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What Happens If CODENAME: MORNINGSTAR Doesn't Fund?

With 2 weeks to go, and only 13% of the $425,000 raised, and those two weeks being Christmas, the odds are that Codename: Morningstar won't fund. There might be a last-minute turnaround, of course, but the prognosis right now does not look hopeful. Trapdoor Technologies leader Chris Matney addressed the possibility, saying that "not pledging is telling the industry that you are happy with the status quo."
[lq]...if there does not appear to be a sufficient market interest our continued investment in the gaming industry is not assured.[/lq]

Below is what Chris Matney said on the subject. You can find the Kickstarter here.

What If We Don't Fund?

Yesterday, I addressed the question about why Trapdoor needs $425,000 to fund the completion of Morningstar. Today, I want to chat briefly about what happens if we don't fund via our Kickstarter campaign. The answer is somewhat more complex than you might imagine, so please bear with me.

First, we need to assess whether the gaming community has a real interest in our technology. The response to our Kickstarter is part of that answer - and I won't deny that the role player in me will be disappointed if we don't fund.

Our decision to jump into the gaming market was not made lightly. Trapdoor is a software company that builds interactive publishing applications. This technology is at work in commerce, education, and other fields. Role-playing games are complex and thus a perfect showcase for our interactive technology which simplifies prep and play. This is a greenfield opportunity for us and the industry. No other gaming company provides digital distribution beyond PDFs.

Your pledge to our Kickstarter campaign is the best way to express interest in bringing a remarkable, captivating and new experience to our hobby. It is the only way to 100% guarantee the success of Morningstar.

If we don't fund (and assuming there is demonstrable interest in the technology), we will need to reevaluate the current gaming ecosystem: looking for publishers who are interested in leveraging Morningstar into their gaming system, assessing the OGL for D&D 5e (if any), combing the feature set in Morningstar to see what can be pushed back, etc. With $1.2M invested in the project to date, we would obviously like to see Morningstar launch. However, as with any business if there does not appear to be a sufficient market interest our continued investment in the gaming industry is not assured.

The community and you have some decisions to make in the next two weeks. If you share our vision, pledge. Even if you don't think we will fund - throw your support behind our cause. Kickstarter collects pledges only if the funding is successful. It's a no risk proposition - at worst, you will show your support. Not pledging is telling the industry that you are happy with the status quo. Hopefully, you elect to be on the ground floor of a truly remarkable journey.

Respectfully submitted.
Chris Matney
Managing Director
Trapdoor Technologies


[lq]...not pledging is telling the industry that you are happy with the status quo.[/lq]


morningstar.jpg
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

Xorial

First Post
Personally, I think the target to fund is what setting people off. I realize that they likely actually need that much money, but that is a lot higher than comparable projects. The amount is more in line with raising cash for a full-blown video game. I would be willing to bet many people looked at the amount & decided that it wouldn't fund, so they are staying away.
 

turkeygiant

First Post
Personally, I think the target to fund is what setting people off. I realize that they likely actually need that much money, but that is a lot higher than comparable projects. The amount is more in line with raising cash for a full-blown video game. I would be willing to bet many people looked at the amount & decided that it wouldn't fund, so they are staying away.
I'm not sure why they have such a giant team developing this project? Seems huge for what they are designing.

"The Trapdoor team working on Morningstar consists of six senior-level developers, a creative director who leads both UX and visual design efforts, a web developer, a production artist, a data entry specialist, a content architect, two QA engineers, three support and social media staff, and a number of contract folks for specialized tasks. These are full-time employees dedicated to the project - far from a skeleton crew. Throw in a commercial-grade infrastructure - we have 9 dedicated Linux servers for the project - and a fully-stocked QA lab with scores of tablets, phones, etc. for testing, and you can quickly see how $425,000 is a real world target. Trapdoor is a commercial software development company, and this is how we approach large projects. We have already invested $1.2M in the project to date."

They are already $1.2M into this project, and they want ANOTHER $425,000 just between now and April to finish it, I want to get paid on their salary scale!
 

trancejeremy

First Post
$1.2 million already invested? Yikes.

But I think the problem is that it's not particularly obvious that what they plan to offer is "new & exciting". That picture that they use (shown above) seems to be more or less identical to a PDF reader reading an adventure PDF (which they deride). How is what they offer better?

Honestly, what I think I'd like to see is a PDF reader optimized for RPGs. When I run an adventure, I generally keep two copies of the module open, one for where they are and one on the map. And then the rule book open (just in case). And then a notepad with character information, and another for notes. That's easy enough on a computer, but my tablet can't handle that...
 

trancejeremy

First Post
I'm not sure why they have such a giant team developing this project? Seems huge for what they are designing.

