AIP-316: Fantasy MMORPG Game - Powered Exclusively By ApeCoin

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For the benefit of this AIP and for the DAO, I will respond to this. But what I am not going to do is engage in any back and forth that’s going to derail this AIP discussion.

So, I am going to put on my professional hat and respond to this in a manner befitting the DAO. I will not be responding to anything that is irrelevant and/or off-topic.

1.

There’s nothing to confirm, and none of this is material or relevant to the AIP; nor is it a secret.

In the AIP, I laid out my role in the project and company. I didn’t “take control” of Quest Online. That’s patently FALSE. And the links that you posted - specifically designed to obfuscate this point and cast myself and the project in a poor light - is shameful. I mean, it’s all right there on the first page of Google. 1, 2, 3, 4

  • The investor (the lead was a friend) hired me and my team to complete the game. We took it over in 2010.
  • Under my leadership, we completed and released the game
  • Then we released not one, but two expansion packs, got it on Steam, did a slew of marketing deals etc. It’s all documented online
  • When the investor and owner died in late 2017, heirs having recouped, wanted an exit
  • Because I was running it, I knew the value of the game, the revenue, KPI etc just like all investors and someone who has been in the gamedev biz forever - I bought it - and thus became the owner of QOL and Alganon (it’s only product), which encompasses the IP, trademark etc.
  • We did additional work, localized it etc.
  • As the servers were all legacy, I took the game offline - then migrated it to our own datacenter server farm.
  • After much work, rather than relaunch the game as-is, I decided to do additional work to improve on it. So we did that too.
  • Then the pandemic hit - and the world went sideways.
  • Then Web3 noise started, and I decided that instead of just re-launching it, I would re-tool for some Web3 components and relaunch it. New eyes. New look etc. The OG cash flow cow. Happens in games all the time.
  • Since late 2021 and to this month’s billing, I have put exactly $2.1M into the Web3 project relaunch. There are one or two people here who have seen the original pitch deck for the game and which was created in late 2021 when I thought that I would need to raise additional funding for what was a three year project.

Screenshot 2023-08-03 065341

As owner of Quest Online (QOL) from the purchase, I had no use for another Web2 studio (I already have mine, 3000AD - which only exclusively does sci-fi games, not fantasy games). So, we closed QOL in late 2021, and that same month we formed Wide Span Ventures (WSV) to do soley Web3 games - again, separate from my 3000AD studio.

You can see the QOL closure docs here and here. And the WSV formation docs here. Note the dates.

Then my studio, 3000AD, which owned the Alganon game and IP, sold that to WSV - on paper, thus putting a $30M asset in the startup. And so, Alganon ended up in WSV. The same will later happen to the second game, Line Of Defense (the MMO, not the RTS spin-off game which we did for Microsoft), which my studio also owns.

The attorneys closed QOL on 12-14-21 and formed WSV on 12-16-21.

I only owned QOL from 03/09/18 (date of deal closing) to the date it was officially closed on 12-14-21. That’s almost 4 yrs. Not 13 yrs.

2.

Yes - the video you linked is one of the pre-launch promo videos. In fact, it’s one of the videos in the links provided at the top of the AIP. So what?

The 20-min training video (it’s not a preview - it’s a complete game walkthrough) linked in the AIP is NOT the same. It was done by Steven K (an original member of the Alganon project who still works for me on the project) this past April. It’s used as a training video for new members of the team because you can’t sit down and teach devs, CS, testers etc on an MMO in the same manner that you can other simple games. We make several videos like that for training purposes, and we plan on doing similar ones for the final release of the game because text tutorials can only go so far. It’s why that video comes with a script that outlines the many core features of the game. Again, that’s in the AIP.

The training video doesn’t show any visual improvements because we haven’t done any visual upgrades to the game yet. And I never - not once - claimed that we had. All the graphics engine work is internal. There’s a LOT more to making a game than just visuals.

Work on Alganon has continued before I bought it, after I bought it, when I took it off-line and up to the start of the relaunch. In fact, we didn’t complete the Visual Studio overhaul until late 2022 (!). That wasn’t fun. And we had to do that because new third-party API tools won’t work (compile/build) on legacy VS2008 builds.

Similarly, all the game servers were running on legacy Windows Server machines. ALL had to be upgraded - specifically for security reasons. And we ended up having to e-waste a lot of servers and replace them with new ones, new HDD etc. I hired a third-party company (Technology Trading Partners out in MD) to drop, package, ship, and rack all the legacy servers. Then we got to work rebuilding. That was 8 months. An a sh*t ton of money.

This is Jon H (also one of the original Alganon devs who also works for me) and I at the datacenter earlier this year when we went to install some additional hardware. That entire wall is comprised of servers for Alganon and my other games.


