve the current staus quo into what it should be and not the elitist only mentality it currently is.

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[quote name='Captain Andrew Brewer' timestamp='1341718421' post='4956807']
I have to disagree with you at this point. [/quote]

Unfortunately for you, he is right.

[quote name='Captain Andrew Brewer' timestamp='1341718421' post='4956807']A game design document is usually the first step in the development process and what you see on Kickstarter is the abbreviated GDD.[/quote]

Yes, it is the first step, but having completed the first step is not enough. Writing a game is far more complicated than writing up a design document.

[quote name='Captain Andrew Brewer' timestamp='1341718421' post='4956807']It sounds like a catch 22, I can only get funding if I have produced something, but I can only produce something if I have the funding to do it.[/quote]

You don't need to come up with a fully working prototype, just enough of a demo to show that you have somebody who can actually code, and aren't just spouting out words. I'm sorry to say it, but talk is cheap, and nobody will give you money based on just words (especially when it sounds like you're trying to throw out a whole lot of catchy sounding terms).

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Well I suppose everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it doesn't automatically make it right. The idea that nothing good ever came out of a document of words is pretty ludicrous, i.e. The United States Constitution. If you are implying that the same principle that was used to create the Constitution does not apply to my game then I should probably show you how it does. Let me know if you are interested. I agree that only completing the first step to anything will only lead to failure and my own timeline puts this game at 75% complete. I am also well aware of the complexity with which an average game is written and The Dragon King is no exception. I totally understand the need to have a proof of concept demo for my rendering method and that is exactly what I am in the process of doing. As I said in my first post, I am broke and development has hit a standstill, hence the need for funding. But that was never the point of my post, only a fortunate side effect. I am looking for feedback for the game, not the likely hood of its success on Kickstarter. I find it hard to believe that a community of game developers have no feedback to give about the game. In any case, I am glad to be getting any feedback at all. I don't mind negative reviews as they can only serve to make improvements. Edited by Captain Andrew Brewer

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[quote]The idea that nothing good ever came out of a document of words is pretty ludicrous, i.e. The United States Constitution. If you are implying that the same principle that was used to create the Constitution does not apply to my game then I should probably show you how it does[/quote]

The US constitution was not an attempt to raise money.

[quote]I find it hard to believe that a community of game developers have no feedback to give about the game.[/quote]

There is no game to give feedback on.

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As it seems you are content on making statements without thoroughly reading what you are commenting on, I must remind you that I never asked for money to start with. I suppose you feel it impossible to give feedback on the GDD for any complete game then? If all you had were the words that described the concepts of Skyrim, would you say the same thing about it? The idea that it is impossible to comment on a concept is ridiculous.

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Hi. With all due respect, please understand that many people have made huge claims. Many of them have proven unfounded. We aren't accusing you of any dishonesty or wrongdoing, but many innovative approaches have proven unfeasible on current hardware or to have severe limitations. That's why for big claims people want to see some evidence. You don't need fancy artwork or for the demo to even relate to your game at all. nVidia did a real-time voxel rendering demo, and all it contained was a square room with a square pedestal in it, albeit with cracks and imperfections at a great level of detail. If the drawcard of the engine is physics (which can't be done by current engines), show off something. For example drop some simple objects on some simulated sand. Move them around. Show the physics in action. Or maybe a fire. I'm not sure what the particular drawcard of your engine is. Give people a wow factor to be excited about.

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I agree that we shouldn't just jump in and support something so fantastic without thoroughly investigating the claim ourselves and that even a simple proof of concept demonstration of my physics engine would go a long way to building confidence with my supporters. It is obvious that I am not ready for that demo yet, so apart from the physics engine, what else is there about the abbreviated GDD that stands out to you? Edited by Captain Andrew Brewer

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I'm not an expert on GDDs myself, so I won't comment on that. If I were a contributor, I would want to see that you have programmers on board (even if it's contingent on money arriving by a certain date), and that there is a plan. Progress milestones, e.g. if this is funded people will get an alpha build and a t-shirt by xx/yy/zz.

