14 May

Dev Journal #5: It Takes a Village

By Caspian

Development of a large game project, especially one like Chronicles of Elyria, takes a lot of resources - both human and financial. Funding such a game has traditionally come from investors or publishers, but recent projects have demonstrated the viability of crowdfunding. In order to have a successful campaign you need a flexible, powerful reward system. In this post I'll be talking about Influence Points - what they are, how you get them, and what they're used for.

What are Influence Points?

The three most important parts of a successful crowdfunded game project (the parts that require a lot of participation anyways) are funding, quality assurance, and community building.

The funding part is fairly obvious. If you want to raise $1M, you either need a dozen or so people with $100k+ lying around, or your need 20,000 people with $50 lying around. The former aligns more with the investor/publisher model, while the latter is the very definition of crowdfunding.

Quality assurance is a little less obvious, but in an MMO like Chronicles of Elyria there's a need to hammer at systems in various intervals to varying degrees. This is to help surface any bugs that may exist before launch, as well as to stress the system to determine possible load issues. In larger studios, or when there's a publisher backing the project, there's usually a team of QA people that work all day, stressing the system and testing game mechanics. In a smaller studio like ours, it's necessary to leverage the community to help test a game.

While it's extremely important that we're able to reach out and find those 20,000 interested people, and that some of them take time to file bugs, it's equally important that we attract the right type of community members. These are people dedicated to helping others enjoy the game experience, volunteering their time on the community websites, and driving the growth of the community.

For any of that to happen, we first need to drum up interest in the game and build a community around that interest. While in many cases participation is all the reward/motivation one needs, in other cases, it's really nice to have something to show for the time and/or money people have contributed. To do that, we've created Influence Points - a currency given to community members for performing actions that help influence the success of the game.

How do I get Influence Points?

Influence points can be obtained through a couple different channels, all of which help improve the quality of the community and the game. The ways in which you can earn IP are:

  • Crowdfunding (giving us money)
  • Recruiting other users
  • Providing a positive experience on the community forums
  • Submitting verified bugs to the bug tracker

The first is the most typical. When we launch our crowdfunding campaign there will be various funding levels offered. Each level will come with a pre-determined number of Influence Points, along with additional bonuses - such as free copies of the game, the art book, the opportunity to meet the developers, etc... For each level there will also be bonus IP awarded. The higher the backing level, the more bonus IP you'll get.

After crowdfunding, the next most common way to gain IP is through community building. This can be achieved in two ways: recruiting others, and making positive contributions to the community forums.

Whenever you recruit another verified player to the game (someone who obtains a licensed version of the game) via any referral method - a direct friend invite, a community fan site, etc... you’ll be awarded IP. Likewise, whenever you make a truly amazing post on the community forums and one of the moderators either rates it up or stickies it you'll receive some smaller amount of IP.

Finally, whenever you submit a verified bug to the tracking software you'll receive IP based on what system the bug is in and how complicated it is to repro or identify. Spelling mistakes, etc... may earn a small amount of IP, while identifying a networking issue may be worth quite a bit more. We'll define those values more closely as we get into stress and alpha testing.

Tracking Your IP

In a couple months we'll provide features on the community website that will allow you to see your current Influence Points. You'll also be able to obtain a friend code from your profile that can be used to recruit others to the game. If you've recruited any friends before then, they'll be able to retroactively apply your code to give you credit.

In addition, there will be a community ladder that shows the top Influencers. There will be additional rewards for being on that list - as well as being at the top!

Ok, So I Have Influence Points, Now What?

Influence points can be cashed in for rewards post-launch. The rewards can range from little things like starter packs, better initial weapons, or custom titles, all the way up to playing a pivotal role in the storyline of the game. Without giving too much away, here are some of the other possible uses of IP:

  • Increased wealth
  • Unique/important starting role
  • Ownership of powerful Guilds or Schools
  • Land ownership

As more game features are announced in a few months, we'll continue to provide concrete examples of the things IP can be used for. And we're certain you're going to find them exciting!

Up Next

This is the last developer journal for a while. The next couple of months will be spent getting the community website put online. However, By the end of July we'll begin posting design journals that detail the unique game mechanics of Chronicles of Elyria. Just when you think we'll revolutionize MMO's with one unique game feature, we're going to surprise you with something cooler!