3.

Did not do well? Yeah man, that’s false.

That’s the pre-existing game login screen as it exists right this minute. The Green Steam button allows you to login using your Steam account. The Account Name/Password allow you to login using your legacy account created from our website.

In fact, you can go - right now - and create an account on the game’s website. But you won’t be able to download or play the game without dev access to the game download and servers.

See the warning in that image?

The game was already released, online, and working. We updated and published on Steam in 2015 - for the first time. Prior to that, it was only available via direct download (from the game’s website) via a CDN server.

From 2009 - 2015, the game had exactly (and this is directly from our reports), 379,483 unique accounts.

There was no way to transition pre-existing gamers from our server to Steam without gamers losing ALL their stats, progress etc. Why? Because Steam owns their data - and we devs have no access to it. Hence, fewer engagement numbers on Steam.

These are the Steam stats before I took the game off-line when I bought it. Though it’s capped, the game - on Steam alone - had (and I am quoting this from the SteamWorks dashboard) - 241,718 users. Due to how Steam works, those are not duplicates - those are actual owners of the game.

This image is from SteamSpy the same day that Jon H manually shutdown the servers and I disabled the Steam store page.

As a result of putting the game on Steam, the game’s user base was fragmented between our deliverable system and Steam.

What you believe by way of reviews is immaterial and irrelevant. The online reviews of the game, coupled with the media stories, entire YT channels etc - tells the full story that this was - and still is - a much loved game. That’s why, rather than see it sunset, I bought it. Why would I do that when I could have put those millions of Dollars of my own money - no investors involved - into my own studio of 30+ years?

4.

ABOUT VISUALS

The visuals are out-dated, yes. This isn’t news. It’s in the AIP.

The game was released in 2009. We did in fact do lots of visual improvements in both of the expansion packs (The Dawning & Rise Of The Ourobani) within the scope of the custom game engine.

The original creators were building a WoW clone. I had no part of that because I came in years later. And in doing so - for computers at the time - they had to bear in mind the computational taxes on the CPU and GPU. The graphics engine is based on a custom build of TrueVision3D - now deprecated and no longer supported - a DX9 engine. It had none of the graphics advancements (e.g. PBR, materials etc).

They created an MMO game, not a mobile game. It’s a massive game.

For those reasons, it became clear that there was no way to improve on the visual assets without upgrading the graphics engine. And so we started doing that. And then the decision was to either spend 3 months upgrading TV3D (we had a source code license) from DX9 to DX11 or spend 12-14 months porting from TV3D to UE5.

I chose to do both. Why?

  • Upgrading TV3D allows us to improve on the game’s visuals tremendously, though there’s only so far that we can go. And having only 4 people (me being one of them) know the graphics engine, means that it takes a lot of time to on-board new engineers down the road. And this being an indie studio, doesn’t have the luxury of 50-man engineers.

  • Upgrading to UE5 is the best path forward in terms of speed, adaptability, tools (pre-built) , on-boarding new people, creating expansion packs etc. For UE5, there’s so much talent out there that you couldn’t throw a stone and not hit one.

And Unity3D isn’t powerful enough for the game; and unlike TV3D–>UE5 - both of which are C++ - using that would have been a 12-18 month task; for little gain.

Option1 gets the rerelease done and out quicker and the visuals significantly improved, while still having a lot of underlying custom code that needs to be maintained as tech moves along. And it’s cheaper. It also retains the game’s performance while also making it faster. You can Google articles on DX9 to DX11 ports if you want.

Option2 adds 9-12 months (even when done in parallel with other work) to the work and is a massive risk to the game because then, with a new graphics kernel, we also have to upgrade the game’s editor to use it. AND we have to go through a longer test cycle because whatever will break is going to break. So then, we’re talking about a late 2025 game release or even 2026 and about $1.2M added to the dev budget. Why would I do that?

Also, when you’re doing engine work, it means that literally everything is broken. So, you have to maintain two base versions. In this case, the legacy Web2 version and the Web3 component version.

How do you on-board new team members if they can’t run the game? How are they going to learn it?

FYI. The combined quotes from the two content creation studios cited in the AIP, is $1.6m over a span of 16 months. Each of the game’s expansion packs cost approximately $750K.

ABOUT MT

The game’s MT system and econ model are tried, tested and proven. It’s an MMO, that’s how they are done. And if ain’t broke, there’s nothing to fix.

And since the advent of MMO games, gamers have been wound up about MT in games. Until loot boxes came along. Alganon is no different.

And amid that noise, you can go to the game’s website and read everything about the game’s MT. It’s very simple. And there are no plans to mess with something that just works just because some people don’t like it. Not to mention that I hired a team specifically for the game’s economics model.

Again, it’s in the AIP.

