Whatever Happened to Pathfinder Online, Anyway?

Whatever Happened to Pathfinder Online, Anyway?

(Author?s Note: This article was originally written as a series of longform posts on the Something Awful forums back in 2017. It is entirely possible that since then interesting developments may have occurred in both the career of Ryan Dancey and the state of Pathfinder Online, but let?s be honest, the odds are pretty slim on both counts.)

So Pathfinder Online is a huge, embarrassing flop, but in order to really explain how it got to be that way first I have to tell you about the man behind it, Ryan Dancey. His Wikipedia article leads off with ?Ryan Dancey is a businessman? which is as good a description as any in the sense that he is a man who does business. Mostly the business he?s done has been in the tabletop gaming industry, such as collectable card games and pen-and-paper RPGs. His first big success story was his involvement with the Legend of the 5 Rings CCG, which he helped launch and subsequently helped sell to Wizards of the Coast (the Magic: the Gathering people) at the same time he brokered a deal for WotC to purchase the rights to Dungeons & Dragons from its original parent company, TSR, while they were imploding due to a history of poor financial decisions catching up with them. From there Dancey wound up as Vice President in charge of Dungeons & Dragons at WotC while they were gearing up to release the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Okay, that all sounds pretty cool, right? This Ryan Dancey fella must have his head on straight to do all that. The problem is that Ryan Dancey is the living embodiment of terrible ideas. Pretty much everything he touches turns to shit in some way. How so? Well, to start with there was Dancey?s bold new vision for a CCG distribution model called ?Rolling Thunder? which envisioned a system where, instead of traditional sized sets being released every three months or so, you would have smaller sets with flatter rarities being introduced every month or so. This would encourage customers to visit game stores more often, ideally encouraging more impulse purchases as a result, and the flatter rarities would be viewed positively both by casual and hardcore players alike. Right? Rolling Thunder bombed hard. It bombed so hard that it very nearly killed L5R outright, and it probably did kill a number of other CCGs that Dancey had convinced to use the distribution model like Rage, Doomtown, and Dune.

From a comprehensive breakdown/retrospective of the Rolling Thunder fiasco where Ryan Dancey blames everything but himself for nearly killing the game with his clever ideas:

And the number of people playing the game actively dropped by something close to half. And the rate that new signups to the fan club hit the mailbox dropped by 80%. And we constantly had people that we know have their finger on the pulsebeat of the game telling us that the game was losing people?s interest rapidly all over the place. And we didn?t sell enough product to make the game profitable. Setting aside SCC for the moment, I can tell you that the combined print run for Hidden Emperor I, II, and III (which consisted of 150 cards) was smaller than the print run for the third L5R expansion, Crimson & Jade. Anyone who is active in the L5R community knows that the C&J cards are cosidered incredibly valuable and worthwhile -in large part due to their scarcity. But there are still >cases< of the first three months of HE sitting on shelves. And the situation only deteriorated faster from that point.

Well hey, we all have off days. Dancey?s next trick was convincing WotC to do something unprecedented with the upcoming 3rd edition of D&D which was to make it ?open source,? creating something called the Open Gaming License which effectively allowed people to take and use large chunks of D&D material designated as open source and use them in their own OGL-compatible products. He sold them on the idea that by allowing other third-party publishers to create officially licensed and D&D compatible sourcebooks that they could essentially create an ecosystem where smaller publishers worked on smaller, niche products that WotC didn?t want to busy itself with but everyone would have to come to WotC to buy the core rulebooks required to tie it all together, leaving WotC free to focus on bigger, more prestigious projects. Dancey also sold people on the idea by pointing out (not entirely incorrectly) that D&D had nearly gone under along with TSR and this would guarantee that D&D?s fate was no longer inexorably tied to that of a single company. So did it pan out like he said it would? Hahaha fuck no it didn?t. I mean he was sort of right in that everybody and their dog rushed to strike d20 gold with a tidal wave of D&D-compatible shovelware that eventually wound up creating a bubble-and-bust in the market that glutted game store shelves with product that owners couldn?t give away and almost certainly was a heavy contributing factor to a large number of those stores going under, but more importantly than that the way the OGL was set up didn?t actually prevent anyone from making their own knockoff D&D core books and selling them for profit. You saw several ?D&D 3E Pocket Handbooks? that were basically stripped down corebooks and there was nothing WotC could do about it because they?d established the license that allowed it with no takebacks, but even more importantly is when WotC inevitably turned their sights towards a 4th edition of D&D the OGL allowed there to be an effective schism in the playerbase when a company called Paizo swooped in and created their own D&D-with-the-serial-numbers-filed-off game called Pathfinder. In other words, Ryan Dancey talked WotC into freely giving everyone who wanted them the tools to directly siphon away their own players, and in so doing gave rise to WotC?s biggest direct market competitor in a way that had never existed before. Okay, but it can?t all be bad, what about the time he got elected treasurer of the Game Manufacturer?s Association-

Just when it seemed that a new, progressive era had begun at GAMA, the game manufacturers? association, a governance crisis became public Friday. Newly elected treasurer Ryan Dancey of Organized Play resigned Thursday night after revealing that he had penetrated the GAMA board of directors e-mail list prior to his election and had been privy to numerous confidential communications.

Whoops. All right, all right, surely he must have done some good when he took over the Living City organized play campaign run by the RPGA-

When the campaign was taken over by Ryan Dancey?s company (OrganizedPlay) module fees were shifted from the event organizers to the players and another exodus was seen. Previous to this change of ownership a judge or organizer could ?rent? a module and run it (more or less) as many times as he wanted for no additional charge. As of January 1, 2004 OrganizedPlay discontinued their support of Living City and returned the campaign to WotC. From the press release announcing this: The number of sites running Living City has declined dramatically, as have the number of active Judges. Meanwhile, other Living Campaigns, notably Living Greyhawk, have been growing at a rapid pace and now are substantially larger than Living City was, even at its peak. The press release also gives a final ?fuck you? to all the die hard LC players: Some of you have Living City memberships that extend beyond the end of 2003. OrganizedPlay has decided not to issue prorated refunds for these memberships. Instead, we are working on an all new campaign that will be published using the Open Gaming License and the d20 System Trademark License, and supported by a 3rd party publisher. We intend to grandfather all active Living City members into the new campaign and when we have finished arranging the terms of its publication and support, we?ll be contacting all the affected individuals directly. ?Gee, thanks Mr. Dancey. You just flushed our old campaign down the toilet; We would love to invest in whatever you come up with next!?

Ah, well nevertheless-

Yes there were big problems with Living City, but it did not help matters that Dancey didn?t turn to the LC players for help on the matter, he simply shut them out, including the authors who?d been supplying the bulk of the LC modules, claiming that his professional team would more than fill the bill. Instead the module output simply stopped after a couple of fairly mediocre pieces and the campaign ground to a halt. It?s rather hollow to tell the authors that you?re replacing that they weren?t good enough, when you did not really replace their output at all. As far as Dancey saving the campaign from cancellation; His first plan was to essentially scrap the campaign and convert it to a new setting called ?Ruins of Raven?s Bluff?, pretty much taking all that had been built by the Players and the RPGA, and shoving it to the trash can. Leading many of us to conclude at the time, that he?d bought the LC campaign simply for access to a market for launching his digital enterprise. He reversed his decision after outright rebellion broke out among the player base, but in the long run we got a couple of Ruins modules, maybe one LC module and after a long period of time, that was that until House Cleaning 3.5 closed the campaign down for good. (admittedly a good finale set of modules)

Well shit. Maybe tabletop games just aren?t ready for a bold, visionary man of ideas like Ryan Dancey. I hear CCP is hiring for a marketing director, just the sort of position someone with Dancey?s talents. What if they offered players the chance to buy monocles for their virtual avatars for, say, $70 a pop?

(Confession time, Ryan Dancey has frequently been associated with EVE?s disastrous ?monoclegate? which indirectly contributed to the shuttering of both the Vampire MMO that CCP was working on at the time as well as White Wolf itself which CCP had bought out previously, which would make this yet another RPG publisher that Dancey managed to completely fuck over, this time without even having set foot in their offices once. Dancey however adamantly insists that he had nothing to do with the monocle thing and that he left CCP eight months before the whole thing broke. Nonetheless Dancey was CMO for three years, from 2007 to 2010 according to his Linkedin, which means he could very well have had a contributing hand in things, plus the whole $70 monocle business is a very Ryan Dancey sort of thing, plus it?s also funny so fuck it, in it goes.) Anyway what I hope I?m conveying here is that Ryan Dancey is not someone you want involved in your business. Like, at all. Whether it?s through sheer incompetence, conniving malice indistinguishable from incompetence, or an ancient Pharaoh?s curse, Ryan Dancey is an endless wellspring of terrible ideas that always work out badly for everyone involved except, strangely enough, for Dancey himself who always seems to emerge unscathed from the latest disaster only to land a job at some other company who either hasn?t heard of his previous exploits or thinks that he must simply be misunderstood.

