Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

13 May, 2012

Storybricks contest and project updates
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 4:25 PM
(This post has been viewed 2472 times.)

A quick update about Storybricks. You can play the current Alpha version of Storybricks. We have a contest going on. And, our Kickstarter project is still going.

And I'll make an impassioned plea for your support.

Try Storybricks

One of the advantages of using Unity is that we can do a browser version of our client. We stripped down the client and simplified it a bit, but you can get your hands on the alpha version of Storybricks.

Visit: http://play.storybricks.com/ You will need the Unity3D browser plugin to play, but it should be a painless process to install if you don't already have it.

You can share URLs for your stories, like this: http://play.storybricks.com/play.php?STORY=FD8E1447 This link will take you right into my story I wrote in 5 minutes. I'm sure you can do better, so feel free to show me up.

A storywriting contest!

We also have a contest. It's simple: write a story and share it with others. Twitter, Google+, Facebook, forums, whatever. As long as we can verify you posted it somewhere, you get entered into a drawing to win some prizes: a $50 Gamestop gift card, $25 Amazon.com gift certificates, or $25 in Facebook credits.

Currently we have no entries. So, enter anything and you could win all the prizes! We'll also feature some of the better stories for others to play. Full rules available on our forums.

Storybricks Kickstarter campaign

As you might know, Storybricks has a Kickstarter project: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/storybricks/storybricks-the-mmorpg-storytelling-toolset/

After about 2 weeks we are... 8% funded. I look at that and wonder what the problem is. Part of it lies with is with how we have presented the project: when you're doing something so new and different, it's hard to describe it easily. Are we a toolset, an MMO, a true role-playing game, a virtual building environment? We are all of these, but none of these exactly. We have had trouble finding a message that resonates with people. If you have ideas, please share them with me in the comments below.

I've listened to the MMO community talk about games for years now, and I've seen the creeping disappointment as people see MMOs fail to live up to their potential. I've invested myself into a project that I personally believe can help push MMOs forward. I'd love to say that Storybricks will have a glorious future no matter what happens. The truth is, we're a small company with limited resources. Without your support, Storybricks will wither and die. Maybe we will go bankrupt and find other jobs. Maybe we'll get bought by some company who would rather make browser games than MMOs. The reality is that we've already had to cut expenses to try to survive a few more months. People have expenses to pay and families to support and they we can't expect them to work for free.

Make no mistake, it's not just me and the Storybricks team watching this campaign. I know from talking to people that game developers from the largest companies in the industry are watching it. They're seeing if you really want innovation to the point you are willing to financially support it. Supporting Storybricks isn't just about supporting the alpha version we have online. It's not just about letting us make a cool MMO with user created stories and real role-playing. Supporting our Kickstarter project is supporting real innovation in MMOs. It's saying that you want more than games that are 90% the same with 10% layered on top to make you think might be doing more than just hammering hotkeys while fighting more and more rats with different shapes, sizes, models, and textures. It's demanding more than the same old treadmill grind with the same bog standard holy trinity classes with the same static world that tells you that you are a hero but doesn't actually react to your actions.

Ignore Storybricks and you tell MMO developers you want more of the same for the foreseeable future. You send the message that you're happy with MMOs as they are. You say that game developers should ignore MMOs and chase other trends, to start building social and mobile games instead of chasing the ever increasing budgets for themepark MMO games.

So, please go visit http://play.storybricks.com/ and build your own story. Share the URL with your friends on various social networks. If you've already backed our Kickstarter project: thank you so much, and help us get the word out so we can see success. If you haven't backed us yet, please visit our Kickstarter project page and donate even a little bit to keep our vision of MMO innovation alive.

It's up to you. Hopefully I've demonstrated that I want real MMO innovation. Don't you want the same?

--







15 Comments »

  1. Of course, I post this and soon after it looks like we got a traffic spike and the server's acting funny. If you can't get to the server right now, check back in a bit.

