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PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 2:26 pm 
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Okay. So, if I won the lottery (I *wish*!!!) tomorrow and decided I wanted to invest in the revival of Uru Live ... how much, in real dollars, could it cost? I was just reading something over in the Gametap forum where someone suggested that it could take as much as $50M. And my mind boggled at the concept. So, say we threw a bunch of people in offices for 6 months to a year, gave them the resources (hardware, software, whiteboards, etc.), and then bought the servers ... what are we looking at?

On my fantasy ride with this, I was thinking along these lines (I'm telling you up front that it's fantasy and I really have no clue, so don't jump my bones ... tell me, instead, how far off I am, k?)

Soft Space
(yeah, we all deserve more ... but just for conversation's sake, go with me, here)
3 programmers (who just write code) at say, $60K/year = $180K/year
3 designers (who make all the pretty stuff) at say, $60K/year = $180K/year
1 Leader who knows both programming & design (and makes all the hard decisions) = $90K/year
1 GoFer/Admin type = $45K/year
1 marketing type = $60K/year (we'll negotiate later about sales/profits)
1 Tech person = $60K/year

Hard Space
Let's say we get cheap space and it's big enough = $3K/mo = $36K/year
Computers for everyone 10 x $5K = $50K (I want a $5K computer!! weeeeeeeeee!! Hey! It's my fantasy! lol)
Servers (wild-butt guess here) = $30K
Running the servers $3K/mo = $36K

Round it all up ... that's (way) less than $1M for the first year. Double it for good measure, cuz I'm probably *way* off base, and call it $2M.

How did that someone come up with $50M???

(and just for play - with the major assumption that this budget actually gives us a viable environment, with updated play - let's say we actually get people to sign on and play for, oh, $20 month, we'd need 100K players to make THIS work, so I'm seeing the problem ... )

I'm just askin ... is it, like, $50K a month to run the servers or something?

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 3:03 pm 
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Correct me if I am wrong but I thought 30 odd staff worked on Uru alone. There is a big wedge taken up there.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 4:51 pm 
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The cost for running the servers is dependent on how much bandwidth is used each month (how much information is transferred to and from them). Basically, the more users, the higher the cost for running the server. This wasn't as big a problem with Gametap since they were their own server, but for this it would be.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 4:52 pm 
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Correct; essentially all of the money goes to paying people's salaries.

(You forgot personnel overhead. The rule of thumb is add 50%. If an employee makes $60k per year, the company is actually laying down $90k in salary plus benefits plus employer taxes.)

When you talk about "reviving Uru", what do you mean? Until-Uru shard system? Another year like season 1? A full-blown attempt to make the game profitable? Those three questions will have completely different answers.

The estimate you posted (three programmers and three designers) doesn't fit any of those questions. It's too many for UU (which was static, no content, no bug fixes). It's too few for season 1 (which took most of Cyan's 2007 resources).

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2008 2:36 pm 
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Even if you had 30 people at $100k per year (salary, benefits, etc), that still only $3mm. If it cost another $2mm per year to run and maintain it, that's $5mm per year -- not $50mm. So, at $30 per year to sign up, you'd need 166,000 users to break even. You could increase revenues by a) charging more per year per player (what's the "right" amount), b) adding in merchandise sales for MOUL related gear: hats, shirts, gizmos, gifts, music, etc c) nickel and diming (ex: charging small fees for extra goodies in game like clothing, Relto gizmos, that sort of thing, or for explorers to send virtual gifts to one another (a al Facebook).

But as was mentioned in the OP, no one really knows the actual budget for something like this. But to me, $50mm sounds exobortantly high.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2008 4:47 pm 
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$100k... :shock: ... That a lot more than I'm making now as a computer animator. But then again, the cost of living is pretty low where live.

If anyone wins the lottery, totally sign me up! :D I'd do it for $60k.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2008 8:15 pm 
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belford wrote:
Correct; essentially all of the money goes to paying people's salaries.

(You forgot personnel overhead. The rule of thumb is add 50%. If an employee makes $60k per year, the company is actually laying down $90k in salary plus benefits plus employer taxes.)

When you talk about "reviving Uru", what do you mean? Until-Uru shard system? Another year like season 1? A full-blown attempt to make the game profitable? Those three questions will have completely different answers.