Remember that the majority of potential contributors have never heard of you (unlike if a leading figure in the industry starts a kickstarter campaign), so projecting credibility is very important. The GDD is part of it. The above is part of it. And also statements about your company are part of it. Your list of core goals sound fine, but they also may give the impression that you aim unreasonably high. Items 1 and 2... sure, people will buy that. Items 3 and 4 address major world problems. It is reasonable to say you want to work towards solving these problems, but saying that you will solve them in this lifetime sounds unrealistic. If they are genuinely in your mission statement you will likely be too busy to make computer games in any case. Items 5 and 6 sound more like personal statements. Personal statements can be dangerous because they are divisive. People who have different opinions may be put off funding the project because of these.

That's my honest assessment, and I wish you well as I do anybody who posts on these forums. Creating something from your own hard work and perserverance is something that I respect both for the goal and because the challenges are always greater than we anticipate at the start.

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Thank you Jeffery. I appreciate your thorough study of the page and I appreciate the honesty. I am in total agreement with you about needing a programmer and I am working through a list of potential candidates. As soon as select someone to complete this work I will make the necessary updates. I understand that the claims I am making seem unrealistic but I firmly believe that it is possible. The key is as you said, building off items 1 and 2. The technology exists and when I get the money to show you how to do it, I will. The video game industry is worth over 80 billion annually and all I need is .01% of that to break into it big. This is by no means impossible with what I am proposing.

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[quote]I suppose you feel it impossible to give feedback on the GDD for any complete game then?[/quote]

You haven't even given a design document, or anything closely resembling one. All your Kickstarter page has is a plot summary and a few game elements (which by the way are NOT mechanics). A design document needs to stipulate how these will be accomplished as well.If Skyrim was described so briefly, I wouldn't comment on it either. But I can assure you that before any money was put aside for the project by Bethseda, Skyrim's design document would have been extremely lengthy.

[quote] It is obvious that I am not ready for that demo yet, so apart from the physics engine, what else is there about the abbreviated GDD that stands out to you?[/quote]

Not really, it comes across as pretty standard fantasy fare.

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Your kickstarter page fails the 'alarm bells' test.
Before even bothering to read the game design blurb, the first question is, "[i]Who are these guys, and can they make a game[/i]"? Until you've made me think, "[i]Yes, these guys can make a game[/i]", then the effort gone into the rest of the kickstarter page is a waste of time.

There's no intro video or statement that answers this most important question -- I've got to scroll down 4 or 5 pages to find this.
And all it tells me is that you're a 2 man shop with no website and seemingly no prior games industry experience; a "captain" ([i]manager?[/i]) and "commander" ([i]artist/animator?[/i]). Ok... You're not even going to try and convince me that these two vague characters, given half a million dollars no-strings-attached, truly have the capability to form a new studio from scratch, without experience, and as their first title, produce an epic open-world RPG, in 2 years?

I don't predict you'll hit your funding goal without re-doing that page. You need evidence of capability.
[quote name='Captain Andrew Brewer' timestamp='1341718421' post='4956807']A game design document is usually the first step in the development process[/quote]The first step [i]for the design department[/i]. While designers are working on the GDD, the technical leaders are working on the technical design document, and the art leaders are working on pipeline designs, technical standards and visual direction, and so on. Also importantly, project management is scheduling the production phase to calculate the required budget and time-frame ([i]where did you get the figures of Jul 2014 and $500,000 from?[/i]). All of that together is the pre-production phase, which is the first step -- the tasks inside that phase can largely be scheduled concurrently.

