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ZOE March Update

Mar 31, 2014

In this update:

  1. A new path for Matt Vancil
  2. JourneyQuest RPG Update
  3. A JourneyQuest discussion
  4. The Future of ZOE

A new path for Matt Vancil

In his own words, here’s Matt:

For me, it started in two places: a coffee shop at the end of the Burke Gilman Trail, and on a train ride back from ComicCon in 2009. A production company funded entirely by fans, where the creators retained control over their work and worlds. I thought it was crazy, and I told Ben as much. It could never happen, not in this industry. And then it did, in our little corner of the Pacific Northwest, with JourneyQuest: ZOE, the fan funded network, where no one but the fans could cancel us.

Thank you for five amazing years with Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. The time has come for me to move on and pursue new projects. I remain a steadfast fan, and I’ll be involved as much as I’m able, but my path’s down a different trail. Thank you fans, thank you friends, thank you cast and crew family. It’s been a blast. I love you all.

Everyone at ZOE wishes Matt the very best in his job as a writer for an upcoming video game! We’ll be sure to let you know when the title is announced.

We and Matt have also compiled a short FAQ about his departure, which immediately follows this sentence.

What does this mean for JourneyQuest?

– The script for JourneyQuest: Season 3 has been completed and Matt is still attached to direct. We’re currently assessing options for bringing the new season to life. (see below)

What does this mean for Gamers 4?

– Gamers 4 is not currently in development, but should it become an active project or receive a green light, Matt will certainly be involved.

What does this mean for the larger Hopjockey story?

– Matt’s plan has always been to tell the Hopjockey meta story across a number of platforms and in different forms of media. His departure from ZOE won’t complicate the rollout or development of future installments in the story.

Where can people view the projects that Matt is working on currently?

– The best way to track Matt’s projects would be to follow him on Twitter (@mattvancil) or on Facebook. He has a website (www.invancible.com) that by his own admission he never updates, so that’s a roll of the dice. Best to go with Twitter, wethinks.

JourneyQuest RPG Update

As many of you know, Kevin Mickelson (who wrote the Mask of Death module for us) has been co-writing the JQ RPG and adventure path with Matt. Kevin will now be taking on full writing duties for the campaign. He plans to keep Matt in the loop on progress, as well as making sure that the story and information remain canon. With many months of story already sketched out, this should be a seamless transition.

As the adventure path increases in complexity, we’re giving Kevin additional time to complete each chapter. We think that you will be pleased with the continued depth and breadth that this time will allow Kevin to achieve. He’s hard at work on the next update right now!

We’re also planning on converting each chapter into a fully formatted, downloadable PDF, which will make it much easier for you to print or access digitally during a campaign. For those of who who don’t access the website very often, receiving these PDFs in your email should help keep you up to date on the story!

A JourneyQuest Discussion

Here’s where we need your input, as core fans and Phase II backers.

In its current form, to film the script for JourneyQuest Season Three would require a budget of $340,000. This would mean a Kickstarter campaign goal of around $500,000.

Please visit the blog version of this newsletter and let us know what you think about the following options:

  • Continue as written, mount a campaign for $500,000, and shoot the complete season if the campaign succeeds.
  • Attempt to reduce the scope of the script until it can be shot for a lower total goal.
  • Maintain full production quality and shoot part of the script, supplementing the rest with a companion graphic novel.
  • Postpone production of JQ3 indefinitely while we work on smaller projects with fast turnarounds that can help build the fan base to a size large enough to fund JQ3 fully.

We all want to do justice to the epic story that Matt has created and will direct for JQ3. We also firmly stand behind our No Studio, No Network, No Cancellation policy. And right now part of living up to that standard means having a candid discussion with you, involving you in making the best possible decision for the show, and making sure that we continue to produce incredible content. Let us know what you think in the comments!

The Future of ZOE

Many of you are probably wondering what Matt’s departure means for the company. In terms of current projects and releases, very little will change. We’re finishing up the Gamers 3 campaign fulfillment, working on Humans & Households, Natural One, Dark Dungeons, JourneyQuest Season Three, and the secret project we shot last December. And of course, we will invite Matt to attend conventions, screenings, and development meetings as his schedule permits.

The big question for the company right now is whether we should continue with large tentpole productions, like JourneyQuest and The Gamers, that can take a year or two to complete, or if we should change focus for a while to smaller, more contained shows with much faster turnarounds. Part of the challenge with these large productions has been keeping up with their scope and general epic-ness. Completing Gamers 3, for example, has been exhausting. Worthwhile, but exhausting.