The estimate you posted (three programmers and three designers) doesn't fit any of those questions. It's too many for UU (which was static, no content, no bug fixes). It's too few for season 1 (which took most of Cyan's 2007 resources).


That's part of why I said it was "fantasy." It takes 30-some people to write this? I guess I really have no clue. My concept was to put Uru back into "live" production, with new content. As for "overhead" ... I actually did count that in: the figures came out to $700K-something and I rounded UP to $1M to allow for such things. And, as Greendragon mentions ... even at higher numbers of staff, it's still FAR from $50M. I'm just trying to picture it in my head, yanno? Anyone have some real numbers to play with? I get that 75-90% of the outlay is with staff, with the balance being the maintenance of the servers.

I guess my point is ... if it's really this expensive to run, no wonder Uru doesn't stay "live." There's so little chance of it having a decent return on investment.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2008 10:32 pm 
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There are some big items left out.

General business over head with payroll taxes, electricity, office space, computers software and etc. A rough estimate is to multiply the salary times 2.5 to 3.0.

Bandwidth is not the cost of server operation. Dedicated servers can be had for $2k to $3k per year. Bandwidth is the cost of moving data across the Internet. Verizon, ATT, UUNet, Global Crossing and others most people have never heard of run the net and provide service to local service providers and hosting companies.

They sell T-1 lines with 1.5mb/sec for $400/month. Larger OC-1 to OC-[however big they go] cost thousands per month. Imagine 100 people concurrently downloading a 2gb Uru update at 1.5mb second... It is surprising how fast one uses up bandwidth.

I did some research on multimedia artists. $60k to $80k is for production people. Good creative people can go for more. Say 30 people at $70k x 2.7 for overhead = $5.6 million.

But Uru needs some heavy hitters for networking code and high quility art.

Business electricity costs more than home power too.

$50 million is probably a conservative number. :cry:

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2008 11:27 pm 
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These kinds of expenses are precisely why MO:UL couldn't turn a profit the first two times it launched.

As you point out, most of the cost is salaries of Cyan staff, which could range from $60,000 to $160,000/year per person - and there are additional costs associated with that paid staff, like office space, hardware, software, electricity, etc.

A minimal cost - just running the servers, maintaining the game "as is" might cost $260,000/year - drastically lower than the cost of development of new content.

With 37 artists and programmers on staff at Cyan last I checked, that adds up to maybe $4.8 million, plus the cost of electricity, workspace, high-end hardware and software, taxes, for 37 people, and the previously mentioned server cost.

All in all, I'd guess about $7.5 million/year for a "Season 1" -level production, possibly even slightly more.

BTW, I'm guessing the $50 million figure previously cited was the author's fantasy about how much they'd like
Cyan to have (to run a huge production) - not the realistic minimum they'd actually need.

Now, think about the number of players we have. Probably the core fanbase consists of no more than 6,000 - 10,000 people, and even that figure may be slightly optimistic.

Now line up the expenses with the possible income.

Imagining a very high income, more than is initially realistic:
At $15/month cost to be a member of Uru, and every fan signs up, plus a few thousand newbies we've coerced *ahem* persuaded to pay for MO:UL.

$15/month X 15,000 players = $225,000/month, approx. $2.7 million per year. Even with unrealistically high subscription fees, and high player numbers, this is not even half the amount needed to fund production at slim Gametap levels, much less our "ideal" staff numbers - 60 or 70 Cyan staff working on the game.

There aren't enough fans right now to fund Cyan's continued production of Uru. Nor will any new publisher in their right mind pick up the game and fund it now that it's failed twice. (At least, I highly doubt it)

Any attempt to get Cyan to continue production on MO:UL the way it did with Gametap or Ubisoft will inevitably run into these financial roadblocks.

I'd love to see Cyan fully funded too but in my mind, that's unrealistic, wishful thinking given the current situation.

So what options do we have?

Well, we could run the servers and have no new content, and charge a monthly fee for access. But who, in the long run, would pay a monthly fee for a game that is not expanding? Even the most die-hard fans would eventually get bored and quit, and the game would die. And quite frankly, I don't think any of us really want a game that is static.

The best solution to the current dilemma - as I've suggested on Uru Obsession and Guild of Greeters - is based on user-generated content. Cyan could run the servers, and also release the IDE (their 3ds Max plugins, etc) to the fans with documentation for free, or for a small fee. The fans could then make their own worlds, using Cyan's in-house tools, and add them to the game - as well as develop interactive events, journals, and a variety of their own storylines.

