BELOW IS a community letter from Goblinworks acting CEO, Lisa Stevens, concerning Pathfinder Online. Having read this letter I feel somewhat guilty as to my recent review of the game but I also feel vindicated that I wrote my review before this address and that my view is obviously shared by other gamers, otherwise Pathfinder Online wouldn't be in the position it is at the moment. I am a big fan of Pathfinder rpg but not the Online version as it stands. For the sake of the players, the community of MMO gamers, and those with invested interest in Pathfinder Online I want to see the game succeed, but my own thoughts are that the game needs some pace injected into it because it doesn't grab you and hold you in the way WoW does or DAoC, Star Wars, Guild Wars etc do or initially did. I sincerely hope Goblinworks can get the time, money and most of all support, that they need, but my opinion is that in its current format this is going to be very difficult to achieve in the face of games already available online, especially those that require no monthly fee and offer free play (with ingame purchases) which are, I believe, designed to last for a short term in comparison with a game as large as Pathfinder wants to be and needs to be.
UNITE and GROW:
To the players of Pathfinder Online who do not share my opinion that the game needs to change to survive, the way forward is to bring more people into the game. I honestly want Pathfinder Online to get back to me in a year and tell me I was completely wrong. I sincerely hope they do so. Chris.
Lisa Steven's Community Address
To the Pathfinder Online Community:
From the beginning of the three-year journey to create Pathfinder Online, the one constant has been the support of our community and for this I thank you. We have had ups and downs including heated debates on design, implementation and overall gameplay. We have literally battled together (or against each other) and I know you enjoy playing the game as much as I do. I also know that the community comes together during tough times, and it is probably no surprise that we are currently in a tough spot right now. There are a number of things that have occurred in the past two weeks that you need to be brought up to date on.
As we have been on this journey to create Pathfinder Online with you for over three years now, we have striven to be as transparent as possible with you. We just shared the following message with the community during our weekly Keepside Chat. In full transparency, here is a quick run down of the state of our game:
EE10.2 is on ZOG for final testing and should roll out to the live server very soon.
EE11 is targeted for the end of September
Ryan Dancey has resigned from the company for personal reasons (Lisa Stevens will be acting CEO)
Finances are tight at Goblinworks, which has resulted in the layoff of the majority of Goblinworks staff
CTO Mark Kalmes, Art Director Mike Hines, and Designer Bob Settles continue to push the game forward (your monthly subscriptions are what keep these three employed and the server up)
Goblinworks is in talks with multiple game publishers to take the game on and bring it to Open Enrollment
I know that is a lot to take in, so I will share what details we can below:
Game status (EE10.2 and EE11):
We are in final testing before pushing EE10.2 to the live server with its fully revamped and improved new player experience, buy orders for the auction house as well as auction sales histories, settlement chat, and the new crystal ogres monthly event, as well as turning the previous event (The Wrath of Nhur Athemon and its Shadow counterpart) into an ongoing escalation, and making a bunch of bug fixes and improvements. The team has been working hard on this and on EE11 for most of July and August. EE11 is done in design, almost entirely done in art, and just needs a bit more programming to get it to the point where we can test. It will take settlement activities to the next level by allowing you to customize and build your settlements the way you want to. Building a settlement will be a large group task, with lots of raw materials to gather and refine before buildings can be erected. We will also have the dark elves monthly event ready, providing more PVE content for those who are focused on that aspect of the game. The core team has the goal of shipping EE11 by the end of September, and we'll keep you updated on our progress.
Ryan Dancey needed to resign from the company for personal reasons. We were very sad that he needed to leave us, but supported his decision because it is in the best interests of Ryan’s life outside Goblinworks. In Ryan’s absence, the board of directors has appointed me Acting CEO.
We have always known that we would need a certain amount of money to make Pathfinder Online a reality. 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 and bring it to Open Enrollment. We knew that we could cut our burn rate (the rate at which expenses burn your cash reserves) by having folks participate in Early Enrollment and that was always the plan, though we never thought that the Early Enrollment subscribers could carry the company to Open Enrollment. We knew we needed that full investment amount to do that. We had numerous times this year where the full funding was dangling in front of us only to be snatched away at the last moment. Very frustrating, but we moved forward and kept looking for somebody to come through with the money we needed to see the game through.
