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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Kickstarter - Invisible Sun (Full Monte is $539 - Anyone Jump a Shark?)



I've heard lots of talk recently about Monte Cooks new Kickstarter - Invisible Sun. What I've heard ranges from "It's Monte, it's got to be good!" to "What the fuck is he smoking?"

I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Monte is a skilled game creator, of that there is little doubt (and no argument from me). Sometimes his presentation is spot on (Not Thank You Evil comes to mind) and at other times it is nigh unreadable (Numenera with it's God horrible watermarking)

Therein lies part of my issue with Monte's latest project - will I be able to read it easily, or will the watermarking be such a distraction that I'll put it down in the first 3 pages, never to pick it up again? Because at a minimum buy in of $197 (where you get the game but not the campaign and the campaign is the thing) there's a lot riding that "what if"?

That's the other huge issue - price. Folks bitch and moan about the cost of Frog God Games KSs, but they come in at half the price (less if you go for the PDF option - which there is none for this box of tricks).

I suspect, like many RPG purchases, this is aimed more to be placed on the shelf with a "look at me, ain't I cool?" attitude and to riffle through the cool pieces more so than actual play, at least for the $197 version. Why is that? Because you don't get the campaign with the initial buy in and without the campaign you're pretty much holding a choksi.

How much is the version with the campaign? $539

Mic drop.

Yeah. If you want the "Full Monte", and really, if you plan on playing Invisible Sun I assume you want the Full Monte, it's $539. Not including shipping costs if you are outside the US.


Anyhow, did I mention stretch goals are NOT included at the basic $197 buy in?

They are at $539



Basically, if you are a fan of Monte without a significant amount of disposable cash to throw at this project, convince your gaming group to chip in. Oh, and Master the Black Cube is $1,475.

Obviously Monte has found a cash cow (as I write this, the project is just short of a quarter of a million dollars in funding). The question will be a long term one - will this project alienate the fans that can't come up with nearly 200 for the crippleware version (or $539 for the Full Monte)? Will it hurt the bottom line more than help? Numenera had over 4,600 backers. Invisible Sun is sitting at just under 900 at the moment. I'm going to guess when all is said and done, Invisible Sun will come in between 1800 and 2000 backers, less than half that of Numenera.

30 comments:

  1. Best part about the Kickstarter are the add-ons. It's $152 to get access to the playtest rules. This one has had me LOLing for days.

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    1. I should also mention, that the playtest rules will almost certainly be provided electronically. So the only reason they don't offer a PDF tier for this Kickstarter is...fuck you, you plebs. That's why.

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  2. This is hilarious and hideous, both at the same time.

    To be quite honest, with all due respect, I never liked Mr. Cook's games and thought it was all way... too 'out there' for my taste. As someone who can get dozens of hours of fun out of a $15 book, this entire project seems hilarious.

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  3. I think the best course of action (assuming this project interests you) is pass on the project and look to buy it off someone in a year or two when you'll at least have some reviews out there so you have a good idea what you're getting.

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  4. $200 is ridiculously high for an unknown game system but it is Monte... Unfortunately, the stretch goal barrier is what killed it for me. This will sadly be the first Monte experiment I can't participate in. Oh well, thank God for Greg Gillespie!

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  5. Is that a Vulcan sex toy that it comes with? Sorry, my bad.

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  6. As someone who was familiar with Jonathan Tweet's work prior to D&D 3e, I suspect Monte Cook is responsible for the lion share of cruft, rules bloat, and system mastery that ruined that game for me. I've never bought into him being the top tier game designer a lot of people give him credit for. As for IS, I'm of two minds. On the one hand, this is EXACTLY the kind of boutique product that Kickstarter is made for. "I've got this crazy idea that's gonna be beautiful but cost a lot of money to make. Who's with me?" But after reading through the campaign, it's all smoke and mirrors. There's no THERE there. And what is there isn't unique or new or even that original (KULT, Mage, Unknown Armies, and probably a few others I don't even know about). What is original? The packaging and the presentation. That's it. So that'll be a no from me.

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  7. The $200 is for an incomplete game - why would I want to buy an incomplete game?. It is $540 for the complete game. They mention getting an entire group to buy-in, but I can't go to my players and say "I need each of you to give me $110 so I can get this game we will all play, but that I will keep."

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  8. I've found his game design work to be spot on and talented and his campaign concepts and frameworks interesting but somehow the campaign development and adventures have seemed a tad boring and workman like even when straying into the fantastic.

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    1. oops clicked post when I wasn't done. The buy in's for this kickstarter do seem rather extreme but it does reinforce the idea that a kickstarter is investing in someone's dream not just a product pre-order.
      Don't forget the original release of Empire of The Petal Throne effectively cost $120.00 when adjusted for inflation.

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  9. Um, not sure I get this "incomplete at $200." You get a full game with that. You don't get additionals mailed to you (which is what they mean by they mean by "Directed Campaign.") You still get the setting info just as you did with Numenera and The Strange.

    Granted, knowing what I know of Monte's style, I'm not jumping in on this. But I do not see the the $200 as "crippleware." It's clearly a fully functional game.

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  11. I agree with Tom's comments. This is what Kickstarter is for - Mad, dust-gathering ornaments.

    We've known for years that there is a market in RPGs (and boardgames) for gold-plated tchotchkes, *cough* pencil dice *cough*, and 1,000 page campaign settings.

    This stuff existing doesn't lessen our epic crawlz, using naught but imagination and free pdfs.

    Live and let live, I keep telling myself, watching Monte the piper lure fellow gamers into the cave. Live and let live.