I’m glad that you think $5M - in my field - is “a large sum of money”. It’s not. Welcome to the big leagues. Enjoy the fish.

5.

This is unfounded, blatantly based on conjecture, and is a veiled attack on my character.

There is a stark difference between constructive criticism and abuse. I know the difference. Many people don’t. And when, like me, you’re famous, a person of color, a minority etc. the lines tend to get blurred even more.

Yes - like all game communities, we ban people who break the rules. No exceptions. Those who get banned, get to make a lot of noise about it, go cry in their cornflakes, and create a mob that makes a lot of inconsequential noise. Just like cheaters. It’s gaming. This isn’t news. And yes, review bombing is a thing. You probably missed that whole Star Citizen saga which I documented here.

I am not inclined to give assurances on things that are immaterial, inconsequential and without merit. And certainly not to blatant virtue signaling. Sorry, not going to do it.

This is a SOFTWARE LICENSE. I explained in the AIP what that is.

When companies, e.g. Blizzard, license their games to others, they have zero control over how that company (licensee) runs their business.

As a license, the DAO gets to do what it wants on its games servers. It’s no different from Discourse or Discord. And I don’t control that. And it’s specifically why I decided to create ApeCoin Ambassadors who we can train and they can adopt best practices for governing game communities. And given the liabilities involved with that, it’s why I took on the responsibility of hiring that team and training them so that they can effectively handle the community on the servers in much the same way that it’s done on Discourse and Discord.

I don’t run a DAO. I run multi-million Dollar studios. That comes with responsibilities, procedures, rules, guidelines and accountability. I don’t run my studios based on feelings.

And yes, I do have sole authority on who I will hire and fire; and it’s not based on friends, feelings or any of that. It’s based on merit, qualifications, experience and legal factors surrounding the hire. And that’s my call.

The people that I will hire from the community will work for me - not the DAO. And if this bugs you or anyone, the solution is simple. I won’t hire anyone from the DAO. Instead, I will hire and put together a separate team, hired elsewhere, to assist the DAO until it can put together its own WG. Or the DAO can spend the next two years figuring out how to elect people to manage its licensed game servers. Makes no difference to me because it’s inconsequential to the game.

In addition, I put that [hiring] option in the AIP because I believe that it gives something back to the very many talented people here. It’s a grant. It’s my money. I can spend it how I see fit. But I chose to give some of it back - to this community. Doing this helps the DAO. If you want to buy a car that you can’t drive only so that you can go into your garage and stare at it from time to time, who am I to argue?

Let me just make this clear while we’re on the subject of my personality:

I have never - ever - fired anyone at 3000AD. And I formed that studio in 1992. People who have come through my studio currently work at major companies, including lots of game companies. Some left and went back to college. Some left for better opportunities because after all I run a lean, mean, indie studio - and I am notoriously frugal when it comes to how I spend money personally and professionally. So, when people gain experience, they move on to bigger and better things.

e.g. when I was brought into the QOL, their monthly team salary burn rate - no joke - was over $250K. By the time I was done, integrated my 3000AD team into the process, they were down to around $100K.

And, as an OG lifetime member, I was on the board of the IGDA (FL) chapter for many years mentoring young people wishing to break into the industry etc. I am on the board of no less than 9 software companies, with one major one still trying to bring me on-board. In fact, that’s how I ended up heading up QOL as a favor to a dear friend. My Facebook and LinkedIn feed is chock-full of industry people from all tiers of the industry.

So, do you, for one minute, think that I built my studio, shipped over a dozen games, have so many relationships and connections by being the person that some who don’t like me portray me to be? Do you know how many studios have come and gone since I started doing this in 1989?

There’s a reason that you could go online - right now - and not find a single review, article or post about me firing and/or mistreating my team. It just doesn’t happen. Here is a LinkedIn review from one of my content providers:

It’s why I continue to work with or have a biz relationship with top tier industry talent, most of whom I can pick up the phone and call or text. I am famously a no-nonsense kind of guy, but that’s because, coming from a military background, I am exceptionally principled. I am also on the autism spectrum, so I see and react to things differently. It’s not always the way that works for people, but I am no more responsible for their feelings than I am responsible for the price of rice in China. Simply put, I just don’t care. What I do care about are oft overlooked things like common decency, honesty, integrity - and above all else, respect for myself and my fellow human.

And while you’re digging up unflattering articles to cast me in a poor light and impugn my character, you should probably read The Redemption Of Derek Smart by Polygon.

There are many more where that came from - going back DECADES. And I have been featured in every single gaming mag ever written - both in print and online. And not a single one - not one - has ever printed anything about what you’re suggesting in both of your missives above.

6.

It’s in the AIP. And there’s nothing to clarify.