Due to the commitment that you have made to the game, your current subscriptions are able to keep the core team employed and the servers live. We will continue to move the game forward with that team and keep the servers live as long as the continued financial support from the community is there. But that means we need you, the Pathfinder Online Community, to continue to support us with your monthly subscription fees. They are very literally what is keeping the servers paid for, and keeping our core team employed, working on EE11, and talking with various potential partners about purchasing the game so they can finish it. If you wish to see the game through to its finish, we need you to support it financially for the next few months, and if you know people that want to support it, encourage them to subscribe now. (During this period, we will offer only month-to-month subscriptions.)
On August 28, we had to lay off the majority of the Goblinworks staff. Continuing to push the game forward are CTO Mark Kalmes, Art Director Mike Hines, and Designer Bob Settles. We have been keeping the staff abreast of our efforts to find funding for Pathfinder Online and that we would likely have to lay them off on the 28th. We felt it was super important to give our employees warning so they could plan their lives accordingly. Their efforts to line up new jobs led to some of the rumors about layoffs. So why didn’t we announce this earlier? Because there was and still remains a chance for Pathfinder Online to get its funding and continue forward, so it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that we would have to lay the staff off until , the 28th.
For the past few weeks, we have been shopping Pathfinder Online to a number of other game publishers, looking for a good fit to take the game on and fund it over the finish line. There have been quite a few companies coming out of the woodwork to discuss this with us and we are in ongoing talks with a number of them about the possibilities. More companies enter the fray every day. These kinds of things take some time, though we are motivated to see them through as quickly as we can. At any moment, one of these publishers could agree to buy the game and we could quickly ramp up to full tilt again. Due to confidentiality, we can’t provide information on these negotiations. Rest assured that you will be the first people we tell when there is news we can share.
This isn’t a super rosy picture, but we aren’t dead yet! The Goblinworks team and the Pathfinder Online community have been underdogs for pretty much the entire project’s history. But we have persevered and survived. Sometimes it is darkest right before the dawn. When I was at White Wolf, we were close to having our electricity and phones shut off in the month before Vampire: The Masquerade released and became a huge hit. At Wizards of the Coast, we had to lay off the entire staff for 9 months before Magic: The Gathering launched and became one of the most successful games in history. You have my word that I will work relentlessly to find the right partner to take Pathfinder Online through to the finish line. The team has brought the ball down the field to the red zone, and now we just need somebody to punch it over the goal line.
I will be hosting another Keepside Chat on at its normal time of . You can join the chat live by going to: Golarion.mumble.com Port 3093
The ability for us to make Pathfinder Online has always been entirely dependent upon you, the Pathfinder Online Community and the support you have given us. I would like to thank the Pathfinder Online community for your fierce dedication, support, feedback, and drive to see this game made well. The only reason to make Pathfinder Online is you, our customer. I hope you will stay with us over the next few months as we search for that proper partner to finish the game. It is your support, literally, that will allow this to happen. Without you, there is no Pathfinder Online.
You have my eternal gratitude,
Q: Is Pathfinder Online going to continue production?
A: With the current financial support we receive each month from the Pathfinder Online community, we get enough monthly revenue to keep a small core team consisting of CTO Mark Kalmes, Art Director Mike Hines and Designer Bob Settles employed and working on progressing the game. EE10.2 is just about to be released and the goal is to ship EE11 by the end of September. Any continued production beyond EE11 will be determined by either the continued financial support of the Pathfinder Online community, or finding a publisher to take over the funding and development of the game.
Q: What can the small core team accomplish on Pathfinder Online?
A: With Mark, Mike and Bob, we are able to cover all of the major disciplines and any specific task that comes up with regard to getting EE 10.2 and EE 11 tested and out the door. We will be asking for any help players can provide with testing on Zog as usual, but we believe we should be able to test all of the core system changes and review most of the content changes regardless.