In order to understand how [Pathfinder Online] came into being, we need to set the wayback machine to January 2011. I was browsing Facebook when I noticed my friend Ryan Dancey had left CCP where he had been working on a [MMORPG] called EVE Online. I sent him a message that end with ?So what are you going to do now?? His response was not what I expected: ?Have you ever thought about doing a Pathfinder MMO?? ? Lisa Stevens, CEO of Paizo Publishing

The Steve Jobs of MMO Marketing

Now anybody with the slightest understanding of the video game industry can immediately tell you that making an MMO is a terrible, terrible idea. The industry is littered with the corpses and stumbling half-dead shells of every overly-ambitious MMO made by someone who thought that they could go toe-to-toe with World of Warcraft or EVE Online. Even five years ago people would gladly line up to tell you not to make an MMO, that it was about as likely to succeed as converting your 401K to lottery tickets, to just steer clear of the notion altogether. Lisa Stevens, the CEO of Paizo Publishing, has a reputation as a canny businesswoman, and for good reason. She?s even more of an old hand in the traditional tabletop gaming scene than Dancey, and has actually had an extremely successful career as Wikipedia helpfully outlines.

Stevens joined [Johnathan] Tweet and [Mark] Rein-Hagen in the game company Lion Rampant, which published Ars Magica in 1987. Lion Rampant was a volunteer organization, and Stevens?s editorial experience was needed at the company. After Stevens pitched the idea to Rein-Hagen and Stewart Wieck, Lion Rampant merged with White Wolf in 1990. While on the road to GenCon 23 in 1990 with Stevens and Wieck, Rein-Hagen envisioned Vampire: The Masquerade, which the new company published in 1991. After meeting Rich Kaalaas of Wizards of the Coast at a GTS convention in March 1991 and then GenCon 25, Stevens left White Wolf that same year to join Wizards, becoming that company?s first full-time employee. She was a vice president for Wizards when they published Magic: The Gathering in 1993, and she launched The Duelist to support it. Having worked on the game while at Lion Rampant, she advised Wizards to acquire Ars Magica, which they did in 1994. After Wizards purchased TSR, Stevens became the Brand Manager for the RPGA and Greyhawk. She is also an expert on Star Wars collectibles, and was the brand manager for Wizards? Star Wars role-playing game. Stevens left Wizards of the Coast in 2000, and made it known that she wanted to acquire the rights to Wizards? magazines if they ever became available. In May 2002, she formed Paizo Publishing, and is the CEO of the company. When Wizards? entire magazine department was cut in 2002, Dragon, Dungeon, and Star Wars Insider magazines were all licensed to Paizo.

And of course what the article doesn?t come out and say in so many words is that thanks to Lisa Stevens, Paizo went on to publish the Pathfinder RPG which is built on the open-source bones of 3E Dungeons & Dragons, deftly capitalizing on the inevitable fanbase split that arises during any RPG edition changeover, and turning that into one of the current biggest tabletop RPG lines (Paizo likes to claim, without definitive sales figures, that they are in fact the number one fantasy RPG) on the market. This is someone who?s been around the block and knows a thing or two about a thing or two. Yet somehow she let her old friend Ryan Dancey convince her that making a Pathfinder MMO was a good idea, because Ryan Dancey?s secret superpower is convincing people that incredibly stupid ideas are actually insanely good and apparently even Lisa Stevens isn?t immune to that. To her credit Stevens had Dancey establish a legally-distinct-from-Paizo company called Goblinworks to take charge of the MMO project, ostensibly so that if the project crashed and burned spectacularly (spoiler alert, it totally did) that it would insulate Paizo from the fallout the way you?d use a lead-lined box to contain radioactive waste. What?s noteworthy here is that there were actually two Kickstarters for Pathfinder Online, both of which were successful. The initial Kickstarter was launched May 9th 2012?for a tech demo. Not for a game, not for an early access game, not even for a partial game, the initial Kickstarter was to give Goblinworks the funding to create a tech demo of a game which they would then shop around to potential investors so that they would immediately fall so madly in love with I Can?t Believe It?s Not D&D: the MMO that they?d shower Goblinworks with blank checks and hookers. It had a funding goal of $50,000 and it raised over $300,000 by the time it concluded. I really just want to quote the entire Kickstarter here, the whole thing is a treasure trove especially with the benefit of hindsight.

We?ve heard it our entire careers: ?Are you crazy?? ?It can?t be done.? ?Nobody would buy that.? ?It?s impossible.? Yet we have succeeded in doing the impossible, time after time after time. A roleplaying game where you play the monsters rather than the heroes? Are you serious? Vampire: The Masquerade had its 20th anniversary last year. Wait, you want to make a card game where you have to create your deck by buying booster packs of random trading cards? Nobody would buy that. Magic: The Gathering is by far the most successful game ever in the history of tabletop gaming, and will celebrate 20 years in 2013. You want to do WHAT? Make the Dungeons & Dragons game mechanics open source? That?ll kill the entire industry! The Open Game License (OGL) revolutionized the RPG market in 2000, leading to hundreds of companies producing products compatible with the Third Edition of D&D. Hold on ? you?re going to create your own game to compete with Dungeons & Dragons? You?re wasting your time! The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is now the world?s best-selling tabletop RPG. So when we told people we wanted to create a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMO) for a fraction of the cost and development time of the big MMOs, you can imagine some of the responses we got. It?s a pipe dream! Nobody can do that. It?s impossible. Well, we?re the team that laughs in the face of impossible. Pathfinder Online is the project that will slay this dragon. And Goblinworks is the company that will make it happen. Impossible? We say nay!

The highlights of the Tech Demo Kickstarter include:

  • Ryan Dancey talking up PFO?s ?robust trading systems,? character-controlled settlements, social organizations, and exciting scripted adventures like they were all things that already existed instead of simply things which sounded nice on paper
  • The hilariously understated revelation that backers would not be guaranteed to be allowed to actually play with the tech demo that they were funding (which was promised to be ?fully playable, integrating account management, character creation, a virtual world server, multiple simultaneously connected clients, middleware used for rendering landscapes and characters, basic game mechanics, and player communications?). No, backers would be allowed to watch a video of the tech demo in question. If you really, really wanted to get in on the ground floor of the exciting new Pathfinder Online multimedia megafranchise however Ryan Dancey had you covered with a special backer tier that entitled you to participate in a very special closed alpha playtest of the game, for only $1,000. There were 29 pledges at that level (not counting the one pledge at the $2000 tier which also included alpha playtesting privileges, or the two who pledged at $5,000).
  • And perhaps the greatest thing to come out of the Pathfinder Online saga, Ryan Dancey?s self-aggrandizing biography in the who?s who:

He?s been called ?the Steve Jobs of MMO Marketing.?

I can safely say to you with the utmost assurance that literally nobody in the entire history of human civilization has ever referred to Ryan Dancey as the Steve Jobs of MMO Marketing, or the Steve Jobs of anything at all for that matter. Needless to say this line took on a life of its own and decades from now when I?m lying in a bed unable to remember the names of my best friends in high school or what my mother looked like, I will always, always remember that Ryan Dancey called himself the Steve Jobs of MMO Marketing on a Kickstarter for a tech demo of a shitty Pathfinder MMO. There was one actual bit of brilliance to be had in the Kickstarter however which is that since they weren?t actually giving backers a game of any sort for their money Dancey conceived of a clever way to encourage people to throw tons of cash at it anyway?swag. Lots and lots of swag. First and foremost, the primary stretch goal of the project was a supplement for the Pathfinder tabletop game itself, with successive stretch goal thresholds adding more and more to the supplement from established Paizo writers and even legendary dorklord and pervy old man Ed ?Elminster? Greenwood himself. Basically what Dancey did was leverage the Paizo fanbase?s loyalty (both to Pathfinder as well as Dancey himself, who they hold in extremely high regard as the guy who ?liberated? D&D from the clutches of WotC) to keep the funds rolling in by getting them to pledge for an exclusive Pathfinder sourcebook Kickstarter which also just happened to double as a tech demo Kickstarter instead of the other way around. Keep this in mind because Dancey goes to this well again later in the next PFO Kickstarter. In addition to this a wide and bewildering assortment array of Pathfinder-branded tat was also put up as pledge goals, including t-shirts, challenge coins, ?stock-like certificates,? plaques, flip-mats, leather messenger bags, and padfolios. Of course all of this shit costs money to make and ship, and these days experienced crowdfunders will tell you to avoid things like this because they have a way of eating into your funds to an often unexpected degree, but hey, are you they guy they call the Steve Jobs of MMO Marketing? Regardless of that, or the fact that the entire Kickstarter was basically propped up by people pledging obscene sums of money for t-shirts, tote bags, and a pdf of an RPG sourcebook, the Kickstarter did in fact succeed, not only meeting its funding goal but exceeding it by a quarter-million dollars. Things were looking great for Goblinworks and Pathfinder fans were getting hype as hell, the only problem was that there still wasn?t any sort of actual game to be had.