    EDIT: Looks like we're back, but if it appears the webpage isn't working, just check back in a bit. Alpha software + trying to drive traffic to the page = there will be some problems. :)

    Comment by Psychochild — 13 May, 2012 @ 4:50 PM

  2. First play.storybricks.com link in that post has a typo in it.. prob should quickly fix it before too many people click :-)

    Comment by Carson — 13 May, 2012 @ 5:41 PM

  3. Brian,

    I've been following Storybricks for a while and I feel that it has a strong potential to be a game-changer (pun intended).

    However I don't think the Kickstarter is very clear with regards to what the 250k is for. If the money is seed funding to keep the project afloat for a year while other investment is sought, it feels like pledgers are bearing some of the risk of the project.

    Furthermore the inclusive annual subscription seems less attractive as readers don't have the full pricing model to compare this with.

    Anyway I wish you good luck and hope to see this successful!

    Comment by Bernard — 13 May, 2012 @ 10:41 PM

  4. Carson: Heh, thanks. Fixed it.

    Bernard wrote:
    I've been following Storybricks for a while and I feel that it has a strong potential to be a game-changer (pun intended).

    Thanks for your confidence. We did edit the page a bit to give more information. We're trying to respond to questions and concerns as we can.

    ...it feels like pledgers are bearing some of the risk of the project.

    That's why this is a Kickstarter project rather than pre-orders. The nature of Kickstarter is you support a project you think is worthwhile and believe can deliver. The question you have to ask is if you believe our team can deliver what we say with the resources we've asked for. I have confidence that we can, I hope you share that confidence.

    As for the subscription issue, we thought it was important to mention the business model. We're trying to be transparent, and if that scares people I don't know what to say. Would it be better for us to say nothing, then spring a subscription or cash shop on people later?

    Thanks again for your support.

    Comment by Psychochild — 13 May, 2012 @ 11:29 PM

  5. I mentioned Storybricks and the Kickstarter project on my blog yesterday. While I was writing the blog I fired up the alpha demo, stepped in and took the screenshot that illustrates the Storybricks section of the piece. I closed the demo and thought no more about it.

    A few hours later I thought I'd go back in and actually play for an hour or two. Not only would the demo no longer start, it crashed first Firefox and then my entire PC, which would not reboot. I eventually got the PC to recover and tried restarting the SB demo in various browsers. Firefox - crashed. IE - crashed. Chrome - Crashed.

    Chrome did confirm that it was the Unity engine plug-in that was crashing and bringing everything down with it. I uninstalled and re-installed Unity, several times. Same thing. I then tried to open the Storybricks alpha demo on Mrs Bhagpuss's PC, which has never had the Unity engine installed. The SB demo installed it and then Firefox crashed.

    I gave up at that point, but this morning when I logged my PC in Firefox was still reporting issues related to an incorrectly-closed tab for the Storybricks website.

    Some googling tells me that the Unity engine is prone to doing this sort of thing, so it may be nothing specifically to do with Storybricks, or it may be to do with the problems you mention in the comments. I'm wary of even trying to open the demo again, though.

    Comment by bhagpuss — 14 May, 2012 @ 2:07 AM

  6. bhagpuss wrote:
    Chrome did confirm that it was the Unity engine plug-in that was crashing and bringing everything down with it.

    Yeah, this is one reason why we didn't work on a browser version before this. Unity has some problems that are beyond our control. But, we felt that we weren't reaching people with our descriptions, so a hands-on experience was better.

    We'll be focusing on a downloadable client after the KS campaign is over, which we haven't had nearly as many problems reported. If you're feeling brave, maybe fire up Chrome again and take a screenshot of the error and send it to me via email? Can't guarantee anything, but may give us some insight into what the problem is in case others run into it. Thanks. :)

    Comment by Psychochild — 14 May, 2012 @ 8:40 AM

  7. Bluth and Bricks: Storybricks

    [...] interesting, giving NPCs more character and empowering players to tell stories in the MMO venue, please check out Storybricks.  I think you’ll find a lot to like. Like this:LikeOne blogger likes this [...]