People have said Cyan wouldn't release the IDE free or cheaply. In answer to that, I'd like to point out that:

-The Plasma engine is getting pretty old. The IDE is not worth as much as it used to be.
-They wouldn't be "giving" us tools, they'd be making a profitable transaction, an investment - releasing tools in exchange for player-generated assets which increase the value of MO:UL as an MMO and increase player subscriptions to the game.

These player contributions would be significant. Look at the work fans have done with Complete Chronicles, using tools that are fan-developed (as opposed to official tools which would be even better, rich in additional features like animated textures.)

There are dozens of Python programmers in the fanbase. There are also dozens of 3d artists. True, only about 15 of them have 3ds Max, but it must be noted that since 3ds MAX is so widely used, most other 3d apps are to some degree compatible with it.

Non- 3ds MAX users could possibly model their ages in their favored apps, and work with the 3ds max users to convert the models and port them into the game.

There are, of course, also hundreds of Photoshop artists in the fanbase (texture art, anyone?) and a good number of musicians and sound people.

In summary, the fanbase is capable of producing large volumes of content - if given the opportunity and tools to do so.

Imagine the following (hypothetical) scenario:

-Cyan obtains rights to MO:UL, runs servers, releases IDE.
-It gets about 7500 subscribers at $5/month (not too hard to do)
-That equals $37,500/month, or $450,000 income for Cyan per year. It is enough to run the servers at profit.
-The guilds all become active as a pipeline for user-generated content. Writers make ages, Maintainers test them, Cartographers map them, Messengers spread the news when they are released, and Greeters help newbies finish them.
-For the first several months, not much of quality is produced by the fans. But after a while, the ages being released become better and better. Fans take over the mantle of creating conrtent that is, in some cases, nearly as good as Cyan's work.
-The game's user base spreads gradually as a result of fans' tireless efforts to pull new people into the game, interest generated by the Myst feature film, a small, fan-run marketing campaign, and generally positive word-of-mouth.
-Soon the fanbase exceeds 15,000 players. It is making such solid profit for Cyan that Cyan decides to seriously back it by assigning several of their own staff to ocassionally add content to it, fix bugs, etc.
-It continues to expand for several more years, growing into a substantial hit. Eventually, of course, it becomes too outdated and dies, but it has a really great run. And eventually, if by some miracle this third incarnation of Uru ever manages really big success, and if, after some other successful projects with Gametap like the mysterious "Something Else", Cyan is in great financial condition, they might decide to make a new Myst game - maybe a real-time 3d game (like Uru) but with much more detailed graphics and better technology - worlds that rival the best pre-rendered Myst environments in realism and detail - a game with a great story, and 6 or 7 worlds, some small, some larger - 2 million or more polygons per world, a multiplayer and single-player mode, and a stable, high-quality level design tool that will allow players to create their own worlds in the new engine. They charge for the standalone game (intial fee) and an additional monthly fee for multiplayer access. The game could be, in effect, Uru 2. This time, maybe it'd be marketed well and sell well. And in various forms, the Myst series might continue to exist for a great length of time - successfully - all because the fans didn't give up - because the fans saved Uru...

You see where I'm going with this. Admittedly that last part is really farfetched but you get the idea.

We can "grow" Uru ourselves, organically, instead of having Cyan build it. We can take over, we can make this work. We, the fans, can save this game, and make Myst succeed again if we have the will to do so.

We can develop the future of the game in this manner, we can be the ones who make new content for Uru, and we can let Cyan work on other things for a while ;)

We can run Uru, develop a steady flow of content, even with our small fanbase - we can keep it going in a way that is profitable to Cyan, in a way that is alive and growing, not static.

We can even run a viable ad campaign. Ad campaigns take money but some of the advertising methods available are fairly cheap - an ad in a local paper, some types of internet advertising, etc, if we play our cards right a sizeable list of individually-managed campaigns of typically $15 to $90 each, could put the "Uru message" in front of several million people.

Do a search on the subject of marketing. Study it, think about who you're targeting (who would like Myst? Artists? People who like traveling? Puzzle gamers?) and target a relevant niche intelligently with a small ad campaign. I know this sounds nuts, but we really could market the game ourselves, and do a better job at it than Gametap or Ubisoft did.