The Gang Buys a Virtual Tavern

On November 27th 2012 Goblinworks launched their second Kickstarter for Pathfinder Online, with an asking price of one million dollars. Now this might seem like an absurd amount of money in multiple respects, absurdly low for a prospective MMO and absurdly high for a bunch of people with no real MMO design experience passing the collection plate around, but it wasn?t entirely without precedent. Just two months prior to this Obsidian launched a Kickstarter for Pillars of Eternity asking for $1.1 million in crowdfunding. We?ll talk more about Obsidian?s Kickstarter later. And here it is, preserved in all its glory for future archaeologists of the inane to wonder at for all time. Much like the tech demo KS this is a treasure trove packed to the brim with things to marvel at. There are 11 FAQ entries, 110 updates, and over 5,000 comments on the Kickstarter page alone, let alone the incredible amount of discussion this project generated on the official Paizo forums and other RPG discussion forums at the time, both from people excited about it as well as people far more skeptical about it. And I mean, how couldn?t you be excited about a game like this?

Pathfinder Online is a fantasy sandbox MMO by Goblinworks based on the Pathfinder tabletop game. It uses a unique process called ?Crowdforging? to determine what features are implemented in the game, in what order. Here is a brief list of some of the highlights of this game: 1. No Grinding- Pathfinder Online uses a skill training system like that of EVE Online. You train skills by choosing what skill you want to train and allowing the time required to elapse. You don?t train any faster by farming mobs or spamming your abilities than you do exploring the world, role playing with your friends, or even being offline. You will need to complete certain achievements to complete a skill and open up new avenues of training. 2. No Classes- Unlike other games that give you a narrow range of abilities as you train your class, in Pathfinder you gain levels in different Roles based off what you have trained. 3. Player Structures- Build your own homes, taverns, farms, and even cities! The Pathfinder Online world will be filled with places players can use to build and customize their own homes, businesses and communities. 4. More Than A Gankfest- Unlike other Open World PVP MMO?s currently on the market, Pathfinder Online actively discourages meaningless PVP. A meaningful alignment system that actually offers mechanical advantages to lawful and good aligned organizations, and a functional bounty system that allows the player to choose which players and organizations can collect the bounties they set discourages random and meaningless killing. Beyond this, the admins are taking a hard stance against ?griefing?, in which players specifically seek to ruin the experience of other players, often through using game mechanics in ways that weren?t intended. Griefing in PFO can be a bannable offence. 5. All Players are Useful- This won?t be like games where a new player has 49 health and a veteran has 49,000. The attacks from that new player won?t automatically miss the veteran. A new player will be weaker, but still able to make a meaningful contribution to combat. As a sandbox where group sizes aren?t limited, this means all players are useful, and don?t have to segregate themselves by level. 6. Trade is Meaningful- In Pathfinder Online players must manually transport items to their intended destination. Most shops are player-run, and there will be goods more abundant in or even exclusive to certain regions. Merchants, traders, and even auctioneers are all viable professions.

Do you hear that? That?s the sound of premium, grade-A bullshit being shoveled directly into your mouth. Now you might have noticed a funny word up there, ?crowdforging.? Dancey was absolutely in love with the idea and would tout it as a selling point whenever he could. So what is crowdforging exactly? Well I?m glad you asked!

Crowdforging is a commitment from Goblinworks to the Pathfinder community to engage directly, continuously, and meaningfully on all aspects of the Pathfinder Online project. Some examples of this will include ways for the community to vote on matters involving the direction, scope and pacing of development, systems to provide feedback on the design as it progresses, two-way communication between the community and the developers to ensure transparency, player councils who will represent the whole community and be consulted on a wide variety of matters both involving the design and the development of the community itself, and regular, formal communication to the community from Goblinworks that will track the progress of the game and identify places where community input is desired. Unlike a lot of traditional game designs that are delivered nearly feature-complete and where feedback from players is limited to bug hunting and mechanical balancing, Pathfinder Online will have a much more community-driven development process. Many game features will be developed and implemented based on prioritization choices made by the community and they will be added to the game through a process of continuous iteration during Beta ? the Crowdforgers who are Early Enrollees will be involved not only in playing the game but in shaping its very nature. Even after Release this process will continue and the community will remain fully engaged with the development team as we shift from building basic systems towards adding additional content and making refinements and improvements to the game.

So crowdforging is basically a convenient way to spin a game not being feature-complete as, well, a feature and not a bug. If you haven?t figured it out by now, this is basically Ryan Dancey?s entire schtick, finding the worst ideas imaginable and attempting to spin them into gold. But don?t worry, as players of the greatest MMO soon to ever exist, you?ll have a direct line of communication with the game?s robust and talented development team, consisting of?consisting of?huh, that?s weird, the Kickstarter page doesn?t actually seem to list any of the developers working on the MMO. You know who it does list though? The who?s who list of TRPG notables who Dancey tapped to work on The Emerald Spire, yet another Pathfinder sourcebook that he was using to drive funding for yet another MMO Kickstarter of his. Yes, the very same tactic he used in the tech demo KS was back on full display, encouraging devoted Pathfinder fans to pledge in order to get an exclusive sourcebook, and in addition to this they would later go on to sweeten the pot with further rewards such as tabletop miniatures and, most importandly, a pdf superpack at the $100 pledge level which contained an enormous amount of digital RPG supplements totaling over $300 if you bought them individually. In other words, yet again, Dancey was clever enough to use the lure of tabletop swag to drive up funding for his MMO project. This is honestly where a lot of later pledges came from, simply from people who were either on the fence or pledged at a lower tier but upgraded in order to get what was essentially a massive discount on a huge bundle of pdf supplements. And did it work? Welllllll, yes and no.

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As you can see, the project did successfully fund, but it did so just barely, raising $1.09 million of a $1 million goal. Cards on the table, I?ll fully admit that when this project was launched I was adamant that it would not fund. The asking price was ridiculous and there was no proof whatsoever that Dancey could deliver on all his promises, and the amount of pledges rolling in per day painted a rather anemic picture. What also didn?t help was the Daily Deals. You see, unlike many successful Kickstarters which slowly but steadily add value to the project over time encouraging people to jump in at any point, Dancey said fuck that noise and instead created a series of Daily Deals. These were exclusive in-game items (items for a game that didn?t exist yet, which had no purpose and no function yet, bear this in mind) that you could get simply by pledging to the game?but you?d only get the items from the period you pledged onward and anything that had come before? Tough luck sucker. In other words, Dancey created a Kickstarter that actively deprecated in value, discouraging late adopters by telling them ?wow, look at all the stuff you missed out on, guess you should have pledged sooner huh??

Don?t worry though, there?s a crowdforging solution for that!

Invite a friend to the Kickstarter, get a synergy bonus! After the Kickstarter ends you?ll be able to either invite or accept a Friendship link with another Pathfinder Online account. Once an invitation is accepted, both accounts will unlock a special bonus: All characters on both accounts will have the Shieldmate Mark. Any time two or more characters with the Shieldmate Mark are in a group (regardless of if the account holders are Friends or not), all the characters with the Shieldmate Mark in that group will get a synergy bonus. [?] In addition, the two Friends will get access to the Daily Deals as of the earliest pledge date of the two backers. This is a way for you to enable a Friend to get Daily Deals back to the date of your first eligibility!

So in addition to the incentive structure of the Kickstarter being entirely backwards there?s also the fact that, simply put, outside of tabletop RPG circles nobody really gives that much of a shit about Pathfinder. It?s not a game that has a robust history behind it, whose name carries a lot of immediately recognizable impact. It?s got an loyal and devoted (sometimes zealously so) fanbase and it was this fanbase that Dancey was able to string along by promising them the sun and the moon and all the stars in the sky, but outside of that niche hobby there simply wasn?t a whole lot of oomph to be had. By comparison, here?s what happens when Obsidian says they want to make a spiritual successor to the Baldur?s Gate style isometric CRPGs:

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That?s quite a difference. A million+ dollar funding goal obliterated almost instantly as word traveled around the internet HOLY FUCK OBSIDIAN IS MAKING AN ISOMETRIC CRPG GET ON THIS SHIT NOW. The hype for Pillars of Eternity was legitimate with various game journalism outlets running stories on it and numerous discussions about it all over the place. Also Obsidian actually had a number of talented game designers and programmers they could name who would be working on the project as opposed to Dancey?s secretive team of top MMO men whose names were mysteriously absent from the Kickstarter. Of course Dancey had a solution to the potential difficulties of programming a brand new MMO from scratch; they?d just use Unity. No, seriously. When Dancey talked about ?middleware platform solutions? earlier, that?s what he meant, using Unity to make a sandbox MMO. Just because they didn?t have anything even resembling the framework of a game constructed that doesn?t mean they didn?t have the presence of mind to sweeten the pot with plenty of paid add-ons right out of the gate though:

$10 ? Class PackWhen characters arrive in the River Kingdoms in Pathfinder Online, they do so with little wealth or equipment to their name. A Class Pack will provide the character with a selection of items appropriate to a lower level character of the class selected when the class pack is used. Each pack will include a weapon, a suit of armor (torso, legs, and helmet if applicable), and three or four other items of such as thieves tools, shields, boots, gloves, belts, hats, etc. One Class Pack is required per character. You may purchase this Add-On multiple times. $10 ? Honorable TitlePrior to arriving in the River Kingdoms, your character served with distinction elsewhere and was recognized for that service. You?ll be able to choose a formal title for your character of Sir, Dame, Master, Brother, Sister, Father or Mother. You will be able to control when this title is displayed to others in-game. One Honorable Title is required per character. You may purchase this Add-On multiple times. $10 ? Secret SaluteYou will have access to a special title that commemorates your participation in the Kickstarter. Titles are selectable in game and you can determine when this title is displayed to other characters. You will be able to trigger an on-command ?emote? animation available only to Kickstarter backers! A fun way to commemorate the Kickstarter and to show solidarity with other Backers in-game! All characters on your account will have these benefits. $15 ? Additional Player PackYou packed with foresight before arriving in the River Kingdoms! You?ll get an extra Player Pack that you can assign to any character you create, or sell on the in-game market to players who didn?t plan as well for their journey along the Crusader Road! One Player Pack is required per character. You may purchase this Add-On multiple times. $15 ? Regional Trait PackPlayers can purchase Regional Traits Packs for their characters that give them background elements of coming from a specific country or region in Golarion. A Region Trait Pack will provide the character with an achievement stating the country they hail from, a title, and a small mechanical effect, all based on the country of origin selected when the pack is used. Select one from: Absalom, Andoran, Cheliax, Five King?s Mountain, Galt, Katapesh, Kyonin, Lands of the Linnorm Kings, Mwangi Expanse, Osirion, Qadira, Rahadoum, The Shackles, Taldor, Ustalav, and Varisia. One Regional Trait Pack is required per character. You may purchase this Add-On multiple times. $20 ? Additional Alliance PackYour network of contacts is exceptional. As you arrive in the River Kingdoms you are able to make friends faster than your peers. You?ll get an extra Alliance Pack that you can assign to any character you create, or sell on the in-game market to players who didn?t make a great first impression. You may purchase this Add-On multiple times. (Note that each character can only gain the benefit of one Alliance Pack at a time) $20 ? The Memorial of HonorIn the middle of the Crusader Road is a mysterious structure that calls to nearby travelers. Characters who approach and are recognized elicit a display of eldritch power from the construct. Activating the structure removes unwanted disabilities that may have been inflicted in battle or by the acts of other characters. In addition, you may opt to have your real name inscribed on the monument, visible to any who choose to pause for deeper inspection. You may purchase this Add-On multiple times, once for each Character you wish to honor. $20 ? Twice-Marked of PharasmaAll characters in Pathfinder Online are marked by Pharasma and are thus able to return from the dead at the soulbinding points. You bear the same mark as all other characters but you have a second, distinctive mark as well. None know why you bear this mark, nor what it may portend in the future, but be sure that Fate has many surprises in store for those who are Twice-Chosen by the Lady of Graves. The bearer of this second Mark will have access to content and mechanical benefits distinct to those who are Twice Marked! One Twice-Marked of Pharasma Add-On is required for each character. You may purchase this Add-On multiple times. $30 ? Three Months of Game TimeExtend the subscription time included with your Reward by +3 additional months! (Limit 3 per Pathfinder Online account) $35 ? Adventurer Reward TierYou can Add-On as many Adventurer Rewards as you wish. They will not be able to play the game until the Adventurers are invited to join. They will be eligible for Daily Deals as of the date you increase your pledge by $35 increments, not the date of your first eligibility. $50 ? Miniature MultiplierGet an additional set of all the WizKids Pathfinder Battles prepainted plastic miniatures from the Crowdforger levels! You may purchase this Add-On multiple times. Available only to $100 Crowdforger Pioneer Backers (and higher). There is no shipping charge for this Add-On. $100?1 Year of Game TimeExtend the subscription time included with your Reward by +12 additional months! (Limit 1 per Pathfinder Online account) $100 ? RPG Print Pack Add-OnFor Backers who want to get the Emerald Spire Superdungeon and Flip-Mat Multi-Pack in print as well as PDF. The RPG Print Pack includes a hardcover print edition of the Emerald Spire Superdungeon, featuring an exclusive cover available only to Kickstarter backers; a print edition of the Emerald Spire Dungeons Flip-Mat Multi-Pack; a print edition of the Pathfinder Tales novel The Crusader Road; and an Emerald Spire Campaign Cards game accessory. Also includes 2 bonus Reaper metal miniatures! Add $15 for shipping to non-US addresses. Canada and Mexico are not US addresses. You may purchase this Add-On multiple times. $500 ? Hellknights Most WantedYou get all of the physical RPG products in this Kickstarter including the Emerald Spire Superdungeon hardback, the Emerald Spire Dungeon Flip-Mat Multipack, all of the Crowdforger-level Pathfinder Battles miniatures, 2 bonus Reaper metal minis a print copy of the Pathfinder Tales novel ?The Crusader Road?, and the Emerald Spire Campaign Cards game accessory. As an added bonus, you will get PDFs of the Emerald Spire Superdungeon, the Emerald Spire Dungeons Flip-Mat Multipack, and the Pathfinder Tales novel The Crusader Road. In addition, you will provide Goblinworks with a proper name for a character and a 300-word description of that character for use on a wanted poster from the Hellknights in Fort Inevitable. You will even be able to tell us what your character is wanted for in the 300-word description. We will then use Paizo?s Pathfinder artists to render a full-color head-shot of that character and then use that head-shot to create a wanted poster of your character. A PDF of all the wanted posters created with this reward add-on will be included along with the Emerald Spire Superdungeon PDF, and the wanted fugitives will appear on the random encounter charts for the Echo Wood area around Fort Inevitable and the Emerald Spire. To top it all off, you will have the opportunity to use that head-shot as a unique avatar on the paizo.com messageboards!

Only $500 for an in-game wanted poster and a unique messageboard avatar? It?d be a bargain at twice the price! I?ll take two. But what if you?re looking for something truly prestigious, something that tells the whole world that you have money to burn and that you?ve never met a bad idea you didn?t like? Well could I perhaps interest you in some virtual real estate?

Pledge $5,000 or moreCrowdforger Tavern Owner – Patrons at this level get all the Alpha level rewards, including full access to the Alpha playtest and month one access to the Beta through the Early Enrollment process. In addition, this reward gives you ownership of a tavern somewhere in the Crusader Road starting area for Pathfinder Online. This tavern will be located on one of the roads between settlements and will be a valuable stopping off point for people moving through the wilderness. The exact location will be offered to each backer on a first-backed, first choice basis. You?ll work with the Goblinworks staff to customize aspects of your tavern, including the design of an NPC ?regular? who always sits at the bar, giving customers a friendly face to see every time they come to visit. You?ll also get a chance to choose five illustrations from Paizo Publishing?s vast catalog of fantasy imagery to hang as paintings in your tavern. The Goblinworks staff will work with you to name your tavern and design a unique sign outside. Six months of upkeep costs for the tavern will be issued to your account when you start the game. As long as you pay upkeep coin for the tavern every month, it is immune to siege warfare and can never be taken away from you. Estimated delivery Jan 2016Limited 6 backers

That?s right, for only $5,000 in real, actual earth dollars you can own your very own virtual tavern in the exciting new crowdforged MMO gamesperience Pathfinder Online, brought to you by Unity. And it comes with a whole six free months of upkeep paid in advance?which means that after that runs out you have to continue paying upkeep on it or other people can destroy it or steal it from you but hey, details. Nonetheless, the Pathfinder Online Kickstarter did fund despite my skepticism at the time. Buoyed by Dancey shoveling as many pdfs, miniatures, nonexistent add-ons, and promises of MMO glory at his loyal and out-of-touch-with-reality followers who he?d convinced that all his grand ambitions weren?t in fact nothing but hot air, the Kickstarter limped across the finish line at the last minute, giving Dancey another feather he could put in his cap and pad his resume with. But now that the Kickstarter was finished and their funding was secured, all they had to do was create an award-winning, innovative, crowdforged, sandbox fantasy MMO. The hard part was over, right?


To this day I?m not really sure what Dancey?s master plan was. It?s clear that Pathfinder Online actually had some number of coders and programmers because a game of sorts did eventually wind up existing, but certainly not in any sort of form that was promised to the hopeful masses. And Dancey, a man who is absolutely in love with the sound of his own virtual voice, made a metric ton of promises to anyone and everyone about everything that Pathfinder Online would be. In a number of respects PFO was very much a proto Star Citizen, a game whose hype was largely a product of stupid people asking for unreasonable things and a slick conman telling them ?yes, absolutely.? People asked Dancey if there would be dedicated horse grooming support for those who wanted to portray stable-hands, they suggested that Time Stop spells should literally freeze the game for everyone on the game?s one single server when cast, they wanted rich and verisimilitudinous PvP combat but with absolutely no griefing or ganking I swear to god if anyone kills me without my consent, and Dancey assured everybody that PFO would be the fulfillment of all their hopes and dreams. Much like Star Citizen, the problem is that Dancey had no idea how to actually make any of this happen, or that most of it was completely ridiculous nonsense. But hey, he had two successful Kickstarters under his belt and $1.4 million dollars worth of other peoples? money, he could just figure it out as he went. The one thing that Ryan Dancey knew for certain is that he absolutely fuckin hated what he called ?theme park? MMOs, i.e. World of Warcraft. Simply Googling ?Ryan Dancey Themepark? will turn up a dozen interviews with him where he talks about how the theme park MMO is a dead end and how the innovative future of gaming lies in sandbox MMOs where players provide all the content themselves instead of people simply running through premade attractions.

