Driven by a dedicated fanbase, superhero-based MMORPG City of Titans finished its Kickstarter campaign this week with about $678,000—more than twice its funding goal.
Developer Missing Worlds Media is a group of fans of City of Heroes, the first MMORPG to feature a superhero setting and characters, who wanted to fill the void in the genre after City of Heroes shut down in late 2012 with the closing of its developer, Paragon Studios.
For the eight-and-a-half years of its existence, City of Heroes had an enthusiastic fan following (as evidenced by this account of its final night) and persisted in a genre where many games struggle to maintain an audience.
City of Titans was conceived as a spiritual successor to City of Heroes, but the developers stress that it is a not a clone of the old favorite.
“We have an opportunity here to build a modern game, respectful of the play style, lessons, and fun of the old game, while taking advantage of the more than ten years of industry development since our spiritual predecessor started development,” said the project creators on their Kickstarter page.
Missing Worlds Media is staffed entirely by volunteers, with more than 100 people working on the game.
City of Titans is slated for release in November 2015. The plan is for the game to be sold through its website and other digital distribution platforms such as Steam. It will be free to play but will include “VIP” subscriptions with premium features.
The concept of a community-driven game is the kind of utopian idea Kickstarter champions. Though it does tend to have a store-like quality about its projects, Kickstarter wants to promote feelings of community between creators and backers.
I generally do not feel like Kickstarter facilitates all that much of a participatory culture between parties (did people feel like they were creating Cards Against Humanity, or did they just want a good deal on a cool-sounding game?), but fan influence on City of Titans seems exceptional.
An online multiplayer game made by a fan community of people each contributing their skills to an interactive whole? Henry Jenkins would lose sleep from all the excitement.
Some wonder if the creators, having limited experience with the developer side of video games, will be able to create new in-game content at the same rate people play through it. Another concern is that operating costs will prohibit the game from being around very long.
How the game’s development plays out remains to be seen, but Missing Worlds Media appears to have thought things out well—its Kickstarter page features an extensive review of its budget and staff.
Also at issue is where the money will go if the game makes profits. Will the money be distributed to all the volunteers who work on the game? Will the game be able to sustain a volunteer-only means of operation?
If I were playing City of Titans, I would not be too concerned about the volunteer system. I doubt the game will make profits; it seems more likely that any money made beyond covering expenses would be used for more in-game content. And if some volunteers did not want to work on the game anymore, there is a fanbase in which to find new ones.
What do you think? Will a for-fans-by-fans game work?