We probably can't save Gametap's form of Uru this way (who in their right mind would join an MMO that is scheduled for shutdown? And if we did get a surge of visitors, would it really be enough to change Gametap's mind?)

But we could enact such a strategy in the event of Uru moving onto Cyan's servers. I think Cyan would appreciate it.

I don't want more fantasy ideas of how to save MO:UL that make no business sense because they involve the expense of paying 50 Cyan employees, and finding a new publisher who will, for some reason, pick up an MMO that has failed twice.
Nor do I want to see people abandon the game to go off to There or Second Life. I want Myst Online: Uru Live to continue - in a way that can work financially, and be beneficial to both fans and Cyan. I believe Cyan cares about us, and wants Uru to live - and I ask, "Why do we need a new publisher to run the game? Isn't Cyan more likely to be willing to keep it alive?"

This "Cyan-run servers + tools for user-generated content" business model - or some variation of it - is the most practical, realistic plan we've got for saving MO:UL.

We can give this game a third try (don't they say, "Third time's the charm?") and this time we can keep the costs lower than in the past, to make sure it remains profitable and doesn't risk cancellation, and in so doing, make it last longer - giving it more of a chance to take off and become popular, which, even now, I still believe it can.

This system is cheap for Cyan to run, it gives the guilds something to do and gets the fans involved in saving Uru in a way they never could before, it can turn a profit for Cyan even with the small size of our current fanbase.

I'm sure Rand Miller and his employees would like to keep Uru alive if they think there's any realistic, financially viable way to do so.

Well, this is it. This is the way that can work. So I encourage you guys to e-mail Cyan, suggest that they keep the servers running, and release the IDE.

And then they can let the fans define the future of Uru.

So Cyan, I'm going to do something extravagant, as a devoted fan - I'm putting my own time and money in the pot and saying, "Cyan, if you do this - if you keep the servers up and release the IDE, I personally pledge to pay for an advertising campaign that will be seen by over 40,000 people, in promotion of the new user-driven Uru, and to release, in the best quality I can, at least three worlds for the game using the IDE and my personal copy of 3d Studio Max."

I can do that. I can keep that promise.

Guys, come on! Ask Cyan to:

-Keep the servers running after April 4
-Release the IDE
-Give the fans the chance to keep Uru alive through the guilds and creation of new ages and story content.

And emphasize to them, that this business method can be a profitable venture for Cyan, will cost them very little, and can actually succeed!

Anyway, a long post, but I passionately believe that this can work.

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Last edited by matthornb on Tue Mar 11, 2008 1:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2008 1:31 am 
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Indeed, we've been talking about plans like that since the beginning of February. See many other threads in this forum. Also in the Guild of Writers forum.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2008 1:57 am 
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I need to read that lengthy post later, but I'll first say that while there might be similar plans, matthornb can certainly be encouraged to contribute his own ideas even if they parallel others. The survey of constructive ideas and what they have in common can reveal the strongest causes for a community of support.

Second, I would say to matthornb that your plan would be best served, perhaps after a little peer review, cleanup and formatting, by submitting it to Cyan.

Cyan might say no, but we certainly can't say yes. Go for it.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2008 2:26 am 
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Agreed :) I don't have the business insight to say anything about the proposal, but I too strongly believe in cheering anybody who puts in the time and effort to seriously think about a possible Uru future.
As long as we are not telling Cyan what to do, as long as we all realize it is just speculation, as long as we don't keep on posting how interesting it is to see Uru go down the drain... GO FOR IT!!! It is wonderful to see constructive criticism in any form!


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2008 2:30 am 
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Sophia wrote:
Agreed :) I don't have the business insight to say anything about the proposal, but I too strongly believe in cheering anybody who puts in the time and effort to seriously think about a possible Uru future.
As long as we are not telling Cyan what to do, as long as we all realize it is just speculation, as long as we don't keep on posting how interesting it is to see Uru go down the drain... GO FOR IT!!! It is wonderful to see constructive criticism in any form!


Totally agree! :D

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2008 4:49 am 
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Out of curiosity, what was the message on the Gametap forum that mentioned "fifty million dollars"?

(I am nursing a dark suspicion. :)

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2008 5:41 am 
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I got the link from this thread, which led me to this article. Nearly 18 pages of reading ...

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