During that 2003-to-now era, only one game showed consistent year-over-year growth: the science-fiction sandbox MMO EVE Online. We think there?s a huge market opportunity for a next-generation fantasy sandbox MMO, and that?s why we?re doing Pathfinder Online.The sandbox development model is very different from the themepark model. Instead of trying to make hundreds of hours of content, for a sandbox you focus on developing really great systems that let players do interesting things and especially interesting things with each other. We have made ?maximizing meaningful human interaction? the key to our development process. That lets us make a game much faster, with a much smaller team on a much smaller budget. We get the game into the hands of players much more quickly, and we can develop the features of the game with the players in real-time, a process we call Crowdforging, which means that we get the benefit of all their accumulated knowledge on what works and doesn?t work in the MMO space as well as that of our own development team.Sandbox MMOs are the wave of the future.

This is a refrain you would see time and again, themeparks bad, sandbox good. Part of this is almost certainly due to the fact that Ryan Dancey used to work for CCP who run what is probably the most successful sandbox MMO out there, EVE Online. Everybody?s probably heard about how EVE is this incredible wellspring of hilarious stories of space libertarian ultra-capitalism run amok and the emergent gameplay that arises as a result, but the problem with this is twofold. First, EVE?s setting works well for a big empty sandbox because it takes place in the big empty void of space where your character model is a spaceship with very few if any moving parts, not a fantasy setting where people expect to see castles and cities and exotic locations and a bajillion magical creatures, and secondly, EVE gives rise to emergent gameplay because of the way that the actual mechanical underpinnings of the game come together, interact, and allow people to hilariously exploit the shit out of them. In other words, making a sandbox game is more than just about giving people a big empty box to run around in, you have to fill it with sand too. Dancey?s plan for PFO relied on creating the box first and then letting his suckers, excuse me, his loyal customers tell him what sand needed to be added and where. There was another benefit to constantly slagging off on World of Warcraft though. I haven?t really touched upon it until now because it wasn?t really relevant to anything but the Pathfinder tabletop RPG came out shortly after Wizards of the Coast put out the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Remember that Pathfinder was essentially a serial-numbers-filed-off version of 3rd edition D&D that Paizo ripped off liberated from WotC and made their own thanks to the Open Game License which happened to be Dancey?s own creation. What this resulted in was an extremely acrimonious and incredibly stupid edition war as adherents of the prior edition now had a way to simply shift their loyalties directly over to another publisher without missing a beat. And one of the common insults directed at 4th edition D&D by people who held Pathfinder up as superior is that 4E was simply ?World of Warcraft on paper,? meaning it was kiddified, dumbed down for casual trash, etc. So Dancey constantly positioning PFO as being set against WoW in that regard actually helped galvanize his true believers because it was a narrative that they were already predisposed to buy into; WoW = bad, things not like WoW = good, PFO = not like WoW, therefore PFO = the most amazing game ever. This is the magic of Ryan Dancey, he?s an idiot and he?s a liar but he?s constantly able to talk people into supporting the absolutely dumbest ideas imaginable and making them feel good about it. Speaking of stupid ideas, let?s talk about one of the bigger ones. Now Pathfinder has its own setting called Golarion and in an instance of peak comedic irony Golarion is about as themepark-y as it gets. You have Viking Land and Japan Land and Tribal African Stereotype Land and French Revolution All the Time Land and just every fantasy cliche in the world all mashed together in a great big wad that Paizo can perpetually write RPG adventures in this setting simply by picking a place and zooming in. Paizo is in fact probably more widely known for their adventure paths than they are for anything else, it was what they used to publish back before they went into business for themselves and they kept the tradition alive once they started publishing Pathfinder. So what does Ryan Dancey, bold visionary MMO marketing genius do? He sets the game smack dab in the middle of fucking nowhere. Just a generic expanse of wooded nothingness without any of the setting?s signature locales to explore or interact with. So already things are off to a great start. At this point it?s hard for me to find a lot of information about PFO?s development over the following 2?3 years, but rest assured development of a sort did happen. How else would you get incredible videos like this from 2013 showing how things were progressing? Please note how comments have been disabled, always a sign of confidence in one?s work. But while his crack team of MMO designers were hard at work, this meant that Dancey had plenty of time to engage in his favorite pursuit, posting stupid shit on the internet, such as his stance on Goons (a nickname for members of the Something Awful forums, infamous for their exploits in numerous games such as EVE Online) and the fear thereof among PFO?s players, perpetually afraid of being griefed:

I know exactly why the Goons came to EVE. They?ll not find the laissez faire reception in Pathfinder Online that they did from CCP. We have to treat the Goons, and folks like them with the Litany Against Fear. (Or maybe the Serenity Prayer) I play a lot of poker. There?s almost nothing in the ?rules of poker? about player behavior. (Well, the WSOP seems to be going down that route; maybe they?ll wise up before it gets out of hand, but I digress). In poker there?s all sorts of behavior that isn?t pleasant, but also doesn?t break the community standards for behavior. On the other hand, there are such standards and if you?ve been around that world for even a short period of time, you?ll see them and you?ll see them enforced. This situation evolved because the people who created that world had very strict personal standards for what was and was not OK, and they used the tools at their disposal to embue poker society with those same standards. They perpetuate themselves because most people in the community prefer those standards to a ?be as jerky as you want as long as you don?t violate the letter of the law? society. Some of that is enforced by the host of the game. Some is enforced by the dealer at the table. Some is enforced by other players. Some is enforced by the community as a whole. Multi-layered, multi-faceted. And it evolves. Behavior towards women that was accepted in the past is often not today; poker society adapts. New faces show up who have little direct experience with their community except the medium of chat boxes and maybe discussion forums; yet they are swiftly mainstreamed (or the community violently rejects them and they drift away).

Poker?s not the answer for MMOs but it?s an example of a community where there?s a lot of hard core competition and mind games and even some pain and suffering that has not allowed itself to degenerate the way some MMOs have; or walled itself off behind attempts to make rules for human behavior that anticipate every kind of wrongdoing and the process for redressing those grievances. Only in MMOs (in my experience) is the intolerable tolerated. Like I said, it?s the Original Sin of the format. It has tainted and warped the field since Ultima Online (and really, even before in some respects). A key rule of business is that you look for need/gaps. Things people want but that they can?t get. Giving folks a game where there is PvP, but not grief, seems to be to be a valuable need/gap.

Or how about discussing game design:

I think that what perhaps what people are missing is the critical factor of feedback. Most people need guidelines and clear references to understand how their actions influence the results they obtain. Especially when you are talking about something as abstract as an MMO. My thesis is that a bright, simple, clear guideline is needed to help people make good choices (?good? defined as ?generating results that are generally in-line with my expectations and desires?) A second thesis is that a lot of people will come to Pathfinder Online with two incorrect preconceptions about the way the game is played. Those two preconceptions are: 1: Open World PvP implies a murder simulator 2: Killing early, often, and without discrimination is the route to long-term success These two preconceptions mutually reinforce each other. If #2 is true, #1 is inevitable. This is the trap that game after game after game fell into. (Sometimes they didn?t ?fall? into it as much as they embraced it as a design paradigm on purpose.) We are going to break this pattern and we are going to redefine those preconceptions. In order to do that we must repeatedly and powerfully shock the system. One of those shocks is a negative feedback loop that links random killing to gimping character development. Another, related problem is community toxicity. Observation tells us that toxicity proceeds from a sense of external fairness and justice not applying inside the game world simulation. 90% of people want to be treated fairly and justly. But the anonymous internet lets a small group of sociopaths act unfairly and unjustly ? and those actions, if not harshly countered, leads a larger (but still small) group of people to act out power fantasies and work out issues they can?t resolve in real life with aggression. The result is that the majority feels they are subjected to unfair and unjust experiences. And they leave. We are going to actively attack community toxicity from the grass roots up. As I?ve said before there is no silver bullet to this problem. The approach we?re going to use is a multi-layered approach. One of those layers is giving people an extremely clear message about their in-game behavior. If they act badly as defined by the desires of 90% of the community their bad actions will hurt their in-game power level. I feel reasonably confident I can proxy my opinion for what 90% of the people I intend to sell this game to want. We have lots of time to make minor adjustments and consider corner cases. So the reason we?re making a funnel of suck is to make it possible for our players to clearly see it, clearly understand its consequences, clearly understand how their in-game actions relate to that funnel, and clearly see that they can be and will be affected by it. And we accept up front that as a result there are some people who will be so frustrated by the straightjacket that they cannot be satisfied and happy within that system. And that?s OK.

Maybe some sports metaphors while we?re at it?

I think the hardest problem in MMOs today is PvP. It?s easy, as you say, to have ?lazy PvP? which degenerates into a gankfest and drives everyone but the sociopaths out of the game. We are attempting something much harder. We want PvP in our game to be like tackling in an NFL game. No matter how much you tackle, you can?t win. You only win by getting points on the board. In our game, PvP may be something that is happening all the time, but it?s happening for a reason, as players seek to achieve higher, more meaningful goals. To the degree we?ve seen success in that so far (and I think we have) we?re proving that PvP doesn?t have to blow out everything else in the game. As to competitive pricing, that?s something you do when you think your product would sell better at a lower price. I?m not convinced that there?s much price elasticity in the MMO market. I?m not saying there isn?t, I?m just saying I?m not convinced.