"The Trapdoor team working on Morningstar consists of six senior-level developers, a creative director who leads both UX and visual design efforts, a web developer, a production artist, a data entry specialist, a content architect, two QA engineers, three support and social media staff, and a number of contract folks for specialized tasks. These are full-time employees dedicated to the project - far from a skeleton crew. Throw in a commercial-grade infrastructure - we have 9 dedicated Linux servers for the project - and a fully-stocked QA lab with scores of tablets, phones, etc. for testing, and you can quickly see how $425,000 is a real world target. Trapdoor is a commercial software development company, and this is how we approach large projects. We have already invested $1.2M in the project to date."

They are already $1.2M into this project, and they want ANOTHER $425,000 just between now and April to finish it, I want to get paid on their salary scale!
16 people plus contract staff does seem rather excessive...
 

Michael Dean

Explorer
"The community and you have some decisions to make in the next two weeks"? That sounds pretty arrogant, and is a big turnoff. Sounds like something my mom would say when she was trying to steer us ignorant kids in the "right" direction.
 

Hollow Man

Explorer
"The community and you have some decisions to make in the next two weeks"? That sounds pretty arrogant, and is a big turnoff. Sounds like something my mom would say when she was trying to steer us ignorant kids in the "right" direction.
That, plus the business about how if we don't pledge it means we're happy with the status quo. No, it may simply mean that we're not happy with THEIR product. I wish they'd stop behaving like they're a silver bullet. If it was as perfect as they say it is, for the million dollars they've already spent, it would be out already.

-HM
 

MoutonRustique

Explorer
For my part, there are oodles of holes in this situation :
1 - I don't know (I honestly have no concrete idea) what they are making/selling
2 - the entry point (after funding) seems high
3 - that the creation aspect of the tool, around which the whole thing seems to hinge is the highest price point is... baffling to me
4 - it is geared towards a rules set that I do not use (and will not use in the foreseeable future)
5- I don't know what they are making/selling!

I've watched the videos and read all I could, but all I can find are lines that read "revolutionary system of creation, etc." Everything that I can figure out, I have to read them between the lines - and I've been burned by WotC enough about the "between the lines" : never again am I trusting to "half-promises" or "implied" or anything not directly and clearly spelled out. If it's not clearly written down in a public place, and the whole of the community agree on its meaning, it does not exist.

Lastly - about that whole "if you don't back us, you're voting for the status quo" :
1 - No, that is not true, ever - we do not live in a bipolar world : !A =/= B
2 - I don't know what you're offering, so my vote means nothing.
3 - It is poorly phrased : it seems petulant.
4 - I like to make lists of things tonight.*

*That last one doesn't really apply.
 
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WayneLigon

Adventurer
Really, what you should be telling me is how your software, out of the box, is better for me than Hero Lab. Creating an OGL character generator by this point should almost be an automatic exercise in database management. Specifically what features does it offer me that Hero Lab does not?
 

Darth Quiris

First Post
They need a DEMO. Something to show and share how this actually works. Spending 1.2 Million dollars with no Demo, with nothing to really show seems off and I feel that a lot of that 1.2 Million was actual cost and programming they probably spent while they were working on it for D&D 5e and when that got pulled a lot of their work towards that was suddenly null and void so in that way they are probably trying to recoup their loss with this kickstarter. That's the only thing that makes sense.

They should look at how Roll20 works, or Hero Lab, because what they are describing sounds a lot similar to those two programs. And Pathfinder... for all this money being necessary for a program that is laser focused on a single game system. I am betting that if they ever do finish Morningstar it will be pretty amazing but... well, what does it do that's different?
 

Adammar

Explorer
Yep - Every post makes me doubt more whether they know what they are doing. They have spent 1.2M on a product that isn't ready but they need to have a kickstarter to judge if there is a market? I would think you would have judged the market before putting that kind of money into it. If you make $25 dollar pure profit per sale you are looking at close to 50,000K subscribers to brake even. (Not counting kickstarters which offset the money kickstarted.) Seems kind of high judging from print runs of product. I think the 1.2M may be overstated also. (a lot of it appears to be sweat equity which is a made up value.) Just wondering what the last couple of postings was supposed to do. They don't seem to entice anyone to actually participate.
 

fjw70

Explorer
I have been a supporter of the Morningstar idea for a while now (I have backed the kickstarter) but it is just idea to most of us and the statement about being happy with the status quo if you don't back them sounds a little . . . arrogant.
 