EE 10.2 is believed complete and in final testing. The bulk of the work for EE 11 is also complete and very achievable with the current team in a relatively short period of time.
After EE 11 is live, we will be able to continue to fix bugs, add polish, support the live community and patch if needed. We will most likely not be adding any features unless we are able to secure funding, partners or increase subscriptions enough to allow us to re-hire or add new staff.
Q: What does it mean to find a publisher to take over Pathfinder Online?
A: We would be selling Goblinworks to another publisher who would then take over the running and funding of the game. They would hire the staff to ramp up the development on the game. Goblinworks would cease to exist as a publisher.
Q: Is Pathfinder Online going to shut down?
A: The servers and staff for the game have been paid for through the end of September. As long as the monetary support from the community continues to fund the operating of the servers, we will keep the game live. If half of the current community continues to support Pathfinder Online with their monthly subscription fees, we would be able to keep the servers live indefinitely, but we would not have money to keep our core team employed and continuing the development of the game.
Q: With Ryan leaving the company, will he still have anything to do with the game?
A: 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.
Q: Do you agree with the general direction Ryan set for the game?
A: When we first starting to think about making Pathfinder Online, Paizo hired Ryan to create a design document that would be used as a template for making the game. The Paizo team approved that document and that has been used as the marching orders for the team ever since. That won’t change now that Ryan is not with the company.
Q: Who will provide GM support/Forum moderation and answer customer service emails?
A: Bob has been answering the customer service emails for over a week now and doing some forum moderation. We will be reaching out to the settlement leaders soon to discuss how the community might get involved.
Q: When will EE11 come out?
A: EE11 is done in design, almost entirely done in art, and just needs a bit more programming to get it to the point where we can test. The core team has the goal of shipping EE11 by the end of September, and we'll keep you updated on our progress.
Q: Who are you talking to about taking over the game?
A: We have been talking to a wide variety of companies about taking over development of the game. Due to confidentiality issues, we can’t reveal who they are right now, but rest assured that the Pathfinder Online community will be the first to know when a deal happens.
Q: Any thoughts about lowering the monthly price?
A: Every time we have lowered the price on Pathfinder Online in the past nine months, we have kept the same number of folks playing the game but brought in less money. At a time when we are entirely reliant on the revenue from subscriptions to keep the game live on the server and employ our core team, decreasing the monthly price is not an option.
Q: Are you still recruiting new players? Marketing?
A: We are always looking for new players for the game. EE10.2 will have a vast revamp of the new player experience in an effort to help new players get into the game. We will still be offering the free 15-day trial accounts that we have in the past. But the main way we are going to reach new players is through you, the active Pathfinder Online player. We need you to reach out to the various communities you are active in and find like-minded players who would enjoy Pathfinder Online. If everyone brought just one more person into the game, we would be able to expand our headcount and the game would get made quicker.
Q: How can the community help?
A: The number one way the community can help is by continuing to pay your monthly subscriptions to fund the ongoing development of the game and keep the servers live. Also, reaching out to other gamers you think might enjoy Pathfinder Online is a great way for us to grow our player base. Beyond that, keep doing what you already do—answering questions from new players, offering to group up, running classes for Pathfinder University, and just making both the live game and the forums a great place to game.
Q: What about Kickstarter Rewards?
A: Most of the Kickstarter Rewards were expected to be shipped with Open Enrollment. However, we have been working on them all along and will continue to deliver them to backers as they become available. We just recently provided the Hellknights Most Wanted backers with their own unique avatars on paizo.com and the Paizo art team is creating the wanted posters to add to the Emerald Spire Superdungeon PDF.
Q: Is Paizo taking over running Goblinworks?
A: No. Goblinworks is a licensee of Paizo's. While Lisa Stevens is also the CEO at Paizo, Paizo is not "taking the reins" or increasing its involvement in Pathfinder Online in any way (they are busy enough as it is!). Goblinworks is currently seeking investors or an acquisition to move the game forward. Paizo itself is focused on their tabletop offerings.