And of course, the important task of taking the time to interact with the public:

@AvenaOats ? some constructive feedback. I think you have interesting things to say. I am not reading them. Your posts are too long and lack pithiness. If you could condense your points to a few sentances you would have a wider audience, at least wider by one. I am as guilty if this problem as anyone so I recognize a fellow member of the excessive verbosity tribe. A boss I once had told me that if he had to scroll to read my email, he deleted it. Changed my style to accomodate. Reccomend you consider the same.

The first real actual openly playable state of the game for the general populace appears to have been around January 2015 as seen in this video here. Note that this video describes the state of the game as being two years into a five year plan (Dancey had originally stated that it would be a four year plan in the Kickstarter FAQ) which means we have the official final Pathfinder Online full-fledged release to look forward to sometime in 2018 assuming they can work all the bugs out before then. Bugs? Just a few minor things really, like the fact that the devs apparently don?t know how to make it so that obstructions block enemy line-of-sight which means they can?t create any indoor combat environments.

There are lots of problems with implementing dungeons. Unity is not one of them. Dungeons require us to have built a lot of art assets and environments. They require more AI programming. They require us to build more camera tech to deal with interior spaces. We have to write tech to manage the sorts of things you will expect in dungeons like doors, locks, switches, etc. We have to deal with the issues of line of sight and the load on the video system. It is almost like making another whole game. We just don?t have the time or resources to work on that yet.

Oh, and they?re having some trouble figuring out how to get vaults and secure holdings working as intended:

We have been considering a series of steps whereby a user might lose access to a Smallholding and wanted to make you all aware of that potential so that you can avoid accidentally costing yourself access to a $200 item. Here?s the chain of events we?re worried about : You put a Smallholding deed into the shared vault of another Smallholding.That Smallholding is torn down with the deed inside it?s vault At this juncture, we believe the deed exists in a database entry for that hex, tied to the character who owned the Smallholding. If that character, and only that character erects a Smallholding in that hex and only in that hex we think the deed will be visible in the Smallholding?s shared storage vault. If you don?t know which character built the original Smallholding, the deed might be lost forever in fact, even if not technically. Which means that if that character is deleted, that deed could be lost forever. It is a virtual certainty that the same problems will be associated with Holding Vaults and eventually with Settlement Vaults. Until such time as we get some more advanced tech to manipulate vaults that are no longer connected to structures, be aware that if you lost access to a vault, for whatever reason, you might also lose access to your deed.

And this isn?t counting the massive laundry lists of issues that might not be bugs in the strictest sense but basically render the game an unplayable mess by any but the most die-hard and devout true believers. Probably the single best illustration of Pathfinder Online I could find comes, believe it or not, from the comments section of this YouTube video, in something I like to call ?Pathfinder Online: A Play in Two Acts.?

rumple stiltkskin1 year ago Here?s the current state of PFO for August 1, 2015: -There are no NPC?s to buy or sell. Good luck selling anything above 1 copper in an insanely saturated market.-The auction houses are already being strip mined and stock-marketized.-You can be attacked anywhere, at any time, by anyone.-You cannot obtain wearable combat or crafting gear directly from monsters. At all, in any way. The deterrent for killing players is effectively zero, once your character has reached the point where you?re waiting weeks in between training, as all reputation consequences, no matter how bad, recover in less than a week.-There is no item repair.-There is no fast travel.-There are no mounts.-There are currently no plans to implement item repair, fast travel, or mounts, prior to 2016.-All gear lasts at most 20 deaths.-It takes days or weeks to create a full set of gear.-It takes days or weeks to gather the raw materials required for a single piece of gear.-It takes hours or days to refine the raw materials into components for final crafting.-You cannot craft everything by yourself, in practice. If anyone makes this claim, they?re lying or misrepresenting the truth.-Crafting requires more XP investment than combat. You cannot be both on the same character and advance at a meaningful rate. Again, anyone that says otherwise is misrepresenting the truth.-There are no money sinks, and no, it?s not crafting, because crafting times are so long, there?s no loop there.-XP is only gained by the passage of time. How much you play has almost no impact on character power.-The veterans playing this game have been (and will always) accumulating XP since Jan 1, 2015.-As a result, you can never catch up, unless you buy a veteran account created on Jan 1, 2015.-Goblinworks current stance is ?they will never sell XP?. Sure. Just like Alganon, right?-The graphics engine is 10 years old, and it shows.-You cannot transfer items between characters. Not that you would need to? because?-Only one character at a time can gain XP, per account.-As a result of the above, almost all veterans have multiple accounts. There is an anecdote of one veteran having 40 accounts to ensure their domination of the crafting market, given the ?time is power? paradigm in play.-Banks are local for items, global for cash. This means you must carry everything from one place to another. Good luck with that.-It takes over an hour of non-stop running in one direction to cross the current map in a single line.-When you die, there is a 25% chance, per item, the item will disappear.-Anyone can loot anything off your corpse, with zero consequence to the looter.-Currently, PvE combat is a combination of leashing and kiting. There is no more strategies than that.-PvE combat is the only way to acquire money.-Crafting times (above) are so long, no-one wants to risk their gear. The economy, as a result, is completely utterly broken, despite the claim it was going to be the driver for everything in the game.-There have been dupe bugs for all items that have been permitted to remain. As a result, most veteran companies (guilds) have thousands of mats that would require years to accumulate otherwise.-No in-game mail.-No in-game guild (company) chat.-No friends list.-No logging. No combat log. You can?t even see the damage you do unless you think watching quickly fading floaty numbers is acceptable in 2015.-No multi-group UI. No raid interface. No raids.-No dungeons. No caves. No underground areas of any kind. No towers. No interior exploration, combat, or similar environment of any kind.-Exactly one building type has an interior space. One. Everything else, no doors, no windows, no exterior/interior.-No ?other players map pins? visibility.-Harvesting uses spawned nodes, like it?s 15 years ago or something. Yes, really. I know, but yes, they really really are. On the plus side, there aren?t enough nodes, diminishing returns kicks in insanely quickly, and you can?t even discern one node type from another, on the mini-map.-Respawn only works if players aren?t in Line-of-Sight of the respawn location. (no, i?m not joking)-NPC?s can?t even walk up or down steep slopes, but the AI is so bad, they just stand there, allowing uncountable exploits.-There is no mechanic that I have seen in this game that isn?t in another game, done better. In other words, there is no aspect to PFO that makes it distinct, unique, innovative, or better than any other game. As such, it makes it extraordinarily difficult to attract and retain new players.-The developers, CEO, designers and programmers absolutely refuse, in any way, to consider making changes to attract a wider demographic. Their target audience is 4000 players. Yes, really. There?s fewer than 100 unique players active per day, today, and the target launch date is January 2016. Pretty easy to see this is already a fail just taking a long time to die.-This is not a sandbox game. Sandbox games require sand, and there is no sand here. None. Zero. Community activity outside the game? That?s not sand, but that?s about all this game has going for it, at the moment. Everything in this game is on rails. People claiming you can choose? Sure, if you want to wait 5+ years (not exaggerating even slightly) for an effective character, or, guess what, you ride the rails and are effective within three months, at best. But don?t tell anyone, because the vets get testy when you don?t have to make the same mistakes they did?. yeah.-There is no meaningful feat customization beyond waiting days or weeks to improve to another rank.-Stat increases are purely gates to feat improvements, and require illogical and counter-intuitive investment of XP (time), again, further proving this is an on-rails no-sand game. Stats, in and of themselves, have no impact on combat or crafting.-PvP is ridiculously contrived, has no point, victimizes the losers, offers nothing to the victors in any meaningful way, and appears to be entirely ?ganking for the lolz? at the moment.-Pretty much every particle effect in the game is in some way illogical, broken or buggy. Placeholders after a year? Sure, that?ll keep the customers rolling in.-No animation emotes.-No custom flavor text emotes.-PvP entirely favors attackers, and not defenders, in any non 1v1 situation. (as far as politics, world-pvp, RvR, outposts, settlements, etc.)-It takes no time to destroy ?permanent? structures, and insanely long times and resources to build them. Destruction does not create resources for the victor. World War for the lolz, anyone?-All Area-Of-Effect combat feats heal enemies and harm allies. Not joking, at all, even a little bit. If you AE heal, it HEALS THE MONSTER/PvP enemy, too. Fireball? Yeah, it harms all your group mates. The best part? Working as intended. To summarize, all the inconvenience of every game that has discarded all those terrible mechanics, intentionally not learning from history, and attempting to justify it all as ?EVE with swords? missing the entire premise of EVE: It only works because it?s in space.You will not like playing this game, now, or in the next year. Beware.

And the response:

UnknownXV1 year ago +rumple stiltkskin All the inconveniences you mentioned are good things. They ensure that the gaming experience is meaningful. If you want an easy game, go play any of the thousands of safe, convenient themepark mmos out there.