    Pingback by Tish Tosh Tesh — 14 May, 2012 @ 1:56 PM

  8. I've been following your blog for a couple of years and been quite interested in seeing where Storybricks was going. I was hoping that it would take off at Kickstarter, but I'm not surprised it hasn't. Why? To be blunt, I think your elevator pitch is terrible.

    Who is the primary customer for this product? Having read everything on this blog, the Storybricks' webpage as well as the kickstarter page and I am still unsure. I *think* you are trying to bring MMO creation to the masses, but I am not sure. Who are you targeting? A tabletop dungeon master who wants to bring his worlds online? MMO players who think they can do a better job on their own than Blizzard/SOE/Bioware/Turbine/etc? Professional game designers who are looking to strike out on their own? That's not a large audience... Sometimes, I fear the answer is you are building it just for you.

    What is your business model? I'll admit I was unsure before the Kickstarter page went up and then only figured out I was wrong when I read it. I have no idea at this point.

    The team you have assembled seems fantastic. I love the art direction and graphic design. The technology looks amazing. But I still have no idea if it is something that I want... I'd like to invest in Storybricks, but after all this time I still don't know what I am investing in!

    Comment by Mark — 14 May, 2012 @ 8:50 PM

  9. Re my previous comment and your reply, I just tried the demo in Chrome and it's working perfectly! Only problem is I now don't have any time to play around with it. Maybe at the weekend.

    If it crashes again I'll send you info.

    Comment by bhagpuss — 15 May, 2012 @ 1:34 PM

  10. Mark wrote:
    To be blunt, I think your elevator pitch is terrible.

    Actually, our elevator pitch to angel investors as pretty good, and landed us about $400k in seed funding. I think what you meant is that our marketing pitch to end users is terrible. And, yeah, it is, mostly because we're not marketers and we can't take conventional shortcuts in describing Storybricks. There's a reason why games end up being described like, "Like WoW, but with emo goth ponies as characters!" As I say in the current version of the Kickstarter page, "It's just not easy to simply describe something so completely different than anything you have seen before."

    Who is the primary customer for this product?

    MMO players tired of current MMO gameplay. People who are tired of being told they are the hero without the world being able to change based on their heroic actions. We give people a tool to use in a game we develop to adjust the world to facilitate their story.

    Frankly, if this were just a tool for professional developers, it'd be pretty stupid to try to raise $250k on Kickstarter. I'd just call my contacts at various companies and arrange meetings directly. Which, in fact, we've already done. The purpose of the Kickstarter project is to see if people are interested in using this type of tool in a game. I'd like to believe that people do, just they're having a hard time really grasping something that can't simply be compared to another existing product.

    What is your business model? I'll admit I was unsure before the Kickstarter page went up and then only figured out I was wrong when I read it. I have no idea at this point.

    It's actually stated explicitly one of the FAQs at the bottom of the page:

    What is your business model? What is the "premium subscription"?

    When we release the first game with Storybricks, we will sell access to the world that we will host. Currently, we think this will be about $20. After purchasing access, you will be able to play and write stories without paying more.

    We will also have an optional premium subscription. This will allow access additional features, such as the ability to post more stories at once, priority login access to write and play stories when the servers are busy, and the availability of customer service to help with issues you might encounter. We foresee the subscription being an affordable amount, equivalent to about $5 per month.

    This is not set in stone. We will be listening to feedback to see what seems right to our backers.

    Is something unclear here? Seems pretty straight-forward to me, but then again I wrote it.

    The team you have assembled seems fantastic. I love the art direction and graphic design. The technology looks amazing. But I still have no idea if it is something that I want... I'd like to invest in Storybricks, but after all this time I still don't know what I am investing in!

    Well, keep in mind that Kickstarter is about backing a project, not investing in it. The distinction is important, I think.

    As I say here, if you back us then you're backing innovation in MMOs. You're saying that storytelling and role-playing controlled by the playerbase have a place in MMOs. That's our goal. Maybe the alpha version of Storybricks doesn't quite embody that yet, but our stated mission is to work toward that goal. Can you back that?