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Oh cool, I have attracted the attention of a [url="http://www.gamedev.net/user/116251-hodgman/"][color=#ff0000]moderator[/color][/url], this should be interesting [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img] . I can definitely agree that at first glance most people will look at us and dismiss the project as highly unlikely to succeed. I totally agree that if I am unable to gain the confidence of supporters, the Kickstarter campaign will be dead before it starts. I do have to point out that I am only using the Kickstarter format as a method of sharing the project. I do appreciate the honest assessment for its likely hood of success, but as I said earlier, I am not worried about that. I also appreciate the limited assessment of my company and its structure. I see the formal titles have caught your eye, even if for the wrong reasons. Its not quite fair to say we have zero experience, but I suppose its just a matter of perception. It is entirely possible to produce an epic open world RPG in 2 years time, as long as project management is handled properly. Again whether you or anyone else will believe that we can do it is contingent on our being able to provide "evidence of capability", as you put it. Our GDD happens to be an evolving document based around our modified agile development method, so while I won't be able to say that it is 100% complete until the game is actually done, I can say that we are well into the technical design for each facet of The Dragon King. My timeline and budget figures are pretty standard "time and material" calculations based on our projected workloads. The current iteration of the Kickstarter page doesn't show the full extent of my network of developers, opting for a brief rundown of the key developers for this project and a short description of the network structure that creates the rest of the team. I have been getting mixed reviews about where to place this info on the page and you seem to agree that it should be moved closer to the top. I am going to be adding the intro video which will cover a lot of who we are and our progress in other areas, so I think I might leave the team info near the bottom. In any case, we will see. Edited by Hodgman

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[quote name='Captain Andrew Brewer' timestamp='1341879197' post='4957460']Oh cool, I have attracted the attention of a moderator, this should be interesting[/quote]N.B. we usually have a policy of not moderating threads that we've participated in, so I'm just another poster ;P
However, I did just delete the useless trolling comments between yourself and Lenny, I trust they won't reappear.[quote]I see the formal titles have caught your eye, even if for the wrong reasons.[/quote]Indeed, and today I noticed the part in the description of your company promoting cannabis. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for the decriminalisation of that plant and it's use for cultural purposes, however it is controversial in your country and irrelevant to your current business pitch... So, when Joe Public reads this, he's picturing [i]"Captain and Commander pot-head on their pacific island, dreaming about having an e-studio"[/i]. Hopefully that's an unfair stereotype, but you could avoid setting yourself up for this condescension by presenting a more professional front. Edited by Hodgman

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Thanks for that, I really don't want to start any trouble. I have to admit, I am concerned about how people might picture me after learning that I support cannabis but I don't think it bothers me enough to want to hide it either. You are most certainly correct about the unfair (yet partially true, I am not a pot-head) stereotype though and you make a good point about its relevance to the project. I know it won't hurt to remove it, but its part of another [url="http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/neogenesis/1629867326?token=6632d332"]campaign[/url] that I am running to build brand awareness while generating some funds. Allow me to apologize in advance for posting that link if it is inappropriate. I think it is relevant although only indirectly related to game development, being part of our organic sales drive and marketing campaign. It is a tried and true method, but can be quite risky and I hope to capitalize on the advanced techniques I will be using. I would appreciate your thoughts on using this type of marketing tactic, unless of course this is not the right place to discuss this aspect of the project. In the end, good business sense will prevail and anything that doesn't contribute to the success of the project will be removed. Edited by Captain Andrew Brewer

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It sounds like you have big ideas, and that the game is more well thought out than what we see on the kickstarter page. The problem is that even now it is a lot of text, especially when not accompanied by any images or videos. What I see is a pretty standard RPG with a plot that does not appeal to me.

You already said you are going to add a video, otherwise that would be my tip. Regarding access to the developer blog for $1, I think you should be happy if you can get people to read your blog for free.

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I appreciate the review and I agree that a video will go a long way to building some confidence in the project. The plot is pretty standard fare, the innovation comes from the game play mechanics and I hope to use the "wow" factor to hook the otherwise uninterested. The developers blog is one of the legs of our viral marketing and sales campaign. The idea is that supporters get inside access to the blog, whereas the public at large only have outsider access to the main site.