Psikosis

Villager
I think the gaming community has made their "decision". I know I have. I read this project and watched their video a couple weeks ago (or thereabouts). As others have noted above, they haven't clearly articulated what the product is or how/why it's better than existing tools (including paper, pencil, and books). To which I'd add, it's cloud-based. As a user, I appear to have nothing, I may likely own nothing. If it goes down, so does my content in it. If they shut down, my content disappears. I have no interest in such fragile toolsets. There is some reference to 'offline' capability, but if it's truly cloud-based offline mode is almost certainly limited at best. Lots of marketing buzzwords (I don't think they missed a one), but very light on any actual details.
More important than the paucity of information about the product (to me) is the demo. It's a bunch of people sitting in the dark staring at, and interacting, with their tablets more often than each other. I like tabletop games, in part, because you get to interact with people personally, perhaps in my (well-lit) friendly local game store. This system seems to make gaming yet another experience of people staring at their devices rather than interacting with each other.
So my answer is "No, thanks." I'm happy with my books, paper, pencils, and dice supplemented with the occasional pdf or character-generating app...and, of course, interacting with my fellow gamers personally.

PS- I completely agree; the false dichotomy Mr. Matney set up was neither respectful nor humble (status quo v. our latest wiz-bang software), it was more than a smidgen condescending and arrogant.
 

fjw70

Explorer
I agree that demo video wasn't the best selling point. A bunch of people sitting in the dark looking at tablets is not the gaming experience I am looking for. I am interested in the Ebook and mapping aspects but not really in the player aspects.
 

dd.stevenson

Super KY
I have been a supporter of the Morningstar idea for a while now (I have backed the kickstarter) but it is just idea to most of us and the statement about being happy with the status quo if you don't back them sounds a little . . . arrogant.
In fairness, that quote mainly sounds bad when taken out of context in the pull quotes. "Kickstarter collects pledges only if the funding is successful. It's a no risk proposition - at worst, you will show your support. Not pledging is telling the industry that you are happy with the status quo" isn't nearly so bad.
 

SharnDM

Explorer
Man, if it's one thing Codename Morningstar is teaching me it's that being open with all the behind the scenes stuff is a mistake apparently. This community sure is turning on Trapdoor Technologies fast!
 

Denys

Explorer
No, Chris Matney, you guys not funding means people aren't loving your arrogance, the lack of proof that you can carry off such a project and your product isn't much different from technologies already out there -- it looks like a more dynamic Obsidian Portal meets a pdf reader: sorry, you're not exactly blowing me away here with your revolutionary product.

Also, as fjw70 said -- this isn't the gaming experience I want to have -- in the dark staring at screens. Ugh.
 

3catcircus

Adventurer
Perhaps they ought to ask themselves, is, if they were venture capitalists instead of software developers, would they fund this project?

You look at their main webpage and get a "coming soon," yet they apparently have a trapdoor books website - an "emerging small press."

If we know that WotC couldn't manage to figure out how to develop digital tools (as a large publisher), what "warm fuzzy" would we get from these guys? We already know that WotC (having had bad experiences previously), finally wised up and dumped them at the nth sign of trouble (we don't know if n is 1, 2, or some larger quantity of missed deadlines or functionality).

Even if they were to somehow manage to develop this product - I don't know what the heck it is or does, nor do I have an overwhelming burning need for it... Herolab, PCGen, Campaign Cartographer, and any set of office software (take your pick of Microsoft, Google, or something else) does the job just fine. And besides, I don't tend to spend my gaming time buried in a tablet or laptop - the only time I do is when looking up an obscure rule and using PDFs instead of lugging all the books around. I don't use PCGen or Herolab's in-play features, nor do I project maps onto a screen, wall, or using a laying-down TV...

I just don't see a market for this product based upon the demo trailer. What we'll never actually know is if WotC played with a working demo of what they were developing and came to the same conclusion.
 

marv77

First Post
I want them to be successful.

But I think they should have offered a much more limited version of the product at a much lower funding point, and added to it with stretch goals.
I suspect that people are more likely to pile on an almost funded or already funded project than one that isn't looking too hopeful.

Also the web beta of Dungeonscape didn't impress me very much. And I play 5E and not Pathfinder.
 

Feeroper

Explorer
I tried the beta when it was dungeonscape and that certainly did not seem to be working so great. I have no idea what this is supposed to do that is revolutionary, as others have pointed out it seems to be an amalgamation of other digital tools in one. that's fine and all, but I could care less. I barely use any digital tools, mainly just a character creator sometimes, and I have used Obsidian Portal. However, ultimately I find nothing beats pencil and paper. I suppose if you had a group that was doing this online or something, but even then Roll20 is a great mostly hassle-free environment.

Ultimately though, as was said earlier, I don't want to be at a table where we are all just staring a screens. I don't want to be focussed on that stuff at all. A pencil and some paper works wonders, everything else should be the players and the DM engaging in storytelling and imagination, not accessing trendy new features and launching apps. Just my opinion.
 

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