    On the other hand, investors really don't invest in ideas. If you think the team and technology is good, then the smart money is to invest in the company because a good team with good technology will be able to adjust to realities. The term "pivot" tends to draw scorn these days, but there's a reason why it's so common: because good ideas sometimes come from teams that have tried and not had success before.

    Comment by Psychochild — 15 May, 2012 @ 2:30 PM

  11. Thanks for detailed response! I think I am getting closer to understanding, and I have realized that I didn't ask some of my questions well.

    About 15 years ago, Spiderweb Software released the Blades of Exile RPG. It was basically an extension of their "Exile" trilogy that had a few short scenarios with an extensive scenario builder toolkit. Most people bought the game to play the scenarios, but there were enough people that wanted to make their own that gave the game life beyond the initial purchase. Every few weeks, I could go onto the website and find a highly rated adventure to download and play. Is Storybricks intended to be the MMO equivalent of this?

    I believe that 90% of the Blades of Exile customers were like me who found it was a great way to play many different adventures. Most of the customers were content consumers, very few were content creators. Of the content creators, very few of them were good content creators, but there were enough that it was a fun game to play for a while.

    Is this how you think people will interact with Storybricks? Most people will play the game, enjoying the quests, towns and adventures created by a small handful of creators? Or do you believe that most/all people will create content for each other to consume? This is what I was trying to ask when I said, "Who is your primary customer?"

    Here is where I remain confused. If the primary customer (as was true for Blades of Exile) is the content consumer, then I would want to make all of the tools for creating content essentially free and charge for the access to the game. In this case, a content discovery system seems like an important missing piece of the product. On the other hand, the Kickstarter response you quoted implied that you were charging for premium tool use as well. This had led me to believe that there is still something that I don't understand about Storybricks.

    Thanks for your patience! I am intrigued and interested by Storybricks even though I am still a little slow in figuring out exactly what it is...

    Comment by Mark — 16 May, 2012 @ 7:15 AM

  12. Although I have mentioned this to you already, I will also post here that I think the Alpha is great. I'm enjoying the various stories - even those that seem unfinished are pretty entertaining in the novelty department. But I enjoy playing with the tool the most. I haven't even finished a story yet because I'm having too much fun with the variations. But I'll finish something soon to add to the pool :)

    And just to provide more feedback on usage: I downloaded and played with the alpha on Friday night or Saturday morning and had no trouble. I use the latest IE at home so maybe that's the difference.

    Comment by Djinn — 16 May, 2012 @ 11:28 AM

  13. Mark wrote:
    ...even though I am still a little slow in figuring out exactly what it is...

    As I said, this is a hazard of doing something nobody has done before. It's not enough like anything else that you can't just draw easy parallels.

    I think the key words you might have missed were at the end of that section I quoted. Here they are again.

    This is not set in stone. We will be listening to feedback to see what seems right to our backers.

    Our initial idea was to do a subscription because it's what many people are familiar and comfortable with. We're not looking at this as a cash cow, rather something to get some income in so we can keep improving what we feel is a cool product. Maybe you're right, maybe this smacks a bit too much of charging for the tool. Maybe we're better off offering a cash shop with vanity items and minipets. It's hard to say without having a large enough group of people giving us feedback.

    As for our audience, your comparison with Blades of Exile is pretty close. The audience is people who want to play stories. Creating stories and then letting them rot in the void isn't much fun. The problem is we only really have the storytelling part done yet, because that's the foundation. You might notice a severe lack of what you would call a "game" in the alpha, so it's hard to appeal to the people who just to play interesting stories without necessarily having the creativity to tell the stories.

    Our first KS pitch tried to inspire the imagination of people, so that they could see the possibilities beyond the current primitive version we have. That didn't work. So, now we're focusing more on MMO players and explaining how stories can enhance that experience.

    Maybe take a look at an article just posted today: http://www.killtenrats.com/2012/05/16/spotlight-on-storybricks/ I had a long chat with Ethic about how MMOs (and really all CRPGs) have lost their way because we just don't see real role-playing or interesting stories from them. The world is static. People seem to want more, but they aren't quite making the jump from that to where Storybricks could take RPG gameplay.