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[font=arial, helvetica, sans-serif][size=3]If I can't begin to picture what the experience of playing the game might actually be like, then I can't really get excited about it. The KickStarter post is heavy on story, but t[/size][/font][font=arial, helvetica, sans-serif][size=3]here is a lot of vague language concerning gameplay.[/size][/font][font=arial, helvetica, sans-serif][size=3] [/size][/font][font=arial, helvetica, sans-serif][size=3]How, specifically, does the player interact with the world? How does the player explore? What kind of tasks do they complete, and with what abilities?[/size][/font]

[font=arial, helvetica, sans-serif][size=3]A few examples[/size][/font][font=arial, helvetica, sans-serif][size=3]:[/size][/font]
[list]
[*][size=3][b]"[/b][b]The dreaming mechanics of The Dragon King provides a second realm to explore" [/b]- What are the dreaming mechanics?[/size]
[*][size=3][b]"The core game play will consist of exploring and interacting with the physical realm"[/b] - It's hard to construct a description more vague then "interacting with the physical realm". This conveys little or no information to the reader about what the game will actually involve[/size]
[*][size=3][b]"...solve puzzles and complete tasks using the elements and talents gained from each scripture"[/b] - can you give any specific examples of the talents and abilities the player will use?[/size]
[*][size=3][b]"Combat mechanics will consist of 6 fighting styles"[/b] - you list a broad archetype (e.g. stealth/agility/offence) and weapon type for each element, but these are fairly standard fare. Just skimming over these gives the reader no reason to think that your game brings anything new to the table - are there any interesting combat abilities you could talk about?[/size]
[*][size=3][b]"The sea exploration mechanic provides the primary method of travel and commerce"[/b] - you name a mechanic without describing what it involves. This happens in a few places[/size]
[*][b][size=3]"The dream realm can only be manipulated through the use of elements"[/size][/b]
[/list]

[size=3]I know that your post is just a summary, but I think that by being broad in an attempt to convey your vision without going into any depth you don't offer much to attract a potential investor (unless some thematic aspect happens to resonate with them). Why don't you tell the story of typical challenges the player might encounter, and ways they can use their abilities to overcome them - this allows a reader to imagine playing the game at some point in the future and maybe even become excited enough about it to invest.[/size]

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Aloha WavyVirus. I appreciate the review and I understand the abbreviated GDD leaves a lot to the imagination. I have been getting mixed reviews about the text heavy nature of the pitch to begin with and I don't think adding more text will solve that. The obvious answer is to get a video up showing a few of the fundamental mechanics of the game, but that would require more funding. I suppose I could remove some the the less relevant information and provide some basic info about the game mechanics. Take a look at the following explanation of the combat mechanics and let me know what you think.

The Dragon King is being developed for use with the [url="http://sixense.com/"]Sixense®[/url] motion controller. This in combination with a simple voice command protocol creates our control scheme. Players will use the dual thumb sticks for movement and the motion controls for interacting with objects in the physical world (i.e. picking things up, opening doors, etc) and combat (blocking and attacking). The combat mechanics are what really set the game apart from the average RPG. A traditional RPG might use a hit points health system, whereas we use a vital points life system. The vital points life system uses a real world approach to combat, meaning successful attacks affect the player the way they would in real life. Each vital point has direct consequences on the players abilities, varying from disabling body parts to instant death. Players must learn to fight properly or they will be killed. In a traditional RPG, death usually means game over. Our death mechanic changes that by sending you to purgatory where you will have to fight your way out and continue with your mission. The fighting styles all have unique advantages based on the talent they represent and the more you use that particular style, the stronger your talents become. As an example, your experience and training with the sword fighting style opens up more aggressive fighting techniques and increases your offensive prowess. The same goes for each of the other fighting styles and their accompanying talent. Edited by Captain Andrew Brewer

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It absolutely is a Catch-22. That's the thing. Given an unproven team with no past titles to their name, the financial risk to investors (and yes, donors are investors, though they expect other rewards than the purely financial in return for their investment) is just too high for most to be willing to take the bet. Your choices are limited. It's a tough fact to come to terms with for some, who see it as some unsurmountable bar to the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams. We see it here on the forums seemingly on a weekly basis: starry-eyed idea types who could make a ton of dough with their innovative idea, if only they could find some way of drumming up some starting capital. They put up some posts (there have been plenty of GDDs posted here; the Game Design forum is a veritable boneyard of them. Go see for yourself.) and ask for feedback, but they never get past the rub: without something concrete, something written in code and functional and playable, the GDD is worth less than the paper it is written upon. (Figuratively speaking).