We’re seriously considering mounting a series of smaller crowdfunding campaigns, like in the $30k-$60k range, that could fully fund ongoing production and new releases every month or two, rather than every year or two. At that size, we could afford to hire a full post-production team as well, which would take enormous pressure off of Ben, who has been our primary post worker since Andy went into major crunch at Amazon. Removing the post-production bottleneck would speed up the entire release process by a considerable margin!

What do you think? We have more stories to tell than there is time in the span of our lives—would you be interested in more smaller shows, more frequently, or are the massive tentpole projects what keep you coming back? Or would you like to see a hybrid, where we create regular self-contained campaigns and releases while we patiently develop the big stuff?

Share your thoughts below!


As always, thank you for your support and encouragement! We’re looking forward to a major website and technology revamp later this year, including shifting away from the problematic PayPal recurring payments system, streamlining our code, and upgrading our site to modern specs. We’re also moving into a new office space next week with the crazy geniuses at LeftJet Studios. With a full shop, two soundstages, super-fast internet, and an awesome community of filmmakers, we can’t wait to get started!


65 Comments Tagged With:

65 Responses to ZOE March Update

  1. First and foremost, a fond farewell to Matt. I’m sure we’re all sorry to see you go.

    JourneyQuest 3…

    So the fan in me says to shoot JQ3 to full scope and for $500k. No compromises.

    The realist in me says that if Gamers 3 didn’t hit 500k, unless we’ve grown a lot since then JQ3 won’t and it would be a waste of our time and effort and a massive disappointment to everyone.

    What wouldn’t be is:
    1) To reduce the scope of the script for a more achievable goal. If the script is trimmed sensibly it shouldnt reduce the quality. Maybe some plot lines would simply be bumped to a later season to cut the running length right down…etc

    2) Mount a kickstarter for that lower goal with a $500k stretch goal of “JQ3 in full and as envisioned”

    3) Really hit the promotion hard.
    Call in all the favours.
    Get every celeb you can to tweet it.
    Find all the geeky/nerdy Youtube channels and get them linking people to the “Freely distributed” seasons 1 & 2.
    Hit all the D&D/RPG websites and make sure there are threads up and discussing (eg: GiantITP.com had a kickstarter running to reprint some of the free online comics in book form. The website/comic is dnd based. 14952 backers, over $1,250,000 pledged. If he (The creator) hasn’t seen JQ then making a fan from him could go a long way! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/599092525/the-order-of-the-stick-reprint-drive?ref=live).
    Hit the Cons hard…etc

    Conclusion: This way we should see a JQ3 and gives us a good shot at the JQ3 we want. Most importantly we shouldn’t be in the scenario where we fail hard and end up with nothing.

    Afterwards it might be time to look at smaller fan-base building before we go for more “Tentpoles”

  2. I’m for Option (4).

    I think the biggest problem that you face right now is that you don’t have enough Phase II subscribers.
    I think that the people who say that a $500k kickstarter is in the realm of possibilities seriously underestimate the popularity of ZOE and (more specifically) JourneyQuest. Yes, Gamers 3 raised $400k, but Gamers is a much more well known franchise than JourneyQuest. In some tabletop RPG groups, it’s nearly a right of passage for becoming an RPG player. I doubt that JQ has the same potential. On top of that, if you set the goal this high (and also if it’s a stretch goal) I fear that a lot of the hardcore fans are being tempted to contribute more money to the campaign than they can afford.

    I don’t know how much pre-production you have already done on JQ, but if it isn’t too much I say: Shelve JQ for later and first concentrate on smaller projects and see what sticks. There are many possibilities (ZOE sketches, Ask the Purple Ninja, Iota Initiative, Gamers spin-offs for genres other than fantasy and cyber punk (e.g. Cthulhu), etc.) and I’m sure a lot of good stuff will come out of it.
    Increase the scope of the projects as the amount of your Phase II subscribers rises and one day (in the hopefully not too distant future) you will be able to return to your tentpole productions.

    • Oh and btw, to the people who say that it won’t hurt trying to raise $500k on kickstarter I say: Yes, it will hurt, because managing a kickstarter is a lot of work and if it doesn’t succeed it will have robbed ZOE of a month of valuable time that could have been spent more productively.
      Therefore, you shouldn’t go for the “kickstarter with $500k stretch goal” option if you (and the fans) are not totally comfortable with shooting a third season of JourneyQuest that is reduced in scope.

  3. Frankly, I don’t think there’s much chance of pulling off a half million dollar Kickstarter, and reworking the script enough to shoot it for $250k or less would result in many compromises to the story. The third option with the graphic novel supplement is creative, but won’t necessarily be of broad interest to the existing fan base.

    The fourth option fits well. Small projects like Humans and Households and Natural One have a faster turnaround, take fewer resources, and are more accessible to new fans than another sequel.