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  12. I know I have quite an unpopular opinion, but I think Monte Cook Games is actually doing something good to the whole gaming community.
    I'll remove the personal considerations (MCG have high production values, but - apart from "No Thank You, Evil", which technically was written by Shanna Germain, I am not particularly in love with their games).
    I think that what we should see in this kickstarter is a statement, and the statement is: "Creating games is a job, pay the workers".
    (and about time too).
    The main complaint I have seen about this game is: "It has no $ 10.00 PDF level, so it must suck". How? Why? I can't afford this game. I won't buy it. But I don't feel entitled to get it just because I can't buy it.
    I can't afford a Harley too. I am sad, but I am not whining that Harleys suck because there's no $ 150.00 entry level bike.
    This said *maybe* this game sucks. From what I see of the box, though, it isn't overpriced, for sure.
    (sorry, I told you I had an unpopular opinion :D )

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  13. My biggest problem: that doesn't look like a RPG, it looks like a boardgame.

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    1. Because of the cards? That could be just a mechanical aspect of the game.
      Mark Rein-Hagen's I Am Zombie uses a ton of cards for game mechanics too, and you can't really play without them, as the cards "are" your character's sheet; still, it is undoubtedly a RPG.

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    2. I'm speaking purely on looks alone, it looks like a boardgame, not a RPG.

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  14. My attitude to these things is this.

    If you build it and people open their wallets and they get what they paid for (and it meets expectations?) It's all good.

    For me it's like paying a couple of hundred bucks for a hard back HackMaster book bound in 'lama skin and hand rubbed with goat's blood with gold foil lettering.

    It's outrageously over the top but at the end of the day my money. I could just as easily blow it on money, crack and porn. lol.

    More power to Monte if he can fund it and put enough cubes into the hands of customers. Like someone said, it's the impossible ideas/dreams like this that kickstarter was really made for — not as a pre-order system for card games and splat books.

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    1. Thank you, that's exactly what I wanted to say, but you expressed it better than I ever could.
      Now, let's talk about that llama skin book, how many goats do you need? :D

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    2. Agreed - the price is high, but it's his product. He probably realizes he's reached the rare level of rpg fame and success that makes this kind of passion/dream/boondoggle project possible, and that he's probably only got a couple big indulgent swings like this in his career (even as Monte), so go for it. I hope it's awesome.

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    3. Actually, as I said, I hope this could be the beginning of a new paradigm - at least in crowdfunding; that paradigm being, as I wrote before, "This is my job, I'd like to be paid what's fair for it"

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    4. Well, I'm all for getting paid for what you make, but here's the problem: most of us in this industry have realized that either 1) charging too little to sell more results in making almost no profit or, 2) charging too much sells less copies, resulting in, you guessed it, making almost no profit. The reality is that in this industry, game creators pay contributors top dollar while buyers want $5 pdfs, squeezing the margin. As game creators and writers, we make nothing. And unless we're Wizards or Paizo, we'll likely never really make anything... well, maybe enough to create the next great idea...

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    5. Oh no, believe me, I know all too well that what you say is true.
      That's why I am hoping that this kickstarter could mark the beginning of a paradigm shift. After all, in our industry, no big change was ever made by "small guys" - nor by "really big guys". It's always been the semi-indie with a stardom status in "indie" that made them: the PDF revolution, we owe to White Wolf (albeit not directly); the discovery that you can make full games from the OGL, we owe to Paizo; etc.

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    6. Guess my take on it is he has a loyal fan base and he always seems to deliver. So where's the harm? If it gets funded then there's an appetite for it.

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  15. For a complete system it isn't significantly more than 5th Ed D&D. That it is in play test though, that makes me uneasy. Taking that whole price in one bite (as opposed to a book at a time) also means this isn't for me.

    I don't mind not getting the super secrets, or the campaign run by Mr. Cook...if the system is good I can run it and I often run my own stuff anyhow.

    That said, price for admission is going to be a barrier to a lot of folks (which they seem to recognize with the acknowledgement that people might pool in to get the game).

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  16. The cost is just too damn high for me, but I'm not the target audience anyway. It's not my thing, but if somebody has the cash and wants to blow it on this game, so be it.

    I'd rather see Cook license somebody to convert Arcana Evolved to 13th Age, but I'm probably in the minority on that.

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  17. Considering the absolute pig's ear he made of "Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil" back in the day, I see no reason to spend $20 on any Monte Cook product, let alone these ridiculous prices.

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    1. In Monte's Defense 95% of his really good stuff came out after his take on the Temple of Elemental Evil. It's perfectly fair to judge an author at some point but this is a bit like me picking up King's Dark Tower volume I and based on that deciding I will pass on the rest of his works.

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  18. I bought into his Numenera Kickstarters and his last Cyber System Kickstarter as they looked interesting. But yeah, this one looks too rich for my bank account and too iffy for a game. The art looks fantastic though. And I can't believe that the three $5912 pledges and 16 of the 17 $1475 pledges have been taken. Who has that kind of money to spend on something like this?

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  19. This is clearly a luxury product, aimed at those with luxury tastes and cash to spare. Monte lives in Seattle as I recall, and there's a sort of "wealth bubble social circle" up there which is badly disconnected with reality....you either make a ton of money in Seattle's tech market, or you pretend you make a ton of money and spend way over your minimum cost of living in order to look like your in on the deal. This probably warps perceptions a bit, or at the very least has exposed Monte to the idea that there are guys into gaming who are also in the programming/tech industry that would happily spend this much dough to put the box on their work table. They are the same guys dropping lots of cash for VR systems right now....which by the way look intensely popular but according to some recent articles suggest sales around 100,000 units but the advertising and promotion for all of these headsets really feels like they're everywhere.....but in reality they are a niche prestige product bought only by people who don't mind dropping $1,000 and also have a massive living room to spare for the setup.

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