You've heard the old adage "Ideas are a dime a dozen"? It gets repeated around here a lot. A [i]lot[/i]. It's true, though. You could have the most potential-laden idea ever, for the greatest best-selling hit since Doom hit the shareware circuits, but without practical execution on that idea, almost nobody will value it as you do. Certainly, nobody who will actually pony up real, green dollars to see it happen. There needs to be something more, something concrete and visible to make the potential investor say "hey, that is neat. I want to see that get finished."

A block of text doesn't leave a lot to the imagination. It leaves almost nothing, because very few people will give it more than a casual perusal. Certainly, few will bother expending the emotional energy, however minor, of imagining to fill in the holes to the depth that you do yourself. The realization of your vision is ultimately in your hands. It's your responsibility, and reacting with anger or frustration when people point out the Catch-22 will solve nothing. It won't further your game being made. Neither will putting up another Kickstarter project to languish for months in the land of $15 dollars pledged (maybe more, depending on how generous your immediate family and friends are) for months and months until the deadline comes and goes. Blocks of text don't accumulate pledges. (And certainly not $500,000 worth of pledges; I highly recommend that, as a first-timer, you set your sights lower. Lower. Lower still. $500,000 for an untested team is just... that's pie in the sky, friend.)

So you can get mad, or argumentative, or frustrated. Or you can take some steps on your own. You can do some heavy duty legwork and networking to try to bring to the table potential investors (real investors this time; VC types, or somewhat wealthy family and friends who are willing to take a risk because they know you personally and trust you, etc...) along with a team with the correct technical skills to get the job done. It'll probably be a balancing act like you wouldn't believe; just as investors won't pony up cash on wordy and insubstantial GDDs, neither will technical types pony up code or assets without promise of payment. You'll need to vet your technical team to ensure that you have the skills available to finish, as well as the experience to complete the job. I honestly don't know all of what would be involved in this sort of process, because it is so far outside anything I've ever attempted, or ever would attempt.

Alternatively, you could take the initiative and start filling some of those technical holes yourself. Find people in your social network that have the skills you need and would be willing to volunteer their time and energy (and volunteer it would be, until the sales start rolling). Reach out to folks on this forum or others (we have a Classifieds section here) to recruit. Without cash, what you'll get will be volunteers who are not emotionally invested in the project, who likely don't have the experience you need (as they are doing it to learn) and will 99% of the time bail on the project after a few weeks if not days, their emails and IMs becoming more and more infrequent, their excuses coming more and more handily. You'll have to spend a lot of time weeding out, cajoling, wheedling and persevering, and your likelihood of success would still be statistically nil.

It's a hard world.

Final suggestion, this is a forum rife with coders of all stripes and experience. Read the back posts, read the resources, pick up a language and learn it. Get something together, something that can show the world rather than tell the world what your game is really about. It will take time, I'm afraid. But you have to decide for yourself if it's worth it.

Any way, best of luck with this. Edited by JTippetts

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Wow!, another [url="http://www.gamedev.net/user/47547-jtippetts/"][color=#ff0000]moderator[/color][/url]! This is cool [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/cool.png[/img]. Thank you for the sage advice and the good will, I really appreciate it. I do have to disagree with some of what you are saying however, as it sounds like you are speaking in contradictions. Your definitive response leaves no room for possibility and as a quantum physicist I know that just isn't the case. You also say that the probability of being successfully funded as it is would be statistically nil and I agree. But to say that it certainly is nil and there is no chance for it at all is incorrect. You do make several good points about properly managing my network and assets. I certainly agree that having a plan and a team capable of executing that plan is fundamental to the projects success in any arena. The status quo of the industry is indeed cold and hard, which is a major part of why NeoGenesis was formed. We believe the industry is longing for change and that in order for the industry to evolve and reach its maximum potential the status quo must be redefined. It will be a long and arduous road, much longer than any of us probably realizes. In the end my resolve will be the only deciding factor for seeing us through to the end and I hope to see you all there.

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