For Sale, MMO, Never Played

The Pathfinder fanbase is, in my personal experience, chock-full of people primed to be True Believers, and when you mix that with the way they lionized Ryan Dancey for being the patron saint of the OGL along with Dancey?s natural hucksterism promising them that all their virtual holodeck fantasies were about to be made manifest and you wound up with a lot of people like UnknownXV, eager to insist that every flaw was actually a feature or, at the very least, that everything would be expertly fixed up and polished to a mirror sheen. It?s hard to hold the people who funded Pathfinder Online accountable for anything because it?s hard to tell how many were actually interested in dreams of a ludicrously improbably budgeted MMO and how many were simply in it for the massively discounted RPG supplements, miniatures, and secret handshakes, that and it also feels a bit too much like blaming the victim of a con artist for being ripped off, but nonetheless the Pathfinder Online section of the Paizo forums was, and perhaps still is, home to some of the dumbest motherfuckers around until Chris Roberts came along and said ?hold my beer.? At this point in the timeline the game has come out and it?s bad. I linked a couple videos in the last post to give you a taste of it but here, have another just so you can see for yourselves that yep, this game sucks. Pretty much every video for PFO you?ll find follows the same general theme of stiffly animated characters running through a generic Playstation 2 era forest killing goblins, because that?s basically all the gameplay there is aside from PvP which isn?t any more interesting. None of the promises that Dancey made to the faithful were actually present in any form?there was no meaningful alignment system which would prevent griefing and ganking for the lulz, there was no rich, robust trading and crafting system, no horse grooming simulator, there weren?t even any dungeons because, again, the programming team couldn?t figure out how to obstruct enemy LoS with obstacles making indoor combat areas impossible. Needless the say, the launch of the early enrollment version of the game was not the runaway success that people had hoped for.

Ryan Dancey, the Steve Jobs of etc. etc.

I wanted to make a new thread about this to keep the key points visible. In my opinion, Settlement recruiting activities in the wider MMO community continue to be almost zero. With the exception of Fandis Goldbraid, Phyllain and Pinosaur, recruiting efforts visible to me in those venues are non-existent. Collectively we need to be raising awareness about individual Settlement AWESOME. We need more recruiting on reddit: * /r/Games where people talk about videogames of all kinds.* /r/MMORPG where people talk about MMOs in particular.* /r/PathfinderOnline where people are talking about Pathfinder Online in particular. We need it on the MMO news sites: MMORPG.com ? especially the Pathfinder Online section!. Also, MMORPG?s ?Hype? list has a lot of cache and seeing Pathfinder Online move up those rankings will be a huge boost to our efforts and yours! Massively Overpowered is the new site from the people who used to run the Massively site in the Joystiq network. Same editorial team, same focus, now operating independently. Ten Ton Hammer has been a successful place for us to interact with MMO fans and we had a very good response from advertising and editorial with them during our Kickstarter. We need recruiting activity in the EVE community. I don?t know what the best vehicle is for that, so any and all suggestions are welcome. Settlements that are committed to growing should have someone delegated to be visible in these places making regular posts and talking about the cool stuff their Settlement is doing. When the wider community sees activity and fun, that is a powerful attractant.

A Paizo Forums Poster responds:

Ryan, I strongly feel that mass recruiting efforts now are premature. The kind of people we?d be able to pick up from the mainstream sites are people who will login for a week, see a game which is very immature, draw incorrect conclusions, and never come back. The longterm success of the game will be much better if we wait to recruit those people until we have a chance to actually keep them. Don?t eat your seed corn.

Ryan Dancey:

People are talking about us. If we don?t participate, all that gets transmitted is a one-sided, usually inaccurate message. Engagement is crucial. For example, do you want this to go unchallenged?

In order to fully participate in the Holding / Outpost aspects of the game that was just added, you will most likely have to join one of the three main settlements or their alliance. Actually getting to own and run an outpost / holding requires that you run escalations and defeat the escalation bosses. Only the larger populated settlements can run these, and at the same time ensure that no one kill steals the escalation boss. You can actually spend hours running an escalation and by a stroke of luck, another team can spot the boss before your group and kill it (getting all of the rewards, including the resources needed to build an outpost / holding). So the meaning of this sandbox is, the content is only if you join one of the big boys.

I don?t. But there is a difference between the CEO saying [this user] is wrong, and players who represent Settlements and can offer support for their objections saying he is wrong.

Another Paizo Forums Poster adds:

But how is he wrong? From what I understand he?s correct.

Oof. Yet more people have concerns about the state of the game, but thankfully Ryan Dancey is there to expertly handle the situation:

A Concerned Pathfinder Online Citizen asks

Is it possible for someone to start a new account and create one or more 15 day trial characters, then have them join a Company, thereby raising the max Influence cap of that Company, then just leave the characters there to keep the max up but never subscribe? Wouldn?t that make even having an influence cap pointless? If GW wants to keep the Company influence cap then it may be a good idea to prevent a trial character from raising the cap or contributing influence until the account they are attached to subscribes. They should still be able to join a Company as a trial character since legit new players will likely stay in the game longer if they are able to do so while trying out the game, but they should not affect a Company?s influence at all until they subscribe. If this isn?t even possible then no worries!

Ryan Dancey responds:

Policy: Don?t do it.

Another Concerned Citizen:

Considering the intent behind such actions is practically undetectable, will Goblinworks be investigating mechanically preventing this sort of thing?

Ryan Dancey again:


This sort of thing was actually fairly commonplace since given the fact that Pathfinder Online didn?t possess many of what people in the game industry often refer to as ?features,? large swathes of the game were expected to work on the honor system. Here?s a rare post from Lisa Stevens, who remember isn?t technically a part of Goblinworks the legally-distinct-from-Paizo-company-we-swear, weighing in on the matter of someone being ganked while AFK and then getting spawncamped.

Shrine Camping is NEVER something we should allow in the game. I disagree 1000% that there is ever a reason where Shrine Camping should be allowed. I agree that there are tech solutions which will solve a lot of these issues, although no tech solution is ever perfect. I can?t get those tech issues into the game fast. I would love it if the community decided that you just shouldn?t battle near shrines. That would be awesome. In my mind, clear-cut Shrine Camping is when you aggressively attack a person who has rezzed at a shrine with the intent of not letting them escape until their gear is broken. The key here is aggressive and not letting them escape. But I don?t want to see folks taking advantage of the fact that you should NEVER Shrine Camp to think of them as safe havens in enemy territory. Doing that is just as bad in my opinion. Could we say that once you rez at a shrine, you should leave that area immediately? The community feel in Pathfinder Online is what we make of it. Play fair and don?t be a dick. If I think you are abusing this policy or the game mechanics in regards to shrines, then you will get a warning. I think that both parties in the incident on Wednesday could have handled things better. Being AFK in enemy territory is just stupid, but I think the Phaeros folks could have left him alone once they realize he wasn?t reacting. Both sides erred in my opinion. Let?s learn from this. -Lisa

Bear in mind that at this time people were actually paying monthly subscription fees to play this game. Like they were forking over actual cash money each and every month for the privilege of playing a game where the only protection against getting aggressively spawncamped until their gear broke was someone posting a message to the forums encouraging everyone to play nice. The bloom was coming off the rose for more than just the subscribers though, as reviews, or at least one review from MMORPG.com, started trickling in:

You may be wondering where my (Bill Murphy?s) review is for Pathfinder Online. As I mentioned a while ago in a comment, I just can?t bring myself to play the game anymore, and I don?t feel I?ve given it enough time to really put a score on it. So, like a boss, I?m torturing our own Steven Messner with the task of going in with fresh eyes to see how he feels about the game. Read on for his own first impressions and more of my reasoning behind switching writers. As I said in one of my review in progress pieces, I know and like Ryan Dancey as a person. Being the CEO of Goblinworks, I?m beginning to feel like I?m too close to the game to give it a fully unbiased review. That said, flat out, if I were to score it today? I?d probably give it in the lower half of the ?Out of Ten? scale we use. Still, I want Steven, someone completely new to the game and thorough as a writer to give this one a look. In about two weeks he?ll give us his final review, and we?ll see where he ends up. I have a sneaking suspicion that he won?t be far off from what I feel.

The final review score given to PFO on MMORPG.com would be a 4.5 out of 10, prompting Ryan Dancey to take to Reddit to air his frustrations with the state of video game journalism.

It frustrates me that there doesn?t seem to be any way to review the game objectively. Most of the people who would write a review for a big site like mmorpg.com aren?t the target market for the game, and most of the target market for the game doesn?t have the connections to get asked to write a review. I?ve told my friends in the press (not just mmorpg but a bunch of them) that they should try to find someone who sees value in the Crowdforging experience to do the review. That?s hard for them, because they actually get to ?Crowdforge? MMOs quite often. They?re in very early and see the behind-the-scenes work before the public and are often asked for their input and opinions. So to a lot of those folks the opportunity to do that is very ?meh?. But it?s not reflective of the audience, who rarely, if ever, get the kind of access we?re giving people and the kind of impact that generates. If you devalue ?Crowdforging? to zero, you can?t review what we?re selling very objectively.