    Build the fan base. Keep the quality up. And releases more bite-size content to keep us entertained all year ’round.

  4. Hell, I’d be happy with dropping the quality down to bare minimum just to get the complete story…

  5. Why are updates happening on FB but not here on the site?

  6. Profile photo of Smith Smith says:

    Can you add more payment methods like skrill? Cause I don’t do paypal perhaps a system like the blender film foundation goosberry project http://gooseberry.blender.org/wp-content/themes/gooseberry/

  7. I agree with most people here. we need more subscribers, and that means more content. Shelve JQ and work on smaller items that can be made faster to help build the subscriber base, then get back into tent poles.

  8. i do not think shelving JQ is a good idea. I think that one big item is what you are known for and it would be a mistake to not proceed on with it. I do not think 500K is out of the question, and would like to see you try to meet that goal. My thought is that if we don’t make the goal then you can look at scaling down.

  9. Everyone who is currently a subscriber now needs to be promoting ZOE – if we as a group can’t even get our numbers to 500, a $500K kickstarter is going to be an enormous hurdle. Part of what being a subscriber should mean is we are promoters of the company and that we work to see it grow.
    That growth is what will fuel JQ3 and Gamers4. Getting ZOE cookies then becomes a justified bonus for us all.

    As for the future direction post-Matt, I’d urge you to make smaller, faster produced shows. Need to get the ZOE name out there to bring in more folks to the fold to make the big shows possible. Smaller but more numerous content would make it possible to show off ZOE to more folks and lead them here to fill their enjoyment of all things ZOE. That’ll help increase the fan base, making 1/2 mil KS’s more easily achieved.

  10. Hi guys, hope you’re well.

    I was active on the previous incarnation of zombieorpheus.com months ago, and was disappointed by the lack of a managed transition to the new one. I thought I’d check to see what was happening — and have only now found out about ‘Phase II’ (which I think is a great idea).

    Maybe it was just me you lost in this way; but I’m not special, I would guess not.

    Right now I’m off to see if I can subscribe to Phase II, but I saw ‘Smith’ mention ‘Paypal’ above in a way that suggests that this is the only way to pay you. If that’s the case, you will (sadly) get no munny from me.

    As for the idea of a $500k kickstarter, FWIW I’ve stopped ‘kickstarting’, for various reasons (such as life’s too short to spend time trying to follow umpteen different projects that all — quite naturally — want you to visit their own websites for updates). But if you do go that route, I would suggest considering building in Phase II subscriptions as part of the reward system.

    I would add that the new ZOE website has some flaky aspects to it which need attention. For instance, the ‘log in/out’ facility (i) does not have a clear ‘register here’ option — it assumes you already have a username/ password, which is confusing to someone who does not and (ii) I wasn’t sure what username/ password I did have here so used the ‘Lost your password?’ link to try to check it; it ‘told’* me that I had been sent an email — and it lied; no email received, still waiting… Fortunately my password safe had a good password; had it not, I would have been faced with situation (i) above…

    * Yes, I know I shouldn’t anthropomorphise machines (mainly because they don’t like it).

    All the best,

    PS @Matt sorry to see you go… I wish you fun and fortune in whateveritisyou’regoingto — and will look forward to seeing you back! :)

  11. Profile photo of Reywind Reywind says:

    In 2006 .. maybe 2007 … I bought my copy of The Gamers on DVD. At the time and a for years afterwards I had no idea that this little cult film had such a production company behind it. I thought it was a one and done kind of thing.

    Then I found Gamers DK and I just finished Gamers HoF this weekend.

    Simply amazing work people … I am completely vested in these characters. The cliffhanger has me hooked and I want to see this story play out in Gamers 4.

    Is there a KS planned for Gamers 4? I am going to subscribe this month and pitch in my pittance to aid you in your day to day operations.

    Question: I caught a couple episodes of Rude Mechanical .. and just curious .. why the decision to personify ZOE and script the episodes? Isn’t it just supposed to be a general news show? Is it entertaining? … Yes .. I do enjoy them, just seems like a lot of work for a news show.

    Thank you and good luck

  12. Profile photo of Wayne Davies Wayne Davies says:

    I am surprised at the lack of merchandise ! It seems to me more merchandise would generate funds and promote awareness (that’s win win !).

    1) T-Shirts – our favorite characters with famous oneliners, like:

    Glory and the quote “Onward !”
    Perf and the quote “Sod the quest!”
    Lying Gargoyle and the quote “You’re the nicest man I have ever met”

    2) Mugs – similar to above

    3) what about the English Orcish dictionary as an a phone app !

    4) other ?

    I would shell out $$ for above !

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