John Smedley, the former head of Sony Online Entertainment, has canceled his Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for Hero’s Song, the first game from his new Pixelmage Games studio.
In an update today, Smedley said that funding levels so far indicated that the campaign wasn’t going to hit its ambitious target of raising $800,000. When the campaign was halted 10 hours ago, Hero’s Song had raised $136,849 from 3,037 backers. This was after seven days of fundraising.
“We’ve decided that the best thing to do is to end the Kickstarter,” Smedley wrote in an update. “We sincerely appreciate all of the support we got from the backers and the Kickstarter community. This was our first Kickstarter, and we made mistakes along the way. I want to acknowledge that right up front. We put a lot of time and effort into the Kickstarter, but it’s obvious missing things like physical goods hampered our efforts. It’s also fair to say because we’re early that we didn’t have enough gameplay to show the game off enough to get people over the hump.”
Smedley said that other investors are still backing the project and that the company will proceed to work on Hero’s Song.
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“I’m also happy to say that we’ve been able to do this without having to take money from publishers, something that was of key importance to us so that we could remain in creative control,” Smedley wrote. “We’ll be updating you all along the way … holding development streams (on Cohhcarnage’s stream on Twitch) and being completely transparent with our development process. You’ll be hearing from us all the time and we’ll be updating our website and all of you on a constant basis as we have cool stuff to show.”
Smedley served at Sony Online Entertainment for 20 years and was its leader for 15. He spun the maker of massively multiplayer online games such as PlanetSide 2 out of its Japanese parent company in February 2015. He became the CEO of the renamed business, Daybreak Game Company, but stepped down from that role in July. By October, he started his new company, Pixelmage of San Diego, and started work on a title that was announced last week.
Smedley told GamesBeat previously that he had already raised $1 million for the 2D pixel-art game Hero’s Song from private sources. But he wants to test the idea’s potential to be a hit with fans through the Kickstarter campaign.
Smedley assembled a group of developers that includes Bill Trost, who was the lead designer and co-creator of the EverQuest franchise; and Patrick Rothfuss, a New York Times best-selling author of The Name of The Wind fantasy novels. The core team is already at 13 employees, and it will grow as production ramps up in the coming months.
One of the inspirations for Hero’s Song is Dwarf Fortress, a pixel-art game that is procedurally generated and was originally released by a two-person team in 2006. It was praised for its complex, emergent gameplay despite its text-based graphics.
Pixelmage Games had been in stealth mode since October. It has developed the core elements and prototype for Hero’s Song. Pixelmage Games intends to deliver the game in October, just nine months from now.
Smedley said he chose to partner with Rothfuss — not to license the author’s works — to create a new backstory for the fantasy universe of the game.
Back in 1995, Smedley led the team that created EverQuest, a ground-breaking MMO that enabled millions of people to play a living game inside a virtual world.
EverQuest debuted in 1999, and the teams that Smedley built went on to create games such as PlanetSide, Star Wars Galaxies, DC Universe Online, Shadowrun, Untold Legends, Free Realms, Magic: The Gathering — Tactics, Clone Wars Adventures, and H1Z1. Smedley said his time at SOE and Daybreak was the “most wonderful time of my life.”
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