    Thanks again for your questions. Hopefully that clarifies.

    Comment by Psychochild — 16 May, 2012 @ 2:02 PM

  14. OK, I've been thinking about this off and on for a few days. What can be done to help Storybricks on Kickstarter?
    This may sound harsh, so let me start off with I think you (Psychochild) are great, and Storybricks could be a real breakthru in the computer world. I mean, a major deal. I'm just trying to help.

    One) The pitch video seems all wrong. It's a tech demo that only seems to point out the fact that your current build doesn't have any combat. I think you sum it up well: "The nature of Kickstarter is you support a project you think is worthwhile and believe can deliver."
    You have two things you need to sell. Sell the team and sell the Storybricks. The Bricks are the "worthwhile" and the team is the guys who can deliver.

    Sell the Bricks. Ignore the "Is it an MMO or a toolkit" question. In fact, avoid jargon like "MMO". Yes, some of your audience has a level 70 Paladin, but a lot of the people who wander around Kickstarter are just creative people trying to help out other creative people. Sell the idea of telling stories by making all the mages afraid of chickens. Tell them about these dynamic towns that function like something out of The Sims except that a player set the dominoes up and have no idea how things are going to fall down. They don't need to know if it's a "persistent world" or an "instance". They need to know how amazingly cool the bricks are.

    Sell the Team. Heck, oversell the team. This isn't a first date. If you buy me the lobster tonight, I'm not going to expect the lobster every Friday night. Check out the name dropping on Pathfinder Online Technology Demo on Kickstarter. Yes, you mention the great guys working with you in the text later on. Later on is when we get answers to questions. The video needs to make us it is worthwhile and that it might be done. You probably should be in the video, that worked for a lot of guys. If you guys really don't feel comfortable as the front man, find someone who is.

    Two) How to get more eyeballs to see the Kickstarter page? The press release pipeline has clogged up on Kickstarter things, so it's not news anymore. Maybe get real industry people to mention it on their blogs? What about taking out ads on Project Wonderful?

    Three) How to handle the slow start? Let's face it, Kickstarter projects work best when it feels like they might or might not make it, and you can throw in your $25 and feel like you made it happen. Right now, it doesn't look to the casual eye like the project will get funded. I supposed some people might pledge anyway just to be supportive. Can you offer an incentive to everyone who pledges even if it doesn't get funded? And by "can you" I mean "Would Kickstarter let you do that?" Doesn't have to be something big. Could you get a tie-in with an existing product (again, doesn't have to be a big one, could just be a flash game)? "Get a code for a blue hat just like the green one"? Heck, now I'm thinking something for Team Fortress but that sounds more major.

    That's what I got, hopefully that's more helpful than depressing. Hang in there!

    Comment by Rik — 17 May, 2012 @ 11:03 PM

  15. A few quick points from a random person (me)

    1. I agree with Rik , the storybricks themselves are the core concept. Its a storytelling system. Everything else stems from that.

    2. Having a online demo is excellent, but it doesn't sale it very well. The examples given are too trivial to be interesting, and not different enough from current games.

    How about having a angry mob which you can direct (a bit) by spreading rumors though the crowd?
    Or other scenarios where the NCPs interact with eachother causing cool chains of events.
    ie.
    "Character X hates Character Y",
    "Character A hates violence and will report it"
    "[Guards] will break up fights, and if attacked send NCP character to Jail. Unless the guard is corrupt and will accept a bribe..."
    "Character B loves Character X and will try to help them.."

    etc

    3. Some stuff just didnt work :(
    Telling "all citizens" to goto the city gates when the story started had no effect, they all just stayed more or less where they were.
    I tried different locations too...generally speaking movement commands (also "join") had no effect.

    4. Overall the concept is still great, its just a shame it looks very unlikely you will get anywhere near that kickstarter funding level.

    Comment by Thomas Wrobel — 27 May, 2012 @ 10:41 AM

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