Games - even old ones - get rereleased all the time. Heck, there’s an entire industry around revitalizing old games. I can’t even list them all, but Gamigo, En Masse, Daybreak, Little Orbit etc all are in that very same business. You know how old WoW is? No? How about Everquest? No? Runescape?

There are games much - much - older than Alganon and which are still going strong. The age of a game is immaterial if people are still playing it and the revenue is paying for the game. Millions of gamers are still playing - and paying for - games like WoW, EQ, Runescape, Planetside etc.

And if the game costs $100K per month to operate and it’s bringing in more than that in net revenue, who cares how old it is? Clearly the gamers who are playing and paying for it, don’t care. And they are all that matter.

And to be clear, this isn’t a “Web3 label”. That’s just false. I have clearly stated, over and over again, that “Web3” is just tech, much like graphics, networking etc. The game rerelease has Web3 components (all listed in the AIP btw) in it, in much the same way that it has an updated network stack, updated graphics kernel etc. It’s just a game release - with new stuff.

I could rerelease the game and disable (it’s just a build flag) the blockchain, crypto wallet UI and NFT marketplace, and guess what would be left? A networking stack, a pre-existing in-game wallet and a pre-existing in-game marketplace/cash shop. It’s not rocket science. It’s just tech.

7.

Yes, it’s Windows only. I should probably update the AIP to make this clear, though gamers already know that PC means Windows.

Also, it’s a client build, not mobile or browser.

There are no plans to build for other targets because it’s not as easy as it sounds, though moving to UE5 down the road, basically gives new targets for relatively free if I decide to go that route.

8.

Seriously? What do you know about game licensing?

Do you think that I would give a multi-region, multi-platform, worldwide license to a game like this for $5M? No. It’s why it’s a single platform, single region, low license fee commensurate with that.

It’s why I gave the DAO the option to license it for other territories if it so chooses. And even so, who is going to setup ops in China? Singapore? Japan? MENA, APAC etc? You think it’s just a matter of throwing up servers and copying the game over? There are entire companies that setup licensed games in various regions. Companies that are local to those regions. And even they need a license to do that.

No, there’s really nothing to justify.

This is a $30M (!) Dollar game that’s here and now. There are zero games like this being made now, and certainly not with Web3 components.

And the game isn’t from “13 years ago” as that would imply that no work has been done on it since 2010. That’s just false. In fact, an expansion pack - with a slew of features - was released in 2015.

Coupled with all the engineering work that went into the game these past years. Not to mention that in the past 3 years alone, we integrated things like Xsolla payment system, PlayFab (now owned by Microsoft) and a slew of other third-party tools and tech updates.

This is what a $750K expansion pack does.

At $1M per year, it’s the cheapest MMO game license in history. Don’t take my word for it though, go search, ask around etc.

And from that, as stated in the AIP, I get to pay for everything related to the game. It costs the DAO nothing. Not a single penny more.

If you do the math, and come up with $83K per month, what do you think that pays for, exactly?

Do you think that’s enough to pay for servers, team, maintenance etc? How much do you think I am going to pay the 16 (!) or so people I pledged to hire from this DAO community? Food stamps?

For example. Do you know how much Netease was spending to license and run Blizzard’s games - for 14 (!) years, until it was canceled? Do you think that Blizzard licensed it so that they could end up footing the costs even though that’s the responsibility of Netease, the licensee?

Do you know much it costs to run a team? Let alone an MMO game? Or even any live service game? We don’t just throw it up and forget about it. It’s constant maintenance, patches, updates, engagement etc.

The price is what it is, and it’s not open to negotiation. It’s very straightforward, take it or leave it sort of thing. That’s why you get to vote.

And there’s nothing to negotiate as that would imply that there’s room to cut stuff, or that it was unrealistic or that it was padded etc. It’s a license with a marketing pitch. It’s not a proposal for hosting a jamboree where you can serve donuts instead of sandwiches and cut corners that way.

I didn’t pluck the numbers out of thin air. I deal with numbers and metrics. I have run studios - and entire third-party teams inside very large companies - for decades. This stuff is what I do. I have no incentive to low ball or inflate only so that I can end up being upside down in costs down the road. You know how long 5 years is in gaming speak? This DAO might not even be around in one year, let alone five years down the road. So, if that happens, am I going to suddenly let go all the fine people who I hired from here and who trusted me enough to come work for me?

Yes - I get to keep the MT because that’s what pays for the ongoing improvements and maintenance of the game - including the DAO license version. BECAUSE a $5M / 5 year license is a SMALL amount.

It was either $5M + MT revenue or $10M+ and no revenue from MT; which basically makes the game free to play ApeCoin DAO. And if it’s F2P, how does that benefit the DAO if nobody is buying and spending $APE to play the game?

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