All right, all right, so the game (such as it is) is a technical mess devoid of features, wide open to griefing and exploitation with nothing in place to prevent any of it from happening, and even Dancey?s friends can?t bring themselves to review the game favorably, but genius is always misunderstood in its time. Surely with Ryan Dancey?s bold, visionary leadership at the helm and the commitment of the Goblinworks team to crafting the greatest crowdforged sandbox fantasy MMO in Unity the world has ever seen, surely it wouldn?t be long before-


Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens has announced to Pathfinder Online supporters that the majority of the Goblinworks team working on the game has been laid off. We knew we needed a certain amount of money to finish to build the game, and we came really damn close, but we just couldn?t find the last bit of funding that we needed. [?] Last Friday, we had to lay off most of the staff. [?] I couldn?t pay them anymore. We gave them lots of warning, so they all knew this was coming. CTO Mark Kalms, Art Director Mike Hines, and Designer Bob Settles are all that remain of the studio. According to Stevens, Goblinworks CEO Ryan Dancey left the company two weeks ago for personal reasons unrelated to the layoffs.

Oh. On September 2nd 2015 Lisa Stevens posted an an open community address to the Goblinworks blog outlining the current situation. It?s too long to quote in its entirety, you can go and read it for yourself if you?d like, but the tl;dr summary is thus:

  • Funding is tight. ?Some delays in getting the game to market coupled with some anticipated funding falling through have left us about 25% short of the money we need to finish the game? tight. This prompted the layoffs of nearly every Goblinworks staff member save for three.
  • The current number of subscribers and their monthly subscription fees are, however, enough to keep these three people employed and the servers active for as long as the subscription fees continue to come in.
  • Ryan Dancey has left Goblinworks for ?personal reasons.? Nonethelsss, ?while Ryan has needed to leave the company for personal reasons, he is still a major shareholder and has a strong desire to see Pathfinder Online succeed. He has graciously made himself available for consultation as needed by the team.?
  • Lisa Stevens is now the acting CEO of Goblinworks as appointed by the board of directors (did you know Goblinworks had a board of directors? You do now!)

So remember wayyyyyy back where I said that Stevens had Goblinworks established as a means to keep Paizo?s fortunes separate from the inevitable tire fire that PFO was bound to become? If trusting Ryan Dancey to milk her customer base for $1.4 million to make a pie-in-the-sky MMO was her first mistake, taking over as the head of PFO herself was her second. This would have been a perfect opportunity to simply let the game die, chalk it up to a learning experience, and wash her hands of it, but whether out of loyalty to her devoted fans, a sense of personal responsibility for the situation, or sheer dumb stubbornness in the face of the obvious, Lisa Stevens decided instead to pick up what remained of Pathfinder Online and hang it around her own neck. As for Ryan Dancey, he left no final address to the people whose money he squandered, no summary or personal account of how things had gotten to this state, and certainly nothing like an apology. His departure from the project was relayed second-hand by articles and coworkers. Like usual, Dancey had stuck around just long enough to irreparably fuck things up for everyone involved, and with his work done he rode off into the sunset chasing the next innovative opportunity of a lifetime while leaving everybody else holding the bag. Say what you will, but at least he?s consistent.


Pathfinder Online somehow remains online to this day. As of yet, none of the promised features, or any features for that matter, have been implemented to the best of my knowledge. Goblinworks has slowly, but steadily, been subsumed by Paizo in an official capacity, putting the lie to the idea that the two companies were ever actually distinct entities?billing now goes through Paizo instead of Goblinworks, for instance. Lisa Stevens is still the acting, and effectively official, CEO of Goblinworks-in-name-only. Periodic blog updates were posted hinting that Goblinworks was in negotiations with a secretive prospective investor referred to only as NewCorp but unforeseen difficulties continued to push this back over and over again. On March 17th 2017, a blog update was posted titled The Road Forward.

Hello players of Pathfinder Online! Lisa here, with a sizeable update and roadmap into the future. As many of you recall from my last address, I had hired an electronic game agent to look at the game and then come back to me with their recommendations. After spending almost a month analyzing the game, they presented me with their results. There was good and bad news given in this briefing. The bad news was that they didn?t feel that there were any large MMO companies that would be willing to put large sums of money into finishing the game. However, they felt that the game as implemented with the addition of some of the missing features would fill a niche in the marketplace quite nicely and felt that there was upside there for a more indie type company. They presented me with a list of companies for whom that might be a nice fit and I gave them permission to pursue talking to them. But their biggest recommendation to me was to just finish the game myself. They felt there was a sizeable upside for Paizo. I was very hesitant to do this at first, but was determined to see what it might take financially to realize their vision. After doing some analysis I decided that it was time to not sit on the sidelines anymore waiting for a white knight to swoop in. Instead, I am committing to a one year timeline to finish off the following list of features that will finish out a feature set that I feel represents the game well. At that point, we will move the game out of Early Enrollment and hopefully be able to expand our staff and continue to add to the game as we always planned to. To be perfectly upfront, we are going to have a very small team working on these features. Cole and Bob are onboard along with myself to bring these across the finish line. Because we have this small, scrappy team, we aren?t aiming to compete with the AAA MMOs of the world. Rather, we will be more of an indie MMO aiming at providing a fun and engaging game to a more niche market. While creating the following list of features to work on, I had a number of factors to consider. -I looked for features where a considerable amount of work had already been done and it would only take a small amount of work to bring those features into the game. Settlement building upgrades are a great example of this. We had an environmental artist working on these for two years and much of his output has never been seen in the game. -I looked for features that activate elements that currently don?t work in the game. There is nothing as frustrating for a new player as being told, ?Oh, that isn?t implemented in the game yet? when they encounter a feat or recipe or something else. Great examples of this are the ammo system or the gods. -I looked for features that will make it much easier for new players to learn the game and increase the probability that they will stick with the game. A great example of this is that we are going to create a Core Rulebook for the game which will serve as a way to not only learn the game but also as a great offline reference while you play the game. -I looked for features that helped to fill out the robustness of a facet of the game. Gushers for gathering and Alliances and Blacklists for settlement control are great examples. -I looked for ways to bring more revenue in for us to grow the operations through a more robust cash shop. Player owned houses is a great example here.

-Finally, I wanted to deliver on some of the Kickstarter promises. Giving out the daily deals is a great example. Bob, Cole and I then sat down with a pretty exhaustive list of things we would like to do and we debated how we could accomplish them and how long it would take. We only have a limited amount of both time and labor, so we had to look for the biggest bang for the buck. The end result of that debate is the roadmap below. We have worked to provide a release schedule and an idea of the timing of each release to provide you with a clearer path about when you might expect new things to enter the game. As always, we will be crowdforging those features as we start to work on them to glean the experiences of the players. To get this work done on time and on budget, we are going to need to be laser focused. It is going to take a gargantuan effort by this team. But with your support and continued input, we believe that it can be done. We have set up our roadmap so that it has some flex time where we will try to get more done than is represented on the map below. Many of these additional things will be related to various Kickstarter perks. Others are fun things that we would like to see added to the game but aren?t essential. Of course, finishing out the feature set is only one half of the equation. We need quite a few more people playing the game for all of this to work. Thankfully, I have various marketing efforts planned that will bring in tens of thousands of people to try out the game. I just need to make sure that when I kick those plans into effect, that the game is to a point where they will have the best chance of sticking and becoming regular players. We aren?t at that point yet and it may take a half year or more before I am ready to bring a lot more players. But I wanted you to know that it will be coming as part of this takeover of the game by Paizo. We felt that you needed this update and this roadmap. You have been so supportive of this game without any clear idea of what was going to get done, if ever, and heck, even if the game was going to survive another month. Well, those times of uncertainty are over. Again, I would like to thank you for your support and encouragement over the past years. I hope to make you proud to be a supporter of this game. -Lisa StevensCEOPaizo Inc.

Nobody, it seems, is interested in salvaging Pathfinder Online. There will be no angel investors swooping in to save the day, no lottery winners with more money than sense, Notch won?t be taking a break from shitposting on Twitter to turn things around. Lisa Stevens is committed to lying in the bed that Ryan Dancey made, for good or for ill. The blogpost itself gives a more extensive breakdown of the roadmap they?ve set for themselves. By May of 2017 their goal was to make it so that enemies would attack all nearby characters, not just those in a party. By January of 2018 they want to have friends lists. As for Ryan Dancey, according to his Linkedin he became Director at Alderac Entertainment Group in September of 2015 where he?s remained to the present day. Sharp-eyed readers may recognized Alderac Entertainment as the company that Dancey himself helped found back in the mid-90?s to produce and publish the Legend of the 5 Rings CCG, which means he?s come full circle all the way back to his roots. However Alderac no longer owns L5R actually?in the very same month they sold the rights to it to Fantasy Flight Games, who are now in the process of rebooting it as a non-collectable Living Card Game. To the best of my limited research Dancey was not actually involved in this decision, though it would be funny if he was. These days Alderac isn?t involved in anything terrible big or exciting. They publish Smash Up, Love Letter, Thunderstone, and a couple dozen other games that for the most part nobody has ever heard of or cared about. Ryan Dancey seems to spend most of his time talking about politics on Twitter, saying absolutely nothing whatsoever about games of any sort, let alone Pathfinder Online, but I have every confidence that a man of innumerable talents such as himself can?t be kept down for long. UnknownXV logged off of Pathfinder Online one day and was never heard from again. His whereabouts remain a mystery.


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